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Vanity

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The new jaw didn't fit right.  Occasionally it would hitch on one side, creating a clicking sound when she moved it.  She didn't care.  Nothing mattered at this point.  She was dead.  The still cognitive portion was going to take some getting used to.

"Who are you?" she managed to get out.

The bald skeleton that put her face back together was crouched down at her side.  She leaned against a gravestone next to a six foot ditch, clutching her legs to her chest.  What was left of her funeral shroud was wrapped around her body.

"I am the Undertaker," the skeleton said.  His eyes gleamed gold.  "I prepare the corpses for duty."

"Duty?"

"For the glory of serving the Dark Lady."

The Undertaker began to explain further about a ruling woman named Sylvanas but she didn't pay much attention.  She busied herself with an examination of her own body.  Despite the work that the Undertaker had done there were still pieces here and there on her body where bone was exposed.  A scar marred the center of her chest.  The sight of it disgusted her.  Her fingers ran along so many parts of it but there were no nerves to tell her what the flesh felt like.

"Now then, we'll get you suited up and you can be on your way to the Undercity before the night is out."

"And if I don't want to go to the Undercity, whatever that is?"

The Undertaker presented her with a set of robes, which she took with some trepidation before deciding that they would be a better thing to wear than a half-rotten shroud.  As she slipped the plain black cloth over her head the Undertaker replied, "If you want to go your own separate way that's fine.  But what of the Lady Sylvanas?"

"I want no part in this conflict of yours.  It doesn't have anything to do with me.  She'll have to accept that or send me back to my grave."

"The Dark Lady will accept that.  She does not require you to swear fealty.  She is a merciful ruler."  The Undertaker tapped his finger against his cheek.  "You have been dead for some time, though.  The world is very different."

The statement gave her pause.  "Do you know who I am?" she asked.

"You don't remember?"  He smiled.  "Poor thing.  That happens from time to time.  It will all come back eventually."

"But what do I do until then?"

She made to stand up, letting the rest of the robe fall down her legs.  The soft linen felt cool against what remained of her skin, but felt very off at the same time.  It was probably much different when she was still alive.

"I don't even know my own name, and yet I'm to just wander around without purpose until my memories deign me with their presence?  That's absurd."

She took a step and faltered, the skin on her legs pulling tight and hindering her progress.  The Undertaker stood up quicker than she could follow and caught her in his arms.

"Mind your step, we don't want anything else falling off after the scene you caused before."

He steadied her and took her by the hand, guiding her footsteps until she was comfortable moving on her own.  The Undertaker even pulled her to his side, spinning her around the open grave like they were in the middle of a grand ballroom instead of the open air of a cemetery.

"My my, Miss Rottonbottom, you are surely the most beautiful girl at tonight's gala!" the Undertaker said in a snooty voice.

She laughed.  The rough and wheezy sound of it surprised her, which made her laugh all the more.  The Undertaker twirled her and pulled her in close.  She leaned her head against his chest.  The dancing felt familiar to her, and she clung to the experience with desperate fervour.

The Undertaker stroked her hair down to her cheeks.  The gesture would have been romantic, but something that sounded like sandpaper caught her attention.  She looked to where her head rested, watching with horror as the skin quivered on its own.  A short moment later, a maggot crept out through a pock hole in his flesh, followed by three more.  She forced herself away in utter repulsion.

"My apologies," he said, a wheezy chuckle shaking his whole body.  "You got the worms excited.  But if you want answers to your identity, I suggest you start here."

The undertaker pointed to the open grave.  A grimy coffin lay open deep in the earth.

With trembling hands she slowly climbed down the side of the grave and let herself drop back into her casket.  She ruffled around the dirty linen that lined it, but nothing presented itself.  She lifted the pillow, tore at what was left of the fabric, but nothing was inside.

Blast!  She slammed her hand against the lid of the coffin in frustration.  The lid bounced back and caught her across the forehead, knocking her down into the box and closing on top of her.

Once again she found herself trapped in the darkness.  At least this time she knew why.  She twisted in the dark; the mouldering fabric tore underneath her sharp fingers and toes and caught around her limbs, trapping her once more in a death shroud.  She attempted to claw free, but each movement only entangled her more.

She shouted out for help.  A thud erupted from the other side of the lid, followed by scratching and dragging.  A sliver of light poured forth, expanding into a blinding promise of freedom.  The Undertaker loomed over her prone form, smirking, or at least attempting to smirk, as what was left of his lips were curled back into a grimace.

She looked down at herself, extricating her arms and legs from the remains of her coffin lining.  There was a pressure bearing down on her brain, causing her head to throb.  She reached up, feeling for the cause.  She gasped.  She could feel a large indentation from where the coffin lid had hit her, caving in the skull.

"Now now, don't start that again," the Undertaker said, holding out his arm to help her up.  "I can fix that in a moment."

She caught the new scream that was bubbling through her throat and swallowed it back.  "I suppose now that I've died I'll have to get used to a little wear and tear," she muttered, accepting his assistance.

He pulled her to her feet before examining the wound more closely.  She reached up to feel it again, pulling her hand back to see that no blood was present on her fingertips.  Did she even have flowing blood in her body anymore?  There were so many questions that were threatening to burst out of her about how she lived despite the lack of a heartbeat.

The Undertaker plucked the broken bone from her forehead and pulled out his bottle, dipping his finger into the neck and upending it.  He held the pieces together and rubbed his dripping finger along the edges.  Elennah prodded at the now gaping hole in her skull and felt the squishy brain inside with the fingers of her right hand.  Her left arm jerked on its own accord.

"Don't touch that, dear, you don't know where your fingers have been."

"Attached to my hands, the last time I checked, or is there something you're not telling me?"

He chuckled, pushing aside her prodding fingers and placing the bone back in place.  She could feel an icy chill as magic fused the pieces together into a new—improved?—whole.  His attention turned back to her coffin before his eyes wandered back to her.  She only noticed now that she had no eyelids.  The faded eyeballs just moved around to wherever he wanted them to with an unwavering, unnerving stare.  She noticed a hair embedded in the left one but opted not to speak up about it.  It would probably have been quite rude to point out his imperfections when she was looking...however she was looking.

"You know," he said, "when I told you to start here, I didn't mean the inside of the coffin.  I meant the headstone."

"Oh...how thoughtless of me."

"The brain takes some time to kick back into full gear after reviving."

They climbed out of the coffin.  The Undertaker reached out to close the lid when she heard a faint clunk from inside of it.  "Stop!"

He opened the lid again and they both knelt down, looking at the interior of the lid.  She reached out and began to rap her knuckles against the wood.  The Undertaker shook the lid on its hinges, helping her pinpoint the source of the sound.  They traced it to the foot of the lid, but there was no obvious clue as to what they were hearing, other than the obvious fact that there was an extra part of the casket that was hollow.  The Undertaker climbed out of the grave, jumping back down with a shovel.  He gripped the tool tightly, aimed, and slammed the dull blade against the coffin lid.

With a crack the wood splintered apart, revealing a compartment behind it.  Inside laid an object wrapped in cloth.  She took it in both hands, unwrapping the fabric to reveal a dagger with a gold blade.

"A dagger?" she said.  "What's this doing here?"

"So carefully hidden, too," the Undertaker replied.  "Someone wanted to get rid of this.  Considering the state of your body—" he gestured to her mouth and chest, "—I believe we're looking at your cause of death."

She jumped back, dropping the dagger to the ground.  Her hand reached up to caress her bosom, fingers tracing along where she had discovered the scar when she woke up.

"Murder," she whispered.

The Undertaker plucked the dagger from the damp soil, turning it over and examining it further.  "But who were you in your past life?  What warranted your murder?"

Her gaze traveled up to her headstone.  The last name had faded with the changing seasons but the first name could still be read.  Elennah.  Based on the years she had died in her late twenties.  The date of her death...

"How long have I been buried?" she asked.

He counted on his fingers.  "A little over forty years."

Elennah took a deep, unnecessary breath and let that fact sink in.  By the Light, she could have been an old woman had she not met an untimely end.  She averted her gaze from the dates, her fingers tracing the lines of eroding rock up towards the head of the gravestone.  A cameo had been embedded into the marker, showing a profile of a young, beautiful, vibrant woman.  The piece must have been made of something stronger than mere rock because she could make out individual details.  The delicate cheekbones, the dainty nose, the full lips.

She pulled herself out of the grave, crawling up from the depths of her resting place only to drag herself on hands and knees to this small piece of art.  She stared at it in utter delight, letting a high-pitched giggle escape her.  Without even thinking her fingers scrambled against the stone, digging into the crevices surrounding the cameo before gaining enough hold to pull it out and into her grateful possession.  She held it tight to her chest, stopping only to examine it further.

The Undertaker appeared beside her, examining the cameo from over her shoulder.  "My, my, my," he muttered.

"It's me!" she said excitedly.  "Am I not beautiful?  Look at me!"

"You still are beautiful," the Undertaker said.  "Not much has changed in 40 years."

She sighed in delight.  "Surely this is the key to everything!  I'll be able to find out who I was from here on my own.  I'll just show this piece around and see if it strikes any chords of memory."

"Show it to whom?"

He rested his hand on Elennah's shoulder, giving it a small squeeze.  "My dear, you're dead.  Beautiful or not, no human will give you a chance to ask your questions.  Things have changed.  We are in a war with the living.  All they want is to send us back to our eternal sleep."

"But...but what do I do now?"

"Flee.  Live away from the humans.  There are other races we have allied ourselves with, but they don't trust us either.  All creatures, big or small, eventually perish.  What man would trust that which defies even that most basic law of nature?"

Elennah rose to her feet, placing the cameo into a pocket.  "But...I was murdered!  I have to find out why!  How can I do that if I'm barred from human civilisation?  How am I to discover who I am?"

The Undertaker shook his head.  "You'll have to settle for the only explanation that can present itself to you at this time."  He motioned towards her pocket.  "You were young and beautiful.  A man must have loved you.  Another must have been jealous.  If he couldn't have you, then the other man couldn't either.  It's a tragic tale.  Tragic, but one that's told repeatedly throughout the ages.  A woman cut down in her prime by the untethered ferocity of a wolf in sheep's clothing."

With that he struck a pose mirroring that of a storyteller, sweeping his arms about in a melodramatic fashion before he bowed deep before her.

The sight triggered something within her.  A dash of heat coursed through the tips of her toes up through her legs and torso before trickling into her neck and stopping at her cheeks.  The bow.  The bow!  There was something about the bow.

"Like a wild rose picked before it had the chance to burst into bloom," the Undertaker continued, carrying on with his charade.

Flowers.

Elennah's fingers found themselves tracing up and down the folds of her robe.  No, she never used to wear these. Before these, she wore fine dresses, designed by the best.  Clothing, accessories, all of it was the best that money could buy.  And she could afford it because...because...

She cursed.  The memories still escaped her.  She could feel them trickling away like sand between her fingertips.  She began to pace around the grave, hands crossed over her chest, trying to bring a semblance of familiarity back from the vagaries that were now emptying themselves from her mind.

"This won't do.  I must know what happened."  She stopped, twisting to face the Undertaker.  "'You died because you were too beautiful' will not stand.  I must find out the truth."

The Undertaker threw up his hands.  "How?"

"If I can't speak to the living about my memory, then I'll have to speak with the dead.  I need to find someone else who was around at the time of my death.  Someone with full control of their brain.  I can't afford to wait on my memories to come back to me."

"Why not?  You have eternity."

"You want me to wait an eternity to discover my true identity?  Who I am is all I have left from my past life!  And now it's gone!  I have no sense of purpose.  I have no reason to live.  Without my identity, I'm no better than—"

"Than a zombie."

"Yes.  My quest to uncover my identity is all I have."

The Undertaker crossed the short distance between them and cupped his cheek in her hand.  Elennah made no move to draw away.  His faded eyes bored into her sockets.  What he could be searching for, she was sure he would never find.  The eyes were the windows to the soul.  She had none.

"Very well," he said, releasing her and pointing into the distance.  "Follow that road to a Forsaken military outpost.  Keep away from other humans.  This area is controlled by the Horde but that doesn't mean that Alliance stragglers won't be looking for their next victim.  It won't do to have you murdered again.  You'll have to pass through a small village.  It's completely abandoned, and I forget the name of it.  Rest there if you must, but continue to the outpost.  Tell the bat handler that I sent you.  He'll give you transportation to the Undercity."

"What is the Undercity?"

"It's the home of the Forsaken, our kind.  It's where the majority of us not out on the front lines congregate.  Your best chance to find out who you used to be lies there.

"But before you go..."

He held out the dagger.  "Take this for protection."

Elennah stared at the small blade for a long moment before accepting it.  The Undertaker rummaged through his bags before producing a belt for her to wear, allowing her to sheath the weapon at her side.

"Once you reach the Undercity seek out help from the Magic Quarter.  The Val'kyr sensed something strong from within your grave.  Perhaps they can help you harness it."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll find out."

She let the topic drop.  "Thank you," she said.  "For everything.  I don't know how to repay you."

The Undertaker dropped to one knee and took her hand, kissing her knuckles.  "Good luck.  Come back to me if you need any assistance.  I'll be here waiting for you."

"You won't come with me?"

"Lady Sylvanas is waiting for me to send her more soldiers.  My place is here."

"I see."  Elennah looked around her.  The graveyard was so small, and up until now, the only living creatures present were the two of them.  Other graves had been dug up, and she was sure that if she checked, the coffins would be empty as well.  However, there was still more work to be done.

"Goodbye then, take care," she said, and departed for the outpost.