The portal led to the tower of mage, which was located in Stormwind. There was no one in the room where they ended up.
— Thank you, Lassara. I wouldn’t have survived there alone, the paladin thanked the mage.
— It is a pity that I could not save the others, — she said surprisingly sharply. — Tell me, what exactly happened in that campaign on the ziggurat.
The paladin tried to describe the entire raid to the smallest detail.
— Hmm. The battle with the Nerub. Interesting. She had already met with him somewhere and, apparently, wanted to take revenge. I even have a couple of guesses where she could meet him. And what about the pendant — describe it to me. Sure, he was important to her.
The paladin was at a loss. He did not particularly remember what the pendant looked like.
— Like an ordinary gilded bauble, — he shrugged. — Although there was one interesting magical effect in it: in the middle was a glass vessel in which a sandstorm raged. Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything else.
Draenei took out an amulet with a wolf’s head, which continued to flicker with energy.
Going to the table, she laid out maps with scrolls there and casually threw the medallion at them from above.
— While I was studying it, I managed to find some information, — said Lassara. — The image on the medallion is a symbol of the ancient fort Arhok. It was a small fortress, next to Gilneas in Silver Bor, subsequently destroyed by the undead. If I am not mistaken, the king of Gilneas is Genn Greymane, and instead of protecting his people, he fenced himself off from the whole world with a wall. The king who left his people to their fate?! — Draenei stopped short. — However, it is not for me to meddle in other people’s affairs.
Bolingar nodded silently, not daring to interrupt her.
— Alas, I did not find anything else in the Stormwind Library, — continued Lassara. — If you are going to get to the bottom of the truth, then the only option is to go to Serebryany Bor and search there already. Unfortunately, I can’t help anything else.
— You … you will not come with me? — The paladin asked quietly. He understood that he had already abused her patience and time.
— I’m sorry, but I have more important matters, — the draenei only shrugged.
— Yes, you’re right, you have done so much for me, — Bolingar straightened. — Thanks for all. And I’m sorry if I gave you any inconvenience.
Going down the stairs, the paladin considered the next step. He will have enough money to fly to the Chillwind Camp, and then what? It will be necessary to cross the ruins of Alterac, and then move along the path to the south gate. But even overcoming the Hillsbrad Foothills is not so easy. This is the territory of the Forsaken. All surviving residents took refuge behind a wall in Gilneas, leaving only ruins on the other side. While Bolingar was considering his further actions, he did not notice how he was already near the roost of gryphons.
— Well, I’ll figure it out on the spot, — in fact, the paladin was not strong in logic and preferred to solve all problems already on the spot.
Western plaguelands. Chillwind Camp
At the outpost, he was able to buy a horse. Fortunately, it was inexpensive.
It took a lot of time on the road, glory to the light, there were no adventures. Ruins of Alterac he drove without unpleasant encounters with the Syndicate.
Surprisingly, on the tract he did not meet anyone at all, not a single living soul. By the way, he did not meet the undead here either.
But most of all he was struck by the southern gate: they were wide open, not a hint of security nearby. What made undead abandon them? Driving under gloomy arches, Bolingar involuntarily looked around every now and then. Too quiet. As if someone was preparing a trap for him. The sound of his horse’s hoofs echoed. Echoed in his head. Echoing in these God-forgotten gates. Echoing all over the place. But the paladin never noticed anyone. Fortunately.
Having passed the southern gate, the paladin involuntarily breathed a sigh of relief.
It took him about an hour to travel along the Hillsbrad Foothills. And all this time he had been expecting an ambush or worse. As soon as he heard a strange sound, he galloped his horse, turning off the road and making his way through the bushes, hoping to confuse his tracks. True, sometimes he understood that it was empty paranoia, but fear did not let him go.
On the horizon was a huge wall built by King Genn Greymane. Bolingar, like Lassara, condemned her decision to shut herself off the wall. But Genn Greymane had long since fallen and could do nothing more. However, having surrendered all positions to the Forsaken, he already spoiled the life of his people for many years to come.
Entering an abandoned village near the wall, the paladin felt despair overwhelming him. The streets were empty. Some of the houses were boarded up, some were destroyed. Only pieces of parchment flew along the road, driven by the wind. In those houses that were boarded up, the paladin was afraid to enter. Dead residents looked directly from the windows at Bolingar. He grabbed the hammer, but it did not shine with bright light.
— What? Has the light left me? — he wanted to turn his horse and ride away.
But Bolingar must find the answers in this village, although it will be more accurate to say in this graveyard. A terrible silence overtook the terrible atmosphere, and only the crows periodically made it clear that all this was not a soundless dream.
What was he trying to find here? He will not be able to search every house. He again took out Kate’s medallion, trying to find at least some kind of similar pattern. But in vain.
There was a sudden rustle. The paladin unfolded his horse and prepared for battle. However, no one came to him. Having stood in full combat readiness for three minutes, the paladin finally budged, constantly looking back at the very place where he heard a rustle.
Ahead appeared homestead. There was also no coat of arms of a wolf’s head. But maybe he’s lucky to find at least some records about Fort Arhok? Bolingar dismounted from his horse and entered the estate. Like the whole village, it was abandoned. He looked around. In front of him is a huge hall, apparently a living room: all in a web, with destroyed furniture, a thick layer of dust on the fireplace.
From the room were two side doorways and a staircase to the second floor. Bolingar moved toward the nearest door when something creaked behind him. He turned around, preparing at any moment to snatch the previously removed hammer.
But there was no one behind him, only the wind howled, breaking into a new place for himself through the open door and disturbing the spiderweb. Bolingar exhaled and continued on his way. The kitchen and apparently the pantry. The paladin shot a quick glance at the broken utensils and headed the other way. There he was more fortunate: it was the cabinet of the former owners. A man went to the table and examined the papers lying there: bills, land contracts, orders for a batch of ingots and other useless documents.
The entire wall was closed by a bookcase. Bolingar ran his hand through the books, hoping to find a secret passage here. But nothing. He frowned. How many years have passed since that place was devastated? One of the books attracted his attention, as if it stood out from the rest. The paladin pulled her out, but the closet continued to stand, as if mocking him. Hiding disappointment, Bolingar flipped through the book. It turned out to be really unusual, but with a secret: it contained twenty gold.
— Well, at least something, — said the paladin in annoyance and slammed the book.
From his office he moved on to study the first floor. But in the next room, only darkness awaited him. The paladin had to return to another wing and tinker in search of candles. He was lucky, he was able to find a small cinder. It remains to hope that this is enough to explore the whole room.
Bolingar lit a candle in his office and went on. A dim fire lit bookshelves from the darkness. it is Library!
— Praise be to the Light! — slipped from his lips.
Already here he can find at least some information. The paladin went at random to the nearest shelves and picked up a book. «Acherion: The World of the Demon».
— So there are books on A, — he muttered. — So Arhok must be here.
The next book was «Arkage». After the «Arcanum». The librarian was clearly not particularly worried about sorting the books alphabetically: if only the first letter matches. Bolingar had already lost track of the books, pulling out one by one. And the name «Zerus» snatched from the darkness surprised him unpleasantly. When did he manage to move to another rack?
The paladin returned to the entrance and brought the candle to the cupboard, no longer touching the books.
— «Andem», not that, — muttered Bolingar, eyeing the names.— «Anrial». Damn it, it looks like it’s not there at all.
The man hit the books with all his might, and another book fell on top of him. The paladin picked it up. Apparently she was lying at the very top that he did not even notice her. Having brushed off a layer of dust from the cover, he made out the name «Arhok».
The paladin put out the candle and went out into the relatively lighted study. There he gathered all the papers in one pile, put aside a book hidden under the clutter called «The Will of the Hybrid» and sat down, opening the book «Arhok» in front of him.
“Fort Arhok was built during the second war by the elven hero Lorethal.”
The paladin remembered what the elves, mana-dependent, selfish, narcissistic bastards, has now turned into.
“The fort quickly joined the trading network of surrounding cities, thanks to the mine, which discovered a lot of precious metal. Gradually, Arhok attracted new people. Soon the Fort was overgrown with trading shops with magic items, a stable for animals, a tavern. A forge was built, and in front of it was a jewelry workshop. Now, the finished product was immediately produced from the metal mined in the mine.”
Bolingar frowned. He needs information of a different kind.
He flipped through the section on the third war right away, barely reading the name.
“First, an outbreak plague occurred in Andorhal, then in the large village of Brill. And soon the plague also began in Arhok. It is not known what caused the plague, but many residents died.
Dark times have come. Part of the plague victims did not just die, it became undead and attacked their loved ones. After these incidents, an order was issued to burn all those with the plague.
Despite the burning of most of the inhabitants, Arhok still tried to maintain the status of an autonomous fortress. But without the support of the king, this was impossible. As a result, the commander-in-chief of the fort Arhok leaves the royalty of Genn Greymane and is declared a traitor.
A wave of undead passes like a devastating hurricane along Silverpine Forest, destroying everything in its path. And only Gilneas closed by a huge wall, did they bypass.
The Arhok fell under the superior forces of the undead army.”
An empty book without details. Bolingar slammed the book in frustration. Not a single answer to his questions!
Leaving the estate, Bolingar looked around again, more likely out of habit than really expecting an attack. Imagine his surprise when he came across an arrow that stuck into the corner of the doorway. A piece of parchment was wound around the arrow shaft. The paladin carefully pulled out the arrow and removed the parchment from it:
The Forsaken Patrol will be here soon. Run from here.
From the fort that you are looking for, stayed is only a tower.
Standing nearby, in the hills, you won’t be mistaken. We’ll meet there. Need to talk.
Bolingar re-read the contents several times before reaching the understand of the message. Who could leave him that? Only the one who knew what he was looking for … Caitlin! The paladin mounted his horse and swept through the streets of an abandoned village. Having got out of the village, the paladin climbed onto the nearest hill and looked around. Indeed, the Forsaken patrol was sent directly to the village from the opposite side.
Turning his back to them, he saw ahead a lonely tower in front of the mountains. She seemed to peer warily from the surrounding hills. Bolingar looked around the area, trying to figure out how he could get there. Finally, he discerned the remnants of the once paved road and moved forward.
He had already lost track of the number of turns made, since the tower was always in sight and made it possible not to lose direction. But this explained why Arhok became an automated fortress. Narrow winding roads amid hilly terrain would not have surrounded Fort. Nearby mountains contributed to the development of mining of ore. Surely there was a river nearby. And there was enough space for arable land and farms.
But as soon as he went out on a direct path to the tower, a huge plain field stretched before him. Nearly. Everywhere stood burnt buildings and a dilapidated defensive wall. Only the tower in the center was in relative order. Although she clearly suffered from siege weapons.
The paladin rushed along the rest of the streets directly to the tower, hastily braking the horse and jumping from it. To his surprise, there was even a whole door. Bolingar carefully opened it, expecting a squeak or something else. Silence. He went into the round room and looked around. No cobwebs, no dust, as if someone lived here. Really?
He spotted a spiral staircase upstairs and hurried toward it. Glancing cautiously under his feet, expecting that the steps could fall at any moment under his heavy armor, he rose.
A staircase led to the very roof, where the paladin went into the likeness of a living room. At the opposite end was a fireplace framed by two stairs to the side. Bolingar realized that there was another room above, and he felt goose bumps running across his skin.
Near the fireplace, a sofa stood with his back to him. A huge bow was placed on the side of the sofa. Caitlin? He squinted, checking the shadow. Not. That’s not her.
— Well, finally. How long did you — the voice was vaguely familiar Bolingar, but he could not figure out who it is.
She got up, picked up the bow and slowly walked to the paladin. Now he could see her completely.
— Werewolf! — exclaimed the Paladin and grabbed the hammer.
In front of him stood a she-wolf, insanely similar to the death knight, with whom Bolingar fought at the fortress of Valor. Her face was hidden behind a wolf mask.
— What?! Werewolf?! Well, you are rude. And you call yourself a paladin.
— Who are you?! — The paladin demanded an answer.
— Well. I thought you were more educated. But apparently not. Well, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Riverey. I am a hunter. Periodically kill the Forsaken patrols. And I also save all kinds of fools who have the wisdom to stick into a silver forest. So tell me what you forgot in this village?
The paladin calmed down and removed the hammer.
— I noticed it. Well, you’re in Arhok. What’s next?
Bolingar did not want to trust her at all. But he understood that this was the only way to find out at least something.
— Tell me. Do you know what this is? — the paladin pulled a wolf medallion from his pocket.
The eyes of the she-wolf widened. This medallion seemed to greatly shock her.
— Where did you get it?!
— This is my friend’s locket. That’s all that’s left of her, — the paladin replied.
— Friend? — the werewolf thought for a moment. — Kate?! The wolf asked, extending her paw to the medallion.
— Yes, that’s her. How do you know her? — Bolingar tensed.
— Long story. Tell me everything you know. What happened to Kate? — removing her mask, she said.
Riverey pointed to the table and chair standing behind him. She herself sat on the other side. The paladin followed suit. And he began his story. He did not want to devote it to all the details, but the she-wolf’s attentive gaze made him recall everything to the smallest detail.
The further he spoke, the more the she-wolf hid her eyes. When Bolingar finished, his interlocutor burst into tears. A tear ran down her cheek. The paladin did not want to touch her now, but he came for answers and wanted to get them.
— Tell me. Can you explain to me what happened? Kate was a good friend to me. And what kind of werewolf is hunting for medallion?
Wiping away a tear with his paw, Riverey looked at Paladin. With a trembling voice, she said:
— Not a werewolf, but a worgen. And secondly, this werewolf that came for the medallion is Kate. — Riverey looked again at the paladin, who looked stunned. — Didn’t you know that the worgen has two names? One is human, the other is the name of the wolf. You knew her only as a human. But he even had no idea who you were actually dealing with. And she skillfully hid it.
The Riverey stood with a sigh and took out a bottle of wine and two glasses.
— It hurts me to remember that time. But apparently necessary, — she poured one glass and offered it to the paladin.
— I don’t drink, I’m sorry, — Bolingar did not want to poison his mind with alcohol right now.
— Well then, — the she-wolf returned to her place, mesmerizing the drink with her eyes. — Caitlin, lived in this same fort Arhok. Moreover. She was the daughter of the commander of the fort. And he knew the truth about her. Father tried to hide from the rest of her true nature. As a wolf, she did not leave the tower for a long time. Until she learned to control both of her looks. In secret from everyone, he taught her combat and magic, he wanted to grow a great warrior from her. A knight who would then continue the work of his father. Her success in owning two-handed weapons was astounding. The strength of the beast allowed her to easily maneuver with a blade. But even after graduation, she did not even want to leave the damn tower and walk around. And if she came out of there, she looked at the others as unworthy. It’s like they are all just pawns, and she is the queen. Her arrogance knew no bounds. But Samiris did not care, for she was an extremely executive student. But even this can be tolerated. But then everything just got worse.
Worgen drained the glass in one fell swoop and poured herself more wine.
— Genn Greymane intervened again. He declared a hunt for Worgens, appointed rewards for their heads, and began to pull the people into his domain beyond the wall. Father, the commander of the fort Arhok Samiris, went to the king for an audience with a request and take them outside the wall. Only now … The King found out about Caitlin. And demanded her wolf’s head. Only then does he agree to give protection to Arhok. Samiris insulted and summoned the king to battle, grabbing the blade. However, the king was not going to fight him, he simply ordered the guard to seize him. By killing several of the King’s guards from his personal guard, he was able to escape from Gilneas. But now he was doomed. He realized that the chances of surviving alone against a wave of undead were almost impossible. But there was nothing left for him to do. Ironically, everyone gathered in the Arhok whom Genn Greymane did not take for the wall. Namely, the rest of the worgens who managed to escape from Gilneas. Hiding no longer made sense. And so it at least increased our chances. But they were still not enough. Samiris was an experienced strategist. And counted on a long siege. But his expectations were not destined to come true. He knew that the army of darkness was strong. But so much so …
— It wasn’t written at all in the book about Arhok, — the paladin objected.
— The book was written by the people of King Greymane. Why do you think the stories are different?
The Riverey filled the glass with red wine again and drained the glass with one sip. After which, taking a deep breath, Riverey continued the story.
— We were ready for the attack, or rather thought that we were ready. But we greatly underestimated the enemy. The undead appeared as if from nowhere, sweeping away all the fortifications with a whirlwind and penetrating the fort. We fought to the end when Samiris suddenly cut off from us. He was driven into the town hall, which they set on fire. As if this were not enough, the undead commander, Nerub wished to end him personally. He rushed to the town hall, not fearing an all-consuming fire. I don’t know what was going on there. I only remember how, in front of the survivors, Hassara turned into a wolf, drew a sword from one of the soldiers and rushed into the burning town hall. In the end, the clock tower collapsed, bringing down the remains of the building. Only Nerub came out from under the rubble, with a hanging web on its claws and a dimly shimmering pendant around his neck. I didn’t see Samiris and Hassara anymore. The medallion with which you came here was a memorable gift to Hassara from her father.
In surprise, the paladin was speechless.
— But where from … the paladin asked in surprise.
— How do I know all this? — The Riverey interrupted him. — I am her sister.