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Lyn awoke to the chirping of birds and the smell of the green summer grass, the breeze sending wave after endless wave through the see of green outside her window. The sun was shining brightly, and the clouds danced on the wind like great flying sheep in some heavenly ball. The stark white of the clouds shone against the crisp blue of the sky, and the air was warm with the sun's rays.

She rolled out of bed, giddy to see what fun awaited her that day. The world was so wide and infinite to one so young, and when you were eight everything was new and wonderful. Maybe she would go to the lake and play with the tortoises...slow and cumbersome, she loved watching them waddle up on shore for scraps of bread. She even rode one once, even though her mother scolded her and confined her to her room for a whole week because of it. She could sneak out to the internment camp and peek at the inmates...some of which were creepy Undead, caught commiting crimes against the good folk in Silverpine. She wondered when she would be able to go beyond Dalaran, to the wide wide world, to see Southshore and to travel from there to places she only read or dreamed about: Ironforge with the stout Dwarves and their funny little cousins the Gnomes; she was taller than they ever would be and she was only eight! To Stormwind and the gallant shiny knights of the Watch, and to see the statues and the Keep and the Mage Quarter...a place where her father told her that the new council of powerful mages sat, and that the Mage's Tower there even had an alternate dimension built into it! She would love to see that, to play at the I'm here, now I'm not. To see the strange, dark tree city of Darnassus, where the mysterious Night Elves lived. She had seen one once, a hunter, his leather armor all darkened and dirty, his lion by his side, scanning the horizon, yawning and showing those great glistening fangs. They look so strange, yet really just like tall Humans with long ears...and purple skin. He had smiled at her, the hunter...then run off faster than she had ever seen a man run, with his lion in tow.

Before she could get outside the door, her mother stopped her...with more lessons. Always with the lessons. Day in and day out...scribe this, study that, light the candle with your mind. It wasn't really your mind that did it, Lyn knew. It was the Aether...the magic all over the world that did it, you just asked it to with your mind. She was smart, and some day she would be a great mage, and live in a tower, and look out over the land and watch for trouble, and swoop down on any villians she saw with her mighty powers, and save all the villagers. They would love her, and thank her with a party, a great feast of pig and vegetables and cheese and casks of wine, and everything would be great and wonderful and perfect. She would open an academy, and train the most powerful mages in all the land, and one day she and her students would take back Silverpine from the nasty Undead, and then the mages of Dalaran would love her too. And then she could sit on the council and...

Her daydreaming was cut short by the sounds of shouting and the call to alarm. Her father came rushing in, face red and beathing hard.

"Lyn! Get to the cellar! We are being attacked! Hurry!"

She knew better than to say anything. This happened sometimes...the Undead thought that they owend Dalaran too...they already had Silverpine, wasn't that enough? They owned the great old city of Lordaeron, and the massive catacombs underneath it. They owned all of Tristfall too, and that was never enough. Their queen...Sylvanas...she made them keep attacking and pushing and killing...if only she would stop. But who would listen to a little eight-year-old girl? No one...not even her father and mother. So, she did what she was told, and ran to the cellar with her book and a candle. She hid in a corner, where she hid when she was in trouble some times and wanted to avoid getting yelled at, the corner only she knew about. A loose board and a great creak and she was hidden, away from everything, to wait until they drove the invaders off again. She would have felt scared, but she knew that the mages of Dalaran were powerful...more powerful than some crummy smelly rotten boney stupid Undead could ever be. She would be fine, like every other time, and when it was over she would hear her father and mother call for her, and she would come running upstairs and hug them and kiss them on the cheek and then they would sit down to dinner and she would light the candles...

Above her Lyn heard the sounds of feet trampling the earth, and the occasional muffled cry, but her little hiding nook was surrounded from all sides but one with dirt and clay, and so she couldn't hear more than that. She just buried her face in her book and secretly prayed that it would be over soon, so that she could stop being afraid and go back upstairs and see her family again.

Time seemed to slow down for the next few hours, and Lyn just kept her face in her book, and her thoughts off the fight upstairs as best she could. She read about the Second War, and about the Burning Legion...evil demons and Undead and other terrible things that tried to destroy Azeroth. She found herself wondering how anyone could be so want to extinguish all life, to want to burn everything...all the pretty trees and the birds and even the slow dumb tortoises. Who could be that evil? She shuddered at the thought, but kept reading. It would all be over soon.

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Hours passed, and once she could hear no more sounds from upstairs, Lyn crept out of her hiding place and snuck to the base of the stairs. She peered around the bannister, anxiously awaiting her father's voice, her mother's embrace. She stayed very still and very quiet, for a very long time. Still, no one came. But she was a good girl, and she waited. She wanted to kiss her parents and hug them and kiss them again, glad they were safe, not get yelled at again for disobeying them. She waited...and waited, and waited.

But no one ever came.

Noon came, the rays of sunlight stealing through the cracks in the stonework at the foot of the house drawing slow paths along the cellar floor, from west to east. Lyn had been crying for the last hour, silently, wondering what had happened to her parents. They always came back. Her father even promised her he would, so many times she had started rolling her eyes every time he said it. Now she was sorry she had, so sorry that she had ever for one second not taken that seriously. She just wanted her mother...and her father...and for everything to be ok. She had to know what happened. She had to find her family.

She finally gathered up enough courage to start up the stairs, one at a time...each one seemed further away than the last, harder to reach for, harder to climb. She moved so slowly and so carefully that when one of the steps creaked she yelped and jumped at the sound, so scared she almost ran back to her secret spot to hide until someone found her. But she couldn't, she had to find her parents. She swallowed the lump in her throat, and continued up the steps, one at a time, slowly, like the funny tortoises. Slow and steady and everything would be fine. She reached the top of the stair, and slowly, carefully, like a little mouse...peered around the corner of the doorway, into the main room of the house. Everything was as she had seen it only a few hours earlier, and everything was quiet. The wind rustled the grass outside, and the sin shone through the windows, making window-shaped boxes of light on the table, and the floor, and the...hand. The hand. It was then she saw the hand, just inside the door to the outside, laying palm-up, fingers curled and stiff. Lyn's eyes grew wide. The tears wanted to come...but they didn't. She had cried them all worrying about her parents. She covered her mouth and tried not to scream. But she could not stop the weak, squealing cry that escaped through her fingers and out into the room. Was that person dead? She had seen a dead person once, kind of, when she went to her aunt's funeral. She had died traveling between Dalaran and Silverpine, and they had put her in a box and buried her by the lake. She had always liked the lake, and Lyn was glad she was buried somewhere she liked. But she had always wondered why they hadn't let anyone see her before they buried her...she had read that was the custom. Maybe her aunt hadn't wanted anyone to see her.

Once she managed to calm herself down, she crept ever so carefully to the door, eyes fixated on the hand laying there. It was all dirty and black and purple. She saw a fly land on one of the fingers, and for a moment it made her terribly angry. She ran over and swatted at the bothersome fly, sending it buzzing off into the summer air. Lyn looked back at the hand, and realized she had moved past it when she chased the fly away, and now she was outside her house, and standing in the street where she had played all her life.

She found herself wondering if she could ever play there again.

She saw so many bodies. People she had known. She saw the nice old lady down the street who used to make sweet rolls and cakes, and would let Lyn have a taste when they were ready, or lick the spoon when she made her famous honey frosting. She saw her laying on her belly, eyes rolled back in her head, one arm twisted around behind her, all crooked and ugly. She saw the dark pool beneath the lady's head, and saw the gaping crimson smile in her neck. She could not stop staring, even though she wanted to. She saw that handsome boy who lived across from her, who she would have wanted to marry one day. He was dashing and brave and was good at magic too. He had learned how to use a feather to keep himself from getting hurt when he jumped from high places, and he used to show off all the time, jumping from rooftops and scaring all the little kids half to death. Lyn was too smart for that, she knew he would be alright every time, but she still liked to watch him show off. Now he was laying on his back, up on the roof of her neighbor's house, arm dangling off the edge, and a slow pat pat pat of red dripping from his fingers to the ground below. Arrows stuck out from his chest, and his hair and face were singed and black. She turned away. He was not so handsome now. All the homes on her block were all ruined...some were even still smoldering from the fight. The homes in Dalaran had never been much to look at, but these were all and smoky and alien.

As she moved down the street, Lyn heard a strange sound coming from around the corner up ahead. It sounded like nothing she had ever heard before...almost like the sound her mother made when she was washing clothes in the basin out back. Lyn could almost smell the lye and wildflowers that her mother would add to the water to make the clothes smell wonderful when they dried in the warm air. She crept closer, craning her neck to hear better. The sound grew louder, and she started to hear a murmuring mixing in with the wet sound...almost like someone was talking with their mouth full...

Lyn rounded the corner, and came face to face with a man with no face. His skin peeled back from his cheeks, gray and desiccated. His eyes...or where there should have been eyes, were black, vacuous holes of nothing, running on and on into oblivion. His teeth were red with blood, and there were no lips to hide their hideousness. From his maw hung a piece of flesh...raw and bloody like she saw the stray dogs steal from the men who went hunting in the fields. He stared at her, mouth falling agape for a moment, flesh falling ot the ground with a sickening thud. She began to back up. She had to run. She knew what he would do to her if he caught her. She wanted to run. She wanted to run so fast, like the hunter she had seen. Run and run and run, so far and so fast that no one would find her. But her legs would not run. They would only shuffle slowly backward. Backpedaling her toward her house. The Undead stood slowly, and grinned a toothy, lipless, wicked grin. It made Lyn want to cry. It made her want to give up and hope it wouldn't hurt too bad. It made her so afraid.

The Undead reached to his side and drew a pockmarked, cold iron dagger from his belt, and kept on grinning, and kept on advancing slowly toward her, saying something in some strange, guttural language. Lyn froze in terror. She couldn't move anymore. Those eyes...the black, empty pits...they seemed to draw her in, falling, falling, into the abyss. Her legs stopped moving. She shut her eyes and bit her bottom lip so hard she tasted blood. She would get to see her parents again.

It was over in heartbeat.

Lyn trembled, but after a few moments realized that she was still alive. She opened one eye, afraid to see the face of that monster again, but he was gone. She opened her other eye and looked around frantically. Where did he go? She blinked in disbelief. What had happened? Maybe...maybe mother or father had saved her! But if they had...where were they? Wouldn't they have come to scoop her up and hug her tight and take her home? She looked around again, and it was then she noticed the man in black, hand outstretched, palm open, fingers spread, and thin wisps of smoke rising and vanishing into the air. Her eyes followed his outstretched hand, and it pointed to a wall with a black, charred smear spread over most of it, in the vague shape of a man. Lyn looked back at the man, and blinked again. Who was he?

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The man dropped his hand, and for a moment, the two stared at each other in silence, wind rustling Lyn's roughspun dress, and making the man's black cloak flap furiously, like a giant set of black wings. He stared at her with icy blue eyes, piercing and cold. Lyn shivered. The wind suddenly seemed cold, even though it was the middle of summer. The man's high collar obscured the bottom half of his face, making his eyes stand out all the more. His wide-brimmed hat fluttered in the wind slightly, and his ebon hair seemed to move just like his cloak, wildly whipping around his face and shoulders like an animal. It was then he spoke.

"Are you alright child?"

Lyn could not speak. She wanted to, she wanted to thank the man and tell him all about her parents and how they had to find them and how she had hidden in the cellar and how she was a good girl and listened to her father when he told her and how she deserved to have them back...but the words would not come. All she could do was stare, and shiver, and cry. And cry she did. Warm tears streamed down her face, and she fell to her knees, burying her hands into her face. She sobbed so hard that she made sounds: cries, moans, shudders, gasps. She cried until her eyes hurt so bad that they felt as though they were made of fire. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she lept back, surprised at the sudden contact. The man had come over to her, and knelt beside her. His eyes were no longer cold, icy daggers but warm, ocean-blue pools, full of concern. She stopped crying so hard, although the tears would not stop running, at least she managed a weak smile.

" you...sir..." was all she could manage.

The man nodded. She even thought maybe he smiled. She could see the fabric covering his face move, and it looked like he smiled. That made her feel better. He had saved her, and she should be grateful. But...if he had saved her...had he saved her parents too? Maybe he had...she had to know. She mustered all of her courage and strength, which wasn't much at all any more, and set her jaw. She had to know.

"Have you...have you seen my parents?" she stammered.

"I cannot say that I have, child. Perhaps we should find them together, along with anyone else we can help."

Lyn nodded emphatically. She did not know who this man was, but she was glad he had come when he did. If he could save her from that Undead, he could save her parents. He seemed to be very strong. Lyn wondered if she could be as strong as he was, as they wandered the streets of Dalaran together, looking for her parents; looking for survivors. She held his gloved hand, and tried to keep up with him. He was so tall, and walked so fast. He smelled kind of funny too, but that didn't matter. She knew a boy who smelled bad too, he never took a bath. She liked him well enough though, he was funny and liked to dance and sing songs about silly things. He wanted to be a jester in the great courts of Stormwind, he had told her. Being a mage was too stuffy, and he wanted to bring laughter to the people there, since it was so hard to spread joy in this place. Lyn found herself wondering if he had survived. She hoped he had. Maybe he ran to Southshore...he could get to Stormwind from there.

The man in black led Lyn through the streets of Dalaran, over more broken bodies, past more burnt houses. She was starting to think that they would never find anyone. That they were the last two left alive. That made her sad again, though as soon as she felt the tears come, the man squeezed her and and she suddenly felt stronger, and she fought back the tears and started to look again. She was far less horrified by the sights of the battle than she had been...the man's presence made her stronger, braver. It was then that Lyn saw them.

Her parents.

She tore herself away from the man and ran to them. She ran and ran, and when she got to them she fell to her knees and wept. She cried even harder than she had when she almost died. She wished she had. She glanced at the bodies between her tear-drenched fingers. Her father had an arrow sticking out of his throat, his eyes still open in surprise, now crawling with flies. Those flies again. Lyn swatted at them. "Leave him alone!" she shouted at them as they buzzed away. She looked over to her mother. Her eyes were closed, and she lay on her stomach over her father, partially covering him. Her back was stained with a large red and brown spot, and her face was bunched up as though she had been crying. Suddenly Lyn could no longer cry. She reached out and grasped her mother's hand, putting it against her cheek. It was cold. It had started to turn ashen and white, with purple fingertips. She rubbed the hand across her cheek, and kissed it. They were dead. And there was nothing she could do. Nothing she could do...

Lyn whirled around, to face the man in black. He looked down on her, towering like some black monolith, eyes kind and soft. She knew he could help them. She had heard that priests and things could heal people, even bring them back to life. Maybe he could to. She stuttered. but finally the words came.

"C...can you save them? Can you? You saved me. If you could kill that monster so fast...can't you save them? Please?" she implored, begging him with words as well as with expression.

The man knelt beside her, and touched her cheek, wiping away a teardrop with the back of his hand.

"No, child. They are gone. I am sorry, but my power lies along a different path. There is nothing I can do for them but help you mourn them, and burn their bodies."

"B...burn them? Why? Don't you bury them? Why would I burn them?" she asked, shaking. She did not understand why he would say such a thing. The books said that you bury dead people. Not burn them.

The man looked into her eyes. "This is how they breed, child. The Undead. They use the bodies of the dead to make new ones, and thus their strength grows each day. Do you want your parents to come back as one of the restless dead?". He searched her eyes for understanding.

Lyn nodded. She didn't know why, but she nodded. She saw in her mind a brief flash of her parents coming home, coming to embrace her...with dead eyes and pale skin. She felt them grasp at her, lunge at her, try to hurt her. No. How could that be true? But why would he lie to her? He saved her life. To doubt him would be wrong. He didn't even know her parents anyway, he must be telling the truth, and not just saying that to be cruel. She knew she had to believe him.

He smiled knowingly. "Good girl. Say your goodbyes, and I will help you set them free."

She nodded, and knelt beside them one last time. She brushed her father's hair from his eyes, and kissed him on the forehead. She closed his eyes, and whispered in his ear.

"Goodbye father. I love you."

She turned to her mother, and grasped her hand again, stroking it against her cheek, and kissing it. She set it down, and pressed her lips against her mother's forehead. She whispered in her ear.

"I love you mother...please wait for me on the other side."

The man placed his hand on her shoulder, and she stood with him. She looked into his eyes once more for confirmation, and he reassured her without saying a word. She dropped her head, and stared at her feet.

"No," the man said to her. "You must watch. I cannot do it alone, you must help me."

She looked up at him. "Help you? could I help you?"

He looked back at her, eyes full of determination and purpose. He spoke with his eyes again, and she knew what he was saying. She had to do it. He would help her, but she had to so it. She had to save them. She wasn't sure she could, but the man's hand gripped tighter on her shoulder, giving her strength. She felt calm suddenly, and she knew what she had to do. He whispered in her ear, and she nodded.

"Remember the candles, Lyn..."

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Netherlyn sat up.

The room was dim, lit by a solitary candle sitting on a desk across the room. Her head was spinning, and her senses dulled. A sharp biting pain shot up her body, all the way to her neck, and she cringed, cradling her abdomen and gritting her teeth. Why was she in such pain? She could not remember. She looked down at herself, naked and covered in sweat. A white linen bandage was wrapped around her stomach, stained in red. Her mind was still swimming in fog. Where was this place? She began to feel uncomfortable. The windows were barred, and the heavy oaken door was closed. As her eyes adjusted to the scant light she started to see more things about the room: papers and ink on the desk, a jar of wax. Some more papers scattered on the floor. It was so hot in here...or was that her fever? She felt her forehead. She was on fire, but her hand was cold, and as she touched the back of her hand to her head, it started to pound, and she heard a ringing in her ears. Her head felt as though it was going to split apart, the pounding of a million hammers inside her skull, ringing in her ears. She felt ill, but she could not move. All the strength she was so used to was gone. She was like a rag doll, trapped in this sweltering room, alone and unable to escape. She recalled some dream she was having...recalled being in a place like this, and being just as afraid.

The fight.

She remembered. She had fought with...who? The fever was clouding her mind. She remembered Dalaran, and confronting some form, a shapeless form, with a huge, wicked polearm. They had fought, and she had been injured. She touched her stomach again, gingerly. It stung her fiercely to even touch it, and the pain almost make her tear up. She choked back the emotion and tried to remember more. Had she won? Her wounds were grievous. Had she lost? She could not remember. She noticed the red spot on the bandage had grown since last she looked at it. She started to feel panicked. Was she dying? She was bleeding badly. If she had somehow gotten here after the battle, was there a healer to help her? Her breathing became more labored. Fear began to choke her, closing off her throat to precious air, and she coughed reflexively, wincing again at the stabbing pains that resulted. She heard a noise from the foot of the bed. She froze for a moment, that dream flashing before her eyes in bits and pieces. Hollow eyes...but they did not come. A four-legged form rose from the floor, and began to saunter over to the bed. She watched, sweat running down her face, over her neck, down her chest. The sheets on the bed were soaked in sweat and stained with blood. She was sure she was going to die. She thought to defend herself when a familiar face greeted her eyes in the weak light from the candle. She sighed, careful not to do so too deeply, for fear of her wound. Thooshon nuzzled her hand. She stroked his head in reply, made comfortable and relaxed by his presence. He licked her hand with a bumpy tongue, and she smiled weakly. She began to wonder what he was doing here. If she had passed out, he would have vanished, as she did not have the active will to keep him here. How then was he still here? She thought for a moment, and realization came to her, slowly, through the fog.

Malgren must be here.

She smiled. He had saved her. He would know what had happened there in Dalaran. Her mind was still reeling, but he was a bright spot in the dark cloudiness of her consciousness. She wondered where he was. He was always around, helping her do their work. He had told her about the arts. Taught her everything she knew. From so long ago, as she grew up, he had been her father, then teacher, then lover. It was their plan to cleanse the world of the Horde: those beasts that did not belong amongst civilized folk. The Orcs who did not belong there in the first place, and were dogs of the Burning Legion. The Trolls, cannibalistic creatures who worshiped gods bent on destruction and chaos. They would all have to die before they could ruin the world. The Tauren had once been redeemable, she had learned, as they were nature-loving folk, who had much in common with the Night Elves. But the friend of my enemy is my enemy, Malgren taught her. They had thrown in with the Horde, and for that they must share their fate. And the Undead...most despicable of all the Horde. Not even really members, they were so craven that they were not even trusted amongst their own faction, or their own kind. They in-fought all the time...some to evil, wicked ends, and others to find their 'humanity' again. She was doing them all a favor by killing them. They were a bastardization of life, and the creation of the Burning Legion. Anyone associated with them had to die. All they were were unknowing dogs of the Scourge anyway, regardless of what that bitch Sylvanas told them. Their blindness to the truth had always made Netherlyn smile. How foolish they were. The Scourge was old and powerful. How did some upstart like Sylvanas think that she could escape their grasp? She was their toy, being manipulated like a puppet on a string. She would pity them if they had deserved it.

Thooshon growled, snapping Netherlyn from her musings. The door had opened, and in the light cast from the hallway a figure stood. She smiled when she saw the piercing blue eyes of her mentor. She moved to stand, ignoring the pain, but he raised his hand, and spoke.

"Don't bother."

What did he say? She was taken aback, and she slowly settled back into the bed. Perhaps he was in a bad mood for some reason; it made her want to comfort him. Instead she leaned back and rested her back against the wall. Sweat continued to run down her face and her body. She ignored it. He was here now, and she would be alright. Her stomach jabbed needles of pain into her, but she ignored it. He would make everything better. Thooshon sat on his haunches next to the bed, and she rested her hand on his head. She watched him move into the room, to the desk, and gather some papers up into a satchel. She was confused. Why did he do this and not come to comfort her, and let her comfort him? Was he angry at her for some reason? Her head started to throb again. She felt weak. She felt like sleeping again. She looked down at her dressing. It was almost all red.

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"So you are awake," Malgren said cooly, with an impersonal edge that made Netherlyn cringe. "What a shame."

A...shame? Her mind reeling from the fever, and from the pain, and from the words, Netherlyn tried to speak, but could only manage a cough, which just made her abdomen hurt even more. Her vision blurred for a half second, and in an arbitrary glance at her hand, she saw specks of red running down her palm.

"Hmm, yes. Strain yourself. It makes this spectacle even more amusing." Malgren was smiling. Smiling...

Why was he saying these things? She could not understand what was going on. Her mind refused to work, and all of this was simply too much to process. She had to know why he was treating her like this. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself, only to cough again and set her head pounding once more.

Malgren seemed even more amused by this. "Are you trying to speak? Hm. And I wonder what it is that you want to say. I am sure I can help...where to start? Oh, I know...'why are you doing this to me?'," he asked mockingly, searching her eyes for understanding. "I'll suppose you want to know."

Netherlyn just stared meekly at him, searching his eyes for some hint of kindness, forgiveness, love, anything. She found only malice and disgust.

"Let us start from the begining. I took you in. I trained you. I taught you the dark arts. You were such a promising student too. So full of hate, and that hate was easily cultivated into rage. Unbridled rage at anything and anyone I told you to hate. The Horde...the peacemakers of the Alliance. The Forsaken that destroyed your neighborhood in that raid. You see, without war, without hate, without any of these things, there would be peace. And my masters and I cannot have that, if we are to return and rule this miserable place. And that was where you came in my dear. So easily molded, and so perfect. Humans were always so easy to steer down any road. Zealots, all of you, to the last. And so I made you my zealot, my little instrument of malice. I sent you out to recruit those who would follow us; those with so much blood on their hands that they could never turn away from the life of murder they had set for themselves. And in this, my failed." Malgren took the chair from the desk and turned it around and sat, resting his chest against the back and folding his arms over the top of the backrest. "You found plenty of bloody hands. You even got them to do kill more, to murder in spite. But, my sweet child, you made one...small...mistake. You got cocky. And you got sloppy. And they revolted against you."

Netherlyn's eyes began to tear up. She had not cried in a long time. Malgren had taught her that crying was weakness, and weakness would not let her avenge her parents. But his teachings did not seem so important to her now. And so she let them come, warm tears of grief and pain and rage and all the blackest darkness in her soul, all at once, all now running down her face, mixing with the blood on her hands...hers and all the others she killed.

Malgren raised an eyebrow. "Oh? So quick to tears? But the story is only half over, and you are missing the best part." He stood up and tossed the chair aside, sending it crashing into the table, knocking papers and ink and everything onto the floor. The candle that had been burning the whole time now lay on a pile of discarded paper, flickering angrily at the disturbance. He strode over to the bed, and leaned down, putting his face right into hers, staring her down, breaking her down, gaze peeling away everything from her until she had nothing left, no defense, no will. "The best part. The part where I tell you who I really am."

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I...I...I hate you. You...

Netherlyn stared into the icy blue abyss of Malgren's eyes. She saw herself as a little girl, happy and carefree. She saw the blue of the sky, and the clouds, drifting lazily on the summer breeze. She saw flames. She saw pain. She saw herself for the first time, reflected in the eyes that she had loved for so long. She saw her face for the first time. Her real face, streaked with tears and red from weeping. She saw the blood on her lips, and the green of her eyes now faded to a pale shade of its past vibrance. She saw Lyn, the girl, not Netherlyn the warlock for the first time in a long time. Malgren smiled, and blinked, severing the connection and sending her careening back to the bloody bed in the inn, staring at the face of the man who had killed her all those years ago. She knew that now. He smiled again. She wanted to speak, but again, she could only cough, bringing up more blood, its metalic taste filling her mouth. Some ended up on Malgren's face. He licked it from his lips before standing up.

Behind him, the angry candle had set the parchment on the floor aflame, and it had spread to the desk, climbing up the leg like an infection, slowly and steadily. Malgren turned, and walked to the flames, standing before them intently. Their light flickered in his eyes. He smiled again.

Netherlyn watched him, her eyelids growing heavy. She had lost so much blood. She could taste it in her mouth. It was on her lips, on her chin. Her life had stained the sheets of her bed a deep deadly crimson. She would have wept again, but she was too tired to move.

Malgren knelt before the flames. He turned his head to Netherlyn, now slumped low in her bed, her breath becoming more and more shallow. He smiled the worst kind of smile, a wicked smile filled with a grotesque glee at her condition.

"I promised to tell you who I am. You'll be dead soon, so I suppose now is as good a time as any," he said as he slowly extended his arm into the flames. They instantly lept upon his dry clothing, scampering up his arm, and to his hair. His head was engulfed next, and his shoulders. He stood up, fire setting his entire being alight with a sinister orange radiance. His eyes went from the palest blue to the deepest red, and his flesh seemed to fall from his bones. He spread his arms, and let loose a blood-curdling howl, as his bony black wings broke loose from the scorched flesh of his back, sending charred gore hurling at the wooden walls of the room, flames hungrily gnashing at the dried old planks.

Netherlyn managed a gasp through the pain.

Black wings...I remember...the black wings...

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Netherlyn coughed again, her vision blurring badly, and stared up at the towering figure before her. His eyes burned a violent red, and his blackened flesh stunk of sulfur and burning skin. He grinned a vile, toothy grin, and stalked over to her, putting his face directly in front of hers, hand violently cradling her chin, holding her head up. She could barely make out the features of his face, and the edges of her vision had started to go black. His other hand slowly made its way up to her neck, and his long, spindly fingers wrapped around it like a spider embracing its prey. She could do nothing to fight him, she was too weak. His touch sapped her strength even further, and she hung limp as her bedsheets when he lifted her by the throat and held her against the wall. Her feet dangled a foot above the floor, droplets of blood tap tap tapping on the floor in a small pool as the blood from her wound ran down her leg.

"The look on your face is much more satisfying than any of the times I laid with you. You know you moaned just as hard and just as loudly when I shared you with my kin. You had no idea, and you didn't care either. Such the little slut. Such the little failure. You were careless, and now you cannot even give me progeny to help me further my plans," he said as he prodded her wound with a clawed finger. She winced reflexively, but her eyes remained trained on him, all the fire from them long gone.

He could do nothing more to her. She felt her mind begin to lock up, and her thoughts slowly drifted away into nothing; wisps and shadows and nothing more remained. She stared at him blankly, eyes glazed over, arms limp at her side. He smiled even wider. She spit blood in his face. He cleaned his cheek off with one of his fingers, and drew it across his lips, removing the blood and spit, and chuckling softly. The movements of his body made her legs sway slowly against the wooden wall, like a dying pendulum in a clock that had long since gone unwound.

"I think it is far more amusing to allow you the choice to live or die. In life, you will be broken, tortured, hated, and alone. There is no forgiveness for what you have done. You will wander forever in madness, and I will be laughing all the while. Or, you can die, and go on to serve me in death, as a minion of the Scourge and the Burning Legion, which you hate so, wandering the Plaguelands aimlessly, searching for more living souls to kill and devour, your mind in constant agony from the living hell that is undeath. Either way, I will get my amusement from you, and you will be damned to an eternity of suffering. Your powers, the ones I took such care in teaching you, and your 'servants', the ones I assigned from my own menagerie to assist you, I will reclaim. You will no longer need them."

Behind him, the far wall of the room was now engulfed in flames, the ancient rotting wood burning fast and hot, casting a hellish glow over Malgren's form.

Netherlyn's mouth slowly moved, as though she were trying to speak. Malgren leaned in closer, still cackling softly, and mocked her, craning his neck to hear her. "What was that?"

"Monster," she whispered softly in his ear.

"Monster?" he said, rearing back from her, towering to his full height. "No, my dear. The word you want is Demon. The only monster here..." he said as he pulled her from the wall and forced her face to his once more, " you."

The word stung like a dagger in the gut, and a single tear ran down her cheek, to her chin, and fell with a hiss onto Malgren's arm.

He threw his head back and laughed, a bellowing, howling laughter that sounded like a cacophony of gibbering lunatics.

"And I shall no longer require your services."

With that, he tossed her body to the side, onto the floor. She slid across the rough wooden planking and slammed into the far wall, lying in a crumpled heap of red sheets and pale flesh. He strode over to the remnants of the desk and retrieved something from his sachel. With it in hand, he strode over to her near-lifeless body, and knelt down. "Here in my hand I hold a choice. Consider it, but not for too long. This structure is not going to cease burning any time soon." He placed the object on the floor a few feet away from her, and stood. "Consider it, and take care in your decision, for if you chose life, your once friends will show you no mercy. Especially Haldren. Especially after Dalaran."

Haldren. That was who she had fought in Dalaran that day. His name opened a floodgate in her head, and all of the memories of the battle and the aftermath hit her all at once. The full force of what had happened struck her, and cut her as deeply as Haldren's weapon had done. It made her abdomen ache even worse, each stabbing pain a reminder of betrayal and loss.

Malgren turned to the bed, where all the while Thooshon had sat, watching events unfold, red glow of the fire playing off his glossy black armor. He stared an eyeless, expressionless stare at the crumpled form of his former master. Malgren motioned to him. "Thooshon, come. We are leaving."

Thooshon remined in his spot, staring.

"NOW!" he thundered, and with that Thoohosn slowly stood, and trotted over by the object Malgren had placed on the floor. He stopped, staring at Netherlyn for a moment, and turned to slowly follow Malgren out the doorway, glancing again briefly over to her broken form lying in the corner before passing out of sight.

All around her, the room was engulfed in flames, and the heat made her sweat all the more. Ash began to fall from the burning ceiling like snow, and the air was almost unbreathable. She struggled to get her head up, to see what it was Malgren had left for her. It was a small flask, hungry flames reflecting from its clear glass surface, and contained within was a familiar red liquid. Netherlyn looked at the potion for a moment, and saw her reflection in it: battered, bruised, and dying. She saw her choice facing her, mocking her, daring her to lay her head back down and let go.

Monster...I am...a longer a longer a woman...nothing but a monster...

She saw Malgren's face in the flask, laughing at her.

But I will never serve him again.

Outside, the smoke from the burning relic of an inn drifted lazily on the still air, mixing with the orange haze of dusk, and the thick, plague-ridden air which always hung over Andorhal. A ghoul lumbered up next to the burning building, the red of the flames dancing in its cold dead eyes.

Echoing over the rooftops, reverberating in the branches of the dead trees, a scream emanated from the old inn, as the flames pulsed higher into the air, licking over the roof, and devouring the rotting walls of the ancient building.

The ghoul tilted its head.

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