Monday, October 8, 2007
Duskwood does not seem initially threatening. The dead fields of Westfall give way to light forest along the river’s edge. A covered bridge crosses over into Duskwood. Though slightly overcast, the first few miles do not look much different from Elwynn Forest.
Duskwood had, in the past, been a quieter, wealthier extension of Elwynn called the Southwood. Small farms and towns thrived in the thick forests. The gnolls endemic elsewhere in Stormwind never maintained much of a presence in the region. Little of note occurred in the land between the Stormwind Civil War and the First War. What nobles remained there after the Civil War tended to be an insular bunch, more interested in maintaining their luxurious manors than in seizing the throne.
Though close to the jungles of Stranglethorn Vale, Duskwood somehow managed to avoid its neighbor’s difficult climate. Admittedly it could become very humid in the summer months, but never nearly as torrid or rainy as the Vale.
An eerie change comes over the forest a few miles east of the bridge. The gnarled branches grow thicker and arch over the road, only allowing a few shafts of light to penetrate the canopy. Beneath the tangled canopy, it is night; not even the dense forest growth should be enough to make it so dark, certainly not at noon
The animal sounds of the forest soon fade into silence, and the traveler hears only his own footfalls on the narrowing forest path. Similar in some ways to Tirisfal Glades, there is a subtle difference in Duskwood that I could not initially identify.
Generally speaking, I do not put much stock into intuition. Doing so often led me astray in life. Nonetheless, I could not ignore the feelings I got from Duskwood. The corruption of Tirisfal and the Plaguelands is evident. Death and undeath are ubiquitous, and even a blind man will not fail to notice it. Duskwood creates the sensation that the forest is trying to hide the corruption. As if it is filled with a deep shame, and wishes to conceal its horrors.
A thick fog blanketed the forest on the second day. Though the cold, clammy weather did not bother me physically, I knew that such a chill did not belong in a place as far south as Duskwood. I figured that if Duskwood’s problems ran deeper than meteorological difficulties, Stormwind truly was a nation on the verge of collapse.
Duskwood long held a reputation as one of the most cultured regions within Stormwind. It was in Duskwood that education and literacy first became reasonably common. The locals still worked to cultivate their minds despite the lack of large colleges or monasteries. Even today, the term “Southwood philosopher” describes someone who is largely self-taught, or at least educated outside of the traditional scholarly circles.
Duskwood was also known for refined hospitality. Visitors from the northern kingdoms tended to favor the area over other parts of the kingdom During my student days, a friend of mine named Matthius Corvald spent his winters in a family estate in Duskwood, built after the Second War. He was almost an archetypal Lordaeronian, yet felt entirely at home in southern Stormwind.
Difficult though it is to gauge the passage of time in that place, I think I spent a little more than two days on the road before reaching the town of Raven Hill. The original settlement was a village called Brastonchury that rebels burnt to the ground in the Stormwind Civil War. The flock of carrion birds that arrived soon after the battle gave the place its current name.
The town’s macabre genesis aside, it flourished until the First War. When rebuilt after the Second, it showed similar progress. Yet I arrived at a deserted town square surrounded by the rotting hulks of houses and shops. Even in the day there is not even a hint of sunlight to brighten the empty houses. An awful miasma of decay and corruption pervades the desolate town square. Raven Hill looked as if it had been abandoned for a year or more.
I called out to no avail. I selected a building at random and went inside. Filth and grim plastered the interior, and I could only force myself to stay a moment. Seeing the town was empty, I turned to leave.
Just then I saw a ghostly light from within one of the buildings, a two-story structure that might have been an inn. A white-haired human in ashen robes stepped out moments later, carrying a torch in his frail right hand. He must have seen me yet gave no sign of having done so. A line of others, dressed in similar clothing, followed him out, all carrying torches or candles.
“Who are you? What happened to this place?” I called out.
They gave no answer, the line of lights turning into will o’ the wisps hovering in the fog as they walked away. Dumbfounded, I called out again, neither expecting nor receiving an answer.
Silently vowing not to get too close to them, I trailed the procession from a distance. This was harder than it seemed, as I had to stay close enough to see them through the fog.
I passed through a gate in a corroded metal fence. At first I thought I had returned to the wilderness; the buildings had vanished and tall grass crept onto the edges of the road. Then I saw lines of weathered gravestones and realized I was in the cemetery.
Even my curiosity has limits, and I turned around to flee. A tangible sense of wrongness covered the place like a shroud. The Raven Hill cemetery is the largest in Stormwind. During better times it was the chosen resting place of the rich and powerful. The town gained a great deal of revenue from nobles and merchants wishing to procure burial plots.
I took a few steps back towards Raven Hill when distorted figures melted out of the forest's eternal night. Garbed in cloaks of darkness they rode black, spectral steeds whose shadows melted together. I could not determine where one ended and another began. Some of them carried staves capped with red darkness that left a trail of immaterial blood hovering in the air.
I am not entirely certain what happened next. The riders seemed know of my presence and I retreated deeper in the graveyard. Foolhardy though it seemed, I do not think I was seized with panic or dread; my kind can overcome those with ease. Rather, it was a lucid understanding that whatever terrors the cemetery held were preferable to those dark riders.
Stumbling through the fog I again came upon the lights of the torches, still moving through that fearful place. That time I went among them, and they did not shun or even seem to care about me. The group was much larger than I thought, numbering at least a hundred.
The people dressed like mourners, their faces sagging under a terrible weariness. They were simple townsfolk, remarkable only for their sickly appearance. Quiet sobs came from some, and the calmer humans drew them closer. Looking back I saw the dark riders gathering like a black horizon. They trailed us but took no other action. I again tried to speak with the humans. If they even heard me, they ignored me.
We ascended the slope of a hill, the sodden earth littered with graves. A violet darkness tinged the periphery of my vision, strangling out what little light remained. Strange pressure gripped my chest, like what a drowning man might feel. Choking gasps among the humans indicated a similar effect in their ranks. Then I spotted two blue ghost-lights set at either side of a door. A great and decaying manse loomed before us.
“Morbent Fel. We agree to your conditions. Please forgive us. We are tired, we’ve lost everything. Just spare us from the riders, that is all we ask,” implored the leader of the group.
I realized that I was on my knees, brought down by the pressure. My legs shook as I tried to raise myself. A robed man walked out of the house, his movements stiff and unnatural.
“Now you come to me? Why should I be merciful? You all had many chances,” Morbent responded in an echoing voice.
“Please, Morbent! We did not know. At the time, we thought your offer of shelter was worse than our suffering, but we now know that is not true!”
“Very well. I shall bring you mercy. Follow me to the Dawning Wood.”
Morbent led the group away from his house. The riders hovered behind us as we trudged through the graveyard, coming to a stop at the weathered entrance of a crypt. It was obvious that someone, grave robbers perhaps, had been there before. The entryway opened up to a dank tunnel, littered with exposed coffins and desecrated bones. I thought of fleeing, but a glance at the dark riders convinced me to stay.
We stood assembled in the cold chambers of the crypt, surrounded by generations of the dead. I got a better look at Morbent. His face was refined and aristocratic, and he might have been handsome had his features not been twisted into a permanent look of horror. Morbent’s pale eyes studied the miserable townsfolk. Many of them sobbed, though none made any attempt to leave.
“You choose your fate willingly?” asked Morbent. “I will not lie to you, it is terrible indeed. But at least your cursed souls will be safe within the shells of your bodies. Preferable, I would think, than in the hands of them.” He pointed to the back of the chamber, where the riders shifted in the darkness of the tomb. I had not seen them enter.
“We do, Morbent,” responded the leading townsman.
“And you understand that I do not want to do this? I never wanted to inflict this choice on anyone. It is not my doing. I am only a herald of the future, I do this to spare you suffering beyond imagination. Please say you forgive me!” screamed Morbent, his voice no longer distorted.
“How can we forgive you?” asked the leader.
“Truly there was never a soul as damned as mine,” lamented Morbent. “Gather then around me, and receive my mercy.”
The townsfolk huddled around Morbent.
“Wait, what is happening?” I demanded, though the words died to whispers in my throat.
Morbent raised his hands and a darkness flowed out from his body, enveloping the townspeople. The shadows came so quickly that I too was engulfed, a terrible coldness striking my soul. Sighs echoed through the chamber, followed by wet, slopping sounds and a visceral stench seeping up from the stone floor.
The darkness cleared and I saw myself surrounded by the mindless dead. Morbent was the only living thing in the crypt, a miserable groan escaping his lips. The newly undead townspeople walked with halting steps into the winding tunnels, fading from view. I lay on the floor, exhausted but unhurt. To my relief, the dark riders were gone, leaving no trace of their presence. Then Morbent’s eyes met mine.
“What? What are you?” he demanded. “You were already dead... an interloper! Why did you come here?” His horrible voice shook the walls, and I felt a twisting sensation in my head.
“Leave me be.” With the dark riders gone, a measure of my confidence returned.
“No, they never said...”
Then Morbent and the tomb vanished. I stood beneath a whirling and tortured sky, which I realized was the Twisting Nether revealed. A great pit of darkness stared down at me like the eye of a baleful god.
The Twisting Nether faded from view. I became conscious, lying on the muddy ground of the cemetery. The world returned to normal, or at least as close as Duskwood ever got to that state. Without looking back, I made my way out of that cursed town.
Though feverish, I continued east on the lonely road through Duskwood, attempting to rationalize my experience in Raven Hill. The dark riders bore a great resemblance to the Death Knights of the Second War. Those Death Knights were the corpses of Stormwind’s knights, animated by the souls of slaughtered orcish necrolytes.
Even so, there were discrepancies I was unable to resolve. Certainly the Death Knights cast an aura of fear, but none of the records indicated anything approaching the level of what I had felt. I am obviously no stranger to undeath. During the last days of the Second War, when the remaining orcish tribes were being rounded up in the internment camps, the Alliance was particularly keen on wiping out the Death Knights. Perhaps a few survived. Or maybe the dark riders I had seen were something else entirely.
After what I think was a few days I came across a camp of human soldiers. Fortunately I’d had enough presence of mind to maintain my disguise. They appeared to be a militia of some sort, better equipped than the People’s Militia of Westfall, but less so than the Lakeshire Returners. These soldiers were of the Night Watch, a defense organization set up by the people of Duskwood.
The Night Watch allowed me to rest in their camp. From them, I learned the living still control the town of Darkshire, once known as Grand Hamlet. Stormwind has abandoned them just as surely as Westfall or Redridge.
“I know the story seems incredible. As far as I can tell it is what happened.” I had just explained what I had seen in Raven’s Hill to a man named Elsere Dodds, an officer in the Night Watch.
“It isn’t believable. But nothing here is believable, and some of what you say corroborates with what we’ve heard from Raven Hill.”
“Raven Hill looked as if it had been abandoned for a long time.”
“Most of the people fled to Darkshire about a year ago. The cemetery was crawling with the undead. One of the Raven Hill refugees, an old man named Garstow, swears that the graveyard was growing bigger each day, even though they stopped adding bodies to it.”
“Have you heard about Morbent Fel?”
“Yes. Morbent came just after the dead first started walking in Raven Hill. He was ranting about a doom coming from the east. Magistrate Perrim, who used to be in charge of Raven Hill, figured out pretty quickly that Morbent was a necromancer. I mean, he spent all his time out in the cemetery when the dead were killing anybody who got too close! Perrim and the constables tried to hang Morbent, but they were all killed by his zombie minions. After that, Morbent started going to town, saying they had a choice between two damnations. All the sensible people left after Perrim died.”
“Then those were the last inhabitants of Raven Hill that I saw?”
“We thought the people who stayed were long dead by now. I can’t really explain what you saw.”
“What about the dark riders?”
“There have been reports of such figures, but they’ve been rather sketchy.”
I spent a day at the Night Watch camp, regaining my courage after the ordeal in Raven’s Hill. One of the Night Watch soldiers, a grim woman named Gallys Morthen, was assigned to escort me to the town of Darkshire. Though I was somewhat reluctant to return to the forest road, I consoled myself with the thought of reaching civilization, or at least some degree of it.
My brusque companion rarely spoke during the journey, instead keeping her eyes on the trees that cluster threateningly on both sides of the road. I pondered how terrible such a situation must have been for a human. Upon achieving undeath, most become accustomed to darkness. However, such endless gloom has an adverse effect on mortals, withering their souls and bodies. Gallys’ face bore the look of many sleepless nights. She once expressed surprise as to how well I was handling the darkness. I simply said that I had been to many grim lands in my lifetime.
We did not light any fires while we camped for fear of attracting the less savory denizens of the forest. I remembered the same precaution among the Horde warriors with whom I marched through the Western Plaguelands. On the morning of the third day, the oppressive silence was broken by a terrible and all too familiar howl.
The moment I heard it I remembered the beastly worgen of Silverpine Forest. It was the same cry, a chilling mix of bestial and human qualities. Gallys whipped out a short sword that glowed faintly in the darkness.
“Worgen!” she exclaimed. “Be very careful Talus.”
“I’ve encountered them before.”
“Then you know what to expect. Keep an eye to the left side; they’re howling from behind the trees there.”
We continued walking. I was sorely tempted to ask how the worgen came to Duskwood; I had not seen any outside of Silverpine Forest. I refrained for caution’s sake.
An opening in the wall of trees revealed an abandoned field, skeletal trees emerging from the mist. Later, I was told that it had once been a large and prosperous estate, now called the Rotting Orchard. Gallys shrank back into the darkness on the other side of the road and I did the same. Then, one of the cursed wolf-men loped into our vision. Sniffing the damp air, it turned and looked directly at us. Then it raised its muzzle and howled, and a dozen pairs of glowing red eyes appeared in the mists.
“We’ve been spotted!” warned Gallys.
The worgen charged towards us, running on all fours and growling in a sort of hateful desperation. Before it got too close I unleashed a cone of cold, slowing it down. We ran, though even then I did not expect to outrun the worgen.
The darkness behind filled with the sound of harsh breathing and clawed feet digging into the road. I realized I stood a much better chance of survival alone, without Gallys. If worgen were anything like normal wolves in physiology, they would be less likely to follow me. What interest would they have in a cold quarry that was already basically dead? I quickly dispelled the thought. I would not abandon the human to preserve my existence.
“Oh Light, there are too many,” cursed Gallys.
“Keep running, I’ll slow them down.”
“I’m supposed to—” she argued, before I interrupted.
“I will be fine.”
I allowed Gallys to run ahead. The mass of red eyes became connected to lithe, savage bodies. A terrible howl rent the air. The worgen pack leaped towards me, though I saw some begin to run past in pursuit of Gallys. My hypothesis was correct.
When they neared me I cast a frost nova spell, briefly freezing them in their tracks. I took advantage of their temporary immobility and ran ahead. I could not see Gallys in the darkness down the road. As none of the worgen had made it past me, I surmised that she was safe.
The natural speed of the worgen balanced my arcane obstacle, and they were soon at my heels. My mana reserves were still in decent condition and I cast another frost nova though not before one of them sliced open my left arm. Running ahead, I got the feeling that they would not fall for the trick a third time.
It was only a little later that I realized all pursuit had stopped. I continued to run, not quite believing my luck. A look back revealed only the swirling mists, devoid of red worgen eyes. I slowed down to a walk, looking over my shoulder. There was nothing.
Like so much of what I saw in Duskwood, I am not entirely sure why the worgen ceased their pursuit. My theory is that my spells distracted them from Gallys, causing them to concentrate on me. As I am technically dead, I did not provide an interesting target and they simply gave up. By all accounts the worgen are rather intelligent, perhaps even having a low level of sapience. Yet their animal instincts can still be exploited.
I found Gallys a little while later. I had actually passed her while fleeing the worgen. She was also baffled as to why they stopped. Needless to say, I did not share my theory with her. Gallys relaxed somewhat as we got closer to Darkshire. I asked her about the worgen, and she replied that they had simply appeared seven months after the darkness first descended.
“I can barely remember what the sun looked like. Looks like, I should say,” she mourned.
“I’m sure it will come again,” I said, more out of sympathy than conviction. “Was that Night Watch camp you were in guarding against the undead of Raven Hill?”
“Among other things. We also wanted to make sure that none of the Splinterfist ogres go on the warpath against Darkshire. We can ill-afford a fight with them.”
“Yes. They came on over from Deadwind Pass, actually a little while before the darkness. Now they dwell in the Vul’gol Ogre Mound. The Splinterfist are horrible.”
“Ogres are not known for being pleasant.”
“They are worse than normal. My father fought ogres in the Second War, and the Splinterfist do not act like regular ones. Ogres are war machines, really. They come up to you and try to kill you, simple as that. The Splinterfists are different, they’re sadists.”
“How do you mean?”
“They torture people to death and leave their bodies in places others see them. When they venture out of Vul’gol they almost exclusively attack the weak. My parents were both very old, too old to harm anyone. They tore them to pieces. I don’t wish to discuss the ogres any longer.”
Two more days passed before we reached Darkshire. The sight of the town is not very reassuring after the terrors of the forest. The buildings of Darkshire huddle together as if fearful of the outside world. Paintings of holy symbols cover the walls and roofs, and nearly everyone wears charms of some sort. The fog is not as thick in the town, yet there is an even heavier feeling of fatigue and dread. Weary townspeople exchanged curt nods and greetings with Gallys, and examined me with distrust. I was again astounded by Stormwind’s inaction in the face of such a crisis.
I thanked Gallys for her time, and went to get a room at the Scarlet Raven Tavern.
Long ago, the world was shrouded in darkness. Humans could not see one another, and thus felt no commonality or unity and quarreled against each other in the shadows. This terrible state continued until Nishakh the Wise learned of the fires jealously hoarded by the demon lords. He bade the raven, the cleverest of all birds, to infiltrate the blasphemous citadel of Khambajja the Demon King. The raven cleverly made his way into the citadel and stole the fire. The raven, now called the Scarlet Raven for his plumage of flame, arched across the firmament. Some of the fire he gave to Nishakh; the rest he kept as he traveled the sky each and every day, becoming the sun. Fire and, by extension, the Light, at last came to humanity and they learned to end their feuds.
An individual familiar with old legends can perhaps tell that the above story is not from the Arathi myth cycle. No Arathi legend is complete without a hero or monster getting decapitated at some point. Instead it is one of the most treasured tales of the Ralmanni wanderers.
When the Arathi came to the land that eventually became Stormwind, they thought it inhabited only by gnolls and beasts. As they ventured farther south, they were surprised (and perhaps chagrined) to find other humans. Unlike the humans of the north, the Ralmanni are dark of skin and hair. In those days they lived in small forest villages connected by ancient trollish roads. They ranged from Southwood to as far as the Black Morass, and a few even made their homes in Stranglethorn Vale.
Today, no one can be sure who struck the first blow. What is known is that the Ralmanni clashed with the Arathi for many years. Finally the Ralmanni suffered a bloody defeat at the Battle of Brightwood Grove (the Day of Weeping, as the Ralmanni call it) and were largely driven from Southwood and confined to the Swamp of Sorrows, where they supposedly originated.
Some of the more aggressive nobles of Stormwind sought to wipe out the Ralmanni. A few daring Ralmanni bands remained at the edges of Southwood. Those that did stay were not so foolish as to harass the Arathi settlers. Bigotry, however, has never needed a rational basis and the new inhabitants of Southwood still loathed the Ralmanni. Forced from their villages, the Ralmanni took up a nomadic existence, living in the brightly colored wagons for which they are now famous.
Yet the Faith of the Holy Light had taken root in Stormwind, and the church’s doctors and theologians saw many religious similarities between the Light and traditional Ralmanni beliefs. The Ralmanni also believed in a spiritual skein that connected all thinking beings, and that an individual’s goodness or sin would be amplified in the collective spirit. The Way, as the Ralmanni called it, also venerated spirits and culture heroes (such as the Scarlet Raven and Nishakh) as well as an angelic host called the Najaru.
The king decreed that the Ralmanni were honorary subjects of the kingdom, and that any attack on them would be regarded as a crime. Though the Ralmanni were protected, there was too much bad blood between them and the Stormwinders for integration to take place. It must be said that the Ralmanni committed their share of atrocities during the war.
It was the orcish invasion that finally bound the two peoples together. Ralmanni bands fought desperate battles in the Black Morass before Stormwind even knew of the orcs. Suffering grievous losses, they were forced to retreat to the lands of Stormwind. When Stormwind fell, many Ralmanni went north with the remnants of the kingdom, where they proved themselves in battle. When Stormwind was finally resettled, a number of Ralmanni chose to live in towns. Others continued their nomadic lifestyle, and more than a few stayed in Lordaeron, sometimes marrying into the local population.
“Ursel always said I was like the Scarlet Raven for his life. Dark and dreary before he met me, he said. That’s how this place got its name.”
The manager of the Scarlet Raven Tavern was a Ralmanni beauty named Jahani Trelayne. Her husband, Ursel Trelayne, was a Stormwinder who served in the Night Watch. She maintained the inn during his absence. Jahani spoke with a musical accent.
“That was very good of him.”
“Yes. I fear for him so much though! Duskwood is a terrible place, and he’s out on there dealing with the worst of it. Every day I pray that he returns home safely, and that the curse will be lifted.”
“You must have great attachment to Darkshire to stay here.”
“Ha! The fathers of my fathers lived here long before the Northmen ever came. We fought then and I fight now.”
“Were you born in Darkshire?”
“No, I was born in Grand Hamlet,” she laughed.
“Oh, right. Excuse me.”
“I think we should have kept the old name. Oh well. I was born here, to answer your question. My father and mother both fought in the Battle of the Dark Portal, and their fathers and mothers were among the first to fight the greenskins.”
“Why didn’t they resume the nomadic lifestyle after the orcs were defeated?”
“Few of the Ralmanni wanted to return to the Life of the Wheel. Even after the orcs were beaten there remained little of our ancient home. The Swamp of Sorrows had grown even more dangerous, and the Blasted Lands were out of the question. Some still do keep to the Wheel, but not many. Our future is with the humans of Stormwind. Some still might not trust us, but none can question our bravery or loyalty.”
“You feel accepted then, into Darkshire?”
“Very much so, yes. Many Ralmanni are in the Night Watch. If we Ralmanni were gone, Darkshire would soon follow.”
As Jahani said, a sizeable Ralmanni community lives in Darkshire. Most of those I spoke with were less cheerful than Jahani. Though relations between the Ralmanni and Stormwinders are peaceful, the Ralmanni are just as badly affected by the surrounding darkness. Some hold hope that the Scarlet Raven would return and dispel the darkness, as it had done in ages past.
The terrible nature of Duskwood has stamped itself onto Darkshire’s miserable inhabitants. They have become sickly, and many are plagued with constant suspicion and dread. The early hours are often rent with weeping. Nightmares had afflicted the populace ever since the darkness first descended over the land. Far more vivid than normal nightmares, they leave their victims shaken and deeply troubled for days at a time. A few find themselves unable to distinguish between the waking world and the terror of their dreams. The unfortunates who reach this condition invariably die after a few weeks.
A group of the more unhinged townspeople occupy the central square during the night hours. They wear heavy robes with multitudes of holy icons sown into the fabric. The combined weight of the icons must be staggering, akin to wearing a suit of armor. Their leader, a lunatic named Kosrin, has carved the outlines of these symbols onto his own face. They gather each night to chant groaning hymns in an effort to keep the dark forces at bay. The other people of Darkshire avoid them, though none make any attempt to stop the gatherings. Perhaps they think they could use any help offered, however dubious. Besides, the fanatics are too disturbed to be useful for much else.
I only spent three days in Darkshire. The warmth of the Scarlet Raven Tavern cannot completely dispel the evil that haunts Duskwood. On the third day I visited the town hall, a neglected-looking structure near the tavern. The magistrate of Darkshire was Ello Ebonlocke, a gaunt man who endlessly drummed his fingers on his desk. The Ebonlockes were once a family of nobles, though they largely abandoned their position after the Stormwind Civil War. They had frequently married commoners since then, and lost their claim to nobility.
“So Redridge is also under siege? Dark times all over the world it seems. But does the sun still shine over Lakeshire?” he inquired
“How brightly?” he asked, intensely.
“As brightly as normal.”
“You can feel it, correct?”
“Good. I know Westfall is afflicted with troubles of its own. A number of people there fled here. I can’t imagine they were very happy with what they got.”
Ello’s head suddenly jerked to the left, and he gave an unsettling whimper.
“Many of the refugees never made it this far,” he continued, as if nothing had happened.
“The Night Watch at least, seems to be protecting the town.”
“I should say so. My daughter fights in their ranks. Poor Althea is a creature of the sun, she should not have to suffer this.”
“Some people here seem reasonably secure. Jahani—”
“Ah, Jahani. She is a very strong woman. Everyone who still lives in Darkshire is quite strong, even if made a bit strange. That is our hope, you see. That we will be able to outlast this darkness.”
“That may be half the battle right there”, I said.
“Morale is important. I marched under Lord Lothar at Blackrock Mountain. It was dark then, too, yet he kept us going.” He flinched and cried again. “We will fight until this land is again known as Southwood. Even if I do not live to see it, I will be happy when the Scarlet Raven again flies over our town.”
“You are Ralmanni?”
“Oh, no. When you live among so many of them you adopt a few of their terms as your own.”
“I suppose you’ve already asked Stormwind for help?”
“It was one of the first things we did. They gave no meaningful response.”
I left early the next day. As I walked the roads east of Darkshire, I reflected on what I learned in the kingdom of Stormwind. It is clearly falling to pieces. With invasions and rebellion destroying the nation, the very future of the Alliance is in doubt. As a member of the Horde, and more particularly one of the Forsaken, I cannot say that I would mourn much for the Alliance. Yet the kingdom of Stormwind is vastly preferable to the Old Horde, the Defias, or whatever evil is responsible for Duskwood’s state.
Craggy gray peaks loomed before me, and the vegetation grew sparse as I walked. Just ahead was the haunted realm of Deadwind Pass, perhaps the source of Duskwood’s curse. Steeling myself for the journey ahead, I again prepared for the worst.