Monday, December 19, 2011

15 Days Through My Interface: Day 9

This whole 15 days thing was the brainchild of Saz over at World of Saz, and it was the catalyst for my return to blogging. This stop, in particular, caught my imagination.

What's you character's hometown?

It's a simple enough question, but it really got the wheels turning in my head. Things have to fit together in a story, and carving out a home for a character isn't as easy as taking a screenshot of a pretty building and hanging your hat there. No, we're peeking into the origins of our characters. We're not just looking at a house, we're looking at the memories that are etched within its walls. We aren't just looking at where they live, we're looking at why they live, where they came from, and what they've overcome to reach this point. We've already seen where Dämmerung lives. What I'm going to tell you here is how he got there.

I generally have a feel for characters when I create them. I have their race, gender, class, and spec mapped out from the beginning. There's a certain feel for each one, and the name I select usually isn't your standard Azerothian fare. This presents a problem for creating a viable origin story. What kind of mother names their child Dämmerung? But ultimately, what is a name? An identifier. A title. So that's how I've come to look at the names I've chosen for my characters. They're an abstraction of the essence of the character. They might not be the name their parents gave them, but they are titles that they earned before they ever set out from their starting areas.

This is the story of a Boy. A Boy who was born at the cusp of extraordinary times, and whose childhood was defined by the events that enveloped the world.

He was born in the Summer of the Year of King Llane, 589, to the captain of the palace guard of Stormwind. Those were fearful times. The Boy can't remember a time before the invasion of the Orcish Horde. A climate of dread slowly grew as it became apparent that what had originally been believed to be a series of bandit raids was something much more dreadful. As the alien creatures marched upon Stormwind, The Boy saw firsthand the strain that the mere presence of the Horde placed upon the citizens of Stormwind. Rationing became tight. The luxuries and pleasures of the more peaceful age had been stripped away. While The Boy's family, being responsible for the security of the Royal Person, never lacked for anything essential, others were not so fortunate.

Things became worse when the siege began. The armies of Stormwind, pushed back to the very bastions that they were sworn to hold, fought tenaciously. War takes its toll, however, and when the war is on your doorstep, you pay the price in blood. For several months, the orcs, with their ogre allies, assaulted the walls each day, although never in the same place twice. Each night, the Horde turned their siege engines loose, lobbing rocks, plagued corpses, and strange boulders over the city walls, smashing into the shops and homes of the people. The boulders were the worst. They glowed with a strange green fire that no one had ever seen before. The first person to touch it was a woman who lived in a house not a hundred yards from the Boy's home. It smashed the walls to rubble, and collapsed the structure. The woman crawled out over the smoldering projectile, desperate for clean air. She died three days later, in agony. No one understood what foul magic permeated those missiles, but after watching the woman's hair fall out, and the way that she hemorrhaged, despite no apparent wounds, no one would go near them. So it was that every night The Boy would cower in the cellar of their home with his mother telling him that everything would be alright.

King Llane held the city together, almost through sheer force of will. Every day, when the sun had rose, and the relentless shelling had ceased, the King would walk among the streets of the city. His presence unified the people, it empowered them, and it gave them hope. When the city burned, the King and his son were out in the streets, fetching water from the canals to fight the blazes alongside every common man, woman, and child whose homes and livelihoods were caught in the conflagration. When dead citizens were pulled from the wreckage, or dead soldiers brought down from the battlements, the King mourned with his people. They were hard times, and the people feared where they would be if not for the strength of Wrynn.

Then the King was taken from them, felled by the dagger of an orc the King had trusted, had held up as an example that even among the throngs of monsters howling outside their walls, there was still the hope for decency. The people were shocked, and the Horde, sensing victory's proximity, launched the largest assault yet, overrunning the defenses. As the King fell, so did Stormwind.

That day holds the most vivid memories for The Boy. His mother dragged him by the hand through the streets of the city. The smell of burning timber and scorched stone was just beginning to reach their noses, heralding the fire that had been set which would consume the city. The Boy's father had told them to make for the harbor should the city be breached. There a ship awaited them. The remnants of the Royal Guard stood guard at the dock, shuttling refugees onto the vessel, and prepared to hold back the rampaging orcs for as long as was needed for the ship to cast off safely. Those orcs were hot on The Boy's heels as he ran for the ship, the air burning in his lungs. The disciplined guards opened a minute gap in their line to allow the pair to slip through to safety, before swiftly reforming and greeting the orcs with the strength of their shield wall. Events were blurry for The Boy. The sounds of the battle were deafening. The crack of a blade shivering, the clang of the plate armor of the warriors, and the meaty thock, followed by cries of pain, that signaled a blade finding its mark, hacking into unarmored flesh.

A powerfully built man, the white of his armor matching the color of his beard, dragged the last defender onto the ship as it pulled away from the harbor. Lothar knelt down, and cradled the man who he had pulled onto the boat. It was The Boy's father. He had stopped to cut the last line free that was tying the vessel to the dock, and an orcish grunt had used the opportunity to sink an axe into the man's stomach, leaving him desperately trying to keep his innards in place as blood flowed from between his trembling hands. His mother wailed, and rushed to his side. His father whispered something to Lothar, who nodded to him, and then beckoned his son to come to his side. As The Boy approached, he looked at his feet, trying to hide the tears in his eyes. His father's hands ceased their shaking for a few moments as he lifted his son's chin up to look him in the eyes. He brushed a few strands of The Boy's hair back, and spoke his last words to his son.
"Thank the Light, you're safe. Take care of your mother."
With that, Lothar led The Boy below decks, before returning to ensure that The Boy's mother could mourn in what came as close to privacy as was possible on the overloaded vessel. Below decks, The Boy sobbed, echoing the cries of his inconsolable mother above. Another young man, who was a few years older than The Boy, sought to comfort him. They both shared the pain of losing their fathers that day, and while in later meetings, King Varian Wrynn did not recognize The Boy, he always respected his king for those moments of solace on that fateful day.

The boat traveled north, towards the remaining human kingdoms. It made landfall in the town of Southshore, in the kingdom of Lordaeron. For a couple years, The Boy and his mother had an opportunity to attempt to rebuild something of their lives. But peace is ever elusive. Shortly after The Boy turned 10, it was announced that the Horde was marching through the dwarven territories, and would set upon Lordaeron soon. In response to this, a Grand Alliance was being formed between the human kingdoms, and an army would be raised to stop the Horde before they could reach the heart of Lordaeron.

An army on the march is a different beast than an army on the defensive. It is a beast of burden. For every soldier who fights, there are five people supporting him, from the workers who craft his armor, to the squires who care for and carry his equipment in the field. When the Horde marched to Southshore, rather than fleeing with his mother, a refugee once more, The Boy volunteered to join the army, led by Anduin Lothar. The Boy served as a squire for one of the warriors in Turalyon's division, usually removed from the actual line of battle. He spent most of the war in the camp, washing the blood off his master's armor, and leading his packmule by the bridle on long marches.

The army fought the Hillsbrad, dislodging them from their initial beachhead, and pursued them into the Hinterlands. It was there where Lothar realized the Horde's intentions, to use their superior numbers to split their attack on both Stromgarde and the elven kingdom of Quel'thelas. The generals met in Turalyon's tent, and The Boy discretely listened to Lothar's planning from the entrance. Some of the generals argued passionately for the Army to dedicate itself wholly to the defense of Stromgarde, a human kingdom, and to leave the elves, who had regarded the Horde as a strictly human concern, to their own devices.

Lothar disagreed, and decided to bifurcate the army, dispatching Turalyon to defend Quel'thelas, along with the small detatchement of rangers who had joined the army with Alleria Windrunner, despite orders to the contrary from the ruling council of Silvermoon City. As the generals departed, Lothar found The Boy, despite his best efforts to conceal himself. Fulfilling the last promise he made to a dying man, Lothar led The Boy to the main encampment, where he gave The Boy the shield that had belonged to The Boy's father, as per the man's dying wish. It was battered and scratched, and the leather straps that weren't rotted or torn were stained with blood, it was not fit for battle, but none of that mattered to The Boy, it was a cherished memento. That meeting would be the last time that he saw Anduin Lothar alive.

They marched across Lordaeron, into the forests of Quel'thelas. The Boy had been told by a few of the elves who marched with them that Quel'thelas was a magnificent sight, elegant, lush, verdant, and aglow in the glorious powers afforded them by the Sunwell. When they marched past Stratholme and entered through the mountain pass that kept the Elves separated from the humans, the sight of Quel'thelas gave the entire army pause. The forests were aglow, not with the power of the arcane, but from the fires that had been set by the orcs and the trolls that they had allied themselves with. The Boy has never seen Quel'thelas in the glory that the ranger had described it. No one has since the Horde left their indelible mark on the forests.
It wasn't until the orcs brought the war to the very gates of Silvermoon that the elven government realize the threat that the orcs represented to not only humans, but all life on Azeroth. Without Lothar's foresight, the orcs would have razed Silvermoon City, and taken possession of the Sunwell. After a few days spent camped outside the elven capitol, the army turned its focus back towards the south. Turalyon now marched with the full force of Quel'thelas at his back, and The Boy marched with him.

They marched through Alterac. The human kingdom had been completely destroyed in the fighting. Their King, Aiden Perenolde, had offered the Horde free passage through Alterac in exchange for being left alone. When a division of Lothar's army, under the command of Danath Trollbane, sealed the gap in the mountains, the battle that Perenolde had expected to be fought in the fields of Lordaeron, were instead fought in the heart of Alterac, and the fires of war consumed that kingdom, just as it had Stormwind.

With the help of the elven armada, the arrival of Turalyon's forces broke the back of the Horde's siege on the capitol of Lordaeron. Turalyon's division knew only victory, driving the Horde south, out of Lordaeron, liberating the Bronzebeard Dwarves who were under siege in Ironforge, shattering the Horde at Blackrock mountain, and finally driving most of the remnants back out of the Dark Portal. While it would take years to pick up the pieces, the war was, for all intents and purposes, over.

King Wrynn returned to Stormwind to attempt to rebuild the ruins of his kingdom, but King Menethil, the King of Lordaeron, offered a place in Lordaeron for any who served in the war. The Boy, reunited with his mother, took advantage of the offer, and they settled in small town not too far from the capital, called Andorhal.
Those were peaceful times, and The Boy grew into a man, devout in the ways of the light, and hard working. Over the course of fifteen years, he learned the secrets of smithing and metallurgy from the town's workers. He worked to restore his father's shield, not to be used again, for he had seen the terrors wreaked by war, but as a way to honor his father's sacrifice. He earned a living for himself and his mother through those skills, initially making farm implements and other tools, but he eventually branched out into the more precious metals, becoming an accomplished jeweler as well. There was no more rationing, no more dark nights spent in the celler, fearing that the next crash would be the cursed stone that would take his life, and no more days spent in the camp, away from home. Andorhal served as the breadbasket for Lordaeron, they shipped food to every corner of the kingdom, and there was always plenty on the table.

A ragged old man changed all that. Some of the more learned in the village claimed to recognize him as a mage from Dalaran who had visited Southshore years ago, but he looked more like a corpse than a distinguished mage. Strange events happened in those days, rumors of the dead rising from their graves, and clandestine meetings of black robed strangers. It wasn't until the Prince of Lordaeron arrived to investigate, finding the cult leader tampering with the grain shipments. A representative from Dalaran recognized him as Kel'thuzad, a former leader of the Kirin Tor. They burned down the grain silos, and struck down Kel'thuzad and his cultists.

Word came back later that the tainted grain had led to the destruction of the city of Stratholme, to the northeast. Fearing more cultist action, Prince Arthas raised an army to go to Northrend to finish the cult leaders once and for all. The Boy, now a man, declined to join, he had seen his fill of violence. But a few months later, Prince Arthas returned from Northrend, triumphant, or so it would seem. The Prince slew his father, and marched once again, this time at the head of an army of the same undead monstrosities that he had sworn to vanquish. They marched on Andorhal, where a group of paladins, led by Uther the Lightbringer, had retreated, carrying with them the ashes of their fallen king. Again, home was under attack for The Boy.

But Andorhal is not Stormwind. There are no strong stone walls that must be surmounted. The Scourge surrounded the town, and swiftly overran it. The only way to escape the onslaught was by water. The Boy, his mother, and a few others from the town boarded a small boat, and cast off, hoping to make their way south, towards a rebuilding Stormwind.

They didn't make it very far. As they passed the island that the old castle of Caer Darrow was built upon, great chains lashed themselves to the boat. From the lake emerged an abomination of startling size that set itself upon their craft, tearing planks away and threatening to drag them to a watery grave. Knowing that everyone on the boat were moments away from death, so long as the abomination stayed attached to the boat, The Boy picked up the one possession he had allowed himself to bring, his father's shield. Working his arm into the leather grips that he had reworked countless times in the intervening years, he said a prayer to the light, recalling his father's last words to him. He felt the Light empowering him as he smashed his father's shield into the abomination's skull, jarring the monstrosity loose as both he and it tumbled from the crippled craft.

He washed up, alone, on the banks of the Thondoril River. The patchwork creature was no where to be found, nor was his father's shield. He was beaten, bloodied, and damn near dead from his tangle with the behemoth. His memories are hazy here. Maybe it was the way that he nearly drowned, maybe it was the concussion he got from the abomination, but even to this day, all he can remember are bits and pieces.

He lay half submerged, hung up on the roots of a tree that protruded from the river bank. He watched the undead armies shamble across the bridge over the river, walking the same path he had walked fifteen years ago. The path to Quel'thelas. He wasn't the only one watching the horrors moving through. After the Scourge passed, an old man, wearing old brown leather clothes concealing his plate armor, crept down to the river bank, and dragged the wounded man North.
At the old man's shack, it took The Boy a week before he could speak again. The old man had some experience in the ways of the Light, and as he nursed The Boy back to health, he felt the empowerment that had allowed The Boy to survive the confrontation. That blessing was the only thing keeping him alive. The old man, unable to accertain The Boy's name until the swelling went down, he took to calling him Dämmerung. In the old Arathi tongue, it meant the Fading Light of Day. It was a bit grim, but Dämmerung didn't know what it meant at the time.

It was months before Dämmerung was well enough to set out on his own. During his convalescence, the old man taught him a few things about the use of the Light. He taught him how to heal the righteous, how to judge the unfaithful, and to unleash his wrath against the undead and the demonic. He replaced Dämmer's ragged and torn clothing, still stained with mud and ichor from his flight from Andorhal, and gave him a wooden hammer with which to defend himself. Dämmerung was anxious to find out what had happened to his town, to his friends, and to his mother. They would both be different men when they next met, years from now.

Lordaeron had changed in the months of Dämmerung's recovery. Wearing nothing but the clothes of a civilian, and arming with a mere wooden hammer, he cautiously worked his way south. Everywhere the undead horde had walked had been blighted. There were still patches of greenery here and there, but they were rapidly being encrouched upon by the sickly brown grasses of the neighboring spoiled earth. Ghouls were out in force, scouring the land for anything left alive in these plaguelands. Every once in a while, one of those abominations trundled down the road, the ground shaking at their every step. They were often flanked by bizzare spider-like monstrosities that Dämmerung had never seen before.

Dämmerung traveled carefully. The dark forces animating the Scourge forces made them odious to the Light, and through that distaste, he knew when one approached. Even without the light, the smell and constant groaning would give them away from a quarter mile. The patrols were thick enough that it took him fully three days to hike down the Thorandil River until he reached its mouth, where it fed into Darrowmere Lake, with Caer Darrow's decrepit ruins sticking up out of the water, a monument to the horrors of the present, realized through the neglect of the past. He hid himself underneath the bridge at the mouth of the river, and for a time, he stayed there, like some common troll. He scryed the surface of the water, scrutinizing it closely for any sign of any hidden attackers the like of which he met when he last braved these waters. Another one of the abominations patrolled over the bridge, coming from the west. As it stomped over the bridge, the stonework shook, freeing dust that had been trapped in the masonry for the long decades since the bridge had been built, during the reign of Terenas the First. Dämmerung feared that the bridge might collapse under the strain, and thought about making a run for it. Then something even more frightening occurred.

The abomination stopped, right over his head. It sniffed the air, trying to recapture that whiff of a scent that had called its attention. Dämmerung listened to the bridge creak and groan as the abomination leaned over the side to see if anything was hiding next to the bridge. Foul gore spilled from the behemoth's open chest cavity, splashing into the mud next to the terrified man. Dämmerung clamped a hand over his mouth, trying not to gag as the stench of undeath became overpowering. He pressed himself deeper into the soft mud of the river bank, letting the cold water flow over him, and hopefully conceal his scent from the monster's senses. Seconds stretched into years, the whole of the man's life hinged upon his complete anonymity.

Suspicious but unwilling to dawdle any longer, the abomination strode off the bridge, and east, towards Darrowshire. Dämmerung waited until it was out of sight, and then, without hesitation, dove into the icy waters of Darrowmere. He made for Caer Darrow, hoping to take a moment's respite there, before continuing his swim south. Looking to the west, he saw the smoke rising from the smoldering ruins of Andorhal, grain houses burned for a long time, and Andorhal had all the grain for the entire eastern half of the kingdom stored there. It must be like a charnel house there. The ashes of their King lay there, and the hope for his kingdom had burned down upon them. Hardening his heart against the horror of watching his adopted home in ashes, he hiked to the southern end of the island. There he found one horror more.
The craft lay on its side on the beach, water lapping up against it, rocking it gently as it dug itself deeper and deeper into the soft silt. The aft bulkhead had been ripped free, and the gunnels had savage pieces torn from them. It was clearly no longer seaworthy. A quick inspection confirmed his fears. The inscription carved into the bowsprit identified the wreck as the boat that he had tried so desperately to save. A deeper inspection, however, offered a glimmer of hope. The life preservers were missing, and the boat had clearly been deposited on the island by the currents, rather than beached by her crew. Perhaps they had survived, and made it to Southshore. Hope; hope still lived, even if it was only a glimmer. Dämmerung held onto that fading light as he once again braved the cold waters of Darrowmere Lake, leaving the unsettling ruins behind him.

When he reached the point where Darrowmere Lake channeled itself back into a river, he noticed a wondrous thing, well, it was wondrous in hindsight. As he dragged himself back upon the banks of the river, he heard a growl. He had pulled himself onto the green grass, directly between a mother mountain lion and her cubs. As the lion hurled itself at him in defense of her offspring, Dämmerung gave a desperate prayer to the Light. The Light answered, deflecting the angry beast as Dämmerung launched himself back into the river, letting the current drag him away from his sudden brush with life, after days of hiding from death.

He pulled himself back out of the river near Southshore, after ensuring that there were only horses and turtles nearby, nothing that could harm him in his exhausted state. The Light helps those who help themselves, and he doubted that it would answer him again so soon after his last request.

He trudged to Southshore, looking not too unlike one of the ghouls that ran rampant through the northern portion of Lordaeron. He stepped into the inn, and requested a room. The innkeeper made him walk back to the river and clean his clothes before he would let him touch a bed in the inn. Upon his return, looking just as haggard, although somewhat less filthy, he saw two brothers drinking at the table in the lobby. Recognition flashed in their eyes when they saw him, and they called out to him using his old name. They were from Andorhal, and had served as oarsmen on the boat that bloody night. They kicked out the chair next to them, and invited him to sit with them. They bought him a meal, and a drink, and paid for his room. He had saved their lives, and they intended to honor that debt as best they could.

Dämmerung couldn't remember a meal that tasted as good as that one did. Then again, the cook at the Cathedral in Stormwind isn't exactly the finest chef in town, and most of the time when he's not in Stormwind, he's eating field rations, or those bland mage cakes that taste like nothing, and always left him feeling hungry again fifteen minutes later. Perhaps he hasn't had a meal that tasted as good since. However, as enjoyable as the food was, as famished as he was, all those pleasures were secondary to his need for information.

When broached with the question of the disposition of the others on the boat, the brothers uneasily cast their gazes towards the stone floor. After Dämmerung had driven the patchwork beast back into the depths of the lake, the ship had sustained too much damage to remain afloat. The life preservers were given out, and the passengers began to jump into the water, making a desperate swim for the river bank to the south. The brothers had been among those who landed on the west bank, and Dämmerung's mother had been in those who landed on the east bank. Fearful that the abomination would return, the two groups hurried south. The group on the east bank were slowed down, several men were needed to restrain the panicked woman, in order to prevent her from diving back into the lake to search for her son. The group on the west bank rushed to Southshore, and raised the alarm. The eastern group wasn't seen for several days, and they began trickling in one by one, telling tales of splitting up to avoid the southernmost Scourge patrols. One brother cautiously offered that many of those who fled with them had continued south, making for the newly reinforced Northshire Abbey. The other brother mentioned a grimmer possibility that he had overheard from the necromancers during Andorhal's fall.

Once again, Dämmerung clung to the glimmer of hope, still glowing in the black sea of despair that threatened to consume him. He slept fitfully and sailed for Elywnn the next morning; his fare paid for by the brothers, who gathered the other survivors who decided to settle in the area together to see him off. He left Stormwind for Southshore after having lost his father, and now he retraced those steps, having lost his mother, but, the Light willing, she would be found. He looked back from the stern of the ship, at all the people waving gratefully to him. He had been able to protect all of them, surely he had protected her too.

He arrived in Northshire three days later, shortly after noon. The grand structure had been rebuilt grandly in the aftermath of its sacking by the Horde, as had the remainder of Stormwind. Things were almost as he remembered them. Almost. The little details nagged at him. The stones had crisply cut corners, rather than the worn edges of blocks that had seen hundreds of years of weathering. There was a bridge before the walls now, with statues dedicated to the heroes that he had served fifteen years ago. The city was more secure than ever.

The Abbey was no different, in addition to the rebuilding of the actual abbey, a huge wall had been built in front of the community, allowing it to be sealed off in the event of another attack, unlike in the First War, where the Twilight's Hammer clan had moved right in and set up shop. Rumors abounded that the masons who worked in Northshire demanded triple pay to clean up whatever it was that the Horde had left behind in there, and that the King had taken one look inside, and immediately agreed. The masons had outdone themselves here.
Dämmerung didn't find any of the survivors here. Any that had passed through these walls had long since dispersed themselves to the outlying communities, Goldshire, Redridge, Westfall, and Duskwood. Dämmerung prepared to travel once again. The Horde had taken his father, the Scourge had taken his shield, and possibly his mother too, the Light knows what it would do to them. He intended to find out, to keep holding on to that fading light for as long as he could.


  1. That was an amazing read.

  2. Lovely story, definitely spanning one of my favorite time periods in the lore of the Alliance. Really enjoyed all the geographical references and really felt the character's pain and loss of family.