The Argent's Finest by Taylor Vincent Early in the war. Borean Tundra.

Varendil Dawnblade stood, still as a statue, as the elevator whisked him downward into Warsong Hold. He calmly walked down the ramp, toward one of the exits to the quarry, saluting Overlord Hellscream, who saluted back. When you're dealing with undead, you see, you call in an expert. One of Highlord Fordring's handpicked Crusade force, a fighter and healer who served with distinction during the last Scourge invasion and concurrent plague. Varendil Dawnblade was good at three things: fighting, tailoring, and enchanting, and he was all out of infinite dust and frostweave. The Warsong Guards saluted next as the priest quickly strode past them toward the entrance to the heavily infested quarry, his robes swishing quietly around his feet. A few more orcs outside the gates cheered as the elf swept past. One nerubian skittered up. A hand extended out, a flash of light swept down into the creature's head, and the nerubian fell. Varendil grinned, and calmly walked out into the quarry. Two more skitterers approached. A bolt of light dropped from the sky, burning through the carapace and dropping the nerubian where it stood. The second leapt forward at the elf, but bounced off the transparent shield a foot in front of the priest's face. It leapt again, and the priest ducked, his arm moving down to his hip and then up. The creature sailed over him, meeting the dagger he'd extended over his head. The blade flashed forward and two halves of a nerubian fell. The elf cackled. Some of the stronger creatures took notice. Winged beasts swooped down on the blood elf who caught one as it dove and hurled it into the ground, where it crunched and ceased to move. He juked to the side as another snapped at him, waving his hands and summoning chains, binding the creature there in front of him. It hissed, but

Page |2 he blasted it into the sky with three short bursts of Light, then slashed through it with a stronger one, and its carcass fell to the ground with a dull thud. The priest continued to walk forward, a persistent rumbling overpowering the sound of his footfalls on the packed dirt. The priest stopped, then took one step back, leaving space for the enormous claw that burst from the earth before him, sweeping terrain away as its owner, a nerubian lord, dug its way out of the ground. It reared up before the priest before slamming down in front of him. Varendil smirked. The nerubian raised one claw and stabbed downward, but the elf slunk to the side. He raised the other, and this time the priest twirled away, lunging out with his arm as he did and slicing off a chunk of leg with his dagger. Howling in pain and rage, the creature slammed itself down, summoning a swarm of scarabs that sprayed forth before it, a wall of pincers and wings. The priest said one holy word, and the shield reformed around him, the swarm hitting it with a flash of energy that sent insect after insect tumbling away from the soldier of the Light. The priest slowly strode forward through the storm, splitting the waves of insects until the web lord was exhausted and the priest stood a bare foot from the unholy creature's face. The nerubian hissed. Varendil brought his hand down, a gesture of judgment, and a bolt from the heavens followed suit, a blast of searing light that immolated the creature's head. Its body teetered and fell to the side, still smoldering from the righteous brand. The blood elf carefully walked forward to his target, the squirming and straining webbed shape behind the nerubian. With a quick flash of light he sliced the webbing open, revealing the struggling plate-clad orc within. The orc, suddenly free of its bindings, collapsed to the ground.

Page |3 Varendil extended a hand. "Call me Varendil Dawnblade," he said calmly as he helped the orc to his feet. "And you are?" "Bullcrap," a familiar voice said. Varendil blinked. "Your name is Bullcrap?" "No, that story is bullcrap," the voice said. A nerubian skittered down the side of the quarry and toward the two. The elf and the orc turned to face the newcomer. "How is that story bullcrap? I seem to recall that I was there, and you weren't." The nerubian raised one of its forelegs and flopped it dismissively. "Please. I know you. You can barely lift a sack of laundry let alone a big orc like Bruxinax in full plate." The nerubian poked the orc's cobalt harness. Varendil paused. "Okay, I'm not that strong. But, y'know, technically I don't really have to lift him, I just brace myself and hold steady while he lifts himself." The undead spider glanced at the priest's feet and rolled his eyes. "Oh, I'm supposed to believe that the boots you make have grip? He'd have whipped you into the ground behind him if he pulled on your arm at all." Varendil tugged the hem of his robe up and glanced down at his boots. He then put on his most offended face, threw down his dagger into the quarry dirt, and stomped over, leaning into the undead arachnid's face. "Okay, you insect. You wanna poke holes in my story or insult my physical strength, that's one thing, but insulting the tailoring is too far!" He glared at the Scourge soldier who smirked derisively. "Your boots are fine, sweetie. Doesn't matter, though, you couldn't lift him because you refused to let your shoes touch that quarry, 'member?" a Warsong mage said from behind them, where she was lazily fishing in one of the nerubian sinkholes.

Page |4 "Yep. You stayed levitated the whole time because you were afraid of the spiders burrowing up and grabbing your feet," Bruxinax said with a shrug. He was no longer in his cobalt combat plate, but instead back in his loose leather robes and sitting comfortably. He twirled Varendil's staff in his hands and continued thrusting and swinging it lightly toward a miniature skeleton with a sword and shield, who caught the butt of the staff on his wooden shield and swung his dull blade against it. Varendil folded his arms in a huff. "That is a valid concern. Nerubians are burrowers, and— look," he said. "Torky asked me how Master Dawnblade met his dad, and I thought I'd try to come up with something more interesting than the boring true story." "Aren't priests supposed to be honest and trustworthy and all that?" The nerubian skittered back over to sit next to the orc and the skeleton, losing two spare legs and growing blonde hair in the process. By the time it sat down, it was its normal Blood Knight self. The small skeleton, too, was rapidly becoming caked with flesh and resanguinated until it was a happily-sparring orc boy. Lanuria, no longer a Warsong mage, leaned over and pecked Varendil on the cheek, then recast her line into the Thunder Bluff pond. "Saelar has a point. And isn't the 'boring' true story that time Bruxinax rescued you and a flesh giant fell on you and sent you bouncing all over Scourgeholme?" Bruxinax chuckled, then picked up a pebble and sent it skipping across the pond. "Just like that." Varendil pouted. "Torkinax, you're my squire, you have to believe me. Don't listen to Lanuria. Or Saelar. Or your father, for that matter." Torky clacked the staff aside once more, then leaned forward and thrust his blade at Bruxinax, poking him lightly in the gut. The warrior faked a wail and grabbed his son, pulling the boy up onto his shoulders. "Sure thing, Master Dawnblade," Torky said with a shrug before turning to Lanuria. "You should tell that story."

Page |5 Saelar flopped down onto his back in the grass behind the group. "Yeah, this should be good." "I hate all of you," Varendil said.