The timeline on this one is a little strange, as the first part of The Rise of Keelath includes the Lich King’s defeat, while this one spends some time with Keelath while he was employed by Sylvanas pre-Wrath of the Lich King. The confusion might be canon on Keelath’s part, for his mental faculties took a while to kick in as one of the Scourge ghouls and then an early Forsaken death knight.
Though the publish date of this reads as April 1st, 2019, this was actually written on January 4th, 2022. The plugin I use to tie series together is outdated and can only organize posts by date, hence the confusion.Author’s Note
I do not sleep. My mind pulls tighter to the same thought, circling it like water spinning down a drain. Hours pass, the sun leaving different shadows of color across the cave mouth that leads to what is to be my mausoleum. The hunger grows rather than abates. I see blood, focus on its feel in my mouth, the re-beating of my heart as I chase imaginary prey. I struggle to see them as something other-than, comrades or family — people, not my quarry. It becomes harder as time draws on.
I feel the power of my limbs fade as the rot of stolen flesh advances. I build up my frost magic, feeling it not as a chill on my skin but as an easing of the faint disconcerting hum that the Lich King replaced my sense of pain with. I work the ice as a tomb for myself, to keep the rot-inducing warmth out and to keep myself safe within.
Yet this, too, drains me. I see now I am not one of the simple Forsaken, who can lose themselves to long meaningless stretches of existence, whiling away sleepless hours with book reading or water fetching. I was a death knight of the Lich King: an elite soldier, a shock troop. I was given the endless bloodlust so I would have motivation enough to carry out his will.
I could struggle with it, endlessly, and go mad from it. Or, and I am not sure if my logic was colored by the relentless urge, I could find an acceptable way to sate it. I needed another war.
On the eighth day, I broke through my ice barrier and left the cave, came down out of the hills.
I met her agents there, in the Silverpine woods. They recognized me for what I was, led me to their outpost in an old barn, fed me a few ounces blood of their prisoners. Who or what those prisoners were, I hadn’t the mind to ask, and now I have no desire to know. They promised me more, if I followed their orders. I had regained some ability to think of something other than murder, even though the hunger still racked me, and I remembered the oath I had made to the Argent paladins, to never take flesh of the innocent, and I spoke of it aloud.
They told me the paladins would never know if I broke that oath, and I knew it to be true. It would not be the worst thing I had ever done. Yet I felt a slipping in my mind, like a memory trying to bubble its way to the surface. There were no living souls nearby, and in my weakness, rage, and hunger, I instead took one of the Forsaken’s to sate me, to draw the memory out. Like the Scourge, its soul tasted gamey and gummy, unfulfilling. The memories I saw were a rush of evil ones. Standing alone on a hill looking down on the army of my enemies and knowing I would soon die. Standing on the other side of a doorway, hearing forest troll raiders pounding from without, knowing I only had minutes before they entered and slew me.
Why two memories of death? Were they both mine? Or had I tasted a glimpse of the Forsaken’s own death?
The others withdrew from me in the moment of rage, sensing my power and knowing they were no match. It put into action the chain of events that led a Dark Ranger to me. My life, such as it was, would be forfeit if I could not control my urges, she told me. Yet she would give me a chance, teaching me to put that hunger to other uses.
I was grateful, shaken as I was by the black memories and the power of that hunger when it was denied. I had little choice if it had been otherwise, but the teachings she gave me were wholesome: how to delay the hunger for more than a handful of days, how to let it loose in battle to best effect without becoming a danger to my allies.
There was goodness to her. I could tell by the scent of her soul that she was not as darkened and broken as the others. Perhaps she had been a mere Forsaken upon being raised and learned her warcraft afterward? She had been taught by Sylvanas; that I knew. That began my loyalty to the Banshee Queen.
Days turned to weeks became months. I served in Silverpine and then in Hillsbrad, part of the Forsaken war effort. Holdouts of Scourge fell before us, then humans of the Alliance. They were no innocents, for they threatened our existence. I learned never to expect understanding for our ways from those who wore Stormwind’s colors.
The bloodshed kept me satisfied, and I didn’t think to question it. The Ranger was otherwise. She still had memories of her old life, as the Lich King’s turning of her had not been as thorough. She questioned our meaning, made mention to a greater purpose than simply existing each day. It awoke in me a faint breath of remembrance. She thought of family and religion, always pulling me back from a life of war. Someone else used to do that for me: my once-wife, perhaps.
I did not share her views, though I wondered if faith had once been part of my life as it had so obviously once been a part of hers. Serving the sleepless Forsaken left no time for reflection however, and I put the thoughts away.
After I worked off my debts for the accidental slaying in Silverpine, I was given a rank and directed towards the Horde’s armies. Many lands I traveled and battles I fought in the Banshee’s name. I learned of their histories, that of Thrall and the tauren and the Horde at large, though I never knew anymore of myself but my name. No others in the Horde followed the Light as the Lordaeron Alliance once had, meaning there were no memories to distract me.
Sylvanas ensured I never ran dry of sustenance, even seeming to prefer I over-indulged whereas the Lich King would often run me dry to inflame my appetite. I was able to think less of prey and the hunt and more of ordinary matters. I put my mind to the task of seeing my predicament from the perspective of the living; that I might someday seek out my family and have to come to terms with them was always in the back of my mind. I tried food and drink like that I probably ate as a living elf, though I do not remember the dishes specifically. They tasted the same as dirt to me now, filling my stomach like rocks.
Sleep, too, remained out of my reach. I could meditate, though neither my temperament nor the constant hunger lended well to such an approach. I took night jobs as well as day jobs: sentry duty, repairs, other raids.
I brushed shoulders with trolls and with orcs during the day duties. They impressed me with their courage and comradery. I felt most comfortable among the orcs, who understood something of the mindless bloodlusting state and did not blanch at my inclination towards violence.
Then came the day the blood elves were invited to join the Horde’s ranks, and everything changed.
I had earned, by that time, trust and high rank in Sylvanas’ forces. I was there when she greeted the blood elves, and sensed in her the dismay and jealousy of their lives. I saw the elven ambassadors visibly shaken when they laid eyes on her and other undead elves like myself. I had a glimmer of memory of my wife and could imagine a similar shock if ever she were to discover me. I started wearing a full-faced helm; though it interfered with my partaking of blood in the middle of battle, it kept any from recognizing me, who did not know me by the colors upon my tabard.
Blood Knights were stationed with us. The presence of their Light was painful, carrying with it the same memory-seance as did devouring souls. It also brought sensation: feelings back to my fingertips, the need for breath, and true pain. I learned keeping my flesh in good repair staved off much of the pain, although the magic used to maintain it cost me in renewed bloodlust. The elves’ obvious disgust for such cannibalism also pained me. Enemies were no longer food, but people I was murdering. Each kill became a whiplash of pain, a scrambling of my mind as I was forced to reconcile what I had once been with what I was now.
I sought other stations away from the Light-cursed elves. Part of me wished a return to the darkness, even the Scourge.
Perhaps the Light was with me in more ways than one. I met my brother, my blood brother from life, and by his presence, I could not simply wither away.
We had fought shoulder to shoulder for many battles without knowing the other. He was grim and said little, seeing Forsaken like me as little more than another unit in the army, and I thought the same of him.
He was at my side when it came time to replenish my flesh and blood. His expression was more aghast than most while he watched me feed. I thought in irritation he must be green to the ways of battle.
“Keelath,” he then called me, and I understood more of his dismay. I didn’t know the depth of how deeply he had recognized me until he put a hand to my cheek, called me, “Brother.”
Some part of me expected more emotion on discovering my once-family. My brother was crying, but I could only watch and feel nothing. Logically, I knew his pain. Logically, I knew such reunions were rarely pleasant for either party, rarely led to lasting bonds no matter the attachment we might have had to each other in life. Yet he stayed at my side, and I did my best to ignore him as I finished my feed.
“It’s Tyrric, Keelath. Your little brother, Tyrric. Do you not remember me?” he asked me.
“We were close.”
“We are not close now,” I told him, and I meant it to be informative, to point out the reality of our differing existences, but it instead seemed to offend him.
Tyrric told me how I had died, how it had thrown the family into disarray as I might expect. I asked after the wife and son of my few memories, but he said only they were missing. He was expecting sorrow from me, but I thought it was probably for the best and said nothing. He seemed to assume it was a sore point and left it alone.
As the battlefront changed, so was Tyrric’s unit and mine to be assigned to different duties. He kept trying to find me regardless in between missions, trying to draw me back to his world of the living with stories and invitations to social gatherings. He became obsessed to my eyes, speaking often of how everything would be alright again if only I could regain my memory. As the weariness and broken expectations stacked up behind his eyes, I began to rebuff him more violently, once coming to blows. He needed to understand I was no elf now, but one of the undead, and I was not gentle.