Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hope


Hope.

Hope never dies.

I remember those words from my childhood, father. Even before I swore our sacred oath, I can recall sneaking into the Cathedral to watch you and the other crusaders, to get a glimpse of what awaited me when I was older. I vividly remember your friend, the man who used to say this, standing atop the rostrum, facing the assembled knights and paladins before him.

Alexandros Mograine was his name. He was a good man. A holy man, dedicated to eradicating the Scourge. I looked up to him, just as I did to you. I vowed that when I grew up, I would follow in the footsteps of heroes like you two, and devote my life to righteousness.

I still remember asking you, when I was a few years older and Mograine had passed, what the phrase actually meant. I didn't yet understand why the Crusade was so committed to our holy purpose, or comprehend the magnitude of our objectives.

"It means...it means we must never give up," you said, an odd wistfulness in your eyes. "Everything I do, everything I fight for...it is for you. All of us who wear the flame, we fight the undead because it is the right thing to do, but we also fight to make this world a brighter place for you, our children. It is our deepest wish that future generations will be able to walk this land free from fear, forever safe from the horrors of the Scourge.

"My sword will never falter, my arms will never tire in this fight, for I fight for tomorrow, for the new dawn that has yet to crest the horizon, full of limitless light and happiness. I fight for the new day, where shadows will not lurk around every corner, where children will not fear the monsters in the darkness.

I fight for the future...for peace. I fight for you, my daughter, so that you will not have to. You are the pure, the innocent. You are my hope, Lynnia."


It wasn't until after you died that I started to grasp what you had meant, father. Brigitte was beside herself with grief, but I saw the look on her face when we laid your body to rest in the Hall of Champions. I watched her take that grief and sorrow and turn it into an iron determination to live up to your name, to carry on your ideals, and to protect our family like you would have done.

As much as I grieved to lose you, father, I was so proud of her. She has never looked back, and has gone on to become one of our order's most celebrated, devoted champions. Her commitment to the Light was surpassed only by her intensity. Though she was the youngest of our commanders, she never let them push her around or exclude her from critical decisions. She was just like she always had been - fiery, fierce and unflinching. I could not ask for a stronger, more valiant sister.

She was everything you could have hoped for, father.


We spent a great deal of time together, whenever her duties permitted, talking about the order, about her many successful missions, about my life in the Monastery. It is only during these private times that I sometimes caught a glimpse of her tender, vulnerable side. She hid it very well.

For all her success and rapid rise through our ranks, it was easy to forget that Brigitte was only a few years older than myself. She maintained her bold, confident front in public, but I could tell that sometimes it wore on her, the pressure of living up to your expectations, of carrying on our name.

Secretly, I do not think she ever really forgave herself for your death. I sometimes heard her late at night when she thought no one else was around, chastising and berating herself over her carelessness, blaming herself for not seeing that Scourge ghoul rushing in, its blade bared.

I tried talking to her and explaining that it was not her fault, that your sacrifice should be remembered for your death, but for your heroism...but I don't she ever listened.


I also sometimes worried that she pushed herself too hard, but whenever I brought it up she would simply shake her head and insist that as long as the Scourge still threatened humanity, she could not rest. After all, you wouldn't have.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Ever since mother died, she had always been stubbornly responsible. I remember how she used to look out for me and protect me when I was little. With you gone, I think she felt even more accountable for my safety, since it was just the two of us now.

With the increasing presence of the Scourge in Tirisfal, Brigitte decided that remaining at the Monastery was too dangerous, and so we traveled east to one of the last remaining bastions of purity in those scarred lands, untouched by undeath or plague - the Scarlet Enclave.

Together with High Abbot Landgren, Commander Marjhan and Lord Valdelmar, Brigitte fortified the towns of Tyr's Hand, Havenshire and New Avalon, and rallied the populace under the Scarlet banner. The Scourge footprint here in the east was weak and disorganized - the monsters roamed the hills unchecked, but they were scattered and disjointed. The Enclave stood bold and proud, a beacon of light amidst a sea of evil.

But then...the citadel arrived. And as the Lich King's terrible champions swarmed over New Avalon, butchering civilians and crusader alike, Brigitte knew the Crusade could not sit back and wait any longer. The horns of war had sounded, calling us north to the tyrant's chill domain. Our only hope for peace would be to follow, so that we might put an end to the Scourge's blight, once and for all.

Brigitte gathered the strongest and most faithful from our ranks to join her in this holy crusade. Many, like myself, wanted to go, but were told that we must stay behind to carry on the Crusade's legacy if the expedition should fail. She was truly in her element, father - bold, inspiring...she seemed invincible.

I prayed for her safety every night, and asked the Light to watch over her. My imagination ran wild with thoughts of the undead horrors and savage beasts that awaited her in Northrend. I knew she was strong, that she could take care of herself. And she had brought the Crusader's strongest, most devout champions with her. They would purify and cleanse this world of the Scourge's awful taint, then return home to be celebrated as saviors.

I doubted they needed my help, but I still prayed. I figured the extra help couldn't hurt. And it was all I could do for them.

But father, I should have focused my attention closer to home. For deep within our ranks, within the heart of the Crusade, lurked a nightmare beyond our wildest imaginations.

Father, you remember the venerable Grand Crusader Dathrohan? One of your staunchest friends, and most trusted companions. The heart and pillar of the order. I will always remember his kind, gentle face smiling down at me when I underwent my initiation and swore my oaths.

Everything he did was a lie.

It wasn't actually the Grand Crusader, father. It was a monstrous demon who called himself Balnazzar. He had walked among us for years, manipulating us, playing the Crusade like pawns in some sickening chess game.

I suppose I shouldn't blame myself for not recognizing the threat. How could I? He fooled everyone, even the older members of the order who were good friends with the Grand Crusader, such as yourself and Alexandros.

Still...if only I had noticed. Perhaps I could have done something. Warned someone. Told someone of what lurked among us.

Maybe we could have stopped him.

I wish I could say that we discovered the demon's identity on our own, father, after we had cornered him and cleansed us from his corrupting hand. But this was not the case. Once Brigitte and the rest of the order's warriors set sail for Northrend, the thing calling itself the Grand Crusader made its move.

I...cannot even describe exactly what the monster did, but every remaining person in the Enclave, from the youngest squire to the most grizzled, war-hardened veteran, felt a deathly chill fall over us. It was like every muscle in my body was clenching and seizing at the same time, rigid with agony, sawing through my sanity. I know I was screaming, but I could not hear myself, for all of Tyr's Hand was crying out with me.

Finally, blissfully, I felt the last ounce of strength leave my body. I collapsed to the floor and waited for oblivion...but it did not come.

His blasphemous sorcery...it had done what the Scourge could not. In the ultimate act of cruelty, Balnazzar had given form to a Scarlet Crusader's worst nightmare.

He had risen us from the dead.

A few of our warriors threw off their shock and moved to strike the demon down, but he just laughed and waved a hand. Suddenly, against our will, we found ourselves kneeling before him, unable to even lift our heads without his consent. He labeled us as his Risen...his own loyal brigade of soldiers who would battle his enemies for him.

And father...it wasn't just Grand Crusader Dathrohan. The field gleefully revealed that some of the Crusaders who had ventured north were like him, demons wearing human skin. Their goal? To sabotage our forces from the inside, and after they had been sufficiently expended and weakened, cripple our army by cutting down the commanders...such as Brigitte.

The city is in shock, father. We are trapped in our own sanctuary. Some of us still maintain the traditional patrols or day-to-day habits out of a dazed denial of our fate. But every time I look into a mirror, I see only a pale, withered face with torn skin stretched tightly over exposed bone staring back at me. He made us into monsters, father. Abominations. Travesties against the Light's natural beauty.

I spent every day deep in prayer to the Light. I still tell myself that I have faith, that perhaps a cure can one day be found. But in reality, I simply don't know what else to do. I am lost.

You are dead. My friends are dead. My beloved sister lies murdered in the icy north, betrayed by her own trusted companions, miles from home. The order I believed in, that I devoted my life to, has become a twisted mockery of its former glory, corrupted by demonic treachery and the terrible curse of undeath.

And the Light...the Light has abandoned us to our misery.

Hope never dies. That is what you always said, father.

I am Lynnia, proud daughter of Markus Abbendis, loving sister of Brigitte Abbendis.

I am a Scarlet Crusader.

I am the future. I am the dawn that will never arrive, the tomorrow that will never come.

I am the Fallen Hope.

Father...

...

You were wrong.



Show/Hide Letter Notes

This was the very first Cataclysm Letter I wanted to do. One of the first things I did after the Shattering hit was, for some reason, tour around the Plaguelands. I spent some time entertained by Gidwin and Tarenar, and then for some reason, ended up at Tyr's Hand, poking around and marveling at these new mysterious undead, called the Risen.

And then I found Lynnia Abbendis.

If I could define my ideal subject for a letter, it would be her. She's not a quest mob or story-relevant NPC or anything, being just a rare spawn (she actually replaces the old Abbendis rare spawn mob, which we now know was Brigitte Abbendis). But despite this, she has incredible plot and lore hooks.

First of all, ABBENDIS? Being a Scarlet Crusade member, she's clearly related in some way to Brigitte Abbendis and her unnamed father. Is she Brigitte's sister? Her daughter? What? We have no idea. But we do know the Silver Hand/Scarlet Crusade like to train their children to follow in their footsteps (see: Tirion Fordring, Alexandros Mograine, etc.), so the sudden appearance of another Abbendis is eye-opening, but not totally surprising.

But her title? Now that's getting somewhere. The Fallen Hope. That just SCREAMS anguish and despair. And how utterly appropriate, not just for the Scarlet Crusade (who is on its last legs in Cataclysm), but also for that particular branch of Scarlets, who have been corrupted into their worst nightmares, undead abominations.

Finally, what really sold me on Lynnia was that when you find her, she's not patrolling around or doing anything normal like that.

She's praying.

Wow. Now this was an amazing story, just waiting to be told.

So many questions! Who is she? Why didn't she go to Northrend with Brigitte? Why is she called The Fallen Hope? Why is she praying? Does she still retain her faith, even after Balnazzar turned them into undead?

It's all incredibly powerful potential.

I figured Brigitte wasn't old enough for Lynnia to be her daughter, and Lynnia became a sister. Probably a younger sister, too young and pure to go off to war with Brigitte, who was dedicated to filling their father's footsteps. So Lynnia would stay behind, where it was safe...or so they thought.

But what about their title? Was Lynnia, in life, someone's "hope"?

Ah, of course. What else would their father, and now, Brigitte, fight for with such fervor and dedication, but for the sake of the baby of the family? They hated the undead, yes, but what if the real reason they fought was to make the world a better, safer place for little Lynnia? You always hear a father or mother in fantasy tell their child how they are their sun, their redemption...their hope. It was all starting to come together.

But wait a minute. All this talk about hope. Wasn't there another famous Silver Hand champion who was always talking about hope? Oh that's right...it's the person who featured in the very first Letter I wrote, last year. Alexandros Mograine, and his inspirational line uttered to his son Darion: "Hope never dies."

It's a moving, emotional line, especially when you consider what Alexandros and Darion were both willing to sacrifice for each other. But what if Alexandros didn't just say it to Darion? What if he often said it to inspire his fellow Silver Hand (later Scarlet Crusade) allies? And what if one of those allies, Brigitte and Lynnia's father, was so moved by it, he started using it himself, saying it to his men? To his children?

What would Lynnia say to him now?

Still, Lynnia retains her faith, even when her father is dead, her sister is dead, and she's been reanimated by a demon in a cruel mockery of her former beliefs. Maybe the Light will still save her...eventually.


I don't suspect we'll hear anything else from Lynnia, but then again, you never know. I'd love it if she were to show up in Mists of Pandaria, with Heroic Scarlet Monastery.

She didn't have any story, plot hooks, or even dialogue, but damn if Lynnia Abbendis didn't win me over. Her story - or lack thereof - is exactly the type of raw gem I had in mind when I started the Letters. I couldn't ask for a more appropriate person to end with.

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