Reassemble – Chapter One, Part Four

Last Time:  Vrykerion, his lover Calowen, and two other paladins – Waeryn and Jolsin – were on a mission to Deatholme in the Ghostlands, but upon finding that the majority of the fortress had been abandoned, they were set to head home. But as they left, a strange smoke stack had manifested from the necropolis in the center of the dead city.  After a short argument, they four paladins headed into the foul smelling depths to investigate…

The silence was broken as they reached the bottom by dry and crackled female voice coming from a room at the bottom of the last flight of stairs, “Imagine it, Dolcrim:  The Master Dar’khan’s mind and soul, in such an unstoppable body!”

A second voice chimed in, this one low and grumbly but with a slight echo to it that made Vrykerion’s blood run cold, “I should hope so.  Gandling wants the Ghostlands back in the Cult’s hands. These setbacks are growing too many in number, and this project of yours cost us nearly three legions of undead to construct.”

“Did they say Dar’kahn?” Jolsin asked.

“And who’s Gandling?” Waeryn muttered.

“Quiet.  I’m going for a closer look,” Calowen uttered and she slowly started to step down the stairway.  Step by step, her armor rattled gently.  Step by step, it felt like Vrykerion’s heartbeat was slowing.  As Calowen crept down the finally stair, Vrykerion remembers to inhale.  She peeked around the edge of the doorway and gestured back to the rest of the group: THREE SCOURGE. TWO ‘MANCERS. ONE BIG.

Vrykerion tilted his head and mouthed back down to her, “How big?”

Calowen widened her eyes a bit and nodded slightly, mouthing back, “BIG.”  She glanced back through the door for a moment and then looked back to gesture that the large one appeared to be unconscious.

Vrykerion nodded and turned back to Waeryn and Jolsin, “Here’s the plan.  We’ll split up.  You two take one of the necromancers and Cal and I will grab the other.  Hopefully, whatever this big one is we hopefully won’t rouse it.”  His team mates nodded and Vrykerion turned back to Calowen and lifted three fingers.  Then he dropped one to two fingers, then to one.

As soon as the last finger dropped into a single balled up fist, Calowen leapt into the room and unleashed a judging blast of holy power at one of the necromancers.  Vrykerion and the other two members of the team bolted down the stairs to quickly join her in the room.  The necromancers were dressed in the garb of the Cult of the Damned, one a male human with glowing blue eyes and the other a forsaken woman.  Behind them rested a massive figure, covered in a bloody sheet inscribed with necromantic runes.

Calowen and Vrykerion dashed towards the man, landing their shoulders against his chest and pushing him toward the wall.  Meanwhile, Waeryn and Jolsin got on opposite sides of the forsaken woman and begun to swing their blades, one low and the other high, in a maneuver they called ‘the double duel trap’.  The technique had proven excellent against mindless ghouls, but as their blades collided was a shielding sphere of dark magic, they quickly found themselves on the defensive. Dodging blasts and calling upon the light to cleanse the foul curses burning their flesh from under their armor.

The forsaken cackled, “You cannot stop us! The master stirs! THE MASTER COMES!”

“Silence!  Your breath is worse than your plague,” Jolsin shouted as he drove directly toward the shielding spell, shattering its protective barrier and allowing Waeryn an opening to take his sword to the necromancer’s neck from behind, severing the spinal cord and causing her to drop to the floor, still screaming her zealous proclamations.

“Finish it, Jols.”  Waeryn said.

“With pleasure.  By the Holy Light, be purged!”  A brilliant light burst forth from Jolsin’s hand, engulfing the downed necromancer.  As the light faded, a burning pile of ash was all that remained.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Calowen and Vrykerion slammed the human into the wall next to the sleeping monstrosity.  From beneath the sheet, a large hand fell out bearing several foot-long blade like claws.  Calowen brought down her mace toward the man’s face, which he caught with his hand.  She could hear the cracking of bones as it made impact causing her to wince for a moment, while the man only grinned at the sound.  Vrykerion slashed at the man’s side and cut him deep, but no blood spilt forth.

“What are you?” Vrykerion asked.

The man gave him a toothy grin, “Someone you will regret meeting.”  He then slammed his open hands into both Vrykerion and Calowen’s solar plexuses and threw them across the room.

As Vrykerion struggled to his feet, the man rushed over and clasped his hands around Calowen’s head.  He began to squeeze, causing the helm to start to crack, “Imagine what will happen to your head once I break your shell.”

“I don’t think you’ll have a chance,” Vrykerion said as he stood. Taking his sword in hand, he began to wail away at the man’s back.  Tearing through his robes and cutting deep into his back.  As chunks of fleshy flew off, there was no blood.  Instead there was viscous black ooze that just seemed to splatter out from the wounds.

The man laughed maniacally as Vrykerion hacked away at him bit by bit to the point of exposing the back of his rib cage.  He continued his anguishing squeeze of Calowen’s head.  The cracks grew larger in her helm, and as the pressure built up she began to scream.

Hearing her voice cry out in pain, Vrykerion gritted his teeth and balled up his fist. ‘No one hurts her. NO ONE.’ Vrykerion’s hand ignited with holy energy.  It took the form of a hammer as he launched his first deep through the monster of a man’s shredded back, breaking through bone and flesh until he reached the man’s heart.  Taking that organ into his hand, Vrykerion squeezed with everything he had until he felt it rupture and spilt the black tar out.  The man, hands still wrapped around Calowen’s nearly shattered helmet, collapsed.

Vrykerion threw the body to the side and grabbed Calowen, “Are you okay?” She nodded slightly, her eyes barely able to stay open.  Vrykerion’s eyes swelled with tears as he hugged her.

“Mission accomplished. Can we go back to the Sanctum now?” a winded Waeryn said, leaning up against the doorway with Jolsin.  Vrykerion looked up at them, tears rolling down his cheeks and a massive grin on his face, and nodded.

Suddenly, Calowen’s grip on Vrykerion’s shoulder tightened, “Vry! MOVE!” She shoved him aside and onto the floor just in time for him to see a massive, grey, muscly arm covered in blades and spikes rip into Calown’s chest.  It broke right through her ribs, the claws ripping right out the back of her armor and leaving a puddle of blood.

All eyes followed the arm back to its owner.  It seemed that in all the commotion that the thing under the sheets had decided to get up after all.  A gigantic abomination with four arms, each lined with claws and what appeared to be embedded swords and daggers.  It’s twisted mouth cracked open, “BehOLD, thuh Neeew DAAR’KhAAAn! I  AM reBOOOOORN!”

Reassemble – Chapter One, Part One

So a while back I wrote a story about my World of Warcraft character, Vrykerion the Paladin.  It was mostly based around my guild’s storyline and my own absence for it while I have been playing Star Wars The Old Republic.  However, I really really liked how it turned out so I decided to share it on here too.  Sadly, the actual story is about 18 pages and that’s just for the first of two planned chapters. Since that is a lot to put into a single post, I decided to serialize it and break it up into little chunks.  One coming out each Saturday until it’s complete.  This here is part one.

You’ll probably need a little bit of background on this story to give it context, although most of it should make sense in the long run since after all it’s more about the character’s past than the actual guild story.  But to shine a little light, my guild recently began a story where our guild leader, Shahrak, declared his intent for the guild to move to usurp Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. (This storyline was proposed the day before the news broke that Garrosh would be a raid boss in Mists of Pandaria – yea, imagine our surprise.) Vrykerion, being a devout member of the Argent Crusade, declared that while he took no qualms about battling evil, politics were a different matter, and this course of action violated what he viewed to be his strictly neutral stance on the Horde and Alliance.  With that said, Vrykerion declared that he would not partake in this campaign and retired to Hearthglen.  So we begin…

Reassemble – Chapter 1: Design

Part One

Vrykerion spread a clean piece of cloth across the desk of his room at Hearthglen.  It wasn’t an impressive room by any measure, and it wasn’t meant to be.  It was a practical room, just as much in his life was.  It had a bed to sleep in, a desk to work at, and a small armoire to store whatever bits of clothing he had at the time.  He didn’t need it to be much more than that, as his travels rarely permitted him time to stay at the Argent Crusade’s reclaimed home in the Plaguelands.  He only came here to do two things: Report when summoned, and to think.

Shahrak was absolutely clear in his intent.  Open war against the Warchief.  Open war against the Horde itself was more like it.  The scowl on Vrykerion’s face intensified as he opened up a small brown linen drawstring bag and poured the contents out on the cloth covered desk.  Small gears and parts rained down creating a resounding cacophony of noise in the otherwise silent room.  The idea seemed ludicrous.  Kill the Warchief?  Then what? They had no one to replace him.  Worry about the details later?  The very concept was so full of holes and overflowed with emotional impulse.

Vrykerion spread the pieces out across the cloth, making sure that each stood alone and untouched by its siblings surrounding it.  He parsed them out by shape, size, color – anything he could easily differentiate the multitude of small parts with.  Emotion.  Maybe that was what caused him such anguish.  Shahrak’s speech had been so full of it.  That timeless, unyielding enemy of logic and neutrality.  Vrykerion had spent years tinkering and wiring himself to respond to every encounter, and every battle with a cool calm sense of impartiality. He knew what Garrosh had done.  He had lent his blade when called upon.  He knew of the ruthless ways of the new warchief.  But he also knew that this was not a matter for him to pass judgment on.  The actions of man or orc are subject to perspective.  Viewpoints can inform and lie.  These mortal sins cannot be not true evil.  Right?

Vrykerion sighed to himself, lowered his goggles over his eyes and put ink to parchment as he overlooked the presentation of small mechanical pieces laid out before him. “To understand the design, one must recognize each component as a necessary part of the whole,” he muttered to himself, reciting old lessons.  He began to sketch each piece on the table, remembering each one once again.

It was only a few short years ago, but it felt like another lifetime.  Vrykerion stood on the green grasses of Sunstrider Isle along with a dozen other potentials.  His hair was longer then, worn back in a tail.  His eyes still bright and glowing, hidden behind a shabby pair of flying tiger goggles, and a smile graced his lips as he took his place in the line to practice the day’s lesson.  “Judgment.  A paladin is capable of piercing the very soul of a foe and detecting their intent. Violence, injustice, hate – these are raw powerful urges that you can focus his righteous wrath on and pierce your foes with judgment.”  The instructor called out.  He was a broad-shouldered elf who stood tall, a large scar on his cheek that he supposedly earned battling the forces of the traitor Kael’thas for control of the Sunwell.  Vrykerion didn’t really care about the old war stories.  He just wanted to show his stuff.  He had spent weeks studying tomes and scrolls about the art of judging one’s opponent and he was ready to prove that he had what it takes.

One by one the paladin trainees walked up and tried their hand at it.  Some actually managed to forge the connection with the Light to call upon the attack to some extent and successfully managed to brush the target dummy with a flash of holy energy.  Soon it came to be Vrykerion’s turn.  He stepped up and began to mutter the steps he had learned under his breath. “Create a connection with the divine light and let it fill your mind with extra-sensory sight.” He felt his body become almost lighter as a powerful warmth spread through his body.  It was almost like slipping into a warm bath.  He stared at the dummy long and hard, forcing his mind to focus on it until it almost seems to emit a faint yellow aura.

‘Non-threatening,’ Vrykerion thought, ‘Of course it is. It’s made of straw.’  Now he began to realize the true point of this lesson – to force the connection with the Light when wanted, not simply when it was needed.  He muttered again, “Focus your wrath on the negative. Cast out the divine on the target you know is guilty.”

He felt the light begin to swirl in his palm and grow in strength.  Vrykerion gritted his teeth as he focused on the dummy harder, “Cast out the divine…”  He raised his hand toward the dummy, “On the target.”  Then suddenly he heard something.  It was a small stifled giggle from behind him. He turned his head slightly to see a girl, a little younger than himself, with short platinum hair and shining emerald eyes looking at him.  It was Calowen Brightbourne, one of the daughters of some noble in the Court of the Sun. Her hands covered her mouth to hide her smile and the faint pink growing on her cheeks.

“VRYKERION!” the instructor’s voice broke through the moment and tore into his concentration.  The light fizzled from his hand as Vrykerion as his head snapped back towards the dummy and a very irritated veteran, “I suggest you try to get the Light in you up as apart to other parts of you while  you are in my class.” A frustrated blush overwhelmed Vrykerion’s face as he stumbled back and releasing an audible growl.  He stormed off as his classmates’ silent impatience for their turns broke in roaring laughter.  Vrykerion clenched his fist to the point where his fingernails began to break skin.  He glanced back, wishing only to release his rage as a divine blast against his classmates.  But he only saw Calowen in the lineup of chortling adolescents with only a frown on her face.  His hand relaxed just a bit.

He spent the rest of that afternoon sitting under a tree in the shadow of the academy.  He had failed.  That much was certain.  His actions and subsequent departure ensured that it would take double the effort and no less than three times the studying to find his way back into the good graces of his teachers, let alone the respect of his peers.

He stood up and looked around.  Spying a small squirrel nearby he began to repeat the steps again.  He felt the warmth of the Light fill him.  He focused on the small animal.  Then nothing.  Try as he might he could now let the Light flow from him into his hands.  He repeated the steps several more times with less and less success each time. He released a frustrated grunt as he slammed his fist into the tree.

“You know, just maybe the Light doesn’t WANT to be used against small defenseless critters.”

Vrykerion perked up at the voice and spun around.  It was Calowen, the girl that giggled.  She had changed out her training mail and into a red short sleeved shirt with a gold-trimmed leather vest.  Her smile, now unhidden, seems almost to glow as he felt a different warmth fill him.  First in his chest, then his face.  His brain, now tasked with figuring out two things, was able to quickly decipher that he was blushing.  A lot.  The second thing – what to say – was out to committee.

“I’m sorry about earlier.  The laughing I mean.  I just have never seen someone repeat their lessons out loud to themselves like that,” she said, stepping closer.

“You… you heard that?” Vrykerion shuffled his feet, attempting to figure if he should approach her as well, or perhaps lean back on the tree to impress her.

Her smile grew, almost as she was about to laugh again.  Not that he would be opposed.  Her laugh was like the graceful melody of a harp when contrasted with the bombastic hyena like noises of their classmates, “Mm hmm.  And I think I know what your problem is.”

She stepped right up to him, their toes almost touching.  She gently leaned up, inching her face closer to his.  Vrykerion had long passed the moment where he was trying to decide what to say or what to do with his feet.  His mind frantically raced trying to figure out what he should do NOW, let alone next.  This kind of thing was supposed to happen to his older brother – not him.

As her face drew close enough to feel his quickening breath, her hand made an attack of opportunity and poked him in the forehead, “You’re using this too much.” She immediately withdrew back on to her heels, trying her best to not to burst out in laughter right in front of him. Her stifled squeals went quickly from being beautiful notes to razor sharp pin pricks as Vrykerion realized that it was an attempt at jest, not a romantic proposition.  Though he would have been lying if he said it didn’t take a huge weight of pressure off his chest as his brain was able to slow and start taking inventory.

“I’m using what too much?” He finally spat out.

“Your brain.  You’re thinking about it too much.” She said.

“What do you propose I use to think?” The idea seemed silly to him.  Not use his brain?  That was its purpose.

“Well…” She looked around for a quick moment, “I can think of a few other things you can use.  But for now let’s start with your heart.  Come with me.” She grabbed his hand and began dragging him back across the isle.

He stumbled behind, trying to keep his feet coordinated in an effort to keep up with both her and his hand. She stopped as soon they reached the target range, “Now. Try it again.  But this time, don’t THINK the target is an enemy.  FEEL it.”

“Why?  What does emotion have anything to do with this?  The Light is my tool.  I should wield it like I do my micro-adjuster or my arclight spanner in my workshop,” Vrykerion said, trying to wrap his brain around the concept like a cat trying to make sense of arcane leylines.

“I bet your spanner gets lonely with you treating it like that,” Calowen said, “Think about it this way.  You know how sometimes you want to tighten a screw but not all the way?  Do you measure the torque of your turn or do you just FEEL how tight it is and SENSE when it’s good?”

Vrykerion opened his mouth to counter her argument, but then he saw those bright emerald eyes and closed it and nibbled on his lower lip for a moment.  He let out a deep breath and turned to face the dummy again.  This time he stopped thinking about what the target is.  He just let his mind flow.  His eyes trained on the stuffed man as a stray thought hit him.  It wanted to hurt Calowen.  He didn’t know where it came from, and it clearly made no sense, but there it was.  Suddenly his palm swelled with holy energy.

Calowen slid her hands down his arm and lifted it so the palm pointed towards the dummy and whispered to him, “Now let it go.”

The holy energy of the Light was unleashed.  A blast more powerful than he could have ever imagined formed into the shape of a hammer and slammed in the straw figure, ripping its post from the earth and falling back to the ground. Calowen smiled again and looked at him, her hands never leaving his arm, “See what I mean?”

Vrykerion looked at her and felt his lips curl into a smile of their own, “I see.”  His eyes glanced down at her hands on his arm, “I see.”

To Be Continued…

In Defense of Tirion Fordring (Part II)

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell

When I think of a hero, I think of Tirion Fordring.  Really, that’s all I have to say.  Because in the end, that is what sets him apart from every other element in the World of Warcraft.  Warcraft has always been epitomized to me as an exploration in the idea that there is no true good, and no true evil.  A fallen good guy becomes a bad guy, a redeemed bad guy becomes a good guy, and orcs are not the monsters they appear to be and humans can be more monstrous than you would think.  It has always felt to me that the World of Warcraft existed in an honest view that there was no black and white in the world.  Tirion Fordring is one of the exceptions to that.  Tirion always put his values before his life, his family and anything else.  He believed that honor and justice were more important than power and wealth.  He sacrificed everything he had to preserve his honor and save the life of an orc that any other would see put to death before hearing a word it had to say.  In a world of grays, Tirion Fordring is the white.

I struggled to write this post for ages.  Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I wanted to do it right.  I wanted to do my best to show the world why I think Tirion Fordring is one of the greatest characters in Warcraft.  I had originally contemplated writing it like I did part 1, a long and winding narrative that exemplified what was best in the story of Fordring, and showed him for the true hero I feel he is.  Then I remembered that wasn’t what I set out to do months ago when I first decided to write this.  I didn’t want to tell the tale of Tirion, I wanted to defend him.  There have many questions raised about this character, one’s that I think have been a great injustice to what my views were.  So I wanted to stand up and address all this.  Granted, it hardly seems relevant an entire expansion later.  Tirion rests quietly in his home in Hearthglen now, as his Crusade seeks to purify and redeem the fallen lands of Lordaeron from the destruction wrought by the now beaten scourge.  I still want to write this.  I still want people to read it.  So I have settled on finding the biggest arguments I could think of against Tirion, and write my counter argument in favor of the Ashbringer.  I would suggest refreshing yourself on part one, as I will be referring to the events discussed in it.

How did Tirion purify the Ashbringer?

Chronologically, this is the first time we get to see Tirion Fordring following the death of his son, Taelan, and swearing his oath over his child’s lifeless body.  So it seems right to start with this point.  During the Battle of Light’s Hope, Tirion Fordring commits his first act of outrage to the players by purifying the Ashbringer and driving back the Lich King with it.  Why was this an outrage?  Well, that has a lot to do with the history of the Ashbringer.  For the longest time, the Ashbringer was essentially one of WoW’s own urban legends.  There were hints of its existence – it was data mined, the Shendralar seemed to know of its existence as well as the ever unlikely Nat Pagle, developers hinted at it, and with the introduction of Naxxramas the world finally learned what happened to the blade through a strange scene that played out when a player that had pried to blade from Highlord Mograine’s hands and took it to the Scarlet Monastary.  It was there it was hinted that the Highlord had another son, hidden away in Outland, that would be able to forge a new Ashbringer.

The idea was always that the players themselves would be able to purify the blade and wield it.  You would find the lost son of Mograine and build the Ashbringer anew.  But there was no lost son in Outland, despite the multitude of theories about which random NPCs that could be the one to help rebuild this ancient and powerful weapon.  Then, after all that, it gets purified by Tirion Fordring.  A character that a good chunk of people either didn’t remember or never got to meet in the Plaguelands. It was – to quote the forums – a slap in the face.

However, narratively it worked.  Tirion was a man that had a connection to the Holy Light powerful enough to survive excommunication, he was a founding member of the Order of the Silver Hand and one of the first paladins.  To say he was powerful in the ways of the Light would be putting it lightly.  The lost son of Mograine turned out to be Darion, who fulfilled his destiny by breaking away from the Lich King’s chains and threw the cursed blade to Tirion.  So why didn’t the players get to do this?  Perhaps it was for the purpose of story.  A powerful paladin to purify and wield a legendary blade of good, to lead the war against the powerful fallen paladin who wielded a legendary blade of evil.  However it was no ‘out of the blue’ moment.  Tirion’s astonishing connection to the Light was established as early as 2001 with the book ‘Of Blood and Honor’.  In many ways, this was the catalyst for the entirety of the expansion, because without Tirion’s Argent Crusade, it is debatable if the assault on the Northrend would have ended in success at all.

What was the point of the Argent Tournament?

Ah yes, the Tournament.  That point during Wrath of the Lich King when players who weren’t already angry at Tirion for stealing ‘their’ Ashbringer began to despise the man.  After all, what could be dumber than establishing a big fancy jousting tournament in the middle of a war?  It was sheer stupidity! Wasn’t it?  I’d be lying if the introduction of the Tournament didn’t have me scratching my head for a moment.  It seemed like a weird choice, but as I continue to play through it and listen to the NPCs that wandered the tournament grounds, it began to make sense to me.  There were many reasons for the tournament.

The events of the Wrathgate had bitterly divided the war effort.  The Horde and Alliance were at each others throats and it only got worse as the assault on Icecrown began.  The Horde and Alliance forces were almost completely devoted to doing nothing but fighting between each other across the darkened glaciers.  Most of the quests you receive that actually further the goal of reaching the Citadel are given to you by each factions’ ambassador with the Knigths of the Ebon Blade – the epic bro duo of Thassarian and Koltira – where as the quests that the Horde and Alliance captains give are mostly directed at preparing for and attacking the enemy faction’s forces in the region.  Meanwhile, every dead soldier was strengthening the Scourge.  Necromancers would wander the battlefields and resurrect fallen Horde and Alliance fighters so they could defend what once was their enemy.  The Tournament was a neutral ground that both served to unite the two factions and use their aggression against each other to further the Crusade’s goals.  By pitting the Alliance and Horde against each other in non-lethal combat, Tirion and his forces were able to ignite the passions of both sides of the conflict and find some of the best fighters available, they then would induct them into their ranks as a Crusader in their own right.  No longer taking orders from their faction, you would go the Argent Crusade’s tent to pick up your daily assignments (Death Knights would report to their superiors in the Ebon Blade, who had joined up with Crusade back the Light’s Hope.)

The tournament was designed to draw in fighters from every walk of life as well.  Those who wanted to defeat the opposite faction, those who wanted glory, and those who were just trying to fill out their wallets.  No matter what, each person who fought through the tournament were recruited to the cause in some fashion.  Those who wished to prove their worth to join the assault on Icecrown were invited to take the Trial of the Crusader, were you would face the most powerful and dangerous enemies that the Crusade could find.  This is where there are a number of complaints.  People have often asked me if the point was to make sure that no life was wasted and turned to the Scourge, then why have a giant tournament where people get killed constantly in massive raid fights?  This is a distinct division of gameplay and story.  For the sake of engaging gameplay, one must risk death.  You can wipe, you can die, and you can just run back in and try again.  However, in story that doesn’t happen.  It’s assumed for the sake of plot, that you essentially “one shot” the entire raid.  Those who aren’t up to par and drug off the arena floor and healed up by the Crusade’s healers.

However, you might be thinking that using a lavish tournament to try to overcome the bitter rivalry of the factions is a bit naive.  I think Darion Mograine would agree with you.  Tirion is an archetypal paladin through and through, he believes in second chances, that good will prevail over evil, lawful good alignment – all that jazz.  It’s something Darion had been annoyed with since arriving in Icecrown (which may be the reason that while the Ebon Blade is represented at the tournament, Darion himself never shows up.)  Tirion’s devotion to doing things the “right way” and not following Darion’s suggestions to sink to the Lich King’s level and play dirty is a good hint towards the mentality behind the tournament.  It’s part of Tirion’s “right way.”  The forces of Azeroth will unite together and tear down the walls of Icecrown, and good defeat evil.  Naive, no?  Damn inspiring too, if you ask me.

Why build a Tournament at the Lich King’s doorstep in Icecrown?

While outside of the narrative, we know that the Argent Tournament was originally meant to be held in the Crystalsong Forest but due to the immense lag in the area from Dalaran it was moved to Icecrown.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a perfectly good reason for it to be held there.  The most important of which would have to be that the Tournament is a powerful symbol to those who come that the Lich King is not all powerful.  You see, the reason the Horde and the Alliance have been sitting in airships the entire time is not because they like the view.  Neither faction has been able to make a lasting dent in the Lich King’s forces to establish a permanent base in Icecrown.  In fact, only two groups can claim to have made such an accomplishment: The Ebon Blade – who know how to exploit Icecrown’s weaknesses – and the Argent Crusade.  In fact, the Crusade has established two bases on the glacier.  So the fact that the Tournament stands on that unholy ground shows to members of any faction that arrives that, Yes, the Lich King’s power is not absolute.  And despite the attempts by the Cult of the Damned to interfere and sabotage the Tournament, through the unity of those it has drawn in it continued to stand.  Tirion’s “right way” is working.

Why didn’t Tirion interfere when the Lich King crashed the Tournament?

So the Tournament was working, people were coming around the Tirion’s side, and then at the end of it all, the Lich King shows his face.  And what does Tirion do?  He offers him a chance to give up.  Then the Lich King plunges Fordring’s newfound champions into the depths of Azjol-Nerub to face Arthas’ own champion – Anub’Arak.  Why the heck did Tirion not just jump down and kill Arthas?  Why did he offer him a chance to surrender? How the heck could Vry admire such a moron of a human being?!  Well, I’ll tell you.

The most important thing to remember is that Tirion cannot defeat the Lick King.  Not in Icecrown.  Not alone.  His victory at Light’s Hope was only possible due to the fact that they battled on holy ground.  Icecrown is the opposite – unholy ground.  Tirion knew this when he decided to build the Tournament in Icecrown, and it’s the reason he won’t engage Arthas in combat like this.  The Lich King has the upper hand due to terrain, power and the element of surprise.  It would be downright foolish to try to engage him.  As for the offer to surrender?  Well, I did say he was an archetypal paladin.  I can’t fault him for that.

But why did he build the Tournament over Azjol-Nerub?  How stupid was that?  Not very.  Azjol-Nerub runs under a good chunk of Northrend, mostly where you can find a good amount of scourge activity.  I’d wager to say it runs underneath through most of the central part of the continent: the Dragonblight, Crystalsong Forest, and Icecrown.  So unless you had somehow mapped out the entire expanse of both the upper and lower kingdom, I’d think the odds of building over it are pretty good.

How come Tirion gets all the credit?

I killed the Lich King, and yet Tirion gets a statue?  What the heck is up with that?  Well, I always likened it to a famous general.  You always remember the general for what they accomplished, but you don’t remember each and every troop that served under them.  Oh, sure. If you were one of those troops you remember the others like they were your brothers and sisters.  You fought and shed blood together on the battlefield, but in the grand scheme of history?  Well, Washington has a monument, but not his troops.  Tirion Fordring, the last living founding member of the Silver Hand, the Ashbringer, and the leader of the Argent Crusade.  Commander of the forces that united together paladins, death knights, Horde and Alliance to defeat the Lich King, enemy of all of Azeroth.  Tirion, who upon losing everything, devoted his existence to the destruction of evil on the face of Azeroth, purified the Ashbringer and used it to shatter the cursed blade Frostmourne.  He didn’t deserve a statue?  A statue surrounded by statues of orcs and humans – the ‘iconic’ races of both the Horde and Alliance that united under his banner.

I think that after all of the things I’ve written about here, I would hope that some would see some merit in why Tirion was instrumental in the defeat of the Lich King.  This wasn’t something that the Horde would have accomplished, or the Alliance.  They couldn’t even get a base set up in Icecrown, and they spent more time fighting each other than enemy.  Without Tirion’s Argent Crusade, there would have been no victory to be found in the cold recesses of Northrend, only death.  That is why Tirion is at the center of the statue.  Because he was at the center of this victory.  He is surrounded by statues of the Horde and Alliance because through them, victory was won.

Tirion isn’t a glory whore.  He’s a man that devoted his life to seeing Arthas brought to justice.  He rallied people to his cause.  He led them to victory.  And in the end, he had no second thoughts that it would be his fate to take Arthas’ place on the Frozen Throne and become the Jailer of the Damned.  It was only though his old friend Bolvar, that his fate was spared. Tirion Fordring is Wrath of the Lich King’s Aragorn.  He’s the reason I rolled a paladin.  He is a good man, and someone that brings out the good in all of us.

That is why I will defend Tirion Fordring.

(…Oh by the titans, I just made a Tirion speech didn’t I?  Well, I guess that’s fitting.  This post is also dedicated to a batch of burnt cookies.  Their sacrifice towards the cause will not be forgotten.)

In Defense of Tirion Fordring (Part I)

Tirion Fordring. Source: WoW TCG“I need you to know that what I did, I did for honor’s sake. Honor is an important part of what makes us men, Taelan. Our words and deeds must count for something in this world.”
– Tirion Fordring, Of Blood and Honor

There are some figures in the World of Warcraft people love to hate.  Garrosh Hellscream, Varian Wrynn, and Rhonin Redhair are the just some of them, and for the most part it is fairly easy to see the aspects of these characters people don’t like.  There must be some people out there who like them though.  At least one or two.  They are probably reading all the rants and jokes about these characters and wondering exactly why people don’t like them.  Why don’t they see them the same way you do?  That’s the way I always feel about Tirion Fordring.

Tirion is a character I have long admired and I was ecstatic when he was included as a central figure in Wrath of the Lich King.  Yet people found him arrogant, stupid, and pointless.  They asked why he got to have the Ashbringer, why he gets statues of him everywhere, and why in the world would he be stupid enough to set up a tournament at the glacial edge of Icecrown?  Well, as is my role in finding ways to explain things that are otherwise unexplainable, I will try to answer these questions and more before we are though.

However, opinions are a hard thing to change.  People stand by them rigidly and then get offended if you try to change their mind.  They shout “You should respect my opinion!” and then throw things at me.  It’s happened more often than I can recall (on account of all the concussions I get from having things thrown at me.)  For that reason, I’m assuming that I won’t be changing any opinions.  I’m not even going to go into any elaborate arguments.  I’m going to tell you about Tirion, why I respect him, and my own views on why things happened the way they did.  If you agree with me, that’s wonderful.  If you don’t, what can you do.  Maybe you’ll find something interesting along the way and see things a bit differently and still not come to the same conclusion as me.  I have no idea, and I make no promises.

Originally, this was going to be one very large post.  However, I decided to split it up.  Part one will mostly be dealing with the back story for Tirion Fordring.  What he has accomplished and how he became the man he is.  The ideas presented in this part one, and my views of this man, will form the basis of part two, in which I explain my views on the events of Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm.

The Man With The Silver Hand

If we are to speak of Tirion Fordring, than we should start at the beginning, or at least the earliest records we can find.  I have heard people often wonder exactly what about Tirion could command such respect from organizations like the Argent Dawn, the Kirin Tor, or even the Knights of the Ebon Blade.  That Tirion hasn’t done anything to command this respect from people.  Yet, without hesitation, people will stand up and defend the name of Uther the Lightbringer.  Even sworn, die-hard members of the Horde will honor the name the Lightbringer (Okay, not so much the Forsaken.  They are actually more so fond of desecrating the memory of Uther.)  One of the reasons that Uther was such a prominent and well-respected figure was that he was one of the first paladins in the Knights of the Silver Hand, trained by Archbishop Alonsus Faol along the other original members of the order like Saidan Dathrohan (Dead), Gavinrad the Dire (Dead), Turalyon (No one has a clue where he is) and Tirion Fordring.

Yes, you read that right, Tirion Fordring was one of the original founding members of the Knights of the Silver Hand, and the only one alive and present.  Which is probably why he garners as much respect as he does from the NPCs.  He is a legend, like Uther, only not dead.  So, like a living legend.  Of course, Tirion wasn’t part of the defense of Lordaeron during the Third War with Uther, Saidan, and Gavinrad.  There were complications in that matter due to a small incident that happened a few years before the Cult of the Damned began sinking their talons into the Eastern Kingdoms.

Of Politics and Honor

The Knights of the Silver Hand were founded after the First War, and by the end of the Second War they were renown across Lordaeron.  Tirion Fordring became a lord of the lands of Hearthglen, and was much-loved by the residents there.  However, upon an unfortunate happening, he stumbled across a lone elderly orc named Eitrigg that lived in an abandoned tower.  As a paladin, he naturally engaged the orc in combat until a chunk of the tower collapsed on him.  Tirion awoke later back at home and safe.  The monstrous orc, a soul-less devil of a creature from another world, had saved his life. Realizing this he sought out Eitrigg again and confronted him.  Eitrigg explained that he was not part of the Horde. He abandoned it after he became disillusioned by how obsessed they had become with dark magics and demons.  Eitrigg explained that the Horde used to have a rich heritage steeped in shamanism and honor. Tirion could see that the old orc was honest and had no hostile intent.  Eitrigg simply wanted to live out his remaining years in quiet isolation.  Tirion swore on his honor that in exchange for saving his life, he would help to save Eitrigg’s, and would keep his secret safe.

Of course, honor has no place in politics.  Tirion’s second, an ambitious and sordid paladin named Barthilas (Yes, THAT Barthilas) wasn’t convinced by Tirion’s story that the orc had been dealt with.  Barthilas hated orcs, and much like the larger portion of the human population after two whole wars, saw them as brutish bloodthirsty beasts and nothing else.  His opinion was fueled by his own personal tragedy.  He had lost both parents to an orc attack during the Second War.  However, Barthilas was only ordained as a paladin at the very end of that war and never actually saw battle.  You could say the whole situation left him angry, prideful, and with a slightly skewed view on the entire situation.

Barthilas called in Saidan Dathrohan to investigate the whole situation.  As another one of the founding members of the Silver Hand, he was straight with Tirion and told him that he trusted him.  They were friends after all.  However, rumors of a new Horde stirring in the south (led by some escaped orc slave) had forced his hand, and he couldn’t overlook such a potential threat.  Dathrohan and his men went out into the woods to investigate along with Barthilas, and naturally found Eitrigg alive and well.  They attempted to detain him, when Tirion intervened.  Tirion, who swore to protect Eitrigg on his honor, did the unthinkable and attacked Dathrohan and his men, committing treason to save the life of an orc.

Tirion was to put on trial, presided over by some of the most powerful figures in the Alliance:  Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, Arch-Mage Antonidas, Archbishop Alonsus Faol, and Prince Arthas Menethil.  Before the trial began, Tirion’s best friend and captain of Hearthglen’s guard, Arden, and his wife, Karanda, begged and pleaded for Tirion to renounce any oath he had sworn to Eitrigg for the sake of his people, for the love of his life, and his son: Taelan.  Tirion refused.  He would not sacrifice his honor and break the oath.  Arden was disheartened and Karanda furious, and all that Tirion could do was apologize.  The trial itself drew a crowd.  This was not a simple criminal trial.  Tirion was a well-known war hero or the Alliance, a legendary paladin, and a lord of a principality being tried for treason.  It created even a greater uproar when Tirion began the trial with pleading guilty.

As the trial proceeded, both Dathrohan and Barthilas gave their testimony.  Barthilas’ being openly mocking of Tirion’s status and calling him a filthy traitor.  In the end, Uther the Lightbringer offered Tirion a choice.  A full pardon for Tirion to disavow his oath to Eitrigg and reaffirm his loyalty to the Alliance.  Tirion was tempted.  It would be easy.  Just abandon the orc to its fate and he could go home happily with his wife and son.  However, living without honor is something Tirion could not do.  He told Uther and the court that he would gladly reaffirm his loyalty to the Alliance, because the Alliance always had his loyalty, but he would not disavow his oath to Eitrigg.  Those in attendance were enraged, they wanted blood, but the court would not have it.  While Eitrigg was sentenced to death without trial, Tirion would not share his fate.  Tirion was to be stripped of title and his lands (Lordship of Hearthglen was passed to an ecstatic Barthilas) and was to be exiled from Lordaeron for all time.  On top of that, Tirion was going to be excommunicated.

Excommunication is a harsh punishment used by the Church of the Holy Light to strip that person of all their light given powers and abilities.  It essentially severs you from the Holy Light.  It is also a point of contestation between me and a few other lore nuts like Rades of Orcish Army Knife.  See Rades and others have debated with me that excommunication doesn’t actually have any real power over the person’s connection with the Light.  That it’s just a ceremony that strips one of their confidence to contact the Light and thus unable to use its power.  However, the text describes Tirion as set in his way and sure he was in the right until his connection from the Light is severed and he feels that darkness falls over him.  After he loses that power, then he despairs.  If you go by the text as written, Tirion is cut off from the Light, and as excommunication is described as a rare ritual that every paladin lives in fear of, I imagine it’s fairly serious.  Anything else is a fan theory.  Maybe solid fan theory, but still fan theory, until Blizz states otherwise. (Which they might.  Who knows with Blizz, right?)

The reason that discussion is important is because after Tirion was excommunicated and exiled, he came back to save Eitrigg who was slated to be executed in Stratholme.  Although Tirion has been exiled, and could face serious punishment for this, he rides into Stratholme and facing Barthilas and others in order to try to save Eitrigg’s life or die trying.  I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised if Tirion was expecting to die in his attempt.  However,  at the same time a large force of orcs arrive in Stratholme.  Led by that same escaped slave, Thrall, they too have come to free Eitrigg.  Thanks to the distraction, Tirion manages to get Eitrigg out of the city, but Eitrigg suffers a mortal wound during the escape.  To save Eitrigg, Tirion begs and pleads to the Holy Light for the power to save this orc.  At first it doesn’t work.  He doesn’t feel the Light’s warmth filling him.  However, as he continues to try, he begins to feel it, and ultimately heals Eitrigg’s wound.

This is where Rades’ point about confidence comes in.  That Tirion must dig deep within himself to call upon the Light’s power, and obviously excommunication cannot actually sever the connection.  However, Tirion is the only person we have any record of this happening with.  We are told that excommunication is rare, but not that it had never been used before.  If they ever regained their powers, I assume someone in the Church would have heard of it.  Maybe?  The only actual canon example we can point to of another character losing their connection to the Holy Light is Nobundo in ‘Unbroken’.  He loses his connection after being attacked by Grom Hellscream during the fall of Shattrath.  It is unclear whether it is some demonic power used by Grom that caused it, or whatever foul red mist had settled over the battlefield (which was probably demonic in nature as well) but one thing is for certain, Nobundo never regains his ability to connect with the Holy Light.  Fortunately, he becomes the first draenei shaman (okay, he was a Broken at that point).

Really, it’s up to interpretation.  There is nothing that strictly invalidates Rades’ theory, but if you go by the text as written (which is all we have), it does take some interpretation to reach that end.  If you strictly go by what we are told, Tirion overcame excommunication by some means.  Even if it was simply an issue of confidence, it is an extraordinary feat that we canonically have not seen or been told has ever been repeated.  That’s saying something in my opinion.

The Father and the Son

Now let’s skip ahead a few years and one war later, Lordaeron has fallen and is either under the rule of the Forsaken, the Scourge or, in the case of Tirion’s old home in Hearthglen, the Scarlet Crusade.  Even more interesting to dear old Tirion (who has fallen on hard times and is now living in a shack down by the river), is that the Highlord of the Scarlet Crusade’s operation in Hearthglen is Taelan Fordring – Tirion’s son.  It’s safe to assume that Taelan had a bit of a strange relationship with his father.  Especially, since Karanda told their son that his father died after Tirion was exiled.  All that young Taelan had to remember his father by was the hammer Tirion gave him and a letter.  The letter in question was left to Taelan after Tirion was sentenced and contained the quote at the beginning of this post.  I will not hesitate to tell you that I, Vrykerion, will cry every time I read that part of the story.  Tirion tries to explain to Taelan that he will hear about the terrible things his father did, that his father was a traitor, but in the end Tirion wants his son to know that he did it as a matter of honor.  Because while you can have your lands, titles, rank and wealth taken – only you can take away your own honor.  He ends the letter by saying that Taelan’s actions will be Tirion’s redemption, and that he will always love his son.

Perhaps that is why when the irrational Prince of Lordaeron disbanded the Silver Hand, and the situation with the scourge grew more dire, that Taelan decided to join the Scarlet Crusade.  To anyone who did not know of the madness that dwelt in the heart of the Crusade’s hierarchy, they seemed to be doing the right thing (at least in the beginning) and trying to defend Lordaeron from the threat of the undead.  After all, his old teacher Isillien (now Grand Inquisitor Isillien) was part of the central core of the Scarlet Crusade and Taelan trusted him, how could this organization devoted to saving his homeland not be the right route to take?

Tirion however (in his shack DOWN BY THE RIVER! Sorry, that joke is really funny to me.) had seen a completely different side of what the Scarlet Crusade was up to.  He found adventurers that would help find three items for him: The hammer he gave Taelan as a present that was laid in Tirion’s false grave, the standard of the Order of the Silver Hand that Taelan threw down during his last stand at Northdale when he renounced everything he held dear, and finally a painting made of Tirion, Karanda and Taelan at Caer Darrow where they used to spend their vacations.  After the heroes reclaimed these items, Tirion arranged a deal with Myranda the Hag to cast an illusion on the heroes so they could infiltrate Hearthglen, give Taelan the acquired items and tell him the truth – that his father is alive and waiting for him to come home.

Taelan, realizing that much of what he had been told through his life and especially by the Crusade had been a lie, decided to follow the heroes out of Hearthglen.  However, as he proceeded on the road out-of-town he was attacked by Grand Inquisitor Isillien who claimed that he had glorious plans for Taelan but the failure of the Fordring bloodline was bound to catch up to him sooner or later.  They battled as the heroes kept additional Scarlet reinforcements from joining the fray but ultimately, Isillien was the victor and Taelan Fordring was dead.  That is when Tirion arrives.  Seeing his son laying dead at Isillien feet, he attacked the Grand Inquisitor and killed him.  Taking the body of his son in his hands, Tirion swore an oath just as he did to Eitrigg all those years ago:

“Too long have I sat idle, gripped in this haze… this malaise, lamenting what could have been… what should have been. Your death will not have been in vain, Taelan. A new Order is born on this day… an Order which will dedicate itself to extinguishing the evil that plagues this world. An evil that cannot hide behind politics and pleasantries. This I promise… this I vow…” (Source)

On that day the ground work was laid on what would be known as the Argent Crusade, and the long march to Icecrown Citadel began…

(This post is dedicated in memory to a batch of burnt cookies.)