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crusade fanfic bullshit update update

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  1. "So I need you to tell me. Why exactly am I allowing this audience and not throwing you and your men to my guards?"
  2.     The tension was palpable, Greymane's jaw was drawn taut and he strained to maintain his patience. He had spent weeks trying to convince the High King that the Crusade was who they needed to secure a decisive victory against the Forsaken, every word he had put forward to her so far was rehearsed endlessly. Every argument he had put forward so far had been casually waved off by the High Inquisitor. The air felt heavy, oppressive, he could hear the elevated heartrates of his Greyguard even through the thick door, the smell of sweat hanging just outside the room. They were as nervous about how this would play out as he was, if for different reasons.
  3.     He moved to speak, but drew back and again considered exactly what he could say to sway her. Her gaze unnerved him, those fiery eyes burned brighter contrasted against her heavily ornamented eyeliner and pale visage. She stared so intensely it felt almost as though she were gazing through him at his truest self, at secrets even he didn't know. He watched her jaw clench and relax rhythmically as her patience waned, Genn knew if he didn't put forward something substantial and soon this expedition would be wasted, him and his men with it.
  4.     Genn again moved forward. "You and I both have felt abandonment by the Alliance, we both know how it is to fight against the Forsaken alone with nothing but condemnation from our former allies. I now know that there is no strength in solidarity, that we can only succeed against our oldest truest enemies if we combine our efforts. I come now as a representative of that Alliance to extend an invitation back to your people, and the recompense of our High King. If we are to bring the Banshee Queen to justice and end the pestilent threat she spreads across our lands we *need* you and your forces to join us. Nobody has as much experience facing them as your Crusade does, our veterans of the Third War are aged and unable to fight with the fervor that you can bring to the field-
  5.     "I did not allow you here to grovel before me, if you cannot win me over without this shameless sycophancy then we have nothing further to discuss."
  6.     Greymane took the reprimand standing and again considered his options. "I mean not to patronize you, I come only seeking to bring you and yours back to the fold and give you the chance to take your mission directly to the front with the full support and resources of the Alliance at your back. I know your men desire vengeance against the Banshee Queen as badly as I do, and with you by my side we all can see her finally brought to heel. I implore you as one leader to another not to continue to squander your forces in an endless war of attrition. I need you to see reason, we need you to take up arms in the name of our High King Anduin Wrynn."
  7.     He had worked himself up more than he had realized, breathing heavily and his hair disheveled, he tried to recompose himself as best he could. Whitemane's steely face had cracked into an indecipherable smirk, shifting forward in her seat she continued to eye Greymane, studying him even more intensely, he did his best to not waver under her piercing gaze, he found this increasingly difficult staring down those crimson eyes without so much as a word of acknowledgement. After another intense silence her lips parted.
  8.     "We will march for Stormwind with you King Greymane, I can tell that your devotion to our mutual cause is sincere, I haven't heard the same about the young Wrynn. I will meet with your King and we can see if can come to terms, I give no promises and wherever I end my men will follow. If your King can sway me as you have then I will wholeheartedly pledge the Crusade to the forces of the Alliance once more."
  9.     Greymane bowed and gave his thanks, together they said their departures and he wheeled about to leave her conference, feeling those piercing eyes digging into him still. As soon as the heavy door closed behind him he sagged his shoulders and exhaled heavily. To his Greyguard by the door he looked to have aged 20 years with the act and they nervously eyed each other then him.
  10.     "Milord?"
  11.     He raised his eyes to meet theirs and nodded his success- his *partial* success, correcting himself internally. He hadn't dared raise his other proposition to her after that parlay, he knew too well what their humanity meant to them all, asking them to rejoin the Alliance as well as giving it up would be too much for one meeting. He'd have to think hard on what could sway them, that gave him a moment's pause- was Whitemane able to sense the curse on him? Could she tell his other intentions with her force? Was she just playing along to get his escort alone with the bulk of her force to be purged in the name of her Crusade? It did him no good to waste time thinking on possibilities, he knew he'd have to steel himself for the long caravan back to his new home, entreating the High Inquisitor on their trip without her growing tired of his niceties would be just as much a challenge as convincing her to consider the voyage in the first place.
  13.     "We'll be coming around the edge of the lake soon High Inquisitor, we need to spread the word to your men to double our scouting, the Forsaken have been heavily active in these hills since the Sundering. Sending men to gather lumber and ready some rafts would be wise too, we could fall back to Fenris Isle should the situation call for it."
  14.     "With all respect my lord, I'd request of you to bide your tongue before speaking with me of our strategies, remember who of us here have been fighting these abominations over the last two decades."
  15.     She had been needling him with this gloating ever since they began the long ride for Stormwind and Greymane's patience was waning. "I'll remind you who's land we're riding through my lady, we've been on the forefront of the battle against the Forsaken since they first defiled the ruins of Lordaeron, it's been my people being persecuted by their raids since our separation from the Alliance, it was my Kingdom lost to their aggressions during the Sundering. I've been striking at them and the feral worgen stalking our forests since you and the bulk of your force were mewling in your mothers' grasp."
  16.     Whitemane bristled and her stony face cracked into barely restrained rage before settling again. "Tell me about them Greymane. How have your people managed to avoid their corruption with the pressure of the Forsaken pressing on them as well? How is it your people have fared well on their exodus to Stormwind with both of these forces harassing you?" Her eyes had narrowed with this prying and she was settling into an image of knowing arrogance before putting forth her next. "Why is it we've heard of worgen numbers surging? Rumors of them organizing and militarizing? Pilgrims and travelers claiming they've seen packworgen descending on Forsaken patrols around Hillsbrad and Silverpine? Word of an Old Wolf leading them in these raids?"
  17.     Greymane took a step back as if he had been struck as his eyes darted across her face. "You.. I... I'm not sure where you're going..." He knew the lie wasn't the least bit convincing, he'd been expecting this to come at some point, there were no secrets with this inquisitor. Only he wasn't prepared for it to be this soon, they'd been on the road for less than a week. He'd even made it a point not to bring members of his guard afflicted with the curse to reduce the risk of a premature reveal. "Was this your goal? Get us alone and complacent to act on your mission? Why wait till we were along the way and not take us in the safety of your Monastery? Do you enjoy playing with your quarry this much?"
  18.     "Calm yourself Genn, it's unfitting of a man in your position. I do not want to see you and yours purged as much as you might like to think it right now, I only wish to know why you've tried so poorly to hide a nationwide affliction from us when it is our nature to reveal secrets? Did you not think we were aware of the closest remaining humans on the continent falling to a savage's curse? That we wouldn't encounter any of your stragglers in the aftermath? Please Greymane, at least give me the pretense of you thinking further ahead than that when you and your beasts came to my home."
  19.     This woman knew exactly what needed to be said to shake him at every turn, this entire trip had been her pressing into him on any subject she could find and how to twist his responses into him revealing more and more to her. The fact that she knew the entire story of what had occurred behind the walls of Gilneas shouldn't have surprised him so much but the way she had put it forward with such knowing confidence still took him aback. They rode in silence for hours, he sat in the saddle feeling like a beaten child after his mother found his misgivings. From the left of his vision he could barely make out the silhouette of Fenris Keep sitting peacefully near the center of the lake. As they marched on his Greyguard pressed in closer to him and he bid the High Inquisitor to part for a time, watching her trot off towards her strange partner Durand he turned towards his guards and looked to them disappointedly. They were as much his advisors as his soldiers, their counsel was well appreciated and he needed to hear from someone aside from Whitemane now.
  20.     "Milord? How are we to move forward? If she knew of the curse what could she be intending in bringing this force with us? Do we need to be preparing an egress?"
  21.     "No, we will not be slipping away, I can feel she's sincere about this partnership. We don't need to worry about what threat she might pose."
  22.     "Then you've told her of our other offer?"
  23.     "I haven't, but I suspect soon I will have to bring it to her or she'll know of it regardless. It isn't ideal no, I would've preferred getting her in the presence of King Wrynn before moving forward with this, but she's done everything to subvert our plans she could so far."
  24.     "Is there no way to divert her interests? Who can say how she will react to such a proposition, especially with us secluded and leagues from Stormwind."
  25.     "I need to think on this, I wasn't prepared for any of this, she's done nothing but wrench control from me since we first met."
  26.     "Aye Milord, from what we've heard among her troops that's her way, even the Morgraine she partnered with was cowed to her. We'll leave you to your deliberations Sir, Call on us if you have need."
  27.     "Thank you, farewell." He sat heavy in the saddle again, every discussion with her seemed to leave him exhausted and weary as to what his next moves can be. She had *known* he was worgen this entire time, she had *known* that his kingdom had fallen to the worgen more than the Forsaken. How could he expect her to accept his offer when she knew he had been deceiving him from the start? What chance did he have of her trusting her with her being able to see through anything he gives her? Genn glanced back towards her in the distance discussing Light knows what with Durand, talking at him would be a more accurate description. The way she moved as she spoke invoked nothing but overbearing confidence in all of her actions, it was clear why she had so many men following her absolutely. He only realized how long he had been staring when she turned and met his eyes across the field with a smirk, Genn quickly adjusted his gaze and shuffled uncomfortably under her stare as had become habitual for him since they met.
  29.     Days had passed since Whitemane revealed her hand and took Greymane completely offguard, they had made good pace for Stormwind and would likely arrive within the week, they were coming through the start of the territories making up the Wetlands north of Dun Morogh and Elwynn. Their speed had barely been hindered by the occasional Forsaken scouts and navigating around the remaining human and dwarf settlements in the northern half of the land. They didn't want to have this parlay become public til all was made official, less it fall through and harm the public opinion of their High King. Whitemane continued to ride alongside Greymane but she had become sigificantly more complacent as they marched further south, none of her barbs felt truly venomous anymore and her prying questions were becoming further and further between. Not to say Genn wasn't thankful to not have to deal with interrogations the entire time they were in the saddle, but her demeanor was markedly strange, he couldn't make out anything she might've been pondering whereas before when she wanted him to her intent was painstakingly clear. The mood of the entire host had shifted he could feel, almost a somber air over them, dying to clear this dreadful atmosphere he spoke up.
  30.     "You've been uncharacteristically quiet these last few days my lady. Is there something amiss?"
  31.     "No, nothing for you to be worrying about my lord, but if I may, can I ask of you to clear some things up for me?"
  32.     "Feel free my lady, you've not been afraid to make your doubts and concerns known this far."
  33.     Whitemane let the passive jab slip seemingly unnoticed "Very well then, I wish only to know more about this curse afflicting your people. How has it affected their morale? I know the Worgen are stronger physically than any full human can muster, how do your subjects feel about this monstrous transformation? How can they tolerate abandoning their humanity so freely?"
  34.     Genn had been expecting more questions about his people's fate to come, but the way she had put them forward is what gave him pause. She seemed genuinely concerned if not despondent about what's become of them. It moved him in a way he couldn't rightly explain, seeing her holding such feelings for people who've ignored or scorned her and hers for over a decade. "It was difficult in the beginning, the faith of my people wavered heavily when we were beset on fully by the ferals and the wall came down. Many of my retainers abdicated or openly opposed me as the curse swept over us all. Were it not for the druid grove who assisted us as the affliction truly ran rampant I don't believe my kingdom would've survived. The elves gave us the discipline and knowledge to retain control over the curse, let our people experience hope again despite watching their home fall to the Forsaken. Gave us what we needed to once again rally to a unifying cause. Control over it allowed us to retain our humanity, our faith in the Light. We see it now only as a weapon to give us an advantage in the fight against  those who took our homes from us. Our senses are more focused than ever before possible, our strength unmatched, we're perfectly equipped to fight against the Forsaken, even should we fall against them we'll never become grotesque pawns of the Banshee Queen as the curse has granted us immunity to her plagues of undeath. This is what drives us now, vengeance and fealty to a King who knows the truth of our enemies."
  35.     "But how can you claim to be human still when you hold such a monstrous form inside? Does it not press on you to be released?"
  36.     "The wolf is always clawing to be let out it's true, but it's our humanity that allows us to restrain it when we desire. To maintain control over the curse, to hone it into a tool in our war."
  37.     "So you say, but you still harbor the beast inside, are you not troubled knowing what you once had will never return? Having to give up being a pure human?"
  38.     "Being a pure human means nothing if you're not willing to sacrifice to protect those who can't defend themselves. You must know this my lady, your crusade has abandoned all in defense of humanity. You know there are those even within the Alliance that would name you monsters as soon as they would my people."
  39.     Whitemane's reaction was indecipherable, her face was contorting as she thought on his words before returning to that crestfallen expression she had been maintaining since they set off this morning. "I think we need to set up camp for the night, I'm not feeling well enough to stay in the saddle much longer."
  40.     "As you wish my lady, I'll send word through the forces to find a suitable redoubt and settle in."
  41.     "Thank you, Greymane."
  42.     Her behavior was causing Genn more and more concern, he could fully hear the gratitude and sorrow in her voice, but still he had not the slightest what was going on in her head then. Turning to his Greyguard they nodded and trotted off in opposing directions barking orders through the ranks of Crusaders, he watched as groups shot off in all directions to return soon after with word of an appropriate location to dig in for the night.
  43.     Maybe an hour later they had gathered in the foothills bordering the region and readied the makeshift defenses and barracks. Throughout the camp the sounds of normal life was almost about. Cheers and laughing, fires crackling, the smell of game roasting and men pounding the soft solid underfoot. It was only when Genn had reached his own tent that he started to feel the exhaustion of today's ride set on him, lifting a flap and slipping inside to slouch in the canvas chair on one side of the tent he leaned his head back and drifted off.
  44.     When his eyes shot open at the sound of someone rustling with the door to his tent he could see it had darkened outside already. He already could tell it was the High Inquisitor from the sound of her breath and her scent but he still called out to indentify themself. "It's Whitemane my lord, I've come to beg entry if you please."
  45.     Still with this strange demure act it seemed. "Enter my lady, please light the lantern as you come, I wasn't aware how dark it had grown." It wasn't necessary for his sake, the affliction gave him more than adequate vision in the pitch darkness, but the High Inquisitor might have some trouble stumbling through his living quarters blind.
  46.     "Thank you my lord." she crouched through the opening and drew the lantern to her and set it. Genn was surprised not to see her in her uniform but rather a monk's hairshirt and loose linen drawers. It was much more modest than what he was accustomed to seeing her in. "I pray I didn't wake you Genn, but there are things I *must* know."    Her face exuded fatigue and concern, everything about how she appeared approaching him now was unsettling, a feeling reminiscent of being cornered by a desperate predator creeped up on Genn.
  47.     "Speak then my lady, you've caught me before I've retired. Let me hear what it is worrying you."
  48.     "What do you intend for my people Genn?"
  49.     "For you to rejoin your people within the Allia-"
  50.     "You know that's not what I mean you greying dog. Tell me what all you've planned and tell me true."
  51.     So it had finally come to pass, he knew he had to be fully honest with her now, there would be no deceiving her any longer. "I had wished to get you closer to Stormwind before bringing this proposal forward, but I can see now it can't be helped" Her visage almost gave way to fear before steeling again. "You must've grown to know this was a possibility Sally. I have some of my people camped along the roads through Loch Modan, we were going to present the offer then but very well. I believe it would be in the best interest of your soldiers and the Alliance as a whole if you were to take up our curse. I won't paint it up any more than I already have, you've heard what advantages we've gained in the war against the Forsaken, most of all we'll still get to see salvation in death. The undead are damned eternally, yours who've fallen and risen against you and fallen once again are not going to the Light." Tears had begun to pool in her eyes with that last sentence, her faith was truly all-consuming in it's earnesty. "My worgen cannot be risen and thus they still receive eternal glory before the Light when they fall. Imagine your Crusade with the strength of a host twice its size, imagine your men's devotion in giving up what they feel it means to be human to only better defend the innocents who remain. You know of sacrifice already, imagine what they could do emboldened by making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of humanity."
  52.     "You can't honestly think they'd so readily abandon what they hold dearest Genn."
  53.     "I know they wouldn't, not on their own." His statement hung in the air for a moment, the intent was clear but the implication was a heavy one.
  54.     "You don't mean for me to allow the curse into my body as an example."
  55.     "You're the symbol of the Scarlet Crusade Sally"
  56.     "Which is precisely why what you're proposing is ridiculous!"
  57.     "Imagine what it would mean to see their leader make this sacrifice in the name of her mission! They'd be emboldened like never before!"
  58.     "It's preposterous Genn, they'd sooner throw themselves on their own blades before they'd abandon their humanity!"
  59.     "But you know now as I do that it doesn't mean giving up your humanity, but rather giving it a test of its strength like none other."
  60.     "I don't know how you could even ask this of me, let alone my entire host!"
  61.     "Is this not why you've come to my quarters tonight Whitemane? Why would you visit me in the dead of night just hours after discussing the advantages of the curse for any reason other than to try and be convinced truly of my cause?"
  62.     "I!... I don't know what I'm thinking anymore Greymane... I've always fully believed that to be human is to sacrifice in the name of others, that to maintain that humanity you must forsake everything in the name of your vision! I saw my own family turn and put them down while only a girl Genn! All I've known is sacrifice and pain in the name of humanity's continued existence! I've watched countless of my followers fall in the fight that I've lead them through all in the name of protecting humanity at any cost! How am I to deal with the thought that taking this change could turn the tides of our fight in our favor finally?"
  63.     "It's not an easy decision, but it's one that I believe you've already made before ever stepping into my tent tonight, even if you yourself are not aware of it. I won't force any of you to take the curse, and if you no longer wish to march south I'll understand, but you've seen what I've brought to you, the fervor with which my men fight against the Forsaken that tried to ride on us. You know my words to be true and that's why you haven't left me yet."
  64.     "..." Her eyes wouldn't meet his for what felt like eternity, he could see her wrestling with herself internally, weighing the options and considering the consequences. When she finally raised her eyes to meet his they looked sorrowful, almost apologetic before she spoke. "I'll take it, I'll take curse Greymane, for my people."
  65.     Genn nodded solemnly and told her to meet him alone outside of the camp in a while then bid her departure. He grabbed a dagger from the chest by his cot and stowed it with a stein he had rinsed and stuck his head out of his tent. Spotting none of the Crusaders around he called on his men to find their druids and bring them to the perimeter of the camp as soon as possible. He wrapped himself in a simple robe and hood and wandered about the camp in the meantime. He looked on the faces of sleeping men and those so deep in their cups they wouldn't have recognized him even in his regalia. He thought only of how this might turn out, what an entire host of zealots abandoning their leader and roaming through the land could mean, or them rallying behind her more fervently than ever before. Finally after what must've been over two hours he picked up the sounds of horses from the southeast and made his way for the edge of the camp where he could see his guards returning with their druids in tow.
  66.     "Come along then, She'll be waiting for us further down the road. Find us a good spot to conduct this away from any prying eyes." They cantered off and he found her patiently resting on a stump a good five minutes away from the outliying tents. "I'm glad to see you've remained Inquisitor, I feared the wait may have given you cause to doubt." She didn't say anything, only nodded curtly to him without meeting his gaze. "The ritual isn't going to be pleasant I'm afraid, but I doubt it can be worse than anything you've already suffered." He tried anything to get a response but she still sat there silently barely acknowledging his presence. When his druids arrived and informed him of a small grove they could operate in just a few minutes away he thanked them and bid them to begin the preparations.
  67.     "My lady, they'll be ready for us, we need to head down." Still she said nothing but without looking at him extended a hand inviting him to help her up. He took it in his and found that despite a life of battle it remained smooth, he tried to politely release his grip and settle his arm back by his side but found she wasn't letting go of him. He looked at her and saw a scared young girl instead of the intimidating leader he had first met, it was almost enough to make his eyes water seeing her like this. Instead he gently, firmly gripped her hand again and lead her to the treeline in silence. He could hear her sucking in quick breaths trying not to cry and keep calm, Genn looked down at her and when she saw him she colored and turned away but continued on their pace. He felt like a father leading his daughter off before he left her, it reminded him of how Tess used to act when he left for the Wars and again he felt like he might've started to cry himself.
  68.     Finally arriving before his men he looked to her again to see her steeled and keeping her usual detached professional expression, but he could hear her heart fluttering nervously, no doubt his druids could feel it as well. The eldest of them approached her and extended a hand to to her and she finally released Genn's to be lead to a stump and wait for the ritual to start. Genn approached her as the druids said their words and prepared her for what was about to come. He reached into his bag and withdrew the stein and dagger and saw fear and doubt flash across Whitemane's face for a split second. Handing the stein to one of the druids he drew the dagger from its sheath and pulled it across his palm and squeezed his hand tightly, blood flowed freely into the mug until it was about half full. One of his guards approached and helped him secure a bandage around the wound. Again the druid's chanting intensified and the grove shone an intense pale silver light before they gestured for Whitemane to take the stein in her hands. Gripping it tightly she shook and her eyes flashed in fear yet again. The silver lighting continued to intensify as she fumbled with the mug in her hands and stared at the dark red inside.
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