The day was hot and humid, with a shining sun that remained unblocked by clouds at high noon in the crisp blue sky. The small blood elven town was alive with residents chatting, working, and simply enjoying the day. In a field behind one of the simple, cozy homes, two young girls ran barefoot. The elder, by what appeared to be two years, ran quickly away from her younger sister in a game of tag. The twelve year old was tall, for her age, with tanned skin and shoulder length raven hair, pulled back from her face in a loose ponytail. The younger sibling was a bit shorter, with a lighter complexion, and pale blonde hair that fell down her back in curls. She scowled as her older sister easily outran her, taunting and giggling all the way.
"Come on, Tanya! This isn't fair!" The younger called, stopping in her tracks and folding her arms across her chest in defiance.
"It isn't my fault you're a slowpoke, Juliet!" Tanya chuckled, turning to face her sister with a rather victorious smile. Juliet looked unamused. "Fine." Tanya sighed, squinting towards the sky and shading her brow with her hand. "It must nearly be lunch time, anyhow." She said. "I'll race you inside!" She shouted suddenly, bolting across the field.
"You got a head start!" Juliet whined, following after. As they reached mid-field, however, a loud explosion caused them both to halt, exchanging worried glances. Instinctively, both dashed for their home, greeted by their mother's arms in a tight hug.
"Oh, thank goodness!" Their mother sighed in relief.
"What's going on?" Tanya demanded.
"We're under attack, my dear.. The humans, from across the valley." Their mother briefly explained as she ushered them towards a low cabinet in the kitchen. "You two need to hide in here. Do not come out until I return to get you, myself." With that, she hurried her daughters inside and closed the door.
It wasn't uncommon for their small town to be attacked by all manner of Alliance forces. For the most part, however, it was the humans. They wanted the town eliminated, so they could claim the pristine location and fertile soil for their own use. However, though their town was small, it had a plethora of strong forces. Lead by Tanya and Juliet's noble father, Wolfe Bouligarde, the town's inhabitants were thoroughly trained and ready for any attacks.
The sounds from outside painted a different picture, though. The battle sounded fierce, this time. It was less of a strategic plan to run the elves off, like it usually was, and it sounded more like a massacre. The clashing blades, explosions, and screams of pain, fear, and despair were certainly getting to Tanya. She flinched and whimpered, every so often. Juliet had simply slowed her breathing to a near halt, waiting.
"Where's dad?" Tanya whispered in a shaking voice, on the verge of tears.
"I don't know." Juliet breathed, barely loud enough to hear.
"And mum.. Our brothers.." Tanya continues, sniffling. "Why couldn't they come hide with us?" Juliet didn't answer, this time. Tanya was clearly too distraught to think clearly. There was no way their father or their older brothers would simply hide, instead of defending the town. Even Juliet, herself, had the itching urge to run out and help. "Juliet, do you think-"
"Shush." Juliet hissed. It was becoming too hard to hear what was happening, over her sister's worry.
"Juliet! How can you be so-"
"Shush, Tanya!" Juliet ordered, giving her sister a stern glance.
Tanya looked ready to protest, but thought otherwise as they heard the front door creak open. Then, two male voices wafted through the house in a language neither elf could understand, but still knew to be the human language called 'common'. They listened intently as the men continued through the house, sweeping the rooms for others and, most likely, pillaging valuables. They seemed content that the house was unoccupied, after a quick walk through, and the sister's heard them leave, again.
"How did you know they would come in?" Tanya asked in a hushed whisper.
"I didn't." Juliet answered. Her tone suggested that they should stay silent, just in case.
Honestly, she had known. Her father had spoken to her enough about endured battles and strategies that she could have guessed. When an attack is being won, in a slaughter mission, it's common protocol for houses to be searched. Though, Juliet didn't want to explain this to her sister, and risk making more noise. After a while of sitting immobile and cramped in the dusty cupboard, a strange, yet familiar smell rose into the air.
"Tanya, they've set the house on fire! We have to get out of here!"
"But mother said to-" Tanya began.
"Well, I'm sure there's an exception if we're about to be burned alive!" Juliet hissed, cautiously pushing open the door to their hiding place. After assuring there were no lingering humans inside the house, she quickly rushed out of the cupboard and tugged Tanya after her. The two quickly fled from the house as visible flames swept across the floors, counters, and walls.
As they escaped the burning, smoke filled house, they were stopped by the sight of sheer destruction before them. The foul stench of burning flesh and wood, mixed with the tang of blood invaded their nostrils, instantly turning their stomachs. Houses and shops were aflame, as well as a few piles of corpses scattered about. More bodies lay unceremoniously strewn across the ground with arrows protruding from them or sword slashes through their torso's. Some were even completely dismembered, laying hacked to pieces and littered through the village. Dark crimson pools of blood lay here and there, steaming slightly as the hot sun bore down on them. It seemed as though the entire town had either fled or been killed in the battle, and the humans were taking their time and great pleasure in tearing apart buildings and spitting on the dead.
Tanya, snapping back to reality enough to realize they hadn't noticed the two sisters, snatched Juliet's hand and pulled her along as she ran. They made it across the town before shouts rang out from behind them. Only seconds later a sharp pain tore it's way through Juliet's chest and she stumbled, falling to the ground. She rose a hand to the area the pain originated from, and felt the tip of an arrow protruding from her shoulder. Her widened green orbs looked up to see Tanya had stopped a few feet away, looking to Juliet in terror.
The shouts got closer, and Tanya gave a glance behind Juliet before hurrying off into the woods, leaving her sister to panic in her wake. The humans finally reached Juliet and she inhaled a sharp breath of pain as the arrow was roughly torn from her. One of the men stopped beside her as the other continued after Tanya. If they were concerning themselves with the two young girls, clearly the attack was meant as an extermination. The man beside Juliet snickered as he wiped her blood from the arrow and set it back into his quiver. He spoke to Juliet in common, giving a satisfied smirk to the suffering girl as he drew a rather menacing short-sword.
It was then that the sky quickly began to darken. The sun was blotted out by dark, heavy clouds that had not been present, before. As they did, it seemed to grow colder, and a dull, stormy shade fell over the area. The man's eyes widened slightly as he looked around. Then, he called out to his companion, who had gone after Tanya. He sounded frantic. The man's face suddenly twisted in pain, then went blank as he fell forward, landing next to Juliet on the ground. She watched as the life quickly faded from his eyes, and a feeling of hope washed over her. Perhaps not all of her race was dead, after all. Determined to assist them, Juliet heaved herself to her feet with a cry of pain. She snatched the man's fallen sword, dragging it in the dirt path behind her as she staggered back into town.
The situation quickly began to feel sour to her once hopeful view. She looked around to see soldiers attacking the humans, but she hadn't seen anything like them, before. They were dressed in dark, menacing armor, wielding runed weapons pulsing with power. The sight of them sent instant chills of instinctive warning down her spine, and her grip on the sword tightened as she continued through the town, seemingly unnoticed.
It was then that the blood curdling reality struck her, seeing beings other than these dark soldiers. Ghouls, abominations, gargoyles.. Rotting flesh hanging from stained bones, but yet still mobile creatures. Assortments of flesh stitched together and stuffed roughly in a less defined manner. Sharp claws, pointed, jagged teeth, glazed over, dead eyes.. Guts hanging open with rotted organs visible and oozing in a stomach turning manner. The hooks the giant constructs wielded tore easily through the humans' bodies and gargoyles of mobile stone lashed at their faces while ghouls tore through flesh in a frenzy of teeth and claws. All the while, the dark soldiers continued cutting through the humans, raising the fallen as more mindless ghouls and increasing their numbers by the second.
The bile rose in Juliet's throat and she chocked slightly, but refused to let herself be sick. This was a scourge assault. The unknown, dark soldiers were the feared death knights. She couldn't let herself be noticed, or she would be killed on sight. Death knights were monsters, yearning for bloodshed, chaos, and destruction. They fed off others pain and would never hesitate to cut her in two, if only for the satisfaction of taking another life. She had to flee.
Her train of though shifted dramatically, however, when her fallen friends, neighbors, and family members began to rise as ghouls. A rage like she'd never felt before rose in her chest and she tore after one of the death knights about to raise a particular corpse. Her brother. She swung the blade madly, and it clashed loudly with the knight's chest piece. Of course, she didn't have enough strength to pierce his thick plate armor, but she certainly caught his attention. He turned quickly, ready to fight. He faltered, however, as his icy gaze fell to rest on the small, wounded elf. His roaring laughter echoed through the mouth of his helm, and it only made Juliet's blood boil more. She swung again and again, tears stinging the rims of her eyes as she realized she was getting nowhere. She wasn't strong enough. The more her sword failed to pierce his armor, the more the death knight laughed.
Finally, another knight approached the two in curiosity. He didn't find as much amusement from the situation as the first knight. After only a moment of assessing the occurrence, he swiftly brought his axe down, aiming for Juliet. She quickly changed her focus, dodging the axe just barely. As she'd moved out of the way, she flipped her sword vertical and aimed as quickly and as carefully as she possibly could. As the knight had come forward, pulled after the weight of his heavy weapon, she'd been able to slip the sharp blade through the gap between his chest piece and helm, sinking it deep into the knight's skull. As she did so, she remembered advice she'd gotten from her father. That anyone, no matter how outmatched or inexperienced, can defeat even the strongest opponent, with enough strategy and determination. Juliet's quick thinking, and the use of the death knight's own actions, against him, were a clear proof to that fact. The act was enough to fell the knight, and Juliet quickly retracted her sword.
This event, alone, was enough to cease the other knight's laughter. Instead, he snarled as he brought out a sword of his own. His weapon clashed with hers as she quickly lifted it in front of her to block. The force of his swing knocked her to the ground and, though it hurt badly, she wasted no time to wince before jumping to her feet and taking a fierce swing of her own. The knight easily dodged, and she stumbled forward from the weight of her weapon. She heard the rush of air as he swung at her back, and rolled out of the way. She couldn't help but wince, then, as dirt clung to her wound. She turned, aiming carefully and taking a quick, precise hit to the hilt of his weapon. This successfully knocked the sword from his hand, and he gave a grunt in annoyance before unsheathing a second sword from his hip. She leapt sideways as he swung at her, but sh wasn't quick enough to fully dodge, and received a rather harsh gash on her arm. Her vision faltered a bit from the pain and blood loss, but was able to take a successful swing back. She managed to put enough force into it to cut through a thinner area of his helm, enough to slice his cheek a bit. He snarled in anger, raising his sword to take a final fatal blow. A cold, firm voice rose in the air, however, that stopped him in his tracks.
"Leave her." It commanded. A feeling of coldness and fear ran through her as she heard the voice. Yet another knight she would have to fight. She quickly turned, sword raised and ready. Though, the sight before her made her falter, and the sword fell from her grasp to crash to the ground beside her. She made no move to retrieve it. Through her fight, many knights had stopped to watch and, in the center of them, was a man she had heard of all to often in her father's tales. He was tall and adorned in black armor covered in skull designs. A large sword rested at his side, glowing runes down it's center that smoked with an icy blue color. All focus from the group of them was on her.
In that moment, she was unaware of anything other than the sheer terror that froze her bones in place. She didn't stand a chance against the Lich King. As the long forgotten knight she'd been fighting pushed past her, he allowed himself to bump into her side hard, causing her to collapse to all fours on the ground in a sharp wince.
"Enough." The King spoke again, a harsh overtone to his voice in an authoritative manner. Juliet willed herself to look up to see the King approaching her, and her eyes widened. He came to a stop before her, holding out a hand. Juliet's eyes dropped to it and, after a short pause, she shakily took it. He lifted her to her feet and handed her a vial of red liquid. "Drink that." He demanded.
With a glance past him to the knights watching, she uncorked the vial and drank. The liquid had a bitter taste, and it immediately warmed her insides. Then, she felt her wounds begin to heal, her flesh melding back together rather swiftly, and a sense of confusion overtook her. She had been certain that the potion would hurt her, even kill her. Why was he helping her? With a look back up to him, she handed back the empty bottle.
"Thank you." She offered cautiously, and he took a moment to look her over.
"Kalzor." He turned to the death knight she'd fought. The troll had taken off his helm to feel the cut on his cheek. He looked up quickly upon being called, his eyes darting between Juliet and the King. "Fight her, now."
The troll laughed, dawning his helm and starting towards her. Juliet panicked, quickly stooping to pick up her fallen sword and hold it towards Kalzor. In a flash, he had unsheathed both his swords and was coming at her in a frenzy. Juliet dodged and blocked with a skill she shouldn't possess at such a young age. And she wouldn't have, if not for her father's relentless training. She used her size as her greatest advantage. She was small, and quick on her feet. She wasn't weighed down by heavy armor, and her vision wasn't blocked by a helm. She sustained a few nicks and scratches, here and there, but was able to dodge the majority of the attacks.
She did her best to bide her time, remaining agile and nimble as she tried to devise a plan and wear the knight out. She threw in a few of her own swings, here and there, when the opportunity arose, but he was far too experienced a fighter to allow them to hit him. Her idea to tire the knight was starting to work. Through chasing the quick elf around, and having her dodge his swings, as they wore out his energy, he was becoming slower, and less accurate. This was when she seized the chance to swing her blade at his swords. Using all her might, she was able to knock them both from his grasp and, in the same swift motion, pointed her sword at the knight's throat.
"This is ridiculous!" Kalzor snarled.
"Where did you learn to fight, blood elf?" The King asked, moving forward and lowering Juliet's sword with his own.
"My.. My father was teaching me." Juliet said quietly, giving a glance to the fallen corpse of her father, a ways across the village. The King followed her gaze, then looked around the ruined town.
"There is nothing left for you, here." He spoke, gaining Juliet's attention. "Join us."