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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1706027
A boy discovers all is not well with the world, meanwhile he discovers something.
The Trails - Part One
By Brett Big Swan

         There was a town in the northern Eastern Kingdoms called Bruun. It was a quaint little town, like the cupboard in your grandmother’s kitchen that never gets used.
         After the death of King Terenas Menethil II, this small town quaked and trembled at the thought of what tomorrow would bring. The people of Bruun worked hard and were true but after the death of the king most did not know what kept them in these lands anymore.
         The town mostly consisted of humans but there were a few dwarves as well, although they tended to stick to themselves for the most part. At first no one would realize that they would all have to work together if they were to survive the coming storm. Their fates were entwined and their resolve would be tested.
         King Arthas Menethil now ruled the land, and the people thought they could now live in a time of peace and prosperity. And for awhile the town was safe and all was good.

         For several months after Arthas took the crown everything seemed to be normal, more than normal, it seemed to be bliss. But the nights became increasingly colder, and the days became duller. The townsfolk claimed to see figures and shapes that were not there on a second looking. Whispers and strange languages would be heard on the winds, some would send a chill up the spine. There was heaviness in the air almost like you were being choked in the presence of something wicked; a shadow had fallen on the lands. The animals started to disappear; the birds were gone and no longer sang their song. The air smelled foul and even the water tasted stale; the fish too started to die.

         The townsfolk started to voice their concerns, some even questioned if the mayor was fit to get to the bottom of what was going on. Archillip Twoya began to hear rumblings and was startled.
         “None of my predecessors ever had to deal with anything like this. Well now it’s time to show what I’m made of.” He said to himself while stuffing his face full of ham and bread.
         He called for the town scribe to come to his home. When the scribe, Arbathor, arrived he already had his pen and paper ready to go.
         “You called for me sir?” he said with a nervous twinge.
         “Yes, yes, I need you to post a message for me. I want to call a town meeting tonight at 7 o’ clock. And make sure those on the outskirts of town know as well.” Archillip then turned back to eating the rest of his huge breakfast.
         “Oh and make sure you include that all of their concerns will be taken care of.”
         “Is this all sir?” Arbathor said while still scribbling down notes.
         “Yes! Now get out!” Archillip snapped with his mouth stuffed, and making a shooing motion with his hand.

         Arbathor finished writing copies of the mayor’s proclamation. He then made sure everyone in town would see, so he posted on almost every door and signpost. He then made his way to the outskirts of town and told them about the meeting. For those who were not home or did not answer the door he just posted on their door. It read:

Town Hall Meeting Tonight

By Order of Mayor Archillip Twoya

Be there at 7 o’ clock PM

All Your Concerns Will be Addressed

         When seven came around citizens were still streaming into the town hall. The mayor looked out from his office and could not believe that this many people showed up. He started to get a little nervous and was sweating profusely. His assistant came over and handed him his speech, then he too looked out.
         “Maybe we should have provided some food and drink for the crowd.” Looking wide eyed at the group.
         “No, we don’t have money on the books for that sort of expense. Besides they’re here to hear what I’m going to do with the recent developments, not to be fed.” Archillip snapped while fumbling with his tie.
         He then walked out in front of the crowd and thanked them all for coming.
“Now I know you all have concerns, but before we get to that I’d like to tell you my plan. I’ve decided to send emissaries to Dalaran, Ironforge, Gnomeragon, Silvermoon and to Stormwind asking for whatever aid they can give us. I’ve also decided to send scouts in the surrounding lands to search for the root of the mire. I’ve already ordered all our food stores to be put under guard and ration everything that goes out. I know your crops have started to fail and your livestock have become sick. It’s time we start to plan for the future; enough of this ‘idly comes by’ attitude. That’s what got us to this point in the first place. Now to get to your questions, yes you in the back.” He pointed to a man in the back of the room with his hand raised.
         “Why haven’t you sent any word to our king? Shouldn’t he be helping the citizens in need in his kingdom?” He then sat back down and was agreeing with everyone else’s discontent.
         “To be quite honest with you I’ve sent many letters to the king. All of which have gone unanswered. He is either too busy with the war on the Scourge or he simply just does not care. Yes next question to the lady in the front.” He pointed to quite a burly looking woman seated in front of him.
         “What about the rumors that the lands to the northeast of Lordaeron have fallen to the Scourge? Could our lands be next?” She then took her seat again.
         “Well those are just that are they not? Rumors breed more rumors and malcontent, you should be wise enough to not base your assumptions on such a thing. And I have heard no reports of any Scourge activity anywhere in these parts. But to ease my mind and everyone else’s, I think I will send out scouts to scour the land looking for any possible threat that can come to us.” He then drank a glass of water and continued answering many more questions.

         After the town hall meeting the mayor retreated back into his office and plopped down on his chair like he had just finished a hard day’s work. His assistant came in after him carrying some books and scrolls. Archillip turned to him.
         “Valnor, I want you to go and speak with Evert Banson who lives on the edge of town. He knows these woods quite well and it would be best if he scouted the lands for us. His knowledge of horses would also greatly benefit this purpose. Tell him he will be rewarded with 25 gold coins and less taxes for the next year.”
         The assistant nodded, grabbed his coat and was on his way.

         When the assistant arrived at the residence of Evert Banson he knocked once, then twice again, then three times again. The door opened and it was Anna Banson.
         “Yes? What can I do for you?”
         “I h-h-have a message for E-Evert from the mayor ma’am.” The assistant became a little bashful and stuttered his words.
         Anna smiled and turned inside the house and walked towards the stairs leading to the bedroom.
         “Evert! There’s someone here to see you from the mayor’s office.”
         A few seconds later Evert came down the stairs and through the living room all the while eyeing this strange little man.
         The assistant fumbled around with some papers in his bag and handed one to him.
         “I’m sorry for b-bothering you sir, but there is an errand the mayor would like you to do. And the reward is 25 gold coins with fewer taxes the upcoming year. Would you be interested?”
         Evert read the paper, then read it again and then stood in place contemplating for several moments.
“Yes, send word back to Archillip that I will do what he is asking of me. I will leave first thing tomorrow morning.”
         “Very good sir, I’ll leave you now. Sorry for disturbing you at such an ungodly hour, have a good night.” And with that the assistant was off, headed back towards town.
         Anna grabbed the paper from Evert and then read what was on it, she then turned to Evert.
         “So how long do you think this errand will take you?”
         “I presume at least several days, I’m not quite sure yet how I’m going to go about scouting the surrounding area. I’ll sleep on it though. I’ll take Jerome; this is a great opportunity to spend some time with him. I should already go and prepare the equipment.” He then put on his boots and headed outside towards the stables. Anna then shouted out the door after him.
         “I’ll start packing for you and prepare some food for your trip.” She then hurried off to the bedroom and started gathering some clothes. Next on her list was the kitchen to make some food for the journey.

         The next morning was a foggy one. It was still eerily quiet in the forest; the birds had disappeared now for quite some time. The rooster, however, still did his diligent duty to awake the farm.
         Evert was already in the stables busy saddling up the horses when Jerome came out carrying their runecloth sacks full of clothes and food.
         “Boy did mom ever pack for us, she has clothes for every contingency, plus we could probably weather the next few months out in the bush.” He then tied the sacks to the horses.
         “You know mom, she likes to be prepared for anything that might come up. Who knows we may end up needing everything. But we’re all packed now we should head out.” Evert then mounted the horse, and Jerome did as well. They both strode off down the road, when Jerome looked back he saw Anna seeing them off, so he waved bye to her.

         Now Jerome was not a human, he may have had a human name but he was a night elf.
Many years earlier Evert was searching the woods for some lost calves when he happened upon a caravan. It laid in ruin and was obviously ambushed. There were no visible survivors, and even the beasts of burden were killed. Some had been set on fire along with the carts they were pulling.
         In all the mayhem Evert found a small child huddled next to a couple of corpses, the pungent stink gave the clue they had been there at least several days. How the wolves had not ravaged the area only the light knew. This small night elf was scared, alone and naked. Clearly exhausted and dehydrated, Evert picked up the child and wrapped him in his cloak. He quickly brought him home where he and Anna cleaned him up, clothed him, fed him and made sure he was comfortable. It was many days before the child spoke a word; he was too traumatized and was suffering from night terrors.
         Both Evert and Anna quickly came to the conclusion that this little child had no one and it would be up to them to care for him. So they decided to adopt him and take him as their own and they gave him the name Jerome.
         In a matter of weeks the resilience of little Jerome was apparent for it was as if he had always lived on the farm. He was happy, playful, and very curious for one so young. He spoke in a strange tongue, it was probably Darnassian, but he was picking up common very quickly. And as the months passed by Jerome had forgotten his turbulent past and embellished in the serenity of his loving home and family.
         It was said that time warps by when all is fine and happy and slows to a crawl when times are miserable. Well Jerome’s childhood must have been quite a happy one, cause before his parent’s could believe that he was already 15.

         Evert and his son Jerome were trotting down the road when Evert decided to travel northeast. They would make their way to Lordamere Lake and the merchant town on Fenris Isle.
To cut down on traveling time they decided to veer away from the roads and to cut across the forest. As they got to a clearing they noticed some people out in the open of this massive meadow. They were moving quite quickly. Then Evert and Jerome noticed that they were not just running, but that they were running from something. A cloaked figure, draped in what looked like tattered rags, was riding a skeletal horse after these people. There was a man, a woman and what looked like a child; quite possibly a family. The cloaked figure then abruptly stopped and got off his mount while the trio kept running. The figure in tattered rags was shouting something incoherent. But the words he uttered felt like a cold sliver being jabbed in the temple and both Jerome and Evert began holding their heads in pain.
         Above, the sky was starting to turn black and the clouds started to churn and pulsate. Below, the ground started to shake, and then a crack appeared in the earth. The crack turned into a crevice and a creature made of fire and rock climbed violently out of the deep void. This creature was summoned to do one thing.
         It almost flew after the trio who were running away. When it finally caught up to them the parents tried to hide the baby but it was too late. In one hit the creature had killed the man and the woman. It was about to turn and walk away when the baby started to scream after being through such a wild ordeal. The creature noticed and then reached up and with all its force it came bearing down on the infant, then there was nothing but silence. Since the creature’s mission was complete it then disintegrated and became a heap of rubble. The cloaked rider subsequently mounted and rode off into the other side of the clearing.
         Evert and Jerome laid there hidden in the brush for quite some time in silence. They had never seen magic and had most definitely never witnessed murder. Both were trembling and finally Jerome broke down and wept inconsolably into his fathers shoulder.
         “There, there Jerome it’s over now. That was a horrid atrocity to see but whomever that cloaked man was, he’ll pay for his crime. We’ll go and report this to the authorities.” Evert said while his arm was wrapped around his son.
         “I know but that figure really terrified me. I could feel what he summoned. I could feel his hatred and his malice. I could feel the evil of his creation. When he was casting his spell it made me sick to my stomach.” Jerome said with tears still in his eyes and holding his stomach like he was dealt a low blow.
         After Evert calmed down Jerome, he decided they should keep moving and to make a stop at the Royal Guard’s Garrison at the trading town on Fenris Isle. The guard would surely know how to deal with this.

         When they reached the docks at Lordamere Lake there was no one for as far as the eye could see. Evert thought it was very peculiar since this lake was rich with life and teeming with fish. Every fisherman in the kingdom came and fished here and came away with food to feed themselves, their families and also had enough to make a tidy profit.
         “I don’t understand, what’s going on here? Every time I came here since before I could remember it’s always been bustling with boats, fisherman, merchants and travelers. And now it looks like this place has been deserted for quite some time.” Evert continued to look around clearly a little spooked.
         “Maybe they’re all in the merchant’s town on Fenris Isle, dad.” Jerome said while getting into a sail boat.
         “We should use this boat to get across the lake, I’m sure the owner wouldn’t mind.”
         “Yeah I think your right. I’ll leave a note just in case the owner does return.” So Evert wrote a note and left it where the boat was tied to the dock, it read:

I’m sorry if you’re alarmed. But I Borrowed
Your boat because I Have an urgent
Message for the Royal Guard that has
To be delivered.

Evert Banson of Bruun

         It took them a couple of hours to get across the lake. The lack of wind did not help matters either. Jerome was beside himself, he had never gone sailing and loved the rocking of the boat.
         “Isn’t this ride great dad? I love the water hitting the sides, the breeze at our back, the sun shining on us. I could really do this all day.”
         Evert however was not too happy. He was feeling very nauseous and could not stand the teetering.
“I think I’m going to be sick, don’t rock the boat any more than you have to.” He then put his head over the side because he could not tell if he was going to empty his stomach or not.
         While they were sailing along Evert noticed floating debris pass by. It looked like it was the remnant of a barge or other large craft.
“Keep an eye out, I have a bad feeling about this. I keep seeing things that make me nervous. I hope to the light my assumptions aren’t correct.”
         As they got closer and closer to Fenris Isle they noticed there were small fires burning throughout the merchant’s town. Jerome looked in the water and noticed dead things. People and animals alike littered the surrounding water.
         “Dad! There are people in the water.” Jerome, more than startled, then sat perfectly in the middle of the boat realizing that he was sailing through death.
         “Son I’m sorry for bringing you with me on this trip. This has been one unfortunate event after debacle and it keeps getting grimmer by the passing hour. I’m afraid I might have scarred you for life. You’re still young; you shouldn’t see the stuff you have seen.” Evert put his hand on Jerome’s head as he was speaking.
         “Its ok dad, I have seen some pretty horrible things and wish we were just back at home with mom. But when I’m with you I feel safe. I feel like nothing can harm us. You’re my dad, my hero; I know you’ll let nothing happen.” Jerome had a slight quiver in his throat.
         “I wouldn’t trade this time with you for all the riches… Well maybe I would for all the riches, depends on how much gold it was in total.” Jerome said with a wry smile.
         When they reached the shore they both got out of the boat and started to walk through the town. Bodies littered the streets, the buildings were on its last legs and ruined. There were fires all over and they looked up and seen vultures circling overhead.
         “Alright, something is seriously wrong here. We’ve encountered an evil mage, the once bustling lake is devoid of people, and now this town has been pillaged and everyone murdered. Where is the royal guard?” Evert, a little distraught, now felt something was terribly abnormal. “Things just aren’t adding up here. We should go to Lordaeron. They’ll have answers there for sure.”
         Jerome was starting to get more and more desensitized to all the death. Seeing all the bodies made him feel cheerless and full of remorse but he did not have the feeling of shock anymore. He also felt a strange sensation, a feeling he’d never felt before. It had been growing in prevalence since they had left the meadow. It felt like warmth in the pit of his stomach. The warmth was starting to spread throughout his entire body now. It wasn’t uncomfortable but Jerome had no idea what it was. But he also didn’t mention it to his dad for fear it could be nothing.
         They left the merchant town and headed north to Lordaeron. The wind had picked up and they reached the shore in no time at all. They dragged the boat up farther on land and they set off for the capital. They could see it in the distance, Lordaeron, jewel of the kingdom. Here was the bastion and pinnacle of the power of men. For centuries Lordaeron was the centre for religion, culture and trade. It was also where the king ruled.
         Along the way to Lordaeron they noticed in the fields the remnants of war. There had been a great battle here and there were bodies, siege weapons and armor strewn about. Soldiers and swords in tow alike laying in burning ash like all was fair. Jerome was looking around.
         “Dad? I think we’re going to find more death and chaos as we get closer to the city. There might even be no one left in the city all. Don’t you think? Especially since all the havoc we’ve seen so far.”
         “We have to press on, we need answers. I think we would have heard if something was wrong with the kingdom. I need to see for myself.” Evert said with a grim and vexed look.
         As they got to the gates of the capital they could not believe their eyes. Lordaeron, the jewel of the kingdom, was in ruins. The city had fallen and therefore the kingdom as well. Evert was shocked.
         “How could this have happened? Where are the armies, where is Arthas? We need him now more than ever.” Just then they noticed legions of undead, demons and creatures like he had never seen, stream out of the city. It was the Scourge; the kingdom had fallen under the might of the power of death. Of all the countless undead soldiers and creatures never seen, one was noticeably in charge. It was Arthas Menethil, the now former King of Lordaeron. He had betrayed his own people. He looked out towards the field and noticed the bodies still littering the field so he raised his arm and shouted a command.
         “Rise and join our ranks!”
         Then the dead soldiers began to rise and picked up their armor and weapons. Some were even wheeling the siege weapons along to join the rest of the Scourge army.
         After the multitude of the Scourge had poured out of the city, they headed north. There was only one kingdom to the north of Lordaeron who could be the target. The High Elves who ruled the land of Quel’Thalas from their magical city of Silvermoon. But there was no way they could be warned, for it was just a rancher and his son who knew this terrible truth.
         Just then they noticed a group of refugees fleeing from the ruined city. Evert started shouting and tried to wave them over. Jerome could not believe what his dad was doing.
         “Dad what are you doing? What if those undead soldiers see you?” But it was too late.
Undead soldiers and creatures that looked like spiders came hustling out of the city chasing after the refugees. The undead soldiers came after Evert and Jerome, while the spider creatures went after the refugees.
         The spiders cut through the people trying to escape like a farmer cuts through wheat. Evert and Jerome could hear their screams and cries like they were right there. Jerome noticed that things were flying in the air, and upon a further look, he saw they were limbs. Then he turned his attention to the incoming soldiers.
         “Oh no, Dad we have to get out of here now!” So they both started running back the way they came.
         “We have to get back to the boat son; it’s our only chance for escape.”
Evert then looked back and saw the soldiers were gaining on them. He knew they would not make it in time to Lordamere Lake.
         “Keep running Jerome, even if they catch up to us I want you to keep running!” But it was too late; the soldiers were already upon them.
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