Ultramurg, Death Knight of the Ebon Blade: A question of life and death
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Bright blue flickered among petals of scarlet and gold, butterfly wings that kissed their way across the little garden. The lone figure that sat there simply stared, resolute and unblinking on a humble bench of narrow wood, taking in the colors one by one. They were almost painful in their vibrancy. Vivid reminders of life, played out in a kaleidoscope of hues nearly too bright to look at. Blue, gold, scarlet, green—
“It’s killing her own troops…”
Green billowed forth in a torrent from the gates of a kingdom long gone, great clouds that filled the air. And on the parapets, she stood – the Banshee Queen – and lifted her arms. Violet arced from her fingers, slamming into the earth below and raising from it her own soldiers, or the skeletal remnants of what they once were.
She blinked, and the vision was gone, swept away once more by a sea of petals and sky.
The undead had no real need for sleep, for dreams – that ability had been robbed from them. Some in her order indulged in the effort simply out of habit, a remnant of a life long gone. She couldn’t bring herself to do so. Rest was for the living, so that they could rise and address their lives with full vigor, or for the well and truly dead, eternal and distinct.
She was neither.
And yet that moment replayed in her mind, again and again, much like a dream she couldn’t shake. The distinct crunch of bone against bone as those skeletal warriors snapped to life – unlife – and stood, unfazed by Plague or fire. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see her, that violet torrent ferociously directed at the corpses of her own fallen troops.
There were those in the Alliance that worried when the Ebon Blade first came calling. She remembered well that initial journey into Stormwind – the rotten fruit hurled in her direction, the scathing accusations and insults. It hurt, but it was an exquisite needle of pain, something to direct her focus to what needed to be done. And she accomplished it – as the years went on, her order had achieved a certain modicum of respect. It was hard earned, hard won, and she had no intention of losing it.
She suffered, but she suffered well. Her death was not of her own choosing, but what she did with it beyond…that was hers to decide. And she’d done what she could to prove herself as an apt and capable fighter – not a ghoul, not a thing to be feared, but a protector in as much as she could muster. The Lich King stole her final rest, but her free will was her own now. What he had done to her, to countless others in her order, could never be forgiven.
And in the catacombs beneath ruined Lordaeron, there were others who shared a similar fate. Not soldiers, no – simple civilians, countless innocents who had their life ripped to ruin and were reborn as mindless monsters. They, too, regained their free will and followed one whose thirst for vengeance was directed solely at Icecrown.
“It’s killing her own troops…”
There it was again. That moment, it would not go away, the sight of skeletal monstrosities a stark contrast to violet and green. Mindless monsters, born not from the Lich King…but from one who led a particularly vicious prong of the charge against him, not so long ago.
It made no sense. Perhaps that was the crux of it, why the vision of that moment would not go away. Despite their similar circumstances, the Death Knights of Acherus were not Forsaken. They did not blindly turn their allegiance to the Banshee Queen’s will. But both the Death Knights and the Forsaken were not — and would never again be — alive.
Why, then, were they on opposite sides? Were they not the same?
“What brings you to our garden, sister?” Dulcet and calm, the priest’s voice snapped her out of her reverie. And although his tone was pleasant enough, he was visibly taken aback when she turned to face him with the ice blue eyes and pallid complexion of the clearly dead. “Ah,” he breathed, settling himself into some semblance of nervous composure. “Forgive me; we don’t see many in your…state, on Cathedral grounds.”
“I don’t intend to come inside, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Even now, the sound of her voice grated against her ears.
“I don’t expect you would,” he readily agreed. “But…you would not be unwelcome, if you did.”
If she’d been alive, perhaps he would have patted her shoulder. As it was, he kept a neutral distance, neither too close nor too far. But where others of his order might have recoiled in fear or loathing, his expression reflected only kindness, a twinkle of humor in his eyes. “I could give you the usual platitudes about the Light and its acceptance of all things, but I don’t think you’d believe me.”
She considered everything she’d done since the moment she regained her free will. “No,” she agreed, “I don’t think I would.”
“What’s your name, sister?”
“I…Kate. I was called Kate, once.”
“When you were human,” he offered.
“When I was alive,” she shot back. “I’m still human, just not…”
“Then you have your answer.”
Scarlet, gold, green — the colors were no less vibrant, even when the flowers were plucked and placed in a vase. Oh they would wither eventually, given enough time, as all things would. But they would always be flowers…and she would always be human.
“…Yes. Yes, perhaps I do. Thank you.”
He waved a hand and withdrew, doubtless in search of another lost soul to comfort, another mind to set to ease. And Kate – or the one who had been called Kate, not so long ago – rose to her feet as well. She still didn’t understand what went on in the Banshee Queen’s mind…but she had her own. And perhaps that would do, for now.
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