Nymare

Curse of Flesh

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[[ WARNING: Blood/Gore(debatable?)/Violence - may not be suitable for all readers ]]

She hated the cold. He was right, though, he could make anywhere warm. She could, too, but the cold that bothered her was not so superficial as that. He knew better than most just how tolerant of hot and cold she could be, but this was something else. Something intangible. Something hallow and hungry and gnawing. Something suggestive. It left her close to him now, closer than usual, pressed to his side with her cheek against his chest as he slept. Warm breaths crept across his skin. It kept her there longer than usual as well. She had awakened some time ago, but found herself lingering, listening. The beating of his heart was causing the length of her ear to bounce lightly in time to its steady rhythm. Words slowly began to creep through her mind to the beat, the last line of a nursery rhyme.

And win-ter's

now-come

fairly.

And win-ter's

now-come

fairly.

Fel slits cracked open to the darkness and drifted toward his sleeping face for a moment before she forced her eyes shut again. She really just wanted to stay asleep as well, but something would not let her, something tugging at the edges of her consciousness.

And win-ter's

now-come

fairly.

She had believed that she did not need his heartbeat or every moment of his existence. Those things, she had told herself, were meaningless fluff best left in stories. Her time in Northrend, however, had changed some things. She needed it because he needed it. Because it brought fire to his fingertips, heated his flesh, warmed his breath. And all these things gave him a voice and a mind. These things, in turn, gave her... something. Something just as intangible as the hungering cold. It was Warmth. The Noise and the Silence. A voice in the emptiness, feeding her thoughts, always pushing her forward. Without those things, the Cold that she had found in Northrend could become disturbingly unbearable to her. She wondered if he could hear her, the thoughts screaming through her mind when the Cold tries to set in.

With that, her head rose and fell as he took in a deep breath and stirred briefly, his hand coming to rest against a burn mark on her arm.

Burned flesh. Flesh. Flesh...

Her eyes opened once more to the dark.

-----

Nymare had no idea where any tools might be, since the quiet and frail Forsaken servant that Qabian kept -the only servant he kept- hardly seemed like a handywoman, and even if she had found a tool box, she had no idea what she might need in order to do what it is she sought to accomplish. With as much stealth as she could manage, she had crept through the halls to find her way down to the cellar, stashing an assortment of cooking utensils in an overly large cloth dinner napkin from the kitchen along the way.

The cellar was a sizable one, dark and windowless. Cool. Perfect for keeping things. In a far off corner, she had cleared what looked to once have been a chopping block and was now sitting with legs crossed atop one of two large wine casks set before it, her "instruments" arranged carefully on the napkin atop of the other cask next to her. The stone walls were lit by sparks of blue light as she worked, giving stark shadows to any imperfection in the surrounding surfaces. To her left, lost in the shadows outside of the eerie blue glow coming from the chopping block, tiny knuckles gripped tightly to iron bars, the hands grimy with filth and dried blood from struggle as the other captive made a mechanical moan of what could have been pain.

It was something.

Nymare peered quizzically down at the mechagnome that she had freed from the iron dwarves of the Storm Peaks, now splayed in a pathetically writhing mass of metal wreckage, wire guts, and sparks of life firing with each twitch of its left leg, something she could not seem to get to stop, even with a well-placed fork to the joint. She had managed to pry open its main chassis but only after first disabling the hydraulics that gave its little arms and legs any real strength. It had been willing to help her for freeing it, but willingness, even in this mechanical creature that had valued its freedom, seemed to know some ends. It did its job as translator well enough. Even now, when the caged gnome on the floor dared to speak or make a noise of any kind, its words filtered through the voice box of the dissected mechagnome in perfect, though robotic, Thalassian.

Using the leather gloves that had been hanging on the wall, she picked up a larger, thicker prodding-type utensil and placed it to the same spot against the mechagnome's opened chest that had coaxed the unusual sound from it to begin with. Again, there was another mechanical and fading "ahhh". Its head rolled to the side, the light behind its eyes bright with unexpressed functions. It seemed to be searching for the living gnome, the gnome cursed with flesh, that was hidden in the darkness nearby.

"You monster!" The words, though robotic, mimicked the pitch of the living gnome spitting them, giving it an eerily detached yet emphatic sense of "feeling" as it filtered through the voice box. Her ears flicked as she heard it begin to thrash against the bars of its enclosure, whimpering in what she could only guess to be righteous anger. "Stop! Why won't you stop already?? You got your answers, didn't you?!"

"Silence." It was a simple response, given quietly, but the tone implied pain, a word sharpened to a razor's fine edge, issuing an unspoken threat.

"Just let me out, I can disable him completely. He's no more use to you! Hell, woman, I can tell you how to end him, but for the love of--"

"He is a clockwork."

"Then you ain't been listenin'! Ain't you got ears? Can't you hear him? Didn't you hear me? Don't you know what they are? Where they came from?!"

The Curse of Flesh. The gnome she had grabbed from Fizzcrank's Airstrip did finally tell her most of what she needed to know, about how his crew had built a pumping station and ended up stumbling over bits and pieces of a thing that claimed to have been originally created within Ulduar by a Titan keeper known as "The Grand Architect". He told her about how Gearmaster Mechazod, as the creation called itself, then proceeded to try to cure his fleshy descendants, the very gnomes who had unearthed him and put him back together, of the curse that had been placed upon them which gave them skin and tissue where they should have remained pure. Mechanical. She found herself wishing she could have witnessed the process of stripping away flesh and implementing steel, something that his words and screams could not seem to accurately convey, even filtered through the databanks of her captive mechagnome, but she was ultimately left disappointed.

That was not everything, though. While his men were constantly bombarding their pumping station-turned-carnival-of-defleshing with as many explosives as they could from the air, Greatmother Taiga from a nearby Horde outpost had been sending people out into the field to find these new mechagnomes, kill them, and take something from them so that she could set it free:

Their souls.

That is what Nymare was looking for.

But she lacked Greatmother Taiga's soul device, and as she slipped a glove from one of her hands, holding it out over the mechagnome's exposed innards, she could feel nothing but electrical distress. With a frown, she slipped the glove back on and narrowed her eyes against the blue sparking light, plunging both hands into the wires to separate and push them apart, searching for something that she figured she had to be missing. The construct twitched violently and made a sort of mechanical choking sound above the metallic clinking of weak limbs desperately trying to struggle away from the careless exploration it was experiencing.

"Stop!" The word cut through the charged air in high-pitched desperation, the sort of pleading one might expect when confronted with the loss of one's own life. Nymare snapped a vicious gaze down to the gnome flailing against his enclosure. She could barely see his gaunt features by the eerie blue light twisted into something fierce with grief.

"I. Said. Silence."

The gnome began to speak another language, one that was issued from the mechanical gnome's voice box in a series of chirps and static.

"Don't you have a self destruct?" The gnome dared to ask with a white-knuckled grip on the bars, his gaze locked fervently to the dismantled clockwork on the slab.

"N-nnnn-g-tive." It answered in a wavering robotic croak.

"System shutdown?"

"Malfun-fun-fun-ction."

"The lifesurge capacitor in your--"

One hand reached through the bars, grabbing the captive gnome by the throat in an iron grip, while the other hand shot through the bars and pried his mouth open. Nymare shoved her fist in, heedless of the muffled screams against her fingers and knuckles and his vain attempt to bite down. With a swift jerk, she felt the gnome's jaw break with a plaintive pop and then wiggled her fist and fingers against the back of his throat. Digging in mercilessly, she ripped at his tongue. His scream slipped by her fist with a burst of air, but she yanked again and again until the muscle came free. Withdrawing her hand and her torn prize from his mouth, she listened to the quiet gurgle of realization setting in and saw, by the faint blue sparking glow reflecting in his fear-widened eyes, the desperation, the Silence, of defeat. He seemed to visibly shrink in her grasp and then he spat at her, a spray of blood flung weakly past the bars of his tomb. Most of the spray seemed to miss her face, bringing a horrible grin to her lips.

In another quick move, she stuffed the tongue back in his mouth and then pressed her blood slicked hand over it, incanting a spell. Flames sprouted and swirled in a brilliant orange light around her fingers and palm, fusing the flesh beneath it together. Satisfied that he could no longer speak or spit, that nothing would ever leave what used to be his mouth again, Nymare let him go and stood. The gnome stumbled back from the bars and curled into a quivering lump on the floor. After a few moments, it shakily turned its head to look at the dissected clockwork, its broken eyes filled with pain, with despair, with apology, trying to say everything with them that his voice no longer could.

But the light behind the construct's eyes was slowly fading. If there had been recognition in them at any time, it was gone now, the mechanical stare fixed on something that neither Nymare nor the gnome could see.

Nymare pulled the napkin from under her utensils and wiped her hands clean as she climbed back atop her wine cask and slipped the leather gloves back on, resuming her search. And then she found something, something that had been buried under the wires. When the tips of the glove touched it, the clockwork reacted with a strange surge of life. The power that remained after, however, seemed a bit less than before. She did it once more. Again a surge, not nearly as strong this time, and again it settled down to a further depleted state.

It began to speak, a shuffle of mechanical tones through a myriad of languages and words - some she understood, though most she did not - lights fluttering through its systems and wires in colors she had not yet seen in her search. Surging. Brightening.

"I will help you, am I free?"

Am I free?

Am I free?

Am I free?

The metal prong flashed ominously by the swirling lights issuing from the mechagnome's body.

Am I free?

Am I free?

Am I free?

There was a bright spark where metal touched metal. She had to shield her eyes. Its speech fluctuated again and then began to slow.

Am.... I... free?

Am.... I...

A release of mechanical breath, and she got what she wanted. The fist-sized orb she had found buried deep within its chassis popped open in a dazzling explosion of light and freed what was within, ascending, while liquid light spilled from the orb, leaking through the metal shell of the body to pool beneath it.

Nymare watched in quiet awe, the tool falling from her hand to land with a loud clank against the cellar's stone floor.

Am.... I... fr--

Systematically, it was beginning to shut down, but something in the mechanical voice, barely more than a staticky whisper, forced her attention back to the thing's head, its dimming eyes, as a thin stream of liquid light trickled from the edge of its ocular socket before all light left it. In the next instant, the brilliant light dispersed, and then all was dark.

Quiet.

Cold.

She needed more answers.

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