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Yuri Molotov - Death Knightby John Calvin
Yuri Molotov, an aerial warrior in service to the Thyatian crown, assumed command of the Order of the White Drake circa AC 950. Though he rose through the ranks of the military quickly, Yuri always harboured ill will against the Thyatian conquerors of Traladara, and never really considered himself a citizen of that empire.
Yuri was always fascinated by things that could fly. As a young child he found a hawk in the forest, its wing broken, and nursed it back to health. He began his career mucking the meagre stables of his father's desolate farm, but by the age of twelve, Yuri knew that life was not for him. Her ran away to Mirros and apprenticed himself to various animal trainers throughout the city, always learning, always acquiring new skills. His earlier interests and self taught experience with birds paid off when a newly indoctrinated knight of the Order of the White Worm observed him handling several hunting falcons. Valdri Tescu, one of the first Traladarans to enter the Order, immediately took a liking to the boy and brought him back to The Aerodrome to be his squire.
The Order changed. Many of its new members were drawn from the surrounding countryside, and thus were of Traladaran descent. Yuri himself joined the order only four years after Valdri Tescu found him, and was knighted by the age of 18 in AC 937. Although never called into service by the crown, Yuri led the knights under his command into countless battles in the defence of Traladara and its people. During his time as a knight he repulsed humanoid raiders from Radlebb, hunted rogue wyverns over Kelvin, and even led several strikes against the frost giants of the Altan Tepes. On one such raid Yuri even returned with the white dragon Hoarfrost in tow, subdued and submissive to Yuri's commands. His status of hero was quickly cemented in the eyes of the locals and that was a major factor in his ascendance to master of the Order.
As Yuri climbed the ranks in the order he was exposed to more and more of the imperial politics that ran it, and his hatred of the Thyatians only increased. When the Alphatians launched their Spike Assault in AC 960, Yuri was contacted by agents of that government who promised him autonomy in Traladara if he held his forces back. This Yuri agreed to gladly. However when Thincol's uprising began, Yuri knew he had to take a more active stance. He led his men in a last ditch effort to reclaim their heritage, and their country. Alas, this final battle was not meant to end in victory for Yuri.
Yuri's ultimate fate is shrouded in mystery. As the Thyatians tell it, he was eventually subdued and brought before Thincol to face charges of treason. The Traladarans of Karameikos however, tell tales of how he evaded capture and still haunts the woods of Dymrak to dole out retribution against the hated Thyatian whenever he gets the chance.
Though the Traladaran's version of Yuri's fate is filtered by rose coloured glass, it is actually closer to the truth. Yuri did indeed fall in combat against Demetrion and Hytiliaph, though his death was not an ending for him. His spirit persisted, even while his flesh and blood failed him. He wandered through dark places for years, visiting the graves of those branded as traitors by the Thyatians, waking old colleagues from their dark slumber, and slowly rebuilding the might of the Order of the White Drake. Though hatred of Thyatis gave Yuri a second life, his new pursuit of death has made him an indiscriminate killer. Traladarans and Thyatians alike join the ranks of his minions, and soon he will unleash his undead army upon the world.
"How can you be sure it was him?" Gregor asked his sister.
"It was him," Mila replied. "A fortnight ago someone attacked the caravan from Hattia, and none of the soldiers sent from Halag ever returned. And," Mila continued before her brother could interrupt her, "you heard the fisherman as well as I. He saw the white drake in the sky."
"Tales told by fisherfolk... that's what we're risking our necks over?" Gregor did little to hide the contempt from his voice, but still he followed his sister into the dark woods.
"Bargle thinks it's him as well..." Mila said into the dark. The moon was new and little light shown through forest canopy to begin with. "I've overheard him twice now cursing Yuri's name."
The two continued their journey in silence for most of the night. There was no turning back now however, since Mila had stolen several of their supplies from her erstwhile master. "Stop. We're near now," she said and found a patch of leaves to sit down on. Reaching into a black pouch at her side the Traladaran woman took out several rune covered bones and threw them to the ground.
Gregor could hear his own breathing. The forest was still. Too still. It was an unnatural silence. He tried to calm himself, tried to control the heavy breaths that escaped his mouth, but the burning in his lungs made that impossible.
Then they were there, standing in front of them, almost as if they materialised just as the first rays of the morning sun penetrated the shadows. Two figures, their armour chipped and dented, their mail rusty, and bones clearly visible underneath their helms. Mila continued to sit in the leaves, her legs crossed, and chanted softly under her breath. The two figures advanced. In unison they drew swords. Mila continued her chanting.
Suddenly she stopped and lurched to her feet. The two figures halted and lowered their swords. "Take me to Yuri," Mila commanded.
All of those years of seething hatred had led Mila and her brother to this place. At last the means to avenge their parents was within their grasp. Dozens of men, or at least what appeared to have been men at one time, mulled silently around the camp site. Mila ignored them as they looked up revealing dead eyes and yellowing bones. She focused her attention on the figure seated in the makeshift throne in the centre of the camp.
Mia dropped to one knee. "My lord, we have travelled far to seek your guidance. We pledge ourselves to you and your cause," she declared. "All we ask is the chance to avenge ourselves upon the hated Thyatians."
The thing that was Yuri stood up. Red flares of light flickered in the darkness that once held his eyes. "I will grant your wish," his hollow voice rang out.
Mila cringed, nearly screaming out in pain as cold hands gripped her shoulders. Behind her Gregor did let out a gasp. Their former guides seized them and forced them to the ground on their knees. Yuri's sword rasped as he drew it from its rusty scabbard.
"No my lord!" Mila gasped. "We offer ourselves freely to your cause. We pledge our lives to you." The sweat was beading down her face. "We will serve you!"
"Yes," Yuri's hollow voice echoed through the camp as he brought down his sword. "... I know you will..."