Headless Horseman, rise! Your time is nigh. You’ve felt death once. Now, know demise!
A Coming Darkness
Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the world, its origins steeped in mystery and intrigue. This is true even in the world of Warcraft, where Halloween is known to the realm’s denizens as Hallow’s End. For a short time, heroes trade their armor for costumes and weapons for treats. It’s all good, spooky fun for Azeroth’s champions… Until the Headless Horseman arrives.
During Hallow’s End, the worst heroes typically come across in their capital cities are the remnants of stink bombs that the other faction has dropped. Smaller villages tell a different story. Towns such as Goldshire (Elwynn Forest) and Brill (Tirisfall Glades) see the Shade of the Headless Horseman ride in on horseback and attack, setting nearby structures ablaze while narrating the towns oncoming demise. His attacks are calculated and brutal, which begs the question of his motive.
To know that, one would have to know who the Headless Horseman is. Or rather, who he was.
The Light’s Call
Sir Thomas Tomson was a pumpkin farmer turned knight of the Silver Hand and a valiant defender of his people. Like Uther the Lightbringer and Arthas Menethil, Thomas stood as a beacon of hope amid the dark times around him. He took to investigating the growing plague in Lordaeron, as well as rumors of an undead scourge tearing through the countryside.
The day that Arthas Menethil chose to purge Stratholme, Thomas was there. He, alongside Uther and Jaina Proudmoore, rejected the idea and left the prince to his own devices. A paladin through and through, Thomas believed there was a way to save his people from the unknown threat they were facing without sending them all to slaughter.
After leaving Arthas’s side, Thomas found himself stationed in a small town with dwindling supplies. The circumstances seemed to be on the verge of improving when Baron Rivendare, a noble Thomas knew and thought well of, sent a shipment of grain to the village. It was here that the first of several tragedies the knight would endure struck.
The Undead Menace
Thomas chose to spend the night fasting in hopes of resetting himself, but the rest of the townsfolk ate well that night, thankful for Baron Rivendare’s generosity. Unfortunately, the baron’s motives were not charitable but sinister. The people that consumed the grain were lost, falling only to rise as one of the Scourge.
As a result, Thomas did what he never wanted to do. The paladin slaughtered hordes of plagued villagers in his quest to escape. Though it was for the sake of survival, Thomas felt each final death of his compatriots like a knife twisting in his chest. He blamed himself for their fate, feeling as though he should have at least suspected Baron Rivendare’s true motives. However, Thomas’s comrades among the Silver Hand reassured him that there was nothing more the knight could have done. They sent him home to rest and recover for a time while the rest of the paladins continued the fight against the Scourge.
A Fallen King
Shortly after Thomas left for home, word spread that King Terenas Menethil of Lordaeron was dead -and that his son was the one to kill him. Thomas’s frustration renewed as he struggled to grasp how the prince he, and everyone, had known and loved could do such a thing. The knight blamed not only himself, but the Silver Hand as well for letting Arthas’s corruption get so out of hand.
Thomas’s children found the news troubling as well, and they asked their father to make sense of why their prince had betrayed his country so. His answer was sad but true: Arthas made the easy choices. Following the Light and staying to fight for Lordaeron were hard decisions to make, and good people had died doing just that. To be selfless and honorable was no easy feat; if it were, it wouldn’t be heroic.
For the Sake of Family
When Thomas received word that Jaina Proudmoore planned to take refugees west to Kalimdor, he urged his wife to take their children and go. Lady Thomson refused, stating her desire to remain behind with her husband. Thomas initially agreed, but what he heard shortly after changed his mind.
Arthas and the Scourge destroyed the city of Andorhal. Among those who lost their lives was Uther the Lightbringer, one of the first paladins to join the Knights of the Silver Hand. News of Uther’s loss left Thomas devastated. He begged his wife to flee with their children so he would not lose them, too. The next day, Thomas’s family went to join Jaina Proudmoore’s voyage.
The Order’s Fall
The next few years passed as a blur of battle alongside other knights of the Silver Hand. Under the command of Alexandros Mograine, the Ashbringer, Thomas fought relentlessly -almost madly- against the Scourge. All of Thomas’s anger and loss poured into the long battle until there was nothing but vengeance for the fall of Lordaeron.
Unfortunately, Alexandros Mograine died similarly to Terenas Menethil; he was murdered by his son. Alexandros’s comrades were unaware of the truth regarding his death, but they felt his loss deeply still. With the Ashbringer’s fall, the Knights of the Silver Hand fell as well. From their ashes rose another order, just as dedicated to cleansing the land of undead as their predecessors -in some ways, even more so. This marked the birth of the Scarlet Crusade.
Saidan Dathrohan, one of the Silver Hand’s original paladins, assumed command of the Scarlet Crusade. High Inquisitor Fairbanks claimed the knight had been complicit in aiding Renault Mograine’s plans to murder his father, but Saidan had the priest executed for blasphemy. However, the damage was done, and many men split from the Scarlet Crusade to form a new, purer order known as the Argent Dawn.
Thomas remained loyal to Saidan Dathrohan and the Crusade. Alongside other paladins that fledged fealty to the cause, Thomas began to raid the remnants of his country for all signs of the undead. He believed Saidan would lead them to eradicate the Scourge once and for all.
The sad reality, however, was the Scarlet Crusade was not heroic. The paladins became zealous extremists that saw plague even where it was not. The order began to check towns for signs of plague, and villages that proved clean inspired further suspicion.
A Pious Knight
While the plague initially spread through an infected grain, the Scarlet Crusade concluded that the Lich King was using new methods to infect citizens -they had to use any means necessary to uncover the truth. If a village seemed healthy or well off, the Crusade declared them minions of the Lich King. How else could they be so well off with rampant plague around them?
It sickened Thomas to realize the world around him was so full of traitors. He couldn’t fathom how anyone would be willing to watch their fellow citizens rise as undead around them for even the highest price. He wondered when his blindness would finally stop. Baron Rivendare, Arthas, the very people Thomas swore to protect? When would he finally see the world for what it was?
For the greater good, Thomas promised the Scarlet Crusade to do what must be done. No matter the cost.
For the Greater Good
This demented quest took the group to a small village in the westernmost part of Lordaeron’s ruins where refugees unable to sail west had settled.
Thomas, believing the townsfolk were already doomed to die, slaughtered the mass of villagers to save them from what he thought was a worse fate. Then, covered in the blood of innocents, realization struck the fallen knight: these citizens were not plagued -they had never been. Even worse, the bodies at his feet were those of his family.
In his frenzy to cleanse the land, he had killed them without even realizing it.
Madness, All Encompassing
Thomas’s companions took him back to the Scarlet Monastery to let him mourn at length. Locked in his chambers, however, delirious laughter and strangled sobbing punctuated the tears he shed. Howling rhymes replaced the familiar sounds of grief; he told stories of a world riddled with inflection, and only he could bring about its cleansing.
On the night of Hallow’s End, Saidan devised a plan to rid Thomas of his guilt and anguish. It was custom on Hallow’s End to toss a torch onto the Wickerman, a massive straw effigy burned each year, and let one’s troubles burn away with it.
Thomas would walk into the oncoming Winter Veil with a light, new soul.
An Echoing Insanity
Saidan also believed letting Thomas back into the war against the undead would help ground him. The Crusade invited the knight to join them that evening as they set out to eliminate a horde of Scourge.
Thomas fought hysterically, however. Then, once the undead was vanquished, Thomas turned his insanity onto his comrades. He murdered his companions as viciously as he cut through the undead. The knight could no longer tell the difference between the two.
The survivors were forced to behead him, for there was no other option.
The Headless Horseman Rises
Saidan decided to give Thomas an honorable burial for his long-lived bravery and dedication to the Crusade’s cause. Once entombed with his fallen friend’s body, Saidan revealed himself as the dreadlord Balnazzar. He used his blood and fel energy to raise Thomas’s corpse as the Headless Horseman, a maddened being that believed only he was alive and everyone else around him was dead.
All Hallow’s End
Now the Headless Horseman returns each Hallow’s End to continue his quest for a pure world. His manic laughter echoes throughout the air, followed by a confident promise to finish what he started so long ago on the blood-soaked soil of Lordaeron. He will know no peace until he sees all of you, Scourge in his eyes, dead once and for all.
“Prepare yourselves; the bells have tolled! Shelter your weak, your young, and your old! Each of you shall pay the final sum. Cry for mercy; the reckoning has come!“
Fascinated by the horror of Arthas Menethil? Simply follow the link provided below to read my previous article on the life and death of the infamous villain. You can also follow the link to the novel featured below. This novel can be purchased at your nearest bookstore or through various sites online.
I’m a Wonder Woman fanatic, married to my Superman, with a mild addiction to tea and World of Warcraft. One day I hope to write a book that history recognizes as a classic; it will most likely involve dragons.