Quae walked out of the Theramore inn, letter in hand, and found a quiet place underneath a tree, then sat and opened it. She read it, then re-read it before folding it neatly and slipping it into her pocket. She felt a chill, even though the sun was shining down fiercely.
Barraccus was going to Northrend, the place where people were dying every day. She knew Alanon was staying alive and well there, but he was, well, Alanon. She hadn't met anyone yet as capable as her oldest brother. The thought of Barraccus going there... She firmly put the thought out of her head. Going by the postmark on the letter, he was probably already there, and there was nothing she could do.
The rest of the letter gave her quite different feelings. He missed her, and wanted to see her again. She had been half-afraid that he would forget her after she left, unlikely as that was. But now it seemed that he thought of her as often as she thought of him. She felt warmed by the thought, and wondered how long it might be before he was done there. After debating with herself for a good while, she decided to go visit her cousin Kal in Stormwind while she waited.
But as she saddled Jaxom, then walked him down the dock to the boat, she thought she could still feel the chill.
Barraccus stepped off the boat onto the dock at Valiance Keep. He dodged his way through the bustling workers as he made his way to the keep proper. He was going to find someone to point him towards the inn when he found it himself, right off the docks. He stepped inside and waited for his eyes to adjust.
The inn had only a handful of people in the common room. He saw a surly old man, a few soldiers at the bar, and a gnome towards the back. Then he spotted a lone female night elf, at a table off to the side. He headed over, stopping next to the table and inquiring, "Riatha?" The elf looked up at him. "Yes? Are you Barraccus?" The rest of what she said was knocked out of his head when she turned her eyes up to his.
Glowing, blue eyes. Eyes like his own.
Riatha was another death knight.
The revelation made him dizzy for a second, then he abruptly snapped himself back to the present, stammering an apology as Riatha stared at him quizzically. She motioned him to the other chair, which he gladly took. He asked her about the mission he was supposed to help with, and she quickly explained it to him. There was a death knight named Thassarian that they had to find and aid however they could. All anyone knew was that he had gone north with a group of soldiers, and had disappeared near the Scourge temple there. They were to head there and start their search.
The two death knights left shortly after Riatha finished explaining their mission. They rode north as fast as their sabers could run, and found the soldiers' camp quickly.
The soldiers informed them that Thassarian hadn't exactly disappeared; he had holed up in a Scourge ziggurat nearby and wouldn't let anyone come near. There were horrible sounds coming from the ziggurat every now and then, though it certainly didn't sound like Thassarian was in trouble himself. The death knights looked at each other for a moment, then headed off.
"I doubt he's in trouble," Barraccus said while they rode. "Likely he's found a prisoner or two to question. Maybe all we'll have to do is bring back a report." Riatha glanced at him. "In a hurry to get back, are you?" she asked him, and he blushed. "There's.... someone I'd like to get back to," he said quietly, and she shrugged and nodded, then let the subject drop.
They reached the ziggurat shortly after, to find a cultist stumbling out. "That death knight is mad!" he shouted, then as they grabbed for him, he twisted away and ran off across the snow. They looked at each other and shrugged simultaneously. As they cautiously approached the door, they heard a low human moan, then a gibbering laugh that came from nothing natural. They quickened their steps and went inside.
Inside the ziggurat was the strangest scene that Barraccus had ever seen. A human death knight was holding a lich immobilized while his ghoul servant stood over another cultist, standing guard.
The death knight, Thassarian, glanced over at them. "Get in here. I've no time to waste," he said. He quickly began explaining the situation to the two night elves as they approached, never once losing his concentration on the spell that was holding the lich. Barraccus was duly impressed; he knew he wasn't strong enough to do what this human was doing. Thassarian told them he needed the lich's phylactery and instructed them on where to find it, then sent them off.
They returned in very short order, and he gave them their next orders. First he had them go to the temple and slaughter some of the Scourge, as a distraction. By the time they returned from that, he had extracted the information he needed from the lich, and gave them their next orders. They headed back to the temple, this time to find and kill three Scourge priests and bring back the scrolls they carried.
When they returned this time, Thassarian had...dealt... with the lich. Barraccus was glad he had done it while they were gone. He didn't think he would have wanted to see the lich's execution. Thassarian told them to rest; it was getting very late, the sun beginning to sink below the horizon. They would strike in the morning.
Sitting around a small campfire just outside the ziggurat, Barraccus and Riatha talked for a long while, keeping their voices low. Thassarian's ghoul patrolled the perimeter, so they didn't have to stand guard, but they were still careful. "What do you think it is exactly that we're going to be attacking?" Barraccus wondered. Riatha shrugged, her eyes on the fire. "If it's evil, it needs to be destroyed," she said quietly, but with surprising heat. Barraccus looked at her curiously, but she paid him no attention, her mind apparently someplace far away.
Thassarian appeared out of the darkness, looking down at them. "It is evil, and we are going to destroy it," he said. "You will need to be well rested." Taking the hint, Riatha sought her bedroll, but Barraccus delayed a bit longer, sensing the elder death knight's eyes on him. When he looked up, Thassarian was studying him. "Well met again, Barraccus. When I was teaching you in Acherus, I never imagined you would find the strength to free yourself. Then again," he said softly. "I didn't think I would either." He turned and walked away into the darkness.
Barraccus felt like he had been hit on the head. One of his teachers? He barely remembered parts of his training in Acherus, and none of it had been pleasant. Now, one of his trainers from that dark time in his life was here, and free of the Lich King, just as he was. It was a long time before he finally fell asleep.
He was gently kicked awake by Thassarian when dawn was just tinting the eastern sky a light grey. They prepared and ate a hurried breakfast, then packed their gear onto the two sabers. Leaving their mounts with Thassarian's deathcharger, Dusk, they set out toward the temple. Thassarian stopped them just outside. "I will meet you at the top. Don't delay." He quickly told them where the transporter they needed was, then walked away. Barraccus and Riatha looked at each other, then headed in.
They made it to the teleporter without trouble. Using it made Barraccus feel a bit ill; it felt a little like his insides were spinning until he landed in the flying ziggurat above. Riatha seemed to take it better than he, and led the way to the second portal. They stepped out to find Thassarian waiting for them.
What followed was little more than confusion to Barraccus. The figure they confronted was dimly familiar to him- another of his trainers? This Prince Valanar had apparently taken over the minds of two people, the leader of the Alliance forces at Valiance and a girl, who turned out to be Thassarian's sister. Then someone that none of them had expected appeared. The Lich King, Arthas, himself.
They traded words with Thassarian for several minutes, but Barraccus couldn't have told anyone later what they said. His old master, here! He glanced at Riatha. Her face was set; though fear showed in her eyes she looked ready to take Arthas' head off at a word. He looked back, and froze. Arthas was staring right at him, and as soon as Barraccus' eyes met those of the Lich King he was snared, unable to move or think. When the battle finally started, he just stood there for several minutes, then collapsed onto the cold stone.