The air went still and the stench of death, rot, and blood overwhelmed the senses as it rolled into the lungs. Their world, the utopia the elves had fashioned with their affinity for magics, had become as lifeless as the Scourge that had swept through. Few remained standing in the black soil that stretched as far as their eyes could reach. The soil that had become little more than slop that stuck to the boots and left red trails on armor.

His shield fell from his hand as he felt the warmth draining from his face. Time stood still in that moment, and though the battle was over, he could still hear the screams and clash of swords in his ears. The edge of his glaive grew heavier by the second with the weight of his actions.

Five dead spellbreakers, half mangled from the onslaught of the Scourge, were laid out at his feet and each bore a matching wound. In the moment, he had called it a mercy to slice just above the gorget and send them into a peaceful death. A dignified end from a brother-in-arms rather than the horrors of Arthas� forces, but when the chill settled into the air, he felt the pain of their death all at once.

His weapon fell from his grip and his strength gave out. The taste of bile sat at the back of his mouth as his knees struck the ground with a wet slap. He clutched at his abdomen with plated fingers as uneasy knots formed and twisted up inside of him.

Wails of the dead and dying echoed in all directions while the living scurried to pick out the hopeful. Orders were being shouted with desperation and grime covered hands were reaching out to priests. The chanting of spells mingled in with death rattles in the futile hope that a few might live.

Then everything stopped.

Eyes were on the north.

Even Niodas� maddening grief paused. The knots ceased and he held his breath.

In an instant, a presence that had always been there was gone. It the faint buzz in the ambiance that had been there in every elf�s life that suddenly went out. In its place a void swiftly developed and drained away any remainder of hope.

A lone priest�s voice carried out over the field, but in the place of healing mantras were the last rites for both the living and dead.

Niodas had long since stoppied counting the number of times the scene invaded his head at night. While life bore no new opportunities, sometimes it was a relief to see the bars that kept him contained. Despite being an inmate for atrocities in war, his cell had not been entirely uncomfortable. He had books to read, three decent meals, and a bed that was just a little softer than concrete.

As far as inmates went, he had not acted out or fought against those that kept him in captivity. In fact, there were several comments that most of his punishment seemed self-inflicted. Additionally, his incarceration had been the product of a dilemma given the spellbreaker�s circumstances. Some agreed that his actions were merciful given the invasion of the Scourge while others believed it to be unnecessary and succumbing to the horrors of the field. The only accord the high court had struck was that he had murdered, and so he was tucked away from the free air of Quel�thalas. Little more than a victim of squabbles and war.

Until he opened his eyes from the images of death and mud that haunted him beneath his lids. The weathered face of the gaoler peering between the bars at him with his tempered patience.

Niodas looked over him as he sat up from his mattress, searching for indication of the visit. There was no food, books, or papers with a denial for release, but there was a key. Though it was hardly the most elegant item in the Sin�dorei lands, something about the bulky, wrought iron key was so beautiful. Nor had there ever been music as sweet as the sound of the teeth pushing down tumblers and the distinct click of the lock opening.

�You should thank the Sun with every step you take, Niodas.� The gaoler said in his flat monotone as pulled the heavy bars open. �The courts finally agreed on something, and you�re to be rehabilitated with a new order.�

�Order?� Niodas quite nearly choked on the word as he moved to the open cell door with an unsure gait. Half of him expected the gaoler to slam it shut on his face and have a good hearty laugh. The sort of joke he could tell over cards while with a few guards.

�They�re called Blood Knights, apparently.� The haggard features of the old gaoler pulled into some form of a smile as he gestured to a quartet of armored elves patiently waiting.

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Author Esreiella
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