Rating: T [Violence, Death]
Summary: Mal had never wanted to be anywhere else more
The line of Forsaken was advancing; ranks locked, twisted steel weapons drawn and glinting wickedly in the moonlight. They stood shoulder to shoulder, yellow eyes shining like torches in the night from between their helmet’s eyeholes, marching in complete harmony, every step sudden and in unison. Every ten men there was a break to make room for a hulking and sinister plague wagon flanked by twin abominations; lumbering masses of sewn together mangled corpses and flesh with toothy and fang filled grins splattered across their small pale fat and bald heads, like demonic babies about to play with their favorite toy. Forward of the line the Dark Lady’s own hand-picked Dark Rangers raced, crisscrossing atop skeletal Warhorses bows in hand yelling out cold encouragements and battle cries, carving and shaping the path of the army. They would be the first to enter the fray and the last to leave; their arrows, tipped with dark magic, would be hell on the warriors to make first contact. With a stroke of luck, one maybe two of the wicked women would be pulled down during the battle, the rest would live to harry the Gilneas Liberation Front further another day, assuming the Liberation Front saw another day.
“We're done aren’t we?” Mal whispered “The battle is lost.” Never had he wanted to be somewhere else more. He had never been meant for this: battle and war and death. He was a priest, born and raised in the clergy, anointed in the Faith of the Holy Light back so long as he could manage to speak his dedications and prayers. He was meant to whittle away the arrows in study and mediation, not on bloody fields trying desperately to pull the still living back from the edge of oblivion, and grant the due and last prayers for those that had already passed from this world.
The captain of the squad he was assigned to, a fierce woman with short brown hair, a scared lip, and a missing ear, just gave him a grim smile “No battle is lost so long as one fool still has the determination to raise a sword, nock an arrow, weave a spell, throw a punch, hurl a rock, or spit a wad, for its cause.”
Behind Mal, the pair of worgen, bestial wolf-men with glittering teeth and moonlit eyes, growled their approval. Underneath his thin white robe, Mal shivered.
The Captain threw back her head and with the lungs of a lion roared to the very sky “PREPARE TO CHARGE! ON MY COMMAND!”
All around Mal weapons where unsheathed, bow strings drawn, glowing staves raised. The Captain lifted her own massive warhammer and brought it to bear, clapping it against the girth of her shield “FOR HONOR!” She bellowed, a tremendous cry rose up to her met her, snarls, roars, screams, all blending together into a deafening calling. Their were a short two hundred this side of the wall, holding out against the host of Undercity forces and praying for reinforcements from the 7th Legion, more than nine days late. But even small as their number, with one voice they would make the crowds of cities seem meek.
“FOR TRUTH!” The Captain bellowed even louder as she pounded her hammer and shield together again, like a primal wardrum. All around, warriors did the same, archers twanged their bow strings in time, rouges rapped the buts of their daggers against their helmets, and those without weapons to make noise just pumped their fists in time with symphony of rage and fervor.
“FOR THE GOLDEN LION!” More pounding, more roaring, more rage. Building faster and faster, pushing towards the profane crescendo of battle. The Forsaken where less the a span away now, faces grim and determined, silent save for the calculated and determined commands of the Dark Rangers.
“FOR THE GLORY OF GILNEAS! FOR THE ALLIANCE!” The captain spun on her heel jabed her hammer at the line of approaching undead “CHARGE!”
Might, passion, fire, and spirit exploded into action, warriors rushed forwards weapons raised to break like a tempest against the wall of undead, archers pulled back letting loose volleys of arrows with crazed screams, magi unleashed columns of red hot fire, bursts of violent light, and bitter unforgiving winds of frost. The Dark Rangers pulled on the reigns of their dead steeds and swung their wicked blades to bear, behind them, plague wagons let lose their payload with ear shattering explosions, suffocating green smoke bursting into existence over the heads of human and worgen alike, curling down like the tendrils some Old God’s twisted servant to grasp around good, proud men, who fell the earth in a step, their skin turning pale, then green, the beginning to melt away with a hiss and sickening slap of flesh.
Metal clanged, bow strings snapped, wind howled, but it was the dull sound of steel cutting into living flesh that by some perverse miracle was most audible through the din, every slice, every cut, every snap, every break, reaching Mal’s ears and making him flinch, making his stomach turn.
“I wasn’t meant for this” He whispered in a voice no one could hear “I didn’t sign up for this.” He didn’t want the honor of a distant battle field or the praise of comrades. He just wanted a warm bed and a shelf of books, and Araon. Always he wanted Araon.
“I wasn’t meant for this” was his quite mantra as he ran amongst the battle praying to live another day, and doing everything in his power not to be seen.
Cecila gave no thought to her actions, no voice to her movements. She just acted.
A worgen breaking through the line, lose a single arrow into his eye. Draw sword, pivot on her heels, draw short blade and drive it into the face of the rouge attempting to sneak up on her. Pivot again and cut down a Alliance officer from his horse. Run forward, search for new target.
She was a drawn bowstring, a tensed grip on a sword, she was the incarnate of focus as her training had made her and her sisters.
You are the Dark Lady’s personal instruments of death Blightcaller had said You are death given body, vengeance given shape, malice granted hands with which to work
There was no room for mistakes or mercy, only death, only the will of the Banshee Queen, only the doom of those that dared oppose her.
Mal fell back as far as he dared without abandoning the battlefield. He brimmed with power of the Light; his hands alight with a golden glow. There wasn’t much he could do in pitched battle like this, but he did what he could, what it was his duty to do. A broken leg made whole here, and gash to the chest closed there. He was strong in the Light, he was good at healing, but he was horrible at performing under pressure. Sweat dotted his forehead as he all but pressed his back against the cool stone of the Greymane Wall, focusing on a Worgen eight paces in front of him locked in battle with a jawless Plague Spreader, feeling the pure joy, and life, and shining ecstasy that was the Light leap from his fingers in a golden blaze and form around the worgen in a thin shield of protection against the deadly green smoke issuing from the corpse’s gasser.
Beyond him, within his sight, the battle…was not hopeless.
His ears thundered and rang suddenly as overhead a bomb loosed from one of the Plague Wagons exploded. Green smoke with the rank smell of carrion and rot rolled lazily and inescapably down towards him. Mal’s breath caught in his chest, his fingers froze, his toes curled in his boots, his teeth clattered. He…stooped, he froze. And then fear overcame him, crawling through his spine, thundering like tidal wave through his gut, wrapping like a massive invisible fist of iron on his lungs, and he ran.
He ran for all he was worth, ran praying to the Light to grant him leave, praying to see Stormwind, Araon, the Cathedral Of Light again. And knowing he never would.
Arrow, worgen down. Arrow, human down. Human down, human down, worgen down.
No mercy, no pity.
Arrow human down. Pivot, cut throat of worgen trying flank her, pivot stab down at human engaged with another Forsaken.
No mercy, no pity.
Pivot, sighted: human running along Greymane wall, away from burst of Blight. Draw bow, arrow, human down.
Pivot, lose arrow at worgen. Run forward, find new target.
No mercy, no pity.
Cecila was a drawn bowstring aimed for only one thing: death of those that opposed the Forsaken.
No mercy, no pity
Mal feels the impact of the arrow, feels the shock rivet his system, feels the warm trickle of blood running down his chest staining his white robe.
He doesn’t feel pain, or agony, or overwhelming fear, like he thought he would. He just feels the slow creeping cold through his chest, the feel of iron against skin.
He doesn’t hear anymore, the din of the battle fades into silence as he falls to his knees, his hand desperately gripping at at his chest and trapped beneath him as he falls face down into the dirt.
He tries to pull his chin up, to lift his head, but can’t manage it.
Everything suddenly seemed so much more…real. The soft brush of the few remaining blades of grass against his, the crunch of leaves beneath his body, the warm comforting heat of the blood trickling from his chest, little things you stop noticing as time goes and they fade away into the background.
As the soft blackness at the edge of his vision started to grow a sweep over his sight, Mal’s only thoughts where regret that Araon would never learn what became of him.
Slowly and steadily, not with massive events or grand climaxes, that is the way battles die.
Cecila’s part was long through by the time the Gilneas Liberation Front made their last pull back behind the wall, dragging as many of their wounded and dead behind them as possible. They knew there would be no quarter, not from this army.
She moved a soundless shade amongst the fallen, as the troops secured the abandoned camps along the Greymane and established their new forward command. The wounded and broken Forsaken where packed into carts and carried off to be patched back together by the Shadow Priests, those that could not be saved would have their remaining body parts reworked into those that could. Death had made the Forsaken many things, but not wasteful.
Those that where freshly dead (and the difference was easy to spot, flesh still warm, blood still present, body still whole) where tossed into moderately sized piles inside shallow pits dug by the ghouls or some lesser undead. They awaited the Val’kyr, the Angels of the Dark Lady, to be raised anew and welcomed into their new life.
Cecila was never relaxed, more appropriately it could be said that her body was not tense. Rather, it existed in a constant state, not entirely ready for sudden actions, but not completely vulnerable to them either. The sight of the dead as they were dragged off and thrown like garbage into pits atop one another roused no emotion, one way or the other in her. She was a cold weapon, and agent of action. She had long ago burned away her capacity for things like compassion, joy, or revulsion.
Over head, the Val’kyr arrived. Sweeping giant ghosts of women, thick and muscular as warriors, clad in ethereal silver and black armor, the moonlight passed through their powder blue and transparent forms, glittering in their smoky white wings. Not one of them showed her face, the full head helms covering even their eyes and leaving now gap for sight.
Yet the Angels Of The Dark Lady saw still, swooping down over the mounds of dead, turning and spinning and rolling in the air as if it was water they swan through rather the winds the soared on, their wings beat without stirring so much as a breeze, the motion leaving a shade of glimmering light in their wake as they began to circle the cluster of pits. They spoke not a word, made not a sound, moved not a speck of dust with their pressence, but they shined and were felt, echoing through the minds and hearts of each Forsaken present.
Neither slowly nor quickly, but with simple graceful determination, black lightning spread out from their fingertips as each one threw out her arms in turn as she stopped above one of the pits. The lightning flared and blustered, sizzling, colliding, and breaking upon itself in a spider wed of twisted magic. Each thread, each bolt, touched itself to the chest of a different corpse, interlacing and playing off one another as the limp bodies where pulled into the air like a insane child's toy puppets, jerking and flailing in their suspended state.
Seconds ticked by as the lightning sizzled on, connecting, twisting, plucking, at the bodies they held in the air till, and one by one each corpse’s eyelids began to flicker, and a soft golden light appeared behind their clouded dead eyes…
Mal floated in infinite nothingness, neither light nor dark, hot nor cold, high nor low. Just infinite, spanning, blackness.
He was moving though towards something…neither slowly nor quickly, but he was moving, and with maybe a vague sense dread, he knew to what; to judgment.
He could feel others, both close and far, that floated as he did moving towards the next life, towards salvation or damnation, some he could recall, some without sight. He could name as people from the Front he had watched live and fight and die for the freedom of their nation. They felt…content.
Others where as alien and nameless to him as stars and sun. Some radiated fear and cowardice, some felt of dread and unease, some proud and lofty, but most were just….scared, scared. Not ready for this, for death.
Then, like a blaze in the darkness, a knife in the gut, a burn to the face, something struck to him. It twisted and writhed, shaping around him and closing like a net, cutting into his very soul and digging its hooks into his spirit. It pulled, dragging him back across the blank nothing, away from the final and clear judgment that awaited him. He faught at first, but the twisting nips of pain into his conciseness defeated his weak resistance. Around him the light shown through others as they two were caught into the bitter net and pulled together alongside one another in a cluster of spirits. They struggled and battled against their bonds, and though no screams could be heard the all encompassing feel of their agony radiated through the nothingness. They all gave up in the end, all save one, who twisted and felt, and pained beyond all belief till the cords of magic snapped around him and he turned himself lose back into the blankness of the void.
The others gave in silently, and ashamedly. They allowed themselves to be pulled like dead fish in a net, back through the void, back to that burning everlasting light.
Do not fear a cool female voice echoed through the void You are granted leave, your day of judgment is postponed, you have a second chance
A second chance It echoed maddeningly until the very words seemed burned into Mal’s soul.
Cecila watched as the bodies from one of the pits where cut loose from the Val’kyr’s magic. They dropped like sacks back to the earth, some falling on their feet, some collapsing to the ground, one crumpling into a heap of lifeless flesh and bones.
As a murmuring mass, those that could rose to their feat, or where helped by another fledgling. They where pale now, every last one, and a soft yellow light shined from behind each of their eyes like a lantern in the night, dark magic was substring for their life’s blood, moving their bodies like strings would move a puppet, but under their autonomy. Some open wounds had already begun to fester, here and there flesh gave way to pale bone, and many where missing jaws, arms, legs, or other major limbs, some had skin peeled away from their faces already, the dead gatherers where never gentle with bodies. In a week, a month, their skin would be paper thin, their mass would be reduced by half, many would take straps over their eyes or noses, most of them would have lost the flesh on their fingers and have sharpened down their finger bones to claw like points.
They all shared the same look, the lost scared hopelessness. They huddled together and grasped at one another for heat that was not there, for warmth that would never come.
Absently Cecila noted one of the dead she had killed during the battle. He was seated on the ground, his legs hugged to his chest, rocking back and forth as he cast his gaze about searching for some relief. Even from here she could hear what he was whispering; prayers to the Holy Light. That one had a lot to learn.
Overhead the Val’kyr swooped on to the next pit, and Cecila steeped forward throwing back her black hood. Every dead eye in the pit immediately swirled to her, a sea of emotions playing across every face; fear, hope, anger, despair, joy, hatred, indifference.
She felt nothing in return.
“Welcome” She proclaimed in a emotionless voice “To the Forsaken.”