Revised with great help of Dahahka - thank you!
Scholar Notes, Saphia Lockenn, Stormwind Library
The Scarlet Crusade’s immunity to fascism and zealotry ended the day torture and subterfuge took root. Organizations that begin so valiantly, so righteously, deteriorate into cults in little time, measured by the drumbeats of heartache and fear. Having spent a lifetime researching this, I have come across a few whose stories have caused me so much speculative grief: I can only imagine what might have caused these females to give up all, to sacrifice self in trade for shortened lives? My studies of cult-induction and mind-control have led me to draw conclusions that the Scarlet Crusade’s greatest power lie not in its military cunning, but its powers of manipulation of even the strongest of minds. What is it about my own perspective, perhaps – (I fear my own bias and sexism), that allows me to understand how males join militaristic cults that provide purpose, promises of glory, and given leadership and status when detritions of societies fail them. But women—I struggle to understand. Women are warriors – strength, endurance, stamina—these are qualities of most women I know. But what would cause a female to surrender her soul to such foul purposes such as the Scarlet Crusade? Its mission began in righteous defense, true, but tunnel-vision purpose grew a very different flower: inquisition, enslavement, and torture blossomed in holy light’s soil. Based on rumor from brothels and camp-followers, many females join organizations because they are stripped-down on their value in the eyes of society—asked ‘who would want them’ –what is unfathomable to me is why a woman would willingly join these ranks, seek guidance from the Crusade? This question stems from my findings of three plaques in the halls of the monastery. Somehow these three females not only joined the Scarlet Crusade, but also achieved glory to the statuary level—few other females have been given such posthumous honor (at least, not in my findings to date). What does a cult like the S.C. provide women? How did these women become so disenfranchised from their families, their homes, to seek the refuge of scoundrels?
When the western skies deepened from pink to indigo, and the stars pricked the velvet curtain, rendering its mesh vulnerable, the demon Beltheris claimed her life. Holia Sunshield, daughter of Morggor, mother of none, bubbled up the blood from her gut, spilling down her chin, onto her tabard of white and red. But the Dreadlord Beltheris met his match: his chartreuse blood stained the ground while hers spilled crimson. If one stared up at the night sky miles down the way, no tell or sign indicated the violent scene in the fields far, far away. Crickets chirped, and night birds sang. Holia found her maker with no regrets, and a clean soul. She served the Scarlet Crusade as it served her.
Night Elf orphans were a rarity: in any battle or siege, it seemed that Night Elf families would rather see their children die than live a life of lost want. Night Elf pride prevented refugee status or charity in most cases; however, with Holia, she had no choice. Night Elf families tend to be small; more than one child was almost unheard of. This reduction in population, dependence on the longevity of the race, created a poverty of tribal connections when disaster struck. (Annotation: consider Fandral Staghelm’s defection when he lost his son: is this an unexplored trend of Night Elf culture?) Holia’s parents were drowned in a shipping accident, and she was saved by humans. She was so small when they died, and being raised in a human orphanage, did not know her relatives or her parents’ purpose in going to Stormwind. The human children made fun of her long ears and moon-pie face, teasing her about never smiling. She grew angrier, and more withdrawn. Her sullen pose never varied, and she picked up a shield and sword instead of baby dolls. The boys teased her even more, so she fought harder. Her natural agility and skills outmatched theirs, and the training dummies suffered. And every day, every hour, the cathedral bells rang. When the reports came from the North about fighting the Scourge, for her it was simple: The bells rang, and promised a place, a holy place, where in her only darkness held. Perhaps fighting demons for the Crusade would slay her own.
When the recruiter reviewed her application, understanding subtlety of motivation was his specialty; he noticed she marked “no family” with extra ink, obliterating the words. The Scarlet Crusade would be her family now.
Holia proudly died, with no regrets when she saw her blood mixed with the demons. The Scarlet Crusade immediately dedicated her memorial honoring one so single-minded and loyal to the cause.
The title of “Second” Chief Assassin begged the question, “Who was the first?” among the rogues of the Scarlet Crusade. Her hesitation in a sparring match: there are no second chances with first blood drawn. Her control with the blade kept her from killing him, straight through his heart, in between the ribcage. He cut her first, sloppy, but first. So instead of reminding him with a slice of who was the better blades-man, she hesitated and lost, and received second place. He garnered the First Chief Assassin title.
Raised with prestige and arrogance, a human by birth, Yana’s family expected her to be first in all things. Her surname was Holdenbrooke, but she changed it to Bloodspear when she joined the Scarlet Crusade. She didn’t want her family to find her when she left home, and considered changing her first name, too. But if she found her righteous place in the Crusade’s ranks, then she could reclaim her name and make her family proud of her. She would show them. They considered the whole Scourge business someone else’s problem, and Yana’s overwrought adolescent rants to be dismissed. Seriously, that girl could be so self-righteous! To Yana, her parents were wrong, they were misinformed, and they were out of touch. Yana yearned to be with others who were doing something, making change, and fighting evil. She left her home in the night, and took whatever means of travel available to the North.
Her recruitment into the Scarlet Crusade and subsequent training separated her from her identity. She gave up her last name for vanity, and by the end of her training she barely remembered her first name. She was called “Dirt,” “Goblin-licker,” and then the final nickname that stuck: Scrubbybutt. One afternoon, while scouring the barrack floors, she fell and sat in the soapy water, soaking her bottom. The other recruits hazed her by pinning her down and dragging her across the floor, causing her to scoot along the floor to finish the task. Any arrogance or pride she came to the Crusade with vanished. But the officers recognized talent, too, and did the task of building her back up in status in order to create the unflinching soldier. She possessed zealotry for the cause, and now they would sharpen her like a blade. What the officers did not include was Yana’s deep need to be romantically loved. Her infatuation with the First Chief Assassin, Ethander, was an unforeseen problem.
When the Tirisfal reconnaissance mission requested volunteers, Yana did not hesitate to step forward. She knew Ethander planned to volunteer, for this was a plumb opportunity for promotion and recognition. Tales of the Forsaken in Tirisfal were substantiated by several scout reports, and this mission served to gain specific information regarding a large encampment shrouded by fog and green fumes.
Ethander died immediately, his throat slit by a Forsaken rogue, unseen, unheard, and unfelt. His undeserved bravado resulted from Yana’s unconscious choice not to cut him first when she had the chance. Her deference to his gender failed them both.
Yana’s fate is unclear.
The only place her identity is known in on the plaque in the Monastery. Her parents upon receiving the report of her missing-in-action status purchased the statue. The Scarlet Crusade’s spies knew her real name and origins, and delighted in informing her family of her possible death as a passive punishment for not taking the Scourge and defeat of the Forsaken more seriously. The officers laughed about her later, saying she was a goblin-licker after all. They said this out of earshot of Whitemane, of course.
Valea Twinblade never felt as invincible as that day. Dwarf warriors grow gigantic in form when killing a foe, and Valea was as tall as her beloved Alterac Mountains during the battle. Blood-smell, screams, and smoke, her adrenaline forged her iron veins, and her Dwarf birthright of vengeance and bravery bore her to victory. Or so it seemed. The Twinblade clan died when Valea was lost. Though Dwarfs are honorable, tribal, and loyal as long as their beards, every so often there is one who is dark, and angry. Tolbarr Twinblade was such a Dwarf. His drink poisoned him; his pain made him rage, and his mind lost the little good he possessed. He beat his wife and his daughter, Valea. The wife ran away, and then Valea, confused and scared, did too.
She joined the Crusade, seeking a righteous clan. They welcomed her service, and she was a good soldier. She was often the one to lead the charge, using her sheer will to judge the undead into submission. The High Inquisitor herself could learn something from Valea—how to undermine confidence, and use secrets to get what she wanted. After all, she had been well trained by her father in keeping secrets: covering up bruises, and making excuses. If a solider seemed to be lacking faith in the cause, or expressed doubts, she quickly reported their insubordination to the higher officers. This earned her promotions and privileges. She knew first-hand what happened to traitors, too—the irons, the fire, and the sharp, pointy means of persuasion.
The campaign against the enemy stalled. In this disquieting lull, she received a letter from her mother. Her father was reported dead (cut and bled outside a disreputable inn), and she wanted to find Valea again, and reunite, start life over. Valea’s conflicted mind itched her soul. The Crusade had served both as mother and father to her, and she had been well rewarded. But her mother…in her tiny brain, her heart, this is a request she could not deny. In order to severe ties with the Crusade, she would have to fake her death, or flee without trace. And on that day, no one would question her valor. She was as tall as a mountain, a force of will and a wall of a warrior. Last reports witnessed her being overrun by scourge at the edge of the woods in the Eastern Plaguelands. No trace was found of her except a shred of a bloodied tabard, and a few boot steps in the mud. Her service and loyalty to the Scarlet Crusade was a statue in her honor among warriors, made to look like a lithe Elf instead of the squatty Dwarf she was. The Crusade understood propaganda's purpose very well. It would serve no purpose to speak of the one who got away.