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Posts posted by Catalinetta

  1. It's going to be that one, he thought to himself, watching as the goblin nodded his head toward the empty pint of beer he'd been served only minutes before. Tahzani had an ongoing bet with himself over which one of his patrons would pass out first, and today he had a good pick of people to choose from.

    First, there was the goblin. He'd come in from Southshore, battered and bruised, likely from some scuffle over azerite or something else the Warchief ordered her troops to do. It was times like this he was glad for his job; far be it for him to break his nose a third time. Trolls healed quick, but that didn't mean they healed exactly the same. Tahzani's nose was like a jagged knife with not one but two ridges where the cartilage was broken. This alone made him stand out from the other trolls who patronized his establishment, and the Coldstar Cantina was growing more popular as the conflict in Southshore ramped up.

    "Hey barkeep," said a trollish woman in Zandali, her dark red hair and black facial tattoos outing her as a Ferraki. Sand snake, he thought to himself, approaching the female. 

    "Watchoo wan'?" he asked politely in orcish, unwilling to bring the irritable glances of his many orcish patrons his way. They tended to get testy when he spoke in Zandali, and he wasn't going to start trouble over some sand troll.

    "Double whiskey, neat," she said, still in Zandali, flashing a jaw full of impossibly white teeth and large tusks.

    Of course she doesn't want ice, Tahzani thought to himself, pouring a glass with twice the usual amount of whiskey. Passing it to her, he took note of the gold rings on her fingers and the gold cuffs on each wrist. She didn't seem particularly rich, but it was an unusual choice. "He'a ya go," he said in a dry tone, as if he didn't have time for any Ferraki nonsense today.

    The sand troll took her drink and rolled a few coins toward Tahzani. "Thanks, handsome," she said with a grin.

    A twitch in his eyelid was all that answered her. When was the last time someone called him handsome without it being a joke?

    "I told you I wouldn't take any of your bullshit!" came another voice from nearby. 

    Tahzani's attention was stolen by the new conflict; an orc was grabbing a tauren by the collar of his shirt, which was both hilarious and dangerous. Tauren could do massive structural damage if they were so inclined, and orcs didn't know when to back down.

    "Ey eye ey!" He shouted, waving a hand at both of them. "Take it outsahd! Ain' got no tahm fo' ya bustin' up mah tables an' chai's, mon!"

    The Ferraki laughed into her hand. "You think that's going to stop them?" She teased, drinking half of her glass.

    Sure enough, his commands went completely ignored. The tauren reached back and swung toward his assailant with a massive paw to the face, knocking the orc back a few feet and into the wall. A round of laughter went out around the room, and try as he might, Tahzani couldn't help but join them. It wasn't usual that a brawl wound up stopping with a single hit though, so he shook a fist at the orc. "Ey mon! Know when ta stay down!"

    But the orc didn't know when to quit. He was dressed in thick leathers and animal hide, the mark of a hunter, and sure enough a wolf suddenly appeared from outside only to leap at his tauren "friend" and sink his jaws into the larger warrior's thigh. 

    "Get 'im, Ash'ar!" the orc shouted, hauling himself back to his feet, whipping out a rifle to aim at the tauren.

    The tauren seemed almost amused by the wolf, until its teeth dug in deep enough to find flesh. "An'she!" He shouted, smacking the canine away in the same way he did to his partner.

    Now it was time for Tahzani to intervene. "Ah to'd ya ta stop," he said firmly, putting away his own laughter with a shake of his head. The troll had a number of things he could do to stop them, but deescalating situations generally didn't happen when one introduced more violence. Luckily, there was a distraction.

    "Yoo hoo!" Came a familiar voice, and a familiar jiggle.

    Well that's an unexpected blessing, Tahzani thought to himself as a blood elf walked into his establishment carrying a guitar. Busty-the-elf to the rescue.

    She smiled with her painted lips and sat down primly on a bar stool, her low-cut robes exposing her breasts in a display an orc might find lewd. "Who wants to hear a song about how my night went?" She asked with a grin.

    The orc hunter put down his rifle. Elves were funny, and this one was particularly entertaining. Tahzani let out a heavy sigh. Saved by tits, he thought grumpily to himself, wondering vaguely about the difference between elf and troll breasts in terms of weight and softness. Well elves usually have little ones, but this one has pretty big ones.. can't be as soft as a troll's though, there's no fur, and besides, why would anyone want to bother with an elf, they probably talk through the whole thing and... It was when he was deep into this internal monologue when the music started, and the patrons went just a little quiet to listen to busty-the-elf's song.

    "Hey, give me another double, handsome," came the same Ferraki as before, smiling at Tahzani with a sinister grin.

    Rolling his eyes, he refilled her glass. "You can stop calling me that any time now."

    "Why would I want to do that?" She asked innocently, passing him the coins.

    Tahzani glared at her. "Because my face is busted to shit and you know it."

    "Doesn't seem so bad to me," the Ferraki said through a grin, the face paint around her eyes wrinkling mischievously.

    Is she actually flirting with me? The barkeep thought to himself. He tried to think of the last time someone actually had the nerve to flirt with him and was interrupted by a loud round of applause as busty-the-elf's first some came to an end. Glancing toward her, he saw the elf take a bow before turning back to the Ferraki, who mysteriously disappeared.

    "What the.."

    "My eye! My eye!!" Came a shout from one of the tables, a blood elf male leaning forward, clutching his left eye. Blood rolled down his face and hand as he shouted in a panic, and Tahzani groaned to himself. 

    "We don' need anodda bar fight toni--"

    But his words were cut short, because it wasn't a bar fight that cost the elf his eye. Tahzani noticed a glimmer of air shifting before him, the unmistakable form of a night elf visible for a brief moment as she stabbed another patron, this time a goblin, in his eye as well. 

    "Cripes! My friggin' eye!!" He shouted, and the bar erupted into chaos.

    "There's a rogue here!"

    "Takin' out eyes!"

    "Someone find 'em before they get anyone el--, ahh!! My eye!!"

    "An eye for an eye, Horde!" Shouted the elf in her own language as she faded from sight only to stab at as many patrons as she could find.

    Tahzani groaned. Of all the bars in all the world, it had to be mine!? Backing up, he grabbed his staff from the wall and considered the price of using the fel to fight this unseen foe. He was trying to give it up, or at least, he thought he was. What choice is there, though? If some elf is  in my bar, taking the eyes from my customers, there had to be something--

    "Hey handsome," came the familiar voice of the Ferraki, suddenly appearing in front of his bar along with the limp body of a night elf female, her knife sticking half-way into the elf's throat. "Look what I brought you."

    For once, it didn't matter if she was actually flirting or if she was just being tease. Tahzani stared at the two, sand troll and night elf, then shook his head and waved a hand toward the nearest bar stool. "T'anks fo' da help," he said with the hint of a smile. "Next drink be on me."

    • Like 1

  2. Quel’thalas

    It was so close to the Undercity. Sometimes that closeness struck Steinburg as he walked through the lush Eversong woods, crimson leaves on white barked trees casting a warm glow on the forest floor. It was all so beautiful, and once, so too was Lordaeron. His thoughts were with the dark kingdom, buried beneath the bones of its people as he and Catalinetta rode on the back of her death charger.

    He held on to the elf, her body so much stronger than is in undeath, and was grateful that she never flinched. They were both undead, but there was an obvious difference between death knights and the Forsaken. Catalinetta in particular seemed well preserved to the point where she gave off no rotting smell, and the blood magic fueling her strength allowed an unnatural life-like pulse to flow through her veins.

    They didn’t speak as they rode, but he encouraged her to move fast. As they left the city, Cat noticed that Steinburg was unusually watchful, as if worried that even here he might be stopped by someone. Who would stop him in Quel’thalas, she wondered? Who would stop him anywhere?

    Eventually they reached Bloodstone Manor, following Steinburg’s directions to find an unmarked path through Eversong Woods. The Bloodstones enjoyed their privacy, and the way didn’t seem overly used. It wound through trees and overgrowth, eventually giving way to a gold gate flanked by a tall wall that surrounded a large plot of land. Past the gate, Cat could see the manor standing tall beside a pond and a stable. It was an old building, and if uncared for it might have seemed menacing. There was a warmth to it however, in the red and gold paint and white bricks. A few waterfowl played in the small pond nearby.

    “Allow me,” Steinburg said as he slid from behind Cat and on to the ground, grabbing what looked like a ring from his pocket to place within a keyhole on the gate. A tiny click sounded, and the gates opened.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever been here before,” Cat said in awe of the place, still unaccustomed to the way Silvermoon aristocracy lived. She dismissed her mount with a wave of one plate covered hand and followed Steinburg inside, allowing the gate to close behind them.

    “The Bloodstones will not mind your company, if that worries you,” the Forsaken said reassuringly, appearing at last to be comfortable speaking again. He walked her toward the house, their path lined with thick flagstones the color of pink coral. “I lived here for quite some time after our guild hall in Orgrimmar was destroyed. Ninorra brought me here, herself. She wasn’t concerned with the Warchief’s finding us, which was when I realized that this was a safe place. Vicailde has placed all sorts of his inventions around the home, to block it from prying eyes and ears.”

    “But I don’t understand, who’d be following you?” Cat asked, her own long ears twitching for the sound of any spies.

    Steinburg reached the door and again pressed his ring to the keyhole. Another click, and he opened the door with a push of his hand. Still unable to say what he wanted outside, he nodded toward the foyer. Cat entered a room decorated with long crimson curtains and the portraits of old powerful high elves, their disapproving eyes staring down at both death knight and Forsaken. Closing the door behind them, Steinburg let out a breathless sigh. “Dark rangers,” he answered. “Sent by the dark lady.”

    “The Warchief?” Cat whispered, unable to hide the horror in her voice. For all the rumors surrounding Sylvanas, Cat had a difficult time imagining why she would want to trail an accountant. “But why??”

    Steinburg seemed to relax in the manor, undoing the hooded cloak from his neck to hang it near a series of beautifully lined and embroidered cloaks and jackets. Cat supposed that the more flowy ones belonged to the lady of the house, though nobody else seemed to be around at the moment.

    “Because she’s keeping an eye on us,” he answered, finally taking the time to brush his hair with long bony fingers. “Come sit with me, it’s been a while since I’ve been somewhere comfortable,” he said in his usual tone. Steinburg might have been Forsaken, but he was not against creature comforts.

    Leading Cat into a sitting room, she was at once awed by the garish colors inside. Bright crimson and gold plush furniture covered in throw pillows embroidered with animal print greeted them. “Woah,” she said quietly, looking around curiously. “This place is awesome.”

    Steinburg chuckled and sat down in one of the sofas, sighing as the soft down cushion cradled his bones again. “Ninorra takes pride in her decorating,” he said with the hint of a smile before continuing his story. “Cat, it’s been a while since you’ve been to Undercity, hasn’t it?”

    Sitting down opposite of him, the death knight nodded. “Ever since I… well,” she stopped herself. “..I guess ever since I got engaged. The last time I was there, a friend stitched up my death wound.”

    Steinburg nodded. “Well. For the best, really. As I recall, your lover is living? There aren’t many who would take to that as good news. Some, sure, but… giving people the kind of hope that their undeath might be looked past… sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Congratulations on your engagement, Cat. You deserve to be happy, truly.”

    A pang of guilt hit the death knight’s stomach as the truth bit into her like an angry chipmunk. Of course, being accepted by the living was difficult, and she had gone to great lengths to make Kreyen more comfortable with what she was. It was hard on him at first, she knew that. How much harder it would have been on a Forsaken, whose bones and flesh were exposed and rotting, that much she couldn’t imagine. “…thank you, Steinburg. I’m sorry, I know it’s not the same for your people.”

    “No it isn’t,” he concurred. “And to tell you why, you must understand. I’m not bitter toward you, Cat. You and your fellow death knights are privileged in that you have the ability to connect with people in a way we cannot. Loved ones, for example. You may be undead, but you can still see your fellow Sin’dorei. The same goes for the orcish death knights, the tauren and so forth. Now, I know that can’t be easy,” he said quickly. “I know that many of the living are not accepting of your kind, but… at least you have the chance to try.”

    Cat turned her head to one side, trying to understand. “Well, I guess we do. I know I did. I reconnected with my brother and my aunt, but… I guess… that’s not the same as the Forsaken. I guess you all don’t really have much of a chance to talk to other humans, do you?”

    Steinburg smiled sadly. “Well. We did. For a brief moment, we did. Tell me, what did you hear about the Desolate council, Cat?”

    A change in subject. She shrugged and shook her head. “I heard they were governing Undercity while Sylvanas was gone.”

    “Yes, that’s right. That’s what I heard too, when I arrived,” he explained, leaning back in his seat. “I wanted to help. Damian is old enough to be in school, I had little to do here, so I went to help my fellow Forsaken. I’m a good bookkeeper, you know. The council needed a hand. They were kind, they only wanted to make things easy for their people. They were compassionate. They, like many other Forsaken, weren’t bitter about their situation. They wanted to make the best of things. Some of them even still had living relatives that they wanted to see, someday. Of course, that much is impossible. We assumed all humans saw us as monsters, and what relative would want to see their dead family?”

    Cat felt her stomach lurch. Her own brother seemed less disgusted than distraught when he saw her, but what would he have done if she was missing an entire jaw like some Forsaken she knew? “Yeah, I… I can see why that’d be hard.”

    “Hard, but not impossible,” he continued. “Can you believe that King Wrynn actually wanted to help? Apparently his own servant was married to a member of the council. Something in him thought that maybe, if he could reunite some families… I don’t know. But Archbishop Faol helped him, and somehow they managed to make some sort of… I guess a deal? She allowed the council to meet with their families. Those who had family, anyway… those who had family willing to meet them.”

    Cat’s eyes were as wide as saucers. The Warchief, allowing a reunion? That was a surprise. It never would have occurred to her that Sylvanas would actually allow something so reasonable or peaceful to happen. “That’s… that’s great! Wow, what a nice thing to do! King Wrynn must have been up against a lot to even suggest that,” she said with awe, picturing the human king in his white armor flanked by advisors telling him not to do the right thing. “The Light must’v really blessed him with bravery!”

    “…yes, well,” Steinburg muttered. “It was brave. Foolish maybe, but brave certainly. Anyhow, during the reunion, apparently some of the Forsaken attempted to defect.”


    Steinburg held up a hand. “It wasn’t all of them. It was some. Sylvanas sounded the horn, and the rest ran back to their side. To the queen.”

    “What happened to the defectors??” Cat asked in a loud and almost screechy voice.

    “Killed by dark rangers,” Steinburg answered, then paused before continuing. “…along with the rest.”

    The death knight blinked in confusion. “What do you mean? The humans?”

    “No, the humans were completely unharmed. The Alliance humans, anyhow,” he added bitterly. “The dark rangers killed every one of the Desolate Council who met with family. Even the ones who returned. She killed them all, Catalinetta.”

    Her face went through a range of emotions. Shock, confusion, and finally anger. “I don’t… I don’t understand. Why would she do that?”

    “Because that’s how she keeps her power, Cat,” the Forsaken muttered. “Not like the human king. Not like Thrall. Sylvanas doesn’t command an army by playing the savior, or the saint. Sylvanas keeps her grip on her people by reminding us that life is hopeless, that nobody wants us, and that if the humans had their say we would all be dead. Those members of the council whose family members couldn’t bear to see them? Those, she allowed to live. Those who live in sorrow, who are truly ‘desolate’. Those are her Forsaken, and there is no room there for dissent or argument. There is no room for people like me.”

    For a while, Cat was quiet. The Forsaken were a people she felt she could relate to, once. Dead, forgotten, but for the most part, accepting of their situation. Now she realized there was so much she didn’t understand, so much she took for granted. The way people accepted her, the love of her family, and the freedom to express those things. The Forsaken didn’t have any of it, and it seemed Sylvannas’ goal was to keep it that way.

    “Steinburg,” she murmured, eyes lowered to the coffee table littered with romance novels. “I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

    The Forsaken cracked another smile, flakes of peeling flesh falling from his lips. “It’s not your fault, Cat. You died like the rest of us, but you were lucky with your circumstances. The Forsaken are indeed forsaken, and that’s how the Warchief wants it. I can’t personally say that I’d be content to live that way. At least here, there’s a little happiness. I might not ever see my relatives, or have my own children, but I’ve been given the gift of a second life in which I can at least help raise them. I can live in my own way. I know there are plenty of Forsaken who don’t want that, but for those who do I only wish I could help them, or that the dark lady would give us the freedom she keeps saying we have.”

    Cat’s ears had drooped low in her sadness. Not just for the Forsaken killed by their own leader, but for the Warchief she knew that she couldn’t trust. Having joined the Horde and died with Thrall as their Warchief, she once knew that their leader was someone she could trust to hold their best interest at heart. Since waking from the dead, however, it was like a never ending series of terrible leaders. She had already cast aside her loyalty to the Lich King, to Bolvar. Now she wondered if she’d have to do the same to the dark lady.

    “Be careful with this information, Cat,” Steinburg said, serious again. “Words travel, and the dark rangers can hide in places you’d never think to look. I don’t know what Sylvanas plans on doing, but she’s got Undercity under her thumb. Books about old Lordaeron are banned. Anyone saying anything kind about the living are looked at with suspicion. I don’t know what it’s like outside of Undercity, but I don’t know if anyone outside of the Forsaken will even care about—“

    “Of course we’ll care!” Cat said quickly, loudly, and maybe too fast. “We care. I care. I’ll tell the Warboss, okay? I’ll be careful. I’ll be very careful, Steinburg. I have to be, I’m supposed to get married, we’re supposed to be… things are supposed to be normal.”

    Steinburg laughed, genuinely laughed, and shook his head. “Oh Cat. I never get tired of your optimism.”

    • Like 1

  3. Steinburg had been in Undercity for a few months, now.

    First he came to visit some old friends. It surprised him to discover that the librarians who once helped him find books on Lordaeron’s history were, along with the books, no longer there. When he asked about their whereabouts, he received roundabout answers. They were “no longer necessary”. Whether this was an answer about the books or his friends, he did not press further. During his search however, he discovered that the Undercity was undergoing a slight transformation. In the absence of the Dark Lady, a council of Undercity’s most active volunteers had been created. Steinburg did not know them personally, but he admired their willingness to pick up what Sylvanas had left behind, and to do so with seemingly no personal gain.

    Damian being old enough to attend school in Dalaran made his decision clear, and as a proud Forsaken, he volunteered to help. A good bookkeeper, he was immediately tasked with keeping track of the city’s funds. It was a thankless job, and he was not well known, but that didn’t bother him. Day and night he tirelessly worked to ensure that the Desolate Council was successful.

    Until one day, most of them were gone.

    Now things were different. He wasn’t so much a volunteer as a prisoner, and he understood the meaning of the word “dissent”. All around Undercity, Sylvanas had eyes and ears. Long ones, specifically. The ears of her dark rangers were everywhere, waiting to hear the rumors and report them. He was an accountant, he could calculate the numbers and the odds of his own survival in such a situation. If he had a big mouth, those odds weren’t good. Quiet as he was, however, he could live.

    That was how he managed to get back to the small apartment he’d been renting in the Undercity, though “rent” was mostly paid by him working for free. The single bedroom, tucked inside of a corridor of the Magic Quarter, was furnished only with a few clothes. Unsurprisingly there was no bed. The Forsaken embraced their wakefulness, their lack of restrictions that the living depended on. A bed would have been suspicious. He might have been accused of wanting to be alive, of trying to relive memories of the past.

    Once, those things were not quite so looked down upon. Strange, maybe. Now they were looked at with suspicion. The dead had no reason to want anything to do with their former lives, and to go by your “dead name” was to invite too many questions. Luckily for Steinburg, nobody seemed to care that he went by his surname. Though maybe, had he requested that they call him “Andy”, things might have been different.

    His apartment, sparse as it was, served only the purpose of granting him a place to read in silence. He was expected to work most of the time, but was granted a few hours of “rest” by his supervisor. During these hours, he would go to his apartment and sit down in his single chair. He might read a book or write a letter to the Bloodstones. Today, he opened his closet, and very quietly, cast a spell.

    A portal.

    It would not last long, and he was in a hurry. Stepping through the portal, Steinburg understood that he was probably not going to be able to return to the Undercity. They would say he deserted them, abandoned his duties, and be labeled a traitor. All well and good, he supposed. For a second chance at life, he could hardly call existing there under the eye of the dark rangers any sort of living.

    All was bright as he stepped through, suddenly bathed in sunlight and warm colors. Silvermoon welcomed him as it always did, though he was still suspicious of Sylvanas’ former home. Would she have spies there, too? Or was Lor’themar unwilling to allow such a thing? His yellow eyes glanced about for someone, and with a great sigh of relief he saw her.

    “Catalinetta,” he said to the death knight, who had apparently waited for him near the portal from Undercity.

    Shambling over to her, he embraced Cat with a tight hug. It was not a happy one, but the desperate sad sort of hug she could feel in her own bones. “Steinburg, what the hell happened?” She asked, pulling away reluctantly.

    “Not here,” he answered, looking around. “We need to get to Bloodstone Manor.”

    Cat shook her head, still confused. “Bloodstone Manor? Why?”

    Trudging out into the street, Steinburg reached for his hood and threw it over his head. Now she could see how ashamed he was of his appearance, and the old Steinburg had finally returned. “Because there are ears everywhere, and most are as long as yours.”

    • Like 1

  4. Clank. Clank. Clank.

    Catalinetta walked through Undercity, the metal of her boots clanking against the stone floors of ancient Lordaeron. They felt almost unusually loud there, underground, where the Forsaken spoke in scratchy hushed tones and moved in slow, hunched over shambles. She didn't suppose that she was in a hurry, not at first anyhow. The death knight had gone to Undercity with a specific purpose; to find a ring. There were plenty to be had down there, crafted by some of the Forsaken's most talented jewelers, and she knew exactly where to go for what she wanted. Unfortunately, as she reached the edge of the Magic Quarter, certain to find the same bright-eyed Forsaken woman who used to craft her jewelry as a newly risen death knight, Catalinetta saw that she was no longer there.

    The death knight paused mid-stride, staring ahead at the now empty spot. Tilting her head to one side, she considered briefly that maybe her friend was simply taking a break. Or away, visiting friends in Brill. Without hesitating, she approached another nearby Forsaken who manned a stall selling inscriptions.

    "Excuse me, sir," she said in her high pitched, if not hollow voice. Cat's eyes glowed with the same eerie blue of her fellow death knights. It was not the dim yellow of the Forsaken, but they often found a kinship in their undeath.

    Today, however, that did not come as easily. "Death to the living," he said in greeting, his voice hoarse and gravelly. He seemed to have died in mid-life, just old enough to have sprouted a few gray hairs at his temples that hung in thick clumps about his gray face. A lack of flesh in his cheeks that exposed both jawbones gave him a permanently stern expression. "What do you want?"

    A corner of Cat's mouth twitched. "..yeah, uh... I was wondering if you'd seen Abby?" She asked, her dark gray ears perking a little. Though she was undead, the Sin'dorei's ears still worked as they did in life, reacting to her emotions with little twitches as much her eyebrows. "She was supposed to be here today, I thought. I wanted to buy some jewelry from her."

    The other vendor's face made no changes. Perhaps if he had been alive she might have seen some sort of change, something in his face to indicate his thoughts on the matter. As it was, he seemed far too corpse-like to emote as she did. "Gone. She won't be coming back."

    Cat's eyebrows rose, scrunching her forehead in concern. "Where did she go? Is she okay?? Did something happen to her?"

    Now the vendor's face changed, a slow and creeping grin that gradually pulled at the sagging flesh in his face enough to make his eyes squint like half-moons. "I do not know where she went, death knight," he answered, then frowned again as his face relaxed. Smiling, Cat imagined, must have taken quite a bit of effort on his part. "But I know that she will not be coming back."

    For a moment, she just stared at him. Admittedly, it had been a while since she'd returned to this place, where the Forsaken once welcomed the death knights to their new status as living dead. Certainly they were different, and there were plenty of Forsaken who were distrustful of Arthas' newer creations. However as time passed, most of the Forsaken grew to learn about the curse of the death knights, their eternal bond to the Lich King, and their inherent need to cause pain. The Forsaken were free, after all. The death knights, in spite of their great strength, would never truly be independent of their creator. Things were even, in a way. So why now did this Forsaken treat her like this, she wondered? Could he tell that there was something amiss? Could he somehow detect the Mogu blood magic that coursed through her black veins, creating the illusion of life even as it reanimated her? Was it a lack of decay?

    It didn't matter. He was being difficult, and that much was unnecessary. "Look, I don't know what your problem is," she started, pointing a gauntlet-covered finger at the bony creature. "But Abby is my friend. So if you know something, just tell me so I can go find her. Alright?"

    Again, the Forsaken smiled. It appeared to take less effort this time. "I can not tell you her fate, but your search ends here. Abigaille Lefaye is gone. You might as well leave this city too, death knight. You will not find what you are looking for, here."



    Another voice from behind. It was scratchy, hollow and undoubtedly Forsaken, but it was also kind and familiar. She turned to see a man, hunched over but still taller than her. His short black hair, unlike most Forsaken, was usually well kept. Today however, it was matted and disheveled. His typically well cared for robes were frayed and dull, and the once jovial look on his gently rotted face had been replaced with one of terrible remorse. "..mister Steinberg?"

    Indeed he was. The former accountant of Sanctuary, stolen away by the Bloodstones to Silvermoon when their guild hall was burned to the ground by Garrosh Hellscream. Though he witnessed the death of so many other guild members, one of them his own adopted son, Steinberg carried on. He helped Ninorra raise Damian in her absence. He healed his broken heart by teaching the Sin'dorei boy to read and write, and one again was given another chance at life. In a way. 

    "Yes miss D'Aragon," he said in a slightly pained voice, as if trying to keep the sorrow from slipping. Swallowing something down, his expression turned slightly harsh. "I heard you asking about Miss Lefaye. I'm afraid she's no longer with us. If you'll come with me, I'll show you where you can buy whatever it is you need."

    Cat's heart sunk at the change in voice. Steinburg had always been kind to her, to everyone. What happened to change him so drastically? Tearing herself away from the other vendor, she walked to her old friend and twisted her hands together. "Sorry if I caused trouble, I just wanted to know if she was okay. Is.. did something happen?"

    Steinburg lowered a pair of cold yellow eyes to his old friend, the once familiar smile completely gone. "Yes. Now come with me."

    Following him as the Forsaken shambled away, Cat's eyes were lowered to the moldy stone floor. She held in angry tears, tears she knew would invite too many questions, and vowed to let them out later for her friend. Steinburg led her from the Magic Quarter and walked her, quicker than she would have thought him capable of, toward the elevator. "Where are we going?"

    "Out," he said quickly, not bothering to look back. 

    To any of the other Forsaken, they looked like a very angry man leading a very confused elf. Both dead, both unhappy, both completely ordinary in a place where nobody should ever be happy. His steps were so quick that Cat almost found herself tripping after him, but by the time they reached the ruins of Lordaeron and rushed past the throne room of its former king, she understood where he was leading her. "Steinburg wait," she said quickly, grabbing his shoulder.

    The Forsaken didn't slow. "Just keep walking," he said between clenched teeth, frayed robes fluttering around his bare skeletal feet. They clacked about almost as much as her boots, which worried her. Where had his shoes gone?

    "Steinburg, I--"

    The orb stood in front of them, a bright ball of red that would take them to Silvermoon. Steinburg grabbed Catalinetta's hand and moved it to the orb, but she wrenched it away.

    "Wait a second!" she shouted, wrenching her arm back. "What the hell is wrong with you?? I haven't seen you in months and suddenly you're here, and you look terrible, and everything is all weird and sad! What happened to you??"

    The yellow glow flickered in Steinbeug's eyes. For a moment, a hint of his old self came forward and he nearly smiled at the outburst. She had always been outspoken, even in death, and it had once made him smile. But it was only for a moment. "I am Forsaken," he said simply, the frown returning as he grabbed Catalinetta's arm and pulled her to him, whispering near her long ear. "Now go home. Where you belong."

    Still not understanding, Cat shook her head. She wanted to argue, to yell at him and get Steinburg to snap out of whatever spell he was under, but then she stopped. His face shifted, so close to hers. It wasn't angry. It was sad. He was trying to tell her something. Go home? She thought. But he doesn't know where I live, now..

    She glanced at the orb. Silvermoon. It wasn't her home, per say. Not ever. But it was the home of the Sin'dorei, and she was starting to realize that's what he wanted for her. To go there. But why?

    "Fine," she grunted irritably. "I'll go back to Silvermoon. Maybe I'll find what I need there."

    "I'm sure you will," Steinburg muttered bitterly, watching as she grabbed the orb, her form fading from sight before his eyes.

    A few feet behind him, another hollow voice rung out. "Who was that?" Asked an almost silvery elven voice, though it retained the same echo as his own. 

    Steinburg turned to regard one of the dark rangers, a beautiful elven woman who, even in death, moved soundlessly. "An old acquaintance," he muttered distastefully. "She has no place here."

    The dark ranger nodded, and glanced back toward the entrance to Undercity. "Good. You might want to get back to work, now. There is much to be done and not as many hands to do it."

    Steinburg nodded and turned back, resisting the urge to glance behind him at the orb. What point would there be in leaving? The Warchief's eyes were everywhere, and the long ears of the dark rangers heard everything. He would need to think fast. Thankfully, an accountant knew how to calculate all of his options quickly. He had a plan before he reached the bottom of the elevator.

    • Like 2

  5. Once upon a time there lived a huntress.

    Born to a rich elven family, she grew up longing for adventure. She was as difficult to break as a wild stallion, and as beautiful as one too. Lustrous ebony hair reflected the sharp glow of her fel green eyes, and it was difficult for anyone to look away from her perfect mischievous smile.

    When war came, the huntress went. Trained in the shadows of the forest, she learned how to kill and how to hide. She fought valiantly for her people, and though she saw many suffer and perish, her heart remained intact by carefully locking it away. Even through war she had many lovers, and easy as it was for her to find comfort in someone’s arms, she was content to keep them from drawing any closer.

    That is, until she met the knight.

    He was much younger than the huntress, and not very bright. The knight was still in training, with the hope of proving himself to his people and fighting in the wars himself. Like the huntress, he too had black hair and fel green eyes, but that was where the similarities ended. He was scrawny, still attempting to fill out the armor provided to him, and there was no confidence in his expression.

    One night, the huntress spotted the knight in a tavern. The knight was having a good time with his friends when the huntress spotted him, and for a single perfect moment their eyes met. The knight didn’t know exactly what love felt like, but he thought it seemed as if a jolt of electricity ran through his veins, and an invisible hand reached through his chest to clutch his heart in an icy grip. It felt like death and it was wonderful.

    “By the Light,” he said as she approached him. “You’re beautiful.”

    The huntress smirked playfully at him. “The Light has nothing to do with it, sweetheart.”

    The knight seemed very confused by this. “Oh, but you’re wrong. The Light has everything to do with it.”

    The huntress and the knight spoke a little, and after a few drinks they went for a walk. The knight felt as if his hands and feet were numb, but still he walked beside the most beautiful person, he imagined, in the entire world. When the huntress took him in her arms, the wars disappeared. So long as the moon cast its light on them both, nothing else mattered.

    Morning came and the knight awoke in his bunk, never having slept. He trained with his brothers in arms, part of his mind always on the huntress and her beautiful eyes.

    But the huntress worried for her heart. The knight was kind, but even his innocence could not convince her to unlock the chains that bound her inside. Before the sun rose, she left the city without a word.

    The knight knew nothing of the huntress’ departure. He continued to train until calamity struck. The city was under attack by the enemy, and the knights were dispatched. The young knight went with his brothers and fought valiantly, but there was no hope for him among the throngs of enemies who swarmed them.

    “By the Light we will triumph!” He shouted into the air, giving heart to his friends.

    As he bravely cut through their forces, the thought of the beautiful huntress was always in his mind. Hopeful that he might see her again, the knight guarded himself with a shield, fending off blows that might end him once and for all. So distracted was he by this task that he did not notice when an enormous black knight rose behind him, and drove his sword into the young knight’s back.

    The pain was minimal. The knight felt a numbness in his hands and feet, electricity through his veins, and an invisible hand clutching his heart. This was love and this was death, and soon the Light in him was gone.

    Many miles away, the huntress found peace among the trees. She befriended the druids and the naturalists who tended their grounds, and when war came to them, she fought by their side. In this beautiful place, the huntress finally found that the chains around her heart could be loosened. Eventually, someone managed to find the key that would unlock the bindings within. He was strong and confident in his love, forcing the huntress to understand that life was worth living if only she allowed it. For a while, she was free.

    Until calamity struck once more. War would not forget the forest, and ever druid defended their home. The huntress fought like a demon, tearing through the enemy in an effort to keep the peace she had found. Chaos consumed the forest, and the huntress fired arrows so quickly that they could not be seen with the naked eye. She swore to defend these people, especially the one who opened her heart to the world.

    But when the body of her love lay before her, she felt a pain like no other. Her heart, which she kept safe for so long, cracked right down the middle. In an effort to keep it safe and whole, the huntress sealed it away once more and left the forest.

    Years passed. The huntress wandered the world, finding work and busying herself. One night, lost in the monotony of drinking in a tavern, she heard the cry for battle. Grabbing her bow and arrows, she ran outside to find that the enemy army was attacking. Except this was no ordinary enemy, this was the army of the dead.

    Mindless undead swarmed the village, and the huntress joined the villagers to defend their home. Arrows flew into faces gray with death, and indiscriminate as she was against the enemy, the huntress couldn’t tell one undead from another… until a familiar face appeared. He was young. Far younger and less experienced than most of the other dead seemed to have been when they perished. His green eyes blue, his skin gray, he had a strangely calm expression as he attacked the villagers.

    The huntress felt a pang of regret where her heart was hidden. It was a simple choice to put him down, this undead monster who once shared a night in her arms. Why then was it so difficult to loose her arrow into his skull? Should she not simply let him rest in peace?

    But a strange tug at the chains around her broken heart forced the huntress into a different action. She ran to the knight and kicked his sword away, leaving him temporarily stunned and defenseless. The knight stared at her, confused.

    “Stop it, don’t you recognize me?” She shouted past the cries of battle booming around them.

    The knight reached for his sword but found nothing. He looked down toward his hand, then back up at the huntress. A strange realization came over his face. “…who?”

    “It’s me!” She shouted again, though there was little else to do besides fight back when the knight found an extra knife in his boot.

    “Who are you?” He asked, swinging the knife, skillful in spite of his undeath.

    The huntress dodged his attacks, ducking and weaving through them easily. “I am the huntress you met in the tavern! Don’t you remember?”

    The knight continued to attack. “I don’t remember,” he said easily, swinging faster.

    The knife came close to her belly, prompting the huntress to kick it out of his hand. “You have to remember! We were friends!”

    Again, he seemed confused. The knight shook his head and looked around for another weapon. Finding none, he simply swung his fists toward the huntress. “I don’t remember a friend.”

    Much more skilled with his fists than the knife, the huntress took a surprise hit to the jaw and went down to the ground. “I’m sorry,” she said past the pain in her mouth.

    “What are you sorry for?” The knight asked curiously, looming over the huntress. “Why are you sorry?”

    “Because...” she muttered, feeling very stupid. Why was she allowing this to happen? Guilt? She was stronger than this. Her heart, broken as it was, could survive many more years in the chains she created for it. Why did this one stupid young knight even matter in the grand scheme of things? He was nothing.

    “Because you left?” He asked, as if answering for her.

    The huntress stared at him, dumbfounded.

    The knight seemed at odds with himself. Grabbing his head, he stumbled back in a daze. “..I… I don’t remember a friend… I remember… I remember you, and… pain. The pain of death.”

    She knew that feeling all too well. Struggling back to her feet, she attempted to approach the knight. The battle around them was dying, and her people were winning. Soon he would have to die, or… “I’m sorry,” she said again, grabbing the knight’s empty hand. “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry you died.”

    Again, he looked confused. A strange realization came to the knight’s face, and even as he stared at the huntress’ familiar eyes, his own seemed lost. “I died?”

    The innocence of the question broke one of her chains. The huntress grit her teeth, feeling both stupid and vulnerable at the same time. “Yes,” she managed to say at last. “Yes, you died.”

    The knight’s face calmed a little, as if this truth changed everything. “But,” he said finally, taking a step closer to the huntress, his blue dead eyes focused on her own. “ make me feel so alive.”

    Another chain fell away. Even as the fight ebbed away, there seemed to be no other sound then that of his voice. How was it possible that this stupid boy could make her feel so much in the midst of such violence? He seemed oblivious to his undead allies falling around them, and as the last one fell, one of the living knights approached him and the huntress.

    “Don’t worry, I’ve got him,” the living knight said with a sword aimed for his back.

    “No!” the huntress shouted, pulling her knight’s body toward her own. Both arms wrapped around his waist, protecting him, even as the living stared them down. “No, you will not hurt him!”

    Soon a crowd of the living began to surround them. The undead knight pulled reluctantly from the huntress and looked, confused, as the living pointed their swords at him.

    “He is dead,” they said. “An enemy to the living. It will be a mercy to put him down.”

    “No!” The huntress said again. “He is not like them, he will not harm you!”

    “Only one way to find out,” one of the knights grumbled, stumbling forward to slash with his sword at the unarmed knight.

    The huntress leaped into action and deflected his sword with her bow. She kicked the living knight down, which displeased his friends. Another living knight ran toward her and thrust his sword at the huntress’ back, but it never touched her. The undead knight had grabbed the sword itself, cutting into his own fingers rather than let her be harmed.

    The crowd gasped. What undead creature would sacrifice himself for the living?

    The fighting stopped. As his fingers bled black coagulated blood on to the ground, the living stepped away from the dead. The huntress stood, unhindered, and looked sadly at this young knight who continued to sacrifice himself for others.

    “You didn’t have to do that,” she said quietly.

    “I know,” he said easily, attempting to smile. “By the Light, I couldn’t see you hurt.”

    “The Light has nothing to do with it,” the huntress said bitterly, grabbing the undead knight’s good hand and pulling his body toward her.

    To the disgust of all those around them, she kissed him. A living huntress and an undead knight, beauty and death incarnate. Though he was frigid, her heart felt warm and at last the final chain fell away. Raw, bleeding and still cracked, he seemed to take it in his grasp and hold it together with his cold grip.

    Pulling away from her lips, the knight finally managed to smile. “The Light has everything to do with it,” he said, and as she returned his smile with one of her own, never did the knight feel more blessed.

    • Like 1

  6. The smells of roasted meats and warm, nourishing soups began to fill the west side of the home, the staff quiet save for the clinking of trays and glasses.

    Amalyn made her way from the drawing room towards the kitchen, checking on everything before arriving at the hall, gazing over the smaller table setup for the four- no- three of them. The set up meant for Evie smacked Amalyn in the face and made tears well up once more. She clutched the white table cloth, shifting everything on the table unintentionally. She needed to pull herself together, this breakdown could happen later... her family needed her.

    When more staff began to arrive, placing out bowls of fresh bread, carting in a tray of wine, Amalyn straightened up. Her handkerchief wiped at her face as she made her way around the room, trying to look busy while waiting.

    Aetheril was next to arrive. He swept into the room as surely and smoothly as the pleasant smells wafted out of the entire wing. His expression was calm, not unpleasant, but it was still set, almost masklike. He looked to Amalyn, and inclined his head.

    The was a momentary silence, as he took in the room -- seldom had Aetheril been able to enjoy a dinner like this with family. He was lost for words for a moment, the silence reaching an awkward point. Finally, he spoke.

    "Amalyn. Thank you for this," he said, simply. The signs of strain and tiredness were there, in his muted tone and too-stiff features. But he was, at least, glad of the comfort of home.

    Cat walked into the banquet hall in Amalyn's provided blue dress. She looked sullen and broken, goimg through the motions without actually feeling anything. Seeing Aetheril and Amalyn, she gave them both the best smile she could muster. "Evening."

    Looking around, she seemed to grow a little anxious when she noticed someone missing.

    "Is.. Eive joining us?"

    Amalyn forced a small smile for her brother as she circled to stand behind her chair at the circular table. Lush, red velvet skirts dusted along the floor, a contrast to how little fabric was used up top. "You need not thank me, Aetheril, we are all family here."

    Cat was a distraction from another line Amalyn was tired of using around Aeth, a true beauty in the dark blue. She so badly wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, but held her tongue; Cat deserved an answer first. "No, Catalinetta, I apologize but she will not be able to be with us tonight." Green eyes darted at a nearby server and he ducked, swiftly taking away the fourth placeset, "We have all done Eiverlyn a great disservice and I do not fault her for not being here." The priestess's knuckles turned white as she gripped the back of her chair, using it to balance as she looked at the two in front of her.

    Aetheril let out a small sigh, increasingly aware of the tension in the room from the very moment he entered.  He blinked, returned a twitch of a smile that she had offered him, and nodded, slowly and deliberately.

    "A shame. I was hoping to make a proper acquaintance," he said, addressing it rather directly. "Very well. Shall we?"

    He looked to the chair in front of him.

    "You... you would have liked her very much," her voice quieted as she pulled her chair out to sit, "Aeth." It was so uncommon of her to shorten his name, anyone's name really, that perhaps it was a mistake. Amalyn's eyes had grown somewhat distant in the time it took for them to be seated, noticing a small mark in the pristine white tablecloth.

    Cat followed directions and sat down. Her face was blank, but there was clearly concentration happening. Licking her bottom lip, she closed her eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I was going to ask her to help me find Kreyen. If she's not coming, I'm going to leave after dinner. I know someone who can help me." She looked pointedly at Amalyn and Aetheril, as if waiting for them to say something, but there was an unusually grim determination in her eyes.

    The usually gentle priestess, all warmth and smiles and hugs had been replaced with a stern look and a very even tone. "That is a very spoiled notion that because you cannot have what you want right now, that you will simply just leave whenever you would like." Her head turned, eyes boring into Cat as her hands flattened to the table, "Specially a home that you have put under un-do danger."

    Aetheril tensed in his seat, stopping mid-reach for the bread. He felt his throat go dry.

    Cat pursed her lips. "Well maybe I am spoiled. I'm not used to my fiance leaving out of nowhere.." she bit her tongue. "..he's not like that. He left for a reason, and I'm going to go find him, and the further away I am from this home the safer it is. I'm not going to wait for him to come back. I'm not going to spend my un-life waiting."

    Aetheril bit his tongue. He took a hunk of bread and began to spread butter on it, the only sound he made the light clink of silverware. Anything to feel preoccupied for just a moment, while he gathered himself.

    Her voice rose just ever so slightly, yet she kept it even, "And you thought I would not procure another mage for you? That they would not be here by the morning to do whatever it is you were going to USE Eiverlyn for?" A short, manicured nail began to scratch at an errant thread, it seemed these linens had been in the closet for too long, "You will be safer here, despite what you have done, than leaving again. I will not permit you to go."

    The smaller of the two death knights blinked away tears. She was used to being chastised for her rash decisions, but not for being thoughtless. The idea that she wanted to use Eiverlyn struck a chord. "If you bring someone else here, they'll know about me. So you'll put another outsider in danger. The less people know I'm here, or anywhere, the better. If you're worried about anyone's safety, worry about yours, or your daughter's. Because me being here just makes this place a target, and I'm a death knight. I've already died once. I'm not going to let it happen again, and I'm especially not going to let it happen to you and your family."

    "Cat," Aetheril finally blurted out, laying down his silverware. His voice was flat, low, and weary. "It's already too late for that. This family knows the risks. Fel, do you know what they, what we have been through for years? Why my brother has all...all this?"

    He waved indistinctly over his shoulder, at the walls, the ceiling, everything.(edited)

    "I can't wait here anymore," Cat argued, swallowing a lump in her throat. "He could be out there somewhere, alone and hurt and I'd have no idea! I'm supposed to just wait safely while I have no idea where he is?? I-it's too much! Kreyen promised he wouldn't leave me, he promised." Her fingers clutched the dark blue fabric of her dress as she struggled to keep her voice even. "I have to find him, and I have to find him now."

    Aetheril clenched his teeth. Passively, her mounting panic hit him hard, as much as she tried to keep it in check. He was too tired, too weary to shut it out.

    Amalyn was just about to speak before Aetheril jumped in, her mouth closing slowly to let him speak. He had a part in this and would receive his own admonishing in time. "Yes. You are to wait here until we hear back from Faelenor or he returns. You must trust in him and KNOW that what he is doing, is for your best interest and safety." Was she just telling Cat these things, or perhaps it was something Amalyn had to live by day to day? It was hard to tell anymore.

    The girl's own hurt was beginning to mount on Amalyn's, for she too was too tired to block it out. A ripping pain began to gnaw away in the center of Amalyn's chest, but she ignored it to press on. "You speak as if this family has not seen battles, that I even haven't seen horrors beyond comprehension." A small glance down at her bracelet gave her away to anyone observant, it held a black pearl that swirled in an other-worldly way. "Your safest place to be is Here. With. Your. Family." Her words had a finality to them.

    "And how long before Faelenor gets back?" Cat asked with a rising amount of panic. "I trust Kreyen, that's why I have to find him! Because he'd never just leave me without telling me, and if he were out there, he'd try and let me know he was safe! I know him, and if he's been gone with no word it has to be because something is keeping him from me. How can you ask me to just wait?? You've seen battles and horrors, then you know what it's like to want to be with someone. Or at least know where they are. Why is it so wrong for me to find him? I'm not completely incapable, I'm not helpless.." She had to stop twisting her dress for fear of tearing it. "..Kreyen is my family, too."

    "Not long actually," Came a voice from the entrance to the banquet hall. Dim eyes peered over the gathering, narrowing as they crossed over the death knights respectively. "Whether or not that is good news to anyone here will remain to be seen." The tapping of his boots began as he approached. They echoed with an intensity, purposefully making his presence known to them. He parted the crossing of his arms to remove the hood that had been keeping his features under guise, revealing only a cold stare. No warm smile, no soft sighs, only a frigid tone and a directness that could not be mistaken. "Before I begin with what I have to say...let me grant your worries respite. A favor some of you seem to be unable to grant others around you." His stare hit Cat first, moving towards the other death knight as if to remind him that this has not been forgotten.

    "Kreyen, much to his own fortune, is safe and out of danger. I saw to it that he make it to safety at the completion of something foolishly dangerous...he seemed to have a trust in me that I expected from my own kin. On the subject of seeing him. If you do not wish to break him further, I will advise that you keep a distance until he returns to you. He asked that I keep you out of harms way and I aim to keep that promise." He pulled a chair from the table and leaned on its backing, stare still drawn to the guests of the manor. "I wont sweeten it for you or lie to you about the situation...simply put, your actions were the reason he ran...and he will continue to run until you can learn that what you do has an effect on more then just you. One does not get to be a hero and have family, Cat...Eventually one of you will that what you want?"

    The fork that Amalyn had begun to worry between her thumb and forefinger clattered to the table, the knock against her plate a mar on the otherwise silence. Her mouth went dry as his face came into view and her back straightened, a reflex really. Her gaze fell to the table, another wave hitting her as his anger swept over, another rip in her chest. The exhaustion doubling as she struggled to not crumple under its weight.

    Cat's eyes lowered to the table. There was nothing she could say or do after Faelenor's explanation, but the life and excitement once so prevalent in the death knight's demeanor seemed to leave her eyes.

    Aetheril went rigid, his face returning to that masklike quality it had before. He shivered for just a moment, a visible rise in his shoulders as he sharply inhaled. Nothing to do for it now. He wasn't exactly unprepared for this, but it didn't lessen the sting.

    Fael was coldly livid -- somehow, it was more unsettling than if he'd been openly raging. At least then, it'd be a crack in the facade, a break in his impenetrable character. Something to dissect in the open, even if it were messy.

    With nothing else to do, he took a bite of the hunk of bread, absently. It was a mechanical thing, chewing away, but it gave him time to set himself in order. He swallowed with difficulty, retaining composure.

    "Not one of you has a single word to say? No excuse for any of the things that occured? Nothing?" He pushed away from the chair, palms reaching down to press on the table. He leaned so that they could see him and spoke out once more. "Playing the broken mess when you've caused someone troubles, unwilling to own your mistakes and take responsiblity for those actions. Do you honestly think you have a reason to be silent, to feel broken when the right thing to do is to get your shit together and make it right for Kreyen? He loves you...risks his life for you and you repay him by retreating to that little place in your head that justifies and validates you? Tell me you love him?"

    Aetheril didn't take the bait. It wasn't time to hash things out with Faelenor. It wasn't time to talk specifics - this was Cat's move. But he couldn't help but look between the two of them, his own eyes settling keen and cold in their orbits.

    The death knight didn't answer right away. It didn't seem as if she were capable, as blank as her eyes appeared. Despite her ability to breathe, something she did more out of habit than necessity, Cat sat rigid and still, more corpselike than alive.

    When she finally did speak, it was in a low voice, scratchy in the way one would expect the dead to talk. "..yes."

    Another stab and her back bent in an odd way forward, both hands flat to the table. She knew he wasn't speaking to her but she was feeling that icy-cold wrath reguardless. On top of Cat's defeated sadness and Aeth's swirling of emotions Amalyn was doing all she could to keep it together. She couldn't even look at her own husband, no matter how badly she wished to see his face.

    "Then fix your mistakes, live up to them and remind yourself how things got this way everytime you have the urge to play the hero card. I may not be around often and I am certain that I make Amalyn worry about me, but I take every precaution to ensure that I come back alive... no thoughtless decisions, just the notion that I have to come back and the understanding that one mistake could cost me. So if you love him, and you have to be in a situation where things could get have to be willing to take every measure to return to him." He moved towards the black haired death knight and pulled the chair next to her, sitting beside her. His tone softened, stern but no longer a frigid wind of emotion. He placed a hand on her shoulder and sighed. "No matter what that measure is...even if its remaining in the safety of our home until we can take our fight to those that would threaten that happiness. Use every resource at your disposal to return to him, especially when that resource is your very family."

    Cat didn't move under Faelenor's hand. Her bare shoulder was cold to the touch, a faint pulse beating slowly, just enough for her organs to function, though her lips turned a pale shade of violet and her chest remained still. She gave no indication that she was actually listening to Faelenor until he finished speaking. At that point, her grip on her dress had gone completely loose, and her hands slid limp against her lap.

    "Okay," she eventually murmured, her voice still scratchy, as if she wasn't getting enough air to project. She seemed to exhausted to cry, and instead closed her eyes. "I'm sorry. I know I'm.. I'm.." Her voice faded before picking up again. "I'll do as you say."

    Aetheril wasn't sure how to take this.There was too much in play, too many emotions having reached a tipping point. He could only let loose a long-held breath, a bated sigh in response to the change in the color of the room, a release of tension.

    He closed his eyes tightly, feeling that at least one of them was involuntarily tearing up. A moment later, he grabbed the bridge of his nose, and rubbed them. Another sharp breath through his nose.

    Wet splashes hit the tablecloth beneath her, her eyes still burning from the tears before freshened anew with pain. The tipping point had come and gone and now it ebbed out from her shoulders and through her fingertips. She ached to be held by him as he had before when the cacophony of emotions had gotten to be too much, but instead she would wait.

    Aetheril had noticiably relaxed, and it allowed her to do as well, returning to her straight-back position in her chair. But with this change, this ease, more emotions began to trickle into her periphery. The staff, who'd all wisely stayed behind the swinging door, were full of worry and fear and she ached to reassure them everything would be alright. That everything would work out, just like it always had.

    "Don't do as I say because I said it, but because you understand what the right thing to do is." His hand raised from her shoulder to pat at the back of her head like an older brother to a grieving younger sister. "For now, think about the words I've said. When you have given yourself the opportunity to reflect we can discuss how we go about handling everything that has occurred. I want this to end as much as the rest of you..."

    Cat opened her eyes slowly and nodded. The light behind them was dim, casting a pale light on her gray face. It was just enough to highlight the red rims of her eyes. Again, she spoke just enough to convey her acceptance of the situation, a low tone that sounded as if there were no steam left in her to fight anyone.


    Aetheril lowered his hand from his face, and looked to Faelenor sharply, a little warning in his eyes, sunken and ringed though they were with fatigue. He could sense that Cat had sunk very low indeed, beyond any sort of argument.  This wasn't a moment where she could properly consider what Faelenor had to say, after the initial bombshell. She needed time to process.

    "There's not much more to be said right now," he said, his own voice subdued. He shook his head. "Good food, reflection, recovery, peace. All to be put in order soon, but not a moment earlier."

    He looked at the bread in front of him, then to Amalyn, and then back to Cat and Fael.(edited)

    With Aetheril's interjection, Cat's head lowered just a little more. If it was shame that kept her from looking at anyone, it continued to cow her under the weight of their presence. "..may I be excused?"

    Fael gave no acknowledgement to Aetheril, sharp stare and warning eyes met with the side of his cheek and nothing else. His turn would come in time. "I do not bind you to this dinner though I suppose that is not up to me. If you need to walk away for now then you should."

    "You are not our prisoner, Catalinetta." Amalyn's voice broke around the tears that had yet to fall, "Please take the time you need," She finally looked up, eyes softening to the girl, "my suggestion being the rose garden or the library... they are places I enjoy going to think."

    She said nothing else, still trying to filter and sort out the turmoil of emotions writhing through her.

    Cat stood from her chair and bowed politely to Amalyn and Faelenor in turn.  "Thank you for dinner, ma'am. Sorry for my outburst. It won't happen again."

    Her walk from the table and into the hall was slow and without rush. It seemed she didn't have a particular place to go.

    Aetheril shook his head again, exhaling softly.

    He folded his hands in his lap, and let her go without comment. Largely at a loss, he simply had to accept that there was nothing to be done to "fix" the current problem -- at this tender stage, Cat needed time alone. And so he sat in near-awkward silence, trying simply to put his own thoughts and emotions in order.

    Out of the room, out of sight, Amalyn broke down. Surrounded by family she didn't have to hold together a perfect facade.  She buried her face in her hands and began to sob, quiet at first until she gasped for air. The burn had moved into her throat, strained under all the words that wouldn't come out. The weight she held on her shoulders settling into its place.

    Faelenor walked past Aetheril,  softer steps that moved with little to no anger. There would be plenty of time to have a discussion with his brother but the urgency and presidence Amalyn took won out the night. He lowered himself down to her, digits leading a hand that pressed lovingly on her back. Lips kissed through scarlet locks, slowly at first until he embraced her fully. "Love..." The warmth of his hold shifted, arms moving to lift her from the chair. He continued to kiss her head, feeling the way she shook. "I'm sorry..." He carried her past the doors of the hall, letting the staff walk past him to clean up what little needed cleaning.

    His warmth was the first thing she felt, his skin always molten against hers. It radiated until he was pressed up against her, his arms circling around her frame. He always made her feel so small, so protected, that feeling cementing as she buried her face into the crook of his neck. His heartbeat still marched on, a reassurance he was real, as she inhaled the scent of him; pine, leather, and a darkness she couldn't quite ever place. He smelled like home. As she curled her arms around his neck, she laid her wet cheek to his shirt, her sobs quieting as he carried her out.

    Gods she'd missed him.

    The staff took most everything from the table, one of them approached Aetheril with a bow. "Lord Aetheril. Did you wish to remain at the table for dinner? We can prepare something for you should you request it."

    "Aetheril will do," he corrected, softly, though a slight jagged edge crept into his words, a raggedness born from the general atmosphere. "The only Lord of this House is already in attendance. Sir, if you insist," he added, almost dejectedly.

    "Apologies," he quickly amended, shaking his head and clearing away his tone. "I will remain, and have a little of whatever I'm smelling -- a soup, was it? Yes. Then I shall retire."

    Aetheril sighed, and was left to his own thoughts. He wasn't about to flee to his own quarters, or offer excuses for today's misadventure. He and Faelenor would have it out in time, and he'd take whatever responsibility he must.

    After the light meal arrived, he ate in silence and solitude, only the clinking of silverware breaking the stillness. Worry lines cracked an otherwise-impassive face.

  7. During his time at Light’s Hope Chapel, Xoan made himself as invisible as was possible for a new recruit. He was interviewed and eventually placed with a small group of trainees, where they spent most of the day performing practical exercises. Having been raised in a fairly devout family, he had no trouble reciting the philosophy of their beliefs, and physically was in good enough shape to keep up with their training. By the end of the day, he made a few friends. It didn’t take them very long to gossip about the goings-on around the chapel. From the attack by the Ebon Blade, to a splinter group’s  crusade against rogue death knights, to the sudden discovery that the Light could somehow bring death chargers back from the dead, there were plenty of things to talk about.

    Xoan kept his mouth shut through most of it. When they mentioned the young bull who survived the purge in Windrunner Village, however, he kept his eyes open. The bull was soon pointed out in the yard, still injured, and Xoan was already formulating a plan. Thankfully, after the fight, the Sunwalker was given a small room to himself where he could recover. That would make things easy, and as day turned to night, Xoan waited for the moon to hide behind a group of clouds before hiding in the shadows himself. 

    He wasn’t the best fighter by any means, but Xoan had grown accustomed to sneaking. Something about it came naturally to the elf; the slow languid movements, the silent way of stepping. He let the shadows consume him as he crept toward the Sunwalker’s room, checking the name on the door just to be sure before letting himself inside.(edited)
    It wasn’t quite morning yet, but it was also past midnight. Soon enough the sound of training would hit the yard outside, and the Sunwalker would rouse himself awake. For now, however, he was safely asleep. Xoan approached him silently, dressed in black to hide his form in the darkness, the moon still shrouded by clouds to keep it that way. Only his fel green eyes cast enough light for him to see his way through the bull’s room, and as he looked down at the sleeping tauren, Xoan smiled a little to himself. The thick fur of his kind would certainly come in handy, here. No one would notice any irregularities.

    Careful to position himself behind the headboard, Xoan reached for the rope wrapped around his leg and carefully wrapped it around one fist. He would need to do this quickly, and cautiously. Too much of a struggle would rouse suspicion, and tauren were certainly stronger than he was. That’s why before actually strangling the bull, he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a small damp napkin. It smelled of lilies and hyacinth, but when placed against the bull’s nose, sent him into a sleep even deeper than the one he enjoyed.

    With that out of the way, Xoan wrapped the rope around the bull’s neck, twice for good measure. Pulling on both ends, he cut off the bull’s windpipe and watched as his victim struggled to breathe. Fortunately, the relaxing poison he inhaled was enough to keep him too deeply unconscious to move very much. There was a twitch in his arms and legs, but nothing more. Xoan waited for all of the twitching to stop before letting the rope go slack.
    With his victim dead, now the real work began. Looking for an appropriate beam at the ceiling, Xoan climbed atop a chair and made a noose from his killing instrument. It would be just high enough to appropriately hang the tauren, but he would have to actually get him into it first. Stepping off of the chair, the elf reached into his other pocket and pulled out a strength potion. It would only work for about sixty seconds, but it would be enough to lift the tauren and hang him from the noose.

    Staging the scene only took a few extra moments. The chair was left at its side, to indicate that the tauren simply climbed up, formed his own noose, and committed suicide. He made sure to remove every other indication of his presence; the napkin, the flask of potion. They both went back into his pocket, and with his padded gloves and boots, not even fingerprints would remain.

    When the Silver Hand found the bull the next morning, they would mourn his choice. It was not unheard of for a knight to take his life, be it out of pride or sorrow. Clearly he felt such a blow to his ego after having been released by a single death knight that it damaged a part of him that could never be repaired.

    Xoan heard about it from his friends, the next day. 

    “He hung himself?” The elf said with no small amount of surprise. “What a shame.”

  8. Surveying the carnage, Aetheril strode on through the aftermath. He kept sharp watch on the dead and the dying as he moved - knights of either stripe reduced to so much bloody wreckage. There was a space in the battle-priest's eyes, a distant remembrance of similar sights, back when he still called himself an Ebon Blade. His padded half-plate rattled only slightly as he walked. 

    After a time, he came to a stop at the foot of one sorry case – a Silver Hand, some young adept whose career was cut painfully short. He was laid open at the belly, the entire scene a ghastly tableau. There were pieces, some already breaking down from the telltale corruption of unholy runes. 

    He covered his eyes with one iron-shod hand, forcibly stilling his own breathing. Aetheril murmered something indistinct as his head was bowed. It could have been a prayer or a curse, for the scene warranted both. After a few quiet minutes, clinically examining the scene with the air of an investigator, he seemed to come to some sort of decision.

    The priest turned on a heel, and came striding back towards the tavern, purposely. He gave Cat a harrowed look as he passed, his gaunt face turned even more ashen than normal. Whatever terrible notion drove Aetheril, he seemed to have eliminated his options. 

    He came back out bearing his pack, which he'd dropped at the first outbreak of violence. He didn't look at Cat on his way out, but spoke to her all the same.

    "The Shriven will need to know. My splinter chapter. The Brotherhood," he said, voice clipped. "Come with me. Or not. But I may have a use for you. Just know that this won't be the honorable option, but its the only one I have right now." 

    He was blunt, and terse, and seemed to be speaking out of a distracted state.

    "..what do you mean?" Cat asked with a somewhat blank face, still shaken from the fight. The last living paladin was long gone, but she still felt their presence there, watching. "They're all dead. The fight is over.." she blinked a few times and turned to watch him.  "You're my brother. What's not honorable about going with you?"

    "I mean -- what I'm about to do," he said, quietly. He'd come to a stop, and looked back at her over his shoulder. "We can't very well make contact with them directly, and risk exposure. The Brotherhood is very strict in times of crisis. I have the means to reach them even here. A ritual," he went on, his breathing slowed and his eyes looking a bit sunken.

    Cat checked their surroundings again. The remaining death knights, though few, tended to themselves. There were a handful of wounded knights, and they helped one another before eventually collecting the bodies of their fallen brothers and sisters. Only when she was sure there was no more danger did Cat approach Aetheril and stand beside him. "Unless you're planning on hurting anyone, do what you have to do," she said with a shrug. "There's not much that'll shock me, at this point.."

    He gave her a long, searching look. Finally, he met her shrug with one of his own, and sighed.

    "Let's get this over with, then." 

    They both approached the dead adept, his armor -- well-appointed, perhaps newly-issued – lay rent asunder at the gut, its gleaming mirror-shine marred by the evidence of wrenching violence. Something had happened here, and wounds were seldom so hungrily gouged. There was a distinctive animal brutality that only a rune blade had the will and the malice to inflict.

    Muttering something indistinct, he removed his tall, wide-brimmed hat, and laid it over his heart. He then offered a momentary silence as the weight of the scene settled on them both. A ground-mist had begun to gather.

    Then, the silence ended abruptly. Without further ado, Aetheril dropped his pack, and began to rummage through it. As he did, Cat might've picked up the strains of another rasped incantation on his breath, perhaps a ward against evil or restless spirits. In a place as eerie as the Ghostlands, such things were a common traveller's refrain, but the priest uttered them with such haste and urgency. 

    Finally: "I'm not very good at this," he admitted, pausing in his search. "But I must put my meager skills to the test. We're running low-to-zero contact, for your safety...and mine, come to think of it. And the Shriven Brotherhood wouldn't have it any other way."
    Looking paler and sunken for just an instant, he withdrew a spherical object from his backpack, wrapped in thick canvas. He undid the ties, whispered another ward, and uncovered the thing.

    The object was a strange silver mechanism, inlaid throughout with a shining, cyan-tinged metal. That sickly inlay – as if metal could be unwholesome! - was sinister, uniformly unsettling, and Aetheril's eyes and lips quivered with unwilling, mild fascination. And yet, his hands never touched the gleaming device directly – it was encased in a membrane of sorts, a sphere of polished dark glass or crystal. Smoky currents seemed to shift freely, obscuring and revealing the inner workings.

    Shaking himself awake from an unaccustomed chill, Aetheril spoke to Cat again.

    "This should not affect us, or so the Ebon Blade has said time-and-again. But treat it carefully. The mechanism is of saronite inlay, and a devious thing."

    He stood and gave it to her, hesitantly, gingerly. "Hold this for now. I will need it soon."

    "Uh.. o-okay.." Cat said with as much bravado as she could muster, taking thing in her hands. Despite wearing gauntlets, she seemed less than willing to let the weird thing touch here skin and held it away from herself. She did not, however, question Aetheril.

    Aetheril reached into his pack again, withdrawing a capped, opaque-painted vial. Delicately, he unscrewed the cap from its threads, and teased out the contents into his palm, carefully. Packed in cotton wadding, it was a wickedly sharp needle that shone with a telltale light.

    "The two resonate. But first must attune to the medium."

    He held the delicate, evil-looking thing between two fingers. Aloft, it looked to be crystalline, as if it were a pointed shard from a larger mass. And, with that green glow, undoubtedly fel in origin.

    "Forgive me," he sighed. Aetheril kneeled again, before the corpse. He made some esoteric gesture in the air, handling the tiny thing like a conductor's baton, carving out an unseen pattern. Then, he anointed the needle with the still-cooling blood of the corpse, going directly to the source, the terrible wound. There was no immediate reaction, but after a moment, the blood quietly bubbled and hissed on the point of the implement.

    "The sphere!" he demanded, quietly but urgently. He held out his free hand.

    "Uh... here!" Cat babbled, handing over the strange device. It was true that she wasn't shocked by his actions, but she wasn't quite sure what was happening either. Careful not to get too close, she watched as the blood bubbled, smelling the changes as they were made before her eyes.

    The moment the sphere touched his hand, he jerked upright where he sat, as though an electric shock had passed from one hand to the other. Aetheril grit his teeth, grimacing, before finding the will to move. Beneath the smoky glass membrane, the saronite mechanism had sprung to sluggish life, layers within layers turning and arranging in jerks and starts.

    "The fel, and that which issues from beyond, the blood of the Void, have a certain antipathy," he intoned, breathing deliberately, as small beads of sweat sprung up on his forehead. Aetheril spoke to keep himself distracted from the discomfort. "Where they meet, there are ripples. The mechanism issues a dissonant note, a shriek that carries through the Saronite lode...all the way to Northrend. For the blood of Yogg'Saron is one blood, one life."

    He then whispered another prayer, another ward, and laid the mechanism down in the open belly of the corpse, a grotesque cradle. The tremor in his hands stilled.

    "If one of the Brothers is on the other end," he explained, breathing his relief. "They will hear. It is a direct line through the black blood, untraceable by any ordinary magic. The reception is...difficult, however."

    He held the needle aloft once more. More whispers, and then his hand came down deliberately, fiercly, before reaching a jerking halt. The bloody point hung above the surface of the sphere, shaking slightly in his hand.
    The priest uttered a single word of power, and a film of shadow magic sheathed the needle. He releaseed his hold on it, and watched as it slowly descended of its own accord, penetrating the glass membrane without a sign of a crack or displacement. It was as though the outer layer were viscous, and the  point was sinking into a layer of molasses.

    He snatched his hands back, like he'd touched a hot stove. Then clapping them together, he nodded once, fiercely. The mechanism within the sphere began to turn with greater speed, layers locking into place. A channel was forming, the fel needle allowed passage deeper into the heart of the device. It's sheath of conjured voidstuff remained unbroken.

    Cat watched the whole scene with widening eyes. This sort of magic was never her specialty, but if Aetheril was being careful, that meant something. 

    "The Brothers," she repeated quietly. "Where were they, last? I mean, where did you see them?"
    "Not long after the war in Northrend," he began to answer, as his eyes remained locked on the needle's delving point. Aetheril spoke with a flat tone, entranced. Most of his attention was fixated on the device, sitting on his haunches in front of  the body.

    "--the Brotherhood -- my order, the Shriven -- they took part in the first, doomed assault on the Broken Shore. I believe some have gone back there since. But their home, where I hope to make contact..."

    His eyes shuddered in their orbits, as his mind began to interface with something other. To the priest, the psychic ether grew deathly still. Even so, an unskilled onlooker might note an inexplicable sense of tension, of mounting dread, a deep-rooted aversion that might compel them to quickly leave. Aetheril was carving through the local thoughtscape with a surgeon's finesse, but to an uncertain end. Sensation in the immediate area took on a sort of waxiness, as though details were unfocused,  and sight and sound slipped out-of-joint. The sound of his voice was muffled, bubbling up through the haze.

    "The Shadow Vault." 

    The words were an invocation. His eyes stilled, and their pupils dialated fully.  Aetheril's hands rose painfully-slow and deliberate, the air like molasses in that small clearing around the paladin's corpse. It may have been a trick of the senses, an attenuation of percieved time. Whatever the case, after a very long transition, they at last hung in space in front of him at about chest level, a blank-eyed conductor ready to lead an orchestra.

    "..the Shadow Vault..." Cat repeated under her breath, careful not to distract Aetheril from his task. She remembered this place well. Located in northern Icecrown, so close to the Frozen Throne that one might spit and have it land at the feet of the Lich King. The Ebon Blade took that place as a base during the campaign in Northrend, and to Cat's knowledge, still held it.

    Why then would the Shriven Brotherhood be there? If they disassociated themselves with the Blade? She thought back to her time there, fighting for the Horde, bits and pieces of her earliest days as a Death Knight creeping back to the front of her mind. A presence was there, too cloaked in shadow for her to remember entirely, but never gone from her past; Soleren. She briefly remembered a glimpse of his face and immediately recoiled from those thoughts. What few memories she had of him were pure dread. 

    But then, there was no way he would be anywhere near the Shadow Vault. Was there?

    When Aetheril's scrying finally led him to create what looked like an illusion before him, the smaller death knight had to fight her instinct to leap back in surprise. She watched the ritual like a student, but felt that this particular sort of magic was far beyond what she was capable of. Clasping a hand over her mouth, Cat waited for Aetheril to speak with his brethren.

    At once, the needle found the core of the sphere, the final saronite gate aligned and locked into place. The last seal was broken. The lingering tension relieved, all at once, and a gentle, inward rush of air disturbed dead leaves. The clearing breathed with an unseen presence.

    Then, the scene took on a new and frightening light as Aetheril's hands began to move, swiftly and mechanically. His face glistened with cold sweat as his fingers were puppetted by some alien impulse. Droplets of blood spattered his tunic and gambeson, as the priest worked. 

    The paladin's own steaming innards were the so-called "medium" of this method of scrying. Somewhere in the preparation, Aetheril had silently produced a fine-edged knife, and was deliberately excising and sorting the contents of the corpse's belly. Not once did his tool nick or disturb the dark sphere where it lay in the center of the mess. He didn't dare.
    He worked at his grisly task for several minutes, pausing at irregular intervals. At times, the light of recognition crept into his eyes, momentarily breaking the seer's-trance into which he'd fallen. Aetheril seemed more puzzled than anything else, but each time shook his head to clear it, and resumed with renewed deliberation. 

    When he finally released a long-held breath, and wiped the knife clean, he sat surrounded by cooling remnants, an esoteric array laid in blood and offal. He struggled to his feet, turning about, surveying the results as he would any runic configuration – this one, however, was not any recognizeable language or sigil. Aetheril vacillated between confusion and peturbation, before grasping something resembling recognition.(edited)
    "The Vault," he explained, at last returning to life, or whatever ashen mockery passed for it. "Is not wholly under the Blade's control. Their garrison is a token one, and has been since Acherus moved. The Brotherhood has always operated within the larger hierarchy, meeting in secret in the foundations of the place, to practice their subtle arts. To the Ebon Blade, they were just another sub-Chapter, a force left to protect their holdings."

    Aetheril screwed up his face, trying to make sense of the confusing sensations he'd recieved during the trance. He wiped his forehead, carelessly smearing blood as he fought off confusion, and pain.

    "I sensed...danger. A need to flee. The Lich King's outstretched hand -- doom stalks the halls. He will know that the Shriven Brothers are faithless, that they deny him and refuse their swords.  His terrible eyes pierce the veil, where the Ebon Blade was unawares. A doctrinal dispute will turn to a question of treachery."

    In the ruined belly of the corpse, the mechanism began to silently click, as the needle was slowly extruded from the dense and murky  interior. Atheril's attention was arrested for just a moment. He shuddered.

    "I recieve these...feelings. Through the black blood. At the Vault, another sphere is tied directly to this one...a sort of...magical entanglement," he muttered, waving his hand absently in an attempt to simplify the picture. "What effects one will effect the other, and a psychic medium must use unorthodox means to interpret it."

    Aetheril rubbed his temples, and took on that same pained expression again. He seemed drained by his efforts.

    "I'm a poor haruspex, I'm afraid. But I reached one of the Brothers. Or a Sister? Either way, I know that they will move, soon, some directed to aid us in our time of need. The others scattered and gone to ground. I've tried to relay as much detail as I could, but it's jumbled, confused....but at least others cannot sense this. Only those who hold the spheres."

    "The important thing is that they're doing what they can to be safe," Cat said with a quick nod. "That's all that matters. Though I wish.." her voice faded a little as she looked around the village. The handful of surviving death knights had almost all gone, left their home abandoned, perhaps in search of a new one. Or at least in search of safety. "..I wish we could have done more, here."

    The mortality of their situation felt heavy. Cat was so used to death by now that entrails and blood hardly impacted her, but seeing the remains of her fellow death knights was a reminder; she was not immortal, and if this could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.

    "...I need to find Kreyen," she said suddenly, blue eyes focused on her brother with a painful confidence. "If he finds out what happened here, he's going to worry himself into an aneurysm. I've got to get to him before that happens."

    Aetheril's mouth tightened, pressed into a thin line. His features were sunken and cold, his energy spent. One eye twitched, just slightly, an absent spasm.  He didn't speak for a few moments, and took the time to carefully retrieve and stow the sphere and it's fel needle. He handled these effects with utmost delicacy.

    "I'm not going to tell you this was a mistake," he said at last, quietly. "I think we did some good, and we need whatever allies we can get in this time. Interference. Something to throw the opposition into disarray. And I wouldn't have dared use the sphere inside the bounds of the manor."

    Aetheril was wringing his hands as he surveyed the carnage. The mechanism was now out of sight, cradled in its sack, and hopefully out of mind. Its lingering influence soured his stomach. The priest took a moment to swallow his rising gorge, idly surveying the carnage.

    "All that said...we move from goal to goal quickly and hastily. It is perhaps time that we waited, went back to ground ourselves. Hit and fade. We shouldn't assume that we are ever alone, or that we move unseen. Nor Kreyen."

    He breathed in through his nose, sharply. Cold eyes met hers just once, and then scanned the area.

    Cat pursed her lips as Aetheril spoke, his general good sense setting her course. Whatever she imagined Kreyen must have been thinking when he left didn't feel entirely right, anymore. The real world danger that awaited her, and every other death knight, wasn't a situation she knew he would want her exposed to. Frustrations about feeling trapped aside, she lowered her eyes to the ground and made a difficult decision. 

    "..yeah. Okay. I guess.. we should probably go back, then," she muttered, touching her axe reflexively. It was satiated, for now.

    "We'll find him," he said, nodding sharply, a little of the tension going out of his face and voice. Aetheril cast his eyes around, but it seemed he looked for something that wasn't there.

    Then, speaking deliberately: "The Brotherhood will help us. This is a crisis for them, too." 

    He wiped some of the blood from his hands as he thought this aloud, to nobody in particular. A moment later, he turned back to Cat, and carried on as normal.

    "We just need to regroup. I promise...if Fael hasn't already located him, we'll put our heads together and figure this out. I promised Amalyn we'd return together, and safely, after contacting our allies."

    Aetheril sighed, gently, sensing her reticence, her wrestling with the decision. But, at least, she'd taken his advice. No overextension. A sigh quickly turned into distracted urgency, however, and his nose wrinkled.

    "Help me burn the body. I can't leave him like this."

    Cat nodded quickly and lowered herself beside the corpse. Aetheril was usually easy to read, but his shifts in mood had her a little concerned. Was it the scrying? The way in which he tore through a corpse to get what he needed? She felt a little ashamed for not being as disgusted by the act. Having grown accustomed to not only using blood runes but eating her victims to regain strength, Cat and long since passed the point of disgust. Sliding both arms underneath the paladin, she lifted him easily into the air, limbs limply hanging down along with his entrails, and carried him toward the  town's small dilapidated chapel. 

    The graveyard was small, and may have gone forgotten for some time. However, for the death knights residing there, forgetting the dead was not an option. The few surviving death knights already had a pile of bodies going, but only for the paladins. Their own dead, they would bury. Cat lay the corpse among his brethren and took a step back, looking at the pile of bodies with a newfound sense of awe.

    "Thank you for helping us," said the death knight orcess from the tavern. Her voice was low and strained, as if she were having a difficult time speaking. Leftover burns on her arms faded slowly, leaving behind gray scars.

    Cat smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner. I'm hoping nobody else tries something like this again, but.. I can't be sure. What will you do now?"
    The orcess shook her head slowly. "There are few of us left. We had hoped that this could be a new beginning for us, but.. now, I do not think we can stay. Not after this. No, we will go to Northrend. Regroup. After that, I do not know. What will you do, elf? You look like a fighter. Will you return to the front?"

    It was a difficult question to answer. The Legion was attacking, and death knights provided a necessary service to the Horde. Even if her kind were being hunted, could she ignore her duty? Cat flashed a glance at Aetheril before answering. "..eventually. For now, we regroup. Please, be careful out there," she pleaded. "I know this was a setback, but.. it was a nice place. I hope you can find another home, someday."

    There was a long pause in conversation as the orcess reached for a book of matches in her pocket, struck them, and dropped the little fire on to their pile of bodies. As the paladins went up in flame, she smiled sadly and nodded. Had she been alive, the orcess might have wept. "Yes. I hope so, too."

    Aetheril listened to the conversation, silently. He watched as the bodies burned and crackled.

    "I'd ask for your help," he murmered, without tearing his eyes away. "But you hardly wanted any of this."

    The priest swallowed a lump forming in his throat, and hesitated, as though he couldn't find the words. Finally, he shook his head and settled on an indistinct curse. The piled dead were consumed in the heat.

    "Such a waste."

    The orcess looked carefully at the priest as he stared at the rising flames. He seemed less than happy with the situation, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out a stone. It wasn't particularly interesting looking, just a plain smooth polished stone, gray in color. "Here," she said to Cat gently, handing her the rock. "Take this. We made a few for everyone who lived here. We must regroup, but in the future, if you or your friend need help, do not hesitate to call on us."

    A few yards away, the remaining death knights had begun shoveling. There were plenty of bodies to bury. Cat nodded and pocketed the stone. "Sure. But before that, let me help you dig," she said with another glance at Aetheril. "And then we'll go?"

    Aetheril furrowed his brow, looking at the stone in Cat's hand. After a moment, he nodded. He turned to the orcess one last time, before they joined the work.

    "If, in your travels, you come accross the sigil of the scabbard and the empty hand...know the bearer for a friend."

    He gave a cryptic smile, then went to find a shovel.

  9. Xaxas'delar
    Winter, Year 32

    "So.. after me, you had girlfriends?"

    Cat and Kreyen were sitting together in his apartment at the port. They were in the middle of getting dressed, something they usually did together while talking over the day’s plans. Today’s conversation was starting off with something that had been weighing on the death knight’s mind for some time. She tried not to sound too petulant as she questioned him, but it was unmistakable. "Did you love them, too?"

    "After a time," Kreyen admitted quietly, "and for a while before they'd passed.  Those relationships lasted two and three years each, so..."  He sighed, then turned around to face her with an apologetic look, "I'm not going to hide anything from you if you have questions, but I'm not sure how much of this you actually want to hear, Cat."

    Cat stood up, finally dressed, wet hair from a recent shower still down past her shoulders. She fidgeted with the front of her shirt, twisting the fabric around her hands. "..I guess.. I don't need details, I know they're personal and I don't want you to think I'm.. super jealous or something, but.. I would like to know, because its a part of you. And I think I should know all about what makes you... you, I guess."

    Kreyen sat backwards onto the bed, fidgeting with the buttons of his shirt.  "Tai'jin, the troll, was the one who knocked sense into me.  Didn't put up with my bullshit when I just wanted someone to fool around with.  So, you can thank her for that one.  She was younger than you are, but I'm not sure I've been with many that had as much authority as she brought to bear."  He frowned, finishing his shirt and looking up at her with a distant look.  "Maera...was a more mature relationship.  We'd been friends for a long time prior, and it just...sort of happened.  She was sweet, but played games I had problems keeping up with.  The...other already know about."

    "It's not like any of you are the same," he said quietly, "And there were different reasons I fell each time."  Kreyen gave her a long look, fidgeting on the bed nervously, "You don't have any competition though, and it's not as though I'm settling or something weird.  I was trying to avoid getting this attached again in general, but..." he trailed off, opening and closing his mouth once as he collected himself, "I'm glad you pushed through that.  I haven't been...actually happy for a while."

    Cat stood still as she listened, her face gradually becoming sadder as Kreyen explained his losses. Eventually, she moved carefully toward the bed. She sat down next to the hunter and put her arms around him from one side, leaning her head on to his shoulder. "I'm glad, too," she said quietly. "And I'm sorry you lost so much, and went through so much pain. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Especially you. I'm sorry for asking you about it, but... it does explain some things I'd been meaning to ask about. I promise, I'm not jealous or freaked out or anything. I'm just thankful that after all that, your heart is still open to something."

    He looked at her quietly as she spoke, then leaned over and pecked her forehead quickly.  "More difficult to hide from someone I already had feelings for, Cat." Kreyen looked into her eyes then, his expression difficult to read.  "I don't know how many times I've said it, but it's not like you have changed.  Behind that death knight magic and blue eyes, you're still the girl I fell for years ago."  A soft smile lit to his features, "Even if you find it hard to believe."

    Cat didn't seem to want to move from her position. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and squeezed him before speaking again. "...did you ever think about me? After you left? I mean... I thought you died. Did you ever think about coming back?"

    "Tai'jin made me confront how I'd felt about you," he said quietly, "and then her.  So, it's not like I forgot I just...I owed them a debt.  Without the druids help I'd definitely be dead.  Or...undead, probably. After getting downed by a death knight, I mean."  Kreyen mulled over his thoughts then, chewing on the inside of his cheek.  "I was...too angry to come back, after Maera.  She'd coaxed me out of the loss of Tai, and with everything else I..."  The hunter sighed, "It's why I agreed to take up the bow.  Honestly, I thought it'd kill me just trying to make the bond.  When it didn't, I had another purpose."

    Cat blinked at the mention of his bow. She glanced down to his tattoo, but didn't let go of him from one side. One of her feet drifted toward his ankle and curled around it. "So… what's your purpose, now? With the bow and all?"

    "Ease it's pain," Kreyen said quietly, but didn't elaborate.

    "..the bow?" She let her toe drift along his leg. "How? Er.. why? Sorry, I'm not really good at this kind of thing.. why is the bow in pain?"

    "Xaxas'delar was crafted during the War of the Ancients by a Satyr," Kreyen explained, "After tearing the still beating heart from the Ancient of War, it was crafted into the shape it has now.  It was used on the elves and their allies mercilessly until its owner was killed.  Part of its soul remains within it, and that's what gives me the headaches.  It wants to kill demons almost constantly for what was done to it."  He sighed then, shrugging, "For what it was used to do."

    "Oh.." Cat shifted and sat up a little straighter. "That makes a lot more sense, now." She ran her fingers through his hair, still leaning her head on his shoulder. “So.. you agreed to take it up because you felt like you owed it to the druids who saved you. Now you have to kill demons to satiate it." She smiled a little, twisting his hair between her fingertips. "Kinda like me. We both have to kill to ease our pain."

    Kreyen raised his eyebrows at the thought, then turned his face to look at her with an earnest expression.  "I ease it's pain,"  he said carefully, "You ease mine."

    Cat gently leaned her forehead against Kreyen's and smiled. She held herself there for a while, as if content to just be near him. "Always," she promised, adding playfully. "You can't run from me, this time."

    The hunter smiled at her, and then managed to chuckle at the thought.  "Not with that ring on your hand I can't." 

  10. A Conversation on Running
    Fall, Year 32

    Cat's voice came through Kreyen's hearthstone. She sounded shaken, and quiet. "I gotta go, Krey. I gotta go back to Northrend. I'm sorry."

    "Me too. I didn't realize you actually wanted to fight."


    "You're going to have to, if that's what you've decided."

    "You don't understand. I hurt Lora. I hurt her bad.. this.. dreadlord.. he made me think she was dead, but when I attacked it, it was her. I almost killed her. I can't be trusted."

    "I don't think you understand. The only way you're going back there for good is through me."

    "I hurt everyone who gets close to me. I don't want to hurt you, I couldn't live with myself. I can hardly live with myself now."

    "It's not like you were tricked into picking up and spooky sword that compelled you to kill all living people Cat. Wait until I get there before doing anything. Please."

    There was a long pause.

    "If you don't, I will come after you."

    "I don't want to hurt anyone else…" Cat whimpered into her hearthstone. "Ariavan hates me... what do I do?"

    "Look, unless you killed Lora I very much doubt that is the case. Did you stick around to help, or explain the bit about the dreadlord?"

    "I got them out of there. I drew the rune so we could escape, but.. I couldn't talk to them. I can't look them in the eye after what I've done."

    "... Because you weren't innately equipped to deal with a one of the most dangerous manner of demon there is? Cat..."

    "I should have known. I was so stupid. I tried to go in there and be a hero, and all I did was make everything worse. Tirien didn't need me. Nobody did."

    "Did you kill it? Did you save Tirien, or get everyone out alive?"

    "I killed it, yeah." The sound of waves crashing was transmitted through the stone. "But I shouldn't have brought them there to begin with. I put them in danger to help someone, and Lora got hurt because of it. Because of me. All I seem to do is hurt people."

    "So does everyone else, Cat. It's called living. You fix it by apologizing and making amends, not running away."

    "How can I ask someone to forgive me after I almost ripped her throat out?"

    "Being brave, setting aside your pride, asking, and explaining what happened. Cat, being a hero isn't just doing the right thing all the time. It's also accepting and fixing your mistakes..."

    There was another long pause. "I'm an idiot."

    "Does that mean I don't have to drag you back by your pig tails then?"

    "Not unless you want to. I deserve it."

    "No you don't."

    "Why'r you so nice to me? I'm a gods damned monster. I eat people."

    "And I'm an asshole."

    "Not to me. ...not recently, anyway."

    "That's not the point," he laughs, "You're not much of a monster either."

    "I've almost killed two friends. I don't really have a good track record..."

    "Your 'track record' involves withdrawal from a powerful potion and a deadlord's magic... At least mine was intentional enough to be called a record."

    "…but you're good to me, Krey. And I don't think I deserve it."

    "The feeling is mutual then."

    "I'll go apologize. I'll beg if I have to."

    "Should I just meet you at your guildhall then?"

    "Uh.. sure. Okay. Yeah."

    "Got it. Good luck, Cat."

    "Thanks. Be safe."

  11. First Glance
    Fall, Year 26

    It was a Friday night in Silvermoon, and The Purple Hawkstrider was more crowded than usual. A smallish tavern with a regular clientele, they were used to entertaining common folk. There were less of them these days, years after the massacre of Quel'thalas. But tonight there was an influx of blood night trainees, thirsty for a drink after their first week of basic training. Dressed in their casual clothes, the only thing that set them apart from the average citizen was their youth. They were, most of them, just barely old enough to begin training. One of them in particular, a bright-eyed recruit with black hair tied up in pigtails, was happily chatting with the bartender.

    "They told me they were out of Blackrock Ale! Can you believe it? Those orcs know how to drink!" She giggled.

    The bartender smirked, filling a dozen or so mugs with beer. "You sure you can handle that kind of drink, girlie?"

    "What do I look like, a lightweight? ..don't answer that."

    A snicker issued from a man down the bar, dark haired and hardly fitting with the aesthetic of the place.  It wasn't any one thing specifically, but a collection of smaller issues.  His clothes fit a little too well, and his movements were a little too certain.  His gaze was the most telling, however, bringing to bear an intense focus no matter how long it lingered.  Amusement lingered in it then, coupled with a teasing smirk across his lips.

    "Sounds like you know the answer to that one then," he called over, teasing.

    Catalinetta blinked at the new voice and turned in its direction. In the haze of inebriation, she saw what looked like an attractive elf with black hair. Smirking proudly, she put a hand on her hip. The young elf was curvy and short, dressed in green and brown cloth pants and a white shirt with nothing underneath. One could tell by the way her clothes fit that she was athletic.

    "I sure do. Don't let my size fool you, either. I might not be big, but I can drink with the best of 'em."

    The other elf's eyebrow snapped upwards abruptly at the proclamation.  He watched her for a moment in silence, as the smirk slowly widened into a cryptic smile.  His gaze swiveled to the bartender then, swirling the dark drink in front of him as he mulled over a thought.

    "What's she drinking?" he asked, mischief glimmering briefly in his eyes.

    The bartender smirked at Kreyen, fully aware of the game being played. He stacked ten mugs on the bar, each of them the size their new allies, the orcs, were accustomed to. The bartender nodded toward Cat. "Here you go, ten rounds. You need help carrying them?"

    Cat grinned and slipped her hand into one mug handle, then another, then another until each arm carried five mugs. She lifted each arm into the air, a show of strength and size at the same time. "Nope!" She said to the bartender, casting a quick smile in Kreyen's direction before she brought the drinks to a table full of new blood knight recruits. The cheered at Cat's arrival, and the dark haired knight in training beamed proudly.

    Surprise and curiosity splayed across the dark haired male's face, his fel tainted eyes wandering over the exchange.  It was only as she began to leave that an amused smile fell across his lips, turning slightly on his stool so that he could watch the pigtailed recruit wander back to her friends.  Kreyen met the gaze of one of her peers as she caught him in the act, smiling and winking at her before he turned back to the bartender.

    "Put their next round on me, Vythas,"  Kreyen said.  He lifted the glass of alcohol to his lips and drained it, then slid it across the bar to the other male.

    "You hardly need such a wide net, Streamsong," the bartender shot back quickly, giving the hunter a knowing look as he did so.  Kreyen laughed.

    "Who said anything about a net?"  The hunter's expression remained amused as he spoke, but began to grow earnest. "It's not like they'll have long to enjoy themselves like that.  May as well help them along."

    "You're not fooling me," Vythas said with a grin, shaking his head at the elf.  The bartender produced a bottle of dark aged rum then, refilling the hunter's glass and passing it back.  Kreyen only shrugged in response, not conceding the point as he caught the glass.

    It didn't take long before Cat was back at the bar, a wide grin on her face. Before she could ask, Vythas was already placing another round of drinks in front of her. The recruit blinked, confused, until the bartender pointed at Kreyen. Cat looked at the male with surprise. "Thanks! Your future heroes of Quel'thalas appreciate it!"

    "It seemed a worthy enough expense," Kreyen said chuckling. "I remember when I was doing the same thing."  His eyes fell on her then, making no effort to hide the fact that he was looking her over.  "What sort of heroes are they training you to be then, foot soldiers?  Blood Knights?  Farstriders?"  His head cocked to the side then as an impish sort of smirk fell over his lips.  "Certainly not Magisters."

    "Heh, what gave it away?" Cat asked as she slipped her arms into the mugs again. She didn't seem to notice that he was looking her over, because she was too busy awkwardly doing the same. "Blood Knights! Warriors of the Light, defenders of Quel'thalas, and someday, vanguard for the Horde."

    "That makes sense," he said with a teasing tone, "They could use all the help they could get up in Quel'danas."  Kreyen's attention turned to his own drink then, lifting it in her direction in a brief toast.  "Good luck with the training, and enjoy yourselves."  Another smile drew over his face then, just before he took in a mouthful of the rum.

    Cat smiled sheepishly, as if unsure how to respond. She nodded and cleared her throat before moving back to her table with the drinks. "Thanks." Another cheer went up for her triumphant return, though once she placed the drinks on the table, one of the other recruits gave her a playful smack over the head, nodding in Kreyen's direction. The two exchanged words for a moment before Cat was literally pushed away from the table.

    Kreyen had made it a point not to ogle the recruit on her departure the second time around, content with being caught in the act once already.  With an easy view of the door from his position, he'd settled back against the bar to watch and listen to the conversations that remained within earshot.  It was Vythas who actually took note of the would-be blood knight's exile.  Cleaning a glass, he spoke as he started to move down the bar.

    "Seems you might not be drinking alone after all."  It drew a raised eyebrow from the seated male, but little more.

    Cat looked between her table and the bar, as if confused about what was happening. She was shoved again by one of the female recruits, a skinny brunette with a crew cut, who nodded at Kreyen with a mischievous smile. Cat followed the other recruit's gaze and raised her eyebrows, turning away with embarrassment before she was once again shoved away. The trainee stumbled over herself, much to the delight of her friend, who shook her head in a resounding "no". After a few seconds, Cat drifted to the bar, her face burning red.

    "..can I get a whiskey?" She asked Vythas, her voice a little more high pitched than usual.

    The bartender nodded, but left to go grab a clean glass and the bottle.  Kreyen meanwhile, cast his attention on the blood knight recruit with an amused look and a raised eyebrow.  He swiveled on the stool, leaning an elbow against the bar so that he could face her.

    "Going to get sloppy switching to whiskey after pounding that much beer back so quickly,"  he teased, "Celebrating something, or is this a usual night out for you and your friends?"  Vythas returned then, setting the tumbler on the bar in front of Catalinetta and pouring two fingers of the amber liquor into it.  With a brief glance between the two dark haired elves, the bartender stoppered the bottle and left again to return it to where it'd come from.

    Cat took the whiskey and drank down half of it before answering Kreyen. "Usual Friday night," she answered, setting the glass back down. "I mean, usual for the past few weeks. Basic sucks so when Friday hits, we party, and sleep it off on Saturday. Our drill sergeant says we better enjoy it while we can, because once we're actually put to work there isn't going to be another weekend in our future."

    "Things are a little frantic," he said with a raise of his eyebrows, "But you'll get rotated out for leave often enough.  Maybe not to Silvermoon, but still.  The sergeant is probably just trying to scare you."  Kreyen studied her a little then, taking acute note of how much of the whiskey she'd already pounded back.  Casting an amused glance back at the table her friends were at, he pondered aloud, "You the only one who likes whiskey, Miss...?"

    "Oh, Catalinetta. Sorry. Wait no, you can call me Cat. Everyone else does. Whiskey? Yeah. Pretty much." She nodded back to her table, her voice already a little slurred. "My brothers taught me how to drink whiskey. I like beer too, but whiskey is my favorite. Nobody over there knows how to drink it, they just shoot it back like a chump."

    "Some whiskey's made for shooting, Cat,"  he said with an impish grin, "But I can see how that'd be irksome."  Kreyen lifted his own glass and drained it, then set it across the bar for Vythas to pick up on his next pass by the area.  "I'm Kreyen, by the way," he added after, extending a hand in her direction.

    Cat looked at Kreyen's hand for a second before actually responding. She shook her head and took a few steps toward the male, grabbed his hand with her own and shook it firmly. Her hand was small, and her nails cut short in a utilitarian kind of way. "Nice to meet you. Thanks again for buying the beer. You're gonna be their hero in a few minutes. I'm pretty sure they're about three quarters of the way toward being completely smashed."

    He gave her a shrug as he spoke.  "You guys have better things to spend whatever spare money you have than a round of beer, and it's not like rum is expensive."  A teasing smirk fell over his lips then, scanning her expression for hints about her own state of mind.  "If they're about to be completely smashed though, where does that leave you Miss Whiskey?  Just less of a lightweight than your peers?"

    "Much less," she said boldly, swirling her glass. "First of all, I know how to drink, and that means eating before you drink. Second of all, I'm not as light as I look. Third of all..." She held up a third finger, but seemed suddenly preoccupied with her own hand. Bringing it close to her face, she wiggled her fingers. "...huh. My hands are so skinny. I never noticed it before. That's kinda weird."

    The dark haired sin'dorei listened attentively until she lost track of her points, managing to contain his laughter until after she'd completely lost track of them.  Grinning at her afterward, Kreyen shook his head.  "Seems to me that you might have overshot your comfort zone with that one, Cat."  He nodded towards the half-full glass of whiskey as a teasing, but off kilter smirk fell back over his lips, "Gotta be careful how you string them together."

    "I'm careful," she shot back, taking another long sip from her glass. "Plenty careful. Actually, Ayla over there said I was too careful. That's why she shoved me over." The whiskey seemed to be doing its job, and Cat found her boldness at the bottom of the glass. "Were you checking me out, earlier?"

    "Of course I was,"  he said almost immediately, but burst into laughter afterwards.  When he settled a few moments later, he arched an eyebrow up at her and then glanced at the table where her friends were still drinking, "Doesn't mean your friend was right though, I'm not sure I'd trust me either."

    "Trust you to do what?" Cat asked curiously, leaning an elbow on the bar. With her curiosity out of the way, she suddenly felt free to speak her mind. "It's okay, I was checking you out too. I just didn't know if you were and I didn't want to look like an asshole."

    "I'm not sure looking someone over briefly at a bar counts as being an asshole, Catalinetta,"  he said easily, dodging her question with a smirk,  "It's not like you were staring, or that I'd take even that as something other than a compliment."  Kreyen chuckled and leaned forward a little then, "Should I have been offended?"

    "I don't think so?" The recruit shrugged, clearly unsure of how to handle the conversation. "I don't know how this sort of thing works. Ayla said I should just go talk to you, but I'm pretty sure she's just trying to embarrass me."

    "It depends on you're looking for," Kreyen started, wry amusement on his features, "If it's just small talk then it seems like you've got that down well enough.  You could always try cheesy pick up lines or physical contact though, if you're looking for more than that.  The key with either is just to be confident, and then just roll with however they react."  He shrugged, "Getting embarrassed is a choice."

    "Is it?" Cat looked into her glass with a concerned expression. "Why would I choose to be embarrassed?" She murmured to herself. "That's a terrible choice.."

    Standing up straight, the recruit finished the last of her whiskey and looked pointedly at Kreyen. "Well then, how about this. I'm a new recruit, still in basic, working on becoming a hero. I've got no hangups and my girlfriends are working really hard to make my life hell until I can bring them back some good dirt. I think you're cute, and I have nothing but time until Sunday. So what do we do with that?"

    Kreyen's eyebrows shot up at how direct she was being, needing a moment to digest the information.  When it sank in, he hopped down from the stool and drew closer to her, looking over her expression with a distant sort of smile.  "How about we start with this," he said, reaching up with his fingers to tilt her chin towards him.  He pressed his lips against hers lightly then, in an earnest but not overly eager embrace.  He pulled back quickly, studying her reaction with a heated look, "And maybe we just go for a walk?  It's a nice night, and if you change your mind I can help you make up some dirt for your friends."

    Cat blinked rapidly, her breath caught in her throat. She stood dumbfounded for a few seconds, staring into space until a loud cheer went up from behind her. The other recruits had been watching, amongst them the buzz-cut bruinette who yelled. "I told you!" from her place at the table.

    After a few seconds, Catalinetta laughed nervously and swallowed. She cast a glance at the table and made a rude gesture at the other recruits before looking back at Kreyen with a red face. "H'ooookay. Walk. Sounds good. I could use some fresh air."

    Kreyen shot look mixed between annoyance and amusement at the buzz-cut recruit, not sure what to make of her shouting. He turned his attention back to Catalinetta with a softer look quickly though.  "Me too,"  he said, shoving his hand into a back pocket and drawing out the necessary gold for the drinks he'd purchased, the tip, and another round for the remaining recruits.  There was no sense in giving them a reason to follow.  He smiled at her then, looping his fingers around hers and starting to lead her towards the door.

    Cat was suddenly holding hands with someone, something she had never experienced. She hastily used her other hand to pull out some money for her whiskey, which she practically threw at the bar before following Kreyen's lead. It was obvious by the way her palm started to sweat that this was new for her. Her skin was very warm to the touch, either because of nerves or alcohol or both. Finally outside, she took a deep breath of the cold night air and looked for the fel green glow of Kreyen's eyes. "..they are going to give me so much shit when I get back," she said with a nervous laugh.

  12. Proposal
    Winter, Year 32

    "I actually have something for you," Kreyen said, "I was going to wait till Winter Veil, but..." He chewed on his lip idly as he considered, his eyes unmoving from her face. "...should I wait?"

    Cat sat up and leaned back on her palms, her eyebrows knit with concern. "Well shit, I wish you'd told me," she said with a playful frown. "I haven't even wrapped your gift, yet."
    "It's..." he started, then trailed off, faltering in his explanation. A soft smile formed at his lips as he shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I got you, Cat, And I think that might be enough for a few Winter Veils on it's own." He chuckled and dragged his feet off the bed, groaning as he got to his feet and moved over to where his pants had been deposited. He picked them up and began to rummage through the pockets, then let them fall back to the ground when he'd found what he was looking for. Whatever it was fit into his hand, something she couldn't see as he crawled back across the bed to her.

    "That's the sort of thing you say when you get someone a gift you know they can't beat," she said dryly, smirking. Cat reached up and combed her fingers through her hair before shifting her legs beneath her to kneel on the bed, facing him. "Whatever you're planning, I hope you realize what sort of person you're up against. I've got the kind of gift-giving skills that'd make Great Father Winter feel ashamed of himself."

    Kreyen gave her a shrug, coupled with an expression that was difficult to read as he sat down in front of her. He held his hand out to her, flicking the object out of his palm and up between his index finger and thumb. A rosegold ring, the narrow band was covered in small arcane markings. At its center was what looked like a gemstone, though something was certainly off about it. Blood red in color, it didn't reflect light terribly well. "I's early, and I don't want to pressure you, or make you think I want to rush into this super soon or something..." he said cautiously. "But I wanted to know if...when you were ready...if you'd marry me?" he asked as he averted his eyes. "Anyone else I' wouldn't be about love, and that''s important to me."

    Cat's mouth hung open at the declaration, her eyes fixated less on the ring than on Kreyen's face. After a few seconds, she swallowed and blinked a few times, as if to convince herself that this was actually happening and not a hallucination. She reached for him, hesitating for a moment before putting her hands on his face to make him look her in the eye. " know, it's going to be impossible to get rid of me," she said carefully, before breaking into a wide grin. "Yeah I'll marry you, if that's what you really want. Here I was just hoping you'd stick around for a while. Way to blow my expectations out of the water."

    The look in his eyes before she started speaking was by far the most vulnerable she'd ever seen him, lacking almost any of the usual swagger or confidence he usually held. It faded quickly as she started talking, and broke rapidly into laughter as he leaned forward to kiss her once before rocking backwards. "That's...part of what this is," he said apologetically as he offered her the ring. "The gem is actually crystalized blood," he explained, "Mine. If I disappear, and you take it to a mage, they should be able to find me. Even if I'm dead. I...I wanted to show I wasn't going to just run off into the night again." He paused and looked her in the eye then, his smile still weak, "I love you."

    Cat's lip trembled as he explained the ring, a strange choking sound caught in her throat. A few tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and Cat seemed at a loss for words. She chewed on her lip and looked at the ring again, as if piecing together the information over and over. " know, it's kinda weird? It's like we just met again a few weeks ago, isn't it? Maybe months, now.. but.. it still feels like I've known you a long time. Have I? When we first me, did you feel like this at all? Because.. I think I did, and.. I didn't know why."
    "It's been a few months," he said with a chuckle, "...but probably less than a year total, even including the stuff before." The laugh seemed to catch in his throat then, and he had to take a moment to collect himself again. "...I didn't know what it was then, but...yeah, I did." He thought for a moment, a guilty look on his face. "Took a lot to knock sense into my head. I didn't expect to find you again, and before you got your memories back I..." he sighed, shaking his head to get the look off his face entirely. "If you change your mind later, it's fine." He smirked and chuckled, "I can be a bit of a shithead, wouldn't exactly blame you."

    Cat frowned and playfully tapped Kreyen's chin. "Don't be stupid," she chided, shaking her head. "I never thought you'd actually wanna marry me, is all. Have a little fun, maybe. I guess I don't know myself all that well.. I fell kinda hard for you and I didn't know how to deal with it. You don't know how pathetic I looked when you turned me down at the Filthy Animal. After, I mean. I think I ate half your ice cream."

    "Half?!" he asked incredulously, his brows furrowing. "That's..." Kreyen shook his head again then, the weight of her previous statements crashing on him more than the ice cream. "Wait, you were just going to be ok with me knocking you up, no commitments then?" he asked, managing an even more incredulous tone, "What, was I just going to run off or sit around and father the kid as your boyfriend in that scenario?" The hunter broke into laughter at the thought, then bowled her over with a series of barrage of teasing kisses.
    Cat grinned and shook her head throwing her arms around his neck to hug him close. "I didn't really think kids would be possible. I never even thought of having kids before, to be honest with you. If its with you, though, I think I can handle it. Just... a long time from now. When I'm a little less... you know. Dumb?"

    Kreyen nodded and grinned, continuing to press his lips against her face in a random pattern. "One step at a time, Kitten," he said when he seemed satisfied, "It's kind of comforting to know that all we have to worry about now is the Legion." A happy grin fell over his features, "And I'm not sure how worried about them I am now..."


    They made a peculiar duo, Cat and Aetheril. Though both were death knights, and shared a biological father, that is where the similarities ended. Aetheril, tall and thin, draped in the shadow magic that disguised his form, glided gracefully beside Cat. She, short and awkward in black plate, trudged like a kodo.


    The original plan was to head to Northrend, in search of their fellow rogue death knights. With them as allies, they could protect themselves more efficiently against the paladins who sought their execution. It seemed simple enough until they arrived in Silvermoon, and while asking about a portal to Northrend, caught wind of a far closer destination.


    “Northrend? What would anyone want to go there for?” Asked the mage who’s portal could send them to the icy battleground. He didn’t give them a chance to answer. “Looking for other death knights?”


    Cat’s face gave away their carefully crafted plot, even if she stayed quiet. Aetheril was just about to work on clouding the mage’s memories of them when he continued to speak.


    “Look, I don’t want any trouble, but there are plenty of them in Windrunner Village. So I hear,” he said carelessly. “Got to the point where they got sick of everyone gawking at them in town, so they decided to take it over for themselves. A whole town of undead,” he added with a shudder, then quickly waved his hands. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with that.”


    Aetheril smiled at the nosy elf, his blue eyes flashing once.


    The mage blinked. “..sorry, was I saying something?”

    “No,” Aetheril said kindly, taking Cat by the arm and gently leading her to the city’s southern exit. “We were just leaving.”


    That was how they wound up walking the road through Quel’thalas, en route to Windrunner Village, staying as inconspicuous as Aetheril’s power would allow.


    “A whole town of death knights,” Cat said wistfully. The idea was somewhat comforting. “They definitely aren’t Ebon Blade if they’re just trying to live there, out of conflict. The Ebon Blade would have sent them all to the shore by now.”


    "Not as uncommon as you might think," replied Aetheril, distantly, half his attention focused on mental deflection, a mantra running through his skull. "Knightly orders fragment, whether by doctrinal squabbles or vast distance. I belonged to a similar enclave. They're still out there, I hope."


    "I hope they're safe.." Cat murmured quietly as they approached the village.


    A few faded memories of her time as a Blood Knight initiate came to her, as the view of the small settlement came into focus. It was a lot nicer than she remembered; repaired roofs, a few new fences, corpses no longer littering the ground. She remembered going there to exterminate the lingering Scourge, but there was no sign of them now.


    "I suppose we should thank them for keeping the village in order," Aetheril murmured, mouth tilting into a wry grin. "Famous name, Windrunner. But it'll be years before Silvermoon can get to reclaiming the place." He took a long draw at the air, clammy with ground mist. His psychic shields remained clamped in position, prying eyes likely to slide right past them. "Do you think they'll be friendly?"


    "I hope so. We're coming with good intentions," Cat thought out loud, looking around for some sort of movement.


    As they entered the village’s main thoroughfare, the telltale sound of carpentry could be heard. Someone was sawing wood, someone else hammering nails. The sound stopped sharply as Cat stepped on a twig and snapped it sharply underfoot.


    “Can I help you?” Came a voice from behind the two death knights, a deep masculine voice that seemed somehow familiar.


    Cat turned around quickly to regard him, and found an older Sin’dorei wearing the clothes of a peasant. Were it not for the blue glow of his eyes, she might have assumed he was a simple farmer. At his hip, however, the Sin’dorei carried a sword. It glowed brightly with the same color of his eyes.


    “Oh! Uh… sorry to intrude,” Cat said apologetically, bowing her head respectfully. “My name is Cat D’Aragon. This is Aetheril. We’re Death Knights,” she explained haphazardly.


    “Yes, I gathered,” the other knight chuckled. “I take it you heard about our little town in Silvermoon. Word travels fast. Well good,” he added with a friendly smile. “We were hoping that any other knights in search of a home might come to us. My name is Rhyden. Welcome to Windrunner Village.”


    Aetheril relaxed his wards just a little, but his curious eyes remained fixed on their visitor, and his mind on the locale. "Warmer welcome than I expected," he observed, haltingly, as he pushed back the brim of his tall hat. As a matter-of-course, his other hand hung close to the unmarked side-sword at his hip, but he made no move for it.


    "Do you keep no watch?" he asked, his brows furrowing. One ear twitched.


    "Not in some time," Rhyden admitted. "This is not a military base. This is a village. The death knights who live here are attempting to eke out some normalcy. Rarely do we get visitors, but.. on the chance that we encounter someone.. 'unfriendly', they are met swiftly. You will find that we all are quite protective of our little home."


    Rhyden led both death knights toward an area of the village that seemed a little more active. Though the majority of those they saw were Sin’dorei, there were a few other races sprinkled throughout; a tauren female, an orcish male, two goblin females. They, along with about half a dozen Sin’dorei seemed to be working together on building a new animal pen. A few yards away, some skinny goats bleated at one another behind a makeshift fence.


    “As you can see, we try to help each other here,” Rhyden explained, waving a hand. “After we rebuilt and refurbished the homes we needed, we started working on rebuilding the livestock once kept here. The milk and cheese we make here will be used for trade. Eventually, we will have enough income to create more jobs, but for now we all agreed that this would be the simplest way to start.”


    Cat cracked a smile at the harmony in which the death knights worked. She was so used to seeing death knights in armor that it was fairly bizarre sight to see them in peasant clothes, sawing wood and building. For a moment, she considered what it might be like to live there, among her own kind, away from the living and the fear of their rejection. But Kreyen was among the living, and with him all of her hopes and dreams for the future. There was no home without him.


    "I'm always kinda floundering for a place I feel like I belong. Nothing has really felt like 'home', yet," she remembered telling him a short while ago.


    His response then had lifted her spirits.


    "Home is where you are."


    “If you two intend on staying, we will need to find a home for you,” Rhyden said as he led both Cat and Aetheril to another end of the village. “There are still a few unclaimed homes that--”


    “Oh, oh no!” Cat said quickly, waving her hands. “We’re not here to stay. Sorry, I should have made that clear.. No, we’re here to warn you, sir. There are some paladins from the Silver Hand looking to exterminate rogue death knights. As in, knights that aren’t affiliated with the Ebon Blade,” she explained. “Has.. the Ebon Blade given you any trouble? When I left, they weren’t exactly thrilled.”

    “Luckily we were able to leave as a group,” Rhyden explained. “There were enough of us that we could defend one another. Though we have had visitors in the past, representatives from the Blade attempting to bring us back. It hasn’t worked, so far.”


    Cat bit her lip as she listened. “ you still hear him?”

    “The Lich King?” Rhyden’s face darkened a bit. “...yes. I fear we always will. It is something we will have to ‘live’ with, but, we are in control of our actions. Just because we hear him doesn’t mean we need to listen.”


    Cat passed at glance at Aetheril before continuing. She seemed a little unsure about Rhyden’s answer, but didn’t argue. “Well.. we were going to go to Northrend and see if there were any other rogue Death Knights there, but, then we heard about your village. We wanted to make sure you knew about these Silver Hand guys, so you could protect yourself.”


    Rhyden’s expression changed from cordial to concerned. He looked around for a moment, taking stock of his would-be villagers, and led both Cat and Aetheril to another building that was reminiscent of the same inn that once watered Cat’s own hometown. Inside, it seemed as if someone had taken the time to tidy up. No one was drinking yet, but a kind looking orcess stood behind the bar, cleaning mugs with a rag. She nodded to Rhyden as he entered with his guests.


    “Tell me what you know,” he said to Cat and Aetheril, his expression suddenly grave. “We left the Ebon Blade to escape conflict, not get dragged back into it. I understand that there is a war on, but--”


    “We’re not here to make you go to war,” Cat sid quickly, waving both hands. “Just to warn you. From what I’ve heard, it seems like the Silver Hand has a few paladins who want to take out people like us. I tried laying low for a while, but, that didn’t work. Someone found me. I figured it would be better to find others like us, and let you know what I know.”


    Rhyden’s brow furrowed, long eyebrows knit in the middle as he considered the possibilities. Beside Cat, Aetheril’s attention was focused on the villagers outside. He seemed to be taking mental notes, as if in preparation.


    “They want us gone...” Rhyden muttered. “Why?”


    “They think we’re more likely to go rabid outside of the Ebon Blade,” Cat explained with a shrug. “And they have an agreement with the Ebon Blade. The rest of us--”


    “I think, unfortunately, that is the end of our conversation,” Aetheril said to his sister. A slender hand was placed on her shoulder, calm and gentle. “We should be going.”


    Cat frowned at the sudden shift. “Wait, what? Why? Aetheril, what’s going--”


    “Paladins!!” Came the shout from outside, the hollow voice of a death knight warning all those who might hear it. “Dozens of them, Rhyden!”


    The town’s makeshift leader cast Cat and Aetheril an incredulous look as he led them outside. “Where you followed??”


    “No!” Cat said quickly, nodding to Aetheril. “He made sure of it!”


    Aetheril shook his head and took in a deep calming breath. “It seems our chatty friend in Silvermoon found someone else to talk to.”


    In the main square, the death knights abandoned their carpentry. Most retreated to their homes to gather weapons, just in case. It seemed they were more prepared for such a confrontation than Cat imagined. Soon, the paladins they were warned of flooded into the square atop shimmering white horses, their leader a massive bull riding a monstrous animal with hooves wider than dinner plates.


    “Death knights,” the Sunwalker said with authority, his voice even and without emotion. “I am Commander Karhyo of the Silver Hand.”


    “Commander Karhyo,” Rhyden said with a polite bow of his head. “Welcome to Windrunner Village. I am Rhyden.”


    “Who is in charge here, Rhyden?” The Sunwalker asked, passing a glance over Cat and Aetheril.


    Rhyden did not blink. “I am. What can I do for you?”


    “I have come to compel you to rejoin the Ebon Blade,” Karhyo answered, not moving from his place atop the gargantuan white horse. “Join the fight against the Legion, and be under the Horde’s protection once again.”


    The death knight tried to smile. “While we appreciate the offer, we must decline. We came to Windrunner Village to start a new life away from conflict. As you can see, we mean no harm to anyone. The people of this village have no intention of returning to the employ of the same creature that killed us. I am sure you can appreciate that.”


    “That I can,” the Sunwalker said, then added gravely. “However. We have an arrangement with the Ebon Blade. They are responsible for their men not succumbing to their feral state. I can not say as much for you, or your people. So I will ask again. Rejoin the Ebon Blade. If you do not, I can not  guarantee your safety.”


    Rhyden’s eyebrow twitched. “Are you threatening me, Commander?”


    Karhyo did not budge. “Yes.”


    Cat took a step forward, ignoring Aetheril’s hand on her shoulder. “You can’t do that! They’re not hurting anyone, and you have no right to come here and tell them what they have to do!”


    There was a pause as the Sunwalker appraised Cat, still in her full armor, yet wearing pigtails. “On the contrary. It is in fact my duty to tell them what they should do, in the effort to avoid violence. I don’t think anyone here wants that.”


    “Then I would suggest you leave,” Rhyden said with a strained smile. “You and your men. You are making my villagers very uncomfortable, sir. I would appreciate it if--”


    “Do you refuse?” Karhyo asked, interrupting the death knight. “Do all of you refuse?”


    There was a murmuring in the village as each of Rhyden’s fellow knights spoke among themselves. In the time since the paladins had arrived, they each managed to gather their runeblades and stood in peasant clothes with glowing weapons in hand. It didn’t take long for them to reach a consensus.


    “We’re not going back,” said the orcess from the bar, brandishing a broadsword in one hand. “And you will not force us.”


    Karhyo huffed once from his large nostrils. That he anticipated this turn of events was clear, given the two dozen paladins behind him. He didn’t seem inclined to speak on the matter further. “Very well.”


    The Sunwalker’s hand rose into the air, and a moment later a dozen paladins kicked their horses into action.


    Cat stumbled backwards, grabbing Aetheril to help pull him from the path of an oncoming charger, but he didn’t need her assistance. The slender weaver of shadows glided effortlessly to one side and immediately began defending them both, tendrils of shadow extending from his body to wrap around the paladin who nearly trampled him.


    There was no time to be impressed by his power, so Cat moved on the defensive. Mounted, the paladins had an advantage and easily used their horses to crush death knights underfoot before casting bolts of pure Light toward their prone bodies. The smell of burnt undead flesh and the sound of their screams began to fill Cat’s ears. The death knights were not prepared for battle with fully armored paladins, and they were woefully outnumbered. Only Cat wore armor, but the rest defended them as best they could.


    Thankfully, Windrunner Village was surrounded by death. Those who could summon the bodies of the fallen did so without remorse, sending a small shambling army of corpses toward the paladins to pull them from their horses and onto the ground. It was chaos, but with the help from the dead, the death knights at least had a ghost of a chance in defending their home.


    With Aetheril busy commanding his tendrils of shadow, Cat looked for ways to assist him. Stomping her foot into the ground, she created a rune that surrounded them both. Biting into the unarmored part of her own hand, Cat cut a wound just big enough to allow her to bleed. Then, extending her hand to one of the human paladins, she released a tendril of blood that wrapped around his neck and dragged him into the rune. Almost immediately, his flesh began to turn colors as necrosis set in. As the pain and panic began to set in, the paladin screamed, slashing at Cat with his Light blessed weapon. Using her axe to deflect him, she kept her hold on his neck with the blood and made him stay within the confines of the rune. Wearing him down slowly was the goal, and after a few loud hits of steel against steel, the paladin fell to the ground in exhaustion and let the rot take him.


    “An’she guide your blades!!” Karhyo shouted as he fought Rhyden on the ground, their swords hitting to create a shower of sparks. The massive bull towered over Rhyden, but the death knight would not relent. As their blades met once again, Karhyo’s sword pressed down on Rhyden’s to push the death knight to his knees. “I ask you again, death knight, to submit or we will burn this village to the ground!”


    Rhyden spat at the bull, all of his strength focused on keeping the Holy sword at bay. “We will not submit to you, or the Lich King. Never again.”


    “Very well,” Karhyo grunted, a white light erupting from his sword.


    The entire village could hear Rhyden’s voice, a high pitched wail of pain and despair. The Light cut through his body like fire through paper, burning his gray flesh until a charred corpse was all that remained.


    “An’she take you,” the bull said quietly, crushing Rhyden’s black skull with his hoof.


    Cat’s memories of Light’s Hope were at the forefront of her mind, then; the feel of her flesh as it was incinerated, the screams, the pleas for help. She remembered calling on Kreyen, speaking to him as if he were right beside her as she attempted to do whatever it took to stay on her feet. But Kreyen couldn’t hear her now, and Aetheril was fighting his own battle. Seeing Commander Karhyo execute Rhyden created a pain in her chest that felt like a combination of grief and remorse. He died for his people, defending their freedom. He died a hero.


    “You killed him,” she said in a hoarse voice, approaching Karhyo. Blood dripped from her hand. “You killed him, and he didn’t do anything wrong. How could you? Paladins are supposed to do what’s right. There’s nothing right about this!”


    Karhyo turned to Cat and again looked her over. He seemed exhausted, and perhaps sad. “You must have died very young..” he said quietly, raising his blade to meet her. “..if you think that right and wrong still has bearing on this world. I am sorry, but there is no future for your kind.”


    Cat’s lips pursed. This rage was new for the death knight, this seething anger that begged to be released. Here was a Sunwalker, who was supposed to represent everything that she believed in. Once, the Light blessed her. Would it never do so again?


    “The Light does not forget its champions,” she said under her breath, stomping the ground with her boot to create a rune that spread throughout the ground.


    Karhyo felt the immediate pain, the necrosis that spread beneath his fur, threatening to rot him from the inside. The bull needed only a few steps to close the gap between himself and Cat, a few thudding steps that would allow his sword to come down on her small frame with all the power of a Sunwalker. It crashed down hard against Cat’s runeblade axe, nearly shoving her to the ground. But as the blood poured from her hand, it snaked up her weapon and against Karhyo’s until it wrapped around his arm, infecting him with blood rot.


    The bull reeled as his flesh was compromised, infection discoloring his eyes and nostrils, blood slowly seeping from every orifice. Still, he attacked Cat, crashing his sword against her axe as if he were chopping wood, slamming harder and harder as the rot entered his brain and ate at the parts that granted him motor skills. Karhyo’s attacks, hard and heavy at first, grew weaker and weaker. His lumbering body became a shuffling mass of rotting meat, held together by cracking bones until finally, Cat swung her axe into his torso and crushed his heart beneath his ribs.


    “Cat, look out!”


    Aetheril’s voice rang out beyond the sounds of battle. She turned just in time for a younger bull to rush her, his axe aimed for her neck. Aetheril’s warning was all she needed to duck the attack and punch the ground, creating another flesh rotting rune that surrounded them both. The young bull stumbled as he felt the disease gnaw at him from the inside, confused and caught off guard.


    Turning to face him, Cat hesitated only when she saw that the rest of the village was actually holding their own against the invasion. The ghouls summoned from the earth admirably distracted their foes, allowing the knights time to execute those who attempted to destroy their way of life. The paladins still standing had been pushed into defending themselves and were slowly being backed out of the village.


    But there was no time to take stock of the survivors. The young bull came at Cat with his axe again, slower and less precise. She managed to dodge him with her own axe, sending his weapon spinning away and into the ground.


    The bull blinked at his empty hands. All he had left was the Light. “An’she--”


    Cat’s blood tendril wrapped around his throat, effectively silencing his prayer. Certainly he could still call upon the light, but he seemed to distracted by being choked and rotting to remember that. Pulling his body toward her, Cat was ready to decapitate him when she noticed that the other paladins were gone, along with the sounds of battle. The young bull struggled in her grasp, writhing on his knees as bits of flesh flaked away from his face and fell to the ground. Fully armored, though much younger than the other paladins, he looked almost pathetic in her hands. If he died there, he would have been another hero for the Light cut down before he reached his real potential.


    Just like her.


    The tendril unwrapped from around his throat.


    “Hey,” she said to the bull, grabbing his jaw with one hand and forcing him to look at her. “You have someone waiting for you, right?”


    The bull’s mouth opened to answer, but it was too painful. If she didn’t stop soon, the rot would take him. He nodded instead.


    Cat kicked him in the chest, pushing him out of the rune.


    “So do I. We’re not different, okay? We just want to be left alone. Got it?”

    Again the bull nodded, though he avoided her gaze.


    “We’re not monsters,” she continued, yanking the bull to his feet. “I want you to go back to Light’s Hope, and tell them what happened here. Tell them you and the others tried to kill a bunch of death knights just trying to live in peace. Tell them they defended their home. Tell them we let you go, because we don’t need to keep killing each other. Got it??”


    He nodded slowly, breathing in heavy pants as his body slowly recovered from the rune. Shame was clear on his face, still cracked and bloody. As Cat released him from her grip, he stumbled toward one of the chargers left behind. About a dozen or so horses still stood around, riderless, as the paladins who came to execute Windrunner Village lay dead in the ground beside many of the villagers themselves.


    Only a handful remained, including Cat and Aetheril. They watched as the young bull struggled to mount his horse, and eventually turned in retreat.


    It was the first time she'd ever chased after a thief, and Cat didn't know how to start. Fortunately, she could smell him. She could smell the life blood pumping through his veins as he ran, and with her death-granted strength, she managed to catch up to the rogue after a few strides through the forest. By the time she saw him, he'd already sprinted a quarter mile away, and was beginning to lose speed. Cat used the opportunity to grab him by the first thing she could get her hand on , his hair.

    "Give me back my axe!!" She yelled, tugging his head back as he attempted to keep running.

    There was a sick tearing sound, and a pop.

    The force of her grip, combined with the speed of his running made his body go forward as his head was yanked from its perch. His skull dangled from Cat's hand as his body fell into the ground, her axe glowing maliciously. She stood there, wide-eyed, her naked body splashed with blood that dripped slowly down her frame, and stared at the skull hanging from the hair in her hand. It seemed to stare back at her.

    Soleren dashed after, pulling his runeedge from the pile as quickly as he could and continued to follow. His pace slowed as he neared them, Cat holding a head in her grasp and the thief clearly separated from his own. "Cat..." He whispered as he approached her, slowly taking the head from her hand and dropping it to the floor beside them. His own axe followed soon after as he pulled her towards himself. What blood had spilled over her would smear onto him as he held her. It was the only thing he could think of doing, in an attempt to bring her back to their reality. "Cat, are you okay?" He grew defensive of her, eyes moving from place to place in high alert. He wouldn't let his guard down again. It almost cost them. "You're okay..." He repeated softly.

    By the time Soleren had caught up with her, Cat and the head had been together for a few long minutes. In those moments alone, she felt drawn to the head. Or at least, the blood freely flowing from it's throat. Without thinking, or knowing exactly why, she raised the head into the air and let the blood stream into her mouth like juice from a ripe fruit. She couldn't taste it at first, but the more she drank, the more she could taste and smell the gradually cooling blood as it rolled down her throat and face, somehow warming her from the inside. Though mostly hidden behind the blood spray, her skin became slightly more saturated, the bloom of artificial life creating a temporary pulse that her dead heart struggled to pump through black veins.

    As she lowered the head back down, Soleren was running toward her. She could smell the death on him, though it wasn't quite decay. His arms around her were like cold slabs of meat.

    "..I'm warm," she murmured, looking down at herself, then up at his face. "I can smell you."

    Soleren leaned back to listen, arms parting to let her go. She didn't need any comforting. She had found the strength that came from delving into her powers and the warmth it brought her. She would want to indulge in the urge that came with the return of her feeling. "That is the power you wield, Cat. You have the strength to get back what was taken from you, even if it is temporary. What you must do now is control that urge. Do not let it control you."

    He placed the axe's handle over his shouder and stood infront of her, waiting for her to grow accustom to the magic she wielded. "After all, it isn't often that you can discover what will bring you back what was taken from you."

    "It's.. not exactly the same," she said quietly, looking down at her still bloodied hands. A few yards away, the thief's body bled into the grass. Cat sniffed the air, goosebumps appearing on her limbs at the now familiar scent. "I still don't feel.. you know. Alive. I just feel less dead. I can feel things, again. Smell, and taste."

    Her eyes suddenly adjusted to the situation; two death knights standing naked in the middle of a forest. One covered in blood. Realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She approached the dead body and went through his things; a handful of coins, a leather satchel, a few useful odds and ends. Cat shoved them into the bag and grabbed her axe, hoisting it over one shoulder before turning to look at Soleren with the hint of a smile.

    "..okay, now I really need to clean up or nobody is going to believe a word we say," she said with a strange amount of calmness. "Thanks for coming for me."

    Grabbing what she could not, dead body included, he nods at her and hefts the decapitated corpse over his shoulder. "This can't be here. If we leave a trail then we will certainly be followed. I will dispose of it myself and we will continue back towards the waters to finish our bath." He looked down at her, blood coated body shimmering under the light of the sun. There was a moment of solidarity between them, shared in their predicament. "Perhaps it’s best not to be standing here naked on the road with a dead man and his 'belongings' in hand."

    Cat started to giggle into her hand, emotionally exhausted. "Perhaps not.. though when I think of the kind of stories my girlfriends told me, I really wish they were still alive to hear this one."

    She began to walk back toward the stream, her footfalls slow and deliberate as she could actually feel the ground beneath her bare feet. "Naked in the woods with a guy I just met. Nobody would believe me."

    Soleren's face twitched into a half smile. The manipulation of her phrasing was enough to bring him out of his brooding nature once again. "All the same, I ended up naked in the woods with a girl I just met...had I an opportunity to talk with anyone, I'd likely get asked for grittier details. 'Who was she?' 'What was she like?' 'Did you--!' No, never mind that one." He shook his head, looking down at the small death knight as he adjusted the corpse over his shoulder.

    "I'm a soldier, Sol," Cat said with a smirk over her shoulder. The blood seemed to have an effect on her, and it gave the other death knight a glimpse of what she might have been like alive. Energetic, cheerful, someone with no right to smile as much as she was while the sun dried blood on her skin and her hair was still matted with it. "You don't need to be shy around me. My friends would as if we screwed, and I'd tell them no, and they'd laugh at me."

    Soleren blinked at Cat, brow raising in surprise. "I have not doubted you being a soldier, though from what I recall, you were a soldier yet tested on the field of battle. Regardless of your expertise..." He shifts, looking ahead towards the nearing waters. "I do not shy away from the subject because of any doubt. It’s a lingering remnant of my persona. A large part of me has given up on retaining these pieces that made me a living being...but that comes from isolation on a grand scale. So yes, I would also have been asked if we had 'screwed' and would have lied most likely. Or perhaps attempted to make truth of it."

    Cat laughed into her hand again, grinning back at Soleren with bright blue eyes that seemed to ignore the sunshine pouring in through the trees. "Lied about it? What a jerk," she teased, looking around for a good place to dump the body. "I wonder if we can even do that, anymore. I'm not sure how much of me actually works, even with the blood magic." Eventually, they came upon a small thicket near the same stream the thief caught them in. Cat pointed out the mound of foliage. "Maybe we can bury him under there? All the bushes will hide the ground being disturbed, yeah?"

    "Bury him?" He let out a laugh of his own, dropping the corpse’s remains on the ground and letting it hit the floor with a thud. "As far as things working or not...I haven't had sufficient time to test that. Has sort of been the last thing on my mind since I broke free. Most I ever thought about it" He held out his hand and from the ground sprout more of the beetle like creatures. They swarmed over the corpse, burying it with the mass of their numbers before consuming it completely. In moments they scattered and returned into the ground, covering their tracks as they disappeared. All that remained was the organic matter that could not be broken down. He lowered his hand and turned back to Cat. "I don’t imagine it was on anyone’s mind when they came to."

    Cat's focus was drawn to the beetles as they ate their way through her kill, leaving behind only bones and the remnants of his clothes. The sight was fascinating and terrifying at the same time, though by now Cat had grown almost accustomed to the strangeness that accompanied Soleren's abilities. His voice drew her back to the present, though the subject matter was strange, even for two dead people. "..uh.. well you're probably right about that," she murmured, shaking her head to erase the image of Soleren's bugs eating their way through a corpse. "But I mean, it's hard to forget old habits, right? Not like I was particularly 'habitual' in that regard before I died.." she chuckled awkwardly, moving her axe from one shoulder to the other. "..but I mean, being a death knight isn't supposed to be a good time. Maybe we can't. Maybe it would be too much of a distraction from killing. Maybe.. we're not even supposed to like each other."

    "Do you like me?" Soleren asked nonchalantly, letting the power of the beetles fill him with renewed strength.

    The other death knight blinked slowly, her demeanor shifting from the confidence inspired by her bloodlust back to the timid undead Soleren found only days ago. Despite having seen him naked from nearly every angle, she somehow felt awkward looking him in the eye. "..yeah. Sure I do," she admitted, her stomach in suddenly twisted.

    Soleren's lip curved slightly to her words, changing his tone ever so slightly towards a warmer one. Like her blood magic, his conjuration brought a hint of warmth to his own skin. "Then consider that theory disproven. The only thing that is certain is that we weren't meant to break free and yet here we are. Naked, soaking wet, talking about sex instead of rampaging through a village in the name of some false king. Tell me that we weren't meant to at least be able to enjoy some things."

    Cat's ears turned pink at the mention of their chosen subject matter, a relieved smile creating dimples in her cheeks as she laughed into her hand. "I guess you're right," she admitted, comfortable once again despite their situation. As if to pick at the same wound he had, Cat lifted her axe from her shoulder and used the flat side to bump Soleren's shoulder. "What about you? Do you like me?"

    "I...I mean..." Soleren’s usual stoic and piercing look crumbled as if he was not expecting the same question, yet he knew it to be inevitable. His features softened slightly and with a smile he turns to Cat. "Yes. Yes I do."

    Though typically aloof in situations that called for discretion, Cat wasn't quite stupid enough to miss Soleren's inflection. They may have been dead, but all of their emotions and memories seemed to follow them, which seemed to include a capacity for attachment. Letting the head of her axe touch the ground and drop with a thud, Cat took the long step to close the gap between herself and the other walking corpse. She breathed in deep the smell of death that permeated through them both, only to be amplified as their pale and desaturated skin came in direct contact. Her thin arms wrapped around his waist, unflinching in their contact with flesh that had grown slightly warm from his use of the beetles, but still retained the texture of old meat. It was a surprise that she didn't find any of it repulsive, one that she didn't take for granted as she set the smell of his particular corpse to memory. "Thank you."

    His own rune edge fell into the dirt, carving itself a place to stand as his arms reached down to wrap around her. Memories and emotions had followed but it took another to dig them out and pull them from the depths in which they had been buried. He held her as he had when he had found her in the middle of the road, only this time he felt no need to chase away any pain. A hand reached to press on her back as she clung to him. "'re welcome...and....Thank you."

    "What'r you thanking me for?" The smaller death knight asked quietly, the side of her face against Soleren's chest. Had he been living, she would have felt his heartbeat there. The silent stillness of his nonexistent pulse was oddly comforting. "You saved me," she continued, following the trail of events that led them to this place. "If it wasn't for you I probably would have been destroyed at Light's Hope. You were there to show me what I was, even though you weren't sure either. You chased me when I tracked down that thief, and took care of the body for me. It seems like you keep saving me," she noted with a sad sort of smile. "I hope I can return the favor, someday."

    "I hope a day where you have to rescue me never comes, but if it does...I want you to run. Don't chase after me, don’t stay behind to be a hero. Don't look back after you are miles gone. Just run. And if I am who you want to save me from then keep away from me." His eyes closed as he relived the moments she recounted, following the trail of reasons he had to be thankful for. "When we found one another I had not anticipated our journey to lead us here. But finding you has been reason plenty to give me purpose. Perhaps that’s over simplified but...I've no other way of saying any of this. So thank you."

    As Cat listened to Soleren's explanation, her smile faded to a look of concern. She waited until he once again thanked her before leaning back slightly to look up at his face. "If you think I'm ever gonna just run away, you don't know me very well yet. I'd never do that. I wanted to be a hero, before I died. I don't see why that needs to change, now. I'd rather go down fighting than run." Her smile returned a little as she craned her neck to look him in the eye. "We look out for each other. It goes both ways."

    For a moment there was a silence between them, broken by the soft echo of his voice and digits that pressed her head lightly back onto his chest. "Both ways then... we protect one another and when we can't, we keep trying anyways. Because that's what heroes do, right?" Soleren looks on over her into their reflection by the water, icy blue eyes staring back in question. He agreed to her, but dwelled on his own lingering thought.

    "That's what heroes do," Cat agreed, closing her eyes. The ability to feel again was enough to remind her of how good it felt to be heard and understood. For the time being, the impact of her losses, her own death and the death of her first love, were easier to deal with. "Just because we're dead on the outside," she began, her voice muffled against his clammy chest. "..doesn't mean we're dead on the inside, right?"

    "Right..." Soleren replied, slow and breathy.


  15. Cat didn't run far from the village. Crouching beside a muddy stream, she watched as the water tried to make its way through rocks, struggling like the rest of this place to survive. She had pulled her cloak over her head again, covering most of herself, appearing almost like a lumpy gray stone with the exception of her bright blue boots. At the sound of Soleren's footstops, a hand went for her axe. It stayed there as she heard the lack of breathing, the familiar gait, and lowered back to the ground.

    Soleren carefully approached Cat, but made no effort in hiding his steps. "Cat..." he called out softly as he neared the bank, squatting down next to the pig tailed death knight. A hesitant hand reached out to pull at her hood, giving her the chance to bat him away should she need it. "Everything will be fine. I promise you that. We will look somewhere else, aid others that are not so fearful."

    "I melted a dog," Cat reaponded in a shaky voice. She seemed dustand, not bothering to push his hand away but not really feeling it either. Glowing blue eyes focused on the water before her, muddy and fetid. "Dogs usually like me. This one wanted to rip my face off."

    "The dog was an unexpected occurrence and we have learned that we need to watch out for more in the future. The can sense our undeath where the girl could not. But we've escaped and we need to keep moving. We want to avoid any more people for a bit, keep to the road as if we are wandering sellswords." He removed the hood fully and nodded at her, hand falling to her back in an attempt to comfort her. "It was a mistake and we can not undo it. We were met with hostility. If it had not been you then it would have been me to do it."

    "But if animals can see what we are, it's just going to keep happening, right??" Cat's knees were shaking in the ground, creating little ripples where the toes of her boots touched the stream. "She's going to tell the village about us, anyway.. I'm sorry. I ruined this for us."

    He paused for a moment, hand resting on her back like a permanent fixture. She was deserving of the truth but it would set them back. "Cat..." His hesitancy was evident and would likely speak to his actions anyways. " No one will be looking for us... I told you that our situation would require us to do horrendous things to keep us alive. The girl... She could not be reasoned with. She would give us away and our hope of normality would end all because of an unrestrained act of aggression from her part. I... did what needed to be done. I understand if you think I'm a monster... But I want us to survive this." His hand slipped away from her back slowly, uncertain of what her reaction would be.

    There was a long pause as Cat digested the information. Still staring at the muddy water, Soleren's voice didn't seem real. Their situation didn't seem real. The little girl's death didn't seem real. The only thing that seemed real was the hollow numbness she felt  as she knelt in the dirt. Eventually, she turned to regard her new partner in crime. Had she the ability, she probably would have been crying. But she was undead, and the tears didn't exist anymore. "We're both monsters," she said sullenly. "But if you did something that horrible, it was my fault. So.. I'm sorry. And thank you."

    He was afraid of her hate, scared of the way she perceived him. Until their first encounter, all he had ever been was his armor. The nerubian effigy who's only forward thought was survival. Self preservation embodied and reinforced, tempered by the murders he had been forced to commit. Until that encounter, nothing and no one else mattered. He stood and reached down to offer her a hand, stoic in expression. "I can not blame you for the atrocities I commit. Had I a choice you know I wouldn't have..." Soleren paused, unable to repeat his crime.  "We need to keep moving."

    Cat took his hand and stood. His grasp was just as cold as hers, something that wasn't lost on her, despite the numbness. There was comfort in the similarity, a reminder that she was not alone in undeath, and she was hesitant to let go. "Okay. Where to?"

    "We continue west. Towards Horde territory. If we come across any more farmers we can try approaching them with caution, make sure they don't have any animals with them. If they ask, we are a wandering couple in search of work and have been hardpressed to find it." He looked out into the flowing stream and composed himself as he planned out their next move. "We need to keep our story straight and not rouse any suspicion. If they ask where we are from we simply claim to be from Elwynn Forest. Traveled this way because we heard there was work as mercenaries available. We can try to head south towards Westfall and hope we can help people along the way."

    "Westfall sees a lot of crime and there are sure to be postings for heroes there."

    "Elwynd Forest.. Mercenaries.. got it," she repeated, looking westward. The sun was already beginning to set. "My Common isn't so great. I hope we can get to Horde territory soon.." she passed Soleren an awkward smile and squeezed his hand before moving in that direction, as if she needed some semblance of normalcy. "I'm definitely better with Orcish. It's a lot easier, even if the sounds are funny."

    He returned the squeeze before they headed westward, awknowledging her smile with a nod."We will practice your common along the way. You dont need to be fluent in it, but at the very least passibly speak it should we find ourselves needing more convincing 'disguises'. Orcish would be easier to speak but we can not pass as Sin'dorei without the green glow of fel taint in our eyes."

    "Right.. uh.." Cat blinked a few times as they walked, considering the implication that came with their blue eyes. "I guess I didn't even have the fel taint for very long..I remember when we were magic starved, and my brother sent back money so we could buy magic items from the black market to feed on. Our eyes were doing all kinds of weird things, then. Seems like they're always changing.." She scratched her nose with a free hand. "..the.. Forsaken sometimes had a smell.. do you think we do? Maybe we should.. I dunno, maybe we should chew on mint leaves or something. My mother always made my brothers do that because they were gross."

    "Our bodies are preserved by the magic that courses through us. We aren't subject to suffer the same fate as the forsaken unless you were turned as a forsaken. However we have been on the move for days and perhaps a bath and some mint would do us good."

    "Might be hard to find another abandoned house with a decent place to bathe.." Cat muttered, frowning a little. "We might have to settle for a cold stream or something. Not that how cold it is will matter, I guess.. My brothers used to swim in the river all the time, but I thought it was too cold. Sometimes they threw me in," she said with a little smile. "I almost wish they could see me, now."

    "A cold stream is likely the best we would find out here. The hot springs of Winterspring we most certainly will not find. We can follow the stream you found and wash off if need be or we can wait til we get to a cleaner source of water." He had a calculated look about him, piecing their plan together as they hobbled along. "There are plenty of wild herbs we can use to better our scent as well. Clean and polish this armor and make ourselves look a bit more presentable."

    "Never thought I'd have to worry about looking presentable," Cat said as she followed the stream, moving in the direction it flowed from in an effort to find a clean source. "Not fir a while, anyway. Most of the blood knight trainees were pretty grimy, especially the guys. Almost makes me miss showering with the girls, like we used to. Even the teasing."

    "Teasing? How presentable we are, as an aspect of our reasoning, is so that we can pass ourselves off as civilized individuals. Though...a semblance of cleanliness wouldn't hurt us all the same." He lowered a smirk down to her, as they approached a portion of the stream that could pass as clean water. "Here."

    As they approached the stream, Cat's attention was drawn toward its flaws; the banks were shallow, and the water moved slowly. There didn't seem to be any fish nearby, but there was an abundance of greenery surrounding the stream to indicate that it was at least clean enough to sustain them. She seemed a little disappointed, at first. This wasn't the river her brothers would dive into on cold mornings, daring each other to get in before the other. It wasn't the pond where her first would go skinny dipping after a long day of training. It was just a stream, but it would do. "Seems about right," she said with a sad sort if smile, shrugging off her cloak before going for her boots.

    Soleren watched as Cat moved towards what little respite they had found, calculated mind suddenly coming to a halt in realization. He turned away as he spoke, "I... You likely require privacy. I can go and fetch the herbs while you bathe. I don't want to leave you alone but there isn't much in the way of privacy. Not like the cottage anyways."

    "Don't worry about it," Cat said offhandedly, peeling off her armored shirt. "My friends and I in basic used to go skinny dipping after a long day. I was shy, at first. Then.." she smiled to herself before unbuckling her belt. "..I met someone. And he kinda helped me out of my shell, I guess. Showed me how stuff like this is no big deal, you know? Once I got over being so shy, I enjoyed going out into the water with them. So don't worry about me. Might as well rinse off, yourself."

    "Myself...yes..." He did not shy from his own appearance, but retained his gentleman nature even through death. Once again the killing machine of an elf seemed to show more of whom he was before death then he had when they had met. "Very well then."

    Piece by piece armor was placed on the floor, methodically. First the gauntlets then the braces. It was a process that revealed more and more of him with every piece that followed suit. Broad and muscular for an elf, he still held a slight finesse the accentuated the definition of his build. He was built for his armor but the grace of his former stride still remained. He did not grow in front of her, but simply walked towards the other knight and sat beside her near the bank of the stream.

    "I suppose our situation will demand we do a number of things that will call for our discomfort or lack there of." His face remained stoic as he waited for her to finish, looking contemplatively into the water. Black hair, still braided, touched the middle of his back where small marks etched his body. "Of course in this moment here, it really isn't all that uncomfortable." He'd bared himself to her before, first time shedding the effigy that protected him and nothing else. This time he was as he was born, and it was easier than before.

    Cat didn't let her eyes linger on him for too long as he undressed. That was the first lesson she learned in training when stripping down near your peers - don't stare. She instead focused on removing her mismatched armor and the remnants of her training linens, now stained past forgiveness at the cuffs and joints. As she stripped, it became more and more clear just how young she was in death. Cat was a young woman, but there was still a little developing that could have been done in her less than ample chest and wide hips, and for the most part she was without a blemish; except for the enormous gash in the middle of her stirnum. The open wound was a grizzly mark on her otherwise smooth frame. As she exposed it to the air, Cat felt a twinge of embarassment. In their time together, she'd almost forgotten it was there.

    "'s only uncomfortable if you make it uncomfortable," she said quietly, maybe more to herself than to him. Without warning, the gray skinned elf let herself sink into the water and rise back up again, her hair drenched.

    Soleren reached for the make shift band thay bound his hair, pulling at it to let the raven of his hair come unwound. He sat a moment long before slipping into the stream unaffected by the cold waters. He submerged himself, reflexively holding his breath. When he emerged back to the surface he smirked, slightly tickled by the reflex.

    Cat undid her pigtails and watched as Soleren dunked himself into the water. When she saw him come back, one of her ears flicked. He looked a lot less intimidating when completely wet, and it made the soggy death knight giggle. "Hey," she said with a grin, swirling her hands around the icy water. "I guess we can't drown, can we?"

    Soleren nodded, brought to a half smile by the cheerful deposition that seemed to seep from her like a plague, infectious and destructive. His guard was shattered by the giggle, and he raised his brow at its effect. "No, I suppose we can not. We are beyond suffering most death." He took a handful of water into his hand and splashed it over his face, feeling only the texture of the water over his skin and nothing else. " this what you needed?"

    "I guess so," she answered a little less mirthfully, running her hands through the water, as if looking for something. " I kmow I can't feel much of anything. Not the cold, anyway. It's weird. I feel the water, the rocks on my feet, and I know I'm wet and my hair is dripping but.. without the cold it's like I'm feeling it through a haze. Even if we did smell bad before, now I'm not so sure I would notice."

    "Then pretend you do. I may not feel sensation like hot or cold but I can still remember what they felt like. Sensations like hot and cold will likely not return to us, but at the very least we can pretend..." He took another handful of water and looked into, pale icy blue eyes stared back at him. With a smirk he flings the palmed water at Cat and it splashes her in the face. "You missed a spot."

    Cat sputtered as the water dripped down her face, shock eventually melting into mirth. "You jerk," she said with a grin, cupping her hands to splash him right back.

    He raised a hand to shield himself from the assault, water easily passing his meek defense. With the other hand he returned the favor, moving closer as he continued to  send small wave after wave her way. Through the chuckle that left him, he called out to her. "I was just trying to help you get clean!"

    The wave hit her directly in the face, blinding her for a moment as she returned another splash his way. "That is almost insulting! I am clean," She argued, giggling as the water rolled down her back. She was beginning to get used to the strange sensation of water without temperature, and the memory of what it may have felt like began to fill in the blanks. Wiping a hand across her eyes, she brought up her hand and made a pretend pair of scissors with her fingers. "Though I can't say the same for you and that hair.. I think maybe it needs a trim!"

    "This coming from the girl with pigtails!" He grinned as his demeanor became more playful. "I let you tie it into a tail, but you will take no sheers to it!" The water rippled and splashed back and forth now as they moved around in it. There had been nothing to disturb and no one to see them in all their splendor. He stopped as he neared her sank himself down to her height, smirking at her. "Im supposed to look like a mercenary, not a lord!"

    "You look like a hobo," Cat giggled, reaching for a long chunk of his hair. Taking the time to wring some water from the chunk, she drew it close to her eyes and squinted. "Could at least trim the dead ends.." she suggested before bursting into laughter. "I guess they're all dead ends, huh?"

    Meanwhile, unbeknownst to both death knights, a stranger crept nearby. He was silent in his creeping, and unseen through the magic of stealth, choosing to hide himself in the foliage a few yards from their clothes and weapons.

    Soleren looked down at the clump of hair in her hand and let out a brief laugh. "Your jokes are unamusing. This is simply my unamused laugh." His attention was on Cat, drawn to her giggling and smiles. She had cried for most of their venture and hated herself through a large part of it. The mirth of her spirit was worth making a fool of himself and if it meant getting to smile himself, he would continue. "Warn me before you make any more so that I may pretend to listen!"

    As if in protest of his suggestion, Cat got close enough to him that she could bring his hair to her face and placed it under her nose. It resembled a very drippy mustache. "What do you think? Good disguise?"

    Their guest was closer, now. Cloaked with stealth, he wore the tight fitting leathers of a thief. Thin and wirey, he kept close to the ground, inching patiently toward the pile of armor and weapons in the hope that they might contain something of value.

    "The pigtails give you away! Though you might be able to convince some fool. At the very least the color matches." He took some of his own hair and placed it underneath his own nose. "I could make it work."

    Cat giggled at the sight, her expression fading slowly as she noticed some sort of movement behind Soleren's back. "..wait..." At her change in attitude, the rogue knew the jig was up. In a mad rush to make use of his situation, he hastily grabbed the first thing he could - her axe. "Wait!!" Cat shouted, grabbing Soleren's shoulder and shoving him out of the way to splash out of the stream and run after the rogue who disappeared into the woods.

  16. It had been a few days since Cat and Soleren found eachother at Light's Hope Chapel. Since then, the two attempted to make themselves scarce among the living. They found clothes, weapons, and some scant armor that could, for the most part, disguise them as living elves. At least until someone came too close, and noticed the chill that surrounded them, or the telltale smell of death. Still learning to understand her newfound abilities, Cat was having difficulty with how her body craved blood. She found it easier to simply eat flesh rather than drink the temporarily life-granting essence that granted her a living pallor, at least for a while. Yet even in the dying forest where they hid themselves for the time being, there were questions of life and death. As she knelt beside the corpse of a human farmer, long since dead, Cat ran her fingers over the rotting flesh of his face as maggots crawled in and out of his eye sockets.

    " you think we'll ever rot, Soleren?"

    "I can't say... each one of us has gone through different stages of death. We can still be wounded but the magic that keeps us animate has provided us with the means of staving off the worst of death's curses. Since we can not help our own situation we can only look for and embrace what ever silver lining we can find. In this case, you will not rot so long as you consume the life force that keeps the living from experiencing those very curses." They appeared as hobbled high elves, junked armor and clothing unfit for the very appearance they hid behind. What little life they did encounter  kept its distance enough to avoid unnecessary confrontation and to their fortune most that ever greeted them were corpses.

    "But we won’t let that happen. We will use the guise of justice bringers to feed that hungering magic. In turn helping whatever town we land in and ourselves in the process."

    "What do you mean the 'guise'? Like it's a disguise?"

    Standing up, she dusted off her hands. Cat wore bracers, but hadn't yet found gloves that fit. Her small hands appeared gray, as if covered in dust, but it was only her own discolored skin. As if cold, she wrapped her ill-fitting cloak around herself and held it shut while approaching Soleren. "It's not a disguise if it's true, yeah? We really can help people with this power, even if we're kinda gross."

    "Guise may have been the wrong word. The intention is noble and certainly well thought out but should we mangle even the wicked in front of those that seek retribution, we will still be seen as monsters. So guise is what I want to call it, as we will still need to be careful of how and when we complete our tasks. Helping people is fine, but even those we help might find our methods unappealing." Soleren moved them along, back onto the path they had chosen to walk. "The difficult part of this will be approaching people in our...current attire."

    Cat looked down at her mismatched armor, most of it hidden behind a dark cloak she'd picked off of a dead traveler. Her chest piece was cinched in tight at the sides, though clearly built for a man. Beneath it, she still wore her old cotton trainee clothes, stained in several places. Her pants, rather than armored with metal as she would have preferred, were leather and also built for a man. A human man, specifically, making them rather loose and tightened only by a belt who's fitted holes she had to create herself. Her boots were, at least, built to size. Unfortunately, they were also bright blue. "I mean.. it's not that bad, is it?"

    He thought for a moment as he looked over her. A smiled cracked on his face as he turned back to look at the road. "It may actually come as an advantage to look like makeshift adventurers. Novices on their first campaign to stop bandits and murderers. I am more hopeful then I am doubting the idea, at the very least. Else I would have suggested something else." She was more adorable then she was frightening and that would help them.

    "You know, I always figured this is what I'd do," Cat said optimistically as they approached what looked like a small farm village. A few skinny goats bleated in the distance. "I knew I'd go out and do good deeds and stuff. I just figured it'd be after my training. I thought it'd take me a long time, like, I wouldn't actually go do anything heroic until I was in my hundreds. Hard to believe I'm doing it now, before I even hit twenty.."

    "Twenty..." His features twitched slightly as his statement became more of a question.

    "Oh yeah, I joined the military as soon as I was allowed. Eighteen, like humans do. Was supposed to be training as a squire for years, you know? Human squires train around five or ten years but we're supposed to go a lot longer. I figured I wouldn't be out adventuring until I was at least a hundred, but.." she shrugged as they walked. "You know. War."

    "I was young when I joined the Spellbreakers, and still just as young when I took over training my unit. We were charged with defense of the city and often saw no action. The occasional troll while on patrol, but never anything to make it into the history books. You may have advanced faster then you thought possible. You've the heart for it and you certainly aren't lacking in drive. You are simply missing experience and technique."

    "Well.. I guess I have all the time in the world to learn now," she added sadly, a hand absentmindedly reaching down to the handle of her axe. It bounced gently against her hip as she walked, mostly covered by the cloak. "Though I guess I'll be learning something totally different.. blood seems to answer me the way the Light used to. Kinda weird how similar it feels. Except when the Light came to me, it made me feel good. When blood does what I tell it to do, I don't really feel anything. I guess that's a death knight thing though, right? We're not supposed to feel anything."

    Cat kicked a rock in her path.

    "Being dead blows."

    "Being dead...blows..." He repeated under his breath, giving a moment more of thought to it before brushing the notion away. "To guard us from our own atrocities perhaps. Our memories, our sentience, even the quirks of our former selves followed along. Yet certain feelings did not. I wish I could answer that question for you, Cat. I really do, but there are things even I have not figured out about death."

    "Like what?" her ears suddenly perked, as if she were very interested in the answer. Soleren always seemed to have answers to her questions, in regards to death, undeath, and everything in between. To see him lost about something made him seem a little less wondrous, and a little more like an actual peer. "What is it you wanna know?"

    "Will the world ever really accept what we are, regardless of what we do for them? Will this freedom be everlasting or are we temporarily allowed to be who we were only to be broken later? Mostly questions that may have no answers." Soleren shifted the weight of his weapon, the bundle that held it hid it's appearance from passersby. He turned back to her, eyeing her interest with a raised brow. "I suppose one of my questions may be answered sooner rather than later. The real question then becomes will we like the answer."

    Cat looked at Soleren's serious face and tried to smile. It wasn't easy. "Now you're scaring me," she said with a nervous giggle. "People aren't all monsters. If we're good to them, they'll be good to us. We just have to be really really good. The other thing.." she chewed on her tongue thoughtfully, now avoiding his eyes. "..I don't wanna be a slave, again. I'd rather kill myself before it happens. If I get the chance, anyway. If not.. will you do it?"

    Soleren lingered on the thought for a moment, eyes narrowed to the idea of having to kill one of his own. He kept his pace, walking through the akward silence for a moment before responding. "If we ever become slaves to anyone again, for whatever reason...I will make every effort to break free long enough to kill them before I ever point my axe at you, Cat."

    Cat's smile came a little easier, though she kept her eyes on the forest floor. "Okay. That's good enough for me."

    As they drew closer to the village, it was clear the farmers were facing hard times. The few farm animals they had were skinny and malnourished, so much so that one could count the ribs on their goats. There didn't seem to be a lot of activity either, with the exception of a skinny human female hauling water from a nearby well. She seemed to be having a tough time of it.

    "This village has seen better days. We may not be of much help to them with their livestock but at the very least we can investigate. Perhaps their despiration will be our ally today." He hesitated to approach, a fear of the worst keeping him at a distance. Everything could go wrong and the moments of peace they had found would end.

    Cat shrugged and waved toward the little human girl. "Maybe. Wonder what's up with all the animals?"

    Approaching the little girl carefully, Cat removed the hood from her cloak to reveal a gray toned elf with bright blue eyes. Her black hair in pigtails, she didn't look particularly threatening, but for the living there was a strange sense of dread about her. The human looked toward them both as if she'd seen two ghosts, clutching her empty bucket.

    "Hello," Cat said in her best Common, pointing toward the bucket. "Help?"

    The human blinked, then looked at the bucket. Her hands, which seemed unusually thin, trembled as she held it close to her.

    "My name is Cat," the death knight tried again, smiling brightly in spite of the underlying stench of death. "From Quel'thalas. May I help?"

    Another long pause. The human slowly handed Cat her bucket, but as soon as the death knight took hold of it, the child bolted for one of the nearby houses.

    Soleren grew nervous, eyes shifting from building to building ready for what may emerge. An angry mob perhaps, another purging party that had been tracking them down? All possibilities, without his armor and a formerly inexperienced initiate their chances of escape were smaller. "Cat, we should leave." The resounding paranoia rang from his voice like a warning bell. "I do not want to stay and find out what will happen after her alarm."

    "But.. maybe she needs help," Cat reasoned, looking aeound the village for another sign of life. "I don't see any adults here, do you? She might be all alone. She's probably just never seen an elf before. Maybe we should --"

    As if on command, the doors to the house where the little girl ran burst open to reveal a skinny dog. It barked wildly at both death knights, jaws foaming.

    Cat regarded the animal sadly. "..I thought dogs liked me."

    Soleren instinctively reached for a weapon, keeping himself from drawing the axe and unwanted attention. He called out to Cat in Thalassian, reaching for her arm instead. "We need to leave."


    Before she could argue, the dog ran for them both. It was skinny, and likely didn't have the capacity to injure either of the knights, but it ran at full speed with open jaws ready to tear one of them apart. Cat was in too much shock to immediately respond, but as the dog drew closer, what looked like a rune spread throughout the ground around both her and Soleren. As the dog's paws hit the rune, it began to smoke, as if it were on fire. The reality was far more gruesome, as flesh began falling from the dog's bones as it decayed before their eyes.

    The dogs lunge triggered a reflexive twitch that called for more then a simple reach of a weapon. Just as the rune had appeared, Soleren stepped infront of Cat and raised a gauntled hand towards the decaying animal. He pulled back and turned to his protectorate, looking for the source of the magic. "Cat..." The melting hound began to howl in its pain as it died where it stood.

    It took a few seconds for Cat to realize that the rune erupted from her own feet. She stumbled backwards, looking down at the symbol as it burned through the ground, a symbol she didn't understand but could feel emanating from her need to protect them both. The death knight's mouth trembled, as if she were more terrified of herself than the flesh melting dog that whimpered until it crumpled to the ground in a pile of decaying goo. She took a few timid steps back, staring at the animal with a growing realization of her ability, then turn and ran back into the woods.

    Soleren took a few steps back, looking around for any others that may have seen them. With little in the way of witnesses and Cat running off into the woods, all that had remained was the girl. He gritted his teeth and snarled at the thought of the frightened child. Should her parents return she would surely tell them what she saw. What was he to do? Survive.

    The little girl remained inside of her house. With the exception of the dog, it seemed as if she were all alone. The house was too small for her to have much of a hiding place, and she crouched with her hands over her head underneath a table who's decorative tablecloth was only long enough to cover her forehead. Legs trembling, she cried as the dog's barks finally fizzled out. She understood what that meant.

    The ground around Soleren became riddled with small cracks as tiny scarab like critters poked out of the dirt and began their march towards the house. What started as a few became hundreds, the clicking of femurs became loud enough to drown out thought. The death knight waited for a moment before following Cat into the woods. The bugs pushed through every crevice they could fit through until they all made their way inside. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the girl was left to her fate.

  17. Cat clutched her axe protectively as she and Soleren walked. Together, they traveled through the Plaguelands, avoiding the paladins who had long since given up the search for a few strays in favor of continuing to battle those still attacking their chapel. They were quiet as they traveled, but Cat couldn’t help but feel like there was some sort of strange unspoken agreement between the two of them. He was there when she woke, and he was there to educate her, but how was it he came about his freedom? She remembered the Light, the feeling of once again being enveloped in all that was good. She remembered hope, and then she was free. Did he feel that, too?

    Up ahead, what looked like an abandoned cottage sat in the middle of a rotting grove. Cat pointed it out as the sun set behind distant trees. “Should we hide there?”

    Soleren examined the surroundings of the abandoned cottage, pale blue eyes piercing through the helmet with raised intensity. "Neither the living or the dead remain in this area. We will take shelter there for now until we can figure out a direction to go in the morning. We will not be a welcome sight if we travel as we are and we will only be able avoid civilization for so long before we just can't help the path we are traveling." He looked down at her and nodded in acknowledgement to her suggestion before marching them to the cottage. It had been abandoned as he had suggested and the unnatural darkness of the area that the unholy magic of the scourge lands cast would be their cover. The cottage itself had not seen much use since it had been abandoned, door left wide open for any scavenger, humanoid or beast, to rummage through. "Follow closely behind. I don't want us to be ambushed by any undetected presence."

    Cat did as she was told, too emotionally exhausted to come up eith a reason to argue.  Once inside, she closed the door and looked around the main room of their haven and took stock; a few broken chairs, a table, what looked like rodent droppings. Her attention was drawn to a closed door, most likely leading toward a bedroom. Cat stared at the door, seemingly worried about what might be on the other side. A family of possums, or the corpse of this home owner?

    Inhospitable for the living, rundown and dilapidated, the cottage would service it's purpose. The cold air carried with it a must that freely permeated the senses, the stench of death had long been replaced with that of it's decay. Soleren approached the closed door and turned back to Cat, readying his axe to bare down on any that would threaten their invasive escape. Anything to survive would be the lesson on repeat. With one hand he gripped the massive axe and the other reached to push the door open. The creak that sounded would have woken the dead if that's what was housed within. Empty. The room contained a bed left behind and made a mess by panic. Beyond the aged and splintered furniture there was nothing else that would bother their reprieve. "This will be our temporary refuge. Feel free to remove your armor and make yourself comfortable But keep your axe at arms reach. I will take guard while you gather your thoughts."

    Cat hadn't spoken much since they left the chapel, and even now she felt it difficult to voice her emotions. The death knight beside her seemed kind, protective even, but not to anyone else but her. It felt oddly suspicious, moreso that she would feel compelled to follow him. As he suggested removing her armor, she felt a sudden twist of panic. He was male, he was experienced, and this suddenly felt more threatening than she anticipated. "..why are you doing this?" She asked quietly, eyes on the disheveled bed. "You don't know me. I don't know you at all, so.. why?"

    The helmet came off once more, letting the loose part of his mane fall to his shoulders, and he set it down on a barely standing table. He stared at her with the same narrow eyed stare that he gave her when she questioned his actions against the paladin. He let the silence surround them for a moment before breaking it with his reply. "You, I hardly know...but what I am familiarly acquainted with is the questions in your mind, the self loathing and the twisted perception of reality that you are being forced to endure for the first time since you freed yourself from his control. I'm not a hero by any means and I didn't save you because I have some moral obligation to the light. To be honest it would have been a greater mercy to have killed you but I am not as monstrous as you seem to think I am. I simply want to survive and have no other option but to embrace what I am. If you want to leave then you are welcome to do so but out there you are just scourge that needs eradication."

    Cat stared at his face, her expression growing more and more accepting as he spoke. She swallowed, but her mouth was dry. "I.. I don't want to leave," she whispered., falling backward to sit awkwardly on the bed. Cat had the body language of someone who had been defeated, completely and utterly. "I don't want to be alone."

    They would not require sleep, food, warmth or even a breath of air but the acts of the living were a comfort most could not resist. It was a coping mechanism that allowed for some semblance of normality and even he partook of them. "Then stay...I will keep watch while your mind. Should you need anything from me, I will be in the other room." He reached for his own runed edge and stepped away from the door to allow her to close it should she wish to free herself from the burden of her armor. "I am aware that you are not trusting of me. I dont care to earn it but at the very least trust that I mean you no ill will."

    Cat looked down at the floor thoughtfully. After a while, she reatched for the latches of her armor and loosened them to let the heavy plate fall off of her. Underneath, she wore the same cotton shirt and pants that she'd died in. The colors were faded, but the Horde and Blood Knight logos still remained. In the middle of her chest, a tear in her shirt revealed a gaping wound that would not close. "I believe you," she said without raising her eyes from the floor. "It'd just help if I knew more about you. If we're gonna be around each other, I mean."

    He stepped into the other room and began moving around the broken furniture to make space for his own absolutions. For a moment she was met with silence and the occasional cracking of wood that ended up in the crumbling fire place. When he finished he returned to stand by the door between rooms and pressed himself on the wall. "What you see before you is who I am... a blight caller in plated armor. Former servant to a tyrant. Nothing more." With arms crossed he turned back to her, taking note of her scar as she stared at the ground. She looked miserable in her predicament and the thought crossed him that she might benefit from a deeper response. "And you? Who is Cat?"

    "Just a Blood Knight. Well.." Cat shook her head quickly, correcting herself. "No. Not really. I wanted to be a Blood Knight. A paladin, really, but of course the Blood Knights were willing to train me, so.. that's what I did. I didn't get very far, obviously," she added spreading her arms as if to invite him to look at her. She didn't look very impressive in her armor, but even moreso out of it. Cat looked like the kind of girl who just left home for the first time, her hair still styled the way her mother would have done it on the first day of school. She was fit, but had little muscle, likely because she was killed before she could really start to build any. She wasn't a child, but she was hardly a woman by elven standards. "I'm from a little village south of Silvermoon, on the water. My parents died to the Scourge, and my brothers died going to war. I was the last one. I guess.. our family is done, now."

    Soleren hesitantly took the invitation, listening to her story as he looked over her form. His focus drew back to the the wound in her chest, closing his eyes to keep himself from remembering unwanted memories. He turned away, eyeing the pile of rubble and wood he had amassed with contemplation. "Be thankful that at the very least your family wasnt risen as you were. What happened was unfortunate and you should never forget it. I could tell you to leave all of that behind or that you are nothing more then a corpse of your former self, but you will need those very memories to separate you from the shambling dead that mindlessly ravage their victims." He pushed off of the wall and turned back to her. "For now, rest your mind."

    Cat slowly removed her boots, taking the time to look over her bare feet. When was the last time she even saw them? Before she died? In the barracks, suiting for the battle that would kill her. She remembered going through the motions, powdering her skin with the other recruits, a trick to keep them from getting sweaty and forming blisters under tightly fit armor. Her bare feet still smelled vaguely of the perfumed talcum powder gifted to her by another recruit. "My mind is all over the place," she admitted, flexing her toes before setting them on the cold floor. "What about you? What's your story?"

    He felt he owed her something even if there was no true obligation to repay her. After a brief moment of silence he turned away from her to collect his thoughts before speaking out. "No blood knight ties, not even a farstrider. I was an instructor for the spellbreaker recruits. Any relations I may have had...likely died in the attack. Either they are scourge now or have moved on without me. The only person I have to care for now is myself. Not much else can be said about who I am or what my story is. What you see now is who I am.  Down to the very armor I wear." Soleren turned back to her and examined her expression, idly waiting for whatever else she may ask.

    Cat did look him over. She didn't seem disturbed by his armor, or his story, but she did seem a little less uncomfortable than she was before. It didn't remove her suspicion, however. "So if all you care about is yourself, how come you wanted to help me?" She asked curiously. It was less of an accusatory tone than it was of simple interest. "Did you just see another death knight and decide you felt like helping out?"

    "Help? No. Save? You were probably better of without me. Perhaps I was selfish in my actions and pulled you from a chance at peace to keep me company in undeath. Or maybe I couldn't rationalize letting you throw away your second chance so ungratefully without at least letting you see what you were given. It may have been that deep down I still carry that person I was, a part of me untainted by the plague that took the life from those paladins. I have no real reason for why I did what I did. If you don't like my answer then you are welcome to your own perception of the situation. Whatever the reason is, we are stuck together now. At the very least until you decide to go your own way." He crossed his arms once more, complacent within their lodging, cautious but unafraid of being interrupted by unwanted visitors.

    Cat chewed on her tongue thoughtfully. "This.. it's still weird for me. Like... I can't feel the way I used to. Everything feels numb, sort of. Even my senses. It was better when I ate that guy, something about his blood made it easier for me to focus, but.. I don't know. How do you get used to this? I keep feeling like the Lich King is going to come back any second and tell me what I need to do. I'm weirdly stronger. My body almost feels like it belongs to someone else, like I'm a visitor. How long have you been free? What did it feel like for you? How long before I get used to this?"

    "You ask to many questions...?" He said, a hint of frustration tinged the normal calm of his voice. "I will keep watch while you take to caring for your thoughts. If it brings you comfort, close your eyes and pretend to sleep. Keep your weapon close and should anything happen I will do everything I can to give you warning." He turns back to the door, picking up his ax and walks through the threshold. As if prompted by some hidden force, he turns his head slightly back towards her and speaks. "We can share our stories in the morning..."

    Cat fidgeted against the bed, glancing behind her before looking back at the other death knight. " don't think it's kinda weird to just sleep in some stranger's bed? You're just gonna sit there awake all night?"

    "Are those more questions?" He replies as his eyes narrow in similar response. "See for yourself what happens when you try to sleep. As far as sensibilities go, the owner of that bed has likely not been alive for some time. If they are still alive, then they certainly wouldn't take claim to it. You will notice that this portion of land is barren with the exception of the undead, dying animals, and the fools that want to purify it. That bed is as much a strangers as the trees outside."

    "Well I get that, but it's not really the point.." She muttered uncomfortably, standing up to walk into the other room to join him. She seemed less inclined to be by herself than she might have been, before. "And you can't expect me not to ask questions when I've just been resurrected from the dead to fight for the Lich King and then woke up in the middle of it! This isn't exactly the kind of thing you go through every day!"

    Soleren lets out a sigh, bordering a grunt as he kneels to pick up more of the rubble on the ground. When he raises back up he stands in front of her, towering over the small elven woman. In close proximity he appeared taller, lacking the hunch of a battle stance. He peered at her, brow raising to question her sudden enthusiasm in the subject matter. "No, not every day you die and come back as a servant of the Lich King. And from what I gather its even less likely to break from his command. But we did...on both accounts. What you are asking me to describe is a personal feeling that may very well have differed from your experience all together. What purpose would that serve you? And as far as how long before you get used to it all... Well, I will tell you when it happens." He moved past her, setting what he had picked up into the broken down fireplace and dusted off his hands. "If you aren't going to rest then at the very least help me clear the rubble so that we can have use of this room."

    Cat did as she was asked without question. It actually suited her to have a task, rather than be left to idle alone. She carefully went through the room, righting furniture and dusting it off. "So how'd you die?" She asked, as if this weren't a terribly personal question.  "I got stabbed from behind. Sword went clean through. Think it punctured a lung. I remember choking."

    "The mindless shamblers they sent into my home were fodder for my blade. I thought it brave to be a hero and stepped out to meet more of their forces in combat, thinking there were enough fighting forces on our side to mount a resistance against their rotters. And for a moment there were. Until the n erubians came. Spider like monsters with cruel sentience. One by one our small resistance was taken down but not without a fight. That of course was until Arak'ramu tunneled his way out of the ground. This armored plague bearing demolisher of a Crypt Lord spread his pestilence without remorse." He continued to clear the room as he talked, unbothered by the retelling of his death. "Being impaled in the chest is nothing to scoff at but it would have been a mercy killing compared to what it did to us. For our defiance we were granted a painful and slow death. A swarm of insects were summoned by his will and surrounded us. Each one that landed on us burrowed itself into our skin. Thousands were summoned and in moments each one had implanted itself into our flesh. We were kept alive as they ate us from the inside out. Fevered and dying I committed one final act of defiance and spit in the face of that crypt Lord. All I remember after that was a low pitched laugh and the insects bursting within my body..."

    As he told his story, Cat's eyes grew wider and wider. Eventually she stopped working to stand and listen, a horrified expression on her face. "..I..bu..w..." she stammered, as if trying to get out her thoughts but having a terrible time of it. Her hands, dusty from moving turned over furniture, gesticulated in front of her face as she attempted to communicate her thoughts. " that's horrible! How can... how... what.. but your skin.. what... i-if I have my scar then... then what happened to all your skin? W... with the b-bugs? That... they..." her hands went to her face, covering both eyes as she tried to shake the image out of her head.

    Soleren's brow rose at her disgust and curiosity. He looked over her again and debated telling her anymore. "Do you truly want to know or will the grotesque nature of my death be to overwhelming?"

    Cat lowered her hands from her eyes and looked up toward him again. She seemed to calm a little at his words. " I wanna know. If... if that's okay? We're both dead, it'd be unfair of me to be grossed out by anything. Especially with this.." she indicated toward her chest. "I can handle it. If you trust me."

    "Very well." He moves to sit, leaning on a wall facing the door and invites her over. "You will learn, if you have not already, that the blood magic you use repairs your wounds. The exception being the one in your chest. You may one day be able to seal that wound, but for now us it as a reminder of something to work towards." He reaches for the carving knife and pulls if from its sheathe before removing one of the  plated gauntlets from his hand. He sets it aside and draws a gash  over his arm. His expression does not change as he stares down at it. Bumps rise under his skin and begin to crawl towards the wound. Feelers poke out  to examine it, one insect even crawls out to inspect it further before using its mandibles to chew and weave rended flesh back together. It scurries back into his arm before the rest finish sealing up the slash.

    "I told you I envied you blood magic users for a reason. The wounds I suffer only seal when my kill dies in the same way I did. A gift from our former master and his nerubian crypt lords."

    Cat watched the display with ever widening eyes. She was certainly learning something new, today. Instinct begged her to look away from the insect as it wove his skin back together, but true to her word, she was not disgusted. Swallowing down nothing (her mouth was dry), she pursed her lips and leaned in a little closer to examine the closing wound. "That's... that's pretty freaky," she admitted. "But I mean.. so is eating people. So I think we're even. Yeah?"

    "Yeah...freaky..." he replied back in a gruff low tone that seemed unfit in it's pairing with his words. He had let his guard down for a moment, looking back up at her in question. If anything her ignorant innocence was charming enough to momentarily bring down a wall or two. He had shown her more then he intended but her contagious curiosity and blissful innocence were comparatively more dangerous than the blight he so easily called. After a pensive glance he took his arm back and quickly slipped it into the gauntlet. "Does that answer your questions, Cat?"

    "Sure, I guess." She scratched her nose aNd got back to work, cleaning the little cottage to make it "livable". As she grabbed some leaves from a nearby table, it suddenly dawned on her that she had no idea how long they might be there, or what they might do after. Both of them seemed to be making things up as they go, him more than her. It felt more comfortable to let him take the lead. "So... how did you get your freedom? I think that paladin knocked it out of me, with the Light."

    He stood to continue his work, pausing at her question. He had manage to avoid answering it this long but it was only a matter of time before her persistence would win it out of him. "Hatred. Where your calling came from the light, mine came from somewhere much darker. It wasn't enough that Anub'ramu killed me...but he also requested that I be under his command. His arrogance became his undoing very quickly. Every day that passed at his side was another day of built up anger and hate. I didnt know why...all i knew was that hate. During an assault on a small village in the north, our small force of nerubians was met with similar resistance. Paladins of the Argent Dawn. We clashed and like that day in Silvermoon, their resistance was keeping us at bay. Anub'ramu enjoyed breaking people more than he ever cared for the fodder he sent to the field. They put up a fight but with us both there it did not last long. There is always one in the group of many that stays stalwart til the bitter end and just like i had done the paladin spit right in the face of death. That's when I broke free. It was my hate and defiance that broke those bindings. While Anub'ramu was busy playing with his paladin, I drove my runeedge into his skull. I swear to you that day I felt alive. The call of the nerubians dying cries were exhilarating. The few paladin that remained decended upon him like the insect swarm he summoned and proceeded to finish the job. We killed every single arachnoid there...and then..." He paused, unsure of the next part of his story.

    Cat looked up, confused. "Wait, but, if you were there, and you were already free, then.. how did you wind up at Light's Hope with the rest of us?" She dusted off her hands again, wiping them down the front of her training pants. "We weren't free. Or at least I wasn't.. I never would have followed the Lich King's orders, if I was. If you were free, why bother going anywhere near the rest of us who weren't? Weren't you afraid he'd find a way to bring you back under control?"

    "Survival... and revenge. A dangerous combination that makes a tactful person stupid. I broke free but I wasn't done getting my vengeance. Whether or not I knew there would be consequences for my actions I knew I could not take a risk. The paladins made it easy to create a story that would keep me from being discovered. 'The light overcame that day but their victory was short lived.' I turned my ax on them and finished off what remained. This insured my story... and following orders when free from his command wasn't difficult... I could still hear him in my head." He turned away, clearly not proud of his willingness to survive but it was not until lights hope that he could truly be free without consequence.

    Cat sat down on the now semi-cleaned sofa. The tiny cottage was starting to look somewhat livable. It was at least livable enough for two elves who weren't really alive. "Do you think we'll ever not hear him in our head?" She asked sadly, seemingly accepting of his explanation. Cat once again looked down at her bare feet, unharmed except for the gray desaturation that effected the rest of her. "Do you think this will be what it's like, forever? Not being able to feel?"

    His armor would be to heavy to sit on any of the furniture. In its old, likely rotted state it would crumble underneath him. Instead he made due with the floor and sat by her. " We may hear him as he chooses or perhaps we may be able to block his voice out. As for being able to feel... I have no answer for that question. Not one that I like anyways."

    Cat rest her elbows on her knees, then her face in her palms. She squished her cheeks between each hand, giving her an appearance that was more like a bored child than an unholy knight of the damned. "This is going to suck."

    "Yeah...this is going to...suck..." He let out a sigh as he leaned carefully on the bottom of the couch. Arms crossed he looked up at her and thought about their situation for a moment. Two runaway death knights with blood on their hands and an eternity of damnation in the living world. Suck was an understatement but couldn't help feel the same. They were free and went from moment to moment without much thought to long term goals. "We have all eternity to consider our options. I've only ever had the notion of survival in my mind. Now... I don't even know what is next."

    "Eternity.." Cat repeated, looking a little lost with the idea. "I was gonna be a hero. I was gonna do great things, and save people. Get a pretty white horse, ride into battle with my brothers in arms, defeat evil.. now I'm dead. I'm dead and we're lost out here. I mean shit, we have eternity, and before I died I hardly ever even had a boyfriend." she whined, rubbing her face. "This isn't how it's supposed to be."

    "I wanted to move from the world and meet gorgeous women... finish my novel and one day settle down. Teach the heroes how to properly hold their blades. My aspirations aren't gone just the chance of living. But if I continue to remind myself of all of it then I'll simply spiral into something I am not. I've allowed so much to dictate how I live and even now I'm bound to my chains by undeath. Perhaps at the very least I can travel, and hope that the torches and pitchforks down come out as I make my way through towns." For the first time since they had met he had finally shown a side of himself that he thought he had buried. He wouldn't recognize it even if it came about again. It was buried so deep and forgotten that it was as much a stranger as she was to him.

    "Oh geez.. I didn't even consider that," she admitted, rubbing her face with the palms of her hands. "I've gotta look like a complete freak, now.. a walking dead girl.. this sucks, Soleren. This sucks real hard. Sorry if I'm such a bummer.. but I guess we gotta work with what we've got, right? What'v we got?" Cat looked them both over. "I can do freaky blood stuff. You've got bugs in you. We can kill things pretty good. Maybe we can kill badguys, and maybe that'll be enough that people won't hate us? I don't know.. but we can try. I wanna try. We'll need some new armor, though, especially you. Your stuff looks like it's about to fall apart any second. Why are you even wearing it?"

    "The armor isn't old...its a part of me just like my runeedge. It was forged to give off a frightening appearance. Fear is a great tool against an enemy. Lesser foes will cower and run and greater foes will underestimate it's appearance. It isn't bound to my body or anything like that but the properties of it's steel draw from my powers." He looks at the helm and sighs before returning his attention to Cat. "If we are to travel outside of this run down place then perhaps we do need different armor. I simply...well...perhaps there is some left over clothing in some of the dressers..." If his cheeks could turn a different shade other than pale they would have.

    Cat shrugged and thumbed toward the other bedroom. "Give it a shot. I didn't look in there. Probably nothing that'd fit me anyway," she said, looking down at herself. "This is a human house. They're built huge so you might find something that isn't falling apart."

    "I will...check in the morning. If I find anything then we can store our armor here and risk the chance of going out and trying it your way. Admittedly the idea makes me rather paranoid but it's a sound plan. If not..." He turns his head to look straightforward and stares for a moment. "Then we will have to figure something out. It will only be a matter of time before they come searching this way." He cleared his throat and and shifted his eyes toward her. "Since you are so inclined to not be alone tonight...the front room seems to have enough room for the both of us to spread out."

    Cat looked around the room, taking stock of the furniture.  A couch, a few chairs, the floor. She suddenly felt embarrassed for her clingy behavior. "Do you wanna be alone?" She asked cautiously. "You can take the other room, if you do. I don't mind. I'm just.. not sure if I can sleep. Or even try to."

    Soleren made to stand, the rattle of plate armor sounded oddly silent in his motion. Like his own hardened composure it served to keep him protected from pain, emotional or otherwise. The thought of removing it in the midst of the unknown was evident in the way he peered around and listened with the attentiveness of a ranger. He reached the entryway to the other room before turning his head back to her. "No, it's fine. We can share the same. I just want to male sure that there is something to to put on before I make any attempt to remove my armor. I... I will be back." He spoke as if to reassure her. He disappeared into the other room and it wasn't long before the sounds of rummaging were heard. A few light sighs followed every opening drawer.

    Cat waited on the couch.  She adjusted herself, sat cross legged, then unfolded them again. In the midst of her uncomfortable fidgeting, she had a thought. This situation with the cottage, the awkwardness, it felt like some bizarre honeymoon between two complete strangers. She reached for her pigtails and tugged them, shifting again in her seat as Soleren's irritation could be heard through the door. The idea of the terrifying death knight scrambling to find clothes that fit suddenly brought a giggle to her mouth. She threw a hand over it to keep herself quiet, but still she couldn't help but laugh.

    "I can hear you," he called out to her as he shut one of the dressers drawers to open what remained. "I'm dead, not deaf." His search would continue for a brief moment longer before it was met with a successful, "Finally. Something that hasn't been terribly damaged." He pulls the clothing from the dresser and slowly begins the process of removing his armor. The eerie rattleless silence ends as he maneuvers around the latches of each piece. The metal echoed it's protest as it was placed neatly on the wooden floor. With every piece set aside he slipped into the clothing and walked back into the other room. The elf, having only been seen in the bulk of his armor, was now dressed in plain clothing. Suitable for wear into the town market or out on the fields to work but not for any further altercation with the paladins. Outside of the armor he was still a tall individual. Before his death he had maintained a broad muscular body meant to endure the heavy armor and tower shield of a spell breaker. He filled into the humans clothing, still loose enough that he wasn't being hugged by it but not enough to make it seem like it was borrowed. His skin, what did show, was pale enough that the lines of each muscle would have emphasis even in the low light that remained. "This was the best I could find." He said as he held out his arms as if asking for approval in his reveal. "A few pair of work boots as well but I'll worry about those in the morning."

    Cat blinked as she took in the death knight's appearance. She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting. Something scarier, maybe? She was confused by how much he didn't frighten her, even after seeing the insects that crawled inside of him. He looked just like any other elf who took care of himself, maybe a little paler, maybe his hair could use a wash. Cat found herself wondering why he terrified her so much to begin with, and decided it must have been the armor. Or maybe it was the way he so easily killed.

    "You look good," she said easily, smiling comfortably. Out of their armor, they were just two elves.

    Two dead elves in an abandoned house.

    "You look like you're about to go plow a field. Probably better than an unholy knight of the damned if we're gonna try and find a way out of here." Scratching her nose, she regarded him again. "In the dim light, you don't even look all that dead."

    "So only partially dead then. Hopefully the illusion is enough to fool the guards and any passer by. I also found a small cloak that you can use, likely it belonged to this humans mate. Most everything I found would be to large for you to fit in. But the cloak should work while we travel." He paused for a moment to look at her, catching the way she peered over him with a sense of relief.

    "Sounds good," she said with a little more cheer in her voice. Cat sat up on the couch and slid both legs underneath her before looking toward the fireplace. "..does it feel weird to you that it's not cold in here? Like, I'm sure it's cold in here, but I can't feel it. I don't even know if I'd feel warm if we made a fire."

    "The thought occurred to me to start a fire but I didn't want to bring any attention to an abandoned cottage. Even if we can't feel cold or warmth or even tired, I find an odd comfort in indulging myself." He sits on the couch next to her and let's out a deep breath. "Its the little things that separate us from the living. Sleeping, eating, drinking. Those things that we took for granted before. So yes, it feels odd not to be cold when it clearly is. It feels odd that some place so inhospitable doesn't even effect us in the slightest." His arms crossed as he pushed himself deep into the cushion of the couch. "I know you haven't had much time to cope with everything which is why I was willing to give you the space to think about the things you needed to. So if you need the time alone, take it."

    Cat adjusted her legs again, crossing them so that her feet pressed against each other. She fidgeted with her toes, head bowed so that her hair covered her eyes. Her wariness was palpable. "I'm not.. used to being alone," she admitted, picking at one of her toenails. "My family lived in a little house like this. I always had my brothers around, we slept in the same room. Then I joined the military, and we were always together. Me and the recruits, we all slept in one big room, on bunks. Sometimes the snoring got real bad, but I don't know if I could sleep without it, now. I don't know.. I've never been on my own, before."

    "A whole family in one small room. I can understand the sentiment of being all alone but my understanding is as much as I can give. I lived alone, never married, estranged from my own family, and friends were few and far between. Didn't bother me all to much. I was always to busy to care for any of that. Now... Well we will see where now takes me." His stare was similarly distant, connecting with her in such a strange circumstance seemed unreal and perhaps unnecessary. One or both of them may be killed for their actions or just existing. They may go separate ways. All the possibilities and not one seemed to include them becoming friends. "It isn't difficult to grow accustomed to ones predicament. Especially if all your life you grew up that way."

    "I guess so." Reaching up to scratch her nose, Cat still moved as if she were alive. It was mechanical, muscle memory maybe, something hidden in her dead tissue only to be thoughtlessly retrieved. "Do you want to stick together for a while?" She suggested. "I'm probably not the strongest or the smartest, but I could watch your back if you'd watch mine."

    He hesitated to answer, running through a new set of posibilities that had not really crossed his mind before. His thought lasted for a few moments before finally giving her an answer. "We can stick together on the condition that you allow me to show you how to properly wield the weapons you carry. You may have come up with the idea of small town redemption through our heroic deeds but what good is redemption if you can't stay alive long enough to obtain it. There are plenty of wicked people out there and we want to survive this curse. It’s the lesser of two evils can be done. I had simply considered walking away and striking down anyone who wanted to kill me first. This is the better way."

    Cat smiled hopefully. The idea of doing actual good with her newfound power was certainly attractive, especially considering the alternative. "Okay. Deal. Maybe we can actually do some good things with what we've got. Maybe there's still a chance for us, and it's not as bad as it seems. Maybe?" Her spirits seemed significantly lifted. "Maybe we'll make a good team."

    It was bound to happen sooner or later and the idea of a cheerful unholy death knight seemed to tickle him further. He couldn't resist smiling at her enthusiasm. In a short time she had imparted her ideals into his mind like a incurable disease even after his display of brutality. He gave thought to the way he forced her to watch as his victim died and the smile faded again. "Perhaps. We will do what we can but you have to remember that we are still likely to be monsters in the eyes of everyone around us. Should we encounter a situation where we are in danger, we either run or do things a different way. We can't assume we will be loved after our first kitten saved."

    Cat's expression dimmed at the mention of being seen as a monster. She smiled sadly and looked back up toward his face. "Well.. you saved your first kitten already," she tried to joke, poking fun at her own nickname. "So things should only get better. At least, we can try to make it that way.. I'm not ready to give up hope just yet. I think if we try hard enough, anything's possible." It seemed more as if she were trying to reassure herself than him. Tugging on her pigtails, she looked him over again. "..but for now, your hair needs some help. C'mere," she pat the cushion beside her. "I'll help."

    "My hair?" He eyed her with a brow raised. "What about my hair? That's the least of my concerns." He pauses and sighs before moving over to the cushion next to her. At the very least he could help keep her mind preoccupied without making a fuss about it. "Just...make sure I don't end up with pig tails of my own." The smile returns as he settles into the spot.

    "Hey you joke, but if you don't wanna look scary, pigtails are the way to go," she teased, putting her hands to his long greasy hair in an effort to comb it straight. Her fingernails gently scratched his scalp, just enough to tame the tangles. "Just because we're dead doesn't mean we have to look like it. Maybe if we look presentable, people won't be so afraid of us."

    "A clean kept blight caller... admittedly I hadn't given much consideration to that factor either but it wasn't until recently that I had much of an option. The lakes in the area might not be the best source of water though i can't say it would make us ill. For now we work with what we have." Sensation wasn't dead to him and her nails against his scalp were a welcome feeling. His eyes closed as he focused on the attention. "Cat... Thank you. I...thank you."

    "Least I can do for you helping me," she said with a shrug, getting through the long strands of his hair. After a little while, it became straightened enough for her to work with. She arranged it into three sections and started on a long braid. "This'll keep it from getting bad again, 'til we can find a place to hose down. Your hair is even longer than mine," she giggled, actually enjoying the act of braiding someone else's hair for a change.

    "I was curious to what you looked like with your hair down. As odd as that request is, I don't think it's any more strange than asking me to fix mine." He kept straight as his hair was casually woven. The surreal nature of this exchange seemed to gnaw at him. Their initial interaction being what it was. But the comfort of another in the same situation made it strangely alright. When she finished he turned to her and waited for his own request. The thoughts slowly faded away for the night.

    "Me? I look like a boy.." she chuckled, reaching up to undo her hair. Cat's black hair fell into a few short chunks against her shoulders. She didn't look like a boy per say, but her demeanor wasn't exactly feminine. "My mom did my hair this way because she said it was the only way she could tell me apart from the boys I used to run with."

    "You don t look like a boy but they certainly suit you. And don t take that as an insult. I simply mean that the look is perfect for you. It matches your personality very well. As you said, nothing says not scary like pig tails." He reached back to take his braided hair and pulled it to the front. "There...a final touch to make me look as unimposing as possible. In the morning we will go out to the nearest town and find a blacksmith who would be willing to sell us some armor."

    "Yeah! Sounds good. Maybe something less black and imposing." She picked up the end of his braid and used it to tickle the end of his nose. It seemed a litte hair braiding and some girl talk was all it took to take Cat from the depths of despair. "Oh, maybe we can find breakfast! Breakfast that isn't people, anyway.. that.. that wasn't great."

    Soleren stared blankly at her playful gesture, not completely unmoved but unwavering in his resolve to return to his usual calculated nature."We will find something to eat in the morning. There are plenty of wild animals out in the woods that may yet be plagued or dead. I still remember how to cook the meat if that appeals to your need for...that sense of living. I can't say I have attempted to eat anything since. As for something less imposing,  basic armaments should suffice. We shouldn't need more the iron armor. Does that sound like a decent plan?"

    "It's a plan," Cat concurred with a nod, letting go of Soloeren's hair to sit back against the couch. She looked sleepy, though if she was simply emotionally tired rather than physical it was hard to tell. "I'll try and get some sleep," she suggested, leaning to her side as she rest her head against the arm rest. "Maybe if I try and act normal, it'll be easier to look normal."

    Soleren gave a slow nod before standing from the couch. He eyed the floor a few moments before turning back. " If what we have left is the simplicity of normality then we should keep it. Even if we don't look or feel it. Sleep well, Cat. We have an interesting venture ahead of us."

    Cat curled her legs into a fetal position, watching Soleren as he stood. "Yeah. I guess we do. Don't leave? Please?"

    She was a stranger hardly known to him. A visible weakness, exploitable at any given time by his enemies. The greater the distance he placed between them the easier it would be to part ways with her when the time called for it, yet he could not bring himself to walk away from her plee. Cruelty came easy to him but not this time. He sighed softly before returning to her side, sitting  close to her. "I won't leave...ill stay right here."

    Cat turned so that her head faced Soleren's direction. She grabbed one of the couch pillows and set it under her head, curling up on her side. There was no physical contact, but she was close enough to recognize that someone else was there, and that was enough. Closing her eyes, she tried to imagine herself falling asleep in this strange new body with these strange new circumstances. "Thanks, Soleren."

    “Rest well, Cat.”

  18. Year 27  -  The Lich King has returned, and a great campaign has begun in Northrend. His army of the dead has returned to Azeroth, and with them, the Death Knights.


    The pain was familiar.

    Bright burning, coursing through every nerve. The sound of “Light”. What is that sound? She couldn’t pinpoint it, but she it reminded her of something she had already experienced. The ringing, the peace, a voice maybe? The voice wasn’t Arthas’. It wasn’t the Lich King. It was the voice she heard, before. When she knew a moment of peace that wasn’t to last.

    This wasn’t to last either.

    Catalinetta opened her eyes and saw Light’s Hope Chapel. Her skin sizzled with the Light, but why? The Light had always answered her, before. It blessed her with its presence, but it felt like an invasion now. Pure pain boring through her body, screaming.

    She was screaming.

    Looking down at her hands, the elf screamed as she saw the color of her skin; a grayish pallor covered her once sun-browned complexion, but they were covered with blood. She could smell it, feel it, even taste it. Catalinetta suddenly realized that she was covered in blood as memories of her situation came rushing back to her subconscious. They attacked the chapel. They were death knights. She had been resurrected by the Lich King, and bound to his service.

    But the Light would not allow it. Even if it had to remind her through pain.

    The Light would not forget its champions.

    However not all were formerly its champions and perhaps there were some it had forsaken.

    Those who were close enough to the Chapel would have known of the cease fire that had been called between the two opposing forces but there was still one who had not heard it. Bound in armor that wove and spinned like boned chitin and armed with a jagged rune edge of similar make, the death knight paced with his enemy. A paladin of the chapel who had strayed to far from his post. Both held weapons drawn at one another but the shorter paladin seemed to tremble as he looked over his enemy. There stood a nerubian effigy in elven form, prepared to engage in combat and take his life.

    The twisted smile that adorned the death knights face guard seemed to widen as the young light wielder felt himself nauseous and began to sweat. The rune edge held in front of him glowed with an eerie light that shifted between its original icy blue and the putrice tinge of green that one associated with a boil inducing plague.

    With a final ounce of courage he advanced on his enemy, pulling the massive blade to one side before bringing it in for a full swing. Steel met with steel as the rune edge was shifted to block the assault. The paladin side stepped his foe and spun with his blade to go for another strike. The spiny armor caught the second blow, denting and cracking the cobalt steel to reveal bone. He staggered back to move around the death knight, bringing the blade above his head before lurching over and dropping to his knees.

    The blade fell out of his hands and hit the floor with a clang. His armor rattled as he shook violently in a fevered delirium. With what little strength remained he reached for the clasp on his gauntlet and let it slip to his side. Drenched in sweat he continued to removed what he could before succumbing to the nausea. Bile left his lips, spilling over the white tabard and onto ornate armor before hitting the floor. Just moments ago he had been the picture of perfect health.

    The nausea passed long enough for him to look up and watch as the death knight moved toward him. He noted the grievous wound he had inflicted on his enemy. What he had thought was bone had actually been sickly looking and pale flesh. He smiled at the thought that at least he would die having struck down his foe.

    The death knight took his final step and stood before the paladin. With a raised hand he called upon shadowy tendrils that lifted the silver plated light wielder with ease. Helpless and hovering over the ground all he could do was stare at the reaper that had come to collect him. "Do your monstrous...abomination." He sputtered his words as they were followed by the release of more bile.

    "My worst?" The voice echoed in a deathly reverberation within the helm.

    The battle continued around the chapel. Some of the death knights had been defeated, and their corpses lay in the ground beside fallen paladins. Of the few still fighting, Catalinetta noticed one of them advancing on what looked like a human being lifted into the air. The death knight was horrifying; covered in twisted armor, the smell of plague and rot rolling from his frame. A monster, compared to the paladins who continued to fight bravely in spite of their unholy foes. It seemed as if the death knight paused before executing the human in front of him. Catalinetta felt the impulse to step in, to demand mercy for the paladin. For a paladin in training, what could be more heroic?

    “Stop!” she shouted, running in front of the human being lifted from the ground. Catalinetta couldn't hear the sound of her own voice, or how much it had changed to the hollow-sounding rattle of undeath. At her hip, she felt the weight of a weapon. Grabbing for it, the elf held it in front of her face defensively. A black serrated axe, decorated with what looked like a laughing demonic skull appeared to stare back at her. It dripped with what looked like blood, yet none hit the ground.

    Steeling herself for a battle against this monster, she gathered her courage and shouted again. "Leave him alone!”

    The nerubian looking death knight stared down at Catalinetta, cold blue eyes piercing through the helmet at the oddity of his interrupter. Hands covered in enemy blood wielding a runed axe just like his own and that of his allies, yet she stood in front of his enemy ready to defend the last few moments of the paladins life.

    He studied her actions for a moment before pressing closer to her, leaning in over the serrated edges that punctured the armor and pressed into his flesh. He placed a hand on one of her arms and pulled it down with unholy strength. His presence alone was enough to cause fear in the cowardly but it was his actions that made a courageous knight tremble.

    Blood oozed from the wounds she had unwillingly inflicted but he remained unmoved by her shouts. "You aren't one of them anymore..." His voice echoed calm and deep as cold breath poured from the guard on his face. "Let me show you what you are now. Let me show you how to use the gift you have been given."

    He moved his hand once more and from the ground rose the shambling corpse of one of his previous victims. Its bloated stomach pressed at her back as shriveled arms pulled her away. When all obstacles were removed he stepped forward, close enough to the paladin to cause him to squirm within the tendrils hold. "My worst. You asked for my worst and so you shall receive it." He lifted the axe and pressed it onto paladins hand, barely nicking his skin. "Do not turn away, will soon see what gifts you to possess!"

    As she felt the cold arms of a corpse wrap around her from behind, Catalinetta gave a shriek that could curdle blood. Worse than the smell of his rot was the strange cold numbness that kept any pain that the ghoul may have inflicted away.  “You aren’t one of them anymore,” he had told her, and the words still pounded in her ears as she watched the death knight approach his victim once again.

    What did he mean by that? There was no time to ask.

    “Don’t!” She shouted, wriggling from the ghoul’s grip with a strength she had no idea that she possessed. A sick tearing noise erupted from her captor as she forcefully ripped both arms from his body. Seeing his rotting limbs fall apart on the ground before her, Catalinetta waited to vomit but nothing came. There was no nausea, no feeling of revulsion that would have typically incapacitate her. All she felt was confusion, and fear about what it all meant. Though those questions would have to wait.

    Reaching forward with one hand, she made a gesture as if she were planning on grabbing the death knight before he could kill his prey. Without thinking, a tendril of blood erupted from a wound in her chapped hand and wrapped around the death knight to yank him toward her. With no knowledge of how this happened, she once again shrieked in panic as the death knight flew toward her direction.

    Like a ragdoll, he was flung towards Catalinette and placed in front of her. The grinning teeth on the helmet was all the that she could see of his covered face, plate molded and decorated to appear as if the flesh had been removed from his visage.

    Fitting that it should grin down at her as he pulled her into his own arms to turn her. She would not tear herself out of his hold so easily.

    When she finally faced in the paladins direction she was set up to partake in the display. The tendril around the light wielder faded and he dropped back to the ground, peering at the small cut on his hand. “You...insult me--” Another wave of nausea hit him, shutting him up and replacing his words with the vomit that now cascaded from his mouth. He wretched, holding his stomach as he looked up towards Catalinetta and the other Death Knight. He pleaded for their mercy with his eyes, knowing he had asked for more than he could take.

    His skin reddened as more sweat permeated his body, temperature raising within his own suit of armor. Blisters and boils pushed through his skin, covering what little he had managed to expose to them. When his face became unrecognizable and blood poured slowly from each orifice, the growths began to pop. One after another they festered and burst, letting out pustule fluid the reeked of decay. He let out a harrowing shriek as his body was sent into shock. Writhing was all that he could do as his death came on slow.

    The nerubian looking death knight let out an exasperated sigh as the wounds on his body began to close. The gash on his side, one that would have spelled the end for someone living, began to seal itself. Muscle regenerated and reattached itself before skin connected over it. Even the armor began to repair itself. The exchange for his life everlasting was the suffering of another.

    The plague he had unleashed on the paladin devoured him from the inside out, bloating his stomach and shriveling up the rest of his soon to be corpse. With the last of his life he looked towards Catalinette and gasped for air but could not find it.

    “That is who you are now. That is what you will bring to the world. Embrace it...or wither.” His words matched the cold of his gauntlet as he grasped her firmly. When nothing could be done to save the paladin, he placed her before the corpse and made her stare at it. “Know this...know what you are capable of.”

    It was all a bit sudden for the newly freed death knight. Only moments ago under the control of the Lich King, her memories felt jumbled. How long had she been under his control? How long had she been like this? Staring at the corpse before her, his lifeless eyes shriveling into black ichor, there were flashes of the recent battles she’d been involved with. The rotting dead walking beside her as she marched with the Lich King’s forces into battle. Cutting down the living. Murdering paladins at their own chapel.

    Then the Light.

    “..but.. but I don’t have to do this,” she argued, even as he forced her to stare at the dead. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she considered just how tempting the idea was. That she could kill so easily, with such ferocity. The smell of blood was still heavy in the air, amidst the smell of rot and decay. Somewhere, the living remained living, and their blood called to her. “We don’t have to do this...” she whispered, her lifeless heart still. “ we?”

     “You will hunger for it soon. It is better that you take life willingly so that you can have some semblance of control. Should you let yourself starve and let the hunger take over then you will have no will of your own to stop yourself.” He released his hold on her and moved to pick up her axe while she mulled over her thoughts.

    “It is no longer a matter of should you or can't you but a matter what you will do to keep yourself preserved. Never mind the power that comes from all this. It's enticing but it is secondary to your survival.” He examines her axe before moving back over to her. A hand reaches down to lift her up and the other places the axe back in its owner's grasp.

    “To answer your question more simply. Yes. We have to do this or we are the ones that will die. The sooner you can come to terms with your being, the sooner you can find the strength that is buried deep under the teachings of your former life. What is your name?”

    Too confused to mind being handled so liberally, Catalinetta allowed herself to be poked and prodded by the death knight until she was once again standing with her axe in her hands. Her axe. Yes, this is my axe, isn’t it? She thought to herself, remembering how it came to be in her possession. The floating pyramid, the runeforge, the test…

    “My name…” She repeated, blinking, staring downwards as if her name might be written in the ground. If she was like him, were they dead? She certainly felt different. There was no warmth, no thudding in her chest. A strange hunger in the pit of her stomach confused her further. If I’m dead, am I the same person? “My… my name is Cat,” she answered quietly, supposing that a nickname was not equivalent to admitting her true identity. She had a strange fear of what admitting that might mean.

    Turning to look at the other knight, she tried to study his features and decipher how she might have looked herself. If they were both the same, would she look quite so monstrous?

    “Who’r you?”

    His answer came in a different form. He reached for the clasps underneath the decorative fur that lined the back of his helm and unlatched it. The battle continued but they seemed fortuitously uninterrupted by the combatants. When all the clasps had been undone he lifted the helm up and away from himself.

    Dark, raven black hair spilled out of its enclosure, some of it bound behind him while the rest fell freely past his shoulders. There were no scars or blemishes that marked his face, likely the effect of his magic that healed his wounds. Oval in shape, the angle of his jaw was lined with a patch of hair that touched the bottom of his lower lip and fell past his chin.

    Narrow eyes peered over her as she struggled with her new reality, as she fought her own revelation with diminishing resolve. She would break soon and he would be there to catch her before she threw away her gift. “Soleren. Blightcaller Soleren.” He set the helmet down on the ground and moved to stand beside her.

    “Do not fear yourself. Do not seek to throw away this gift. I can show you how to use it, master it and ensure your survival. You don’t have to die. You don’t have to wither into a husk of your former self. This is still you, just another part of you that now has to survive. But I will show you how? Offer you what I had to find for myself.”

    Having only moments ago been freed from the bonds of the Lich King, the elf's words were strange and terrifying. Wither? Die? Was that her fate, now, unless she abandoned herself and gave into this stranger's commands? No, it couldn't be that easy. Clenching her jaw, she stared at Solaren defiantly. "And how do I know you're telling the truth? How do I know anything about all this is even real?? The Light, it wouldn't have just abandoned me.. I felt it, when I died. I was happy. I was okay, and then.." she shuddered at the memory. Rising from the ground littered with corpses. The dull eyes of the dead. "..what am I? What did he do to me?"(edited)

     “Your light did not abandon you, no. You were pulled from its clutches and given something you may not have wanted. The Lich King never gave anyone an option but some of us were free from his control long before this day. Now that all of us are free we are allowed to do what we want with our freedom. But we must still pay the price for his actions. You may not believe me now, but you can not deny the hunger that is growing deep within you. You can feel it. Else why would you question your own defiance.

    “...’Do we?’...”

    Soleren met her defiance with a smooth reassurance, sinister in the way it sounded but hiding no lies or misinformation. He watched as she continued to question her being and simply waited. “What he did is irrelevant now. What you are is a death knight, free from your servitude to a king who does not rule us anymore.”

    "A death knight?" She repeated. Certainly, Cat heard of death knights before. The Lich King's utilization of their ranks was known, but thay he might have created new ones was something she never would have imagined. Biting her lips, she tried to think of what this meant. She was dead, of course, hence the lack of heartbeat. She craved blood, and violence, and had a strange desire to cause pain. "..I'm.. I'm a death knight." Saying it aloud solidified it. With that knowledge, Cat did the only thing she could and burst into tears.

    Soleren's armor was meant to look monstrous, forged to bring fear to those that stood against him. Under the chitin exterior was another person just like her who had not been given the choice to serve. Like her, Soleren was also an elf. And like her he also served and found a way to break the bonds of his former king. The difference was the time in which he had to come to terms with what he was and practice his magic under his own influence. He knew she would break, he know she would question the cravings but he had not expected her to cry.

    Even the perceived monster had not lost all sense of compassion. At the very least not outside the battlefield. He was still a stranger to her but he felt compelled to embrace her and comfort her in her realization. "You will cry, you will feel pains like you have not felt before, but I will show you how to us that pain. Do not let yourself be taken so easily by your emotion."

    "W-what th'fuckeryu t-talking about?!" Cat said in between sobs, her hollow sounding voice stuttering. Cat cried harder than she had ever cried in her life, and in life she was an ugly cryer. She was an even uglier cryer as a death knight, stray hairs falling against her face as she attempted to speak. "W-we're d..dead! Only a f-few days ag-go I was in the and me and m-my friends were d-drinking orc b-beer and we were f-fine and now we're DEAD! Dead! I was a p-paladin kind of and n-now I'm dead!"

    It woudln't be long before battle would remember them again. More foot soldiers, dawning white tabards, approached the area with their weapons drawn. They sifted through the dead, piercing each skull with blessed blades to enure that none would rise to the call of the death knights and their unholy magics. They worked quick and approached them even quicker upon finding them. Soleren released Cat from his hold and drew his axe. "You have no time to debate me or state the obvious. Ready your axe and choose to survive. You may be dead but you have one more chance to live again."

    The paladins, 4 younger men and women who had completed their training and looked to have fought against the scourge before, set upon them. In moments the two death knights were surrounded as the light wielders took a defensive formation. "A purging party..." Soleren called out to Cat in Thalassian.

    They smirked as they called out in mockery, speaking in a tongue both could understand. "You fiends will pay for the lives you took...we will set you abomination ablaze and purge from this world." The steel of their baldes glowed with a radiance that stung Soleren's eyes. But he prepared himself for combat none the less.

    Still crying, Cat held up her axe. The paladins had done no wrong and were only defending themselves. She couldn't help but wonder if perhaps she and Soleren should be purged. What did they have to live for, if they weren't even alive? But the instinct of self preservation was strong. Alone, undead, and with memories of serving the Lich King, Cat couldn't think of one good reason to keep going, until..

    "Put your faith in the Light, and all is possible!" Shouted one of the paladins as he ran toward her, sword aimed for her armored chest.

    Cat caught his sword with her axe, her strength more than a match for his mortal grip. Swinging her weapon down hard, his sword slammed to the ground and fell at his feet, giving her the chance to attack him unarmed. Another swing of the axe and the weapon became lodged into his ribcage. A strange feeling overtook her, then, as her axe seemed to drink in his blood. She felt stronger, empowered. Without removing the axe from his body, she swung both him and the axe toward another paladin and smashed them both into the ground.

    The other two ran at Soleren, blades raised and prepared for his parry. One lunged at his side while the other came down from an upturned swing that had been dodged. The first landed  his mark, puncturing the steel and rending the same flesh that had been recently repaired. The other met face to face with his grimace as Soleren gritted his teeth at the pain. The edge of the blessed blade was gripped by a clawed gauntlet  and torn from unsuspecting hands before being plunged into his companions skull. The blessing on the first blade seared his skin, blackening it with radiant light but with its wielder dead the effects began to fade.

    Alone and without a weapon the soldier backed away and turned to run, taking 2 steps before feeling the axe grind through his midsection. Skin split, rib bones crunched and parted as organs burst and spilled their contents onto the edges of the axe. Soleren drove his runed blade further, letting out a roar of anger as he forced it through the paladins spinal column and out the other end. The eerie green light of the axe pulsed as Soleren brought it back to his side.

    The paladins top half fell over while his legs remained standing. Armored hands reached down in his disbelief. When he brought them back up he screamed silently at the stain of blood and bile that seeped together into a gruesome concoction. The magic boiled his blood like it had the other knights. And soon he shriveled to nothing more than a half corpse.

    Had she breath in her lungs, she would have taken the time to catch it. Instead, she watched as the other death knight, Soleren, butchered the other two paladins. Despite their obvious and well-deserved hatred, Cat still felt a kinship, a bond. Even envy. The peace of the Light that was surely granted to them had been ripped from her, stolen. She would have thought that the Light abandoned her, had it not been for the pain she remembered when one again she could feel freedom. The Light had not abandoned her, it granted her control.

    Even in this undead form.

    "S..Soleren.." she said weakly, looking down at the bodies. She was still crying, though a bit less out of control than before. Falling to her knees beside the corpse, Cat picked up one of her victim's arms. It was still warm, and she felt the overwhelming cold of death. "Sol..Soleren.." She repeated, her chest trembling as she brought the arm to her face, inhaling the smell of his flesh and blood. "What.. what's happening?" She asked, pulling away the corpse's armor, stripping him until his bare arm was in her hands.

    It was so warm, and she was so cold.

    Without another word, she began to eat.

    Soleren buried the edge of the axe into the withered corpse, using it like a pedestal to hold its might while he moved to kneel beside Cat. Pulling a carving knife from his belt, he stripped the rest of the light wielder’s armor and began cutting pieces of her body. He lay appendages out in front of them and remained silent as he carved with the expertise of a butcher.

    “The cold you are feeling is the touch of death that reminds you of what you are. The warmth you will regain from consuming this body is the only reminder of a life you once had. It is also the nourishment you will require to sustain the powers you were given.” He wipes the blood from the carving knife and watches her eat, noting the difference her feasting had made.

    “I envy you blood death knights…” He says in a somber tone, shifting his head to eye the makeshift pedestal. “But that is neither here nor there. Eat. Feel the rejuvenation that comes with your consumption. Once you have finished we will move on and find shelter before more come along. We may be free but that will not stop the self righteous from taking their revenge for their comrades.”

    Cat ate like a starving woman, shoving chunks of flesh into her mouth ravenously as she absorbed the information Soleren so generously gave her. Tears still rolled down her face, but as the warmth returned to her flesh she felt somewhat comforted. Soon her gray skin took on a slightly brighter pallor, and the cut in her hand mended itself. Swallowing down another chunk of meat, she nodded but did not look up at the other knight when he mentioned leaving to find shelter.


    Slowly, she pushed herself back to her feet. Grabbing the glowing axe beside her, Cat took a long look at the carnage around them. Yes, they were attacked, but only out of self defense. The Lich King sent them here. Now they were free, but for how long? The idea of being under his control once more made Cat tremble, despite her numbness to the cold. Turning to look at Soleren, she attempted to look determined and nodded at the other elf.

    “Let’s go.”

  19. Errtu was the youngest of the five, a Runetotem Sunwalker trudging across the rainy, mucky Eastern Plaguelands. It'd been raining all night, in fact, which Errtu personally found to be a blessing. His commander had said the rain was good; things were tense at Light's Hope and it would keep the paladins gathered around from having another makeshift "rally" like the one that was held the day before. Errtu wasn't sure what to think of the talk of more fighting with the Ebon Blade, but he was a dutiful soldier and was inclined to agree with his Bloodhoof commander. The tauren of Light's Hope clung together tighter than most of the other races, even the Blood Knights or Vindicators, following the lead of the likes of Dezco or Aponi in service to the Highlord. Most of them seemed uninterested in the bickering and focused on the war against the Legion, but even among their tight-knit community, some had begun to whisper about the activities of the Ebon Blade. Still, though, Errtu remained unchanged. In fact, he rode out on their charge with a reflexive hope swelling in his heart. He had always been an optimistic tauren, raised in the Barrens and eventually settling in The Crossroads when the Horde settled the land for good and their nomadic ways were put to rest. In the Barrens, rain was thought of quite highly, a sign that better times were to come. All the negativity, all the bad things that festered in the land and the people would be washed away by the cleansing rains, he'd been taught, and so even though this rain made their journey to a small village just over the river that much harder, he couldn't help but feel the same peaceful elation that he knew as a calf. And, he assumed, his mission would be an easy one.

    He hadn't been on many treks west with his Sunwalker brothers, but the taurens' avowed neutrality in the growing tensions made them the perfect candidates for the call that had gone out. A rider in the night, wet and soggy, asked for aid for the small village of Mapleseed Brook, just over the Thondroril River. A Death Knight there, once a friend, seemed to have lost his mind and was barricaded by the villagers inside his small farmhouse. Though he had yet to attempt to break out, there was little doubt that the might of the unholy powers he had at his disposal would be enough to throw open the door and attack the town if need be. The rider's news was grim, of course, but he didn't have much recourse in looking for aid elsewhere. Stormwind and Ironforge were half a continent away and the village had always had a friendly disposition with the Silver Hand, given their village mayor was one in years past. Still, they all knew what was really happening. The rider described the undead dwarf as a friend, at first. Come to the town to help defend it against the Scourge only a short time ago. But, if word was to be believe, his axe was cracked in an altercation with a flock of geists and the erratic behavior began. At first, it was just mood swings, vacillating between anger and sorrow at a moment's notice. Soon, however, he began to speak to things that were not there, was having trouble recognizing friends in the village that he'd been protecting for the entirety of his short time there. They'd hear him thumping and pacing in his farmhouse, yelling at intruders that didn't exist and screaming about all manner of horrors that had yet to materialize.

    The mayor had waited for him to leave, return to Acherus and repair his runeaxe. Surely, that would solve the problem. But the longer they waited, the more they realized he wouldn't. Finally, the decision was made to barricade him in and call for the Silver Hand to send out riders to help. And thus, Errtu and his brave companions rode at all haste to Mapleseed Brook to intervene.

    They arrived in the early morning after riding through the rainy night, just as the first rays of sunshine could be sensed over the high hills back east. The situation seemed much more dire than they'd anticipated. The barricade was being manned by the chainmail clad guards of the town, but the lot of them seemed to average out at fourteen years of age. A Death Knight would cut through them like machetes through the Feralas jungle. Inside, the Dwarf screeched and yelled, crashing and banging and rampaging through his wooden residence. The Sunwalkers discussed their plan: Subdue him and imprison him, do their best to return him to the Ebon Hold so that the undead could take care of their own. But their strategizing was quickly cut short as a thundering axe blade just above the barricaded door cracked through the wall, only to be withdrawn and flung again, this time doing even more danage to the planks. The Sunwalkers set their perimeter, quickly telling everyone to get as far back from that hole as possible. But just as soon as it seemed that he would burst through the wood, the hacking stopped. Instead, they were met only with the sound of glass breaking and cursing and screaming from within the home. Whatever the Dwarf was saying, Errtu only heard gibberish. Were these even words? By the same token, however, the panicked villagers were yelling and screaming over the thunderous rain as well, trying to direct a group of Sunwalkers that didn't even speak Common.

    The house, which had been dark up until now, began to slowly flood and flicker with light. Could the dwarf light his own lantern in this state? The question was moot, because the answer quickly became apparent: the Dwarf had lit his own house on fire. The braves were instructed to hold fast. Stay back. The Dwarf had doomed himself, but even with the pouring rain dampening any fires, they needed to make sure that he wasn't a hard to the rest of the villagers and that fire didn't spread to any of the nearby grain barns or farmhouses of their own. Errtu couldn't help but be amazed at how quickly the blaze grew. They were waiting, slowly and steadfastly to see what would happen, but by the time the fire begun to crack through the roof, the Dwarf's angry mutterings and vicious exclamations had turned into the frantic wailing that transcended all languages: he was wailing in pain because he was burning alive.

    Errtu felt his hand begin to shake, though the crackling flames and the pouring rain drowned out the faint clattering of his plate armor. He was glad to have not drawn his weapon, because if he had, he would have surely dropped it.

    He wouldn't be granted that much of a respite, though, because once they heard thumping against the hacked section of wall, the order was to draw their weapons. Errtu couldn't. His hand was shaking too much. He tried to tense his muscles, force it to stop, but he couldn't, why wouldn't the Dwarf stop screaming?

    And almost as soon as he looked away from the fire in shame and humiliation, the Dwarf's flaming arm struck out of the wall, sent out a shadowy claw of unholy force right at Errtu and lifted him off his hooves and deep into the flaming house.

    The Sunwalkers, his brothers, sprung to action immediately, the order given to GO! GET HIM! SHIELDS! SHIELDS! They crashed through windows and clomped through the house, he could hear them? He could hear them! The stairs, the collapsing wood, the burning fire, but he could hear them. ERRTU! ERRTU! SHIELD YOURSELF! ERRTU! He wondered if it was too late. The Dwarf, an effigy of rotting flesh and scorched metal, had been hacking away at him for almost a minute, spilling tauren blood across the fiery floorboards. Errtu smelled his exposed entrails cooking as the dwarf kept hacking and hacking. Was he dying? Was he dead? Lances of holy light sliced into the Dwarf, though, putting a stop to his assault. Two, then a third, severing his arm from his torso, his head from his shoulders. He felt something pop in his gut, and decided it was time to gather up his entrails and put them back in place, but his hands just wouldn't stop shaking. He couldn't move them. He couldn't keep his eyes open. He couldn't hear the sunwalkers. He just heard the fires and the hissing and spattering of his own boiling blood.

    With the stairs collapsed, the Sunwalkers knew they couldn't reach the second floor and save Errtu. Their shields would protect them only for so long, so the retreat was ordered. A few of them had been able to strike at the dwarf from below, they knew he was gone because the wailing had stopped. They walked back into the cool rain and looked on in the house in shame, healing themselves and one another from the burns they inevitably sustained. They'd been ordered out quickly enough to save themselves, but Errtu was dead. The youngest of them, the Runetotem who chose to be a Sunwalker rather than a druid, he was becoming blacked char and they were just watching. The commotion in the village died down. The house eventually collapsed in on itself. The Sunwalkers remained to confirm the Dwarf's death and Errtu's, whose remains they unceremoniously scooped up and gathered for transport back to Light's Hope. On the ride back to the Chapel, the Commander remembered feeling the rain was a blessing. It hid his streaming tears from his silent companions.

  20. Najme stood in front of her desk, deep in the basement of the chapel. There were few offices, and hers was particularly tight in space. Reading over a report, she waited for the arrival of a certain knight.

    Tamaryth arrived, a frown etched on her brow. "Lady Najme, what can I do for you?"

    "Tamaryth," Najme said kindly, smiling. "I heard there was a bit of a kerfluffle at the Arath'dorei estate. Can you tell me what happened?"

    "I cannot," Tamaryth said stiffly, "as Sanctuary's Commander forbade me from accompanying them. I told you she cannot be trusted to be impartial with me heading the investigation. You'll need to speak to Master Raelana for a report."

    "...I see. Hmm." Najme furrowed her brow and flipped through her notes. "I have an assignment for you, then. Are you aware of the Arath'dorei family and their connection to the Silver Hand?"

    "Not in particular," Tamaryth replied. "Brief me."

    "D'aragon's betrothed is a squire of ours, one Kreyen Arath'dorei." Najme explained, tapping her notebook with a fingertip. "I was hoping that we might avoid troubling him, but apparently after Sanctuary attempted to intervene, they are both missing. Now, I can contact Sir Granthas. He will be able to call on the squire and, with any luck, summon him here. However when he arrives, I want you to question him. The running that he and D'Aragon did is highly suspicious, and I know you will be able to learn more from him than anyone."

    "Gladly," said Tamaryth.

    Nadme bowed her head in thanks. "Thank you. I will let you know when he arrives."

    Tamaryth nodded, turned, and left.


    As seemed to be usual now, Najme looked busy behind her desk as she waited on Granthas. The human kept pushing strands of brown hair behind her ears as she looked over lists, assigning names to other names and schedules. Her underground office was humid, and without a window, stiflingly hot.

    The grizzled war veteran made his way into the depths with a look of grim irritation.  Granthas was about as dirtied as ever, part of the rewards of his nearly constant work.  The Silver Hand recruits were almost all unpolished, and whipping them into the shape required to fight the relentless waves of the Burning Legion was a taxing task.  To combat the heat without, the human's stark white hair had been pulled back and bound into a short ponytail, but there was little that could be done to tame his beard.  As he reached the office he was searching for, the aged paladin lifted a gauntlet clad fist and rapped on the door frame.

    "Can we make this quick?"  he asked, keeping his gravely voice even.

    Najme stood and waved Granthas in. His ponytail was inspiring. "Yes of course, this will only be a moment," she said gently, nodding toward a pitcher of water on her desk and two wooden cups. "Please, refresh yourself. It is frightfully hot down here."

    Granthas waved a hand, but moved forward to draw himself into a seat.  "It's not much better up top,"  he grumbled, reclining noisily but not quite letting himself get comfortable.  "What's this about, Lady Najme?"

    "A little assignment I've been given recently, regarding the attack," she answered while pouring herself a glass. "I thought it would be a simple enough task. I'm sure they thought so too, or they wouldn't have assigned me to it, but it seems things have escalated.. I'm sorry, let me start over." Najme took a long drink of water and wiped her forehead. She regarded Granthas with very tired brown eyes, as if she'd been staring at papers all day.

    "Regardless of recent developments between our orders, one of my superiors was insistent that we attempt to bring some sort of closure to the bad blood between us and the Ebon Blade. As a peace offering, they provided us with the name of a death knight who was involved in the attack and soon afterwards defected. They mentioned she had some sort of hand in planning this event, but I think it's clear that isn't true. In any case, I was hoping to ask her a few simple questions but the person I assigned to this mission has reached road blocks. Namely the fact that this death knight belongs to a guild called Sanctuary, and their Commander does not want us anywhere near her death knight charge. She took her own group to question the girl, only for there to be some sort of.. I do not even know, a fight of some kind? Between them and members of the Ebon Blade. One of our own, Sir Cerryan Vyel, was arrested. And the death knight herself disappeared. That is why I have asked you to come. I have heard you are friendly with a certain squire. Kreyen Arath'dorei? Is that true?"

    Granthas listened with a stony gaze, not showing the least bit of interest in the political maneuvering of either organization.  His expression bordered on boredom when the woman's exposition took a rather abrupt turn, breaking his show of disinterest and furrowing his brow.  "Aye, but what does that have to do with any of this?"

    "The death knight in question is his fiance," Najme said with an awkward smile. "They have disappeared together. I have no idea where they are. I assume they both believe they are in some kind of danger, but I want to reassure them that this is not the case. I was wondering if you might attempt to get in touch with him? Ask if perhaps he might be amicable to visiting the chapel for some questions. Reassure him that this is not some kind of interrogation."

    The old paladin's mustache twitched at the question, and he did not immediately answer.  His blue-grey gaze was harsh, and not entirely trusting as it lingered and gauged the woman's intent.  "Perhaps,"  he said finally, "But he's not like to put his head on a platter if he's expecting trouble.  What exactly are you looking to learn from the girl, and why would her guild's involvement spook the both of them if they're looking to protect her?"

    "That is what I would like to ask him," Najme said before taking another long drink of water. "What I want to know from this death knight is why her order was so keen on giving us her name. Why Sanctuary was so strict against us questioning her. Why there has been conflict in what should have been a relatively simple investigation. I mean honestly, do I look like the kind of person they would assign something serious? But now Vyel is imprisoned in Silvermoon, and this is the same death knight who seriously injured him. Now I am hearing rumors about there being some kind of.. inquisition by the Silver Hand on rogue death knights. So I would like to understand exactly what is happening before it escalates into something serious."

    Granthas' expression only darkened as Najme explained the situation, shifting his scowl towards the floor.  There was too much to worry about with the Legion currently assaulting Azeroth to get sidetracked with political infighting.  He rubbed his face with the leather palm of his gauntlet, and then nodded.  "I'll see if I can talk to him.  Not sure I could get him here, but I might be able to get his side of things at least."  The old paladin let out a heavy sigh and then straightened as if to leave.  "Is there anything else?"

    "No, that's all. I appreciate your help. If you do manage to get him down here, could you ask if he would be open to speaking with one of the other knights I have working on this case? Her name is Tamaryth, and she is very thorough. I trust her to ask the kind of questions that will finish this quickly."

    "It sounds as though I'm going to be stretching his trust as it is,"  Granthas grumbled.  He stood, still scowling as he directed an icy gaze at the woman.  "Took me near to a month even to get him to consider the Order, and if we've idiots running around like Scarlets, it'll prove all his concerns well-founded."  He shook his head and turned to leave.  "We don't have the luxury of losing good recruits to this sort of horseshit, Najme.  Don't expect much."

    Najme held up her hands helplessly. "What else can I do, Granthas? I am attempting to clear the air, here. Make things look less chaotic. Ignoring what happened will only result in more hot heads attempting to take justice into their own hands. I can understand if he is concerned for her safety, but I truly have no intention of her being hurt in any way. In fact, if they are open to the idea, I think it would be rather useful to have an ally who knows more about the Blade. Perhaps she can offer some insight that we do not possess."

    "If you want this one's trust, you'd better make sure those rumors are false then."  Granthas turned at the door and leveled another look at the woman, irritated.  "Or find who they are and deal with them properly.  I'll see what I can do, but if I can't convince him they don't exist don't expect him to show."  He paused, giving her a pointed look before he added, "Much less bring her with him."(edited)

    "I would not ask him to bring her here unless he trusted us. Or at least trusted our intentions. As for dealing with certain knights.." she looked past him, into the hallway. "..what do you suggest we do there? I would be interested in hearing your opinions on that matter."

    There was a commotion outside, like the sounds of a rally within the church. Knights and templars both crowded around a set pedestal in which an aged human was vehemently giving a speech. His greyed black hair waved wildly as he poured his zeal into his words, the massive hammer in one of his hands gripped tightly enough that it looked as though he was preparing to use it to crush someone.

    "Fellow knights! Hear me! Your superiors are plaguing you with doubt and sloth when there should be action and retribution!" He fumed, slamming a golden armored fist onto his altar. "The wretched monsters that call upon powers we as paladins have spent years in fighting are gaining power and influence! This Ebon Blade has revealed themselves to be no better than the Scourge they so stem from! Are we to wait like sheep to the slaughter before they vaunt their so-called necessary justice towards us in the form of their blackened runeblades stealing our very souls?!"

    This earned him a slight cheers and applause from his crowd, which was startlingly starting to grow. "Now, our brother-in-arms Sir Vyel is imprisoned for daring to arrest one of these abominations! I ask you, knights of the Silver Hand, WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?!"

    "Purge anyone inciting the violence, and then see if the Ebon Blade would want to help figure out who the culprits are," Granthas stated plainly.  "Do the same to them.  If you want to rebuild trust, we should damn well be working with them again to make sure this shit doesn't spread.  We will lose against the Legion if we don't stop fighting amongst our own, Najme.  We don't have time for this."

    "I am not disagreeing with you, Granthas, I simply.." Najme paused mid-sentence, looking toward her left. Though situated underground, there was a noticeable commotion happening outside. It wasn't enough that she could hear exactly what was happening, but the some reverberation could be felt coming through the bricks. "What on Azeroth is happening up there?"

    The old paladin grumbled and shook his head.  "I don't know.  But I've had enough nonsense for the day."  Granthas' mouth set in a line at the statement, stalking off to find the source of the problem so that it could be dealt with.

    Najme stood from her desk and followed behind Granthas. "It can't be another attack," she reasoned, grabbing the large hammer she hung on the wall before leaving her office. "They would have notified us by now."

    As Granthas came upon the makeshift 'rally', his scowl deepened as anger began to flood it.  His gaze narrowed on the old man on his soap box, catching scent of the energy in the crowd in the expressions and demeanor of those gathered.  His arms crossed over his chest, his voice boomed across the crowd like a reproachful parent.  He'd been training recruits at the Chapel since the Argent Crusade, and knew enough of the faces to be angry about their presence.  "Don't you lot have something better to do?"

    "Just as nature abhors the fel, does not the Light abhor the undead?! Look around and see if there any of the plague-addled Forsaken here amongst you...The Light denies them just as it should those Scourge-lov-" Stahls's rant was cut short by the appearance of his colleague, several attendees cowing to the trainer and departing.


    "Brother Granthas, so good of you to join us....What better use of time is there than to inspire the next generation to action so they do not suffer under the unprovoked aggression of the undead menace as we did?"

    Najme sighed heavily, hoisting her hammer over one shoulder. It appeared over-sized against the young woman's body, but she seemed to hold it easily enough. "By the Light, aren't you supposed to be getting those recruits ready for the Broken Shore?"

    His speech started gaining momentum again, launching into a tirade to rail against the Ebon Blade. Spittle flew from his mouth as he opened it once more, bellowing to all who hear him. "How long do we sit idle whilst their bastion of evil floats so dangerously close to beloved Dalaran?! How soon before they judge themselves better than we mere mortals as did their defeated master?"

    "ENOUGH!" Granthas bellowed.  A wave of warm light errupted from around the paladin, clearing the air and removing some of the lingering negative emotion that had been building.  "Constance, unless you were suddenly promoted to Highlord, I suggest you get off that damned box and get back into the field where you belong.  Fighting the Legion."

    "Sister Najme..." Stahls slows down somewhat, "I prepare our recruits with words of courage, to alight their hearts in holy fire in preparation for the vindication at hand! The demons shall fall to us as they have at Hyjal! As they have here in Lordaeron! We are paladins of the Holy Light; the few, the proud, and the righteous defenders against all evils that plague our world! Be it fel or the undead menace that has so brazenly attacked our home not once, but twice!"

    Stahls cleared his throat, adjusting his armor as he hefted his hammer high. "There is always time for a good few words from those elder, Granthas...Not of all of us choose to punch our students to enlightenment."

    "I am currently undertaking a task that will hopefully keep that from happening again," Najme said quietly, glancing around to see if anyone else was listening. "This is not helping."

    "Just because you're elder, doesn't make you wise,"  Granthas shot back, still scowling.  His attention turned back to the crowd then, looking amongst its members.  "You seem to conveniently forget the Forsaken who fought alongside us in the Argent Crusade, or the Priests who were there when we aided Netherlight Temple.  The only enlightenment you're offering is how to feed ourselves to the demons."  His gaze narrowed, "Now.  Get down, lest I report this idiocy to the Highlord.  Who, need I remind you, settled matters with the Ebon Blade."

    "Unlike our superiors," Stahls stepped down to enter the crowd, pacing towards Granthas and Najme. "I am not all talk and bluster, and the demons will not wait around for us to placate them with kind words after their invasion." He said, almost snarling back at his fellow veteran. "What I do not forget, is the last time someone began raising the dead en masse."

    His speech ceased then, pausing only to whisper something to Granthas in a quick aside, before leaving.

    Najme blinked, holding her hands up in frustration. "What in the world did he tell you?"

    Granthas' gaze trailed after the other aged paladin, snorting in response to the whispered words.  "Enough," he muttered to Najme, turning his attention onto what was left of the crowd again.  "Do I need to report you lot as well?"  he asked, getting them to start scattering in earnest.  When things started to settle, he turned his attention back to her.  "Enough to know to warn Kreyen of the lynch mob that'd be waiting for his girl if he brought her in."

    "But.." Najme's face went from concerned to angry as she looked toward the direction in which Stahls went. "That fucking cun--, oh goodness, I am sorry," she said quickly, shaking her head as she attempted to calm herself. "I have been trying to work on this case for weeks! He and his ilk are making it impossible!"

    "Him and his ilk don't belong here,"  Granthas said firmly, "and now I've got recruits to inoculate from his idiocy.  I suggest you report it to the Highlord."  The weathered warrior started to move then, heading back towards the training fields.  "I'll let you know if he wants to talk."

    "Thank you, Granthas," Najme said exhaustedly. "Please give them both my apologies. I would guarantee their safety if I could. For now, I suppose that is not possible. I will report to the Highlord. Hopefully he will have something to say on the matter. Light bless you."

  21. New Orleans proposal:

    Dates: January - March 2018 (not during Mardi Gras)

    Travel: Louis Armstrong International Airport

    Home Base: House on Bourbon St. ($ will depend on how many people sign up, $1500 a night)

    • Hot Tub
    • Balcony
    • Kitchen
    • Large Living Space

    Within Walking Distance (of home base):


    • Like 1

  22. Once he returned to Acherus, Regdar dismissed the Knights he brought to Arath'dorei and made his way to the dark summoners on the apex of the Ebon Hold. He spoke with them for a time, about nothing quite so serious at all before finally making his request. In light of the camaraderie, they agreed to the orc's request and began their summoning work. When it was done, the Red Knight led the spoils back to a Death Gate of his own making, deep inside of Scourge territory in Eversong Woods.

    Deep in the dead scar, a death gate materialized. Among the whispering winds of the forest, a faint echo of a haunting howl eminated from the gate, attracting no attention at all from the myriad of ghouls and abominations and nerubian husks in the area. It was the only sound that was made by the silent creatures, unseen to the naked eye, as they took off high into the air towards Silvermoon and Arath'dorei Manor.

    Meanwhile, at the manor, Phyruss’ arms found their way around the blood knight within the courtyard, hischin resting upon the crown of her head as he gently rocked her within his grasp.

    "I am sorry your first time here was marred by this..." He stated apologetically.

    "I never would have guessed when we both said we had to attend to business that we would end up here,” Raelana sighed. “How utterly embarrassing." She looked up at Phyruss. "I was worried you were mad at me for coming here under such conditions."

    Phyruss sighed, pecking Rae on the head. "At first, yes...thought...well rather dark things..." An admittance that had him sigh in retrospective embarrassment. "I am sorry for doubting you."

    Raelana feigned offense and playfully hit Phyruss in the shoulder while exclaiming, "Well, I never!"

    She cracked a smile, her eyes twinkling in the light showing that she understood and wasn't upset. She looked around awe struck, and finally stood on her tiptoes and gives him a quick kiss. "Your words did not do your home justice, it's more beautiful than I had even pictured." She sighed, "I cannot believe what just transpired." She leaned into him more, closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath. "I've seen children more well behaved. They acted like a bunch of novices." She finally shook her head, "You probably don't want to hear about business..."

    Phyruss took a deep breath, managing a weary smile at the kiss. He leaned on her a little, showcasing just how tired he was from the affair and maybe even more than that. "...It’s something..." he sighed, clutching her once more within his arms, "I don't mind... I could hear you talk about gnome hairstyles and be invested in your silken voice."

    He smirked a little, letting himself relax until the dome reactivated once more and a guardsmen approached. He bowed to the lord, "My lord...there's a small horde of undead approaching from the forests."

    "...No rest for the weary..." He commented under his breath, pulling from Rae to walk alongside his guard. "Activate all the defenses... not one ghoul touches my mother's gate." He ordered, guardsmen filing under the dome for protection.

    The crystals illuminated through the darkened sphere, searing flashes that burned anything that came close. Phyruss stood on top of a small guard tower, peering out to the barren field where the rotten creatures were felled by the dozens.

    The undead hordes never even made it halfway across the manor’s field, and Phyruss would shudder mentally at the thought of the smell that would come their way with a breeze. He intertwined his hand with Raelana’s as ashes littered the fields of death.

    Raelana, who was watching from the distance, walked forward and stood next to Phyruss. She looped her hand into his and rest her head on his arm. After a while, she reached for Phyruss' face and pulled him into a kiss. "Care to give me a tour?" she asked with a wink and a mischievous smile.

    "Of course... but do be careful when we go into the back gardens, some of Mother's creations tend to like meat..." Phyruss said with a wink back, guiding her off the tower as the undead swarms blackened the sky with smoke from their pyres.