The Rise of Keelath

I remember nothing. This was my first thought.

This short is written from the point of view of my death knight character in World of Warcraft. It’s a little bloody because, well, death knight (I’d roughly rate it as PG13). It encompasses the events of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

Author’s Note

I remember nothing. This was my first thought. I am lucky, or blessed, that I even had a first. Many of the ghouls never have even one…

***

Restlessness stalks me. I was wakened for a reason.

I soak my sword in blood, stir my veins with battle, but it is not enough.

I know full well what monster I have become, but there is no return.

To let the nature of death overtake me? Or to lay down, let sleep dull my senses, enter into a slow withering without end?

The latter is no choice at all. There is only the bloodshed: the only sustenance. My only purpose. I am a warrior of the Lich King: a death knight.

***

I was a hero once, though that is not why the Lich King chose me. My grave was simply in his path, and he took what he needed from our field of decay for his war.

I do not know how I died. My bones bore notches when I was dug from the ground, I was told, the marks of many blades across my ribs, my neck, my arms. They are buried now, under flesh held together by his will alone. Is my likeness a memory dredged from my soul? Or his own will, a mask to wear to terrify his enemies?

***

The twin blades rest naturally in my hands. There is almost a song in their whistle as they dance through the air, a memory of brighter times, older glory. But it is wrong. I wield shards of my past existence, nothing more. Singular blades, parted from each other, like a soul and a body. My soul belongs to him, strained like whey through a mesh of his magic. Watery and thin.

***

My prey spoke to me today, gave me a name. I am to be…Keelath.? Meaningless, but like a pleasing note to my ears. It answers the question of my likeness, at least.

I will keep it.

***

We march on New Hearthglen this day. I will relish the soft flesh of these humans.

***

Wielders of the Light met us. Their judgement is swift and cold. When I slay them, their blood is like hot wine after standing watch on the cold borders of Quel’Thalas.

A true memory. It swiftly passes.

***

The blood is sticky between the plates of my armor. It is warm on my false flesh and inside of me. I take my first breath, and the air is cold.

***

There is a brighter sustenance available to us. He showed me. He took the soul of the Defiar and split it into pieces, gave us one piece each. It went beyond the warmth of blood and the slide of soft flesh down my throat. I took my second breath, and it was clear and crystalline, warm like the sun dancing on the lake of Silvermoon.

He warned us not to be arrogant or complacent. He unbound the soul while it was still inside us. Like a knife tearing from my gut, he drew it out again. My third breath was fetid, damp. I could feel the maggots in my lungs.

If I am to feed on souls like this, I must be able to break them. He showed me the technique. The Defiar’s spirit went dark. I absorbed it, and felt him die the final death inside of me. My fourth breath felt endless, like a drowning man breaking the surface of the water, exultant with the promise of life, but never able to fill his lungs. As the Defiar’s power faded, so did the need for breath.

The experience was unsettling, yet alluring. If I take in enough souls of the dying, will I remember…?

***

The Lich King was pleased with our battle this day and allowed us prisoners. We practiced the dying arts. I swallowed several darkened souls, but the breath of want never grew any better no matter how much we gorged. The last soul I let linger uncorrupted, and I lapped of it, bit by bit, in hopes of a final satiety.

I could not bide her screaming, even though I had the breath to add my voice to hers. I glimpsed things that unsettled me. Silvermoon. The uniform of my past post and the blade that went with it–a solid piece instead of two shards. A nameless woman and a child.

I tried to remember more, desperate, but the soul was depleted. As its power faded, the feel of my reality wrenched at me. I maintain a half-life. Worms I could feel crawling through my body, and the pain in my tendons as they struggle to hold rotten flesh to my bones.

The Highlord found me, still howling, and fed me with blood and darkened souls until the pain stopped and the cursed breath left me. Yet my hunger remains. Not only for flesh, but for the memories that flit in and out of my mind like dreams. I cannot remember what it is that I was after. It is like awakening from sleep, knowing one dreamt but not knowing of what.

I will need more souls: the purer, the better.

***

Today will be the final campaign for this region. I will be sure to gather enough innocent souls to satisfy myself. An excitement bubbles in my stomach. I will remember. I will feel pain: true pain, and not the useful echo the Lich King keeps in my limbs so I do not break my vessel unduly. I will draw breath again, and keep breathing, as my mind is battered by the tides of pain and clarity…

***

It was not to be. Our dark march was broken; the battle, lost. My enlightenment was stolen from me. His will, my purpose, is gone.

I am allowed to keep my blades and my flesh. They bid me to return to my home, but the only home I know is war. Without his presence, I have forgotten how to steal the souls of the living. The souls of the dead, still under his sway, are like hard tack compared to fresh bread. Yet they are the only road available to me now. I have decided to fight along these Light wielders until he is slain, or I am.

***

The souls of his dead army crumble in my hands. They taste dry, gumming my mouth. I am always hungry, but the flesh of the living is forbidden me. The Light wielders would tear my half-soul from my body and send it to the Shadowlands–not even honor it by allowing another to drink of it, to grant me true death. Instead I kill and kill, and wonder what will happen to me when there are no more left to slay.

***

He was killed tonight. His presence faded from me like frost evaporating from grass. The Light wielders cheered; I only feel more empty.

Half of my soul remains tethered to this vessel, formed of illusory flesh and my own old bones. The rest of it is gone. It died with him.

Some speak of flaying his corpse and breaking his enchanted blade so our souls can return to us in full. I haven’t the will. I have some inkling, as many of the others do, that we would be horrified of what we have become, by our acts while under his will. Yet here is still work to do, and I will do it, if only to keep my belly full.

***

The north lands have been scoured, and we begin to turn on each other like starved wolves.

I will not succumb to the feast. Faced with no more enemies to fight, the only course left  to me is the long sleep.

***

I have found my berth, and now I lay motionless on the cold stone slab. I wonder briefly if this was my fate before he dug out my grave. A mausoleum of my own? Or a wooden coffin and unmarked grave? Withering petals of flowers and tearful prayers from grieving family and friends? Or only shovelfuls of dirt and the weary grunting of an old caretaker, doing his grim job as mist steals across the graveyard?

The hunger is still within me; my thoughts grow muzzy as I let its call go unanswered. My awareness darkens. I swim in the undercurrents of my half-soul. I dream of bloodshed, souls yet uneaten: bright, flitting things I chase like an eager hound.

Occasionally, I also dream of a woman and a child, and long days spent lazing on the shore of a sunlit and forgotten lake. Like the gnats buzzing in the reeds, they invite me to sleep…

I forget the time. I forget myself. Yet there is always one line still attached, one train of thought that leads back to my vessel, and back to the suffering that is now my own. It will never end, and if the Light wielders call, I know I will be there again, to bring victories to their battles.

It is not for me these battles are won. Perhaps, one day, I will remember the names of the woman and the child, and find them, and tell them that it was won for them.

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