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Dessim

Left Behind

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One moment the bat was flapping for all it was worth to escape the billowing clouds of blight, the next, they were both falling.

The distance to the earth seemed great, yet as her bat plummeted in a dizzying, chaotic spiral she lost all ability to judge . As the blazing countryside grew blurry, she found that these last few moments gave her an inordinate amount of time to think. Her thoughts drifted to the cause of it all.

Dessim loved her Banshee Queen. She loved the brooding but resolute leader who had stepped forward to free them, the woman who had stood for them when everyone else had recoiled in terror. She represented the determination and cunning of those who had suffered immeasurably. Despite everything she had done, it had always been for the good of her people. To keep them from dying out, to make them strong enough to resist those who saw them as nothing but abominations and prey. Every sin Sylvanas was burdened with had been had been something she carried for the sake of her people

Or so she had thought.

Moments away from death she began to realize the delusion she had embraced. All of those years of hard work had been ruined in one awful month. Her land, her appearance to her own people, and everything they had worked towards had gone up in flames. Everything she loved about Sylvanas had been attributed to her without a real reason. Sylvanas's partnership with the Horde had always been an alliance of convenience, the friendships were without warmth, and even her own people were just arrows in her quiver. Yet they had to find the good in their Dark Lady, without her, they had nothing. Even moldy food was a feast to the starving masses. It seemed an apt comparison.

Dessim's usual fervor was oddly absent. In the face of death, she was calm. When the agents of Stormwind had attacked her people in the Undercity, they were simply doing their jobs. When the druids sprang forth to tear them limb from limb, it was in a justifiable rage. Even as her own people fell victim to them, combatant and soldier alike, she was unable to even muster an appropriate sense of outrage. There were many things that felt out of place, as if her emotions and the driving force behind her had been replaced with a numbing fatigue.

The plague bat she had escaped the flooded city with hit the ground first, its tattered wings flopped comically as blood sprayed out in a fountain and so many shards of bone ruptured  up from its hide.

 --------

" Guess you're good for something after all." She commented when she awoke. Her mount was dead, crushed between the ground and the armored rider who had hammered into it when their sudden descent became a sudden stop. The bat had not been the only one to suffer damage from the fall. Dessim bit back a scream of pain as she pried her limbs out of the battered meat of the bat's remains. All through her left side she could feel tearing shards of glass beneath her muscles, broken bones. Her ribs burned, her left arm hung uselessly and spiked with pain from every swing ,and her leg threatened to buckle with every step that put weight upon it.

The impact had killed the bat outright but she spotted the cause of their sudden descent when she looked at the creature's wings. The webbing had been pierced and torn  a half-dozen times on either wing. " Of all the potshots fired..." She muttered, limping away as fast as she could manage.

She had escaped the city, if barely. She did not even feel a tingle of blight exposure where they had crashed. The wall of the toxic gas writhed and slithered across the ground yet never seemed to move beyond the unseen line in the dirt. Beyond the cloud of death, all she could see was ruin. The earth itself had been pounded into uneven lumps with a flat road winding through them. Despite the pleading from her injured leg, she stuck to the uneven, smoke shrouded hills where the fires still burned.She could not even guess how long she had been unconscious but assumed it had been hours if not an entire day. It had been dark out when she fell and it was still dark when she awoke.

The blight had forced people out at a rapid pace. She knew the sounds of a war zone even after the battle was over. The quiet night should have been interrupted by the wailing and croaking of the injured that were waiting for rescue and the screams of soldiers that had been unable to keep up with the main group and were caught by pursuers. But it was quiet save for the crackling wood and smouldering brush around her. People treated the area like what it was, a graveyard. The final respects had been paid and now Azeroth moved on.

" Was this what you planned? Were we to lose Undercity regardless?" She asked the ashes as she limped along. Lady Windrunner was not there to hear her, but it gave her something to focus on aside from the pain of her worn form. The bomb teams had been working at every corner and the blight had been dumped haphazardly into the river even before the Horde had been forced into a retreat. The idea seemed impossible. Yet Sylvanas had a penchant for extreme measures lately.

" No.... Not lately." She muttered. " You've been taking things too far since the start."  The words brought back memories of as simpler time. A time when she had not bothered to think, only listen and do. The mountaineers and scarlets were kept in cages like lab rats, refugees who had not made it back to Gilneas were poked and prodded by the apothecaries, and even their own were treated for illnesses that were rarely cured.

The line of thought was draining. She leaned against a charred trunk as she continued to speak to the only person listening. " You were always just waiting." She murmured to the nonexistent banshee. " Waiting for the right moment to strike. No longer a beggar but a commander once more. These are your true colors, aren't they?" The ones Dessim had convinced herself did not exist.

" We tried. You know?" She said to the black air as she dragged her battered form through the still warm earth. " We tried in our own, horrible way to do what was right. We couldn't just stop. To leave them dead would mean we'd just disappear, just get weaker and weaker until the humans attacked. But we tried to make it right, right? We tried to give them a choice."

The one-sided conversation ended abruptly as a dark figure emerged from the smoke in front of her. A pair of flickering blue flames, no larger than a candle's, appeared in the smoke before her before the rest of the creature emerged. The skeleton wielded a corroded and notched blade and a shield marred by deep gashes through the iron and had been seared black by the fire. If not for the splotches of blue near the bottom, she would not be able to identify the wielder. For a moment, the two were silent as they locked dead blue eyes.

" Every person we raised was spoken to and given the option of what to do with their new life. You were not." She explained to the skeleton as it strode towards her, its intent as clear as day. " Do you wish to serve?" She asked quietly as it raised the rusted blade. " Do you wish to continue this new life?" She asked, drawing her own blade to intercept the graceless strike with a ring of steel and a flare of pain throughout all the broken bones in her body. The skeleton refused to answer, only seeking to draw back and strike again.

" Better dead than mindless." She decided as she side-stepped the clumsy strike and cleaved the undead with a downward swing. The skeleton stumbled as its collarbone and ribs were shattered, throwing it off balance. She finished it with a mercy stroke, driving her blade through the back of its hollow skull and snuffing out the spark of life that remained.

" Choice." She decided as she limped forward through the smoke, not even waiting for the skeleton to hit the ground before moving on. " Choice is everything. Choice was taken from you. The lack of it made you into what you are now. You've become the same thing... The same monster." Every word brought new life into the damaged corpse, the awkward limping turning into a determined stagger.

" You've always been like this. You just never had the choice to act on it until now." She proclaimed as she broke through the smoke. Several flickering eyes turned towards the noise. The abandoned Alliance camp had become home to the raised remains of all who had fallen. Scores of corpses wandered around the ruined tents and destroyed fortification as far as the eye could see. Without the Queen to guide them, they had begun to wander. Like her, they were left behind.

" Is this what you want?" She called to them, fighting back bitter disappointment when they approached with their blades raised. " Do you wish to serve? Do you wish to live? What do you want to do?" She asked again and again as she met each one in turn. Steel screamed as blade met blade and bones splintered under the force of her strikes. One by one, they fell dormant once more. Every body added to the count was another twist of the blade in her gut as she was forced to realize the truth of the matter.

Sylvanas had barely changed. Only her peoples' view of her had. Even the insincere choice she had given to the newly raised was a barely accepted concession for raising the enemy. It was perhaps the one redeeming quality she had. But she had forfeited even that in the presence of greater power. Her Forsaken no longer asked, they simply took.

A hundred times she asked the same line of questions, only to be met with mindless aggression from the abandoned dead. She met each of them in turn and soothed their rage in the only way she could. They had been forsaken even by the Forsaken. Every true death she delivered was another stone dropped upon her back until the burden became too much. Her body mended itself with every death, but her heart had become a stone in her guts.
On the grey sands of the coast, as far from the Undercity was she could manage, she fell to her knees. The winding line of broken bones and fallen weaponry served as a tally for her futile quest.

It was the reality of her people now. To live their unfortunate existence beneath someone who had lost their last shred of decency. They would fight, kill, die, and bring others under Sylvanas's banner. A banner whose purpose Dessim no longer understood. Doubt churned in her mind, were they the monsters that everyone claimed they were?

" No." She decided as she shakily rose to her feet. A hundred times she had been forced to return them to their graves. A hundred times they had shown that they were mindlessly hateful. But if even one existed who broke the mold that the world had created for them, hope existed.

To Sylvanas they were arrows to be fired and forgotten. Used to pierce the enemies and break against their armor. So many had been damned to undeath that day, arrows fired in a volley and left in the dirt. Now all eyes turned upon Orgrimmar where the remains of Sylvanas's quiver had been hung.

Even if it had all been a lie she told herself, it was a cold, beautiful lie. A lie that she wanted to make reality. The Forsaken had suffered for far too long to die out like this. She cast her eyes back towards the wake of destruction and the darkened shapes that staggered around the flames. If she had to slay a thousand just to give one the chance they deserved, then so be it. If Sylvanas was no longer the face that the undead could trust, someone else would have to be.

" I'll be back." She quietly promised, waving a blade and splitting the space before her into a darkened gateway. There was not enough time in the day to do what needed to be done. Thankfully, she never slept.

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