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World of WarCraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King “He is still here,” the orc said, stabbing a finger in the boy's direction. “He will not last,” the man said. As if to. Arthas Rise Of the Lich King. Home · Arthas Rise Of the Lich King Arthas: Rise of the Lich King (World of Warcraft). Read more. World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King (World of Warcraft (Pocket Star)) Click button below to download or read this book.

At the end of the service, Arthas, already located near the door, stepped out first. And it was, Arthas told himself. Rise of the Lich King They were back in their respective sleeping areas a few moments later. Was his father not proud of him on other days? Arthas had never been there before, though of course had heard a great deal about it.

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Start on. Show related SlideShares at end. WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. King Llane fell with Stormwind. Uther patted his shoulder awkwardly. The beautiful afternoon, with its blue sky and softly curving snow- draped landscape, had suddenly darkened for him. Terenas always sighed, but Arthas knew that no one was ever punished for speaking with him, and indeed he sometimes wondered if his father secretly approved.

Snow threatened, and the sky was a pale gray, but thus far the weather was clear. Arthas leaned against the wall, resting his chin on his folded arms. He looked out over the rolling white hills of Tirisfal, down the road that led through Silverpine Forest to Southshore.

While the guard finished the tea, Arthas sighed and looked back down the road as he had a dozen times before. This had been exciting at first, but now he was becoming bored. Falric was right. Lothar and Varian might still be a few days away if — Arthas blinked.

Arthas Rise Of the Lich King

He slowly lifted his chin from his hands and narrowed his eyes. Falric was at his side immediately, the mug forgotten. He nodded. Another soldier snapped to attention. They should be here within the hour. He raced down the steps, slipping on the ice and having to jump the rest of the way, and ran through the courtyard, skidding to a halt as he approached the throne room and barely remembering to compose himself. Today was when Terenas met with representatives of the populace, to listen to their concerns and do what he could to assist them.

Arthas flipped back the hood of his beautifully embroidered red runecloth cape. He took a deep breath, letting it escape his lips as soft mist, and nodded as he approached the two guards, who saluted sharply and turned to push open the doors for him. The throne room was significantly warmer than the outside courtyard, even though it was a large chamber formed of marble and stone with a high domed ceiling.

Even on overcast days such as this one, the octagonal window at the apex of the dome let in plenty of natural light. Torches in their sconces burned steadily on the walls, adding both warmth and an orange tint to the room. An intricate design of circles enclosing the seal of Lordaeron graced the floor, hidden now by the gathering of people respectfully awaiting their turn to address their liege.

Seated in the jeweled throne on a tiered dais was King Terenas II. His fair hair was touched with gray only at the temples, and his face was slightly lined, with more smile lines than the creased frowns that etched their marks on souls as well as visages. His eyes, blue- green and intent, were focused on the man. For a moment, knowing whose coming he was about to announce, Arthas simply stood looking at his father. He, like Varian, was the son of a king, a prince of the blood.

But Varian had no father, not anymore, and Arthas felt a lump rise in his throat at the thought of seeing that throne empty, of hearing the ancient song of coronation sung for him.

By the Light, please let that day be a long, long time away. His eyes crinkled in a smile for a moment, then he returned his attention to the petitioner. Arthas cleared his throat and stepped forward. I saw them! Terenas held up a hand. The weather holds and the road is clear. They will arrive when they do, and not a moment before. Until then, let us continue. Let us finish as much business as we can before that moment. Terenas cared deeply about the people he ruled, and had instilled that sentiment in his son.

I think it best if you do not attend this meeting. Not attend? He was nine years old! Something very bad had happened to an important ally, and a boy not much older than he had been rendered fatherless by it. He felt a sudden flash of anger.

Why did his father insist on sheltering him so? Why was he not allowed to attend important meetings? He bit back the retort that would have sprung to his lips had he been alone with Terenas. It would not do to argue with his father here, in front of all these people. Even if he was totally and completely in the right on this. He took a deep breath, bowed, and left.

An hour later, Arthas Menethil was safely ensconced in one of the many balconies that overlooked the throne room. He grinned to himself; he was still small enough to hide under the seats if anyone poked their nose in for a quick perusal. The thought pleased him. He rolled up his cloak and used it as a pillow while he waited. The room was warm from braziers, torches, and the heat of many bodies in a small space.

The heat and the soothing murmur of voices in normal discussion lulled him, and he almost fell asleep. Lord Anduin Lothar, the onetime Champion of Stormwind…Arthas edged out from under the seat and rose carefully, making sure he was hidden behind the blue curtain that draped the box, and peeked out. Rise of the Lich King Lothar looked every inch the warrior, Arthas thought as he regarded the man. Tall, powerfully built, he wore heavy armor with an ease that indicated he was well accustomed to its weight.

Although his upper lip and jaw sported a thick mustache and short beard, his head was almost bald; what hair he had left had been tied back in a small ponytail. Beside him stood an old man in violet robes. Tall, slender yet but with broad shoulders that promised the slim frame would one day fill out, he looked pale and exhausted.

Arthas winced as he regarded the youth, a few years older than he, looking lost, alone, and frightened. When addressed, Varian recovered and gave the polite requisite replies. Terenas was an old hand at knowing how to make people feel comfortable. Quickly he dismissed all but a few courtiers and guards and rose from his throne to greet the visitors.

He drew Varian down beside him in a fatherly gesture. Arthas smiled. Hidden away, the young prince of Lordaeron watched and listened closely, and the voices that floated up to him spoke words that sounded almost fanciful. Yet as he regarded this mighty warrior of Stormwind—and even more, as he studied the wan visage of the future king of such a magnificent realm—Arthas realized with a creeping feeling that none of this was fantasy; all of it was deathly real, and it was terrifying.

It was these monsters that had attacked Stormwind and made refugees—or corpses, Arthas realized—of its denizens. Varian was going to stay here, in the palace, with him. It would be nice to have another noble boy to play with.

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He got along well enough with Calia, who was two years his elder, but, well, she was a girl, and while he was fond of Jarim, he knew that their opportunities to play together were perforce limited. If he was surprised to see his son waiting in the guest quarters, he did not show it. This is Prince Varian Wrynn, future king of Stormwind. I only wish the circumstances were happier.

Arthas took in the cape, tunic, and breeches, made of runecloth and mageweave and beautifully embroidered. It looked as though Varian had been wearing them for half his life, so dirty were they. His face had clearly been scrubbed, but there were traces of dirt at his temples and beneath his nails. Varian needed to keep hearing that he was still respected, still royal, when he had lost absolutely everything but his life.

Varian pressed his lips together and nodded. The two boys stared at each other. The silence stretched uncomfortably. The snow that had been threatening all morning was finally coming, drifting softly downward to cover the land with a silent blanket. It was too bad—on a clear day, you could see all the way to Fenris Keep. Arthas whirled to look at him, shocked. Only his eyes, bloodshot and brown and filled with pain, seemed alive.

Then she killed him. Stabbed him right in the heart. It sounded inane, but it was the first thing that sprang to his mind and he spoke earnestly. Suddenly the brown eyes filled with tears and Varian looked away. Arthas squeezed his arm and felt it rigid as stone beneath his fingers. Unable to watch such raw pain, yet powerless to do anything about it, he dropped his hand, turned away, and stared out the window. Outside, the snow continued to fall.

World of WarCraft: Instead, exactly the opposite happened. The war against the Horde resulted in everyone who could swing a sword joining the armed forces, right down to the master blacksmith. Varian took pity on his younger counterpart and did what he could for a while, until at last he sighed and looked sympathetically at Arthas.

The two were in the armory hall, sparring with helms, leather chest pieces, and wooden training swords. Varian went to the rack and hung up the training sword, removing his helm as he spoke. He followed sullenly, hanging up his own sword and unfastening his protective gear.

By the time I was your age I had my own set of armor specifically designed for me. Although their first meeting had been laced with grief and awkwardness, Arthas had discovered that Varian had a strong spirit and a generally optimistic outlook. The realities of life have a way of intruding. I might hurt you. No suggestion that Arthas might hurt him.

Varian seemed to see that he was only digging himself deeper into a hole with the younger boy and clapped him on the shoulder. The leader of the Horde, the oncemighty Orgrim Doomhammer, had been brought back to Capital City in chains. It had made a big impression on both Arthas and Varian, to see the powerful orc paraded through Lordaeron.

Turalyon, the young paladin lieutenant who had defeated Doomhammer after the orc had slain the noble Anduin Lothar, had shown mercy in choosing to spare the beast; Terenas, who was at heart a kindly man, continued in that fashion by forbidding attacks on the creature. Jeers, boos, yes—seeing the orc who had terrorized them for so long now powerless, an object of scorn and derision, heartened morale.

But Orgrim Doomhammer would not be harmed while in his care. The ancient royal crypts, dungeons, sewers, and twining alleys deep below the palace had somehow gotten that nickname, as if the place was simply another destination.

Dark, dank, filthy, the Undercity was intended only for prisoners or the dead, but the poorest of the poor in the land somehow always seemed to find their way in. If one was homeless, it was better than freezing in the elements, and if one needed something…not entirely legal, even Arthas understood that that was where you went to get it.

Now and then the guards would go down and make a sweep of the place in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to clean it out. The great orcish leader had only appeared to be humbled by the scorn and hatred heaped upon him. It turned out he was far from broken. Lured by his dispiritedness, or so Arthas gleaned by eavesdropping, the guards had grown lax in their care of him. But there was a trail of bodies, that of guards, indigents, and criminals—Doomhammer did not discriminate—leading from the wideopen cell through the Undercity to the single escape route—the foul- smelling sewers.

Doomhammer was captured again shortly thereafter, and this time placed in the internment camps. When he escaped from there, too, the Alliance collectively held its breath, waiting for a renewed attack. None came. Either Doomhammer was finally dead, or they had shattered his fighting spirit after all. Two years had come and gone, and now it looked like the Dark Portal through which the Horde had entered Azeroth the first time—the portal that the Alliance had shut down at the end of the Second War—was going to be reopened.

Even though he was going to become king one day. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear and warm. Part of him wanted to be outside with his new horse, whom he had named Invincible—the same foal he had seen being born on that bitter winter day two years ago. But for now, his footsteps took him to the armory, where he and Varian had sparred and Varian had embarrassed him.

The slight was unintended, to be sure, but it stung all the same. Two years. Arthas walked over to the rack of wooden training swords and took one down. He was indeed a proper young man, standing at five foot eight and likely to grow even taller if his heritage was any indication. He hefted the sword, swinging it this way and that, and suddenly grinned. He advanced on one of the old suits of armor, gripping the sword firmly. You are in Alliance lands!

I will show you mercy this once. Begone and never return! They were just brutes. So it would refuse to kneel and show him respect. You will not depart?

I have given you a chance, but now, we fight!

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Not directly at the armor, no, the thing was very old and very valuable, but right beside it. Rise of the Lich King He gasped as the sword seemed to take on a life of its own and flew across the room.

It landed loudly on the marble floor, sliding along with a grating sound before slowly spinning to a stop. He looked toward the door—and right into the face of Muradin Bronzebeard. Muradin was the dwarven ambassador to Lordaeron, brother to King Magni Bronzebeard and a great favorite at court for his jovial, no- nonsense approach to everything from fine ale and pastries to matters of state. He had a reputation as an excellent warrior as well, cunning and fierce in battle. And he had just watched the future king of Lordaeron pretend to fight orcs and throw his sword clear across the room.

Arthas felt his whole body break out in a sweat, and he knew his cheeks were pink. He tried to recover. Can ye direct me? This infernal place has too many turns. He watched the dwarf go. No other words were exchanged. Arthas had never been more embarrassed in his life. Tears of shame burned in his eyes, and he blinked them back hard.

Without even bothering to put away the wooden sword, he fled the room. Ten minutes later, he was free, riding out of the stables and heading east into the hills of Tirisfal Glades. He had two horses with him: Arthas had known then that this would be his steed, his friend, the great horse with a great heart who would be as much a part of him as—no, more than—his armor or weapons.

Horses from good stock such as this one could live twenty years or more if cared for well; this was the mount who would bear Arthas elegantly in ceremony and faithfully on daily rides. He was not a warhorse. Such were a breed apart, used only for specific purposes at specific times. But Invincible would, and indeed already had, become part of his life. Rise of the Lich King patient, Your Highness.

Too long. Arthas glanced back over his shoulder at the horse, growing impatient with the plodding canter that seemed the most that Trueheart could summon. His ears were pricked forward, and his nostrils flared as he scented the smells of the glade.

His eyes were bright and he seemed to be saying, Come on, Arthas…. Just a little canter, and then back to the stables as if nothing had happened. He slowed Trueheart to a walk and tied the reins to a low- slung tree branch.

Invincible whickered as Arthas walked up to him. The prince grinned at the velvety softness of the muzzle brushing his palm as he fed the horse a piece of apple. Invincible was used to having a saddle; it was part of the slow and patient breaking process, to get the horse accustomed to having something on its back.

Invincible reared, neighing furiously. Arthas wrapped his hands in the wiry mane and clung like a burr with every inch of his long legs. The horse hopped and bucked, but Arthas held on. And then Invincible was galloping. Or rather, he was flying. They would— Before he even realized what had happened, Arthas was hurtling through the air to land hard on the grassy earth. Slowly he got to his feet.

His body ached, but nothing was broken. But Invincible was a rapidly disappearing dot in the distance. Arthas swore violently, kicking a hillock and balling his fists. He was in for it now.

Sir Uther the Lightbringer was waiting for him upon his return. Arthas sighed. I could cripple him. It was just the one time. He was angry, embarrassed, and hurting, and wanted nothing more than a hot bath and some briarthorn tea to ease the pain.

His right knee was starting to swell. It was a good smell, he thought. An honest one. He felt vaguely bad about that; the Light was important to both his father and Uther, and he knew that they badly wanted him to be as devout as they were. It was just…there. An hour later, scrubbed and changed into an outfit that was simple yet elegant, Arthas hurried to the small family chapel in the royal wing.

It was not a large room, but it was beautiful. It was a miniature version of the traditional chapel style that could be seen in every human town, perhaps a trifle more lavish with regard to the details.

The chalice that was shared was finely wrought of gold and inlaid with gems; the table upon which it lay, an antique. Even the benches had comfortable padding, while the common folk had to make do with flat wooden ones. He realized as he entered quietly that he was the last—and winced as he recalled that several important personages were visiting his father.

In addition to the regular attendees—his family, Uther, and Muradin—King Trollbane was present, though he looked even less happy than Arthas to be here. Rise of the Lich King And…someone else. A girl, slender and straight with long blond hair, her back turned to him. Arthas peered at her, curious, and bumped into one of the benches.

He might as well have dropped a plate. Her gown was perfectly arranged, her hair pulled back in a golden coif from which no unruly tendril escaped. Calia, fourteen and looking as gawky and coltish as Invincible had been at his birth, shot him a scowl. Evidently, word of his misdeeds had gotten out—or else she was just angry with him at being late. Terenas nodded at him, then returned his eyes to the bishop giving the service.

Arthas cringed inwardly at the quiet disapproval in that gaze. Trollbane paid him no mind, and Muradin, too, did not turn. Arthas slouched down onto one of the benches against the back wall. The bishop began to speak and lifted his hands, limned with a soft, white radiance.

Arthas wished the girl would turn a little so he could catch a glimpse of her face. Who was she? Obviously the daughter of a noble or someone else of high rank, else she would not be invited to attend private family services.

He thought about who she might be, more interested in discovering her identity than in the words of the service. The bishop turned to the queen and the princess. Arthas leaned against the back room of the wall. The mystery girl was a mystery no longer. Jaina Proudmoore, a year younger than he, daughter to Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, naval war hero and ruler of Kul Tiras.

We ask that she become a representative of the Light, and that in the role of a mage, she will serve her people well and truly.

She was on her way to Dalaran, the beautiful city of magi not too far from Capital City. This, he thought, could be fun. At the end of the service, Arthas, already located near the door, stepped out first. Muradin and Trollbane were the first out, both looking slightly relieved that the service was over. Terenas, Uther, Lianne, Calia, and Jaina followed.

Rise of the Lich King Both his sister and the Proudmoore girl were fair haired and slender. But the resemblance stopped there. Calia was delicately boned, with a face right out of old paintings, pale skinned and soft. Jaina, however, had bright eyes and a lively smile, and she moved like someone who was well accustomed to riding and hiking.

She obviously spent a great deal of time out of doors, as her face was tanned with a smattering of sprinkles across her nose.

This, Arthas decided, was a girl who would not mind getting a snowball in the face, or going for a swim on a hot day. Someone, unlike his sister, he could play with. Arthas turned to see the ambassador peering up at him. All he wanted to do was talk to this new friend—he was already sure they would get along famously—and Muradin probably wanted to scold him again for the embarrassing display earlier in the armory. At least the dwarf was discreet enough to walk a few paces away.

You saw what happened when I tried. The dwarves were renowned for their fighting prowess, among many things. Part of Arthas wondered if Muradin would also teach him how to hold his ale, another thing dwarves were known for, but he decided not to ask that.

Muradin nodded and stuck out a large, calloused hand. Arthas shook it. Grinning, he glanced up at his father, who was deep in conversation with Uther. They turned as one to regard him, both pairs of eyes narrowing in speculation, and inwardly Arthas sighed. He knew that look. Arthas would rise before dawn, grab a quick breakfast of bread and cheese, and go on an early ride with Muradin. The ride would end in a hike, and it was the twelve- year- old youth who always ended up shaking and winded.

Back home, bath, lessons in history, mathematics, and calligraphy. A midday meal, then it was all afternoon in the chapel with Uther, praying, meditating, and discussing the nature of paladins and the rigorous disciplines they must observe. It pleased Terenas to think of his son as being so responsible, Jaina smiled brightly at the prospect, and it got Arthas exactly what he wanted.

Everyone was happy. And so it was that in early summer, when the flowers were blooming, the woods were full of game, and the sun danced above them in a sky of bright blue, Prince Arthas Menethil was accompanying a brightly smiling, blond, young lady on a journey to the wondrous city of magi. He was in no hurry. But still, the servants hung back and let the two young nobles become acquainted.

They rode for a while, then stopped for a picnic lunch. On the morrow, we can push on the rest of the way to Dalaran. We should arrive there by nightfall.

We can camp overnight in the Hillsbrad area. That will get Lady Jaina to Dalaran by mid- morning tomorrow. Rise of the Lich King She smiled back, though he caught a hint of disappointment in her eyes.

While the servants set up camp, Arthas and Jaina went exploring. They scrambled up a hill that gave them an unparalleled view. To the east, they could almost make out Dalaran itself, and more clearly, the internment camp to its south. Since the end of the Second War, the orcs had been rounded up and placed into these camps. It was more merciful than simply slaughtering them on sight, Terenas had explained to Arthas.

Most of the time when humans stumbled upon them, or hunted them, they fought only halfheartedly and went into internment peacefully. There were several camps just like this one. They had a rustic meal of roasted rabbit on a spit and retired shortly after dark. Once he was assured that everyone was asleep, Arthas threw a tunic over his breeches and quickly tugged on his boots. As an afterthought, he took one of his daggers and fastened it to his belt, then crept over to Jaina.

He squatted back as she sat up, putting a finger to his lips. She spoke in a whisper. Is something wrong? She rose, made a halfhearted attempt to comb her fingers through her blond hair, and nodded. Rise of the Lich King Jaina followed him as they ascended the same ridge they had explored earlier that day. The climb was more challenging at night, but the moonlight was quite bright and their feet did not slip.

Jaina gulped. My older brother. I missed a chance to get a good look at Doomhammer when he was in the Undercity. Other than patrols, someone is always stationed in those two watchtowers. Now, let this fellow here complete his circuit, and we should have ample time to get close to that wall right there and take a good look.

Both had fair hair, and it would be far too easy for the guards to spot. Jaina looked nervous but excited, and obeyed. Fortunately both she and Arthas wore cloaks of a dark shade.

Arthas held her back for a moment until the guard in the tower was looking in the other direction, then motioned to her. They ran forward, making sure their hoods were securely in place, and a few steps later they were pressing against the wall of the camp. They were made of wood, little more than logs fastened together, sharpened at the top and embedded deep into the ground.

It was hard to see at first, but there were several large shapes inside. Arthas turned his head for a better look. They were orcs all right. Some of them were on the ground, curled up and covered by blankets.

Over there was what looked like a family unit—a male, a female, and a young one. The female, slighter and shorter than the male, held something small to her chest, and Arthas realized it was an infant. He quickly glanced up at the tower, but the guard had heard nothing.

Jaina, these brutes destroyed Stormwind. They wanted to render humankind extinct. He was irritated, but then, maybe he should have expected a reaction like that from an eleven- year- old girl.

Are you sure they belong here? Maybe they should be released. Arthas shook his head. Arthas glanced over his shoulder and saw the guard start to turn. He dove toward Jaina, grabbed her around the waist, and shoved her to the ground, hitting hard beside her.

Carefully, keeping his face as shadowed as possible, Arthas turned his head to look at the guard. After a long moment, during which Arthas heard his heart thundering in his ears, the guard turned to face the other direction. She grinned at him. Rise of the Lich King They were back in their respective sleeping areas a few moments later. Arthas looked up at the stars, completely satisfied.

It had been a good day. Late that next morning, they arrived at Dalaran. Arthas had never been there before, though of course had heard a great deal about it. The magi were a private and mysterious lot—quite powerful, but they kept to themselves save when needed. Arthas remembered when Khadgar had accompanied Anduin Lothar and Prince—now King—Varian Wrynn to speak with Terenas, to warn them of the orcish threat.

Nor did they do the ordinary political maneuvering such as inviting royalty to enjoy their hospitality. It was only because Jaina was coming to study that Arthas and his retinue were permitted admittance. Dalaran was beautiful, even more glorious than Capital City.

It seemed almost impossibly clean and bright, as a city based so deeply on magic ought to be. There were several graceful towers reaching skyward, their bases white stone and their apexes violet encircled with gold.

Many had radiant, hovering stones dancing around them. Others had windows of stained glass that caught the sunlight. Gardens bloomed, the fragrances from wild, fantastical flowers providing a scent so heady Arthas was almost dizzy. Or maybe it was the constant thrum of magic in the air that caused the sensation.

He glanced at his companion. Her blue eyes were wide with awe and excitement, her lips slightly parted. She turned to Arthas, those lips curving in a smile. She was drinking this in like one who had been given water after a week in the desert, but he felt…unwanted.

It would be nice to see you again. Very nice indeed. Arthas slashed with the sword, grinning beneath his own helm as it connected solidly. Then suddenly, he was sailing through the air to land hard on his back. His vision was filled with the image of a looming head with a long beard, and he was barely able to lift his blade in time to parry.

With a grunt, he pulled his legs in to his chest and then extended them hard, catching Muradin in the gut. This time it was the dwarf who went hurtling backward. Muradin lay where he was, his chest rising and falling. Muradin pumped the hand happily.

Some of what Muradin taught him would be repeated, honed, and reinforced in his paladin training. There was fighting and there was fighting, and Muradin Bronzebeard seemed determined that Arthas Menethil would understand all aspects of it. Arthas was fourteen now, and had been training with Muradin several times a week, save for when the dwarf was away on diplomatic errands. At first, it had gone as both parties had expected—badly.

Arthas left the first dozen or so sessions bruised, bloodied, and limping. Muradin had approved, and he had shown it by pressing Arthas all the harder.

Arthas never complained, not even when he wanted to, not even when Muradin scolded him or pressed the attack long after Arthas was too exhausted to even hold up a shield. And for that stubborn refusal to whine or to quit, he was rewarded twofold: Rise of the Lich King His eyes twinkled as he spoke and Arthas nodded as if agreeing.

Today, it was Muradin who had taken the beating. And he seemed as happy as Arthas at the fact. Though a strict taskmaster, Muradin was someone of whom Arthas had grown terribly fond. He whistled a little as he strode toward his quarters, but then a sudden outburst froze him in his tracks. I will not! You have no say in this matter.

The door was ajar and he listened, slightly worried.

Terenas doted on Calia. What in the world was he asking of her to make her beg with him and use the term of endearment that both she and Arthas had dropped as they grew toward adulthood?

Calia sobbed brokenly. Arthas could take it no longer. He opened the door. She will obey me. Arthas stared from his father to his sister in utter astonishment. Terenas muttered something and stormed out. Arthas glanced back at Calia, then followed his father. Arthas recognized Lord Daval Prestor, a young noble whom Terenas seemed to hold in very high regard, and a pair of visiting Dalaran wizards he did not know. His older sister had not moved, although her sobs had quieted somewhat.

At a total loss, Arthas simply sat beside her on the bed, feeling awkward. Calia sat up on the bed, her face wet. So that was why Prestor was here…. Everyone says so. To be given away as Father sees fit—to seal a political bargain. I know that this is common practice among royalty and nobility. That we are pawns. He was much more interested in training with Muradin and riding Invincible.

But Calia was right. It was common among the nobility to make good marriages to ensure their political status. You heard him.

Arthas was in no way ready to think about that. Make sure you care for this girl and —and that she cares for you. Or is at least asked about whom she wants to share her life and her b- bed with. Rise of the Lich King She started to weep afresh, but Arthas was too shaken by the revelation that burst upon him. His wife would be the mother of kings. His parents obviously cared greatly for each other.

It was reflected in their smiles and gestures, despite many years of marriage. Arthas wanted that. He wanted a companion, a friend, a— He frowned. Arthas knew it was only a temporary solution, but he was fourteen, and a temporary solution was still a solution.

He was never happier than when he rode like this, the two of them merging into one glorious whole. He had waited, his patience sorely tested, for so long to be able to ride the animal he had watched coming into the world, but it had been worth it. They were the perfect team. Invincible wanted nothing from him, asked nothing of him, only seemed to wish to be allowed to escape the confines of the stables as Arthas longed to escape the confines of his royalty.

They did so together. They were coming up on the jump Arthas loved now. To the east of Capital City and close to the Balnir farmstead was a small cluster of hills. Invincible surged, the earth devoured by his pounding hooves, pulling himself upward toward the precipice almost as fast as if they were on level ground. Then Arthas guided the stallion to the left, over an embankment—a shortcut to the Balnir property.

Invincible did not hesitate, had not hesitated even the first time that Arthas had asked him to leap. He gathered himself and launched forward, and for a glorious, heart- stopping moment, horse and rider were airborne. Every precaution has been taken in the operation of this facility. Durnholde, not an internment camp itself, but the nerve center of all of the others, was huge, and indeed had almost a festival air about it.

It was a crisp but bright autumn day, and the breeze caused the blue and white banners that flew over the keep to snap energetically. Terenas had praised Arthas for his initiative and compassion.

We can ascertain if he is taking proper care of the gladiatorial participants—and also, make sure he is not walking the path of his father. While his crimes had taken place long ago, when his son had been but a child, the stain had dogged Aedelas throughout his military career.

It was only his record of victory in battles, and particular ferocity in fighting the orcs, that had enabled the current Blackmoore to rise in the ranks. Arthas looked down, feigning interest in watching the dozens of guards who stood at rigid attention. Well, so have I, he thought, but he also knew what sacrifices a king would be expected to make.

Rise of the Lich King himself to the choicest cuts of meat, the most lavish pastries, and more than one glass of wine to wash it down with. Blackmoore, in contrast, ate sparingly, though he had more alcohol than Langston. The girl, golden- haired and simply clad, with a face that needed no artifice to be beautiful, smiled as if she enjoyed it, but Arthas caught a quick flash of unhappiness in her blue eyes.

She reminded him a bit of Jaina—her hair brightened by the sun, her skin tanned. She returned the smile fleetingly, then demurely looked away as she gathered the plates, dropping a quick curtsey before leaving. It took Arthas a second to grasp the meaning and then he blinked, startled. The two men laughed harder, and Blackmoore raised his goblet in a toast. Arthas looked back at Taretha, thought of Jaina, and forced himself to raise his glass.

An hour later Arthas had forgotten all about Taretha Foxton and his indignation on her behalf. His voice was raw from screaming, his hands hurt from clapping, and he was having the time of his life. The first few combatants in the ring were simple beasts pitted against one another, fighting to the death for no reason other than the enjoyment of the onlookers. He was fond of animals; it unsettled him to see them used so. Langston had opened his mouth, but Blackmoore shushed him with a quick gesture.

He had smiled, leaning back in his chaise lounge and snagging a bunch of grapes. And as you can see, the bouts go quickly. If an animal survives and is not able to continue fighting again, we put him down at once, mercifully. A sick feeling in his gut told him Blackmoore probably was, but he ignored it.

The feeling vanished when the fighting involved men against the beasts. They in fact become minor celebrities. And Arthas knew it, and approved.

Rise of the Lich King He was not disappointed. Apparently, everything up until now had been a warm- up for the crowd. When the doors creaked open and a huge green shape strode forward, everyone stood, roaring. Somehow Arthas found himself among them. Thrall was enormous, appearing even larger because he was obviously so much healthier and alert than the other specimens Arthas had seen in the camps.

He wore little armor and no helm, and green skin stretched tightly over powerful muscle. Too, he stood straighter than others. The cheering was deafening, and Thrall walked a circle around the ring, lifting his fists, turning his ugly face up to be showered with rose petals usually reserved for holidays. Nor will he. Yet people keep hoping, and the money keeps flowing. He thumped his chest in a salute and then bowed deeply. He rose and lifted a flag, waving it, and across the ring a solidly built red- haired man waved another flag.

Thrall turned toward the door, gripping the massive battle axe that was his weapon in this bout. The guards began to raise the door, and before it had even opened fully, a bear the size of Invincible surged forward.

Its hackles had risen and it barreled straight for Thrall as if it had been launched from a cannon, its snarl audible even over the roar of the crowd. Thrall held his ground, stepping aside at the absolute last minute and bringing the huge axe around as if it weighed nothing at all.

Again, the orc stood his ground, resting on the balls of his bare feet until he moved with a speed that belied his size. He met the bear head- on, shouting taunts in a guttural voice in perfect Common, and brought the axe crunching down.

Thrall threw back his head and cried out his victory. The crowd went mad. Arthas stared. Arthas watched as Thrall sized them up and wondered just how smart it was of Blackmoore to make his pet orc so damn good at fighting.

If Thrall ever escaped, he could teach those skills to other orcs. It was possible, despite the increased security. After all, if Orgrim Doomhammer could escape from the Undercity, in the very heart of the palace, Thrall could escape from Durnholde. The state visit lasted five days. During one of those days, late in the evening, Taretha Foxton came to visit the prince in his private quarters.

He was puzzled that his servants did not answer the tentative knock on the door and was even more startled to see the pretty blond girl standing there carrying a tray of delicacies. She dropped a curtsey.

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Arthas was confused. They were calm, resigned. Understanding, and embarrassment, and irritation, and anger. I need nothing else. Arthas stepped forward and lifted her trailing hair out of the way, frowning at the brownish- blue fading marks on her wrists and throat.

Taretha blinked at him. It took a moment for her to understand what he was saying, and then cautious relief and gratitude spread over her face as she poured the wine.

After a little while, she began to respond to his questions with more than a few polite words, and they spent the next few hours talking before they agreed it was time for her to return. As she picked up the tray, she turned to him. The lady you choose to make your queen will be a very lucky woman.

The lady he would choose to make his queen. He recalled his conversation with Calia; fortunately for his sister, Terenas had started to have some suspicions about Prestor—nothing that could be proven, but enough for second thoughts.

Arthas was almost of age—a year older than Calia had been when their father had nearly betrothed her to Prestor. Tomorrow he would be leaving, and not a minute too soon. The winter chill was in the air. In a few more months, Arthas would reach his nineteenth year and be inducted into the Order of the Silver Hand, and he was more than ready. His training with Muradin had ended a few months ago, and he had now begun sparring with Uther.

What Muradin had taught was attentiveness and a willingness to win the battle no matter what. Rise of the Lich King swordplay.

Which meant that now Arthas had afternoons free for a few days, and he was not about to waste them, even if the weather was less than perfect. He could see his breath and that of the great white horse as Invincible tossed his head and snorted.

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It was starting to snow again now, not the soft fat flakes that drifted lazily down but small, hard crystals that stung. Arthas frowned and pressed on.

A little farther, then he would turn back, he told himself. He might even stop at the Balnir farm. It had been a while since he had been there; Jorum and Jarim would likely be interested to see the magnificent horse that the gawky little colt had grown into.

The impulse, having struck, now demanded to be obeyed, and Arthas turned Invincible with a subtle pressure from his left leg. The snow was picking up, tiny needles digging into his exposed skin, and Arthas pulled the cape up over his head for a little more protection. Invincible shook his head, his skin twitching as it did when he was being annoyed by insects in the summer.

He galloped down the path, stretching his neck forward, enjoying the exertion every bit as much as Arthas. They were coming up on the jump soon, and shortly after that, a warm stable for the steed and a hot mug of tea for his rider before they headed back to the palace. He pulled hard on the reins, as if that could do something, as if anything could do something— The sound cut through his stupor, and he blinked his way back to consciousness with the bonechilling shriek of a beast in agony clawing at his brain.

Finally he was able to sit up. The snow had picked up and was coming down hard and heavy now. He could barely see three feet in front of him. He shut out the pain, craning his neck, trying to find— Invincible.

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His eye was drawn to movement and the widening pool of crimson that melted the snow, that steamed in the cold. The world went black around the edges and he almost lost consciousness again, but through sheer will hung on. Slowly, he made his way to the panicked animal, struggling against the pain and the driving wind and snow that threatened to knock him over.

Invincible was churning up the bloodied snow with two powerful, unharmed rear legs and two shattered forelegs. Arthas felt his stomach heave at the sight of the limbs, once so long and straight and clean and powerful, hanging at odd angles as Invincible kept trying and failing to stand. Then the image was mercifully blurred by the snow and the rush of hot tears that spilled down his cheeks.

He slogged toward his horse, sobbing, dropping to his knees beside the maddened animal and trying to do—what? This was no scratch, to be quickly bound so that Invincible could be led to a warm stable and hot mash.

And he kept screaming.