Katrynne

Confessions in the Graveyard

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Three Little Words

Katrynne Simms walked through the Stormwind graveyard until she reached a particular headstone. It was a plain stone, almost elegant in its simplicity, much like the man who lay under it. The words etched into the stone said simply, “Captain Geoffrey Zakariah, Veteran of the Second War” and the dates of his birth and death, showing him to be in his late sixties when he died.

She kneeled down in the grass before the stone, staring at it for long moments. Several times she took a breath and opened her mouth to speak, but each time, she let the air out in a sigh and closed her mouth again. Her fingers played with a gold ring on a copper chain around her neck.

“I screwed up, Zak,” she said, finally speaking. “Remember when I had to go up to Icecrown for that assignment? You were right. I wasn’t ready to be alone for that long. When I got the notice that you…died…I gave in. I turned my back on civilization, on my duties, and lost myself in the mountains. For over a year.”

The woman fell silent then, the guilt heavy about her.

“I know there’s no point fretting about things that have past, but still I can’t help but wonder…” she trailed off, leaving the rest of the thought unspoken. “Anyway, I went back to the Empire, and they accepted me again. I have a new purpose there now, though it’s…complicated. But I think you would approve. It’s not very different from what we did back home.”

Katrynne was quiet again for a moment, just listening to the evening songbirds in the branches overhead.

“I said the words again,” she said, changing the subject. “Those three little words I thought never to say again. I went back. I was at the harbor when some men showed up. The fools think to settle out there, and even bring civilians with them. Idiots. I suppose I’ll have to go back out there and check on them.

“I advised against it, but of course, they didn’t listen. The best I could do was accompany them and try to keep them from getting killed, or worse. We ran into a small pack outside the Blackwald. We killed them, and nobody was hurt too badly. I thought maybe the encounter would bring those men to their senses, but they’re still determined to make a place for themselves out there. They seem a bit cocky, and I’m not sure they take the threat seriously.

“I warned them, several times. I told them the three little words that I never wanted to say again.

“Don’t get bit.”

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Soldiers and Politics

“Politics….diplomacy,” Katrynne said to the gravestone she knelt beside, on one of her many visits here. “Somehow I’ve found myself in what may become a tangled web. Yet I remain a mere tool of those making the decisions, carrying out their will, moving things in the direction they steer. I am content with that.

“While both roles serve a needed purpose, I find a certainty in my job—receive an order, execute that order. Simple. I don’t envy those who make the orders or decide what is in the best interests of the whole. They are good people, and I trust their judgment. That makes it easy to follow their orders, moreso, I imagine, than it sometimes is to give those orders.”

She pulled some blades of grass, which were not yet quite tall enough to be called weeds, from the base of the stone.

“The monsters are still active. As the ones we used to hunt, these also know only violence,” she continued after a few moments of quiet. “They’re not easy to find though. Only three so far. Where do they hide, I wonder, when they aren’t brutally attacking peaceful people? It may be time to expand my hunting grounds. Don’t worry; I’ll be careful not to get lost. I’m more likely to get killed than lost where I’m going. That’s all right though. As long as I do my job and take a few of them out with me, that’s all right.”

Kat fell silent again for several long moments. Her hand drifted up to the ring at her neck while her mind drifted to thoughts of the past. The memories of hunting another kind of monster eventually led her to more recent memories again.

“I suppose I should go back, and see how that professor and his people are doing,” she said. “Last I heard, they’d lost a family in their care. Not to the monsters though. They think there’s something else out there. I’ll go again soon and offer assistance. I’m sure they’re capable, but an extra pair of hands can’t hurt their efforts, and they didn't seem opposed to my presence.

“But first, a drink,” she said as she got to her feet. She rested her hand gently on the headstone before turning away. “Goodnight, Zak.”

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Conflict

“I wish you were here,” Katrynne said to the gravestone. It didn’t respond, of course, but she could almost feel the disapproval from the man lying beneath it. “I know. Regrets are meaningless, and wishing for the impossible is a waste of time.”

“Did you ever receive orders you knew were wrong?” she asked after a pause. “I’m but a pawn in a chess game. I’m fine with that. Get orders, carry out the orders. I thought it would be simple. I was wrong.

“I promised to kill the monsters. The ladies say that Sin’dorei is a monster. I’ve sworn to protect them, to make them feel safe. But this hunt they send me on now—is it for security? Or vengeance? Or something else? He was wrong to release that monster back into the wild when it would have been destroyed, but does his mistake make him a monster as well? I agree he should be punished, but I also agree with the knight, who very clearly told me that the elf is no monster.

“So what do I do? I swore myself in service to the ladies, to protect them, to do whatever it takes to make them feel safe. Whatever it takes. Do I refuse the order? Try to talk them out of it? Ask the knight to use his influence with them to change their minds? Or do I act the part of a good soldier and carry out the orders without question?

“And if I do it, would I be fulfilling my promise to protect them? If I am found out, there would be repercussions, not just for me. Alliances could be affected. More games of diplomacy may be required. Fingers could eventually point back at the ladies. Not mine, of course, but it wouldn’t be hard for an observant person to connect it back to them. I would potentially get them in trouble if I do what they asked. That would not be protecting them.

“I would have to make sure nothing could trace back to them, which would mean nothing could trace back to me. I already know I cannot defeat him in an honorable fight. The tournament was useful for learning that before I took any risks.

“I’ve recently made contact with a man of, I believe, questionable morals. He may well know where to find the means to secretly destroy this newest monster.” Katrynne spoke slowly and quietly, her voice laced with uncertainty. She frowned. “I have the means to put him in my debt as well, but only if I put at risk another member of the Empire.

"It frightens me to even have that thought.”

After several moments, her hand trailed over the headstone as she stood and turned away, no closer to an answer than she was when she first knelt in the grass before it.

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The Cards

“Hey, Zak,” Katrynne said as she knelt down in front of the gravestone. “It’s been a while. You’ll be happy to know I’ve been keeping myself busy.

“I’ve left the Keepers and joined the Ambassadors. It seems to make more sense, as I’ve been reporting more to the Chancellor than to anyone else anyway. She’s assigned me to be the ambassador between the Empire and Eternal Aegis. They’re the ones who set up a place for themselves back home. I still think they’re crazy, but I think I’ll work out well as the ambassador to them. The ones I’ve met are all easy to get along with, and they seem like good people.

“I still hunt the monsters that hurt Skylah. Unfortunately, they’re becoming harder to find. The only obvious place to look for them is in Tanaan, but I think we must have thinned them out there already. I haven’t seen any in days. I wonder where they hide. I ran into their leader in Moonglade, a big mean-looking Tauren. I fought him, but, well, next time I’ll be better prepared.

“I went to a holiday party for Love is in the Air,” she said with a small grin. “I even bid on a couple people in the bachelor date auction, and I won one of them. It wasn’t a romantic date, of course, but it was a very lovely evening with a very intriguing man. He leads a Caravan of travelers through Azeroth, and he has these cards that tell people about themselves. He took me to this seedy little place for dinner through the sewers of Dalaran. The waiter could have been from home for as unfriendly as he was.” Kat chuckled softly. “It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But there were hardly any other people there, and the casual setting made it easy to relax and just enjoy the company.

“Tuuro is a bit forward and often laughs too loudly, but he has a certain charm and confidence about him too, and he obviously loves his caravan family. I can see why people would follow him.

“He did a card reading for me. The first card was a veiled lady, representing secrets and mystery. While it’s not a secret what I really am, it’s not something I openly talk about either. And as for secrets, well, of course I have them. Doesn’t everyone? I was worried he would press me to describe how the card applies to me. I wasn’t about to tell him that I’m a cursed beast, who brutally murdered innocent people. Fortunately, he didn’t ask anything beyond whether I could see a connection between the card and my current or past situation.

“The next card, representing hopes and desires, was a woman with a big wand defending something, with six other wands attacking her. I guess that fits my current goals—fighting the monsters so they can’t hurt more innocents, even though I’m outnumbered.

“Then for aid in accomplishing my desires, there was a man looking at a ship and a large bird in the sky, and more wands. Tuuro said it meant that after I accomplished something, I’d still yearn for more. Maybe that means I won’t be able to kill them all. There will always be some still out there, either more of them or something else. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to help me though. Maybe by keeping me motivated and not let me forget the fight will never end?

“The obstacle,” she said with a wry grin, “was the Fool card. It was a silly-looking gnome juggling emblems of all the races of Azeroth. This was what would stand in my way of achieving my goals? I immediately thought of the Council. From what I’ve heard, they stand in the way with no good reason. Then Tuuro warned me that the Fool is more than he seems, that he can be a catalyst for great change, and that the zero on the card, rather than being nothing, could be a placeholder for great potential. If it does represent the Council then, I’ll be sure to not underestimate them. Or does the card mean that my obstacle is my own judgment of the Council? Maybe they could help, and my assumptions about them are preventing me from using a potentially powerful resource. Something to think about.

“The last card was for the future. It had cups instead of wands, which apparently means emotional matters rather than ambitions. It was a monk meditating above the sea with three red chalices, three blue chalices, and one black on. I couldn’t decipher this card, but Tuuro said it was about not seeing things in black and white, but looking for a third choice in things. It makes sense, but not at a personal level to me right now. Perhaps that’s why it’s the future card.

“The other cards all seemed very meaningful to me. I couldn’t help but wonder though; wouldn’t they speak to most people? Many people have secrets, and feel the need to defend something, and want more than what they have, and see threats in unexpected places, and look for other options if they don’t like the ones presented to them. He said the cards aren’t magic, so maybe that’s the point—to be somewhat vague with just enough cryptic detail to get someone to think about specific parts of their life.”

Katrynne shrugged. “That’s enough philosophizing for one day, I think. Whatever the cards might mean, it was nice to spend some time with someone just for fun. I suppose it shouldn’t take a date auction as an excuse to do that.”

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Lately, Katrynne had taken to wearing more varied and colorful clothing, rather than just her armor, and an easier smile than she had known in many years. Some time ago, she had turned from the path of a Keeper, a soldier, and instead took up the role of Ambassador. She enjoyed spending time with the guilds she was assigned to. The camaraderie among the Aegis members was familiar and comforting, if bittersweet for the memories it brought with it. It reminded her of the Gilnean worgen-hunting team she was part of in her younger days. And the members of the Cup and Blade were as friendly as they were exotic.

Tonight, however, as she walked to Zak’s resting place, from the direction of a fresh grave with a new headstone, she was dressed in a full set of dark armor, with two swords hanging at her sides and an expression on her face that was anything but a smile. She knelt by the headstone and sat silently for long moments as she gathered her thoughts and brought her emotions in check.

“Lady Brianna held a service tonight for that orphan matron. The lady ate a poisoned dessert and turned undead. There was nothing they could do for her, so they executed her. I guess they figure she was better off dying as a human than living as a monster,” she told the gravestone.

Her voice held a tinge of bitterness, but the complaint was old by now. She had argued with Zak countless times that he should have put her down instead of allowing her to live with her curse and her crime, but if he ever regretted his decision to save her, he never admitted it.

Katrynne fell silent for a moment, staring at the grass in front of her. When she spoke again, her voice was heavy and laden with guilt.

“Skylah left. She’s on some retreat. Brianna said she’s still not recovered from her capture and torture. How could someone ever recover from that?

“I should not have eased up in my hunt. I think my reports of slain monsters pleased her. Maybe it made her feel safer knowing that someone was working to eliminate them.

“I got complacent. Distracted by new people and new responsibilities and new clothes. I should have focused on the hunt. I should have given her the details of each death instead of trying to protect her from them.”

Katrynne stopped herself, aware that she was starting to ramble. She got to her feet, resting her hands on the hilts of her swords.

“I will fix it. I’ll hunt them. All of them. Anyone associated with them. Maybe I’ll even bring her a live one so she can do whatever would make her feel better, safer.”

She frowned briefly at the stone, realizing that the dead man she was talking to would never have approved of such tactics. Then a look of resolve descended over her.

“Not all monsters have fur and fangs,” she said softly, repeating words he once said to her. She gripped her swords, her tone tinged with regret as she added, “But some do.”

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“What do you do when those whom you thought could be your saviors in freeing you from the monster you are, turn out to have such atrocious beasts within themselves as well?”   Katrynne finally asked the gravestone, after several moments of quiet reflection.  

“They are priestesses, servants of the Light.  It’s one of the reasons I chose them.  Or perhaps not servants of it.  Perhaps only wielders of it.  Can someone be one without also being the other?

“I caught one—one of the Grim monsters—like I said I would.  For her.  But they wouldn’t wait.  I wondered through the whole thing…. Would she have been as gruesome?”  She didn’t admit it aloud, but she believed now that Skylah would have been just as violent, if not more so, in the task of ending a Grim’s life.

Katrynne was already kneeling, and now she bowed her head over her knee and closed her eyes.  Filora’s words came back to her from that day, You’re just as…evil as…you think we are.”  Even though the words were directed to Brianna, Katrynne found that she couldn’t deny the accusation.  Not for Skylah, not for Brianna, not for herself.  

“I set the whole thing in motion,” she whispered.  “I made it possible for Brianna to have a target for her own darkness.  Are they the monsters, or am I?  Or perhaps everyone is, and there are no truly good people in the world.”

With a sigh, she stood, wiping a tear from her cheek with the back of her hand.  She looked down at the gravestone.

“Or maybe I’m off the head.  The knight certainly never seems to approve of anything I do or say, so maybe I have gone mad and spout only nonsense. 

“For a time, I had hoped there was a chance, however slim, of being welcome again in the Light.  Because of these events, and for my part in them, there will be no redemption for me, I am certain of it.

“I’m leaving tonight.  I need to be away from here for a spell.   Also, a friend is in danger, and I will not leave him to such a fate if I can stop it.  A little solitude will do me good while I search for him.  But not too much, I know.  I’ll be careful,” she assured the stone.  “I will return.”

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It had been months since Katrynne had visited the Stormwind graveyard.  Now she returned.  Her usual careful composure barely concealed her weariness as she knelt by the headstone.  

“I could use your guidance, Zak,” the woman whispered.  “The Legion invaded Azeroth.  So many demons.  We drove them back, most of them, to the Broken Isles.  The mages even moved Dalaran to there, so we we’d have a base of operations to fight from.  And so we fight.  And fight.  That seems to be all there is now—battle and bloodshed.

“The sisters stay in Dalaran, tending to the never-ending wave of injured in the infirmary there.  I don’t know where the knight spends his time of late.  I see them at the meetings, when I go.  Mostly, I hunt, alone.

“It started with the demons.  Then those corrupted by the demons, including some heroes of Azeroth’s past.  And naga, presumably assisting the Legion.  And harpies, and murlocs, and Vrykul, and pirates, and ghosts…  So much death.  So much killing.  And, aside from the occasional bear or stag I kill for a meal at the end of the day, I’m not always sure why anymore. I just continue, moving from one target to the next.”

Kat was silent a moment, studying the bloodstains deep in the cracks of her gloves as she flexed her fingers.  She frowned, her gaze remaining fixed on the tell-tale leather as she spoke again, nearly in monotone.  

“And then there is Surumar, an ancient city of ancient elves.  Apparently, some of the elves made a deal with the demons long, long ago.  They put the whole city under a shield and blocked off the rest of the world.”  She scowled distastefully.  “You can imagine how that turned out.  Now there is basically civil war there, with the elves who don’t support or serve the demons rebelling against those who do.  The rebels look to us to help them.  I have killed countless city guards who were only doing their job, at the request of some rebels who assume me to be an ally because they too fight the demons.

“And all those elves who are banned from the city suffer daily because they’re forced to stay away from the source of their magic.  The most afflicted are called Withered.  The less affected often bid us to round up the withered for them, so they can use them as soldiers in their fight.  Other times, they ask us to kill the withered, their own people, to put them out of their own misery.  And, Light forgive me, I have.”

The woman was silent again.  A breeze ruffled the leaves on the nearby trees and teases the loose strands of her hair.  After several minutes, Katrynne furrowed her brow.

“Today I came across an orc battling a mighty stag.  The stag was winning.  The orc was badly injured, but he still held his ground and fought bravely.  By the time I reached them, the orc had stumbled, and the stag was about to gore him.  I attacked the animal, and I thought I might succeed in saving the orc’s life.  Instead, I killed him.  I threw a poison bomb at the stag’s head, but my aim was off.  It hit the orc, who by this point could barely stand.  And he wasn’t the first accidental kill.”

Kat looked down at the blood on her gloves again.  “There’s a place under Dalaran filled with vicious, blood-thirsty killers.  Maybe that’s where I belong.  At least there I won’t be able to hurt any innocents.  Just monsters to put down.  Until they put me down.

“Goodbye, Zak,” she whispered from under a bowed head.

She rose slowly, her expression hardening again as she turned from the grave to make her way out of the cemetery.

 

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Katrynne knelt at the gravestone on one knee, her head bowed over her hands resting over her other knee.  One hand lifted to hold the gold ring that hung on a chain around her neck.

“I went to a funeral a few days ago,” she said quietly.  “One of the men I escorted into Gilneas to find property for them.  That seems so long ago now.  He was their doctor, and a paladin. He seemed like a good man, and I’m sure the Eternal Aegis will feel the loss for a long time to come.”   She fell silent for a few moments before continuing.

“His father spoke at the service.  He said even though he, the father, was no longer connected to the Light, he knew his son would be received by it.  That brought to the surface some of my own long held questions, and so I sought answers soon after from another who serves the Light.  

“I’ve been in need of some answers of late.  The constant death and battle on the Isles….  The thought has crossed my mind more than once, I admit, to abandon it all, to go back to the North, back to Cole, and forget everything here.”  She shook her head apologetically.  “I know, I haven’t told you about Cole.  You wouldn’t like him.  But that’s a tale for another day.

“I suppose I could have gone to the sisters with my questions.  They use the Light in their healing duties. But they seem more distant since the move to the Isles.  They are kept busy in the infirmary together, and I don’t see them as much anymore.  I fear I have fallen out of their confidence.  And they also use shadows as well as the Light.  At least, Lady Brianna does.  I’ve seen her wield them, and I witnessed up close the horrific damage it caused.  No, I needed to speak with someone who had a much purer connection to the Light.

“Although I’d only spoken to him a few times, and briefly even then, Sir Cavanaugh seemed quite agreeable to meet with me.”  Kat paused, lifting her gaze to the gravestone with a soft, sad smile flickering ever so fleetingly across her lips, before it disappeared again into her more usual solemn expression.  “In some ways, he reminded me of you.  Perhaps that’s why I found him so easy to talk to.  I hope to have more opportunities to speak with him in the future.

“I didn’t tell him specifically about Alain, but I told him enough for him to know I am damned. And that I am a monster.  And even so, he assured me that redemption may be within the realm of possibility.  Yet even with his assurance, and as much as I desperately want it, I still doubt that I am, or will ever be, deserving of such.  Being watched by things with no eyes, gnawed at by things with no mouths, never-ending pain and torment—that’s what awaits those not received by the Light.  I do not relish the thought of such a fate, and yet, I cannot believe that’s not exactly what I deserve.”

Kat sighed after a few moments of silence.  She stood and adjusted the swords at her sides.  “I should return to the Isles.  There are still monsters to slay out there.  Including the Grim ones.  I came across some a few days ago.  I took down two before I was driven out of the area by a third one.  A Forsaken priest in red and black robes.  Now I am determined to find him again and end him, along with any other of the wretched monsters I can find.

“Farewell, Zak.”

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