I wrote this while on a trip, and was surprised how long it ended up being. I orginally wanted to continue with the first person perspective telling a story, but I eventually decided that it would not work for the scenes I wanted to convey. The part where Iyokus warns Jochlin about the nature of the Crusade came to me as I was trying to sleep, and I'm still not happy with how it translated to the page. In this story we get the first mention of Iyokus's Red God, a significant part of his RP story, and it also explains his ownership of a Scarlet Tabard, which he can sometimes be seen wearing.
Sibilant questioning, the sizzle of burning flesh, the absurd, mouthwatering stench of pork. The flash of cutting knives, the hiss of a scream repressed. Screaming Screaming Screaming
The wash of cool, unconscious darkness…
Novice Jochlin flinched and dropped his wedge of cheese as the door to his small infirmary was banged open and two bearded Scarlet knights, a bloody body dragged between them, came barging into the room. His eyes widened as he looked at the man they dragged, taking in the purple skin, the wild white hair and the slender long ears. He unconsciously took a step forward as the grim-faced men unceremoniously dumped the slack body onto his work-bench and though the eyes of the man were caked shut with blood, and though Jochlin had never before seen an elf, he knew that when they were opened they would glow with a fierce inner light.
As if drawing a conclusion, he turned to the nearest of the knights, ‘A night elf sir?’
‘No Novice. Not a night elf,’ a reedy voice said from behind him, and Jochlin felt ice drip down his spine, he had not noticed the inquisitor entering. Inquisitor Pharrick stepped into view, his narrow frame swamped in his scarlet robes of rank. He continued to stare at the elf sprawled on the wooden bench as he spoke, his voice a weak whisper – but a whisper that could change a young novice’s life.
‘Do not be fooled by its outer appearance boy. This creature is undoubtedly an agent of the Scourge.’ Jochlin nodded vigorously, for the word of an inquisitor was beyond question. ‘The abomination was captured in the plaguelands and the High Inquisitor has ordered us to secure its secrets.’ Pharrick turned to face Jochlin, his watery eyes barely registering the existence of the novice. ‘We are led to understand that you have some small faculty with healing,’ a casual flick of the hand and the inquisitor indicated the burns and their weeping sores and the jagged cuts that oozed blood lazily. ‘You will return it to health so that we may continue the Light’s work.’
Without waiting for a reply, Pharrick spun and slinked gasping from the room, and Jochlin realised that he did not –need- to wait for a reply, the inquisitor would probably not even consider the possibility of an uninitiated novice refusing a service.
The two knights, Jochlin recognized them as Sir Symos and Sir Wirmann , turned to each other and without a word exchanged laid the elf flat on the table, spreading his arms out from his sides so that they could buckle his wrists into the heavy leather restraints, whose presence Jochlin had always wondered about. Sir Wirmann did the same with the creature’s ankles before nodding at Sir Symos and leaving the room. The other knight, dressed formally in his mail and blindingly white and scarlet tabard, took a seat on Jochlin’s chair.
‘Sir Symos?’ Jochlin asked, confused at the presence of the knight.
The crusader turned a disdainful eye to look at the novice, ‘He may not look like much now, Light bless the inquisitor, but that bastard felled Sir Dunstan, Sir Colloway and Brother Wyneburn before we overpowered him,’ the knight sneered, ‘You just make sure he’s ready for another round with Master Pharrick before too long and I’ll make sure your precious skin doesn’t come to any harm.’
Jochlin blushed then, and turned his face away from Corder Symos. As a novice, still in his brown robes, Jochlin got little respect from the fighting men of the Crusade. He snorted quietly to himself – the worst lies were the ones you told yourself – it was not that he was a novice who got no respect, it was that he, Jochlin, got no respect from anyone, brown robe or no. He could remember being a boy in his village, he had been bullied then as he was bullied now.
Except for Master Eosin…
Jochlin mentally pulled away from the memories as he felt them threaten to overwhelm him and turned himself to the task at hand – the night elf – he shook his head – the monster.
The inquisitors had obviously been busy but Jochlin could see that he had been mistaken in his original assessment. Yes, the creature had been heavily tortured, but a lot of what he had taken to be cuts were tangles of old scars caked in blood. And the elf was riven with scars! Jochlin could barely lay a hand on the elf’s torso or arms without covering three of four separate wounds. And the same could almost be said for the wounds the inquisitors had inflicted doing their righteous work. It was true, Jochlin did have a faculty for healing, but he was no living saint, able to close mortal wounds with a prayer – he could only supplement his medical knowledge with the Light’s divine power. Cuts would have to be cleansed, stitched and then prayed over, bones set and splinted and burns washed and anointed with poultices. Jochlin grimaced; it would be painstaking work, all for an abomination that would inevitably be burned.
Jochlin continued his examination, coming at last to the face of the creature. Unlike the rest of his body, the elf’s face was unscarred, though the ends of those on his necks trailed up to his jaw line, and he looked peaceful in unconsciousness, seemingly unmindful of the bruising that blemished his handsome features. Jochlin didn’t know what it was, a certain cast, perhaps caused by the flickering of the torch light, a melancholy sense of age that weighted the features – but he saw his old master in the elf’s face, and this time, he was helpless before the tide of memories that overwhelmed him.
Master Eosin had been the priest in Jochlin’s village for as long as anyone could remember, and the old man had been well loved by most people. He had not been able to read or write but had a powerful intellect and a keen memory and had learned the holy books by rote. But these were not his greatest gifts, for despite being an indefatigable healer and a compassionate listener, it was his voice that drew people from miles away to his sermons. Master Eosin had been blessed with a voice that could lift men’s hearts, shake their spirits and paint a picture so vivid sight itself paled in comparison. It was loud or quiet, as needed, but always powerful, and coupled with his renowned wisdom and his knowledge of the Light made Jochlin tremendously excited when he began to study under him. Jochlin had grown into a young man under Eosin’s tutelage and his skills as a healer and a priest had blossomed. He could remember many an evening spent talking by candlelight in the old man’s cell in the village church.
Then the Scarlet Crusade had come.
They had hoped to recruit Eosin, for his oratorical skills were well known in the area, but they had also come for the youth of the village. While Master Eosin sat silently in his cell, thinking on the offer, the Crusade’s own clerics swept the village into a frenzy with their rhetoric, sculpting enticing stories of the new enemy of the righteous, the Scourge and those who sympathized with them. Once more they made their offer to Master Eosin, but instead if joining with them, he preached against them, teaching that the Crusade was built on foundations of hate and that the Light could only shine from love…
Tears glittered in the corners of Jochlin’s eyes and he shut them.
The wounds were too fresh, and his powers could not reach them. Suddenly, a strained voice spoke quietly, the words escaping as though at great cost to the speaker.
‘What troubles you boy?’
Jochlin flicked open his eyes, and stared at the face of the elf. Though one eye was swollen shut, the other burned brightly and the elf’s features were set into an expression of guileless concern. Jochlin looked upon the elf and saw his old mentor.
A hiss escaped his clenched teeth and he struck the elf in the face, just as he had struck Eosin that night, the rain lashing his face, the yell of ‘sympathiser!’ clawing at his throat, the jeering of the townfolk, the mad thumping of his heart – like it was breaking.
Jochlin didn’t know how many times he hit the face before a meaty hand grabbed his wrist, but his fist ached dully. He spun, his eyes wide and red, to look at Sir Symos.
‘I appreciate the sentiment boy, and if it was were up to me, I would help you finish him off right now. But it ain’t, and it ain’t up to you either. The inquisitor wants him better, not worse. So save your anger for when he burns.’ The knight slowly let go of Jochlin’s wrist and returned to his seat.
Jochlin felt nauseous, just as he had felt that night, and the elf slipped once more into unconsciousness.
The elf next awoke when Moira was bringing the two men their lunch. Moira was one of the serving girls who worked in the kitchen and was about an age of Jochlin. She was the daughter of Sir Eoman Laughton, from before he had taken his templar vows and Jochlin was sure he was about in love with her as any man of almost 18 years could be.
Almost everyday she would bring him his lunch and just her presence was enough to lift the sullen mood that hung over his rooms like a brooding dragon. She was not like that others, dour and burning with zealous hatred. She was light and cheerful and her smiles made Jochlin’s knees buckle. And whenever he spoke to her he would bluster or stammer or otherwise make a fool of himself. He was sure that she thought him a boyish idiot, not like the self-sure knights who preened for her affections.
At the moment she was engrossed with the apparently insensible elf, running a long finger down one of his more impressive scars. Jochlin wished it was his muscled chest she was caressing. She was just so achingly –beautiful-! He couldn’t stop thinking about the milky white line of her neck, or the swish of her hips, or the thrust of her bos- Jochlin physically shook his head, wrenching his mind back to the cool present and found Moira staring at him, ‘Well Joki?’ She asked, her finger still pressed against the scar. Jochlin blinked rapidly and gulped, ‘Um,’ he stammered, ‘I’m not sure, I haven’t seen anything quite like it. It isn’t sword or axe, but I suppose it could be something like a whip…’ Jochlin’s voice trailed off as Moira whispered ‘whip’ under her breath and grinned mischievously.
After Moira had left, Jochlin chewed his bread and cheese thoughtfully and almost choked when he heard the pained voice of the elf.
‘You like this girl very much yes?’
Jochlin had healed the bruising to the creature’s face and he now looked at the novice with both eyes open and a warm smile upon his face. In the corner of the room Sir Symos grinned evilly and spoke, ‘The boy wouldn’t know what to do with the girl even if she threw herself at him. The only peach he’s likely squeezed is his sister’s.’ Laughing at his own joke, Symos crammed another corner of bread into his mouth, crumbs flaking from his beard. Jochlin cringed at the snipe and blushing, looked down at the table, doubly shamed because Sir Symos’ barb stuck so close to the mark.
‘But young Moira had no smiles for the old knight today no? Looks like the lad doesn’t even need to know what he’s doing to do better than blustery ancients,’ said the elf, his voice a hoarse stage whisper.
Without moving, Jochlin considered his words.
They were true! Moira had been polite enough to Sir Symos, tittering kindly at his ribald jokes, but she had directed all his questions at Jochlin, -and- she had brushed his hand when she had given him his lunch! Jochlin sniggered and risked a glance at the elf, who winked at him.
‘Iyokus watches and listens young man, but he doesn’t really believe that your name is Joki as the young lady calls you.’
The implicit question hung in the air with a terrifying weight and Jochlin stared at the elf- at Iyokus for a long moment.
‘Novice Jochlin Barren, of the Scarlet Crusade.’
Iyokus smiled as if Jochlin had imparted some great secret, not merely his name. Jochlin’s own answering smile faded when he heard Sir Symos’ chair scrape back.
‘And I am Sir Corder Symos, Knight Templar of the Scarlet Crusade, and I will not endure listening to the prattling of fools.’
In the ensuing silence, Symos picked up his chair and set it outside in the corridor, before slamming shut the door behind him. There was a moment when neither man in the room said anything, but it was not long before a wry grin stretched across Iyokus’ face.
‘Then how does he stand the sound of his own voice?’
Jochlin could not help but laugh.
From that moment on, Iyokus and Jochlin would chat to each other as Jochlin worked on the elf’s wounds - haltingly and awkwardly at first, but comfortably soon after, the elf’s warmth and sincerity soon breaking down Jochlin’s defenses. They talked about all manner of things, there was no set course and they followed where the conversations took them. They spoke of the respective beauty of their homelands, both now sadly faded. Jochlin wondered at Iyokus’ tales of his adventures, which seemed to be a long series of mishaps and daring-do to hear the elf tell it. Once, Jochlin spoke of his insecurity about not being able to grow a proper beard and how he looked a child compared to the other men. (Iyokus caught the jealous look at his own white stubble and told the young man that he should try and count the number of knights who could set a bone, or treat a fever, or banish the sickness from a man with a word. He told him that all they had to do to grow a beard was forget to shave – so which was the more worthy ability?) Iyokus in turn, whispered of his worries about his relationship with his sister, apparently a woman so different from him in mind if not in appearance to be almost a stranger.
Even Moira would join in, and Jochlin found the Iyokus’ presence and leading questions allowed him to speak authoritatively and clearly on a number of subjects, even with her staring at him. Once, after Iyokus had asked him about the making of a poultice Jochlin was laying on a burn, Moira had hung her arms around his neck and ruffled his hair, giggling, ‘You’re so -clever- Joki! Is there anything you don’t know?’
Another day, Iyokus told Jochlin a story about his time in a place called ‘Un’Goro Crater’ or some such - a far away place where giant thunder lizards still prowled if the grinning elf could be believed. In the evening, Jochlin had been walking in the monastery grounds with Moira and he told her the story. Moira had buried her head in his shoulder she had been laughing so hard and Jochlin was sure that he had never been so happy.
By unspoken agreement, some topics were avoided entirely. Though the Crusade was against the Scourge and their agents, the two men did not discuss the undead. Nor was Iyokus’ eventual fate brought round to conversation, though Jochlin grew doubtful of his own involvement in the torture of the man he could no longer see as his enemy. Occasionally, Iyokus would mutter a complaint about pains in his back and Jochlin would eye the leather restraints holding the elf to the bench, but nothing more would be said and the blood that soaked the wood would be actively ignored.
Besides, Moira loved feeding the scarred old elf his dinner.
Jochlin was unwinding one of Iyokus’ bandages and telling a joke he had from another novice when the inquisitor swept into the room, followed by Sir Symos and Sir Wirmann. Ignoring Jochlin completely, Pharrick turned to the two knights.
‘The boy has done a commendable job. Corder, Godfrey, take the creature to the Chamber.’
Jochlin nearly screamed before he knew what he was doing. The inquisitor swung round to face him as if he was planted on a turntable.
‘There… is a problem? Novice?’ the whispering voice had lost even the scant hint of humanity that it had previously hung onto.
Jochlin could feel himself sweating as the inquisitor stared at him, despite the chill that emanated from the older priest’s unblinking, red-rimmed eyes.
‘My Lor- I mean Master. Though Iyo- though the creature seems recovered, I have not even begun work on its back. I believe it is still too fragile for you to continue-,’ he swallowed noisily, ‘your holy work.’
Sir Symos scoffed at that, ‘Ridiculous, the boy has fallen for-,’
Pharrick did not raise his voice to interrupt Sir Symos, likely he –could- not. But as inquisitor he did not even have to.
‘Are you the doctor? Corder?’ Pharrick turned his unsettling gaze upon Symos, who stood silently, ‘No? Then cease flapping your ignorant tongue or I’ll have Godfrey present it to me.’ The inquisitor seemed out of breath from the scathing of Symos, but he continued, once more looking at the elf, ‘finish the job Novice – with no more delays, or I will start to have-,’ Pharrick drew in a strained breath, ‘-questions.’
With that the three men left the room, Sir Symos pausing to glare at Jochlin, a lethal promise in his eyes.
Jochlin leaned forward, one hand resting on the bench, the other resting on one of Iyokus’ leather bound wrists. The two men shared a glance and Iyokus nodded almost imperceptibly.
The young novice did not dare to breathe as he began to unbuckle the restraint, his heart hammering in his chest. He could feel those burning eyes watching him as his fingers slipped and struggled.
And then, one hand was free.
Jochlin stared at Iyokus, but he did nothing but roll his wrist and sigh happily. Letting out his breath, Jochlin moved around the bench and fiddled with the two leg restraints before finally unbuckling Iyokus’ left wrist.
The elf noiselessly sat up and swung his legs off the bench. Jochlin swallowed as his heart-rate shot up.
‘Lie back down,’ he said quietly.
Iyokus’ expression was blank as he looked into Jochlin’s eyes. ‘No’.
Jochlin could feel tears welling up in the corner of his eyes –ever the child he thought angrily- and his voice was a hoarse whisper.
‘Please lie back down.’
Iyokus hopped off the table, his bare feet making no noise as touched the flagstone floor.
‘I will not Jochlin.’
A great pit opened in the bottom of Jochlin’s stomach, and he could feel all the new found confidence that he had gained from Iyokus trickling through it in the face of this unknown aspect to the elf.
‘I- I thought you were my friend?’ Jochlin bleated pitifully
‘Friend? Jochlin, are you so willfully blind? You are my captor and when your excuses run out you will send me back to the inquisitors and their “care.”’ Iyokus put a compassionate hand on Jochlin’s heaving shoulder, ‘I am leaving, and I would advise you to come with me.’
Jochlin shrugged off the heavy hand, ‘I cannot.’
The elf straightened up, his guise as an ancient killer almost a physical presence in the room.
‘So be it. Do not stand in my way’
The two men stared at each other for a long moment – one poised with terrifying certainty, the other torn between doing what he must, and what he –should-.
Iyokus swore in some guttural tongue and spun to face the door, dropping into stance. An instant later and Sir Symos burst through, hand on the hilt of his broadsword. A malevolent yellow grin surfaced from under his beard as he assessed the situation before him.
‘I’ve been waiting for this. I could see what the Gasper could not. I knew you would slip up.’ He drew his sword and pointed its tip at Iyokus, who remained motionless. ‘First, I’m going to everyone a favour and end your wretched existence worm,’ he swung the sword to face Jochlin, ‘and then I’m going to gut you boy. And you know what? I’m going to enjoy every moment of it you little pissant!’
Iyokus sneered at Sir Symos, ‘So this, at last, is the nature of your,’ he spat, ‘holy Light?’
The knight roared and launched himself at Iyokus, the glittering edge of his sword sweeping through the air as the elf nimbly danced aside.
‘But perhaps I should introduce you to –my- God Corder.’
Jochlin watched, rooted to the spot, hardily breathing as Iyokus blurred into sudden, explosive motion. One giant hand closed around Symos’ sword hand, the other pinned the knight’s free arm behind his back.
Iyokus leaned his head in, and spoke in Symos’ ear at almost a whisper, ‘You see, His colour is red.’
Sir Symos’ sword began to move then, its well-honed tip moving slowly towards the knight’s unprotected neck. Symos’ eyes were impossibly wide and his neck muscles were taut cables as he strained against the night elf’s inevitable strength. Corder Symos was a strong man, a veteran of fallen Lordaeran and a many blooded knight, but even his prodigious strength could only slow the sword’s fatal journey.
‘But not your proud scarlet,’ Iyokus whispered again, his eyes flaring with intensity, ignoring the keening coming from Symos’ mouth.
‘No, His colour is your –crimson-,’ as if those words were a signal, the blade parted the skin at Symos’ throat, and hot blood gushed out, leaking across to cover the pure white and scarlet of the knightly tabard.
Iyokus abruptly released the body and skipped clear and ignoring Symos’ last gurgles, whirled to face Jochlin, who was cowering in the corner of the room. ‘Stay here silently or leave with me, these two options will see you through this night alive. What say you?’
Jochlin blubbered incomprehensibly. Gone was his old mentor, gone was his restrained friend. What stood before him now was what Pharrick had always been able to see – a monster.
Iyokus sighed and settled on his haunches beside the shivering novice, ‘Listen to me Jochlin. Iyokus watches and listens and let me tell you of these priests, these –crusaders-. A great crime has been committed against your people and so they prod and poke at the embers of their anguish, their pain, their hate and most of all their fear and they wonder why the holy Light has abandoned them. And then they see a flicker of fire in the heart of all the ash and they are gladdened, for its heat warms them. But it is only a small ember, and they worry that it will be extinguished so they find those they hate, those who committed the great crime, and they heap their bodies onto the fire – and it burns and burns. They want the flame to grow so they see their enemies all around them, and their bodies go to feed the fire and smoke clouds the sky, and it becomes difficult to tell enemy from friend. But still there are those who point through all the ash and smoke and say “No, there is the Light!- and these people must be beaten and broken, for how can they deny the brilliance of the blaze that lies before them? And so the cloud of smoke grows until the Light that was once all around is obscured completely and the heart is blinded by the fire that burns and the darkness that it has spawned.’ Iyokus tilted Jochlin’s chin up to face him, ‘You need to leave this place before you are just as blind as everyone else. Take Moira, go South, find a better way to live.’
With one last pat on the shoulder, Iyokus stood, and pausing only to retrieve Symos’ bloody blade, strode from the room and was gone.
The banner of the God bloomed all throughout the underbelly of the monastery that night – the Scarlet flame doused in crimson blood, like torches guttering out, one by one.
Inquisitor Pharrick’s quarters were raided, the guards slain with their weapons still sheathed. The inquisitor himself had put up more of a fight, the walls and furniture of his rooms were covered in frost and blood spattered the walls. Even so, Pharrick’s head was found with his eyes put out. If there was a lesson in that, the Crusade was deaf to it, seeing only the brutality of their sworn enemy.
The prisons were also opened, no matter who or what was contained within, be they the agents of the Scourge or the beasts themselves. The howling fury that boiled up from underneath meant that the stables had been unguarded, and in the morning several horses were found to be missing, though one was later found, a meal for a savage ghoul. Of the Kaldorei prisoner, no sign remained.
Jochlin did leave the Crusade. On the day he was to take his vows and be fully initiated as a Scarlet Cleric, he found he could not speak the words, the echoes of his old master still ringing through his mind. It is not an easy thing to leave the monastery, and he was badly beaten by the other initiated novices. But Moira tended to him and together they fled south. It was not an easy journey and probably worthy of its own telling, but south he had been told to go, so south Jochlin went. In each settlement they came to, Jochlin would ask for word of his Master Eosin and he found that he was travelling in almost the exact footsteps of the old man.
At last, the pair reached Stormwind, and at last the rumours of Eosin came to fruition. In a dirty and waste filled alley, were feral dogs growled from the shadows, Jochlin found his master, and weeping, he threw himself at the man’s feet. He begged for Eosin to forgive him with his sweet, powerful voice. But the old man could only shake his head. For the Crusade had visited him themselves.
‘…If will not give your tongue to do the work of the holy Light, then we will –take- it Eosin…’
Jochlin could only weep harder as he looked at the stump that moved weakly in Eosin’s mouth and he hugged the old man tightly, shutting his eyes against the horror of the world. Thus he could not see the light that filled that normally dark alleyway, but he could hear the words.
‘There was never anything to forgive.’
It was only a whisper, but sometimes a whisper can change a young novice’s life.
The rain dripped down on the two mounted figures, one on horseback, an oversized shield strapped to his back, the other on ram, fully covered in seething black plate, a massive sword bisecting his shoulders. The rain had started days ago and had not stopped since, and neither man had said much since.
‘Well,’ the human shrugged and spat off to his left, ‘there it is Quill. The Scarlet Monastery. What are we gonna do ‘bout it?
‘Full of zealous warrior monks, unafraid to die for their cause and mad to boot.’
The man risked a glance at his companion
The other figure, the one called Quill, sat completely motionless on his ram, his blank faced helm revealing nothing of the man within. A hollow voice rang out, muffled and deepened by the odd metal of the helmet, ‘I don’t like them Wren.’
The man dubbed Wren picked an ear with a finger, ‘I know you don’t. You told me why. So let’s give them a scare and be on our way.’
The armoured man continued to stare at the gloomy church through the leaking trees, ‘Providence has brought us a contract Wren, and I will not miss the chance for some well earned vengeance.’
He turned to face his companion, rain hissing into steam as it hit exposed metal, ‘Do you have my left?’ he asked formally.
Wren sighed and spat again, ‘Aye, and will you hold the centre?’ ‘Aye. Let us begin.’
The two riders cantered forward and the second crimson crusade began.