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The Haunting

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Arshk’i and Adam wandered into Orgrimmar for the first time in ages – for the first time since they had been brought back into undeath – and it all was so overwhelming to her. The sights and smells were foreign, making her nose stuffy and her eyes bleary.

Stalls of spices were set up just upwind of giant stalls made entirely of gas-powered grills (she even saw a few with lava and fire elementals), the waft created from delicacies from all over Azeroth and the Draenors saturating deep into her skin. Arshk’i didn’t think she’d ever get the smell out of her clothes, but wasn’t really complaining; even to her undead nose, it smelled heavenly, making her mouth water even long after the pair had left the open market in the Valley of Strength.

Just beyond the epicenter on the road toward the Valley of Wisdom, every inch beyond the immediate walkway was loaded with merchant stalls selling – gods, just about everything: jewels from Pandaria that glittered as bright as the sun and that were as old as the dragons themselves, each more beautiful than the last; herbs from Outland, the plants once-forgotten but altogether high quality ingredients when used by tailors to fashion linens and alchemists for potions; armors and trinkets of all kinds from the eredar world and its shattered moons, some of the items calling out to her with the whispers of the damned that promised her sweet nothings, while others raged silently in their prisons in wait for their fates to be avenged.

She and Adam had spent most of the last year in the Broken Isles, cleaning up the corruption from the ancients’ mistakes. It had been quite a while since either of them had stepped away from the island for more than a moment, but by the looks of her partner, he, too, seemed to be overwhelmed by the changes the mainland had brought.

Though the sin’dorei had spent more time in Undercity than Orgrimmar when alive, she could easily tell the differences of the city after the Siege: wards and runes that lay just beyond the Veil, crafted to keep the demons and corruptions Garrosh had unleashed from spreading back across the city; buildings that were either rebuilt or just missing entirely, mix-matching styles of architecture from their new allies; husks of those slaughtered in the Siege that lingered in the Shadowlands overlooking the city, the entities not quite wraiths but not simple spirits, either.

It would’ve made her sad, if she even cared in the first place.

Besides, Arshk’i  told herself, passing the fifteenth group of death knights and ghouls she’d seen since entering Orgrimmar. They waved at her, which she returned in kind. We’re only here to pay respects to  Vol’jin, and to honor the new Warchief.

It had been a full year since Vol’jin’s death, and yet the campaign into the Broken Isles had hardly just begun. Sylvanas had proven herself to be a superior general in the face of the Legion, and had given the Horde plenty of reasons to trust in her leadership.

But, a sense of dread filled her gut whenever she thought of the banshee queen. It roiled in her stomach, even making her runeblade’s whispers go silent. The sin’dorei had never known her blade to silence itself willingly, and it made her wonder why it would do so at the thought of the fallen Windrunner.

Off to her side, she could see Adam fiddling with something in his hands. When she turned to ask what he was doing, her words died in her throat as she saw their steeds land just a few yards away from them. He held his hand out for her, an unreadable look on his face, but he said nothing.

Her brows knitting together with confusion, the sin’dorei began, her eyes flicking back and forth between the tauren and their mounts, “Where – but why? We just got here, where would we –?”

His hand still offered, the tauren replied simply, “Every death knight has come to pay respects to the shadow hunter. Finding a room in this city will be quite hard.”

She waited for him to continue his thought, but he didn’t. “Why would we look if it’s already known to be nearly impossible?”

At her words, Adam’s face broke out into a small smile. “Do you trust me?” the death knight said, raising his eyebrows.

Exhaling slowly, the sin’dorei’s expression relaxed as she placed her hand in his waiting one. “Always,” she breathed, meeting his gaze.

Leading her to their mounts, Adam carefully helped her mount one skeletal beast before jumping onto the other. With a firm yank on the reins, Adam took off into the sky, leaving a cloud of red dust in his wake. Without warning, Arshk’i’s beast took off as well, a yelp escaping her lips as it followed their companions.

They flew directly above Orgrimmar, the city growing smaller until it was hardly noticeable. From here, she swore she could see Silithus’ insect clouds raging in the afternoon light.

The beasts steadied themselves and flapped their wings against the chilly winds, giving Adam and Arshk’i a nearly perfect view of Kalimdor.

“It’s so peaceful up here,” she said, leaning into the beast’s harness to get comfortable.

Over the wind, she heard Adam give a hum of approval. “Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?” he replied.

It was her turn to hum. “Being this high above the politics between the factions makes anything look insignificant in comparison.”

They stayed like this for a while, watching the world go by quietly.

Up here, everything was so simple. She wished it would always be this way.

Despite her wishes of a hopeful future, the dread in her gut only seemed to grow.

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She woke up disoriented and numb, unable to distinguish up from down, or who she even was. Her eyes were unseeing, her body was unmoving, and her throat constricted in on itself with a scream sticking to her cottony tongue, refusing to release the sound. Despite this, she found that she wasn’t really concerned with any of that right now.

All she could think about was how hungry she was.

Something burning reached her nose, her face tingling in reaction to it as if she’d been punched repeatedly. It was the only sense that she could feel, but it didn’t give her hope – it just let her know that she could find her way out of this, if only to find out where that sensation was coming from to make it stop.

The sensation wasn’t hurting her, it just made her gut feel empty – emptier – in a way that left her unable to fix it herself. Her teeth ground hopelessly, agitated at that fact. She just wanted to feel full again.

Eventually, she felt something – someone? – moving her limp body around, almost like they were posing her. When she was finally plopped down, she was able to look beyond her own nose and the floor her cheek had previously been settled on. She could see a few creatures chained up in the space before her, some with their eyes closed and others with them wide and rolling.

There were armored people sitting the other chained ones up, their eyes emitting a smoke not unlike a fog rolling over the ocean. The one looming over her was almost twice her height, with an armored tail swinging at their hooved feet. They spoke to her, but their words sounded wrong – twisted, burnt, something she knew she should know but she couldn’t remember what it all meant.

Now that she thought about it, everything sounded wrong.

Her senses were all slowly coming back to her, as if she was waking up from a really deep, comfortable sleep. She could still only see very little of her surroundings, but if she had the energy to turn her head, she imagined she would’ve been able to see more people beyond what her immediate visuals were giving her.

The armored beings eventually left the chained ones in what she could only guess was a pit, the walls of their confinement dwarfing even the tallest of their caretakers.

She wondered idly if they were going to be fed soon, her stomach rumbling painfully.

Time passed slowly from when she last saw the armored beings, but in those moments alone she was able to wiggle the little things – her toes and fingers, her lips and eyebrows, her ears flicking against the chill from the wall – until she could eventually move her body enough to force herself to stand. The others around her seemed to follow the same idea, some already testing out the strength of their chains while others were still sitting like porcelain dolls propped against the wall.

Maybe that’s what they all were – dolls to be played with.

However, something curled from deep within her chest, rolling along her tongue but yet not making it past her lips – but she remembered how it tasted on her lips.

Sin’dorei. Blood elf. Fel-tainted.

Yes, she determined. That’s what she was. She could recall some of the other creatures’ races – the one that had loomed over her was a  draenei, that one still sitting over to her left was a goblin, a bloody-gripped human tugged on their chains somewhere off to the right – and all she could wonder was why such an odd group was congregating here.

What she had thought was white noise now grew louder into an annoying buzz, grinding on her ears as the idle chatter became clearer yet still indecipherable to her. It was something she knew not so deep down that she should’ve been able to understand the words, but, much like who she was, it was only coming back to her in bits and pieces.

She heard hunger, and worth, and free, and nothing much else beyond that made sense.

Shuffling around her spot, the little sin’dorei turned her attention to her chains as everyone else had done. The rattling of the metal clanking against the stone floors and walls had become enough to drive a vicious headache into her temples, so, to drown out the other noises, she began thrashing hers around even louder.

At one particularly hard tug, her wrists came free of the shackles. She tumbled backward, her shoulder hitting the ground hard enough to send a devastatingly sick crack through her body. If she’d felt numb before, her left arm was simply immobile at this point, hanging loosely at her side like the knotted hair over her shoulder.

A few of the others had done the same, fairing similar fates as she had: a few had the bones in their legs shoot up through their knee or out through odd angles of their tattered linen pants, a handful had their arm hanging as hers was, some just didn’t get back up at all and continued to stare quietly into the floor.

Black ooze pooled out from some of the faces of those that didn’t get back up, and the tingling sensation came back to her in full force. Every fiber of her being felt like electricity was running through her, pushing her hunger over the edge. Her mouth hung loose and her mouth began to water.

From the indecipherable speech above her head, she heard the word feed and, as if a shot had been fired, every single creature in the pit began an all-out brawl over the bodies of the fallen.

She felt her head yanked back by a pair of grabbing hands, a sticky substance rolling down her neck and useless arm after a second hard pull that sent her tumbling backward once again. Catching herself before she could hurt herself more, the sin’dorei threw herself back into the fray, using her teeth and one-good hand to tear and slice at anything that got in her range.

When her jaws clenched down on one person’s arm, she brought back a chunk of it with her. She chewed it thoughtfully, the tingling sensation in her face lessening, but the hole in her gut screamed at her for more.

She happily obliged.

Time flew by the sin’dorei just as quickly as the mass of bodies did, each of the beings in this pit writhing around like snakes emerging from hibernation. Some of the people were ripped apart, screaming until their throats were torn out that left them gurgling, still reaching with their broken bodies to feed; many retreated to separate parts of the pit behind piles of bodies or in whatever corner they could manage to hide in, covered in the shiny black substance with gouges and sometimes entire parts of them missing.

Her arm was still as useless as before, but at least she still had the rest of her still attached.

The sin’dorei was brought out of her haze when freezing water was shot in her face, sending her reeling to the floor. She couldn’t breathe against the torrent of water, gagging as it entered her nose and mouth, unable to turn her face away from it.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she held her breath for as long as she could, the air burning in her lungs as the water seemed to come endlessly at her.

When it relented, she collapsed on the floor, her body wracking in coughs as she worked out the water in her lungs, the cold seemingly freezing her to the floor.

Before she could reorient herself, she was being picked up and hauled off, two more armored entities on either side of her, their arms like iron under her arms. She offhandedly thought their grips should’ve been painful, especially to her limp arm, but it ended up being more annoying to her than anything else.

Unceremoniously, she was dropped by a few other beings from the pit, each of them soaked to the bone and coughing as well.

Before them stood a man with bright blue armor, so different than the near-black armor of the other armored beings. He didn’t have a helmet on, showing the look of pure displeasure that stretched across his face.

“I hate giving the newlings their rations,” he rumbled, crossing his arms over his chest as he paced in front of them. "It just shows just how utterly pathetic you all are.”

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She always had a way with words.

Even before she got blasted to bits and brought back as an undead thrall, Enmesarra knew how to get under anyone’s skin – it was her specialty. When she chose to delve into the realm of the unholy, it was as if the gates of Hell opened before her and let her walk right in, fanfare and all.

In life, the goblin had to always watch herself and make sure she always had an antidote nearby for any mishaps – but now? She could drink an entire month’s stock of poison and she would only come out of it like a bad hangover (and maybe a missing kidney or two).

She had been one of the best prostitute assassins working her own little corner of Kezan, fulfilling her dream of taking what she wanted and not having to answer to anyone. As a death knight, she saw that horizon beginning to broaden – and with her aligning with that damned sin’dorei, her reality deepened.

Did she miss sliding into bed with her next unsuspecting victim?

No, not really. But Enmesarra did miss the look on their face when their promised late-night excursion – of sex and booze, drugs and nirvana, her goods descending upon those fools like divine forgiveness to an unholy sinner – turned into a hellish nightmare.

The Lich King may have given her a new set of powers to play around with a craft she was already intimately familiar with, but Nergal was the one that gave her a second chance at a life she never knew she wanted.

Assassinations and petty, weak-minded men were her favorites – but she proactively used the Caverns of Time to watch the city of Stratholme succumb to the sudden spread of the scourge infection, enthralled by the level of craftsmanship that was put into the virus.

The goblin would give absolutely anything to know that bastard’s secrets.

But, for now, she was okay toying with the next unsuspecting victim.

As an alchemist, the unholy death knight often made potions of all kinds for anyone who was willing to pay the price for her wares; in this lifetime, she was not yet known to be a dangerous person to buy from, giving her ample opportunity to literally play as a god to those that bought from her stock.

Her patron told her to be more careful to not draw attention to herself, but that was the whole point: earning people’s trust and seeing it dissolve when they realized the truth was the sweetest high Enmesarra could ever ask for.

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The Shadowlands had always been tricky to maneuver through, even for a shadow hunter.

Sungrisk, in life, had lived and breathed by the commands of Bwonsamdi, entering and exiting the realm of death more times than he could count to fulfill his loa’s wishes. In his younger years, the troll hadn’t really cared about the world he was stepping foot into – or what he risked following him out of it. It had all been part of the job, he guessed.

Or maybe he was just stupid.

Raised into undeath, Sungrisk had the chance of reentering the Shadowlands without Bwonsamdi’s guidance, leading him through a completely separate experience than he’d known before: while blessed with the loa’s boon, the world held a false-color to it that almost made it seem alive, radiant, a believable mirrored image of the realm of the living.

However, as a warrior risen by the Lich King, the world turned cold, bleak, dead – the true face of the Shadowlands he’d ignored in his past life.

Bwonsamdi really loved his illusions and those grandiose promises that he never really planned on following through with, after all.

So, the troll told himself he’d never go into that realm unless it was an emergency – and, still, only under very specific circumstances would he deem an emergency to be too much to grant him access to pass through the Veil. His soul was promised to Bwonsamdi, and the maddened Arthas had ripped it away from the loa of death.

Sungrisk knew he wasn’t very keen on sharing something rightfully his.

Nezzrra, bless her soul, tried to understand him. He could see she really, truly wanted to understand and support him in his efforts to not succumb to his runeblade’s whispers or let himself drift away in the Shadowlands, so she doubled her efforts to make sure he would never have to pass through the Veil.

Since meeting her, the troll had passed four times. Every time he came back, he was worse for wear, and he could feel the hounds of Hell on his heels growing ever-closer, to the point that fourth time, he swore he could feel them breathing on the back of his neck.

After that trip, the death knight couldn’t even sit in a room without adequate light in it. It was an irrational, absolutely pathetic thing for him to demand from Nezzrra to uphold, but he refused to leave a room without an immediate light source to guide his way.

Hell, he couldn’t even have curtains in their home in Orgrimmar cracked if it was nearing the evening.

Every corner he saw held the face of a demon, or a wraith, or the smile of the demented loa, harassing him and toying with his sanity.

The war raged on between Kul Tiras and Zandalar, but Sungrisk couldn’t risk leaving the safety of the Horde capital – the only Horde city where the sun seemed to always shine the brightest.

His warlock tried everything to stave off her draft, but the Banshee Queen ordered her and every available (capable) Horde citizen to join the fight. Nezzrra was sent off to aid in the Princess – no, Queen - Talanji’s campaign, with no word coming back to him for almost eight months.

In that time, he worked in the deepest forges to provide metals for the constant queue of airships being built, the fires raging all around him all day and night that left nothing hidden from him.

For a time, he was content with this. Sungrisk had a purpose to give back to the Horde, he wasn’t being useless with his unnatural fear of the dark, and his work didn’t give him much time otherwise to think too deeply into the whispers calling to him at night.

He’d deal with whatever elvish bullshit Ny’alotha was at a later date; he just wanted to stop feeling like he had eyes all over him.

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She remembered her home, and the beautiful people that had been the Eredar before their downfall as if it was a fond dream; she could smell the markets of the cities and villages across Argus, and the wondrous trinkets the merchants would sell that seemed to capture the essence of the Light itself; she felt awe when overlooking the fields of flowers that stretched on for hundreds of miles, a sea entirely in its own right, with the rising wave that was the expansive mountain range cutting into the plains.

Rohinii, most of all, remembered that she didn’t remember her own part to play in these memories – she just felt like an outsider looking in, leaving the hole that was her existence painful and oozing when she called her own life into question.

Though she woke up knowing all of these things, the death knight couldn’t call any other world home other than Azeroth: it was the one planet she felt like she could make herself stick. Unfortunately, this sleeping Titan’s world did not hold even a fraction of the opportunity that Draenor had for the exiled eredar, leaving many of her kind lost in the crashing waves of war after bloody war.

She could only imagine how she was brought to Azeroth, and it gave her some hope, despite the undeath she existed in: the draenei imagined herself in the beautiful armor of a vindicator, swinging her hammer alongside the legendary Maraad while she called forth a holy ray to smite the Legion’s forces, making a difference in the war against the demons.

As amazing as that fantasy was, there was one fate she couldn’t avoid: undeath. Though she didn’t like thinking about it, Rohinii had one of two options: she either fell in battle against the Lich King, or the Light forsook her and allowed the maddened king to take her soul from paradise. (Despite her many prayers to the Naaru, they continued to ignore her pleas for answers.)

In his sick twisted sense of justice, the Lich King had twisted creatures of the Light into being his hunters, purposed only to cull more Light-blessed mortals and add their corpses into their ranks.

The draenei often wondered if that was her fate. Seeing as how she belonged to the Light in more ways than one, Rohinii couldn’t think of a more damning fate than that.

Though she hardly remembered those days as a thrall for Arthas – as someone who ravaged innocent people’s lives for a demented paladin – when his control failed, it created a tsunami of devastation within the death knight order that drew many of them into madness after him.

She knew she had 60,000 years to catch up on, the memories slowly returning to her each day. Rohinii often felt sick as she looked back on the few memories she had from before her death, knowing that the draenei these memories belonged to would not hesitate in rebuking Rohinii and the other freed death knights as the current Azerothian draeneic society had.

If circumstances were different, a champion of the Light would not have hesitated in killing this unnatural creature she had become.

How could Rohinii live happily knowing she had been ripped from the Light to become this twisted fiend? How could she ever hope for the Light to forgive her for the atrocities she’d committed?

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Nergal spent most of his time in Lordaeron after he was risen into undeath, wandering through passages long-forgotten and holing up in one of the wings that still stood high above the landscape to seek refuge from the world below. With the eternal fog put on the land as a curse paired with the continuous toxic smoke billowing up from Undercity, it didn’t give him as much of a view as he’d hoped he would get.

He sat up here while he waited for Enmesarra to return from her latest excursion, more bored than anything else; the former paladin was also hoping that this time, she brought what he requested nearly four months ago.

Before he died, he came to Lordaeron once, at Arthas’s birth – many creatures did, now that he thought back on it – to give gifts and celebrate the future king’s Name Day. Even then, he wished he could climb the highest tower and look out over the land and see the beautiful kingdom for himself – but, alas, his absence would always be noticed, forcing him to stay and continue enjoying the celebration.

‘Enjoying’ is such a strong word, he mused, playing with the distal phalanges of his skeletal hands. But it was certainly a sight to see, nonetheless.

Elves from both races towered high above the humans, gracing the stone halls with their beauty and grace, giving an unearthly radiance to the otherwise dull room; one orchestra switched with another and with the change, the grating, brassy noise of the humans rolled into the not-so-unpleasant music of the dwarves’, a low thrum that sat somewhere between the crackling of a fire and the steady hammering of metal; intoxicating, mouth-watering aromas drifted from the kitchens across the courtyard and permeated the throne room and the crowds within it, delicacies from the celebrating races’ cuisines gracing the ugly tables (and mouths) of the hosts, leaving many of them clamoring for more.

The sin’dorei’s ghastly eyes drifted from his hand to his sleeve, slowly moving back the linen to expose the skin beneath. He bit back a hiss as one of many seeping wounds was exposed, the tissue beneath dead and held together with his horribly-placed magick. It wouldn’t last much longer, and the death knight refused to let one of those butchers touch his body.

He may have been a paladin in his last life, but his work was more in the realm of smiting rather than healing. While waiting for the goblin to return, Nergal had tried buying some maggots from the merchants down below in an effort to stem the spread of disease, but even they seemed so repulsed by what was happening to his body that they refused to eat the rotting flesh, leaving him to do the work by hand.

Hence, his own fingers being torn apart by the raging diseases working through his body.

The only reason why his body failed him so, was due to the lack of preparation on his part in his life. It was a terrible, excruciatingly painful existence to live with, but Nergal would have to make due, even if it was all his fault in the first place.

He was so proud of the fact that he was one of the first paladins from Silvermoon to be discharged to Northrend, that the red flags went entirely unnoticed: the perfect seas and the clearest skies, giving them a perfect landing spot just on the coast; a gentle snowfall that seemed to eternally grace Dragonblight, putting a haze over the land that created a very short but workable line of sight from their docking point; the absolute  silence  that came with this snowfall that not even the breeze could whisper a word of warning to the arriving battalion.

They had barely set foot on Northrend’s soil before the Blight came in a raging, violent explosion from above.

It had come quickly and mercilessly, destroying half of his men in the initial blast and leaving the rest to die slowly, painfully, in the once-perfect snow. To make matters worse, Nergal knew the snow would cover up that slaughter’s scars upon the land, leaving it pristine as if it had never happened.

In an effort to survive, to make sure he wouldn’t fail in his mission, sin’dorei had crawled about a quarter of a mile through the blast-zone, his body burned and melting from the toxins while bits of his body tore off as he made the journey to what he hoped was freedom from this Hell.

All he wanted was some fresh air, and what he was rewarded with instead was the boot of the Lich King himself.

When he was reanimated, his body remained just as devastated. It wasn’t until he regained some form of a conscience that he was able to see the horrors that boy-king had rendered upon the world, and onto his own existence.

He’d visited the top of the citadel to look upon the mark left by the fallen tyrant’s demise, and was pleasantly surprised to see the snowfall was regenerative.

Nergal waited painfully while the purified snow reformed his body, and took a vial of the snow with him while he left the gods-forsaken continent.

Only the magicks of the Frozen Throne allowed his body to stay pristine, and he was not proficient enough to keep the spells going on his own. His body would return to the state in which it was before and subsequently following his undeath, leaving him unable (and unwilling) to make the journey himself to the throne.

That’s what he had lackeys for, anyway.

If he didn't receive enough of the snow, he would be no better off than the undead trash that roamed these once-beautiful lands.

It really was such a shame that he and these lands could not return to their once-former glories of their own volition.

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Arshk’i couldn’t remember much of her life before – just, sometimes, she caught the flashes of a feeling (the brush of Adam’s hand against her cheek) or a smell (the glorious yet unobtainable aromas coming from towns the death knights passed) or an empty (emptier) feeling in her gut when she saw the children playing in the streets – but at this point in her life, she had no urge to delve deeper into those feelings. She had no reason too: there was too much to do in the world now to look back on what had been.

For example: death knights were turning up all over the globe, some that had broken free of the Lich King’s rule years before yet only now were returning to civilization while others were rising from the current wars going on.

The generals at Acherus decided that little “welcoming” groups would go out and assimilate these warriors into the new death knight order (if one could call this laughable following an order, with the disarray of the world’s factions). Adam and Arshk’i would not exactly be considered one of the “happier” parties that volunteered for this mission, but, if they happened upon a confused-looking death knight, they would not be so heartless as to abandon them; they would teleport the lost soul to the new death knight fortress, then continue on their merry way.

Even if they rarely came across these death knights, they didn’t want anyone to have the shock that they had while reestablishing themselves into this world.

The sin’dorei didn’t know how much the tauren knew of his previous life, but, apparently, he knew enough of it to navigate them through the Kalimdor continent with ease. It almost terrified her to see the way he seemed so peaceful when he walked through Alliance territory, and made her wish she could have even a fraction of his calm walking through the Horde’s.

As they wandered, they searched for something he’d lost, but what that was Arshk’i dared not ask. Adam seemed so upset already, she feared the anxious death knight would snap.

Though, in the worst-case scenario, she could match him in a fight if he turned on her. The undead tauren was the closest thing to a friend she had in this empty (emptier) world, and the sin’dorei didn’t want to have to go through the impossible task of trying to make more friends in this inhospitable world.

Days passed as they wandered through wooded Alliance territory, when on the morning of their second-week vast plains opened up before them. The world had changed from the tainted, sickly-red dunes with hastily-made fortresses sewn into the land, with a grass sea just beyond the mountainous range of this diseased land.

The death knights had only stopped occasionally to wash their dusty armor and bodies in the various rivers, doing the action more often when they hit the savannahs. They would stop and allow their mouths to rest every other night, but when they entered the tauren-controlled plains, Adam seemed keen to not trespass upon in darkness, so they stopped every night.

It had already been nearly a month of them trekking across Kalimdor, and she had no more patience for whatever he was looking for.

“Are we almost there?” Arshk’i asked one night, just after they had set up camp.

Adam paused in his sword polishing to stare at her, his piercing blue eyes dissecting her as if deciding on whether or not he’d give her an answer – an expression he was known for, seeing as how this wasn’t Arshk’i’s first time asking this very question.

Eventually, he replied coolly, “Just about.” He returned to his work, the shwips of the stone against his blade gently piercing his words. “Another day’s journey should get us through the plains, and we’ll be on our way to the settlements.”

The sin’dorei took a moment to process his words, her mind swarming with what settlement he could be talking about.

“We passed the orc fortresses and tauren tribes long ago,” she started off slowly, watching him curiously. “We’re not too far from Thunder Bluff, and yet you didn’t even consider stopping there. What other settlements are out here for your kind?”

Harshly, the beast growled, “Not everyone was so lucky to return to bodies that matched their souls, elf. Take care of how you speak to me in this manner or I will not hesitate to brandish your head as my trophy.”

Just as the words left his mouth his face showed the regret he felt. She wouldn’t – couldnt – blame him, though. This hadn’t been the easiest journey for death knights, seeing as how even she didn’t have a full grasp on her memories yet.

Nodding slowly, Arshk’i heeded his threat and shut herself up.

The camp fell silent for the rest of the night, but Arshk’i didn’t sleep. The thoughts she’d been choking on burned like coal as his threat repeated itself through her mind. Memories came to her in blips, giving her a sense of déjà vu: she felt like she had lived through this before, but the face belonged to an elf, not Adam.

Despite the fact that feelings may have not come to her as easily as in her prior life, even in undeath hurt was a very clear, visceral emotion. She realized she did not like it.

At some point late into the night, Adam approached her. She sat up and watched him, silent as he attempted to offer apologies in every language he could muster, but to her, it all passed like a breeze. Though the hurt still clung to her heart, it was entirely separate from her thoughts.

When he finished speaking, the frost knight eventually said to the blood, her voice barely above a whisper, “There is no need for your apologies. Save your breath.” She couldn’t bear the thought of telling him that she was hurt but knew that if she did, that odd ache would just twist like a knife in her gut. She was already so confused as-is, and she didn’t need to feed the thought any more than she already had.

A pregnant pause followed her words, and the blood elf could sense the thoughts rolling off of him - but, nevertheless, he slowly nodded and looked back to the sword he’d abandoned by his sleeping bag, a burning, hungry look growing alongside the guilt his smoking gaze held.

“We have not much farther left, Arshk’i,” the tauren sighed, the fire bleeding his shadow into the darkness surrounding their camp. “I will wake you at first light to finish our journey.”

Arshk’i did not acknowledge his words as she laid back down.

Several hours passed where the only noise came from the occasional crackle of the fire and the howls from the occasional wolfpack, yet still, the death knight found sleep continued to elude her. Bugs and rodents did not make it into the circle of light near their campfire, the death knight’s presence more than enough to stem the fauna’s curiosities to stay away.

The Sun eventually kissed the horizon with the edge of its fire, welcoming this savannah with its light by immediately burning all that it touched.

They were up and ready to leave with the Sun’s arrival, and, with it hardly stretching farther than the tree line, they continued on their trek.

The gentle footfalls of their mounts were the only noises the two made as they traveled, neither willing to break the deafening void between them.

When they neared a certain Alliance village, the female finally tore through the veil as she asked, her voice low and hoarse from disuse, “What are we doing here?”

The male simply replied, his tone no louder than a growl, “Searching.”

Whether he was being hostile or sincere, Arshk’i wasn’t sure.

She only knew he was delusional for coming this close to the humans’ territory, even if it was only a farming village.

They avoided going directly into the quiet town, choosing instead to cling to the tree line as they weaved between the deep shadows of the forest.

A new home, large enough to be an estate despite there being no visible barn showing the owner’s craft, appeared before them soon. They stood at the edge of the clearing, just out of sight from the home.

“Let me go in alone,” Adam spoke eventually. She turned to look at him, but his expression was unreadable.

Arshk’i found that she was immensely worried for him.

“What is in there for you?” she asked, trying to hide her tone as memories dredged themselves to the forefront of her mind - a brief flash of someone asking her the very same question. For a moment, the sin’dorei wanted to throttle the tauren and scream, Leave the living alone! What is so important in this building that you would risk our lives for it?

But she remained silent, watching him as he left the safety of the forest’s edge, his words carrying over to her like a whisper on the breeze, “I have unfinished business here that I must fulfill. I have been chasing this for far too long.” The tauren wandered toward the house, his aura darkening the beautiful field as he passed through it. Every fall of his boots onto the grass left dying patches, the life draining from each area.

The sin’dorei wanted to chase after him, but forced herself not to. This isn’t my fight, Arshk’i told herself. He said he needed to do this alone. So, let him. More fleeting images passed before her eyes - red hair as fiery as the sun, a man calling to her with panic in his voice, her own chest tightening like she was being torn apart - and with a shake of her head she dismissed them.

A few moments passed, then the sound of ceramic crashing followed by a terrified woman’s scream exploded into the forest.

In an instant, Arshk’i bolted from her position within the forest, running full-speed to the cottage. She flung open a door, falling over herself as the tight foyer led to a stairwell. Crashing into the stairs, the sin’dorei cursed, picking herself up as she called out for her companion.

Flittering through the house as another scream echoed through the expansive dwelling, Arshk’i fell onto a knee as she took a too-sharp turn down a narrow hallway, slipping on a rug on the hardwood floors. The weight of her body coming down indented the floor, leaving a print of her knee and hand in the wake of her fall. Hissing out in discomfort, she called out one more for Adam, slowly pulling herself from the floor to lessen the damage she inflicted.

Hobbling through one doorway, using the frame to keep herself upright, the blood elf saw the hulking form of Adam looming above a terrified human woman as she crawled across the floor.

Adam!” she snarled, clawing her way past the threshold as she saw the tauren slowly turn towards her.

Though she could only see the human female, Arshk’i could easily sense another human – smaller, weaker – hiding inside the cabinet the woman sat in front of. Though the sin’dorei was afraid for the woman and child, she knew that if anyone had heard the woman’s screams (or, worse, was specifically sent to find help) and found the two death knights – nevermind that they were Horde soldiers – they were doomed to fall back into their old ways, even if it was only to defend themselves.

“Adam!” she shouted once more, meeting the tauren’s gaze when he fully turned towards Arshk’i. He looked like a gargoyle, his expression unreadable and his movements nearly nonexistent. Nonetheless, she put her hands on him, pulling him back with all of her strength. “Let’s go!”

Ever so slowly, the tauren followed the blood elf out of the house and back to the treeline just as a group of guards ran into the cottage, a red-faced teenaged boy leading them.

Mounting their beasts, Arshk’i took the point as she led them out of the area, hoping to get enough space between them and the villagers before more practiced Alliance heroes came.

When they were well over twenty miles out, they finally stopped at a river to rest.

“What the Hell was that?” Arshk’i immediately shouted, rounding onto the blood knight as they allowed their mounts to roam free of the riding restraints, the beasts exhausted from the race through the woods. “You could have forced our hand, Adam! We promised not to harm anyone else, and you –” She gestured wildly with her hands, exasperated and beyond furious that he put her in such a dangerous situation without preparation. “– you go and did something so stupid! In Alliance territory, no less! What were you thinking? Did you even think what could have happened if we had to fight those heroes? What it would mean for the others?”

He ignored her, the tauren keeping his back turned to her.

Before she could open her mouth to continue her berating, the frost knight sensed something terrible emanating from her friend: heartbreak. It shocked her into silence.

Eventually, Adam looked over his shoulder at her, his face wet despite his expression remaining empty.

“She was my wife,” the blood death knight told her, his voice so quiet she thought she imagined him speaking. “I haven’t ever met my daughter, and I –” He sucked in a deep breath, and exhaled sharply before adding, “I just wanted to see if I could return to my life with my children and my wife, despite everything.” His gaze fell, and his hands turned into fists by his sides.

She could physically feel the thoughts rolling off of him, knowing that above all else he questioned what his damnation meant to those still living.

Coming close to the tauren, she carefully wrapped her arms around his heavily armored torso in a pitiful attempt at a hug.

Surprisingly, Adam returned the action, squeezing her as his body wracked momentarily.

Hesitating, her face buried in his armored side, Arshk’i said, “I know how you feel.” He scoffed between his hiccups, but she reiterated, “Certainly not quite to this extent, but – but I know I’m missing something, something like your wife.” Her throat threatened to strangle her words as she spoke, but she pushed forward, feeling her own face becoming wet. “I still don’t remember much about my past. I just know I’m... I’m living without something.” Someone, she didn’t have the courage to add. Her stomach already reacted as though she was falling from the sky into a deep, black abyss, so voicing her opinions to her companion left that abyss wide open for retaliation.

Instead, the two embraced each other silently, neither willing to break it so easily.

Adam broke away first, running a heavy thumb gently across Arshk’i’s pale face. Those memories from before - the elf calling to her, a name she couldn’t quite hear but knew - flashed for a moment, and then were gone the next. She leaned into his large hand, enjoying the odd feeling this closeness was giving her.

Quietly, his eyes still showing his heartbreak, the tauren whispered, “I’m so sorry for my foolishness, Arshk’i.”

Swallowing past the lump in her throat, the blood elf placed her hand on his as she pressed more into his touch, replying softly, “Don’t do that again, or else.” She didn’t have the heart to finish that threat, or to even question whether or not she would ever have to do anything to pull him back in line.

A smile broke out over the tauren’s face as he nodded sincerely. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

As she was dragged out of the pit, still coughing out the water from her lungs, the sin’dorei passed by dozens of bodies being carefully picked apart by the armored beings and some hungry-looking ghouls. There seemed to be two piles being created, one of mostly- or entirely-complete bodies and the others of just scraps of meat and bone.

Her stomach rumbled at the sight; she could only guess where the latter pile was going.

Alongside her, a few other risen knights were thrown at the foot of the blue-armored man – Razuvious, she soon came to find out – and he didn’t seem pleased at the group before him.

To either side of her sat a troll and a human, but beyond them, she couldn’t see very far.

He spoke to them about things she still had a hard time understanding – something about a king, another statement about a war, and most of his speech encompassing training – but she listened as best as she could, especially as there was something whispering to her that made it hard to concentrate.

She wanted to scratch her ears to try and get rid of the noise, it was getting so annoying.

The group – the sin’dorei found out there were 27 of them – was brought to a platform overlooking the fighting pit. They followed Razuvious as he explained the forges and the skeletons and ethereal spirits working their sky-blue fires, but the whispers only grew louder as she stood so close to the forges.

A thought crossed her tired, slowly-being-driven-insane mind that the forges, for whatever reason, were the cause. It almost made her want to dive right into the flames, to follow the instructions of the whispers and become one.

She seemed to not be the only one: one of the other elves, a kaldorei, had broken through the ranks and jumped into the open mouth of the closest, screaming as he was engulfed in the flames. Razuvious nor the other armored knights tried saving him, but did make an effort to hold the others back from doing the same.

“That,” Razuvios began, a sneer on his face as he spoke over the kaldorei’s screams, “is what happens when you don’t bind your soul to a runeblade.”

Watching the elf burn made something in her stomach rumble, the stinging feeling in her nose returning, but it all smelled so tainted that it made her want to puke rather than feast again.

Razuvious continued speaking, but she doubted he cared if they listened or not. He spoke about the runeblades’ roles in their new lives and that it was their entire purpose to wield them for their king that now called them to arms.

It all made sense, she guessed, but she still wanted to know why he was explaining rather than letting them do it.

“You must forge the blades yourself,” another entity spoke up suddenly, stepping seemingly out of nowhere and capturing 27 sets of eyes. It made her stand on edge to look at him, his red armor looking like a rotten heart and his voice just as disgusting to hear. “Otherwise, they were forced through an unbinding from the runeblades to start all over.” Despite her feelings toward him, the red armored man’s words made Razuvious nod.

“Thank you for finally joining us, Darion,” he said after a moment. “I thought I would have to rough these trainees up myself.”

With a shrug, the red-armored knight replied, “I was busy.”

She could see Razuvious’s jaw tighten, but otherwise, he made no other sign of displeasure. Absently, she wondered why their instructor didn’t like this other knight.

They were sent off to their respective stations – some working the forge, some going outside to gather extra materials, others to work on their blades – to start the process of making a runeblade.

She was one of the first in this group to work on their blades.

As she worked, she watched Razuvious overseeing the group’s progress, occasionally leaving them for a time and being replaced by Darion; a ghoul stood to the forging knights’ side, and she could only imagine it was to make sure they didn’t follow the kaldorei’s example.

It took more effort than she might’ve wanted to put forward, but, eventually, she put that event behind her and focused on the whispers of the metal calling to her.

|0|0|0|

She wasn’t entirely sure of how long she sat at the anvil hammering out the white-hot metals, listening to the nearly-maddening whispers telling her to do this or that, but the ache in her back told her it had been a while.

Razuvious eventually called her group over to inspect their blades. The sin’dorei guessed it was to check their progress.

She was third in line, the ghoul by her side holding her weapon to be examined. Her skin bristled as she watched the mindless being carry the sword she’d been laboring over, wanting to snatch it back from it, but she could see its hand melting from the exposure to the heat of the sword.

Suddenly, she was glad she didn’t have to hold it herself.

The first one was dismissed, being ordered to restart; the second passed, and he went off to finish his blade.

Passing in front of her, Razuvious took the blade from the ghoul’s grasp, the metal of his gauntlet giving off a quiet hiss as he examined it from seemingly every angle. She watched him carefully as he looked over the blade, unsure of what he was looking for. Eventually, he looked down at her with an uninterested glare, his expression as cold as ice.

“Are you too weak to continue?” he asked, his grip tightening on the blade’s hilt.

Too surprised to reply, she just blinked at him.

He scoffed, but even as the noise escaped his tight-lined lips, his face remained otherwise expressionless. “Useless with manners,” he muttered, his gaze returning to the blade. “But adequate with a hammer.”

He handed her back the runeblade, replying coolly, “We shall see your mettle soon enough.”

She was shoved by an armored being toward another alcove where the second had gone, out of sight from the original group; here, her ghoul was drawn from her side, being sent off to who-knew-where.

In the alcove, she could see some wraiths working another set of forges, the fires inside the mouths of the titan-sized constructs a brilliant white. It was almost blinding to look at, and scalding against her skin even at this distance.

The wraiths here were unlike any of the other creatures she had seen so far, their forms ethereal and smoke-like with blackened, knife-like fingers delicately working their stations. Every time one of them spoke, its words sounded like scalding steam rolling across a hot boiler’s edge, grating against her ear yet fleeting with each of its utterances.

She stood there, waiting, feeling just as Razuvious had called her, until one of the wraiths beckoned for her with one of its long fingers. A smile broke out over its face, its crazed eyes wide.

“Doral ana’diel?” it hissed at her, the smile growing when the sin’dorei met the wraith’s gaze.

No, a banshee’s,  she realized, her gut dropping straight to her feet. Despite the fear coursing through her body – despite not understanding why she was fearful of this entity – she replied almost automatically, her voice sticking to her tongue, “Sinu a’manore.” She didn’t remember what either phrase meant, but it tasted right on her lips.

The wraith seemed to accept the answer, nodding sagely as it held a hand out for her blade. She gave it to the being, turning her gaze back to her hand curiously.

As if it knew what she was thinking, it spoke again as it turned away from her, using a different tongue this time that she could more easily recognize, “That’s part of the process – Razuvious chills the blades he examines with his chill-touch, and if they pass his durability check, the blades are sent here.”

Tilting her head, she asked, stepping forward to watch the banshee work the blade in this fire, “How does he know it’s finished?” The wraith laughed at the question, sounding more like a distant scream than anything mirthful.

“Oh, dore –” the sin’dorei cringed at the word, but the wraith went on anyway, “– there is still so much you need to learn about your own kind.”

Silence fell between the two as they continued to work, leaving her to wonder what the banshee meant by her own kind.

Chapter Text

I’m not nervous, she told herself as Kul Tiras bled away in a swirl of magicks and realm-distortion, the death knight holding her breath as worlds traveled by so fast that she couldn’t focus on any single one.

Time passed slowly for her, but she knew it had hardly been a minute since she left Kul Tiras’s shores. Waiting for the world to settle around her once more, she asked herself, What do I have to be nervous about?

When she felt solid ground once again underneath her feet, she stepped away from the portal, recognizing the Azure Watch’s inn instantly. It was a building that was nothing more than a caved-in escape pod from the Exodar, but still, it surprised Rohinii to see it standing after all this time. These are my people, she reminded herself, steeling herself despite feeling naked without her armor on to protect her. I’m here to do what we do best: celebrate.

She had only been to Azure Watch once since she was freed of the Lich King, and it had been many years since that first, very brief visit to settle a dispute between a shop in Stormwind’s smithing district and an ore supplier in Bloodmyst. What she remembered of this outpost wasn’t very impressive, leading her to believe that it hadn’t gained the attention of the Alliance leaders, either. Why would it? There were wars turning out every year, if not sooner – surely, an outpost could remain just that, even after all these years. They were getting by just fine, after all.

Rohinii left the tingling pull of the portal and into the main foyer of the inn, looking around the small enclosure. At a desk hardly big enough to hold an inkwell and a set of papers sat in the middle of the room with a young draenei standing by it patiently, leaning against the wooden frame as she read some mail. She looked up from her papers when she heard Rohinii’s footsteps, her face turning from concentration to recognition.

The death knight waved to her in greeting, to which the young innkeeper returned kindly, before making a move to leave the makeshift hostel.

“Are you here for the celebration?” the young draenei asked, the softly spoken question making Rohinii stop in her tracks.

Knowing it was unkind to ignore the request, she turned back around to face the innkeeper – the one she vaguely remembered was named Chellan – and replied sincerely, “If I am able.”

“Things have certainly changed around here since you were here last,” the younger draenei said, thumbing her mail’s fold absently. She chewed on the inside of her cheek as her eyes searched Rohinii’s face, seemingly lost in thought.

Raising an eyebrow, the death knight replied, a smile stretching across her face, “Oh? You seem to remember me, if you start off a conversation with that line.”

Standing up a little straighter, Chellan said, tilting her chin out slightly as she spoke, “It’s an innkeeper’s duty to remember her patrons’ faces, and even you stand out amongst a sea of draenei.”

Laughing, Rohinii agreed, nodding her head sagely, “You’re quite right, aeguş’yavr. I must have made quite a scene here.” Chellan puffed her cheeks out at the term – aeguş’yavr, young one – but laughed along with the death knight nonetheless. A moment passed, and as the laughter died down, she added, “It has been some time since I have taken a moment from the tides of war to enjoy my own people’s holidays. We must lean into one another, now more than ever.”

The threat of Azshara loomed over the distance of this war, the whispers of her name dredging itself up from the very sea itself, half a chant but more of a threat. It settled an awful feeling in her gut every time she caught the words over the breeze, making the elves even more nervous when listening to the cries drifting across the ocean.

Smiling sadly, leaning back into her desk, Chellan began, her words stumbling as she spoke, “Is this your first time, since...?” Her eyes flitted away from the death knight’s face, and Rohinii could only imagine where her gaze fell – perhaps on the runeblade’s hilt settled on her hip, or the scars on her exposed flesh?

Rohinii let the young one look, telling herself it didn’t bother her anymore. It may not have been the harshest question she’d ever been asked, but it still hurt to see another of her kind question her existence. She could only guess how many other death knights wandered this close to the Exodar.

The innkeeper’s gaze met the frost’s as the moment passed, a deep sadness bleeding from her bright eyes. Silence remained thick between them, as if the young draenei was working out what to say next.

“It’s okay,” Rohinii offered kindly when Chellen opened her mouth to speak, the death knight forcing a smile over her face. She hoped it hid her feelings well enough. “I won’t impede on the services.”

Before Chellan could say anything else, a strangled noise escaping her lips, the death knight left the hostel.

Stepping outside and seeing what had become of that small outpost physically stopped her in her tracks, unable to process what she was looking at.

What had once been a run-down evacuee camp was transformed into a mini-Shattrath: more permanent buildings filled the hilly countryside for miles, architecture from Draenor to Outland and every little realm in between giving life to a once-destroyed island. She could see demon hunters and draenei and krokul passing by on the streets in peace, reminding her so much of the once-beautiful city in Outland, with a few ren’dorei flitting between the sea of otherworldly, multidimensional beings.

Gods, it really had been ages since she stepped foot on Azuremyst Isle, hadn’t it?

Slowly, she walked down the still-familiar road from the outpost to the Exodar, its crystalline engines a formidable mountain to witness even at this distance. She graciously, confusedly, took in the sights and smells of this new city, stopping occasionally to look at a jewelcrafter’s or blacksmith’s wares and buy copies of blueprints to designs Rohinii fell in love with.

As she continued on her shuffled journey toward the ship’s crashed site, Rohinii felt a sense of panic and dread fill her with each step closer to its hull.

There’s nothing to be afraid of here, she told herself as the last of the merchant stalls fell behind her, leaving only the crater as the only remaining obstacle between her and the Exodar. Why are you afraid of your own people?

As a death knight, the answer was unavoidably clear from those that were still living; as a being twisted into undeath to be forever shunned by the Light, it was even more painful to know what her people called her openly in the streets.

However, even as scared as she had been, the stroll through Azure Watch gave her hope that maybe some had changed enough to allow even a wretch like her back into their holiest of cities on Azeroth.

She wanted so desperately to find a home in the warmth of the Naaru, and prayed – to any being that would listen to her – to make it happen, if only for a day.

Chapter Text

Overlooking the battlefield, her runeblade covered in blood and ichor, the death knight watched as her brethren moved from the burning fields towards the city off in the distance. She could hear the screams of the humans and ghouls as they were killed, the smell of hot iron and rot drifting over the wind.

Though they had taken out many farmers and patrolling warriors, the undead hadn’t even completed a fraction of their mission in eradicating the mortals that lived in this land. That city would be their first obstacle, and crossing its threshold would allow them clearance for the rest of Azeroth to carve a way for their king’s plans for this prison.

The energies ran up from her runeblade through her arm, the tingling sensation growing into a raging fire just beneath her skin. It was giving her an awful headache to continue ignoring it.

So, she allowed it to overwhelm her.

Her vision turned black for a moment, slowly coming back to her as if she were looking through a thick, foggy lens. Her master’s words came to her as clearly as the day he stood before the death knights, calling him his chosen, urging them to fulfill their destiny and sate the Lich King’s wrath.

Though the sin’dorei felt her own needs were sated, she allowed her body to respond to the orders like a puppet; it was freeing to allow him to use her, seeing as how he gave her this life in the first place.

The sin’dorei headed towards the city, trailing behind thousands of other death knights.

|0|0|0|

Hours passed, and she returned to the citadel when night and the city’s walls had fallen. The entire force of Acherus sat beneath the citadel as the Lich King congratulated them all, telling them he was proud of their efforts. He spoke about the destiny he would carve out for his people – that they were his people – and that no god nor force of nature would stand in their way.

She felt something icy swell in her chest as the Lich King spoke, but the sin’dorei knew it wasn’t pride; it was too painful to be so. Unsure of where the sensation came from, she tried to ignore it and simply focus on her master’s words.

It helped, for the most part. She listened intently as the Lich King named off her brethren that were given promotions to officer statuses, the higher-ranking death knights pulling them out of the crowd to form their own little group off to the side. Others were simply told they would receive whatever after-care they required at the hands of the necromancers, being carried off by val’kyr and wraiths to see to their needs. The remaining death knights were individually passed by while they stood in formation, the generals of the Lich King’s army presenting each of them with a token or some form of praise.

She had been given a name, if only in passing:

Arshki.

Certainly, it was odd hearing the name, especially as it was coming from the mouth of Darion Mograine.

When he stood before her, his flaming green eyes boring into her ghostly blue, the death knight thought she misheard his words as a sneeze, so she whispered, “Bless you.”

His eyes narrowed into dangerously small slits, and only then did she realize her mistake. He growled something too low for her to hear, and before she could offer an apology, he’d moved on to the next death knight.

Despite knowing the general wandered down the line to continue handing out other rewards to her brethren, she could feel his eyes on her. They were hot like coals, scalding her skin whenever she felt his gaze.

Her tongue played with her new name like an ice cube rolling in her mouth, the syllables slowly melting as she became used to it. She almost completely forgot about her slip-up with the general until the end of the ceremony where the Lich King left them, promising he would return and bring the best of his army back to his citadel – his Icecrown – to protect their king.

The remaining death knights dispersed, some heading back to the fields to gorge themselves on corpses while others went to Acherus’s portals with rest in mind.

That was when she felt the searing pain of Darions’ gaze on her again. It wasn’t uncomfortable anymore; it was just annoying. She made sure to avoid the edges of the crowd as best as she could, working into the flow to hopefully hide from the general’s gaze.

She continued to avoid him for the next few days, hiding with the banshees and their white-fired forges to cleaning out the pits after another initiation process to almost flinging herself from the flying citadel to avoid him entirely.

Thankfully, she hadn’t reached that level of desperation yet, but Darion seemed just as determined to corner her as she was to not let him.

Maybe this was what she was destined for, to hide from one of her master’s best generals for the rest of her undead life because of misplaced kindness.

Some death knight she turned out to be.

Chapter Text

When Rohinii arrived at the city’s gates, guards spat on her and flung curses – amongst other things – as she passed by, struggling to keep her eyes forward and head up high. Several other death knights walked with her, making the same journey to the King of Stormwind to beg for mercy – even if it was to only shun them and never allow them in Alliance territory again.

That would be a fate preferable to what the citizens of the Alliance wanted for their kind instead.

People came out of their homes and shops, following the guards’ example. Crowds lined the streets and canals, almost making it a struggle to pass them peacefully – maybe that was the point. Most of the perpetrators were humans, but she also caught a few other foreign faces sneering at them.

Walking beneath pearly-white arches and over cobbled bridges, the group slowly made their way toward the looming castle overlooking the cliffside city. It took the better part of an hour, but they eventually stepped to the gates of Stormwind Keep.

The death knights waited patiently as the enormous wooden doors were opened, as still as statues as they feared moving one step out of line would ruin their efforts here. The guards stationed here were more behaved than the others they saw, but they never hesitated in sending them accusatory glares.

It was the least they deserved.

They walked as a practiced unit over the threshold, the high vaulted ceilings making every one of their steps echo ominously. Rohinii grew more nervous with every step toward the awaiting council at the end of the hall, but told herself like a mantra, This journey isn’t just about me; it’s for all of us.

In the throne room stood every major racial leader to the Alliance, their ancient faces showing a range of emotion as the group slowly filed into the chamber. Tyrande and Genn looked the most displeased to see the death knights, an open sneer on the worgen’s face while the priestess wouldn’t even look at them directly. Velen and Varian seemed ambivalent to their presence but otherwise guarded against them, the vindicators behind the prophet standing in an attack-ready position while the Stormwind king’s fist loosely grasped Shalamayne despite the apprehension clear on his face. The kings of Ironforge and Gnomeregan didn’t appear hostile to the undead knights, but Magni looked more akin to the Gilneas king while Geblin shared the prophet’s aloofness.

Acherus’s herald shifted himself to the front, appearing before the warrior-king with a scroll written by Darion Mograine, their impromptu leader. He relayed what they were put through, acknowledging the death knights of this new order wanted to make up for their crimes – that, despite their part to play in the Lich King’s cruel campaign, they only wanted mercy.

As the herald finished, the death knights kneeled before the council, their heads low as they placed their runeblades on the ground in submission to the leaders’ decision.

Rohinii tucked her head as far down as she could, squeezing her eyes shut as she heard some movement on the steps ahead of them. She could only imagine the vindicators swarming over them, or the warrior-king jumping forward to strike the first blow himself, or Whisperwind calling upon Elune to end their miserable lives with a single smite –

Out of all of the possibilities racing through her mind, the reaction she did not expect to receive was King Varian stepping from his throne and pulling the herald to his feet. “Go,” the young king growled, though there was no menace behind his words, “and make peace with your gods. Tell Mograine that the coming war will not be kind, and that I expect every one of your people to fully back the Alliance as we take down that wretched king.”

A beat passed as the death knights took in the information, each taking a moment to offer an utterance of thanks to the warrior-king.

He tutted at them, waving a hand as he returned to his throne. “Don’t thank me just yet. We have much to prepare for.”

After that, the death knights left the castle as a unit, confused yet entirely relieved. The herald offered the group a tired smile before opening a doorway to Acherus and stepping through to relay the notice to Mograine.

Some made their way back to the flight master, determined to find their own path in this new world; others went deeper into Stormwind, willing to carve out a purpose for them here in the war’s efforts to be known as one of the first to make their allegiances known. Rohinii stood at the castle’s entrance, unsure of where to go.

The draenei’s first thought had been to return to the Exodar – maybe she could find some simple work, even something as small as an exterminator or as a janitor – but the look on Velen’s face when he stood beside King Varian made her rethink that option. If even her prophet couldn’t see anything good in her, she knew there was no point in trying to ask the Light to accept her.

Then, the question of whether the kaldorei would accept her crossed her mind, but that thought faded just as quickly as it came; Elune would be just as unforgiving as the Naaru (if not more), and Whisperwind’s people abhorred anything their goddess didn’t find natural.

Certainly, being risen into undeath was far from the natural order of things.

She wondered if Ironforge would accept her, even if it meant that she would be forgotten in the fires and ash of the Great Mountain.

Seeing as how she didn’t know if she had any family around, it wasn’t as though Rohinii could shack up with them until she found her footing in this new life. Wherever she went, Rohinii knew that it would certainly take time for them to be accepted; it had only been half an hour since King Varian accepted their plea for mercy, and hardly two weeks since the death knights broke from Arthas’s will.

Taking the flight to Ironforge, Rohinii didn’t take a second look back at the pristine city of Stormwind. She would forge her own way in this life, no matter the cost.

Chapter Text

Shacking up in Lordaeron wasn’t the worst living situation he’d been in before, nor would it be the last; as annoying as that miserable parasite was, Nergal enjoyed the breadth of power it gave him. Sure, it meant he would have to suffer through its needy requests for this ore or that herb every so often, but it was an inconsequential sacrifice in comparison to what the sin’dorei would accomplish during these little errands.

Usually, he didn’t even need to leave; he would send Enmesarra out to do most of the heavy lifting – actually acquiring the items needed by H’di, or to rough up a person to convince them to visit the eldritch coward in Lordaeron, or to get whatever it needed for its new stupid scheme – but on occasion, Nergal found himself pulled to do one task or another by himself.

Given his condition was stable, that is.

Sometimes the sudden urge to wander away from the fallen kingdom’s capitol settled like an insatiable itch deep inside himself that would only go away when he followed the old god’s instructions. Other times, it would keep him up for days at a time in a hazy mania where he lost most of his memories, leaving him to wonder why he has a ticket for a midnight flight from the Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor, and how he became stranded in Orgrimmar with nothing else to go off of than a feeling he  needed  to be there.

On those days, Nergal knew something was very, certainly wrong with him.

Nergal went on like this for over a year, wildly swinging between an obsessive need overwhelming him like a feverish high or throwing him into a daze that left him in another part of the world with no certain way of returning to Lordaeron.

Then, suddenly, for almost a year, he didn’t go through with any of that crazy behavior.

It made the death knight wonder why he did it in the first place, but beyond grateful that it was over.

Until the Summer Festival, that is.

The sin’dorei woke up just before dawn, that itch digging deep into his and coiling around every fiber of his being until he felt like he was on fire. He threw himself around his isolated tower, destroying parts of the crumbling stone walls and chipping ancient wooden frames in his rampage.

He demanded that H’di would explain this madness to him, but only received a simple, Enjoy yourself during this celebration, as his answer.

It drove him absolutely insane – but, with the goblin at his side pestering to join in on the festivities, Nergal decided to give in.

The grounds had been transformed from ghost-filled courtyards to a lively environment, reminding him heavily of the Menethil boy’s name day celebration; for once, even despite the fire licking in his belly, Nergal thoroughly enjoyed himself. The first evening drifted somewhere between a really fun party and an almost perfect dream, putting the sin’dorei in a position he hadn’t been in since he was alive.

It was like that for another two days, leaving him full and more content than he’d been in literal ages.

On the fourth night of the festivities, the fire came back, washing over his head like a massive migraine. He quietly left the courtyard, blindly walking through Lordaeron’s maze-like corridors, just begging for this fire to pass him as it always did.

In his peripherals, he saw some movement that caught his eye – and the attention of the pain washing over him. He followed the movement at the push of the feeling, unsure why it was pressing him here.

He found himself back out into the courtyard, a young couple right in front of him that instantly chilled the fires as if he’d been thrown into the ocean. The wheat-haired sin’dorei laughed and smiled carelessly as she leaned into another elf, the boy’s arm wrapped around her as if enjoying her presence.

Rhy’os, Nergal thought, a snarl escaping him as he took a few steps forward to confront her. That little bastard child, how dare she kill me and act like she's innocent?!

Before he could reach her, he was pulled back into the castle violently, yelping as he was drawn back. Despite his shout, no one turned toward him, as if he hadn’t even been there.

Scrambling to his feet as he was pulled back into the shadowed corridor overlooking the courtyard, Nergal still felt an invisible tendril squeeze his torso as H’di’s voice overshadowed his own. Not yet, the being hissed. I have plans for this one.

“Her?” he asked, frowning as his eyes continued to watch every move his step-daughter took with that idiot on her arm. “Why this one?  Do you know what she did to me?!”

With a noncommittal huff, the eldritch being replied, She’s a fool, and you seem to have a way with working fools to do my bidding.

Nergal stopped for a moment, working over H’di’s words.

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try,” the sin’dorei murmured, his anger placated for a moment. “Let me know how I can best serve you.” Humming in approval, he felt the old god’s invisible tendrils (and that gods-forsaken migraine) leave him.

He didn’t know what he would do, but the death knight knew he would start by working her down slowly – first, he would have her second-guess herself and that boy she readily pushed herself into. Then, when she had pushed everyone around her away, he would make sure that every moment she was alone would be filled with the memories of what she did to her own step-father.

He found that he really was enjoying this year’s Summer Festival.

Chapter Text

It took months for Adam to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from the memory of his wife cowering before him, begging for him to spare her and her children, when the thing that he wanted most in his life was to be part of hers. Part of him felt she was more than justified in being afraid of him, seeing him only as a monster; the other part wanted to throw himself from Icecrown Citadel and make an example to the other monsters like him that they should follow suit.

As if she’d realized the battle within himself, Arshk’i began appearing sometime in the night during these particularly hard months to help him coast back to a semblance of being okay. She attempted to soothe him, even as he spent the night blubbering and drifting back and forth between mindlessness and self-hatred. Hell, she’d taken it upon herself to start booking them rooms that had double beds, allowing her to have more of an immediate response to him during these night terrors.

Nothing seemed to help him, not prayer nor self-care; it was almost cruel, this workaround they’d created, to ignore the fact that he felt he shouldn’t be alive, unable to find a reason why he was (or should still be) around.

The death knight literally begged her to let him go the first few times she came to help, swatting her away (and, at one point, throwing her a right hook that left half her face demolished) and saying the most heartless things he could think of to keep her away from him – doing anything to give her an excuse to leave him, and to be justified in doing so.

Nevertheless, with a broken expression, the sin’dorei continued to remain with him despite how often he did this to her.

Adam didn’t know why she did it, either, seeing as how he was a burden to her that only offered her pain. What would (or could) he offer to anyone now, anyway? He was a corpse with halves of two different souls inside of him, warring every day to decide who would hold the reins of this husk’s life.

Every time he questioned this of himself, the little sin’dorei was there to help him see the silver lining of his life, even if it was only a small step in the direction toward him having a healthy mental dialogue. It didn’t always work, but her quiet demeanor and gentle touches always sent him into a flurry of emotions – most of them good, in comparison to what his own mind made him feel – that left him begging for more.

Another year passed before the tauren was able to accept Arshk’i’s involvement in the recovery from his devastating fallout from his family, eventually becoming willing to allow her to take control over his lowest moments to help bring him back into the light. She made him feel like he was drifting over the darkness rather than drowning, and it gave him a rekindling of hope that maybe – just maybe – he could rebuild his life.

Maybe with her, if she let him stick around that long.

He stayed with Arshk’i in Orgrimmar for most of his recovery, right until the morning that the Siege happened. They were almost captured in the purge of the city, but survived only because the little sin’dorei threw herself in front of a blast meant to take him out. Her body crumpled at the blast, leaving her no better than a ragdoll, but her action saved them nonetheless.

With her in his arms, he barely managed to crawl out of the city before tendrils of an old god’s influence erupted around the city, locking in everyone inside the city’s limits.

For the first time in years, he begged the gods to keep those still inside safe – and, as he turned his attention to Arshk’i in his arms, extended his begging to the Earth Mother to keep her safe, too. It felt good to believe in something other than himself, for once, and he knew they’d be okay.

It was better than where he’d started, anyway.

Chapter Text

If he thought being in the Howling Fjord was uncomfortable, he was in for a very rude awakening when he dropped into Nazjatar: it was wet, he was dead, and fire wasn’t exactly the best tool against the ocean, especially when the witch who controlled it was Queen Azshara herself.

Sungrisk was going to throttle Nathanos when he got him alone.

As if sensing his anger, Nezzrra tried making the best of it – exploring this cave, checking out that new species of coral, what’s that over there? – but it didn’t help when night came around, when they had to make camp on what was essentially a wet, sandy beach with no protection from the queen’s antics. (Her favorite tactic seemed to consist of occasionally sending waves over the exposed seafloor, not only sweeping the champions off of their feet/out of their tents and nearly drowning them but also pulling them miles off their courses.)

Infuriated didn’t even begin to cover how the death knight felt.

Still, they tried making the best out of a terrible situation, even if they were dragged into the depths of the ocean with their Warchief’s general taking the lead.

One particular night, their little ragtag group of Horde soldiers huddled under the cover of what might have been an old temple, its vaulted ceilings covered in coral and kelp but still looking far too pristine to be a natural arch.

Sungrisk and Nezzrra took their bedrolls to a corner for some privacy, her infernal’s heat blasting as it watched over them. He wrapped an arm over her shoulder, putting his chin over her head to breathe her in. Despite all the sulfur and sea salt assaulting his nostrils, he could make out the soft smell of lavender somewhere beneath it all.

“How long do you think we’ll be here?” the warlock whispered into his chest, the words muffled by his shirt.

Shifting around her slightly, he hummed in thought. “Dunno, love,” he eventually answered, breathing out slowly. The warlock shivered in his arms, pressing herself in as much as she could into his body. He ran a hand through her knotted hair, asking, “Why’dya wanna know? Somethin’ botherin’ ya?”

“No,” she replied immediately, shaking her head. She moved in his arms, then added after a moment, “I’m sorry. I lied. I’m terrified.”

Without pulling her away, he pressed his lips as a gentle kiss on her head. Into her hair, he murmured, “Don’t t’ink about it too much, Nez. Ya know what’s waitin’ fer us down here. We jus’ need to survive ’til then, an’ we’ll be free.”

Sungrisk could feel her frown just from the shift of her energies, but she didn’t make a comment.

A moment passed, and the death knight said, “Hey. It’s difficult, an’ I get it.” He saw her eyes peek up between their mess of limbs, her emerald gaze bleeding the worry her energies were exuding. The troll gave her another kiss, this time on her forehead, and continued, “Lemme keep ya safe. Nothin’ll happen to ya while I’m here. M’kay?”

Huffing, the sin’dorei leaned into his chest again, seemingly accepting his words. “Okay,” she whispered eventually, planting sleepy kisses along his chest. “Don’t let me down.”

“Have I evah?” he retorted with a chuckle, relaxing as she fell asleep in his arms. Shuffling took the death knight’s attention from the warlock in his arms to the construct looming over them. Eyeing the infernal, the troll hissed, “Don’t ya even t’ink yer joinin’ us. We're still not good from ya last time ya cuddled wit’ me.”

The infernal waved at him, its chest puffing out as it returned to its watch.

Yeah, he’d rather be damned to the deepest parts of the Shadowlands before accepting another cuddle from one of those things.

Chapter Text

The warlock shuffled off to his side, hovering beside him almost like a shadow. “Darling?” the sin’dorei whispered, her voice so low it could be blown away with the breeze.

“Ya?” He didn’t turn to face her, but the death knight could still see her concerned face in his peripherals. She shifted some more, her head turning away from him before those green orbs fell back on him.

“What’s wrong?” Nezzrra made a move to touch him, but he yanked himself away, shutting his eyes tightly.

“Nothin’.” The concern (and, now, hurt) bleeding from her energies made him feel worse than he already did about the entire situation, but he wasn’t willing to open up about this.

Not when they were standing on the shore of the Necropolis.

He could hear her jaw grinding as she worked through what to say, her eyes turning away from him once more. Before she could manage to say anything, Sungrisk said, “Hanzabu said he’d meet us here. Do ya see him?” I’ll throttle tha basta’d when I see him for puttin’ us on dis beach, the troll didn’t say.

Shaking her head, the warlock replied softly, “No, love. I don’t see anything.”

If he was only focusing on the corporeal realm, he might've been able to help her look for that cowardly death priest – but, as an unfortunate consequence to a curse he’d once considered a blessing, Sungrisk could see beyond the Veil and see that this island wasn’t as isolated as his companion thought it was.

Souls, some mindlessly neutral and others writhing in agony, slowly drifted across the landscape, their whispers twisting into an indiscernible howl that seamlessly blended into the wind. Even at the distance they were at in regards to the temple – a temple that, in another life, Sungrisk had frequented quite often, bathing in the blood of the empire’s enemies in celebration of another victory – he could feel the loa staring at him, his laughter echoing across the land as if he were in a cave.

It would’ve driven him insane, if he wasn’t so fucking terrified.

If the troll looked past the Veil and pressed deeper into the Shadowlands, he’d be able to see more than just these unimportant souls lazily going about their business. But, if he looked too hard and gained the attention of an entity that he didn’t want the focus of, he would be putting everyone on this beach in terrible danger.

He wondered if other death knights felt the same, or if this was his own personal Hell catered to him by the loa.

Time passed slowly for him as he drifted between this realm and the next, too exhausted to fully commit himself to one and ignore the other.

A gentle hand brushed his elbow, and this time he didn’t jerk away. He could feel fingertips gently tapping on the plates covering his arm, a soft rhythm that at least brought him back into the immediate moment.

“We’ll go in together,” she murmured, her words still soft but the conviction behind them strong. He could feel her gaze boring into him, as if searching for something. Truly, he had nothing to give her in this moment, too scared to leave the spot he’d planted himself in. “It’s okay, Sungrisk.”

Turning to face her, not quite meeting her gaze, the troll replied, “No. It really isn’t.” He gently pulled himself out of the warlock’s grasp, adding, “Let’s get dis t’ing ovah wit’ before I get a headache.”

It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the full truth, either.

As he took the lead of their little group, Sungrisk headed in a direct line to the Necropolis, ignoring the souls he passed by even as they called out and begged for his attention. He had one goal in mind, and it was to get to Hanzabu in one piece.

Besides, what would Nezzrra think of the death knight if she knew he was afraid to meet his maker?

Chapter Text

He’d followed her out of the tavern – he told her that hadn’t  meant  to follow her halfway across the world, he just did it, and now that she knew he existed he couldn’t help himself, he didn’t know when he would see her next – and right out onto the streets of Orgrimmar, pestering her that she needed to listen to him.

He continued to call her by a name she only vaguely recalled, but had no emotional attachment to – and, honestly, with the shitty week she’d had since arriving in Kalimdor (and knowing that the weeks to follow would be spent traveling across this gods-forsaken continent for something Adam only called ‘important’), Arshk’i wasn’t in the best mood to play nice. She’d been nice enough as-is, letting him follow her around for this long - now, he needed to be put back into his place.

Rounding to him as he tried again to call her by that fucking name, she screamed, “What the Hell is wrong with you! Can’t you see I want nothing to do with your stupid games!?” Eyes were on the two sin’dorei as the death knight screamed, but for once she found that she didn’t really care – Hell, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this emotional, yet here she was doing just that. To a person that was essential a stranger to her, no less!

The man took a step back, his tired eyes wavering as he looked at the crowd beginning to form. He pulled his hands back into himself, holding them tightly as he turned back to her, begging in a soft voice, “Please, just let me talk to you.”

“Why?” she snarled, feeling the rage pooling down into her fingertips. “So that you can keep telling me your bullshit?” She threw her hands up in frustration, feeling the energies sparking as she raised her arms. The sin’dorei didn’t flinch, but she did feel his energies recede into himself as she cursed at him.

All it would take is one punch, and he’d leave you alone for good, the runeblade whispered to her as she made her displeasure known to the man before her, but the death knight steadied her hand. Even if it would sate her blade (and her rage by proxy),  Arshk’i  didn’t want to murder someone simply for being an annoyance.

Even if she’d noticed him following her back in Undercity well over two months ago.

As her string of curses ended, the red-haired elf eventually said, his words wavering as he spoke, “I don’t want anything else from you. I just want to chat.”

He looked so broken, standing in front of her, as if his continued existence relied on the answer that she would give him for this insane request of his.

A part of Arshk’i wanted to laugh in his face and tell him to fuck off, or that she’d kill him next time she found him trying to sneak around her shadow. However, the other part felt so sorry for him – a part of her that held those flash memories of another, younger sin’dorei that looked just like the one before her – and she felt inclined to allow him this ‘chat,’ if only to answer her own questions she had about their relationship.

“And what do I get out of this?” she replied coolly, crossing her arms over her chest. She glared at him, feeling the rage of a thousand angry souls burning in her chest as she denied her runeblade the meal it so desperately wanted.

A moment passed, a range of emotions flitting over the sin’dorei’s face too quickly for Arshk’i to give names to, before he looked right into her eyes, looking so guilty as he said, “I can tell you how you died.”

The entire world collapsed around her as Arshk’i suddenly found that it was too hard to breathe.

She wracked her brain, trying to find out if she already knew her prior life’s last moments or if he was feeding her shit to agree to his wishes, but she found that, indeed, the death knight couldn’t remember how she died.

She just remembered seeing his face.

“No,” Arshk’i finally replied. Defeat broke out across the sin’dorei’s face as she spoke, the syllable hitting him as if it were a punch to the gut. She took two strides and stood before him, her rage filling every fiber of her being as she poked a hard finger into his chest. “I’m not playing your –” she pressed the finger into his chest, almost toppling him over, “– fucking game. Not now, not ever. My life isn’t something you can pick up and put back down to quell your boredom.” The last time she poked his chest, he did fall flat onto his backside, his hands sprawled in the red street. A name brewed on her tongue as the anger made its way to her throat, threatening to spill it out of her like a curse.

Instead, she turned and quickly made her way out of the streets, heading to the inn she knew Adam was waiting at. She had been kind to this interloper for the last few weeks, and her patience had grown thin - but not thin enough to utter his name.

Arshk’i would explain to him what had happened later; she just wanted to leave this place – and the memories swarming her, threatening to eat her alive for the treatment she gave that man. Even though she kept telling herself the creep deserved it, she couldn’t shake the sight of him sitting in the ground, entirely lost.

I’m not going to be a crutch to someone’s life, she told herself firmly, storming down the streets in a haze. If he wanted to have a normal relationship with me, or with anyone!, he could’ve just asked.

Somehow, she didn’t even believe that herself. But, she wouldn’t question that line of thought; she wasn’t his, or anyone’s, to play with.

Chapter Text

She hadn’t meant to fall into infatuation but by all things that were holy, she’d fallen hard.

Elythos was striking beyond words. Of course, Rohinii wasn’t surprised when she realized the feelings she had for the demon hunter: her wings, the subtle curve of her horns, the strength she could feel behind the sin’dorei’s hugs, those warglaives...

The death knight had forgotten the comfort this feeling brought, and she wanted to drown in it. Even if the draenei’s feelings were not known to the elf, let alone reciprocated, she enjoyed the companionship either way.

So, what if people stare? she’d told herself thousands of times walking through Dalaran with the hunter, laughing at whatever silly thing they were focused on. Two outcasts enjoying life together isn’t such a terrible thing.

Rohinii should have known how terribly naïve she was behaving.

Seemingly from the moment they became friends, words the draenei had never heard before were whispered at the two as they would wander. Elves of all kinds glaring at the couple with a hate Rohinii had never faced before (and  she  walked through  Stormwind  during the height of the  Arthas’s  campaign – and  humans  were the most hateful of all creatures), and it had become too much for her beloved at times that  Elythos  would not leave her apartment without forcing herself to look so different – with potions or charms that, at one point,  Rohinii  had prided herself in creating; sometimes, the demon hunter would constrict her body with clothing that looked more torturous than helpful, and it killed the death knight to witness.

Looking at it from this perspective, she found it absolutely sickening.

It was like the slush of a river when spring would arrive, the warmer waters breaking up the ice but not quite getting rid of it all. It hurt to see Elythos carefully pinning her wings back (it looked almost painful), or for her to collapse in on herself if they were going to wander through a crowded market, or to see the slight flinch of her body whenever that word escaped another elf’s lips.

When the words started to fly, it did not take long for the death knight long to ask what was bothering Elythos, but the demon hunter would always pat the draenei’s head and murmur, the sweetest smile curving at the edges of her scaled lips, “It is nothing.” And they would continue their day, until the next time Rohinii would ask, and then it would repeat.

Things went on this way for quite a while, with Rohinii respecting her beloved’s wishes to not push any further and Elythos keeping her in the dark to the true meanings of what was being snarled at them, until someone physically approached them at the height of the campaign in Zandalar.

“Approach” was putting it mildly: a black-eyed night elf ran up to their table, slamming a knife just before Rohinii while screaming one word over and over again in Elythos’s face, spittle flying everywhere. Before either one of them could react, the kaldorei pushed on Elythos’s chest with all her might, sending the demon hunter to the ground, hard. It was as violent as it was sudden, and it left the entire tavern upside down.

With the crack of the demon hunter’s head against the stone floor, Rohinii was instantly transported back to a time when all she did was shatter bones. As the panic of the prior trauma washed over the death knight, she froze her chair to the floor, the ice slowly spreading from her seat; an unholy scream curdled in her throat, writhing just beneath her skin like an ocean moving beneath a sheet of ice. She couldn’t breathe, feeling the air sucked right out of her chest as her mind went blank, her runeblade’s (or was it her own rage?) whispers demanding blood.

She felt helpless as she watched a dazed Elythos fend off the kaldorei, both elves swinging at each other, sending more blood flying across the room.

A few other elves – demon hunters, mostly, but some not fel-tainted stood up as well as the violence unfolded – stood up and started tearing at the brawl happening on the floor, trying to get them apart. The tavern’s furniture was flipped and broken at the clattering of these strangers, falling over themselves as the night warrior tore at Elythos.

Eventually, Elythos’s clothes tore as she erupted into a brutal beast, towering twice the height of any patron in the café as she faced off the assailant, roaring in a demonic tongue that only seemed to fuel the death knight’s panic.

Other patrons simply stared at the mess of six or so elves trying to end the brawl, while a few fled from the establishment during the screaming match.

Gods, it seemed like this was never going to end.

Hours seemed to pass – had it really only been about five minutes? – before one of the prior patrons ran back into the tavern, guards tailing them. Seeing a demon hunter hunched over with bloodied rips in her clothes towering over a just-as-bloodied night warrior, they didn’t hesitate in knocking them both prone.

They turned to Rohinii, ready to strike her down too, but seemed to stop when they saw the look on her face.

Both elves were removed, and sent off to separate medical bays for further investigation.

Rohinii was given a card – what will a card do for her? – and told to go to that address the next morning to recover Elythos.

She didn’t trust herself to speak, still too wrapped up in her own trauma to trust the words that would escape; so, the draenei just nodded, took the card, and went back to their apartment to wait.

|0|0|0|

Sufficed to say, Rohinii didn’t sleep. She watched the clock on the wall tick by the entire night, sitting on the couch as she waited for the morning to come.

When she did eventually make her way to the address on the card, she wasn’t even allowed to go into the hospital. It was in Horde territory, and, no matter how much she pleaded with the guards, they wouldn’t let her through.

Even though a part of her understood why, it still devastated the death knight.

She waited for another few hours on a bench right at the threshold of the Sunreaver’s Sanctuary, flicking the edges of the card in agitation. She wondered what she could’ve done to help mitigate this situation, what was happening to her companion, what would become of their friendship now.

Eventually, Elythos hobbled out into the streets. She wasn’t wearing what she had had on the day before, donning some basic demon hunter garb. Rohinii opened her mouth to call to her friend, only stopping when she really took in the damage the sin’dorei was left with.

Despite the bandages all over her chest and shoulders clearly being fresh, they were already tinged with the demon hunter’s blood, oozing from what the draenei could only imagine were deep wounds; her wings were outstretched, if only slightly, with long seams of stitching sewn into her wings and one of them encased in a splint; one of Elythos’s horns had a cover over where the rest of it should’ve been, as if it was a cap over an exposed tooth rather than something coming out of her crown; bruises and other scrapes were all over her body, some too shallow for stitching yet not serious enough to call in the need for healing magick.

Seeing her beloved in this state sent rage through her so deeply that Rohinii couldn’t speak, her mouth full of ice shards and curses only banshees relished in letting loose. She didn’t trust herself to open her mouth, and found herself far too overwhelmed to have a complete grasp on reality.

Gods, if only she could get her hands on that kaldorei.

Elythos looked around the street once, a smile stretching over her face when she saw the death knight. She made a move to sit down next to her, her wings carefully clasped over her shoulders like a cape (Rohinii definitely caught the hiss the sin’dorei made when the splinted wing curled over her shoulder, and the rage bubbled in her chest like a scream). The demon hunter collapsed like a tower onto the bench, looking so solid yet entirely frail at the same time.

Watching her, the draenei’s soul began to feel slushy again, the rage slowly quelling at the sight of her friend. She wanted to reach out and touch her, to let the hunter know she was there to support her, but the tingling at the tips of her fingers reminded her of her distress. So, she squeezed her fists shut to keep herself from acting on the impulse.

It took a few minutes before Elythos spoke, and when she did, her voice showed her exhaustion. “I’m sorry.” The demon hunter wasn’t looking at her; rather, her focus steadied on the bleeding tear in the sky, as if lost in thought.

What for? she wanted to ask, feeling the frost tickle her nose as she exhaled slowly. Her eyes never left Elythos’s face, searching it to understand why she was the one that was sorry.

The hunter made a movement as if she were glancing over at her, but her attention soon returned to the sky. “Elves, on either side of the coin, aren’t the best when it comes to being different or having to accept change. I...” She sighed, running a clawed hand through her hair, ruffling it slightly. “I should have told you sooner. What it would mean to be... close to a demon hunter.”

Rohinii felt her heart do a flip, but outwardly she didn’t let it show. Even if Elythos wasn’t expressing anything beyond friendship – why would she? – it was exciting to hear she felt the draenei was close to her.

A soft, almost sad growl escaped the hunter, dragging Rohinii from her thoughts. “On either side of the rift, they still have their prejudices against who they think deserve to exist and those who don’t.” Her hand dropped from her head, gesturing to her body. “As you can see, demon hunters are those deemed unworthy to exist.”

That’s not true, Rohinii wanted to say, a hiss similar to boiling water hitting a snow-covered field escaping her nose as she huffed. You deserve to be here. Just like me, despite what any of these racists say.

The demon hunter’s eyes became soft as she turned to face the draenei. “That’s what we always tell ourselves,” the sin’dorei hunter replied. “But yesterday, it took you along with it. I don’t care if my own people spit on me and curse at me for the choices I made, but to become violent to you?” She shook her head, her brow furrowing in anger. She leaned close and took one of Rohinii’s fists in her hand, squeezing gently. “It’s unacceptable. For that, I am sorry.”

The death knight could feel her heart drop to her feet as panic overcame her from the touch, her eyes checking to make sure she wasn’t harming Elythos – but, there was no ice to be seen. Even as the slush remained in her veins, Rohinii was surprised to see it hadn’t touched the demon hunter.

Elythos squeezed again, her words tinged in sadness. “Xera’lash means many things, but the most common one is ‘half-breed.’”

After a moment, Rohinii’s gaze drew up to Elythos’ face, confusion clear in her words as she asked, her voice hoarse from the scream she’d kept in, “Why does that matter?” The demon hunter’s head tilted, confusion flitting across her face. Before she could speak, the draenei continued, “Half-breed, a quarter, you think it matters to a death knight?” She put her other hand on top of Elythos’, running her thumb over the demon hunter’s skin. “You’re my friend.” You’re more than that to me, she didn’t say. “I would do anything for you.” Until time ends, I will love, if you would let me, she also didn’t say.

The sad smile on her beloved’s face melted, a laugh escaping her lips. “We really do mesh well together, huh?” the demon hunter mused.

Her heart doing cartwheels in her chest, Rohinii murmured, “Of course we do. We’re friends.”

Smiling almost conspiratorially, the demon hunter leaned in and corrected, “Best friends.” She squeezed  Rohinii’s  hand and said, “Don’t you ever forget it.” Standing up slowly, the sin’dorei said, “Now, c’mon. Let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.”

The death knight figured, even if she did drown in her unrequited love, it’d be a Hell of an end compared to what waited for her in the Maw.

She’d live like this for a thousand years if it meant she’d spent it with Elythos.

Chapter Text

When he woke up just after sunrise, he realized their bed was empty.

He knew the sin’dorei was restless – or, really, sleepless, if he wanted to be entirely accurate – so seeing her side of the bed made and her presence gone didn’t come as a surprise to him. It was almost routine at this point in their relationship, especially since she’d fallen ill.

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the troll mumbled, “She’s real eag’a today, huh?” With a stretch and a huff, Sungrisk kicked the bedding off, slowly shaking the sleep from his bones.

He knew she was heading into Orgrimmar to visit the stall-markets before the afternoon heat forced them to close; it was what the warlock always did when she couldn’t sleep. The markets seemed to calm her in a way nothing else did – not to mention the fact that she’d been wanting to visit some of the newer merchants’ wares, and get in their good graces early.

It had been a complete 180 with her attitude: before, she wanted nothing to do with other people, yet now she was making friends left and right. She had a community of people she knew, and could rely on no matter what. As strange as it was, the troll was glad that she had branched out beyond the demonic to have as her companions.

The last few wars – against the Burning Legion, her own cursed people, the realm of the dead – had made her weary of the faction dynamics. During their last campaign, especially against Azshara, the sin’dorei had been itching to settle down and just rest for the first time in the last five thousand years. She stopped her search of increasing her demonic powers and told him that she just wanted to be away from the fighting.

So, the death knight obliged.

They got a tiny house at Razor Hill and were living as quietly as they could at the crossroads. It hadn’t been the easiest of transitions, but they were happier now than they had been in ages. Honestly, he was angry he hadn’t thought of doing this with his beloved sooner.

His eyes flitted over to his armor just by the door, the color looking inky-black in the early morning light. There hadn’t been a day he didn’t don the plates – partially in anticipation/preparation for a fight in the capital, more-so due to his own trauma from the capital itself – but today, he didn’t even question going without them.

It was strange, but, really, everything was strange now.

Walking outside in a linen tunic and plain trousers, his runeblade carefully strapped to his back, he could see many of the other inhabitants of the crossroads readying themselves for the day: Grimtak’s apprentice was heading to the pens for the day’s cuts, some new adventurers following not too far behind; he could smell Uhgar’s forges already, the smoke filling Sungrisk with a sense of familiarity and security; a few older adventurers were leaving Grosk’s inn, some heading out on foot toward Orgrimmar while others called forth their mounts to take the more scenic cloud-walk instead.

This was the routine the couple surrounded themselves with, and it was something he wouldn’t trade for the world. It made him question whether or not he could start a family here.

Heading towards Gar’Thok’s station, Sungrisk offered a quick wave to those he passed. That thought hadn’t come up very often, but it seemed every few days Sungrisk was growing more accustomed to the thought of being here, with Nezzrra, for however long she’d let him be by her side.

Who knows; maybe someday, the Orphan Matrons would allow a death knight and warlock to adopt one of their charges. He wondered what kind of life two adventurers like them could even give a child.

He’d be sure to ask if she was even up to thinking about that next step in their lives the next time he saw her.

Chapter Text

She wasn’t really sure what she was doing, if Arshk’i was being entirely honest with herself. Adam had been the greatest support to her for this decision, but now that she stood at the threshold of that decision – she found that she wasn’t sure.

This was one of those “do or die” moments that she didn’t want to fail at.

Before she could make a move to turn and run, her hand had risen and knocked on the door. One, two, three hard raps – an automatic response, really.

She stood there, horrified and hardly a moment away from slipping into the Shadowlands to escape the panic rising over her as she heard someone shuffling behind the heavy oak door. The incantation was halfway out of her mouth as the door swung open, the sin’dorei holding it looking quite shocked to see her.

Gods, I forgot how beautiful Zel’ik looked, the death knight thought, sucking in a harsh breath at the sight of him. Even if he looked older than when she’d last seen him, he looked the same.

“How can I help you?” he asked, his voice soft despite his words being guarded.

Right, she thought with a sigh. I’m not here to ogle. Her pocket was as heavy as the intentions she came here with, and was afraid of the paladin turning her away when he realized what they were.

“May I come in?” she asked, holding up a small wicker basket. “I brought you something.” His eyes followed her movement, his eyes lingering on the basket with a scrutinizing stare.

Eventually, he moved away from the door, his eyes returning to hers as he watched her carefully. He remained silent, his lips drawn in a thin line.

Bowing her head, Arshk’i offered him her thanks and stepped in. Memories from her past life flooded her, and she felt so incredibly comfortable here. Even if she hadn’t met his parents after being turned, she knew at one point she did know them, and knew that this place hadn’t changed even after their deaths.

Zel’ik really did take after his parents, she guessed. Idly, she wondered if Rhy’os – if she  –  would’ve followed him here, if given the chance.

“No armor today?” he asked, closing the door behind them. She shook her head, her eyes wandering over the décor.

Throwing him a smile over her shoulder, the death knight replied, “I thought it was too formal.” He hummed in response, following her into the kitchen.

She knew this cottage perfectly, and it was strange – it felt wrong to know him and their home this intimately – but that’s why she was here.

That was the entire reason she wanted to talk with him, after all this time.

Arshk’i placed the basket on the table and began pulling out a few things – some bottles of wine, some cheeses, some meals – and carefully explained where each of the items came from, if only to make idle conversation. He listened as she explained the differences between the shal’dorei and zandalari ingredients, over which ancient eredar wine went well with which flavor palate, and the brief introduction of the recipes she’d collected and put together as a book for him to recreate what she’d brought.

The paladin watched her for a moment, his expression unreadable. “Why are you here?” he questioned, his voice low. She couldn’t tell what he was feeling, and instinctively felt too open with this flimsy linen suit on.

“I want to talk,” she replied simply, ignoring all of the thoughts that were screaming at her to leave. His face twisted into a painful look, and she could feel her stomach mirror his expression.

Despite the agony sewn onto his face, he laughed at her. “Now?” Arshk’i nodded carefully. “After all the time I spent begging you to give me a minute of your time? What’s changed?”

“I did give you that time,” she responded, smoothing out the nonexistent wrinkles in her dress. His energies were pooling all around her, agitated and hurt and bitter. The death knight didn’t blame him.

He took a step away from the table, running his hand through his hair. “You’re right,” the paladin sighed, turning his back to her. Her eyes moved with him as he paced around the dining room, his emerald gaze never meeting her ghostly one. “You did spend that  one  week with me.” His eyes snapped up to meet hers suddenly, narrowed suspiciously at her. “I thought we’d... we’d put that all behind us.”

His energies were blending the lines between the lies he spoke to her and the hopefulness hidden behind those words.

She didn’t move from her spot by the table, respecting his space (and his feelings ) by keeping her physical distance to him. Something deep inside wanted to run up to him and give Zel’ik a hug, but the death knight knew they weren’t even close to having that kind of relationship.

Not now, if ever.

The silence stretched between them as he stepped closer to her, just within arm’s reach when he stopped his approach. His words hanging on every breath, the sin’dorei asked once more, his eyes searching her face, “Why are you here?”

Fighting every urge that she had bubbling to the surface, Arshk’i instead replied, keeping her response even, “I met her.”

As if he’d been punched, he reeled back, breathless. The death knight took a step forward each time he went back, keeping at an arm’s distance the whole way. His energies were confused and hurt and longing, bleeding into her own confused feelings. She would’ve allowed it to overtake her, if she didn’t have a more pressing reason to be here.

“I met Rhy’os,” she didn’t miss the way he winced at the name, “in the Shadowlands, and she gave me something.”

He looked up at her, a range of emotions on his face – fear, confusion, hope, anger, sadness, and excitement, just to name a few – and he asked, “What is it? Why would that include me? How – how could you even see her if you’re her?”

Arshk’i shrugged, fishing around in her trouser pocket for a moment before pulling out a small necklace. His breathing hitched as recognition crossed his face. He reached for the jewelry, and she gave it to him without hesitation. “I’m not really sure. I sat on this for a few months, trying to figure out what to do... if I should do anything.” She spread her hands between them. “And here I am, deciding that you were – are the only other person on Azeroth that I could figure this out with.”

Handling the locket carefully, his eyes misty, the paladin again asked her what was said. Arshk’i simply responded, “She told me to not fuck up my life, and to do the things she wasn’t able to. She threatened me with reference to some kind of cockroach?” He choked on a laugh, shaking his head.

Meeting her gaze, Zel’ik said, a sad smile on her face, “Sounds just like her.”

Returning the sad smile, Arshk’i asked, “Does that mean we can start over?” He let off a shaky breath, the smile still on his face but the apprehension once again there.

A moment passed before he said, “So long as you never remember that cockroach incident, we’ll call it even.” He offered her the necklace back, but the death knight shook her head.

“Let me earn it back,” she said, her gaze dropping from his hand to the floor. “Your mother probably wouldn’t want a stranger to wear her locket.” The death knight made her way back to the table and sat down, waiting for the paladin to follow.

Humming, Zel’ik responded, “If you happen to run into her over there, why don’t you ask her yourself if you’ve earned it?”

“If you insist,” the death knight sighed, waving her hand nonchalantly as she motioned to the seat next to her. He took it, and they dug into the dishes she'd offered along with the mystery the death knight had dropped into his lap.

The sin’dorei didn’t have the heart to tell him she scared that her current life wouldn’t measure up to what his mother had once thought of her.

It was a bridge she wasn’t willing to cross just yet.

Chapter Text

It was a violent end to a violent life, but Enmesarra didn’t want to concede her hold over her self-made empire. She would later tell anyone that would listen how she fought off over half a dozen attackers that cornered her in a seedy bar in Kezan’s worst district. Enmesarra would say that she recognized every single one of these poor bastards, having had a run-in with them at one point or another while dealing with their bosses over the years. Sure, she’d tried throwing over a trade prince or two in her lifetime – what goblin worth their weight in gold hadn’t? – but she would make sure to express that she didn’t understand was why these goons were after her specifically.

She’d paid her dues, and it was rude to cut a lady in the back alley without a heads-up. Laying in the back alley of some disgusting bar, she was left alone to bleed out, the rain washing away their sins.

But that was far from the truth; she was good at spinning lies. It was almost as great of a tool as her apothecary skills had been to her over the years. This time, her lies caught up to her, and she was helpless to prevent it.

The goblin at fault for the downfall of her empire – Vinnie, she offhandedly remembered – lured her from her bodyguards and took her outside. She had no idea what he was planning on doing to her; the only thing that was on her mind was that she was beyond irritated that he’d interrupted her party. She was celebrating her take over on another criminal’s territory, pushing her spiked drugs and potions into the area until the people became hooked on her creations. In one afternoon, she ended the old slumlord’s rule in favor and took over the district for herself, laced drugs given out to those that continued to participate in a peaceful transition of power.

Enmesarra couldn’t remember a time before that night that gave her this much pride to an accomplishment, the feeling that she was on top of the world as sweet as a drug-induced high. She thought she was untouchable, and that everyone respected that of her newfound position as a criminal lord over a district.

She even asked him “what the Hell he thought he was doing” by asking her – her! of all the bosses on this gods-forsaken island – to join him, a bodyguard, for a smoke. As if they were on the same planet in regards to social statuses, let alone on speaking terms.

(Never mind the fact she’d had plenty of run-ins with him that required more of the private room-type of social gatherings; she knew that she was so out of his league, it was almost hilarious that he thought he could just approach her like this.)

Nevertheless, the well-dressed swaggering goblin gave her a shrug, leaning against the bar as he asked her again to join him. He flashed her a smile, a golden fang catching the light just right, and her insides turned into jelly as he said something she couldn’t quite catch.

Of course, being the idiot that she was, she let him talk her into taking the smokes. She let him light her a cigarette, and he started talking as she took a drag.

Her entire world flipped upside down as the smoke turned into painful spikes, filling her throat with blood while restricting her airflow. The goblin watched as she fell on the ground, choking and watching him with a confused look as to what the Hell was going on.

He told her it was of her own doing, with a nasty twist to it – this smoke had one of her best toxins laced in the tobacco, with the added bonus of a poison she’d used to take out a trade lord’s daughter last month.

“Yer not getting’ out of this one, Mess,” Vinnie drawled, kicking her purse (her antidotes) out of her reach. “So, lyin’ is like a tumor, and you’ve been doing a lot of that lately. The boss wanted t’make sure the disease couldn’t spread any more harm anywhere else, so, ’course, he sent me.” He hummed, as if lost in thought, before adding a meager, “Sorry ’bout that. No hard feelin’s, yeah?”

Blurry-eyed, she tried her best to glare at him, but whatever look on her face only brought a laugh from the assassin. “Doll, even if you are lookin’ pretty on yer knees, ya can’t pull off that serious look o’ yers with such a pretty color on your face. Just the right shade of strangulation.

Rage bubbled in her throat, red and sticky and painful as Hell, but Enmesarra couldn’t do much for her predicament. She knew this was the end, hearing his disgusting taunts, but she wouldn’t go laying down; she had to try to get to her antidotes.

Crawling towards her purse, Vinnie followed her, tutting as the rain came pouring down over them. She could see her vision beginning to blackout, but the drug lord couldn’t tell if it was from the poison or lack of oxygen.

Right before she reached her bag, just an inch away, Vinnie kicked it further down the road. Enmesarra screamed (really no better than a weak gasp of air), collapsing on the cobblestone alley from exhaustion.

He leaned down in front of her, that pretty smile now a vicious snarl, twisting the goblin’s face disgustingly. The fang hit the light differently this time, and she could’ve sworn it was covered in blood. “Wish this could’a gone different,” the goblin sighed, feigning empathy. “Too bad you killed my fiancée. Maybe we could’a had a deal, or done somethin’ else. But you crossed the line, and now I gotta clean this shitstorm up.”

Enmesarra must’ve passed out – or died – or something - because in the next moment that she tried opening her mouth to spit out a curse at the bastard, she was waking up in a pit, chained to a wall.

Her throat still burned from the cigarette’s toxins, but she would have to deal with that later. She wondered where the Hell she was, and how the Hell she was going to get out of here. She looked at nearly a dozen other species that she had no idea what they were, and Enmesarra feared this is what Hell was.

If it is, she thought, the rage bubbling into her chest, I’ll make sure to crawl out of it and give Vinnie and his bastard of a boss a taste of their own medicine.

Tumors didn’t go away that easily, and she would be one Hell of a bitch to get rid of.

Chapter Text

She didn’t hear them at first.

Not really.

She could hear the mortals pleading, bargaining, and promising to do anything in exchange for their miserable lives, but it didn’t matter to her what they wanted to give her; the sin’dorei worked for a higher purpose, and he wanted their souls.

The death knight watched them like a farmer would a spring ewe, culling them as her master commanded, never blinking an eye as she cut down these mortal beings. Even if the death knight could have stopped her actions, she felt so indifferent to it all that she didn’t see why she wouldn’t. Undeath flowed through her veins, leaving her just as empty as when she awoke in this unfamiliar place tied in that gods-forsaken pit.

It was not unkind, this second life – rather, the sin’dorei found it quite the opposite to the mundane, unimportant lives that these humans were living. It gave her a sense of clarity, a sense of understanding, that her king knew what was best for the realm of the living. Why would she keep such a gift from even those the Lich King deemed being no better than fodder for his plans?

Her master’s words were her driving purpose to continue striking her decisive blows against the feeble villagers, driving the sin’dorei closer to the nirvana she was promised – that level of knowledge the Lich King had promised her and the thousands of death knights he’d raised for this cleansing.

To fill the emptiness, he’d told them, you must do as I ask.

Though that emptiness in her gut seemed to only grow with each person she killed, the whispers of her blade seemed to coo at her with each killing blow she made with it. That sense of pleasure rippling from the blade always gave her a hint at the promise the Lich King had made to his soldiers, but the death knight had yet to understand how to fill the hole permanently, seeing as how she would always hunger long before ever feeling sated.

Perhaps that was just the way this second life of hers would go, chasing a goal always just out of her reach.

Alongside her, hundreds of entities continued to fulfill the collective’s purpose, each of the creatures in varying stages of decay and all desperately hungry. She could only imagine what the other death knights heard from their runeblades, wondering if their blades whispered sweet things just as hers did. The death knight didn’t even spend a moment to question the ghouls and wraiths working the battleground for scraps to feast upon, unsure (uninterested?) of these entities' inner dialogues. She saw them as what they were, and wouldn’t question their role in this campaign.

Though the sin’dorei was sated, for the moment, she knew that hunger would rouse her to come back down to this mortal plane and continue the culling. With a much clearer head than she’d had in the last few days, the death knight could feel the stickiness of black ichor mixing with the humans’ blood. Every time she tried to move, the dribbling concoction caught in the joints of her armor in a mildly annoying way. It would only be a matter of time before she couldn't move at all.

So, taking the afternoon quiet as a sign their master’s plan was working out perfectly, the death knight decided that returning to Acherus for an afternoon wouldn’t stall their war efforts.

She returned to the level with the pit, walking into the middle of another all-out brawl. The blood death knight knew that these initiations occurred at least once every three hours – sooner, if the ghouls could clean up the mess quickly enough. It often brought the attention of other death knights, some watching the initiates battle for worthiness in the eyes of their king while others wanted to take the chance at first pickings from the unworthy.

Settling down by the blinding-white forges, she allowed the banshees to take off her armor, her gaze fixated on the fight happening down below. She could hazily remember the brawl she managed to crawl out of, the ghost pain of her shoulder hanging limply by her side still as fresh as if it had just happened.

The banshees cooed to her in an attempt at small talk, and she sin’dorei replied with polite but short answers. She wanted to see how this battle fared for these newly risen knights.

Piles of flesh nearly filled the pit halfway, unrecognizable blobs of bodies and parts strewn around the six remaining fighters. They all looked furiously battered, cut up and looking worse for wear; nevertheless, they were deemed worthy enough for their master’s plans. Some others had made it out of the pit as well - even more wounded than the others, but still alive. Razuvious hardly gave them a second glance before waving a hand at the legion of wraiths hungrily watching over the massacre.

In an instant, the wraiths fell upon the unsalvageable, ripping them apart with surgical precision. The screams of the unworthy mixed into the harmonies of the forges, no longer driving her into insanity but rather almost calming her at the sound of the tortured souls.

As loud as it was, the death knight could still make out the banshees whispering behind her, even if their words sounded more like steam than speech. Through their giggles, the death knight realized that there had originally been two hundred souls fighting in the pit.

Idly, she wondered why so few knights were being accepted into their ranks.

She watched as the six new recruits were carted off to the blue-fired forges, the group looking around with bright, wide eyes – less hungry now, but still as mindless as a ghoul. Razuvious followed them to the forges, instructing the wretches to perform the same ritual she had in creating their runeblades. The pitiful bunch all worked at once with the metalworkers, their whispering blades slowly taking shape in the ghostly fires.

The blue-armored instructor seemed to take extra care in explaining to this group of recruits what the runeblades’ importance was, being more delicate with their blades than she remembered he had been to other recruits over the last few weeks.

Even at this distance, she could easily hear Razuvious tell the mindless six as they worked, “These runeblades are an extension of your soul, a conduit of your rage to be put to use for our master’s wishes. You use it as he pleases, for it is in his honor that you have been brought here.”

The death knight could sense her runeblade hum at those words, almost as if it was in agreement with the instructor.

“You all will have to brace against your own souls to create your own runeblade,” the instructor went on. “If it rejects you, you must offer another piece of your soul as a sacrifice to make another.” His eyes passed over their faces, adding after a brief pause, “If you cannot successfully create a runeblade, your husk will join the ghouls as cannon fodder on the front lines. We will always find a use for those who fail our King.”

The new knights watched as Razuvious paced in front of them, their glazed-over eyes a clear indication they didn’t quite understand what he was saying; she remembered that she didn’t comprehend the extent of what he meant, either. However, she did understand that once the runeblade was forged in the blue fire with a piece of their soul-infused in its metal, the death knight would take it to the white fires to temper and refine the attunement they’d created with the blade – then, they would be taken to a separate forge, high in the citadel’s tower, and forced to plunge the weapon into a black fire, where the death knight’s soul would come into alignment with their master’s will.

The blood death knight didn’t remember much from the attunement to her runeblade – mostly since she passed out from the pain, rather than to willingly forget such a trauma like that – but every time she held onto the runeblade afterward, it felt like a shock of lightning would pass through her hand and entangle its painful shock into every fiber of her being, forcing her to relive that attunement with every swing of the sword. It was painful, but she was in a place beyond pain, now.

In the recesses of her mind, she could hear her blade laugh at her, but she met it with indifference all the same.

Screams erupted from the blades every time they were struck, a cacophony of pain-filled voices echoing the forge. A pair of death knights reacted poorly to the maddened whispers halfway through the process, causing a flurry of panic from everyone, even Razuvious: one flung himself into the fires, his body igniting like steel wool against electricity; another gouged out her own eyes and tore her ears off when the whispers became too much for her; the others were barely held back by wraiths.

She watched with mild curiosity as the two were dragged off, Razuvious screaming over the wailing death knights for a necromancer to attend to them. The remaining four were guarded with death knights rather than ghouls, their newly appointed guards watching every movement like a snake waiting to strike.

Turning away from the blue forges, the sin’dorei faced the banshees working on cleaning the blood and banging out the dents from her armor. It was rhythmic, reminding her of rain hitting a metal roof in a summer storm – Hell, she could smell it over the blood and steel and rot, the sensation bringing her back to a state of supple flesh and giggles and breathing and emerald eyes that wouldn’t stop staring at her –

With a violent shake of her head, the death knight focused every ounce of her attention onto the wraiths working the white fires. It felt like she had been standing there for days, watching their hammers and wills forging the blades from the new recruits’ very souls; the thoughts (memories?) had sapped every ounce of energy from her, and all she wanted now was to drift back into numbness.

She let the falls of the hammers whisk her thoughts away, too exhausted (no, too scared) to have a set of thoughts coherent enough to question what that... flash meant.

“Your armor is ready, dore,” a banshee whispered, capturing the death knight’s attention. The wraith was the same one as before, and it almost brought a smile to her face to see her again. Just like speaking to her had felt right – in a language that the banshee told her was Thalassian, which also felt right to her – it felt so incredibly familiar to smile at her. (More flashes tried to bring themselves to the forefront of her mind, but the death knight ignored them with what little strength she had left.)

Nodding in acknowledgment, the sin’dorei replied, “Dhan’ụr.” The banshee smiled wide, knives for teeth sticking out at incredibly unnatural angles that sent a shiver down the death knight’s spine.

“Of course,” the creature whispered, its eyes crinkling with crow's-feet at the corners. The sin’dorei could see the excitement in the banshee’s face, but didn’t dare bring it up to the wraith as it led her to the table her armor laid upon. The red-black armor seemed to glow it had been polished so brilliantly, every scuff and scrape seemingly wiped clean from the armor’s history; it looked brand new, as if the banshees had actively made the decision to be kind to it while they worked on it.

Gently touching the armor, the death knight asked, her eyes flitting from her breastplate over to the banshee momentarily, “Some of this looks remade.” And it did; portions of her armor looked brand new, no scuffs or familiar marks to discern it from her old armor.

Pride beaming from the banshee, it cooed, its misty form rematerializing on the other side of her, “Anything for you, dore.”

Her ear flicked at the term, a frown settling on her face as her eyes returned to the armor. A moment passed, and she asked, “Why?”

“Why what? ” the wraith hissed, a giggle carving itself into the last word like a threat. The death knight looked up to meet its eyes once more, her frown growing more as she leveled with the forgemaster.

She wanted to ask why it had done something as frivolous as remaking armor when they were already so low on supplies, but, instead, the death knight asked, “Why do you keep calling me that?” The banshee waggled a finger in her face as it tutted – the sin’dorei suddenly saw herself being looked down upon by a much larger sin’dorei, a minn’da, as if she was being scolded for staying up past her bedtime – and laughed when the death knight’s expression changed. “What are you doing to me?” she whispered, her hands moving up to hide her face. More flashes tried overcoming her mind - more of the minn’da, others of those emerald eyes, some wide smiles shared amongst friends - but the only thing she could focus on was the banshee’s cruel laughter twisting around her confused thoughts like a vice.

She could feel the wraith’s form rematerialize behind her, the chill of its presence sending another shiver down her spine as it circled her. “Selama ashal’anore,” the banshee cooed in her ear, the words spat out like a knife in the gut.

A high-pitched cacophony of laughter echoed through the chamber as the banshees left, the noise giving the death knight an incredibly painful migraine.

She crumpled to the floor, holding onto her temples as the ringing in her ears slowly died down. Alone with the whispers of the forges, the death knight wondered if she could just curl up on the floor and cease to exist.

Justice? she wondered, slowly working the pain in her forehead with her fingertips. Who needs justice? 

Chapter Text

They were everywhere, crawling through the streets like unnaturally crooked things that should have stayed in the shadows, jumping from rooftop to rooftop as they tracked their prey with terrifying precision. There was no escaping the doomed city, not with every major thoroughfare filled with the undead forces crawling over battered bodies or the bands of corrupted worgens tearing through anything that moved.

Azeroth had not seen an invasion of this capacity since the breaching of the Dark Portal, and it was terrifying.

The battles were spreading far too quickly into zones that had once been sanctuaries, creating piles of feral creatures and forsaken indistinguishable from the trash littering the streets. The priests and shamans were unable to purge the disease from these makeshift holy sites fast enough; the warriors and mages fought brilliantly, terrifically, to give the magick users time to perform their rites, but the combined might of their efforts was not enough to quench the assault’s double front. Many adventurers fell, leaving so few remaining to defend the fleeing citizens.

Homes had been set ablaze throughout the previous nights of torment as the forsaken’s catapults sent burning corpses to rain down from the darkened skies, while pestilence bubbled from the earth as the enemy’s corrupted mages worked to twist the grounds from the gates to the Cathedral’s graveyards, infecting the city from the inside out.

The forsaken indulged themselves in magicks no sane nor living creature dared go; death gave them new opportunities and understandings that shattered the fragile finality the living desperately tried clinging to. Curses and spells had been created by these entities that stepped too far from the Light, their souls neither living or entirely dead, and with no fear of what happened in the next life, there was no known way of stopping any of them.

The worgen, however, had held a much simpler yet just as undefeatable plan of attack: rampage, and take every living thing with them to the grave or add them into their animalistic, plague-ridden horde.

There was no way of stopping this; they couldn’t get out.

It was already too late.

|0|0|0|

Children and elderly had been evacuated barely minutes before the first explosion rang out through the city, forcing every other person, no matter their training or age, out onto the battlefield, left out for the slaughter.

Battles from all sides had been raging on for days with clear no sign of it letting up; some of those protecting the front lines had been standing for so long, they refused to do anything else, even as exhaustion forced them into haphazardous sleeping bouts. Others had been so traumatized that they sat silently, staring into the distance mindlessly as they waited for the next round of enemies to pile over their defenses.

Gilneas was supposed to be the city unbreachable, untaintable, unobtainable. Now they knew that had been a dream too bold; no place was safe anymore, and these monsters made that information perfectly clear.

Deceased citizens were burned rather than buried, in fear of returning to this realm soon after their departure. With no time for proper burials, names of the dead were etched on any available scrolls (or on the sides of buildings, above where they’d fallen) to mourn later. They ran the unfortunate risk of having the spirits roam the city for all eternity, but it was a much safer alternative than destroying themselves from the inside-out.

It was the only way to ensure as many untainted citizens could escape this doomed city as possible, even if it meant the people themselves would never return to their proud stature. The homes that had been ablaze with plague fire had become so hot and unmanageable that the defending forces had no choice but to abandon their city.

Many dozens of people remained in the burning, overrun city in an attempt to allow the last few hundred civilians the chance to escape through the tunnels. Some fled to the nearby mountains for refuge, others ran to the sea-side and tried their hand at swimming against the choppy currents. Between the wilderness and the sea, the citizens of Gilneas had no other choice, seeing as how the valley below (the only road to freedom) was filled with the forsaken forces.

They little leadership that remained had to make a decision for these refugees, and quickly.

Time was not on their side; they couldn’t make a mistake. If they did, it would be the end of them all.

Chapter Text

Nergal had been getting nervous, and he had every right to be.

Every time he used the snow from the Frozen Throne, his body would regenerate and leave him looking healthy and beautiful – prior to his run-in with Arthas the moment he stepped foot in Dragonblight – for well over a year. It had been a blessing, even if it took him nearly that amount of time to make enough money to have Enmesarra gather enough snow for another dose.

Until he heard the whispers of H’di calling him to Lordaeron, this was his life.

But now?

He was lucky to get a month before the rapid degradation crippled him. Sometimes, he wondered if it was making his condition worse.

Of course, he’d spent time asking Enmesarra for details on how the shipments were being brought back from Northrend, going so far as to blaming her operation for its lack of routine – were the containers contaminated? Were they being cared for with temperature regulated boxes? Was she diluting the product?

Each time he said something untoward to the goblin about her enterprise, she assured him that nothing was out of the ordinary, and that he was probably just bottoming out on its usefulness. (Even with the cheekiness that came with that drug dealer-attitude of hers, he was grateful she was laying it out for him without the bullshit. Maybe he  was  too used to its regenerative properties.)

He told her if the only problem was the supply, then, as his supplier, she should be making damn well sure she brought him all that she could. No expense was too high, and no route would be too difficult if it meant she would get him his antidote.

She lit up like a Winter Veil tree at the thought of a blank check, waving him off as she promised he’d get everything his money provided. He’d damn these goblins and their money-grubbing efforts to Draenor and back, but would rather go to the Maw before saying he was thankful that she was so cutthroat and timely in the errands she made for him.

Even if it meant he didn’t have to do it all himself.

Despite the extra efforts in keeping the snow readily on-hand, the new shipments arriving every month rather than once a year, Nergal’s state of being was rapidly declining. Even the abilities he had as a death knight had lessened, leaving him a weak, frail elf until his next shipment of the snow arrived.

Voicing his concerns to H’di, the gods-forsaken coward told him it was nothing to worry about. At the time, the sin’dorei believed it. He didn’t have any reason not to; like a fool, he’d believed all of its lies.

The death knight thought he was gaining power by siding with the old god – that's what was promised, anyway – in exchange for hosts to spread its influence across Azeroth.

He’d delivered his own step-daughter to this being, and he received peanuts in comparison to the powers it gained by the sacrifice. Nergal could have done a million things to ensure she would be punished, and none of them included selling his services to an old god to do so. Hell, he could’ve shacked her up somewhere in the Plaguelands and did it himself, if he had been so inclined.

Yet, the old god’s promises fell through. It had taken him years to find out H’di never expected to pay out on his side of the bargain, and that information had come to Nergal accidentally. How much longer would he have been blindly following this liar and thief, had he not overheard its conversation with another one of its lackeys? Not to mention that the bastard was tainting the Frozen Throne’s snow as it entered the fallen kingdom...

That had been a step too far.

While H’di’s power grew with the in-fighting of the factions, Nergal wasted away in the tower of a crumbling kingdom with an antidote that was no better than drinking ocean water.

He wouldn’t let H’di get away with this slight against him, and he’d find some way to get his life back.