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   They made short work of the ghouls and skeletons waiting on the Citadel's steps. The death knight commanders were more trouble, one of them nearly lobbing several heads off with a single blow. But they were no match for the army, especially with Stormwind's support, and soon the Alliance controlled the entrance to the Citadel.

   Guider quickly set up a perimeter, blocking any wandering corpse from flanking them. The Ebon Blade death knights entered first, followed by the Argent Crusade's highest ranked members and the king of Stormwind himself. Saora busied herself with healing the wounded, careful to stay out of the king's eyeline. Fortunately, he was too busy strategizing with Tirion Fordring, paladin leader of the Argent Crusade, the dwarf king Muradin Bronzebeard, and a mysterious man calling himself the Ebon Watcher to notice the little priestess. She breathed a sigh of relief and caught the eye of Armod as he stuck his tongue out at the king's fading figure. Onyxe and Grifton elbowed him from either side as Saora giggled.

   "I am glad to see the attack began without me," a harsh, accented voice spoke behind the priestess. "I did not wish to hold up progress."

   Saora gleefully spun around, "Verita! You came!"

   The night elf stood at the top of the fortress's staircase just as it leveled off to a platform. Her dark green hair shifted in the frigid breeze, the short strands slightly covering her face and unusual markings. Her white eyes gleamed through the fog and stared at her surroundings with enough ferocity to put a wild cat to shame. Well-used armor, thick blue metal with crystals protecting vital points, covered her from neck to toe. At her feet sat Endymion, a black panther so massive it could almost be used as a mount. Behind her, a dark blue mass shifted. Her mount, a proto drake, opened its massive jaws in a light growl, revealing three rows of fangs, as light blue runes glowed along its wings.

   Verita's lips parted in a rare grin, "Good to see you, Saora." Endymion pounced from his master's side and happily rubbed his massive head on the priestess's legs. She could feel his purrs even through her battle robes. She and the others approached Verita, glad to see another experienced fighter join them. Though the hunter greeted each of them as politely as she knew, her eyes hardened when Guider approached. She refused to shake his hand but, in a rare gesture of respect, nodded stiffly.

   "Never thought I'd see you treat someone more coldly than me, Swiftarrow," Jaybird gestured in the typical elven greeting. Verita returned the gesture, ignoring his comment.

   "Sure took yeh long enough, Ears," Grifton grumbled good-naturedly.

   "I was birthing a litter of corehounds."

   "...What?"

   Verita turned to Guider, straightening as though speaking to a superior officer, "It took longer than anticipated for us to prepare. However, we are ready."

   "There's only two of you," the paladin scowled. "How long could it take for a panther to prepare?"

   "Endy requires no preparation. My friends are another matter."

   "Friends?"

   The elf's eyes gleamed, "As you humans say, 'I have called in the cavalry.'"

   Verita's drake stretched its massive body back on its hind legs. Using its wings to shove its forearms from the ground, the creature threw back its enormous head and let loose an ear-splitting roar. The call bounced across the mountains, quickly answered by dozens more. Overhead, the fog was shoved away. A huge cluster of proto drakes soared at the Citadel. They circled overhead, their wings making enough racket to drown out the gnomish helicopters nearby. One by one, they swooped low to the ground, allowing their riders to dismount and land, unharmed, by the gaping onlookers.

   The first to land was another hunter, a white-haired elf and her black wolf companion. She tossed a wink at Verita and darted away, moving to a defensive position at the stairs. She was followed by every class imaginable until a second army took up most of the platform.

   The last off his drake landed so heavily that the stone beneath him cracked and buckled, but he stepped away with a grace only a night elf could have. Dark blue hair hung down his back and gold eyes pierced the fog. Saora gulped as he approached, his black and blue tabard shifting with his powerful strides. Jaybird was big for an elf. This one, although slightly shorter, was bigger. It looked like he could lift a Vrykul overhead and snap it in two. The spiked shield at his back easily dwarfed the priestess and his armor it was so beaten and scratched it no longer shined. A thin scar cut along his dark face, traveling across his nose and slightly disfiguring his top lip. He approached with confidence, that scarred lip revealing more than it should as he grinned.

   "Paladin Guider," he clasped the man's hand, "my name is Kasino. We've come to lend support."

   Armod stared at the warrior that made him look like a lightweight, "K--Kasino? Commander of the Zodiac mercenaries?"

   "General," Verita spat.

   The elf  warrior raised a hand to quiet her, "Titles don't matter here. We'll be shedding blood together. Have we established a forward position within the fortress?"

   "Tirion and King Wrynn are working on it now," Guider said, unaffected by the elf's presence. "I'm glad Verita could convince you to come. Zodiac's position on the king had me question your desire to get involved."

   "She didn't have to try hard. Zodiac has always been an eager part of Azeroth's defense against the Scourge. We'd have been on the frontlines with you had Varian alerted us to his plans instead of being a stubborn fool."

   Guider bristled at the casual and, even hostile, reference to his king but regained composure. It wasn't the time or place for a political discussion. With all these reinforcements, they had an even better chance of reaching Arthas. They might even succeed. He certainly wasn't going to tell Kasino to stuff it.

   "Move out."
And so my worship of Zodiac begins :P

Kasino was the raid leader when I joined Zodiac around 2008 and quickly became guild leader soon after that. I'm still stunned with how well he could lead a group of 40 people, especially considering how young he was (only just an adult at 18 when I met him). It couldn't have been easy with all the egos and personalities, but he held us together. I really admire him. He certainly wasn't perfect (often came off as arrogant), but he was a good kid :)

Kas wasn't an RPer, neither was a majority of Zodiac. Most of the guild shared my disgust with Varian's personality, so I knew they wouldn't fit as part of the Stormwind army (especially since most of us weren't human characters). Saora's guild, led by Guider, was a much better fit for Stormwind's guardians. Mercenaries seemed more apropos for Zodiac, and it really fits well.

Armod recognizing Kasino was actually a common occurrence on our server. Zodiac was known before the servers merged, though I, thankfully, wasn't. It always made me smirk when people would automatically bend to Kasino's orders. Some guild members took advantage of our guild's status. I was happy to stay in the shadows of my guildmates.

Keep an eye out for that first hunter who landed after Verita. She'll return later :)
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June 26, 2014
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