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To Die a More Painful Death

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Koltira knew, when he felt the cold of the familiar blade against his throat, that his solitary patrol this night had been a mistake. He knew the edge of that runeblade, one of a mated pair, even without seeing, he felt the familiar presence of it and its master and knew that Thassarian had, somehow, ambushed him. And here, alone in the scattered pines beyond  Andorhal, with only the cold, pale light of the White Lady watching over him, he knew that help would be too far away to hear his voice, too far away to aid him.

He felt the buckles of his baldric release, and heard the dull thud of his own blade falling to the ground from its rest at his back, and felt the blade at his throat press closer against his skin. A metal booted foot kicked the long, two handed blade away from his reach. He raised his gauntleted hands, palms out, expecting no mercy even if the gesture asked for it.

“Koltira,” said the gruff voice in his ear, an ice touched whisper which he knew too well. “This was rather foolish of you,” the breath brushed against his ear, colder than the night air.

A grim smile came to Koltira’s face, though he knew the other could not see it. “Perhaps. Had it been I that saw you first, our places might be other than they are.” Thassarian laughed, a gruff bark. “Be done with it, Brother, our long game is at an end it seems.”

He expected to feel the icy bite of the runeblade into his throat, to feel the cold ooze of his own blood onto his flesh. It did not come. The blade was gone from his throat, its silvery light a flash in the light of the White Lady, and with a sharp tug at his upper arm, Thassarian spun him on his heel to face him. Koltira found himself looking up into the grim, bearded face, again aware of the slight difference in their heights that always made him feel cowed under the other knight’s gaze. For a moment, he remembered the last traces of humanity he had seen in that face, now so long gone, and the burning cold of Koltira’s heart ached at the memory.

And then the broad, metal clad hand of Thassarian cupped his jaw, tilting his head up further, and its cold grip pulled him into an unexpected kiss. The burning ache swelled in his chest, the empty longing for something that was no longer there, and Koltira met the cold lips with his own, drawn in. The heavy beard brushed against his cheeks, and the proximity filled his senses with the presence of a man who had once been his enemy, his ally, his lover, and was now, again, his enemy once more.

Koltira broke the kiss, pulling back, swallowing down the surge of emotion. Even now, as the dim echoes of what he remembered them being in life, they threatened to overwhelm him. Longing and pain were too much, and so he covered them with rage and shame.

“Must you taunt your prey so, before you kill it, Brother?” The words were a hiss between his teeth. He should dive for his blade, he knew, and come up fighting. Yet something kept him from it, perhaps the look which crossed the pale features of the dark runemarked face. Was it pain in those dead, white eyes he saw?

And then before he could recover, before sense could overcome emotion, the heavily armored arms of the once human knight encircled Koltira’s chest, pinning his arms to his sides, and he felt a heavy head bow itself to his own shoulder.

“Brother, even if our new allies demand our hatred of one another, I cannot do this. Even now, cold and dead as it is, my heart tells me we are Brothers. And I,” the voice drops to a whisper in his ear, “I cannot bear the distance and animosity which has been forced between us.”

Stunned shock rolled through Koltira’s mind. How many times had he chided himself for the thoughts of this man, told himself that whatever had been in the past could be no more? How hard had each meeting of his forces with Thassarian’s on the battlefield of this town been for him, the fear in his heart for the other stronger than his desire to see victory? And at each meeting, when the other had threatened him, or spoken of their duties to their new masters, how deeply had it burned in his heart that the other could so easily forget the man who had stood next to him with Mograine on that glorious day so long ago now? To hear these words now, it undid the guilt, yet made it a beast that gnawed at his mind further still.

Thassarian lifted his head, and looked again into Koltira’s face, but did not let go of the hold around the other. “Forgive me, Brother,” he said, then more softly, “Forgive me, Koltira.”

In answer, Koltira pressed his lips against the rough, cold skin of the other’s lips, seeking the response of the other, pressing against the weather beaten flesh, colder than death, with the tip of his tongue.

Neither could put aside what they had been before the demands of old allegiances had called them, it seemed. It had not just been the Brotherhood of being one of the first of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, nor how their paths had crossed before. These things had been the forging of something else. In the chaos and confusion of those first months of freedom, with the ache of the emptiness which freedom had brought them burning in their cold blood, a bond had been born between them that had become - not love, Koltira knew, for he could no longer feel that - but something more than what he shared with the others. And they had been lovers, yes, in the passages and rooms of the Ebon Hold, seeking something to bind them to their cursed existences beyond the empty pain.  

With the siege upon Icecrown, that had changed. They had found old allegiances claiming them, old wrongs taking precedence over new bonds. And, duty bound, they had suffered the distance. Koltira had found himself too often staring out across the cold, bitter nights of the glacier, standing at the railing of the Orgrim's Hammer, watching the distant shape of the Alliance airship, longing for just a moment where all of this did not have to be as it was. When it had been over, he had come back, following the Dark Lady, and placed himself in her service. He knew not what else to do, for it seemed there was no way to return to how it had once been.

He felt Thassarian slip his hands free from the metal of his gauntlets, the heavy gloves falling to the ground with a dull sound, and release his grip from around Koltira’s chest and arms. Fingers, which had once been human, and still now struck Koltira as too thick and stubby, entangled themselves in the pale strands of his long hair at the back of his head, pulling Koltira closer into the kiss. The cold of the other’s mouth, a cold that lingered in the flesh no matter the warmth, drew him in. He worked his own gauntlets free, and ran long fingered hands across the death pale skin of Thassarian’s thick, muscled neck.

They broke the kiss, reluctantly, both glancing into the silver touched darkness of the forest around them. Koltira saw his own thoughts mirrored in the once human features.

He nodded. “My forces do not patrol here tonight. Yours are the same?” Thassarian nodded, his eyes glancing into the shadows. “We should be safe here, for a time.”

Thassarian must have read the unspoken question in his expression, and bowed his head until his forehead met Koltira’s own. Once more, please, Brother, just once more. Here, where only the White Lady’s eye can see us, and no masters but ourselves demand our duty. Just once more.

He wasn’t sure which of them reached first for the buckles of the other’s armor, he wasn’t sure even how they both shed breastplates and greaves to the grass beneath their feet. He felt only Thassarian’s strong, broad hands reaching under the coarse fabric of the shirt he wore under his armor, touching his skin with the rough callouses of hands born to the sword. He knew his own hands sough flesh just as hungrily, pausing to tangle in the short, pale hair of his head before skirting down along back and ribs.

And then they were somehow both on the ground, amid the tangle of bits of their armor, Thassarian supporting himself on a single, thickly muscled arm over Koltira. The grass and pine needles of the woodland floor were slick with night dew, but their chill was still warm to the touch to his skin, soaking through the back of his shirt. Thassarian kissed him again, and it felt like the depth of the kiss was pressing him down into the earth, both cold and hungry to reclaim him. Koltira felt the sluggish movement of his blood in his dead heart, felt the burning sensation of heat and cold within his body, and the hardness of Thassarian’s own arousal pressing against his thigh.

And then, somehow, he wasn’t sure quite how, his shirt was pulled over his head, showing bare the glowing blue runes on his skin, and Thassarian was tracing one with a finger, following it down across the rise of the bone of his hip, tugging down his smallclothes as it did. He paused, looking down into all blue eyes which seemed silver in the light, the question on his lips which pride made it difficult, even now, to ask.

Koltira grunted, impatiently, and tugged the thick cloth out of the way, leaving himself now naked under the gaze of both Thassarian and the White Lady moon. The air should have felt cold to his skin, he knew, yet now, as ever, it felt blood warm along every inch of his skin, making his own flesh feel icy, even as he knew his stagnant blood sturged. He did not waste words, did not even wait for the other, but instead reached for the other’s body, guiding hands to shed his own undershit and smallclothes. In the deep shadow cast by his body, silhouetted against the White Lady’s face, Thassarian’s thick, bobbing arousal was visible just barely in the light of the runes of Koltira’s skin. It was reckless, all of it, Koltira knew, and yet he could not make himself care.

The sword-calloused fingers of Thassarian’s free hand drew themselves down the length of Koltira’s chest, and the broad chested knight lowered himself to lay beside the smaller, yet so equally matched body that had once been an elf of Quel’thalas. He pulled Koltira to face him, drawing their bodies close on the dew drenched ground, uncaring of dirt or dew. Koltira pressed himself against the other, wanting more than just the slight friction of their bodies pressed together, desperate for more than the slight sensation of flesh against flesh, yet not wanting to move any faster than they were. His long fingers traced the ridges of muscles and ribs, of scars and darker markings, which outlined the broad chest of the body curled against his.

There was a moment where Koltira was suddenly sure that this was a dream, where, at last, he had been able to find sleep - how long had it been since he had slept, actually really slept, now - and this dream had come to haunt him. He reached out to touch the face in front of his own, sure it was not actually there, sure in that second that this was his own guilt torn mind haunting him again with visions of things he would never again have. And his entire body ached with the emptiness, the hunger, and pain that had all been his constant companions since his first rebirth.

Even when he had awoken from the first death, the memory of this man’s blade buried in his body still so fresh he expected to feel his entrails in his hands, he had known they were linked. The lonely fear of having lost this man, the only thing which had still mattered after the death of the monster that had been the Lich King, burned through him. Had he still been alive, he knew, there would be tears and grief beyond measure. But there were none for him.

And then the corpse cold lips touched his own, and the thickly calloused hands slid down along his side and chest, and Koltira was there, again, in the moment, knowing the reality of this. He could feel his blood burn in his dead flesh, feel the closest thing he had to pleasure surge through him, feel the longing need - a pale echo of what he remembered from life - of his body. He wanted to beg, he wanted to cry out, but all he could do was press himself closer to the cold flesh of Thassarian’s body, arching his hips forward to graze against the thick, cold length of the other’s shaft, pushing himself against the pale, muscled flesh of thigh and belly.

A hand reached out and took his, pulling it down between their bodies, guiding his fingers to wrap around both his own aching flesh and the chill, familiar thickness of the other. Thassarian’s hand intertwined with his own, squeezing their fingers around both their lengths, guiding their hands in slow, deliberate strokes. A thick, rough skinned thumb teased over the close pressed heads, and Koltira’s hips bucked at the intense stimulation, and he tensed his own hand tighter. Thassarian’s eyes closed, and a noise, half growl, half groan, rumbled out of the broad chest as he thrust into the tightened grip.

The eyes open, the question in their pale depths writ clearly before his voice could even speak it. “Koltira, I -” a stifled groan interrupted the sentence, and Koltira kissed him again, deeply, before he could speak again. To his dark nature, the thought of Thassarian, the man who had killed him once, begging for him, as he was about to, was sweeter than anything the dead flesh could offer. But he did not want that dark stain in his mind touching this.

“No, please, like this,” he said, having to focus to draw breath enough to speak. Thassarian nodded, pulling Koltira closer with his free hand, a tender look - so alien to those hard features - crossing his face. There were other words that he should say, other things, but they were gone from him.

Koltira could feel his body, even as sluggish and slow as it was, tensing within itself as their hands and hips found a rhythm. Even their dead flesh, so often immune to all things of life, could not deny them this pleasure of its own nature. Yet so much of this was in the mind, so much memory of how the body had been in life. Koltira could remember the thunder of blood in his ears, the desperate gasping for breath; now, he had to fight to remember to breath just to moan, and had only the dull slither of long dead blood in his veins. He wondered, distantly, if this was all he was now - a memory of someone who had died with a sword through his guts, now curled around the memory of a human who had slicked the stones of Quel’thalas with the blood of its sons and daughters. He didn’t care.

The coiled ache of his body suddenly was something else. His body remembered, but the flesh, long dead, had nothing to give. But even as he felt the dry, empty spasms of his flesh he felt the blinding sensation of release. He heard Thassarian’s voice, a deep, grunting sound half whimper and half Koltira’s name, and could feel the body pressed against his remembering release and the fulfillment of the flesh. As it faded from him, and he felt Thassarian’s body still next to him, both not even breathing, and the dew beginning to settle on their cold flesh, thought trickled through the still meat that was Koltira’s mind.

We should end it here, and never rise. When we leave here, it must go back to how it was. I must hate you again, I must seek to end you again. Here, we are just corpses on the earth, waiting to return to it, with none but the White Lady to see us in our rotting flesh.

But we must rise, must return. And end the end, we will die again. But to leave here is to die by far a more painful death than it could ever be.