Aretain Kingsmith was the former Lord of the Duchy of Avern and leader of the shattered Kingsmith House. Once a leader among men, thanks to lands passed down through his family for generations, he was forced to abandon his claims to his lands after he was forcefully turned into one of the undead during the Pandaria Campaign.
In his early years he was a knight of the Order of the Silver Hand, his kind heart and ability to always show compassion giving him the name 'Cyrus the Merciful' among the Lordaeron common folk and among his brothers and sisters of the Order.
After his conversion into undeath, he left the lands of the Alliance to see if there was a cure for his condition. He has not been heard from since the beginning of the Iron Horde invasion.
A tall and imposing figure, Aretain, despite the many changes to his form, stands as strong as he once did in years past, his form easily measuring five nine, with the armor he wears giving him the illusion of a comparable muscle mass. His exact state of physical well-being is unknown, his body fully covered head to toe in thick plate, giving no indication of any of the usual physical traits, from skin tone, to facial features. Even his eyes, once reported to be a piercing green, cannot be seen beneath the helmet he wears, giving him the appearance of an unwavering sentinel, rather than a noble paladin.
At one time seen in casual garb, consisting of a loose shirt and simple pair of black pants, now he is never seen in anything but his armor. He never removes a single piece of it, not even for the most basic of needs, which he never seems to take part in, at least not in the presence of the public eye, even when the public happens to be his own people. Why this is, is a reason only he knows, and he never seems to speak of it, remaining as silent as a statue whenever it is brought up in conversation.
Early Life, The Beginning Edit
Aretain was born the eldest child of Viktor Kingsmith and his wife Lucia shortly after the end of the Second War. His father, a veteran of that very war and a true warrior of Lordaeron, heralded him from a very young age as the next Lord of Avern and gave him the finest education that money could buy with tutors being brought in from as far south as Stromgarde. Sadly for both his father and mother Aretain never really took to the lessons, choosing instead to spend time at the blacksmiths forge learning the secrets of the metal trade, if you could consider watching and not participating as 'learning' at least. He also trained with the local guards when he could, which is to say when his father wasn't looking for him, as a result he learned to swing a sword at a very young age and by the time his fifteenth birthday came around he was already an accomplished warrior at least in training only.
This was only further comlicated by the fact that Aretain was a commanding influence on his two younger brothers, Stefan and Olias and like his elder brother they to wished to take up the sword and train. This fact caused his father no end of grief, for he believed that his son was better suited to be at court, so that he could learn the customs that he would need for when he would eventually take his father's place, but also to 'cultivate the family legacy' as he put it and certainly -not- training himself and his brothers to be violent unsophisticated brutes.
The Silver Hand Arrives, Training Begins Edit
It was shortly after his sixteenth birthday that Avern would see the first Knight of the Silver Hand enter the city gates. Lord Edward Kang, also known as Ballador the Bright, a knight serving under Uther the Lightbringer. Lord Edward had arrived at the city seeking recruits for the Silver Hand and so he looked through the rank and file of Avern's soldiers, picking a few of the more seasoned guardsmen to join him.
It was by pure chance that Lord Edward passed by the blacksmiths forge that day and stumbled into Aretain, or rather, watched Aretain as he practiced on one of the training dummies. Impressed by the young man's footwork and stance despite his lack of battle experience and age, Lord Edward then pursued a much more difficult task, convincing Lord Viktor Kingsmith to allow him to take his eldest son as a trainee of the Silver Hand. Eventually he succeeded in this task and so with a tearful farewell to his family, all of whom remained behind, Aretain relocated to the home of the Silver Hand, to Stratholme where he was sworn in as an initiate of the Silver Hand.
His life in the Silver Hand was not all that bad. His training was difficult but he was patient and more understanding than some of the elder trainees and even some of the knights themselves. This impressed some of the teachers that instructed him and lead him to become fast friends with some of the fellow initiates many of whom looked to him for advice on passing their own tests and understanding the virtues of the Silver Hand. Advice he was more than willing to pass on which only gave him increased favor within the ranks of the Order.
A Wife Found, A Son Born Edit
A year after his initial training within the Silver Hand began, Aretain now seventeen, stumbled quite literally into a young woman within the streets of Stratholme. Like him, she too was a noble and she made him realize it with her fiery attitude and lashing tongue throwing insults at him for even daring to lay a hand on her. Despite his apologies the woman stormed off, leaving him in the street not only wondering what had just happened but also, how he was going to marry this woman..
He would eventually meet her again, and like the first meeting this one too was accidental but far less destructive. Through this second meeting he learned her name, Ameralia Stormborn. He also learned that like him she too was a noble, but from the southern kingdom of Stromgarde and only present within the city because her father was 'too cheap' to bring tutors from Stratholme and would rather throw her daughter to the wolves and grasping hands of the common folk than pay for the tutors to instruct her at home. The meeting ended, this time on good terms with the pair becoming good friends after such a simple introduction.
Months passed with Aretain and Ameralia meeting as often as they could as friends, at least at first, but soon Aretain would wear down the thorny exterior that Ameralia presented to the world and they would both come to care for each other. By the time they were both eighteen, and after following the noble customs, the two were wed in a small but intricate ceremony. Ameralia Stormborn became Ameralia Kingsmith and she happily moved her life from Stromgarde to Avern so that she could be closer with her new husbands family.
Three years later when they were both twenty-one, they welcomed their first son into the world with Aretain naming him Erys Kingsmith after his great-grandfather.
The Years That Followed Edit
The years that followed the birth of his son passed by as if they were a blur. Aretain grew older, now in his thirty sixth year of life and a coronated Knight of the Silver Hand having been given the name 'Cyrus the Merciful' by his fellow paladins. Erys, now fifteen, had grown into a fine young man, his mother's fiery attitude showing within him, but tempered by patience and calm of his father. He also showed many of the same qualities that Aretain did when he was his age which made Aretain believe that Erys would be more than capable to become a Knight of the Silver Hand as he had already managed to do. Presenting him before his old mentor Ballador the Bright and fellow senior of the Order, Gavinrad the Dire, he beamed proudly when they both gave their nods of approval. Erys, like his father, was to become a Paladin.
All however was not right in the world as Aretain would soon learn. News had reached him that the Orcs were on the move again, that the internment camps had been shattered completely and the Orcs contained within had escaped. Strangely enough however the bulk of the Orc Horde had avoided conflict with the humans only fighting where they had to, a fact which puzzled Aretain as he had grown up on the stories of the Orcs being bloodthirsty monsters who sacked villages and murdered innocents. Sadly the bulk did not count for the actions of few and it had come to the attention not only of Aretain but the rest of the Silver Hand that an Orc raiding party was descending on the helpless village of Strahnbrad. Assigned to combat this threat was a young paladin, but more than that the Prince of Lordaeron himself, Arthas Menethil. Aretain too was assigned to the defense, but more so as one of the Prince's guards, placed to ensure that Arthas remained unharmed in the battle to come.
Sadly for the citizens of Strahnbrad, Arthas and his soldiers, Aretain included, arrived too late to defend it with many of the town guard and civilians dead, or carried off to locations unknown. They did however force out or kill the remaining orcs including their leader. Stranbrad was essentially saved, but it would not remain that way for long as time would show soon enough.
The weeks following flew by at a blur. Aretain continued to serve as one of Arthas's soldiers and fought not only the remaining orcs from the same raiding party that sacked Strahnbrad but also against a rising undead menace, although Aretain would have no idea exactly how much of an impact that the undead would have on future events. He was present when Arthas put the necromancer Kel'Thuzad to the sword, and regretably he was also present at the Culling of Stratholme where his loyalty to the Menethil line proved more powerful than his loyalty to the Silver Hand. He entered the city with Arthas and killed the majority of the population of Stratholme, an act which strained him greatly, more so when he engaged the Dreadlord Mal'ganis. The horrors that he witnessed, both in the killing of the people and the unholy power that the Dreadlord brought to bear caused physical change in Aretain, his hair changing from it's regal blonde to silver grey, the color draining like water from a metal tub.
He was never able to forgive Arthas for what he did to the city, and himself for his part in it, and so he broke away from Arthas's service after that day, rejoining Uther the Lightbringer and the other paladins of the Silver Hand, not knowing that in breaking away from the service of the now angered prince, he was saving himself from a much darker fate.
A King Slain, A Kingdom Destroyed Edit
Aretain continued to fight the Scourge as best as he could in the months that followed the Culling of Stratholme. The battles were for the most part one sided, with the Scourge having the numbers and as a result many small towns and even some larger hubs fell to the undead forces. Thankfully however the captial remained untouched, becoming a beacon of hope in the dark days that perhaps Lordaeron could survive this chaos. However fate itself would conspire against the kingdom in a way no one could have expected.
Arthas, having sailed to Northrend after Mal'ganis, returned to the Captial amidst celebrations, but these celebrations and feelings of pure joy changed into horror when Arthas put his own father to the sword, killing him in his own throne room. He paved the way for Lordaeron's destruction, the undead army, now his army, rampaging through the Capital. Aretain's parents, who were both present within the city at the time were slain, a fact which shook Aretain to the core when he learned of it, as he was now the Lord of Avern, although he was not ready for such a responsibility.
Then more bad news would hit him hard, as he learned that not only was Avern itself under siege by the Scourge, but that Ameralia Kingsmith, his loving wife had been killed by the undead shortly before the siege began, her caravan on its return from Lordaeron having been overrun entirely.
Unable to return to Avern, with the Scourge overrunning much of Lordaeron, he ordered his men to hold the region as best as they could while he moved to push the Scourge out of Lordaeron, a task made so much harder with the fall of the capital and the large number of undead soldiers that had come from the slaughter of so many innocents. Rallying at Andorhal, he regrouped with the surviving paladins of the Order. Gavinrad the Dire, Sage Truthbearer, Ballador the Bright and Uther the Lightbringer all converged in the one location, along with Aretain's brothers, Stefan and Olias and his son Erys.
What followed was perhaps the largest slaughter of paladins in the known history of Azeroth. Arthas, now a death knight of the Scourge, had for some reason decided to push for Andorhal personally, his army arriving at the city and subsequently invading it. Aretain and Erys were both with Sage Truthbearer's soldiers and thus were not aware of what was happening elsewhere in the city, it was only shortly before Arthas and his Scourge charged their forces that he would learn that both Gavinrad the Dire and Ballador the Bright were dead, killed by Arthas himself. This had a secondary impact for Aretain not only because he considered Gavinrad and Ballador good friends but also because both of his brothers had served with those soldiers. Stefan and Olias were dead..
The final battle that Aretain took part in at Andorhal happened shortly afterward. The Scourge crushed into the forces that Sage Truthbearer commanded, the death knight dueling with Sage personally as initiates and knights fell to the claws and blades of the undead. Aretain and Erys were forced back to the southern bridge where they could only watch in horror as Arthas finally cut down Sage, leaving his crumpled body to be trampled by the ever growing Scourge army. Unwilling to let his son die, he ordered Erys to flee and warn Uther, but it was too late. Arthas lashed out with his runeblade and threw a coil of pure death straight at Aretain. The blow itself would have killed him, but rather than see his father die Erys pushed Aretain backwards, jumping into the path of the bolt himself. The force of the push combined with the blood-slick terrain caused Aretain to lose his footing, he tumbled over the edge of the bridge, slamming into the water beneath, the last thing he saw was the lifeless corpse of his son being ripped to pieces by the ghouls he had desperately tried to stop.
The Aftermath, A Man Broken Edit
Aretain surfaced at the edge of the Darrowmere Lake a short time later in an area thus far untouched by the Scourge. Looking back at the now burning ruins of Andorhal, he broke down in grief for what had happened. The Silver Hand was shattered, his brothers and son were dead and he was alone. Had anyone survived? He had no idea and as he sat there on the edge of the lake his mental state began to change. Grief turned to anger, anger turned to hate and soon he was a boiling cauldron of rage, his body burning from the hate he felt toward Arthas and the Scourge.
Taking up his warhammer he began to move deeper into Darrowmere Forest, avoiding any large ruins where the undead might be in overwhelming numbers. As angry as he was, he was no fool and knew that if he wanted revenge he needed to stay alive, something that attacking Scourge strongholds would not accomplish. As he travelled he killed any Scourge he came across, along with any bandits who were foolish enough to try to rob him.
Eventually Aretain traveled south, immediately after he learned that the Alliance forces south of Arathi had survived the undead onslaught. Forced to move on foot, he traveled back the way he came like before, killing anyone who dared challenge him, and murdering any scourge that he came across without question. Along the way he observed soldiers of an unknown military order killing the Scourge as well, but he did not approach them, instead continuing along his path until he reached the very area where he had washed up on the edge of Lake Darrowmere. From there he followed the river south, through Hillsbrad before passing the ruins of Thoradin's Wall.
He continued south until he reached the lands of the dwarves where he was fortunate enough to be granted a gryphon to fly south to Stormwind. After arriving he moved straight to the Church of the Holy Light to inform the Priests and the Paladins who served there what had happened in the north. While they themselves already knew about the chaos, regardless they welcomed Aretain in, giving him a place within the Cathedral to call his own, although it was more a storage room than a place where one might live, regardless of comfortability.
Time Moves On, The Campaigns Begin Edit
Aretain, still present in Stormwind after the destruction of Lordaeron, was within the cities of the Alliance during the many campaigns that waged across Azeroth, while he contributed what he could, ultimately his attention focused on breaking the siege that still plagued his lands in the north. Avern, thankfully was a self-sustaining region, with many of its cities built into the mountains. As such there were many tunnels and caves behind the cities and in times of war the supplies of mushrooms and cave fish were plentiful, allowing the cities to hold out for years on end provided that the fortifications remained intact. Regardless Aretain continued to lobby for support from Stormwind, trying to at least gain some support for his soldiers, something that the Council of Nobles was reluctant to do and so help never came from the Alliance, a fact which caused Aretain a great measure of discomfort.
Finally he turned to other sources of power, specificially the forces of Lord Alezander Talwind of Arathi. Agreeing to aid him with the reclamation of the Highlands if he agreed to aid Avern in turn, Aretain travelled to the Talwind Encampment and began training the troops there, using his own experience to further the skills of the younger generations of soldiers. Despite the promise of aid however, it never came from Lord Talwind, and Aretain left the noble and his men shortly after, feeling a great sense of betrayal all the while.
Efforts in Pandaria Edit
Following the betrayal of Lord Talwind, Aretain left the Arathi Highlands and returned to Stormwind. Upon arrival within the Capital he became aware of the new operation on the far distant shores of Pandaria, called Operation: Shieldwall. It was a push for the Alliance to not only claim a significant foothold within the new continent but to also deprive the Horde of the same advantage. Aretain, while not biting at the bit to join the Alliance 'invasion' as he saw it did travel to Pandaria, specifically to the new settlement of Lion's Landing.
It was at Lion's Landing where he would help the Alliance war effort, not as a loyal soldier but more as a mercenary. It was during this time that he also took up his knighted name again, Cyrus the Merciful. Acting alone at the time, it wasn't until the uprising in Dalaran and the Kirin Tor's return to the Alliance that Aretain decided to involve more of his men in Alliance efforts in Pandaria. Sitting in a small study within Lion's Landing, he sent out messages to his best men, including his godfather, Zephon Carhagen. Bringing them to Lion's Landing, he formed them into the Raven Company. After outfitting them in armor similar to his own and creating a new banner for them, he moved them to the newly discovered 'Isle of Thunder' where the Thunder King was building his forces both Mogu and Zandalari for a renewed take-over of Pandaria.
Conflict on the Isle, Betrayal and Death? EditIt was on the Isle of Thunder that Aretain would finally be met with what would be considered to some, the end of his life. The plan that was devised to end his resistance to the Mogu was one that took a long time to craft, with months of planning by some of the most intelligent and cruel Mogu occurring before the events unfolded that would lead to his apparent end.
At first, the campaign against the Thunder King had been slow. The Zandalari and the Mogu had the advantage, controlling a large portion of the island which was well defended from both land, sea and air assaults. It took weeks of constant battle on the front lines to finally break the Zandalari lines, enough to set up a fortified foothold on one of the coastal ruins. While this base of operations belonged to the Kirin Tor, the Raven Company was allowed to set up their own operations tent within the camp with Aretain, under his paladin name 'Cyrus' liaising with the leaders of both the Kirin Tor and the Shado Pan in order to ensure that his men were able to strike where they were needed most.
The resulting strikes were considered by some to be perfect precision strikes. With the aid of the Kirin Tor and the Shado Pan, the Raven Company under Cyrus was able to decimate the holdings and numbers of the combined enemy forces, mostly by striking where their defenses were weak, while always remaining mobile, able to strike at a moments notice without significant fear of reprisal. Eventually, after many demoralizing strikes against the enemy forces, they began to see the Raven Company as a true threat. Many of their defenses were increased substantially, and while the Company managed to meet their goals regardless, their bodies and minds were taxed even further as resistance against their strikes was increased at a quickening pace.
It was perhaps two months before the final push against the Thunder King when the pieces of the Mogu's plan finally fell into place. Aretain, needing to travel to the Kirin Tor base to deliver strategic reports, had given command of the company to his godfather, Zephon Carhagen before departing from the camp with three Kirin Tor magi. The journey to the Kirin Tor should have been a quick one, however Aretain would never make it to the stronghold of Jania Proudmoore. Instead, the three magi that he had traveled with had betrayed him, lured by the power and wealth offered by the Thunder King for his capture. Bound in magical chains, a force that even he could not break free from, Aretain was thrown to the Mogu, the reports he was to deliver destroyed before his eyes as he was dragged away into the depths of the Thunder King's palace.
Deep within the dungeons of the Thunder King's palace, Aretain faced one of the most horrific experiences of his life, an experience which made the Culling of Stratholme and the Battle for Andorhal look like walks in a park on a warm summer day. First they stripped him of his armor, leaving him hanging from chains, savagely beating him for the lives he had claimed from their ranks, for all the trouble he had caused them. Then and only then, when he was barely conscious, were the spirit binders able to perform their ghastly rituals. Using their dark power, chanting in their own unknown language and spilling his own blood in the name of their King, they ripped Aretain's spirit from his body, an act which filled Aretain with unrelenting agony as his soul was twisted and bound into a new form, the form of his own armor, which had been placed back together and magically enchanted so that it held it's form without the aid of a rack.
Once a mighty paladin and Lord, Aretain had been reduced to a disembodied wraith. Stripped of his humanity and bound into his own armor to serve the Mogu as one of their constructs, one that could not be simply 'broken' like a jade statue, but more importantly, one that could possibly infiltrate the forces of the Alliance and cause havoc from within. However his torture was not yet finished, the task left undone. As long as Aretain's physical form survived, there was a chance, however slim, that his spirit could be returned to it, that their work would have been for nothing and so, forcing him to watch the entire time, the Mogu began to take their time with the empty vessel that had once been Aretain Kingsmith. They took knives to him, rended his flesh from his bones, before blasting the ruins of his corpse with white hot fire, burning whatever remained of the once noble man until nothing was left but a charred skeleton, hanging from the chains like some grisly trophy to the Mogu's domination.
Everything that the Mogu performed on the body hanging from the chains caused unrelenting pain to course through Aretain's mind as he screamed. He could feel -everything- that they were doing to him, every cut, every gouge, even the fire... especially the fire. Even after they had left to gloat over their victory he was still no less tormented than he was when they first performed their grisly work. It took many weeks for the torment to finally receed, and by that time, the Thunder King was no more, his fortress broken by the forces of the Kirin Tor and the Sunreavers, the King himself destroyed and all his plans along with him..
Raven Company Finds Their Leader EditIn the aftermath of the destruction of the Thunder King's power base, Aretain was found by the forces of the Kirin Tor. Unsure of what to do with a disembodied wraith fused within his own armor, they turned to the one group that had more knowledge of Aretain than any other, his own men in the Raven Company. The reaction of the men and women within the company varied. Some were distraught, others disgusted and some were horrified not only with what they saw in Aretain, but also from what they were told of the torture room where he was found. The only one who remained stoic was the leader of the company Zephon Carhagen, who had taken over command permanently, having feared that Aretain had become a casualty of war.
Zephon was given one of the most difficult choices of his life. On the one hand, he was loyal to his Lord and Commander, but on the other hand, he knew that the men of the Raven Company, and the people of Avern, would never tolerate being ruled by one of the damned. When he conveyed these thoughts to Aretain, he was surprised when he chose to accept them as the truth. Before departing, he gave one last order to his godfather and close confidant, that he look after the Company and the people of Avern as if they were his own and that he never abandon them, no matter what happened. He also requested that the truth of his new condition remain a secret, that no one but those who must know, should ever know of what had happened to him. With all in attendance nodding, Aretain took his leave, walking away from the lands that he had fought and technically 'died' for, along with the life that he had once known.
Aretain has apparently vanished from the world, he was last seen during the Iron Horde invasion defending the Dark Portal from the Iron Horde, although there is no record of him moving through the portal to Draenor or serving in any military force after the portal closed.
Misc Notes Edit
Aretain's new image (and the name of his Captain of the Guard) and purpose has been inspired by my recent gaming sessions playing the Legacy of Kain series, specifically Blood Omen, Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance. He is themed after the fallen Sarafan Inquisitor Malek.