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Know Your Lore: The peculiar tale of the Headless Horseman, page 2

Anne Stickney

Sir Thomas readily moved from Silver Hand to Scarlet Crusade without a thought -- after all, both organizations were committed to eradicating the undead. But as the strength of the Scarlet Crusade grew, the motives of the organization grew as well -- grew fuzzier and fuzzier, the lines between mercy, righteousness and outright, cold-blooded murder blurring. Towns were "checked" for the plague, but the methods of determining the plague's existence were misguided and generally resulted in the death of villagers regardless of their health.

Thomas didn't understand the questioning, and when he questioned why the Crusade was acting without any physical sign of the plague, the explanation was a convoluted affair. The plague first spread through tainted wheat, Thomas was told, but now that this method had been discovered by the Crusade, the Lich King had devised "other methods." The world was littered with "traitors" who had sold their souls to the Lich King for immortality, the Crusade insisted.

Cities bearing refugees from other cities were immediately under suspicion. Villagers that were deemed "too healthy" were obviously in cahoots with the Lich King; otherwise, they would not be healthy. Towns that were deemed as havens from the plague were more than likely deemed such in order to attract more people, so that more people would be available for the Lich King to raise as undead. It all made utter, chilling sense -- why on earth would any village be spared the plague, unless they were somehow being prepared to receive it?

Sir Thomas was once again crushed, thinking himself a fool for not seeing this as readily as the other members of the Scarlet Crusade. First Rivendare's betrayal, then Arthas' betrayal -- how many times had others fooled him, how many times had he been tricked, how many thousands had died because of his ignorance? It was unforgivable -- but the Scarlet Crusade reassured him, once again explaining that it wasn't his fault, and then asked him to do what must be done. And he did -- killing thousands of innocent people because in his mind, they were already the walking dead. They simply didn't know it yet.

It never occurred to Sir Thomas that he was committing the same kind of murder that Prince Arthas had done when he purged the city of Stratholme so many years before. Sir Thomas Thomson had turned into that which he'd wholeheartedly cried against as unconscionably wrong just four years before.

Two months later, the Scarlet Crusade discovered another pocket of healthy villagers, proclaimed the village to be yet another group that was preparing for being turned to Scourge and ordered the village eliminated. Sir Thomas was at the head of the fray, and a woman and her son fell beneath his blade. The daughter walking with them turned an instant before the fatal blow stuck, staring up at her executioner with terrified eyes -- and Sir Thomas recognized in that split second the eyes of his daughter.

Sir Thomas' wife and children had not, as it turned out, gone to Kalimdor with the rest of the survivors. Instead they stayed in Lordaeron, near to their beloved husband and father, and he'd just struck them down in cold blood. He begged the Light for mercy, but the Light had no mercy to give. And as he tried to come to terms with what he'd just done, Sir Thomas lost himself utterly in grief. The Scarlet Crusade took him back to the monastery, locking him in his chambers and waiting for him to work through his grief.

But from his room, instead of the normal sounds of grieving tears shed came strange, inhuman noises. Laughing, howling, sobbing -- all punctuated with strange little rhymes, the sort one heard in fairy tales used to illustrate where, in his life, a man had gone wrong. It was Hallow's End.

Grand Crusader Dathrohan had an idea to help Sir Thomas come to terms with his grief. Part of the Hallow's End festivities was the Wickerman, a giant straw effigy of a man that was ceremonially lit ablaze during the Hallow's End festival. It was said that if one threw a branch onto the Wickerman's fire, one could burn away whatever he did not want to take with him into the winter -- fears, sorrows, old loves, new hates, all could be put behind you.

And so Dathrohan persuaded Sir Thomas to join the fight against the undead once more, on Hallow's End, in an effort to help Thomas put the mistakes of his past firmly behind him. But as Sir Thomas fought with an almost savage frenzy, slaughtering hundreds of undead, he was nearly overtaken by Scourge. His comrades leapt to defend and assist him -- and that's when they discovered that Sir Thomas wasn't merely overtaken by grief. He turned on them, running them through with his blade as viciously as he murdered the walking corpses that threatened them all.

Sir Thomas Thomson had gone completely mad.

Duped for far too long by lies, I see you now through clearer eyes!
Infected all, you too shall fall; the Light to win out through your demise!
I'll make of this land a funeral pyre ... and end your curse with cleansing fire!
The Scarlet Crusade was forced to take down one of its own, beheading Sir Thomas and taking the once-valiant paladin's body back to the Scarlet Monastery. Grand Crusader Dathrohan said he would prepare the body for burning himself, an honor to the Crusade's fallen comrade. But once again, things were not as they appeared to be. The Grand Crusader was in fact the dreadlord Balnazzar, who had taken over Dathrohan's body years before.

The only burning Sir Thomas would feel would be the burning of fel energy, coursing through his body as Balnazzar reanimated the dead paladin's corpse. Balnazzar had taken over the Grand Crusader's body years before and was the real leader of the Scarlet Crusade -- nothing more than a puppet, a facade with which Balnazzar could continue to wreak havoc against the Lich King, against Sylvanas, and against humanity itself.

In a life of mistakes, of being too trusting, of being blind to the motives of others, Sir Thomas had at last fallen prey to the largest of them all. Balnazzar raised Sir Thomas from the dead, giving him strength to carry out whatever the dead paladin deemed necessary. Whatever Sir Thomas' choices were in unlife, Balnazzar knew they would result in death -- the death of those who Balnazzar wanted eradicated to begin with.
I fought for you ... I fought in vain.
Now scatter, scurry, shriek in pain!
No mercy on this night abides,
On Hallow's End, when the horseman rides!
To this day, the corpse of Sir Thomas rides the skies come Hallow's End, setting buildings ablaze with fires to cleanse his beloved homeland of any possible threat. In life, Sir Thomas trusted those around him without fault, leading to the deaths of his comrades, his beloved mentor Uther, thousands of innocents and at last, his beloved wife and children. In death, Sir Thomas is so maddened that he doesn't even realize he is dead. In death, he desperately continues to fight the Scourge, wherever or whoever it may be -- for who knows when or where it may strike?

In his madness, the undead Scourge looks back at him from within the faces of those terrified innocents whose homes he sets ablaze. It stares unrelentingly at him from the faces of those that seek to protect the innocent. And it glares from the eyes of adventurers and heroes, seeking to take him out and offer him the just death he was denied so many years ago.

And he will not stop until he's put an end to all of you.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:

While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

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