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Catalinetta

Surrender to the Ebon Blade

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Sleep was unnecessary for a death knight.

Without sleep, days and nights blended together. A month could be one long endless day, separated only by experiences. However, when there were no new experiences, when each day was a repetition of the day before, keeping track of how much time lapsed was nearly impossible.

With that in mind, Northrend was a suitable place to become lost. Large patches of snowy tundra, habitable only to Vrykul or Drakkari trolls, were the perfect place to wander. Here and there, a servant to the Lich King might shamble by. Though he raised a great deal of creatures from the dead, it was often difficult to tell what they may have been in life by skeletal remains alone.

It was in this environment that Catalinetta found herself, walking without purpose, seeking only ways to satiate the axe that thirsted for blood and suffering. She was a young elf, in life. In death, she still appeared young; small in stature, her black hair tied up in pigtails. Eyes that once glowed the same fel green of her fellow Sin’dorei now glowed a bright blue, the same iridescent color that witnesses claimed to have seen emanating from Frostmourne. Wearing the same armor that she wore in life, the same armor that failed to protect her from a killing blow, the death knight wandered.

Before her eyes, reality drifted in and out of her consciousness like pieces of a puzzle. One moment, she was walking. The next, her gauntlets and axe were covered in blood. Breathless corpses stared at her from the ground; trolls, Vrykul, it made no difference. Their once warm bodies emitted steam as they hit the snow, reaching for her with shaky hands before death took them.

She was death incarnate.

How long has it been? Catalinetta wondered silently, hunger gnawing at the base of her mind. A strange numbness had overcome her body, which ignored the freezing atmosphere. Catalinetta considered what might have become of her, were she alive in this place. Frostbite, starvation, a slow death. She heard that when one froze to death, it felt as if one were simply falling asleep. Thinking of that blissful end, she walked, snow crunching beneath her small feet.

Eventually, she came upon the living. Vrykul saw the death knights and their kin as abominations, cursed to never reach the promised mead halls. They would attack her, and meet a bloody end. Catalinetta’s axe drank from their blood, feeding her body to mend wounds and satiate the nagging desire for death and suffering which plagued her and every other death knight.

Today, however, she came across another death knight.

He was walking alone, singing.

“By moonlight we ride

“Ten thousands side by side

“With swords drawn held high

“Our whips and armour shine”

Catalinetta watched him walk. Even from far away, she could tell that he was also once Sin’dorei. Long ears protruded from the openings in his helmet. At his back, a black sword glowed with bright blue runes.

“Hail to thee our infantry

“Still brave beyond the grave

“All sworn the eternal vow

“The time to strike is now”

His voice was deep and soothing. He didn’t seem to be walking anywhere with any great effort, as if he too were simply wandering, lost in this place of cold and death. Catalinetta ran to catch up, suddenly remembering herself. She was a death knight, this was Northrend. An elf was singing, his voice reminiscent of the singers in Quel’thalas.

Legs pumping with more strength than she realized she had, Catalinetta closed the gap between her and the other elf. By the time she made it to his side, she understood his destination. Before them lie a small settlement of Vrykul. A handful of the living human-like creatures were busy with construction. Turning toward Catalinetta, the singing knight smiled from under his helmet.

It was a gruesome smile. Though his mouth was intact, a chunk of his face had been ripped away. His right eye and cheek were stripped of flesh and skin, leaving only damaged bone behind. Whatever magic animated death knights kept the necrosis at bay, exposing what seemed like a permanently fresh wound, frozen in time. It was a strange contrast to his smile, which seemed to come easily despite his missing features.

“Hello,” he said cheerfully.

Catalinetta stared, memories prickling in her brain. He wore the armor of a blood knight. His hair was blonde, though faded from exposure. “Hi.”

“What are you doing?” He asked her, as if he’d caught her, and not the other way around.

“Following you?” She answered, confused.

“Well,” the death knight smiled, turning toward the Vrykul. “That is a silly thing to do.”

Catalinetta followed his gaze. “Are you going to kill them?” She asked, her axe goading her toward the obvious answer.

“Yes I am. I am going to kill them all,” he answered, walking toward the settlement without looking to her again. “I am going to make them suffer, and then I am going to walk some more.”

“But why are you walking?”

“To forget,” he answered simply, approaching the Vrykul as if he were a friend.

Immediately, the large humanoids leapt into battle. With axes, they attacked the death knight, crying out in rage as a runeblade sword cut through their limbs. Catalinetta followed behind, and was spotted immediately by another Vrykul. He charged her, screaming with fury, axes raised to hack her to pieces. Answering in kind, Catalinetta swung her runeblade axe toward his stomach, emptying his entrails into the snow. Her axe eagerly absorbed the blood, and for a moment, Catalinetta could feel the cold biting at her skin.

Looking toward the other death knight, she watched as he trudged through the settlement, making short work of anyone who fought him. Screams eventually died down, leaving silence in their wake. Steam from the corpses drifted through the air, like a trail of smoke following the death knight with the missing eye. Catalinetta scrambled to follow him.

“Who are you?” She asked, falling in step behind him.

“No name,” the death knight answered, sheathing his sword.

Catalinetta frowned a little. “How can you have no name?”

“Easy,” he answered, turning to smile at her. “I lost it. I died, and was brought back to life by the Lich King. He sent me off to battle. My name didn’t matter anymore, so I lost it along the way. Now I walk, and the more I walk, the more I forget. Just call me No-name.”

The words were familiar. Had she thought them, before? “I think I came here for that, too,” she said out loud. The conversation wasn’t exactly stimulating, but it felt like the first one she had in a long time. “I think…”

No-name laughed a little. “The days and nights don’t end, here. It’s all just one long day. Or maybe one long dream. Who can say? All there is to do is walk, and kill. That’s what we are. We’re walking death.”

“Walking death?”

He turned to face her. He was beautiful, once. Long blonde hair, a chunk of flesh missing from his face, fresh blood dripping from the wound on to his armor. He was familiar. Somewhere in her memories, a beautiful blonde knight looked down at her with that same smile of encouragement. Somewhere else in her mind, a horrifying grimace. But that elf’s eyes burned with the fel green flames of the Sin’dorei, and this one’s eyes burned the pale blue fire of the Lich King. “Walking death,” he repeated, turning to continue on his march, singing in a clear voice for all to hear.

“To the battle we ride

“We crossed a starlit sky

“No space, no time

“We'll catch the wind”

Memories flooded her vision. The blue eyes of the Lich King, the green eyes of the blood knights. Long blonde hair draped over her face, short black hair between her fingers. Her heart ached, and she followed the death knight, yearning to forget.

“Strange losses, men died

“We crossed a starlit sky

“And still no space and time

“We'll catch the wind”

A short intake of breath, the sound of him singing.

“We’ll catch the wind”

A flash of blue light, unholy magic coursing through her flesh.

“We’ll catch the wind”

Metal striking metal, metal striking bone. Ripping through her armor, a runeblade sawing at one of her femurs.

“We’ll catch the one.”

A scream of pain, blood splashing against the grass. She was overwhelmed, blue eyes staring down toward her.

“We’ll catch the one.”

Grabbing her by the hair, dragging her into the air. Struggling against their grip, as blood began knitting at her wounds. Her runeblade axe lie in the ground, retrieved by a large hand.

“We’ll catch the one who defected.”

Burning blue eyes staring at her through a helmet, the body of an orc, his throat heavily scarred. She turned in the direction of the other voice, a familiar voice that once sang in the frozen tundra of Northrend.

He smiled at her, the chunk of flesh still gone from his face, a single blue eye staring at her as he held Catalinetta up by the hair. She could feel her scalp separating from her skull, white hot pain coursing through her nerves. Still, he smiled at her.

“Well, look at what we have here,” the one-eyed death knight said to Catalinetta, as her hair threatened to rip her flesh from her face. “A defector.”

Unable to argue the truth in his words, she struggled against his grasp. Cat kicked and thrashed, but this was a fellow death knight. Their strength was comparable, and he was large enough to keep her at bay. Finally, she felt huge hands grab her own, and wrench them toward the small of her back, dislocating both shoulders. The popping sound they made was enough to make her scream, until the gauntlet covered hand reached forward to wrap around her face.

“Silence,” came a raspy voice, deep and damaged but unmistakably orcish.

Her wrists were bound by manacles, tight and cold against her skin. Only then was she allowed to fall to the ground in a heap, her head aching, shoulders burning.

Venturing to look up at her attackers, she finally understood what was happening. Two death knights had her subdued; one of them, a knight she met in Northrend, what seemed like a lifetime ago. The other, a familiar orc; Azilrog.

“Something’s funny with you,” said No-name, studying her with his one eye. “I can see you breathing, and your bones are trying to mend themselves. I’ll bet it hurts, doesn’t it? Since you can’t pop your shoulders back in… the pain must be terrible, but that’s what happens when you defect. You shouldn’t have tried to run away, little kitten.”

Cat opened her mouth to speak, but was once again silenced by Azilrog’s hand.

“Enough,” he coughed, hoisting her up by the stomach to deposit her small body on the back of his death charger.

“Oh kitten,” No-name chuckled, her axe in his hands. He smiled to her as cheerfully as she remembered, his single eye focused on hers. “We’re going to have a good time with you.”

no-name.jpg

Edited by Catalinetta

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The Acharus was a cold place. Floating high in the sky, there was no need for any kind of heat because the people within it were dead. Death knights of all races went in and out of the floating citadel, either teleporting in using a death gate, or flying in on the skeletal remains of griffons. In their state of undeath, no one noticed the cold.

Except Catalinetta, who sat in a cell toward the bottom of the citadel. Arms wrapped around herself, the death knight felt the chill of cold stone deep in her bones. She held a hand over her mouth in an attempt to block the stench of corpses and ghouls as they walked around her. Truly, this was a vile place that only someone numb to their senses would want to visit. Unfortunately, after her work with the Scryers, that was not Cat.

“Don’t worry, we won’t let you sit there for too long,” said No-name, before they stripped her of her armor. They didn’t bother to hand her a blanket, or anything of any comfort.

Sitting in her cell, she watched with wide blue eyes as death knights made their way in and out of the area, paying her very little attention. There was no need for guards, since she had no weapons (her runeblade axe hung on the wall outside of her cell), and without a weapon she could not hope to escape.

It was as if they had simply buried her, though she knew that would have been too easy.

A few cells away, she heard screams. Approaching her cell bars, she peeked out just far enough to see a draenei female in the middle of what looked like an interrogation. Black veins threaded what skin she could see on the draenei, who grinned while applying what looked like a gold colored object to her victim’s forehead.

It burned on contact, and the screaming continued.

Cat sat back down on the cold stone, her mind racing. She didn’t know how long she’d been away, but the sun was setting. Her fiancé, Kreyen, would soon return to their home to find it empty. Still injured, she tried to think of what he might do upon discovering her missing, and could think of nothing but bad results. That was when panic set in; not for herself, but for the one-legged elf who very likely would do something ill advised.

Warm tears rolled down her cheeks, unbidden and unwelcome. They made her face feel even colder as she wiped them away.

“…are you alright, miss?” Came a voice nearby.

Cat turned to see a face looking at her through the bars. He was pale, a sickly white color emphasized by the black plate male covering his thick frame. A brown beard and long hair, short ears. Human. How did he know orcish?

“I’m in prison?” She replied incredulously. “I’m trapped.”

The human smirked. “I can see what. What did you do?”

Cat stared at the ground. “I tried to leave.”

“Leave?” He repeated. “Leave what?”

“The Ebon Blade,” she said quietly. “I already confessed. They know everything. I tried to leave because... Light’s Hope. It didn’t feel right.”

The human looked at her sympathetically. He turned to look at the other death knights, and see if anyone was listening. “I know how you feel.”

Cat blinked through her tears. “You do?”

The human nodded. “Yeah, I just… I guess I wasn’t brave enough to do anything about it. I was a paladin, once.”

A wave of relief flowed through Cat. “I was, too. Sort of… in training, actually. When I died. I’m Catalinetta.”

“My name is Gabriel,” the human said quietly, then lowered his eyes. “...but they call me Skaern, now. I was drowned.”

Cat tried to give the human a reassuring smile, but it wouldn’t materialize. She settled for a nod. “I was stabbed.” They were quiet for a few seconds, both contemplating undeath. Cat shook her head and looked around for anyone listening. “Hey, if you… do you mind helping me?”

Skaern shrugged. “What do you need? I can try to break you out, if that’s—“

“No no, nothing like that,” she said quickly, lowering her voice. “My boyf… my fiancé, he’s going to be worried. Can you tell him what happened? Can you tell him where I am? And…” She bit her tongue, squeezing her eyes shut as she considered the next part. “…can you make sure he doesn’t try to come after me? He’s injured badly. I don’t want him getting hurt.”

The human shook his head. “I can try, but, I assume he’s your kind?”

Cat blinked. Oh right. “Uh, yeah, he’s Sin’dorei. I guess it’s more difficult than I thought, but—“

“Just tell me who he is,” Skaern interrupted, smiling a little in spite of the situation. “And where to find him.”

Tears of relief rolled down her face then, but she didn’t bother to wipe them away. Somewhere, a victim to interrogation was screaming. The Light burned through his face. “Kreyen Arath’dorei. Dragonsroost Port.”

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Sometimes it snowed so hard that they couldn’t see past their noses. Together, Catalinetta and No-name walked Northrend from coast to coast, looking for nothing and stopping only to kill. They weren’t the only death knights on this endless march; sometimes they met their fellow knights wandering, looking for something to fill pass the time. Sometimes they came across ghouls, hungry for flesh, but otherwise with no will to live. Putting an end to them was not as satisfying as killing the Vrykul and trolls who actually bled and suffered.

In her dreamlike state, Catalinetta could not differentiate the days from the nights. When it snowed for so long that the endless white reflected the moonlight, was this night? Or just another day? Without sleep to separate them, the days were lost to her. In Northrend, nothing changed, and soon she forgot things.

“Do you remember your family?” She asked No-name one day, as they walked from the corpse of a Drakkari. His throat had been ripped apart by her axe, which drank greedily from the still warm blood of her victim.

No-name looked forward, smiling in the vacant way he always smiled. “No. You?”

Catalinetta listened for the crunch of the snow at their feet. “No.”

“What do you remember?” He asked her, looking ahead toward the horizon. The sun was setting.

“I remember being sad,” Catalinetta answered, thinking back to the flashes of images which sometimes bubbled to the surface of her consciousness. Waking dreams. “I remember faces, but, I also remember being alone.”

“We are alone,” concurred No-name, pointing toward the sun. “It’s going to go down, there will be prey soon.”

As the sun created colors in the sky, various purples and oranges, a thought suddenly occurred to Catalinetta. “Can death knights sleep?”

No-name shrugged. “I suppose.”

“I heard once that freezing to death is like falling asleep,” Catalinetta clarified. “I wonder what would happen if we slept. Would we dream?”

No-name turned to face her. When he actually looked at her, his one eye always seemed to stare through her face, as if he could see something else behind her thoughts. His smile twisted toward the part of his face that still had skin. “Do you want to sleep?”

Catalinetta nodded. She didn’t consider the reasons why, but they had been walking a long time. She didn’t feel particularly tired, or anxious, just compelled to sleep. “Yeah.”

Closing the gap between them, No-name took Catalinetta’s hands in his. He was much taller than she was, and if she were to guess, she imaged that he had been a good knight, once. His armor, like hers, was damaged and rusted through. Underneath, his clothes clung to a body that would not succumb to the cold, would not rot. Slowly, he eased her toward the snow covered ground, and before she could object, his arms were around her.

“Let’s sleep, then,” he said quietly, easing them both into the ground.

The snow cover was thick, and they sunk a few inches into the cold. Catalinetta wondered what it would feel like if she wasn’t numb, if the biting cold would be painful. Snowflakes fell from the sky and landed on their faces. She closed her eyes and tried to remember what sleep was like. The faces of strangers greeted her in that dark void, and if she could not recognize them she did remember that much; long blonde hair with a reassuring grin, short black hair and an impish smile. Red hair and laughter. Long black hair, and comfort. As the night grew dark, No-name’s voice drifted over the snowy plains.

“Raise thy weapons on this day

“Ye shall not die alone

“Fight and die, let Valkyr fly

“For they shall take thee home.”

When Catalinetta next opened her eyes, the sun was rising. A thin blanket of snow had collected on top of her, which she swept away while sitting up. No-name was gone. A pang of loneliness gripped at her stomach, pulling her back down toward the ground where the embrace of cold nothingness awaited her. For a while, she stared at the snow, as if it might make him reappear. She could not say for how long she and No-name walked together, but she knew that it was a long time.

Now he was gone, and she wondered just what had drawn her to this place. Somewhere something nagged her, the desire for belonging. Northrend was cold and inhospitable, the perfect place for someone who had nothing to forget herself. Yet something else was speaking to her, an old voice whispering dreams in the night.

It was hers.

“The tenets of heroism,” she said aloud, standing in the snow. Without knowing where her feet might take her, she walked.

“Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice.”

A whisper in her ear.

“Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice.”

Laughter, hands, smiling eyes.

“Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice.”

A heavy shovel in her hands.

“Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice.”

Death was not the end, so what came after?

“Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice.”

A chill in her bones. She could feel everything.

“Bravery, fortitude… sacrifice?”

No-name smiled from behind the bars of her prison. What was left of his face was still as beautiful as she remembered. “What will you sacrifice, kitten?”

“Don’t call me that,” she said firmly, staring at her captor. He was holding the keys to her cell. Something was about to happen.

He laughed. It wasn’t a cruel laugh, but a happy laugh. He sounded relieved as he opened her cell. “But which life are you on, Cat? They say cats have nine lives. Which is this?”

She cast a frightened look toward her runeblade axe, still hanging on the wall beside her cell. No one reached for it, but as her door opened, an abomination approached her. Pulled together from the cast away body parts of various corpses, it reeked of decay. The abomination grabbed Cat’s hands and pulled them behind her back. She considered fighting him off, but on board the Acherus, there was nowhere to run.

“Which life, kitten?” No-name asked again. “I can see you breathing, I can hear your heartbeat…” He walked into the cell, approaching her as the abomination twisted her wrists together, dislocating both shoulders. No-name leaned in so close that Cat could smell the oil on his armor, and see each individual tendon of his exposed jaw. “…are you alive, kitten?" He asked quietly, stroking the side of her face with one of his gauntlet covered hands. "I thought I left you in Northrend to die.”

 

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They walked her past the other captives; death knights, all of them Cat imagined had likely crossed the Ebon Blade. A draenei with black veins threading throughout her skin smiled, eyes white and unblinking. Cat allowed the abomination to lead her toward a room that she did not know existed.

The door opened, revealing a cold stone interior. A single chair in the middle of the room was her destination. Led to the chair, she sat down and trembled. It was still freezing, and wearing only the single layer of cloth under armor clothes, she had nothing to protect her from the chill.

The abomination released her hands, allowing her shoulders to pop back into place. Cat winced at the white hot pain shooting from her arms, gritting her teeth to keep from crying out. Before her, No-name stood with his hands behind his back. His smile was so familiar to her that by now, she had a difficult time understanding or even remembering why she trusted this death knight. How long did they walk together through Northrend?

What did he want with her, now?

“They say you stopped taking orders,” he said easily, as if they were having a pleasant conversation. “You know that’s a big no-no for members of the Ebon Blade.”

Cat looked defiantly at her former friend. “I didn’t agree with their methods. I don’t want to serve the Ebon Blade anymore.”

“Now, you know that isn’t how it works,” No-name explained, laughing under his breath. “After all the Ebon Blade has done for you. For all of us. We can return to our homes, visit our friends and loved ones. Serve the Horde or the Alliance as we see fit. Isn’t that worth your loyalty?”

“No,” Cat said firmly. “It might have been, if they hadn’t made us go to Lights’ Hope Chapel. If they hadn’t made me kill people I used to fight beside. It was wrong. You know it was wrong.”

No-name shrugged. “We’re not here to argue if it was wrong or not. You received orders. You fulfilled them. Then you ran, abandoning your duty to us. If you were a blood knight, what do you think they would do to you if you abandoned your post?”

Cat lowered her eyes. “...I don’t know.”

“That’s because you never finished your training,” No-name explained for her. “If you did, you would know better. If you were a real knight, you would know that you can’t just throw away your responsibilities when you don’t like them. That isn’t how the world works. Traitors and deserters are not to be trusted. Or left to live.”

Cat was silent.

“Luckily for death knights, we aren’t alive! Or at least most of us aren’t. You, on the other hand…”

No-name approached Cat and looked at her closely, his face a few inches from her’s.

“Oh yes, there it is,” he said quietly. “You’re breathing, aren’t you? Your heart is beating. Blood is circulating. You were dead, and now you’re something else. What are you, kitten?”

“I said don’t call me that,” Cat practically spat, sitting up straight to stare at No-name. “My name is Catalinetta D’Aragon. I’m a death knight. It doesn’t matter that I’m breathing, or that my heart beats. I’m still a death knight. I left because I didn’t want to blindly follow orders from the Lich King anymore. I left because I’m not going to be a pawn for this organization. What we did was wrong, that’s why the Light wouldn’t allow it to happen. We all know it’s true, so don’t try and tell me that we’re just supposed to sit back and listen while the Lich King pulls our strings. Again.”

“Looks like you grew more than a new heart while we were apart,” No-name chuckled. “Did you really think you would be allowed to go in and out of Dalaran, or any of the other cities without the Ebon Blade to vouch for you?”

Cat pressed her lips together impatiently. “I don’t need the Ebon Blade. I have Sanctuary.”

“Ah, Sanctuary,” No-name repeated. “Would that we all could claim such a thing.”

“You can,” Cat said quickly. “If you want to fight for what’s right, and not just… follow the Lich King, like we did before. We’re not his puppets, No-name. We can think for ourselves.”

The taller Sin’dorei laughed under his breath. Cat never noticed before just how strange the laugh sounded coming from his heavily wounded mouth, as air whistled through exposed bone and tendons. “Oh kitten, you—“

“I said don’t call me that!”

A hand went for her throat, large and plate covered. No-name shoved Cat against the back of the chair, scowling in a way she’d never seen him do before. “You want to rebel against the Ebon Blade? Fine. You want to breathe again, live again, as some anathema of the living and the dead? Very well. But you are not going to sit there and tell me what I can and cannot call you. Not after everything we have been through. Not after you decided that death was a better fate than what I had to offer.”

Cat blinked through unbidden tears, struggling against his hand as he threatened to crush her windpipe. “W… what are you talking about?” She wheezed.

No-name didn’t release her. His grip loosened just enough that she could breathe, but he remained looming above her, hands gripping her tiny neck. “You don’t remember any of it, do you?” He whispered, smiling again. “You shouldn’t. We both wanted to forget. I thought I wanted to be alone until I met you. We both wanted the same thing, to walk and forget the world. Until you decided that you would rather die. You wanted to fall asleep, and never wake up.”

“But… you left me, No-name,” Cat argued. “I woke up and you were gone.”

He released her then, and laughed again. “Because I knew. I knew you couldn’t be trusted. I knew that you wanted to live again, and if you couldn’t have that, that you’d rather just sleep. Sleep and let the world burn.”

“That’s not true,” she said firmly, reaching up to rub her store neck. “That’s not how it was. The days just got so long, I just wanted—“

“You wanted to live,” he finished for her. “Well, now you’ve got your wish. Except it isn’t as easy as that, is it? Being alive won’t take you from us. Being alive doesn’t sever your connection to the Lich King. Even Arthas Menethil knew that.” No-name grinned as he spoke the name. “He was a living death knight, too. Did you know that?”

Cat watched No-name carefully. She noticed his awkward shift in personality, from reasonable to hysterical. What did that mean for her? “What are you going to do with me?”

No-name shrugged. “First we are going to test this new life you’ve been given. If you’re really alive, it might be useful to us. Not that any of us want the weakness that life requires… you’re freezing, aren’t you?”

Frowning, Cat wrapped her arms around herself but didn’t answer.

With a gentle smile, No-named removed the cloak from his back and draped it over her. She took the cloak and held it against her chilled skin, disregarding the smell; old flesh, as if it had rotted in the sun. “We’re going to find out what you are,” he continued. “And we’re going to give you another chance to serve us. If you fail…”

He let the words hang in the air. Cat tightened her grip on the cloak, thinking about her options. She wasn’t a good liar, so faking her way through loyalty was out. They had her runeblade axe, so escape now would be impossible. However, there were those who were willing to help her. The death knight from before, who agreed to carry her message.

Kreyen.

Guilt held her stomach in its grip. Did he get her message? The last conversation they had was difficult. He wasn’t having an easy time with his injury, and being unable to do everything he was used to doing had a demoralizing effect on him. His words echoed in her mind; "I've been hurt seriously twice since before you were born.” It was true, and it made her feel like a child attempting to care for an adult.

Except now she was on her own, and if she ever wanted to see him again she knew she couldn’t rely on him or anyone else.

“If I fail, you’ll make sure I don’t have any lives left,” she said evenly, looking up at No-name. “Is that it?”

He grinned wider. “I knew you were smarter than you looked.”

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“I am the Light in the darkness

“I am the port in the storm

“Be not afraid of my shield, of my blade

“To honor I am sworn”

When it grew too dark to see one another, No-name would sing. Cat could guide herself back to the death knight by his voice alone, a deep baritone that resonated through the cold air. It was a strange feeling, what his singing could do to her; break her from the trance of what felt like sleepwalking, bring her back to some forgotten place where things were bright and warm. With every song, those places felt further and further away, like a dream she couldn’t quite remember.

No-name didn’t seem to mind the distance between himself and his past. If they spoke about their memories, it was in bits and pieces. They never spoke about them for too long, because the longer they went on remembering, the more those memories came back.

That was the case one evening, when No-name walked toward the edge of a snow-packed cliff to look at the stars. Sitting down, with his feet dangling off of the cliff, he seemed to sing toward the wilderness below them both. Cat sat down beside him, an ocean of stars engulfing the sky.

“Where did you learn your songs?” Cat asked, picking up a handful of snow.

No-name’s one eye rolled back in thought. “…I think… maybe when I was a soldier. I forget. I remember the songs, though. Do you remember any songs?”

Cat tried to think of songs. Did she know any? None came to mind. “No, not really,” she admitted, her mouth twisting in thought. “I remember feeling… warm.”

“Warm?” No-name repeated, turning to look at her.

Sitting on his right side, Cat saw more of the missing flesh from his face than usual. It always surprised her, how different someone could look from one side to the other. If she sat on his left side, he would have looked beautiful. On his right side, he was horrific. Strangely enough, it didn’t seem to make any difference to how she felt about him. No-name was her friend, her only company in Northrend. “Yeah, like… I remember the sun. How it felt on my skin. I remember holding hands with someone. Being held.”

No-name looked over Cat with his one eye. The death knights both wore rusted armor, their cloaks and under-armor in tatters. He put an arm around her shoulders and drew her in close, and even as his exposed jaw came close to her face, she didn’t feel repulsed. “Like this?”

Cat closed her eyes, attempting to remember. Somewhere in the past, there was laughter. The arms wrapped around her were strong, inviting. The smell of grass. The sound of fresh water nearby. Warm hands and breath. A voice in her ear whispering, "I think you're cute, you think I'm cute, and it's just a bit of fun…” A lump in her throat.

But there was nothing like that, now. She was cold, numb to the world and to No-name as he held her.

“What do you feel?” He asked, staring at the moon.

Cat closed her eyes. “Nothing.”

“What do you feel?”

It was cold, freezing cold down to her bones. Her skin felt tight and stretched. “Nothing.”

“What do you feel?”

An ache in her chest, a hunger for something. Suffering, bloodshed, death. “Nothing.”

“What do you feel?”

Cold metal on her left hand. A ring.

She opened her eyes and looked at No-name, his face only inches from hers. Beautiful and terrifying at once. The Acharus, freezing and reeking of death, surrounded them. At his hip, a black sword. In his hand, an axe. Cat stared at the weapon as it appeared to bleed on the floor. “…hungry.”

No-name grinned. “You know you need this to survive, don’t you?” He asked while holding up the axe. It trembled a bit in his hand, as if it knew that this man was not its master.

Cat nodded slowly.

“Survival is a funny thing,” No-name chuckled, balancing the axe in his hand. It was large, even for him. “You look alive. You breathe, and eat, you even bleed, but without this,” he pointed the axe toward her chest. “Without this, you’re nothing. Just a bag of meat. Like the rest of us.”

Cat pursed her lips. “I know.”

“So you have a choice,” he continued, taking a few steps back. No-name gave the axe a few practice swings. “Continue to serve the Ebon Blade. With your little breathing situation, you could be a useful addition to our agents. The living will trust you more. You could get into places that we cannot.”

She was beginning to feel sick.

“It’s your decision, kitten. All you have to do is surrender to the Ebon Blade. The Lich King made you,” No-name extended the axe toward Cat’s face, using the blade to lift her chin so that he could look her in the eye. “We can un-make you.”

Her eyes closed again. Was this the only choice she had? Cat considered her options. She could go back to Northrend. She could make herself disappear.

Kreyen’s voice felt like her own conscience.

“The only way you're going back there for good is through me."

Her own voice, an old conversation.

“I'm never going back.”

A promise made in the dark.

“Nobody is keeping me from you.”

Cat opened her eyes and stared at No-name. Was this the same person who walked with, in Northrend? Was this the same one who taught her his battle hymns? Had he become twisted in his years away, or was this the No-name she always knew?

Is that why he left her to die?

“…I’m not a good liar,” she said quietly. “I wish I could tell you I’d do what the Ebon Blade wanted. I wish I could tell you that, so I could go home. But I’m not, and I won’t.”

Her eyes drifted up to his face.

“There’s someone waiting for me, down there. Someone I love very much. If you ever cared about me, let me go. Please. I’m not a threat to you, or to the Ebon Blade,” her eyes dropped again. “I don’t want to fight you. All I ever wanted to do is help people. Please, No-name. Please, let me go home.”

There were a few moments of silence between them as No-name stood, watching her. The sound of Cat’s breathing filled the room, her pulse even louder between her ears. She felt his hand on her face again, this time without the gauntlet. At some point he’d removed it, and she could feel his cold fingers trace her jawline, his skin dry and scratchy like old paper.

“My name isn’t No-name,” he said quietly, removing his hand. “My name is Therys, and I’m afraid I can’t let you go anywhere.”

Edited by Catalinetta

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"I can't lose you.”

The cell was freezing, and Therys’ cloak did little to warm her. It felt like a metaphor for their relationship; everything he gave her left Cat cold.

“I don't want to think about having to leave you.”

They weren’t planning anything particularly special for her execution. Therys made that much clear. Throw her runeblade into the forge, melt it down. She would go down with it, and her body would become another soulless shell. A bag of meat fit, like any other soulless ghoul. Ready and willing to serve an unholy master.

“I want to be there when you become a hero.”

It would be impossible to fight them off. The Acherus was home to death knights more powerful than she could ever hope to be. Here, the Four Horsemen planned. Heroes of their time, heroes still in death. Bravery, fortitude, sacrifice. They did what they believed had to be done, regardless of how it appeared to the living. They did what the living could not.

“I want you to marry me, and then I want to raise your kids.”

The cost of their sacrifice was palpable. Death knights walked this path alone, and if they found companionship, it was with other death knights who understood their sorrow. Who else could possibly understand? Therys watched Cat from the other side of the bars, his once smiling face now emotionless. She knew he understood what she went through, that he would always know the hunger for blood and suffering, but that did not bring them any closer. She closed her eyes, and shut him out of her thoughts.

“I want to be part of what you become, and…”

This was not where she belonged. The Acherus was home to a cold rationality, the bitter embrace of ideals where mercy and Light could not exist. Her home was full of warmth, and kindness. Hope for a better day to come, and the strength to make it happen. That, she realized, was where she belonged.

"...I need you to be part of me."

Cat opened her eyes. She had to escape.

“One last chance, kitten,” Therys said as he approached her cell. The death knight used a key to unlock the doors with one hand, and in the other held her runeblade axe.

Just like before, an abomination entered her cell to grasp Cat’s hands and force them behind her back. Without argument, she allowed it to push her toward Therys, and together they walked to their destination; the runeforge.

Therys’ own blade, a black and blue monstrosity on his back, glowed dimly. Cat understood what this meant; he hadn’t fed in some time, and his hunger for suffering was intensifying. She watched him carefully for any other signs of fatigue, but found none. Soon, they stood before the runeforge in the heart of the Acherus.

It was a horrifying creation, shaped like a skull with an open maw. Blue flames erupted from the forge’s mouth, similar to the soulforge nearby. Cat thought on all the times she’d used both of these forges, to enhance her own runeblade into some twisted creation that consumed blood for her own benefit. Unholy energy swirled about the flames, beckoning her. A few seconds inside would soften her blade enough to inscribe new runes. Too long, however, and it would melt completely. She could not allow that to happen and hope to survive.

“One last chance,” Therys said gently, his one eye locked on hers. “We are your brothers in arms. We have fought beside you, and only we understand your plight. If you serve, you will never walk alone. Nor will you suffer the indignities thrust upon you by the living. It is your choice. Will you surrender to the Ebon Blade?”

How much easier would it have been if only she could lie. Again, Cat considered the possibility. She could say yes, allow them to let her go, and make herself disappear… but what then?

“Honest and earnest. That’s how you struck me.”

Cat took a deep breath and stared into the forge.

“No.”

Therys’ mouth twitched. If he felt disappointment, he could not vocalize it. Instead, he gave a single nod and threw Cat’s axe into the forge.

It did not take long for the forge to take effect. Pain shot throughout her body, a surging ache that radiated from her heart and coursed through her nerves. Seeing her helpless, the abomination allowed her to double over, clutching her stomach as bile rose toward her mouth. Soon, it would be over. Soon her runeblade would be melted down do a lump of metal.

Therys’ remained rooted to his place, watching her suffer. His smile was gone. What remained of his face was stoic, wooden.

“I ease its pain. You ease mine.”

Quicker than he could see with his one eye, Cat extended her hand toward the forge. Her runeblade axe came flying toward her hand, red hot and searing to the touch. She ignored the blistering flesh of her hand and swung the axe head above her, severing the abomination’s head. Rotted blood cascaded from its neck, dripping on to her like a putrid fountain. In the commotion, Therys’ had unsheathed his blade and rushed toward Cat, grunting with irritation.

She knew this would be a fight she couldn’t win. No armor, surrounded by death knights, in the belly of the Acherus.

“You've still gotta become a hero, and then let me be your husband.”

With every ounce of strength left in her, Cat ran. The smell of burning meat filled her nose; the meat was hers.

“Don’t let her escape!!” Yelled Therys, running after the tiny elf as she made for the stairs.

It was a long run, and there were dozens of knights along the way. Heeding the call to battle, they swung their runeblades toward her, attempting to cut her off or cut her down. Cat narrowly avoided a sword to the knee by jumping over it, her speed amplified by adrenaline and the lack of armor. In her hand, the axe sizzled against her flesh, burning down the meat of her palm to the bone.

A tauren death knight blocked her path. Rather than engage him, Cat slid between his legs and scrambled to keep running. There was no time to think, no time to consider the repercussions for her actions, now.

“You will never outrun us!” Therys shouted, chasing her.

An entire group of knights was at her heels, now. Cat ascended the stairs, making for the bridge. It was clear there, no one stood at the hip-high railing that separated them from the empty sky. No one was there to stop her as she threw herself from the Acherus, and plummeted toward the Broken Shore.

Edited by Catalinetta

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“There was a knight of courage

“Who rode along the road

“He held a mighty hammer

“The Light he was bestowed
 

“Until he found one day, a maiden

“Tied against the stones

“The knight would free her from the chains

“But found that she was bones
 

“’O blessed knight, you free me

“’But do you understand?

“’Tis more than bravery that saves

“’A hero of the land'
 

“And so he dueled the banshee

“The villain fought in vain

“Striking with the Light

“He sought to free her soul from pain
 

“But when he saw her suffering

“The hero knew his fate

“He begged the banshee to allow

“That he could take her place
 

“The banshee could not understand

“How he could pay this price

“And so her hatred melted

“From his selfless sacrifice
 

“No battle needed of the knight

“He found another way

“He truly understood that Light

“And love could save the day”

Cat gasped for air, her lungs burning as if she’d inhaled a bonfire. Her vision was blurry, but she could feel the sand on her back, and the crash of the waves against her chest. In a panic, she gripped her right hand and felt pain shoot up her arm. It was excruciating, the burn on her palm and fingers, but the weight of her axe was there.

Attempting to sit up was agonizing, but she made the attempt. Through her blurred vision, Cat saw that her body was a mess of fractured bones, covered in bruises. Looking up for the Acherus, she could not see it anywhere near. The water seemed to have washed her to another shore, though for how long it had taken to do that, and for how long she was unconscious, she could not say.

With her other hand, she reached up to touch the tiny pendant still hanging from her neck. They may have taken her armor, but thankfully, the Ebon Blade left her with her jewelry. Feeling the gold encircled emerald sent a wave of relief through her, as if regardless of what happened on the Acherus, things would be better now. Blinking through the saltwater, she brought the ring on her left hand to her lips and kissed it once.

“He must be very charming,” came a voice from behind her.

Adrenaline rushed to Cat’s brain. She scrambled to her feet, only to find Therys standing behind her on the shore. Her whole body ached, though the bones in her body were slowly mending themselves. Soaked to the skin in her cloth clothes, she shivered in the seawater.

Therys held up a piece of paper. The drawing of a dark haired elf was familiar, because it was hers. One of the missing drawings from her bedroom. “Is this the one you’re trying to get back to?” He asked casually. Turning it around, he studied the drawing. “We could find him, you know. Find him and kill him. Or I could, at least.”

Cat stumbled toward the other death knight, her legs shaky. She could feel her knees screaming from within, begging her to stop. “You don’t want to do that,” she said groggily, before doubling over to cough salt water from her lungs.

“Don’t I?” Therys asked, smiling. “Why don’t I?”

“Because…” Cat muttered, trudging through the surf toward him. “…you were a knight, once. Like me. Maybe not a good one,” she admitted, her voice gravelly. Cat’s eyes sought Therys’ own, as if looking for something that was hard to find. “Maybe you just did it for power, or glory. Maybe you did it because it was simpler to be a blood knight than a paladin. I don’t know, but you were a knight, and if that taught you anything it’s that you have a duty to protect.”

Therys cocked his head and looked down at the paper again. His smile faltered. “Protect what? What have I got left to protect?”

Cat swallowed down the bitter taste of her own vomit. “Bravery. Fortitude. Sacrifice. You don’t have to be cruel to make the world a better place.”

“What makes you think that’s what I want?” Therys asked quietly, crumpling the paper in his hand. “What makes you think that was what I ever wanted?”

“You did,” Cat answered, her eyelids drooping with exhaustion. “It was in your songs. You tried to forget, but you couldn’t. No matter how much you may have wanted to. Your songs wouldn’t let you go.”

Therys’ lip twitched. He was smiling again, but it was a different sort of smile. The ball of paper fell into the water at their feet, only to be carried away by the tide. “We are death,” he said, as if admitting to a crime. “Nothing can change that. This person you’re going to, he is alive, isn’t he? What’s the point? What’s the point of anything?”

Cat finally returned his smile. She felt delirious, and knew that at any point, he could end her. She would be too weak to fight him, now. “I don’t know. I guess I just feel like there’s more to it than that. Like maybe, if we’re willing to be brave, and have the fortitude to make sacrifices, maybe we can be more than just death. We can make amends and make things right, again.”

With her undamaged hand, Cat grabbed Therys’. He wore cold black gauntlets, and inside, his flesh would be cold. Yet now, in the water, something about him warmed her.

“Maybe we can be heroes.”

Therys closed his eyes. Together they stood in the surf, silent against the crashing waves. Gently, Therys placed his hand against Cat’s right hand, and brought her runeblade axe up toward his face. The blood red glow of its runes illuminated the white exposed bone of his face.

“I’m not a hero,” he admitted, tracing the edge of her blade with a fingertip. “I’m just a knight with no name, who wanted to forget.”

“Therys—“

Cat’s voice came too late to make any real impact. Therys had already made his choice, and without warning the death knight plunged tugged the weapon from her damaged hand only to shove the serrated edge into his own throat.

It was an awkward suicide. Therys stumbled back as Cat’s runeblade drank from his blood, black and decayed. In its less than healthy state, the blood did little to heal her wounds, but the effects on Therys himself were immediate. He stumbled backwards into the sand, and crumpled to the ground.

Cat’s wobbly legs allowed her to kneel beside him, but it was too late to provide any sort of care. Therys’ runeblade faded, the glow turning dull until there was no magic left. Picking up her axe, she looked over the corpse of her friend. No more songs or smiles. He seemed at peace with this, and the strange grin his face once bore settled into an expression that seemed more content than jovial. His blonde hair swirled against his face, long and tangled, until the tide eventually washed him out to sea.

“The Light is my guide

“I will heed the call

“Stand by my side

“We will not fall
 

“Heroes and villains

“What are we now?

“One makes a promise

“One breaks his vow”

 

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