Eldanesh Kurnous, posthumously beatified by Lordaeron's surviving smallfolk as Saint Eldanesh the Conqueror, was a noted Knight of the Silver Hand and prominent figure in both the Scarlet and Argent Crusades. His saintly appellation stems from title granted in the wake of Naxxramas' destruction, Conqueror of Naxxramas.
Lacking the expansive musculature of his Paladin contemporaries, Eldanesh was known as a lean and wiry youth whilst squiring. This changed little as he aged and toiled; he grew to stand barely beneath two meters in height, and kept hold of his sinewy profile throughout his life. Training under Jothaem Albrecht was quick to exploit this gaunt form, and many fellow Knights of the Silver Hand were heard to describe Eldanesh as the "most lethal-looking" of the Order. Brown of hair and possessing verdant, green eyes, Eldanesh's most famous features were earned later in life: hair prematurely grayed by stress, and his right eye gouged out during fierce combat with an undead monstrosity.
Once upon a time, there lived a little boy.
He lived as many little boys did; in the carefree eternity of youth. Days stretched onwards through a sublime eternity of summer, the passage of time marked only by the time it took to careen from a high tree into the lake below, and laughing with mirth and wringing water from sable hair; climb the tree once more, to repeat the process until his little body was just too tired to climb the tree again.
If his days were spent in carefree rapture, his nights were spent in the loving embrace of what a boy cherishes most: family. He would stare, wide-eyed as his father spun fantastic tales of old, doting lovingly on the valor and deeds of the eponymous Knight, and whispering of the demons and dragons that were to be slain. The hearth burns excitedly in time with grandiose gestures accompanying emphatic calls; of how the noble Knight has triumphed, and slain the wicked beast!
Yet, there exists an old maxim among man, and it begins thus... All good things...
"...must come to an end," his Instructor tells him. He is a tall, physically imposing man; towering more than a head over the young Templar, with massive hands that might easily snap a man's neck. The intimidating nature afforded him by his physical stature and intensity is amplified by his disfigurement; his broken nose is bent like a fisherman's hook, and his jaw locked into a perpetual sneer.
"The Silver Hand is your life," he tells the young man, "and I am its voice. Forget what the abbots have taught you of the Light. It has no place here. At least, not yet."
The boy stands before him, on the cusp of his manhood. He is naked save a white tabard; a blue, double-headed eagle borne upon the center. It is belted around the waist to afford some modesty, and it is on that belt that dangles an empty sheath.
In his hand is the naked steel of a sword.
"Again," the Instructor tells him, and the boy raises his sword and leaps forwards. Steel arcs through the air, borne swiftly at its fullers. To some, it is a perfect swing - powerful and swift, coming around his shoulder as if it is sung of by bards in their lays. He has learned well in the brief time already spent. Muscles have begun to cord his stomach and arms, and the fresh face of youth is already wearing away to the advance of hardship.
Once more, our maxim comes into play. All good things...
His sword is intercepted by that of his Instructor, the strength of a grown man easily overpowering that of a boy. Steel rings loudly upon steel, and the tired flesh gives way. The sword flies from his hand, crashing down upon the mottled stone beneath his bare feet. Gasping for breath, he lowers himself to the floor, resting on one knee.
"A moment," the Instructor concedes as he looks at the boy. Casually - there is no trace of weariness or weakness in his grip - he leans his sword against a wall. "Stop trying to imitate me," he says. "You are not tall enough. Not so big, not so strong. Maybe fast enough, maybe not."
The boy speaks; "So what? You are a legend, Sir."
The Instructor chuckles. Harshly, as he does most things. "Anduin Lothar is a legend. But I leave the tales to those who believe in them. What I know, boy, is this. Learn from me instead of resisting me, and you'll soon enough gain your own fame. You're very good, actually. Especially for one so young."
He takes his sword back into his hand. "And now, you've rested enough. Back at it. And remember, this time - small strokes. Stop trying to fight as if you were The Lightbringer himself. Fight like a miser hoarding his coins."
It is difficult, but he makes progress. He finally begins to understand - really understand - what makes his Master so dangerous. No wasted effort, no flamboyance, nothing beyond the bare minimum needed. But that - done perfectly.
This goes on for years.
Every night, his muscles aching almost beyond tolerance, fighting to remain on his feet for the journey, he returns to the stoic cloister of his cell. There, he lays upon a thin pallet of straw, and closes his eyes.
He dreams of summer and of the sun, and of the call of birds in the trees. He dreams of the homely smell of the forest, and of the most beautiful lake he has ever known, sweeping him up in its loving embrace as he plummets from above, smiling and laughing with innocent joy.
In his dreams, the boy smiles. Fast asleep, he is home, and all good things may never end.
The Gnoll circles him to the right, and then cuts back to the left suddenly. Its eyes are narrow pits of yellow bile, and the scowl on its face seems to be brought about more by a repeatedly broken jaw than any measure of contempt. To its left, and to its right, more of its fellows croon from the shadows, brandishing crude cudgels with wicked, barbed heads.
Despite himself, the boy smiles.
He is not so much a boy anymore - he has become tall, strong, fast. Muscles swell the breadth of his arms and shoulders beneath the comforting swath of his tabard; and no longer is that faithful tabard the only thing he wears.
There is armor. Magnificent armor that shields and protects him, and he knows it. From behind the narrowed oculars of his great helmet, that smile persists. His sword is light in his hands, as it has always been. All around him, the sounds of the forest pierce the even silence. He can hear the wind's whisper in the trees, and the song of the nightbirds.
It feels like home.
The first Gnoll lunges at him, a blow from its cudgel aimed at his face.
Stupid, he thinks.
The blow never lands, for the mottled, furry hand which held the cudgel is sailing away, still clenching its weapon. The Gnoll gapes down at the blood gushing from his severed wrist. The gape is suddenly joined by another, wider gape, slightly lower on the Gnoll's body. The others watching are stunned again, not so much by the speed of the sword strike which almost decapitated the Gnoll, but by the grace and agility with which the boy avoids the spewing blood and butchers the second Gnoll.
This beast, he does decapitate, with a strike of his sword so powerful that it cuts through the arm which the Gnoll flings up for protection before butchering its way through his neck.
For a moment, the survivors take heart. Such a furious sword strike must inevitably un balance the armored warrior, and the third and fourth Gnolls move now, striking with newly drawn daggers, while the fifth—
The third Gnoll is driven into the fifth by a straight kick delivered with such violence that the creature is near paralyzed, its diaphragm almost ruptured. The Gnoll he is driven into is itself knocked down, half stunned.
The fourth Gnoll, in the meantime, has found that his dagger strike has been blocked, an inch from its adversary's side, caught by the cross-guard of the knight's cruciform. This Gnoll has just enough time, in the poorly lit gloom of the forest, to examine the powerful sinews of the wrist holding that horrible blade.
And time to despair, knowing—-a quick, irresistible twist of the wrist, and the dagger is sent flying.
The Gnoll flings up his arms, trying to block the inevitable strike. But the strike is short, sharp, sudden, and aimed for nowhere near the Gnoll's head. The boy has learned well from his instructor, the blademaster; that deadly and economical man. He drives the razor edge of his sword straight down, mangling the Gnoll's knee. The Gnoll cries out, staggers, then collapses completely. Its right arm is severed just below the shoulder by the follow-on strike.
The three Gnolls remaining flee back into the night. The Templar makes no effort to pursue. He simply stalks over to the two Gnolls he had knocked to the ground with his kick. The one beginning to rise never sees the sword blade which splits his skull like a melon. The other, paralyzed, can only watch as the shining monster drives that hideous blade through his heart.
Thunderheads crack amidst a darkened sky. Bolts of effervescent lightning clash with the clouds that blot out the sun, their forked paths highlighted by off-green, eldritch trails. The boy stands in the company of his fellows on this dark day, arranged shoulder to shoulder, shield to shield, staring across forsaken earth at a seemingly invincible foe -- Arthas Menethil, the traitor Prince. The foul enemy whom in the hours previous has cut through innumerable champions of the light, personally slaying three great Paladins in the process: Gavinrad the Dire, a champion of once-fallen Stormwind, swatted aside and smote with contemptuous ease; Sage Truthbearer, sent screaming to the darkness of the everafter, his soul consumed in burning agony from the strike of Frostmourne. Ballador the Bright, too, has fallen in combat, though the men that muster on the outskirts of Andorhal find comfort in other rumors -- that Ballador still lives, despite his injuries.
He should be nervous, but he is not. Even as the foul betrayer and his undead coterie close the gap, he finds that there is no fear in his heart, no trepidation. Armored by faith and armed by virtue, empowered by compassion and piety, the boy has truly grown. He is a man; a Paladin. Deep in his heart, he knows that even for all their power, the minions of undeath shall be undone on this day. For they face the most powerful assemblage of holy warriors that Lordaeron has ever seen. They stand with shields locked, swords at the ready, in perfect ranks, awaiting the onslaught. The onslaught that he knows will break upon them like a wave cresting the shore.
"Eyes front, Kurnous."
The voice is little louder than a whisper, but the firm tone contained therein instantly shakes him from his dreamy reverie. His shoulders square; his hand twists on his sword and he makes the most minute adjustments to his shield. The man who has rebuked him smiles, and adds the barest of encouragement: "You'll get your battle soon enough."
Despite himself, Eldanesh Kurnous smiles too. The words of his once-Instructor are comforting. While alone, he might have been undone by the sight before him, there is no such apprehension now. His battle brothers steel him, his faith guards him. "Yes, Sir Albrecht," he mutters, his feet shifting almost anxiously. Before Sir Jothaem Albrecht can take the time to reprimand his old student for his anxiousness, another voice splits the stony silence. A voice proud and strong, one that all the warriors of the Light take comfort in. The man that strides to the fore of their ranks wields a massive, rune-lined hammer, its head awash in light, the very same light that seems to follow the man wherever he goes.
He is Uther the Lightbringer, the Master of the Silver Hand, and it is to his old student that he speaks.
"Your father ruled this land for seventy years, and you've ground it to dust in a matter of days!"
The voice that answers is half a chuckle, half a sneer. Deep and guttural, as if wrestled from the grasp of hell itself. It comes from across the field, from the twisted being that every man under arms that day would like nothing more than to slay personally. From the fallen prince, Arthas Menethil.
"Very dramatic, Uther. Give me the urn, and I'll make sure you die quickly."
The Lightbringer answers with a sneer of his own. He levels the holy hammer that he holds so easily in one hand. "The urn holds your father's ashes, Arthas! What, were you hoping to piss on them one last time before you left his kingdom to rot?"
The mellifilous, cold treble of the traitor prince retorts. The banality of the statement is enough to shock the men who knew Arthas Menethil in life, and to further infuriate the ones that did not. "I didn't know what it held. Nor does it matter. I'll take what I came for one way or another."
At those words, the fallen prince levels his own weapon. Ghouls once standing idle break into a run, followed by creaking meatwagons and simpering acolytes.
The boy steadies himself. Once again, he checks the positioning of his shield; he breaths in and out slowly, relaxing his entire body, feeling the eternal power of the Holy Light course through him. And again he knows that they will win this fight. It will be just like the stories -- where the hero always wins.
"Get ready," Sir Albrecht grumbles, and Eldanesh fixes his stare ahead, at the charge of the damned. He awaits them with hope, faith, and an insurmountable goodness in his heart.
But all good things, must come to an end.
Eldanesh Kurnous stared at the sky as he bled to death.
The littlest of movements sent a wince to his lips, and he slowly lifted his head to look down across his supine body. The ruin that had been made of his chest was the one obvious source of discomfort; his tabard shredded, his armor had been rent away across his belly and a long gouge made ruin of the skin bared beneath. Closing his one good eye, he bade memory to return to his ailing mind; to bring picture to the course of events and of actions that had led him here, to this point. But just as soon as he started, even as cognizance burned through the pain to bring to him new enlightenment, he stopped.
What did it matter, now?
Everything he had done that had brought him to the here and to the now could not be changed. That point was hammered home by a lance of agony that pounded his body, and on sheer reflex his spine arched and a muffled cry erupted from his lips on the heel of spurting blood.
His eye closed, and he lay his head backwards, lips pursed around a smattering of coughs. Blood caked every wheeze and he lamely rubbed his wrist to clear it from his chin. His shoulders rocked back and forth and uncharacteristically, he wanted to whimper. He wanted to pound his fists into the ice and scream and roar but he couldn't. He tried to talk, if only for the shallow comfort of hearing something besides the howling wind and moans of the others that lay around him, confined to their own purgatory just as he, but the solace fo his own voice was denied by the damage done to his throat. In addition to the wicked set of claws that had sheared his armor and come less than an inch from disemboweling him completely, he'd caught the leading edge of a risen skeleton's sword along his throat when his own parry had come up an inch too short.
Eldanesh had been wounded many times, but this was different. Here he lay, amidst a field of the dead and dying with no help in sight. The floor of the frigid valley around him was covered with corpses, both of fallen Scourge and felled Crusaders. His battle brothers, obvious in their black and white tabards, had given their all. Each Crusader that had fallen during the battle had given their one and all with nary a thought of the risk. He had been one of them. Despite the knowledge that on one day, he would day, Eldanesh had never even pondered that reality. He had fought the Scourge and bled for Lordaeron for more than half a decade, from the frigid shores of Northrend itself to the ghastly halls of Naxxramas, and never once over the past million minutes had he ever given thought to his own demise. And now that horrible reality confronted him with no salvation in sight.
He rolled onto his side, gritting his teeth through the pain, and brought both of his hands to the wound on his stomach. Again, he brought the Holy Light to the center of his mind, focusing on the gleaming light of creation that connected every living being. Effervescent sparks leapt from his fingers and a golden halo encircled both of his palms. Slowly, he pressed his hands to the wound, closing his eye and giving his body over to the Light. Its grace flowed freely through his body, illuminating the wound and bringing life to the mauled skin. He had done this many times before; hundreds if not thousands. It was instinctual, an action driven purely by reaction.
But now, just as it had before, it failed. He lay back in frustration, pounding his fists into the ice. He was too weak. His body too battered. The connection to the all-consuming glory of the Holy Light was a bare thread that fell through his fingers every time he grasped at it. Pursing his lips and spitting out the blood that had collected in the corners of his lips, he tried to speak again but once more the only sound he could produce was a coarse wheeze and another wracking cough that sent spasms down his spine. Here we are, he told himself as he shut his eye and placed his hands atop his chest. His right gauntlet had been shattered, and he used his bare fingers to caress the faded, wilted petals of an old lily that lay pinned to his cuirass. He brought his eye to the flower and smiled a bloodstained smile.
This is the end, he thought. His mind wandered, lost in its truculent haze. He thought of the long summers of aeons ago, and after those of the years spent in the abbeys and cathedrals of Lordaeron. Those places had taken his simple, child-like view of the Holy Light and tempered it into something more nuanced. It had not precisely been a loss of innocence, but in those years the well of youth had finally dried up. And then -- the Scarlet Crusade. He could still remember those days; especially the early ones. Before day in and day out had turned years into faded, generic memories. He remembered the month spent in confinement while they'd made sure he was not beplagued. Those memories brought an ironic smile to his lips.
I'm going to die here, he thought.
"You're going to die in here," his Inquisitor had told him.
When he had heard those words, he had laughed and derided them. He had spit on them; swept them aside with youthful impetuosity. "I cannot die," the Eldanesh of youth said.
And the Eldanesh that lay dying could see that young man, effervescent in the air before him; his hair was brown and he stared resolute at the Inquisitor with two eyes. And the Inquisitor, old and wise, had laughed and laughed.
Do you know how many have stood before me as you stand now? Proud. Defiant. So full of their self-righteousness and own bloated, self-importance? Confident that they are chosen; special; favored by The Light? All of them have broken. And better for everyone that they did! Better to spare others the illusion of false hope! You have the audacity to presume that you are something more, young Kurnous! That your fate is to be greater than us all! I don't believe it! And by the time you leave here, neither will you! And I will not kill you; the Inquisitor had said. That would defeat our purpose. You may leave here at any time. But -- that would mean admitting your error -- admitting that you are not worthy enough or strong enough for what lies ahead! And pride will prevent you from doing that! If you believe you are so chosen, then you must risk everything on the premise that the Holy Light will not let you die! Unless --- you're wrong. And here, now, together, we will find out, once and for all!
The dying Eldanesh panted; his labored breath came out in frosty vapors. His eye closed and he turned his head to the side, opening it a moment later. Everything around him was hazy. All the world was fading away. And for some reason, he could still hear the sharp, insisting voice of his Inquisitor.
You don't like it here, do you? You'd rather you were back in your quarters asleep, dreaming dreams of glory! And why not? You are Eldanesh Kurnous, the chosen of the Holy Light! All of this pain, all of this turmoil, you tolerate all this only by your whim! At a word from you, all the hosts of the heavens would descend and carry you up away from harm, away from this place, because you have a destiny!
"We all have a destiny," the young Eldanesh said.
The dying Eldanesh wanted to laugh. The Inquisitor snorted; he drew nearer to the young Eldanesh and brutally struck the young man with the figurehead of his cane. "Do we?!" the old man laughed. "How noble of you, young Kurnous! But your acclamation, my little friend, is folly. Do you think I intend to shatter the grandiose dreams of your youth, Kurnous?"
The cane cracked again and the young Eldanesh recoiled. The dying Eldanesh coughed up a spurt of blood. "We are not destroyers of dreams, Kurnous," the Inquisitor said, and for a moment Eldanesh had no idea to whom precisely the Inquisitor was referring. "We are protectors of the public good. Call out, Kurnous; call to the Holy Light. For if you are truly chosen, surely it will respond!"
The Inquisitor hefted his cane and the young Eldanesh was subject to a succession of rapid blows across the face; the hook of the cane's figurehead shattered the bridge of his nose and drove him to his knees. Still, the young Eldanesh did not make a sound of any kind, and the Inquisitor kept his bloody, bone-crushing work until finally, the young man screamed. Immediately, the Inquisitor stopped. He laughed and threw his head back, cackling: "There we are! Now, let us wait for the Light to reply! Come, Eldanesh!? Where is the Holy Light!? You proclaim yourself chosen, yet at your command the Light answers you with nothing but silence! Silence! A silence as profound as when the Nether swallowed up Medivh."
He bent low and brought his face nose to nose with Eldanesh. "Do you know why you are here?" he asked the dying Eldanesh.
"The Highlord commands, and I obey," answered the dying Eldanesh. His eye was wide and glazed over. The Inquisitor was nothing but a hazy silhouette that ebbed and flowed with every passing second.
"You've answered the wrong question!" he snapped. "Why are you here!? Now! In this place; in this life?"
"I was meant to be here," Eldanesh moaned.
"By whom?" demanded the Inquisitor.
"Does it matter?" answered Eldanesh. The Inquisitor paused, and suddenly he smiled. "What do you mean?" he asked Eldanesh.
"If I believe I'm here, now, for a reason," Eldanesh began, but the Inquisitor was swift to silence him.
"And what if the world says otherwise?!" "
Then the world is wrong!" the dying Eldanesh roared.
"And Eldanesh is right!? But perhaps the world is right and it is you, Kurnous, that is wrong! Have you considered that?! Did you ever consider that, through every moment, every second you spent dreaming of your grand destiny?!"
Eldanesh was silent. Suddenly, it was hard to talk again. The Inquisitor was gone and through his fading vision he saw only the barren skies of Icecrown. The moans of the dead and dying had fallen silent, and as his head rolled to present its sole, vacant eye with the vista of corpses that littered the ground, he gasped out an answer to his unseen, unheard companion.
"Yes," he breathed. "Sometimes."
And then everything was dark.
The ground that sat before the mighty fortress of Mord'rethar's eastern facing was a chaotic mess. Bonfires had been lit and a makeshift camp established at the base of that profane spire. Argent Crusaders moved through the eventide, taking corpses from the multitude of piled-up Scourge dead and casting them into the fires.
Knight-Captain Alvan Valentine of the Highlord's Own strode through the same umbra, his nostrils crinkling at the acrid stench of burning scourgeflesh. Several Crusaders followed behind them, having eschwed their lances and swords for decanters of Holy water and medical kits. They worked through the slowly diminishing piles of Scourge casualties, picking out the bodies of fallen Argent Crusaders in the vain hope that care could be given before it was too late.
It often was.
Valentine paused as he reached the foot of the great spire, his eyes raising to take in the sheer expanse of the great gate. It yawned wide open now, a fallen buttress of saronite having jammed it open. Dozens of shattered skeletons and slain ghouls littered the area in a rough semi-circle, all on the side of the gate. In the center of that grisly testament to the carnage that this place had seen throughout the day, lay a fallen warhorse. A shape half-obscured by slaughtered Scourge lay against that horse, and Valentine sighed as he approached it. He knew, before he could even see the full truth, what he had happened upon.
And now, what he must say.
"I've found him," he called over his shoulder, and instantly the disparate bands of men that had been searching through the corpse piles were at his side. Mutely, and lamely, Valentine pointed at the sight before he moved forwards and stood over the body. It was a human; a Paladin. His body sheathed in magnificent, orange and black armor, a cassock of sturdy lamellar obscuring his legs, just as a luminary mask and black hood covered his face. Near a dozen twisted saronite arrows had struck the Paladin in various places, and Valentine had to raise his hand and dry a single tear in the corner of his eye upon his wrist. The Knight-Captain bent down and slowly pushed back the hood, and then removed the mask and cast it aside.
The face that greeted him was strong of feature, the wrinkles that had begun to criss-cross the corners of its eyes only adding to its regal bearing. The left eye was covered by a tattered crimson eye-patch.
Valentine sighed again, turning away and closing his eyes. When he brought his vision back to the corpse he noticed that upon its breastplate, pinned in place by a single lily, was a note. It differed from the seals and litanties that covered the otherwise ornate armor by the obvious age of the paper. This was new. With but a second's hesitation, Valentine leaned forwards and delicately plucked up the note. He carefully unfolded the blood-stained parchment, and began to read it.
On my own initiative I have issued an order to the Highlord's Own to attack Mord'rethar. This will afford you the opportunity to take control of the first of the Scourge gates and advance on ground previously untenable in the wake of your mission to the Cathedral of Darkness. I realize I am guilty of a criminal breach of discipline but absolution is before me and I am riding with the regiment.
In the event of my death, my peerage and titles are to be transferred to Sergeant Major Remington Dalson of the 7th Legion of the Alliance military. My personal wealth and possessions are to be liquidated, and the proceeds given to our war effort. If it is practicable, I wish my body to be returned to Lordaeron and buried on the shores of Lake Mereldar. If impracticable, leave me where I fell.
From little towns in a dead land we came, to save our kingdom from a a world aflame. On frozen planes in a dead land we sleep, and trust that world we won, to you to keep.
Personality and LegacyEdit
Eldanesh was unusual for himself as much as for his rise to fame. He developed a manner well known to his friends, which has been described as the Kurnousian manner. Commander Entari of the Argent Crusade, also an amateur historian, wrote a book called Reflections Upon the War in the Frozen North, in which he criticised Kurnous for his manner, personality and self-obsession. Entari wrote as one who disagreed strongly with Eldanesh's past decisions, but even his one-sided criticisms do not entirely conceal another facet of Eldanesh's personality, his aloofness and diffidence. The sections of the work dealing with Sir Kurnous' personality have been reproduced below:
This ersatz Conqueror's demeanor, as I understand it, has its roots in his attitude of mind—an attitude of convinced superiority which insists in the first place on complete detachment from the enthusiasms of the smallfolk, and in the second place on keeping the vulgar world at arm's length when perceived by the public.
It is an attitude of mind which a Gilnean or a cynic might be justified in assuming, for it is the attitude of one who desires rather to straddle the world than to shoulder any of its burdens; but it is a posture of exceeding danger to anyone who lacks tenderness or sympathy, whatever his purpose or station may be, for it tends to breed the most dangerous of all intellectual vices, that spirit of self-indulgence which Archbishop Faol himself declared to be the infallible mark of an unsatisfied soul.
To Sir Kurnous this studied attitude of aloofness has been fatal, both to his character and to his legacy. He has said nothing, written nothing, done nothing, which lives in the heart of his countrymen. To look back upon his record is to see a desert, and a desert with no altar and with no monument, without even one tomb at which a friend might weep. One does not say of him, "He nearly succeeded there", or "What a tragedy that he turned from this to take up that"; one does not feel for him at any point in his career as one feels for High General Turalyon or even for Lord Uther; from its outset until now that career stretches before our eyes in a flat and uneventful plain of successful but inglorious and ineffective self-seeking. Even the apex of his glory, the fall of the Dread Citadel, is overshadowed by his lamentable end and the subsequent and far more spectacular destruction of the Lich King.
There is one signal characteristic of this 'Kurnousian manner' which is worthy of remark. It is an assumption in general company of a most urbane, nay, even a most cordial spirit. I have heard many of the rank and file declare after making his acquaintance in the mess and barracks that he is the most gracious of men, and seen many more retire from shaking his hand with a flush of pride on their faces as though Royalty had stooped to inquire after the measles of their youngest child. Such is ever the effect upon base minds of geniality in superiors: they love to be stooped to from the heights.
But this heartiness of manner is of the moment only, and for everybody; it manifests itself more personally in the circle of his intimates and is irresistible in casual banter; but it disappears when Sir Kurnous retires into the shell of his ambitions and there deals with individuals, particularly with lovers. It has no more to do with his spirit than his cassock and caprison. Its remarkable impression comes from its unexpectedness; its effect is the shock of surprise. In public he is ready to shake the whole world by the hand, almost to pat it on the shoulder; but in private he is careful to see that the world does not enter even the remotest of his holdings.
"The truth about Eldanesh Kurnous," Gevin Hopesfire once said to me, when we were but squires, "Is that there's been one Orc invasion already, and he's convinced there's going to be another."
Little as the adoring smallfolk may suspect it, the charming, gracious, and cultured Sir Kurnous is the most egotistical of men, and a man who would make almost any sacrifice to remain in their hearts. It costs him nothing to serve under Tirion Fordring; it would have cost him almost his life to be out of action during a period so exciting as the assault on Northrend; had he remained in Lordaeron in service to the Crusade, the only glories to be found would have been unsung and of little spectacle. He loves combat more than anything this world can offer; neither in philosophy nor music, literature nor women, has he ever been able to find rest for his soul. It is profoundly instructive that a man with a real talent for the noblest of those pursuits which make solitude desirable and retirement an opportunity should be so restless and dissatisfied, even in noble service, to the point of not only inviting an early demise in reckless pursuit of vainglory, but actively charging to meet it.
Despite Commander Entari's scathing rebuke of his character, one cannot deny his popularity with Lordaeron's surviving expatriates. He was one of the first members of the Scarlet Crusade to forsake the crimson banner for the Argent star, and was personally involved in almost every major action during the campaign in Northrend, almost universally fighting on the front lines. A highly visible and distinctive figure, Eldanesh was easy to identify amidst the timult of battle by his prematurely grayed hair, wiry build, and tattered crimson eye-patch. So widespread and lauded were the stories of his prowess and deeds, that his part in leading the assault of the Highlord's Own against Naxxramas was eventually exaggerated to the point that an adoring commoner would speak of how Lord Kurnous ripped the Dread Citadel from the sky with but the power of the Holy Light to aid him.
A close reading of Eldanesh's personal meditations, a volume released after his death entitled The Libram of the Valiant , reveals a man haunted by the nebulous moralities of the Third War and affected by a deep-seated self-loathing. Kurnous speaks at length of his tenture in the Scarlet Crusade, highlighting in exquisite detail almost every single occasion on which he believed to have broken the Three Virtues of the Silver Hand. As a boy he was deeply taken by stories of old chivalry and the triumph of good against evil. One may suspect, but not completely confirm, that the shocking reality of the Silver Hand's fall to the undead was an incredible blow to his perception of the Order, and indeed, even of the Holy Light itself. Upon leaving the Scarlet Crusade for the Argent, he sought greater and greater victories against the Scourge as a way to atone for his past misdeeds, seeking penance in the only venue with which he was completely comfortable: the field of battle.
Though his virtue and worth as a person is oft debated, there can be little said to deny the scope of his accomplishments. Eldanesh Kurnous successfully led the forces of the Argent Crusade against the Archlich Kel'Thuzad and oversaw the destruction of the Necropolis Naxxramas. He fought in every major battle throughout the war in the north that he was alive to partake in, from the landfall at Valiance Keep and the storming of En'kilah, to the Battle of the Wrathgate, to the ill-advised taking of Mord'rethar, the assault which saw his end. These conquests are contrasted against a chequered character, possessed by a man who was determined to conceal the whole of his soul from the prying eyes of Azeroth. His legacy therefore defies easy categorization. Some months after the fall of Icecrown, Highlord Tirion Fordring was asked to evaluate his most celebrated champion. He replied, in the noncommital manner that we have come to expect of him: "Eldanesh Kurnous is one of the mysteries of the war."