The Rise of Keelath

I remember nothing. This was my first thought.

This short was 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 PG-13.)

The first draft of this story was written around the time I had leveled Keelath through the death knight starter zone, in February of 2019, and it was posted on at about the same time. As part of the Great Revision of Keelath and Mirium’s old posts to clean up the cringe, I’ve also updated this short in July of 2021.

Since Keelath’s backstory has taken a different turn — he was freed from the Lich King by Sylvanas rather than by the paladins at Light’s Hope Chapel — this short may not be entirely canon, although it accurately reflects Keelath’s state of mind at the time of his raising into undeath.

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 swords in blood to ease my hunger, stir my veins with battle to please my new lord, but it is not enough.

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

To let the bloodthirsty nature of undeath 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. Those marks 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 made to wear to terrify his enemies?

My 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 deathly magic. Watery and thin.

My prey spoke to me today, gave me a name. It recognized my likeness, perhaps. Perhaps not. I am to be…Keelath? Meaningless perhaps, but like a pleasing note to my ears.

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 a hot wine after standing watch on the cold borders of Quel’Thalas.

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. The more I take in, the more alive I become. I take my first breath, fueled by the blood, and the air is cold.

My lord’s pleasure is one reason to hunt. This grasping at life, another.

There is an even a brighter sustenance available to us than blood. My lord showed me. He took the soul of the Defier and split it into pieces, gave us one piece each. It went beyond the warmth of blood. I took my second breath, and it was clear and crystalline, warm like the sun dancing on the lake near Silvermoon. Another memory.

He warned us not to be arrogant or complacent, to take too much of this new power at once. He unbound the soul shard while it was still inside us to show us. Like a knife tearing from my gut, it escaped. 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 before I partake. He showed us the technique. The Defier’s spirit went dark as he tortured it. I absorbed it, as the soul fragmented and blew off the victim like ashes, and I felt the pieces 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 Defier’s soul faded, so too did the need for breath, but this time without the horror of the maggots.

The experience was unsettling, yet alluring. I had remembered Silvermoon. A name to go with Quel’Thalas. Places I had once lived? 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 soul darkening arts. I swallowed several, but the breath of want never grew any better no matter how much we gorged. In hopes of a final satiety, the last soul I let linger uncorrupted, and I only lapped of it, bit by bit.

I could not stand her screaming for long, even though I had the invigorating breath to add my voice to hers, if I wished. I glimpsed things that unsettled me. Silvermoon, again. The uniform of my past position and a blade that went with it–a solid piece instead of the two corrupted shards I now wield. There was also 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 screaming with this strange pain, and he 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 ultimately after. It is like awakening from sleep, knowing one dreamt but not remembering 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 by Light-wielders of the Argent; our battle, lost. My enlightenment was stolen from me. His voice is gone from my head. His will, my purpose, is gone.

I am allowed to keep my blades and my flesh. They first bid me to return to my home in peace, like others of my kind similarly cursed, but the only home I know is war. The relentless hunger gnaws at me, threatening the slow and creeping sleep of rot if I am not allowed to replenish my flesh.

And so, in mercy, they offer me a new cause. These Argent paladins would recruit me, to hunt the lord who once enslaved me and filled me with this dark hunger. Sunwalker, they name me, like it is an oath. They knew me, or at least the one whose flesh I bear.

The name binds something in me. Perhaps eating souls is not the only way to remembering.

The souls of his dead army crumble before my blades. They taste dry, gumming my mouth. I am always hungry, their flesh unsatisfying, but the flesh of the living is forbidden me. The Argent 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. Am I to forever remain this way?

No new memories come.

He was killed tonight. My lord’s once-mighty presence faded like frost evaporating from dead grass. The Argent 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 now, as many of my kind do, that we would be horrified of what we have become, by our acts while under his will. As painful as my first and second breaths were, the mending of my shattered soul would be worse.

The Light-wielders have no need for us, but for our service they let us go free instead of subjecting us to a similar fate as his. Still they forbid our taking of their living flesh, and it is more like exile than freedom.

We begin to turn on each other like starved wolves. Some broke and slew the Argent, their tattered souls forfeit to the Light’s judgement.

I will not succumb to the feast. I do not know what drives me. Perhaps it is my name. Faced with no more enemies to fight, the only course I can see before 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 paladins 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *