Knight-Lord Bloodvalor sat, a scattered array of papers and parchments gazing at him from the heavily worn desk he sat behind.
Like most recruitment days, today had been one trial of patience after another.
One would think there would be a limit to the number of insipid morons allowed in a single city, but sadly there were no laws against being an idiot. Perhaps some day, on a day much like today, Bloodvalor would get the chance to introduce such a rule. And oh how the stupid would wail as he laughed at their plight.
The massive orc Krukk stood next to him. An old, experienced warrior from the Warsong orc clan, he shifted his shoulders slightly, signaling another potential recruit approaching his desk.
Oh joy of joys.
“I’m here to join the Blood Knights.”
Hm, thought Knight-Lord Bloodvalor. He gave not even the slightest hint he had heard the speaker.
A female voice, obviously quite young, definitely under a century, probably under even fifty. More than likely an impertinent child trying to rebel against her parents.
Oh look at me father, I’m a paladin now, you can’t make me clean my room anymore.
Bloodvalor remembered a time when the elven youth attended advanced alchemy classes, discussed cutting edge mathematics or spent hours honing their respective weapon skills. Now they collected posters of Sig Nicious and held wild, drunken parties every week. No discipline whatsoever. Positively revolting.
Then again, runaways were usually meek or pretentious, sometimes a disgusting combination of the two. This voice held neither quality. There was definitely something… different. There was nervousness, yes, but he was a Knight-Lord, and a powerful one at that, in every definition of the word. The number of people who spoke to him without being nervous numbered in the dozens.
Previously numbered in the dozens, he mentally amended. Every member of the greater Horde he had met hadn’t so much as averted their gaze in his presence. Krukk, looming over him as he had been doing all day, had attempted to smell his hair when they first met.
“Real warriors don’t smell like bananas.” Krukk had sneered.
The nerve! The conditioner was far more complex and subtle than simply bananas. The intricacies of proper hair care was utterly lost on every non-elf, it seemed.
Krukk did have one use, however. He was positively excellent at spotting solid warriors. Not trained warriors, mind you, anyone can spot a trained warrior. Krukk was adept at spotting potential. The old orc warrior could take one look at a blood elf and tell immediately if the elf would whimper and cry in the face of death, or fight and laugh.
Krukk grunted. This meant an example of the latter had been found.
Bloodvalor concurred, though it pained him to agree with the orc about anything.
Most idiots who tried to join the Blood Knights stammered, hesitated, shuffled their feet. Some started with “H-hello… uhm…”, some asked meekly “Is… is this where the blood knights recruit?” No, the huge sign that said “Blood Knight Recruitment Today!” was advertising a muffin sale.
Not this girl. This elf had simply stated that she was here to join the Blood Knights. No hesitation. Not one ounce of self doubt.
It wasn’t even phrased as a question, she said it as if she was simply stating fact.
He let thirty seconds go by before he deigned to look at the scrawny elf standing before his desk. Not once did she even twitch. Most potential recruits would cough or repeat their question, as if he was somehow deaf. Yes, being in the presence of orcs did tend to damage one’s hearing, but how could they possibly possess the gall to think he had missed them standing right in front of him?
This was the first lesson of being a Blood Knight.
You are nothing.
You do not matter.
You are an insignificant speck.
You do not get to demand the attention of a Knight-Lord, you do not even deserve one second of a superior’s time.
This one seemed to have already learned this lesson.
He slowly shifted his gaze, letting his eyes slowly drift up her youthful form. Standard procedure to leer at all possible female recruits, just to see how they’d react. This one didn’t react at all. Excellent.
It would seem he was correct about her age. Extremely young, she hadn’t even filled out completely yet. Possibly not even thirty! And yet, here she stood with more discipline and self control than anyone else he had seen all day. Her eyes were even cast respectfully to his left side! Incredible!
“Look at me.” He finally spoke.
Her eyes flicked to his immediately.
“Tell me, girl. Was your father a paladin?”
“Yeah.” A hint of pride and sadness. So he’s dead then. Bloodvalor nearly winced at the use of ‘yeah’, however. What an uncouth word.
“And your mother was a priest.”
Her eyes flickered with surprise. “Yeah.” That same hint of sadness.
So she’s an orphan. That explains her motivation.
“I suppose your motivation in coming here today is one of vengeance, yes?”
Not even an attempt to lie, nor shame in admitting it either.
Outwardly he kept his expression of barely concealed derision, but inside, Bloodvalor was smiling for the first time all day.
Switching to the orcish tongue, he said “What say you Krukk? Does the whelpling have what it takes?”
Krukk grunted. “She is fearless. A predator. The rigors of war will merely hone her hunger.”
“Thank you, sir orc.” the young girl said in fluent orcish.
Krukk let out a short bark of laughter.
Bloodvalor was utterly flabbergasted. His face, of course, gave away nothing, even as his brain scrambled to find a foothold on a situation that had left his control faster than a goblin fleeing with a sack of gold.
“It seems you are full of surprises, little elf.” Krukk rumbled out. “Throm-ka! I am Krukk!”
“Throm-ka, Krukk!” said the elf, executing a perfect orcish salute.
Bloodvalor saw his chance to regain control of the situation, and he seized it with both hands.
“It would seem pertinent,” he interrupted, in Thalassian, “to know what your name is. Despite being an orphan, I assume you do have a name of some sort?”
“Yes, sir Knight-Lord, I do. Arkenheart Dawnseeker.”
Bloodvalor raised an eyebrow. Outwardly, it was an expression of incredulity, but inside, he found that he was so far out of control of this situation, he didn’t even know what the situation was anymore. She hadn’t even flinched at the accusation of being an orphan. And as if that was not bad enough…
Dawnseeker? As in, THE Dawnseeker? The last wielder of Quel’Delar?
Thalorien did have two daughters, both of which would be roughly this Arkenheart’s age.
Asking directly, of course, would be socially ruinous. He would make quiet inquiries later. If this Arkenheart (what an abhorrent name, fusing the human tongue and… was that dwarvish?) truly was the daughter of Thalorien, the possibilities were endless! Think of the status that would come from training the daughter of the last wielder of Quel’Delar!
He snapped his fingers, a quick command.
Two Blood Knights stepped forward, holding a chained scourge ghoul between them. It twitched and growled, trying to claw something despite the magical chains that rendered movement impossible.
Bloodvalor gestured at the zombie.
“Help yourself to a weapon, let’s see how you fare against the scourge.”
She was, of course unarmed. No one thought to bring a weapon to recruitment day. This was test number two. Some simply burned the zombie down with holy magics. Some helped themselves to a weapon on the conveniently located weapons rack not twenty feet away. Some simply destroyed the zombie with their bare hands. Some managed to die to the vicious thing.
In all cases, recruits took a few minutes to either succeed or fail.
Time Bloodvalor desperately needed to come up with a plan.
Arkenheart breathed a sigh of relief. Never before in her life had she ever done something as difficult as her brief interview with that damned Knight-Lord “I’m better than you at everything waaaaah” Bloodvalor. It had taken all her willpower and all the patience her mother had instilled in her not to punch that smug bastard right in his damned face.
She quite liked the orc, though. He seemed nice. She had used up all six orcish words she knew in speaking with him, but at least the hours practicing the orcish salute had come in handy.
Poor Bloodvalor, he would never find any information about her. Mother had taught her well about the ways and wiles of politicians like Bloodvalor, and she had called in a few favors (well, all of them, technically) in order to erase any and all information, official and blackmarket, about herself. Bloodvalor would find absolutely no information about her, no matter how thoroughly or deeply he searched. Not a birth date, birth place, nothing.
Help yourself to a weapon, he had said.
This was a test, she was sure of it. Not quite what her father told her was standard procedure for Blood Knight recruitment, but then again her father had joined the order many, many years before the Scourge arrived.
She quickly glanced around, but she didn’t see any weapons. Well… the two blood knights were armed… surely he didn’t mean… meh. She saw at least one priest on the way here.
She swiftly strode up to where the zombie and two blood knights stood. One of them looked extremely familiar. She must have seen him around before. She didn’t exactly know anybody too well these days. Maybe she’d slept with him a few times? Ah well.
She stole his sword.
The knight, caught completely off-guard, stuttered out “Wh-HEY!” and tried to grab her. Her left fist met his chin less than a second after she had taken his blade, the loud crack of his jaw breaking painful to even listen to. The second blood knight had just managed to grab the hilt of his own sword when Arkenheart struck his head, hard, with the flat part of her own stolen sword. He, too, dropped like so much unconscious stone.
Leaving her alone next to the now completely free enraged ghoul.
She expertly dodged its clumsy attack, kicked its right leg, easily snapping the necrotic limb in half.
Holy energy flowed through her, and bringing the now blazing blade crashing down on the ghoul’s head, she impaled it to the floor. The body of the zombie twitched once and lay still, holy fire quietly flickering along the edges of the sword.
Not even four seconds had passed since she had disarmed the first blood knight.
She turned to his royal stupidness Bloodvalor. “Well? How was that?”
Krukk answered first, in broken Thalassian. “You am be best knight of blood ever!”
For his part, Bloodvalor seethed with rage and merely pointed to the weapon’s rack that stood a few feet away from Arkenheart’s position.
She felt blood rush to her cheeks.
“Oh.” was all she could offer in her own defense.
It was then the famed Guardians of Silvermoon finally reached her position, their arrival announced by the resounding crack of shield against skull, and Arkenheart Dawnseeker collapsed, unconscious.
Arkenheart returned to the world of the conscious in bits and pieces.
The first thing she noticed was that her head hurt. Really hurt, like every hangover of the past five years had hit her all at once.
The second thing she noticed was that it was really hard to say “Owww”. Her brain fumbled with this little piece of information before deciding that she was gagged. Which would explain the general sense that she was biting down on a horseshoe.
The third thing she noticed was that she wasn’t able to move her arms. She tried, but her efforts were met with an odd resistance and a clinking noise.
She struggled with this information for quite some time as well.
Eventually, she concluded that her head really, really hurt.
Alright Arkie, she thought, let’s make sense of this, yeah? Our head hurts, we’re gagged, and our arms are chained behind us. What happened?
The first conclusion she reached was that last night must have been an amazing party. This hangover was brutal, and being bound and gagged were classic hallmarks of an extremely good one-on-one after-party. Of course! He, a handsome elf with a penchant for tying up pretty girls, she, a pretty elf with a penchant for being tied up; one thing led to another, and here she was in the bedroom of said handsome elf. Poor guy was probably just as hung over as she was.
It wouldn’t exactly be the first time this had happened.
She risked opening her eyes.
Apparently this handsome elf kept a room that looked suspiciously like a single occupant prison cell complete with anti-magic seals.
The fourth thing she noticed was that she could remember everything.
This was no bedroom the morning after a night of glorious kink, this was a prison cell after a misguided afternoon of punching the son of Lor’Themar Theron IN THE FACE.
She had thought he had seemed familiar, but she stole his sword and broke his jaw anyway. Only now, in a prison cell, did she finally recognize him. The only son to the second in command of the entire blood elven race, and she had tried to kill him.
I mean, last time, they were just kids, and it was hardly her fault the spider was only playing dead, but still. Attempted murder usually didn’t go over well.
She would have wept in that cell if she wasn’t so mad at herself. Attacking a Blood Knight is bad enough, warranting the death penalty by itself, but attacking the son of the most powerful blood elf on Azeroth? Biting her tongue in half and choking to death on her own blood would be a merciful death compared to what was in store for her.
All that practice, all the training, the little private lessons here and there on how to not suck when swinging a sword, all that investment, gone in an instant because she couldn’t think about things before acting on them.
Panic had only just begun to set in when they came for her.
Four heavily armed and armored Spellbreakers, Knight-Lord Bloodvalor, Lord Solanar Bloodwrath, and… and Lor’themar’s son, seemingly none the worse for wear.
The Spellbreakers released her chains, forcing her to her feet and holding her there. She couldn’t have resisted if she tried, each one of them was more than a match for her.
Bloodvalor was absolutely livid, screaming and shouting and waving his arms about. She wasn’t really paying any attention to him, he was probably going to execute her any second now anyway. Bloodwrath looked mildly annoyed, and Lor’themar’s son looked… sheepish? She met his gaze, and he quickly turned away and blushed furiously. What the fel is going on here? Turning her attention to Bloodvalor, she finally bothered to listen to his ranting.
“..death! Death! Your life, forfeit immediately for such incredible insubordination! I cannot even begin to imagine the train of thought that would have led to such a rash decision! You realize the guards would have been perfectly within the law to simply kill you where you stood?! It was a mercy to arrest you to await execution!”
Bloodwrath cleared his throat, appearing for all the world as if what he was about to say was equivalent to touching rotten fruit.
“What the Knight-Lord is trying to say is, welcome to the Blood Knights, Recruit Arkenheart Dawnseeker.”
This is it, she thought, any second now they’re going to drag me off, lop my head off in frobwuuuuuuuuuuh?
Bloodwrath seemed pained. “Yes, I know, ridiculous isn’t it? Here I had gone to all the trouble of sharpening my sword so I could run you through, and now I’m going to have to dull it so I can hit you with it when you fail during basic training instead.”
She felt the gag being removed. Her tongue felt swollen, but she managed to squeeze out a faint “Buh… wha…”
Bloodvalor resumed shouting and flailing. “See?! She is an insipid, ungrateful useless waste of flesh! She is talentless, I tell you, talentless! A complete waste of time, we should simply execute her and-”
“Oh, would you please just be silent you arrogant moron!” Bloodwrath interrupted.
Bloodvalor turned to Arkenheart. “You have not heard the last of this, you frivolous apeling!” He stormed out of the room with one last “Bah!”
Bloodwrath sighed and gently rubbed his forhead. “Why oh why do I ever attempt to converse with that man? It is like trying to teach applied teleportation to a rabbit.”
He nodded to the Spellbreakers, and they immediately released her and left the room.
Turning to her once again, Bloodwrath said “Congratulations, little elf. By the authority vested in me by her holiness Lady Liadrin, I do hereby grant you the rank of Initiate in the Blood Knight Order.”
He produced a scroll, a pen, and a small dagger. “Sign here, and if you’d be so kind as to leave your blood mark here.”
Still not quite believing what was happening, Arkenheart quickly signed the scroll and piercing a fingertip with the dagger, left a single drop of blood next to her name.
“It is done, then. Let me be the first to say that this afternoon’s display of unmitigated bravado was by far the highlight of my year.” Bloodwrath smiled at her. “You show a great deal of promise, if an immense amount of ineptitude when it comes to not doing things that can get you killed. You will be sworn in tomorrow, I will inform you of the location and time. Theronidas, see her to her quarters and make sure she gets some food in her belly.”
And with that, Bloodwrath left the two of them alone.
Several seconds went by in awkward silence.
“So, uhm,” said Arkenheart, “Sorry about that whole… stealing your sword and breaking your jaw thing.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry about it.” said Theronidas, “It was… nice. No! I mean not nice! It hurt a lot! But I mean… you were great, and you’re… you… well I mean you have a mean right hook… or, or left… I don’t remember which… anyway I got you this!” Squeezing his eyes shut, his face constructed entirely of blush by this point, he held out a handcrafted necklace to her.
It was a simple golden rope braid, with a tooth entwined in the center. A suspiciously elven looking tooth.
Arkenheart took the necklace, gently fingering the tooth. “Is… is this your tooth?”
“So… I punch you in the face, knock your tooth out, and you make it into a necklace for me?”
He nodded again.
She laughed. Oh what a strange universe this is. Not one minute ago she was preparing to be killed for assault, and now the very person she was to be executed for attacking was attempting to court her in the adorable fashion of a clueless virgin.
He was blushing so furiously. “Oh! Oh you don’t like it well that’s ok I’ll just take it back it was silly stupid idea anyway I mean who wants a tooth right it isn’t just not stupid it’s ok I’ll just go and-”
“Hey.” Arkenheart interrupted him, and gently placed her hand on his arm. “I like it. It’s pretty stupid, yeah, but it’s also very sweet. If you wanted to date or something, I’m game for that. Besides, if you don’t like me, you can always have me killed right?”
He laughed. “Hah, yeah, that’s true! I mean I could always just tell father I changed my mind, and…Oh! Oh no! No I didn’t mean- that wasn’t supposed to be- no I would never! That wasn’t meant to be a threat I just meant I mean you I could no never…” he trailed off into silence.
They stood there, possibly the most awkward situation either of them had ever been in.
Finally, Arkenheart whispered “Try plan b.”
“Right, right yes.” Theronidas cleared his throat, and extended his right arm. “Hi. I’m Theronidas. I find the way your hair cascades over your shoulders to be immensely attractive and you also have breasts which are attached to your body. I find that attractive too.” He stood there, hand extended, completely petrified, eyes squeezed shut.
Arkenheart took his hand and gently shook it. “Hello to you too, I’m Arkenheart, and the way you have arms connected to your torso is neat.”
“HAAAAAAH YES.” He responded, entirely too loud.
“You’re not very good at this, are you?”
“Is it obvious?”
“Permission to go die in a corner somewhere?”
“Only if I can come too.”
“… You’ve never even held a girl’s hand before, have you.”
“Me and you? We have a lot of work to do.”