Thursday, July 5, 2012

Site Write: Final

As with all ends, I chose to keep this one separate.  It was four posts long, or so.  

Were she alive, this may have been made another one of those copper-dreadful romance novels marketed by Goblins for adventurers with all coins and no sense. Were he alive, it may well have been the same situation (though the Trade Princes would've placed a higher premium on the story).

The cold fact of the matter was that both of them were dead. Nobody was interested in romance novels where both the principal parties had shuffled loose their mortal coil - nobody breathing, anyway. The dead tended to shy away from those novels as a matter of course.

She was a Ghoul. He knew this because he could feel the walled-off demesne in her soul every time he issued a directive. The wall was softer than most, because in life they had been...not lovers, but there was certainly an affection there gestated by a mutual past and built through years of camaraderie. However, she was a Ghoul. What's more, she was his Ghoul, purchased at a premium at the Bizarre - the place that the dead went when they had...special needs.

His was sums. The Ebon Blade was far from immune to bureaucracy, and a Ghoul capable of maintaining the separate set of numbers for both the unit and Eredis' own personal enterprises was worth its weight in whatever precious metal the living decided was worth their time. With a bag full of cupcakes and a sack of gold, he found both serendipity and dismay: Eredis' new Ghoul was the closest analogue to an old flame that the Death Knight had ever known.

Every time Eredis looked at the Ghoul named Numbercruncher, he instead saw Nancy and felt the wall between them. He would issue orders, and NC would follow them without question. Her vocal cords were intact, and like several Ghouls she was capable of a full range of speech. She would speak at his order, but almost none of the Knights ever knew that NC existed. They would only speak on occasion of a particularly delightful meal, even to the dead, at a bakery cart in Stormwind that was offered by a quiet young thing in a shadowy baker's cart on Canal Street. Eredis was even known to attend to the cart at times, though as time passed he strayed farther and farther away from the trappings he maintained in order to remember what it was like to be alive. The baker's cart on Canal Street was the genesis of the entire situation.

It was in that cart late one evening that Eredis and Nancy sat, facing one another.

Adjustments have to be made, he thought, as he stared at her. She stared back, unblinking. He could feel the wall there, and the wall was the origin of his problem: He simply could not function properly knowing that she was here. He had to know. He would solve this mystery, and bridge together the two sides of his unlife. Tonight.

"Do you love me?" he asked. Eredis could feel the small trickle of his will pass through the wall, meeting no resistance. He could always force the body to obey his command, but it was her soul that he was after. It was her soul that maintained the wall.

"Yes," came the answer. It was soft and hesitant. It tasted of vanilla cookies and moonberry - her favorites. It was the answer that brought a flickering memory of brisk days in Tirisfal after the Orcs had been broken and the Alliance had gone their separate ways. Of late nights making pastry and sunrise peeking over the mountaintops. They had watched many a sunrise together; it was one of many traditions she had come up with over the many years they had been in each others company.

"Why?" he asked. The tendrils of his will, green as a spider's ichor, flowed beyond the wall and he could feel the structure between them harden in his mind.

He received no response.

The wall was still there. It was his memory directing those feelings. Not hers.

"Answer," he persisted. Nothing.

He could feel the familiar spark of anger in the twisted morass Arthas termed a 'soul'. What he was still existed in there, at right angles to everything that he felt was right after dying. The thought of being a kindly baker who taught children how to cook and fed the orphans on the street was anathema to what he was. He was a golem built to destroy! Why was he doing this?

"Answer. Answer! What is required for you to answer?" Eredis thundered, standing up in the cart. He smacked his head on the ceiling and hissed in annoyance. He lifted his hand, clenched into a fist, ready to bring down pain and suffering, to sate his need for control, to inflict agony, agony that never came with his past so totally enthralled-


The fury that radiated in his core fled from his body like a nest of mice when a cat landed nearby. The cart felt colder. Eredis thought he could see the crystals of ice form in the eaves. Indeed, icicles were starting to bud from the rough, weathered planks.

"What?" Eredis asked. He fell onto a stool, staring at NC-no, Nancy again. A different spark was building, one that had a small tendril of its own in every aspect that comprised baker and soldier, man and corpse. One that had long since been subsumed and left to fester in his soul, lost and forgotten.


"Freedom," Nancy repeated. Her eyes showed the barest hint of spark while she stared at the Knight.

"But I-" Eredis started, caught off guard for the first time in perhaps a decade.

"Freedom," Nancy repeated once more. Eredis could hear her voice warm the cart, her own soul a direct opposite to what his had become. He could feel the wall between them weaken.

Was this really the answer?

"If I do so," Eredis said to her, "This will b-No! Damn you, I cannot do this! I won't!"

"You must," Nancy responded. Eredis couldn't even see her lips move, she was so quiet. So gentle. The sense of warmer days and quiet nights came back, and he turned away. The wall, the gulf between the two of them seemed so close to being conquered. He could almost see the shining beacon of light that would mean he could touch her soul, and perhaps find something pure and uncorrupted. Such things were rare in this day and age.

"This is not life," she continued. Her voice was in his ear, even as she sat there unblinking. "Not for you, nor I. If you wish your questions answered, you and I must look to the future, and not the past."
"Future?!" Eredis roared. "Past?! We are dead, woman! You and I! There is nothing here! There cannot be! You are mine, here, and now! Forever!"

Even as he said it, he could feel the wall stiffen. So close! He was-

"Am I?" Nancy asked. Her voice's warmth hadn't changed, but the tone seemed...softer still, sadder. "You avoid this place unless required to come here. You have thrown yourself into serving the living under the auspices of the dead. I remain here, forgotten. Did you love me, old man?

"Do you still?"

"YOU KNOW I DO!" he shouted, and in that moment he felt the wall between them fracture.

The rotted mortar and pitted stone of repression flowed back into the owner, bridging the gap between the twisted chill of Eredis' old and cynical soul and Nancy's warm, forgiving being.

The wall was not hers. She had never wanted to keep him at length like this, Eredis realized.

The wall was his.

The stone whirled and whipped back into Eredis, showing him the gulf he had built between the two out of affection for his first, and most capable charge. The hubris he had cultivated as he assumed it would be safe enough for her to tag along on the expedition to Northrend. The guilt for bringing her so close to utter destruction because he felt he could have his cake and eat it as well. All of it was done out of love.

The agony of it was enough to cause the Knight to press his hands into his eyes. He had been healed by the Light before, and this felt the same - it burned at his core, filling his body with the sensation that he was alive once more, and enveloped in magma. It felt as if his corpse was going to turn to ash, and the conduit that brought him this purifying, delicious, and terrifying agony was anchored in his own heart. It sated his needs - his undead desire to inflict pain, his internal need to feel alive once more, and his irresponsible wish to protect that which should have been set free long ago.

In the span of a moment, it was gone. Nancy's touch, soft and delicate like the down of a freshly-hatched gosling, rested on his shoulders. Her eyes glowed with an unholy fire, a green she had never had in life - but her soul, her being - everything that Eredis had tried to lock away was there.

The icicles above them had started to break apart as if shaved by a keen blade. A gentle snow had begun to fall inside the cart.

"I am free," she rasped. It was as if she had spoken for the first time that evening. She seemed unused to putting forth effort to speak.

"Your voice sounds different," Eredis noted, resting his hands on his knees. "You look different."

"I never spoke," Nancy said. "And I am as dead as you. It isn't the best of romance stories."
"Will you stay?" asked Eredis. The chill of his voice had faded, infused with the spark of...humanity, perhaps, unsure as it was.

"No," Nancy responded. "My will is my own, and I must..."

"I understand," he said. "I think...I am not sure."

"Neither am I," said Nancy. "But time is a resource we both have in abundance now, isn't it?"

Eredis smiled. He nodded once.

"I suppose it is."

Nancy leaned forward and planted a dry, tentative kiss on the Knight's forehead.

"You'll adjust," she said. She stepped past him to open the cart's door.

"Nancy," Eredis said as he turned, sitting alone in a cold, dark baker's cart on Canal Street. "Did yo-"

"Yes," she said. "Because you were wonderful. In time, you will be again."

"How do you know?" Eredis asked.

"Because you're much more than just a Death Knight," Nancy replied. "And much more than a baker."

"When will you return?" he asked.


Silence returned to Canal Street. After a time, light flickered on in a baker's cart, and a corpse with twin streaks of ice from his eyes rose from his stool to begin making the day's stock of comestibles. Dawn would come soon, and for the first time in many years he would stop his work to watch it break over Stormwind's harbor.

Site Write 4 - 'cause I can only count to three in French

Entry #28:  Suck it, I've done 28 in a row

That Geist's screech was getting on his nerves, but at least Lackey had done what Eredis had asked.

The Knight sat at a small stone table in a windowless room somewhere in the bowels of Acherus.  He had scribed a note to go out to a few select people - a copy, rather, of a note that he had received.

"Each to his grief, each to his loneliness and fidgety revenge."

Eredis snorted.  Knights knew of each, though their revenge couldn't be termed 'fidgety' even on the best of days.  To grief and loneliness, however...

The creatures of the 1113th knew well of both.  Their operatives would sow grief and separation wherever they went, and their pasts were rife with it.  Each had come to terms with their own grief and loneliness years ago - accomplished via regicide.  Even so, the Knights set aside a day every year that was for them to remember what it was to be alive, and to refresh their vows to the living.

The Day of the Dead.

During last year's Day, Eredis had dressed as he did in life - a baker, and stood atop a statue in Raven Hill's cemetery to tell the people that they, the dead, wished nothing but the best of life for the living.  That they died for the living and would do so again.  That in doing so, the dead wished that the living would take each day and truly live it.

To grieve, perhaps, but to realize that no living being is truly alone.  Everyone came into this world with loved ones, and even if they did die, those loved ones still watched and waited.

The dead, after all, are patient.  They have nothing but time.

Perhaps, Eredis surmised as he withdrew a small deck of hand-painted cards, he would have the Captain and the Commander both speak on this year's Day of the Dead.  There was some time, of course, but to each their grief, loneliness, and fidgety revenge.

The thought of subjecting them to public relations made his foot tap once.  Fidgety, indeed.

Entry #29: By Will Alone

It was raining.  Eredis could feel it hammering into the back of his skull.  The mud pushing up around his nostrils felt just as cold and clammy.  In reality, it should have suffocated him by now, but when one was already a corpse, mud was just an inconvenience.

A trio of folk some paces away were the source of Eredis' so-called 'dirt nap.'  They each held a cudgel and looked upon the unmoving body with trepidation.  They were murmuring to each other while expecting the body to rise up and menace them again.   Each of them wore the tabard of the Scarlet Crusade - or approximations of it, each swatch of white silk instead yellowed with age and misuse, and the scarlet flame drying out to look like matted old blood.

"Ain't nobody I know could survive a bludgeonin' like that!"

The words gave the corpse strength.  Eredis levered himself up to his feet, slicking back water against the gash in the side of his head.  The gleam of bone was visible for but a moment before frost started to build over the wound.  He set his gaze on the three, and said nothing.

"Wh-what are you?" asked the first.  "You should be dead!"

"I am dead," Eredis responded, flexing his hands.  Everything still seemed to be in order.

"N-no!" said the first in response.  He lifted his cudgel again and stepped forward.  "You should stay dead!"

Eredis smiled.  It wasn't a happy smile, one meant to deliver warmth - it was one that ensured that his addictions - normally under control - were about to be sated.

"Your friend on the left," he rasped, "I'll call that one 'Renfield.  The one on the right, I'll call that one Lackey."

"What are you talking about?!" shouted the first.  The other two looked at each other, taking a step back.

"I'm going to turn them into ghouls after I kill them," Eredis responded.  He could feel it now, the fear giving him power.  The will to live in spite of being dead.

To continue to perform in spite of the people trying to prevent you from doing it.

"You I'll turn to ghoul food."

Eredis took another step forward, and he could feel the frost gather.

Entry #30: Retelling

"So there we were, just four Dwarves an' this cook from Lordaeron in a Steam Tank, and just over the pass were no less than three hundred Orcs!"

The speaker was a Dwarf, enough of a back-mountain breed that the assembled could barely understand him.  His bright red hair and paler features(and the engraved bronze stein in his hand) proclaimed him to be of the Ironforge stock, though there was talk that the Wildhammers in the north would be coming down in the nearing days. 

His audience was the exact opposite of the exuberant Dwarf - they were all dead.  Only a few of them, each the living dead known as Death Knights.  They'd managed to corral the Dwarf and ply him with (a lot) of alcohol to get a story out of him - one of one of their commanders, back when he was alive.

To his credit, Bergmann was playing to the crowd.  His squad of Orcs had grown to an army, the reinforced column the tank was a part of had dwindled to a single vehicle, and the importance of the Orcs had grown and grown until it was Orgrim Doomhammer himself heading the forces arrayed against them. 

Or at least until his stein was empty.  Then one of the Death Knights would summon another round for the belabored Paladin and he would start his story anew.

"...An' that's how he got us past the Black Mountain and into Redridge, where the tank fell apart after crashin' through the gate!  It's why it stands open to this very day!"


About an hour later, Bergmann staggered out of Bruuk's Tavern, where a taciturn man sat on a crate outside.

"You're getting sloppy, Sergeant," the man said.

"WHhzzzltghlnffrn," responded Bergmann.

"I recall you could've told that story with twice as many drinks.  Perhaps you're just getting soft."

The Dwarf hiccuped, and the man hopped off the crate to help carry him home.

Entry #31:  Confession

"What say you?"

Boyd was standing (in chains (again))  in front of a magistrate.  Behind him were a crowd of angry people, howling with rage at the man while the stern-faced man in a powdered wig that looked very suspiciously blue.

"So...lemme get this straight," Boyd said.  "If'n I don't admit that Professor Macgillycuddy's Unambigusously Uniform Undead Unguent, guaranteed t' unglue any undead, is a hoax, then yer gonna lock me in th' pillory an' let this crowd tar an' feather me again?"

The crowd looked on.  They were hungry.

"An' if I do, I'll spend three days in a cell an' I can't come back to town for a whole year?"

The magistrate nodded.  "Those are the terms."

Boyd shrugged.  "It's a fair cop.  Undead unguent only works on 'alf dead skeletons, not the Death Knights who keep fightin' an' drinkin' in Goldshire."

Entry #32: The Upright Man

It wasn't that Boyd hated fighting.  He simply preferred not to get shot at, or stabbed, or swung at, or any of a myriad of things that equaled pain and ended with an overly worried girl clucking at his inability to get out of something's way.

The trouble was, he preferred money more than he disliked pain, and putting himself into harm's way often meant he got paid a lot more.  Plenty of folk valued their skin at a fair coin, and when Professor Macgillycuddy's Delightful Daily Dehydrator ended up shrinking that poor woman's blouse to something you'd see on a Bloodsail Pirate wench, well...sometimes honest money was worth it.

This afternoon, though, Boyd needed the catharsis that fighting provided.  There was a simple beauty to it, really, as fists met flesh, more fists met an inch-thick plate of tempered steel, the howls of broken hands, feet, and the whimper of grown men trying to crawl away from the fracas.  It was nothing a bribe to a Priest wouldn't fix - well, that and a few tankards of the Golden Keg's best - but in the moments after Boyd's happy violence when he found Rabbit tied to a chair (with no appreciable profit in sight), the damage was enough. The only injuries he sustained were to Rabbit's professional pride at someone who didn't need a plated lunk to bail her out of trouble.  Really, it wasn't even to him!

They kept a tally.  It was always worth a tankard at the Keg when Boyd was able to even the score a bit.

And so, now, they had a lad that Rabbit termed 'Thickie' tied to the chair, and a small woman flailing around the room after putting her bandages back over her eyes.  She'd fallen three or four times over the groaning forms of the other men - each one always eliciting a howl - until Boyd had patiently explained that, yes, he had already lifted their purses, and could she go and catch Skaven's ear for a bit of conversation?

Rabbit had muttered something about Thickie being the 'Upright Man' as she tottered off to find the head of the Canal Rats and wheedle out a bit of a reward at nabbing a team of poachers on their turf.  In today's economy, one took what one could get.  Boyd figured he had about ten minutes of good questioning time before the Rats came in.

The trouble was, Boyd had absolutely no questions.  So he decided to take a different route.

"D'yeh know what you did wrong?" Boyd asked as he tidied up what was left of the room.  He didn't listen for answers nor really wait for them.  He did see a few near-gold fillings at strategic points in the woodwork of the floor, and idly wondered what they might be worth as he gathered them up.

"Three...four...five.  Not terrible.  Where was I?  Right!  Y'said you were an Upright Man.

"See, around here there's a certain...accord, I'd guess, between all the folks who make an honest livin' doin' deeds termed unsavory.  Keep things on the down-low, if you catch my meanin'.  Keeps the guards away, pockets not as full but certainly safer, and folks get to eat.  Really, that's all we all ask for, right?"

He tucked the gold fillings away in a pouch for future use.  A few minutes at the forge and he could melt them down, maybe coat a few coppers and swindle a tankard or two of the better swill.

"Well, even the street gangs might 'ave an Upright Man or two, but they always answer to each other, lest the unsavory deeds get downright uncivilized, and when the Horde and the demons and such are knocking on our doors, we can't have an uncivilized populace, right?

"So's bein' an Upright Man of the Grey Goose, you should know this, an' you went off and nicked m'girl without so even as a by-your-leave t' the Rats, on their turf, an' I suppose they an' I might get pretty angry, yeh?  Right."

Boyd could hear murmuring and sounds coming from the entryway.  He smiled as he heard Rabbit's higher tone, as it suggested they'd gotten top coin for the poacher's bounty.

"Sounds like the boys are here, Thickie.  Bounty on a poacher's a gold a pop, two for their Upright Man.  It looks like your Grey Goose..."

Boyd turned, settling his goggles on his head as he walked out.

"...Is cooked."

Site Write: Trois

Entry #19: Sleepless

Things had nearly returned to normal at the Canal Street Bakery.  Nearly.

For a time, people were confused when the restaurant kept odd hours.  That is, it kept normal hours.  People in the Canal district knew that the bakery was a strange place in that there were fresh-baked goods at nearly any hour of the day, yet there was only one chef on the payroll there, the proprietor.  And for a time, the proprietor was missing.  Business faltered.  There were no goods to sell.  What of the other workers, the patrons asked.

Anyone else was simply serving staff or trying to enroll in one of the cooking classes that the baker offered for free on special days, if you got on his good side.

Some surmised that the reason for this was that the more who could bake fine cookies, the happier the world would be.  This was a fine belief in dark days during the Cataclysm, or even before when Arthas still ruled.  Now, it was simply a fine recipe for cookies.

However, the people in Stormwind now felt a little better that there were fine meals at any time of the day.  As long as one recognized there was an hour or two every day that was reserved for the baker's private time plus the occasional fire that required extinguising, everyone could be happy.

Everyone, perhaps, save the baker himself.  He still couldn't sleep, even when he thought he was alive.  Now he knew the truth of it, and two histories came together as one. 

Though it removed the uncertainty in his (un)life, and opened up so much more time for idle pursuits, the baker couldn't help but feel...something.

But that was why he spent his free time running a restaurant.  It took his mind off the sleeplessness and uncertainty, and directly transferred effort into tangible results.

Entry #20: Without Whom

There are some people that could completely ruin one's perception of an entire species.  It may be somewhat shallow, Eredis conceded as he listened to the rapid-fire tones of a language that set his teeth on edge even in death, but some people are simply that annoying.

So it was with this Huntress that prattled on about the combat readiness of her troops and how she had single-handedly defended the entirety of Kalimdor without the assistance of the vaunted Alliance.  He stood in Darnassus alongside another Knight while on a trip of diplomacy, though in this case 'diplomacy' translated to 'listen to the goat-faced woman whine about a lack of reinforcements she never requested in the first place.'

As the Huntress continued to prattle, Eredis tilted his head and raked his eyes over the assembled regiment of Kaldorei.  They puffed their chests with pride in their commander and remained mostly in silence, save the occasional breaking of said silence with some quip in Darnassian.

Their formation was sloppy and their discipline matched it.  It was no wonder Eredis didn't like this woman - she was all speech and no action.

Entry #21: Forget Whom

It would be simple, Eredis surmised as he poured batter into pans for baking.

Thunder Bluff was easier to get to these days, now that the flight restrictions had been lifted over Mulgore.  A simple combat drop during a resource raid from the nearby Alliance outposts would coax Bloodhoof out long enough for Eredis to drop off his gryphon and run the bullman through.

He would smile as his men screened the guards long enough to twist the blade in and declare, "Magatha Grimtotem sends her regards."  Make sure the damage was enough that no manner of healing would fix the Tauren as his life's blood fertilized the dry mesa soil. 

With acceptable losses, they would drop off the mesa's edge, reacquire their bone gryphons, and exfiltrate.  The Tauren would be aghast at losing the next in the Bloodhoof line.  They would be scattered, weak.  Useless.  Another becalming influence on Garrosh, gone.

Either they would retreat to lick their wounds and deny the Horde their support, or they would charge right in alongside the Orcs, and fall victim to a prepared defense and sweeping counterattack.

Eredis placed the pans in the oven and tapped the heating crystal.  The fire elemental within blazed happily as it always did, and the cupcakes began to form. 

He shook his head.  A flight of fancy with too many risky elements.  Their time would have to come in a different manner.

Entry #22:  The First Taste is Always Free

The ovens were open and the trays were cooling on racks in the kitchen.  The baker had paid out an inordinate sum to a trio of Dwarven architects to put together a proper ventilation system for the bakery's kitchen.  It wasn't that the building's air control was substandard (for the area, where none of the buildings had adequate jakes), but that it could be better.

For instance, Dwarves know how to vent a cooling confection's aroma out into the street to properly entice passers-by who may not even stop in for a bite to eat.

However, the Canal Street Bakery had its share of regular patrons, walk-ins, and then the die-hard fanatics of sweets.  They were the ones who didn't hesitate to hand over a year's worth of wages for any farmer or sawmill's hand for a fine meal and bottle of wine, eat more food in a sitting than a peasant family would eat in a week, and debate endlessly about the battles of the day and how they fared after the smoke had cleared.

They were, of course, adventurers, which are the bread and butter of the restaurant industry.

Today's cuisine junkie, however, was a noblewoman from the castle.  She had been discussing the week's petitions to the King with her compatriots, who had each ordered five golds' worth of food and wine, and commanded the leavings be carted off to be burned as they could in no way be fit for leftovers after they had been in the august presence of nobility.

The baker wholeheartedly agreed, and preferred to set out the day-olds for the kids in the alleyways who knew when to come up to the door - and if work was busy that day, they even got a copper or two in order to run messages or deliveries.

The noblewoman, who once was a skinny thing who was exiled from Lordaeron during their time of troubles (and had since gained about twenty pounds as her mouth needed to be filled with food in order to keep words from tumbling out of it), loudly proclaimed that the redress of grievances of the Confectioner's Union #6, Stormwind, would never reach Varian without her approval.  Her compatriots were in the midst of a ten-minute argument of agreement with this notion when the last course arrived - a box of cupcakes for each of them to take home.

This did meet with the noblewoman's approval, and they filed out into the afternoon to stagger back to the castle for the afternoon's meetings.

The baker, naturally, had heard every word.  When one hires a trio of Dwarven architects to redesign a bakery's ventilation system, you may as well go the extra mile and ensure that the conversations from every table can reach one's ears.

Eredis turned from the trays and scribbled a note to hand off to an urchin standing at the back door of his establishment.  Adding a copper to the young whelp's hand, he said, "Run this to the clerk at the castle, and let him know to subtly spread the word that if the Confectioner's Union's redress is not heard, then the luxury sweets the nobility is used to will go elsewhere."

Elling Trias, Eredis thought as he went back to work, certainly had the right idea.

Entry #23: If Only

The Borean Tundra had its chill moments, especially when the northerly wind blew off the ice caps onto Valiance Keep, where the assorted Knights attached to the Alliance Expeditionary Group had claimed a stake for a headquarters.  The cold didn't bother them much at all, nor did it bother two of the three Horde who had come to the floes to speak to the gathered Knights that day.

They had come under a flag of parley, and the major was feeling charitable.  The expedition had achieved many successes in the face of what many considered to be certain failure, so a flag of parley would be honored.  Eredis was curious about what the trio had to say.

The Doctor and the Dark Ranger were well known to Eredis as figureheads within the Horde's Combat Operations division.  Yulenia and Rasomil flanked the third, an orc which Eredis had heard much of, and whose actions made him none but a steadfast opponent in everything the Knights did.


Choosing an ice floe away form the Keep itself where the chill winds bit and caused icicles to form on the armor of the various corpses in attendance, Urgas made a heartfelt (and chattering) plea - not for leniency in the face of a tactically superior foe, nor for one of cessation of hostilities.  His plea was one for amnesty - for the Knights.

Uttering justifications for the Knights to turn and join the Horde that Sylvanas would later echo during the Cataclysm, Urgas touched on the Alliance's lack of support for those dead who still served the Lion of Stormwind, the hatred that the Alliance members felt for the former Scourge, and the understanding that they would indeed find a home within Thrall's Horde.

Curious, Eredis listened to the entire plea, and offered one word in response:  No.

Entry #24: Looking Ahead

Bakeries tended to change little with the times.  Certainly, more powerful and more efficient ovens could be installed, new recipes could be experimented upon and tinkered with to the delight or dismay of patrons, and prices could rise and fall. 

In the end, however, a bakery sold tasty goods at a price that patrons could afford in order to assuage their cravings.

Canal Street had branched out in the aftermath of several wars, a Cataclysm, and the nonsense in Pandaria.  After Velen's 'Unstoppable Army of the Light' made its debut and achieved its costly victory, Eredis found he had nothing but time on his hands while the Ebon Blade withdrew more and more of its people to stand the Long Vigil in the frozen north.

Where there was a single bakery in Stormwind (and a delivery service that had to be seen to be believed), there were now several: Stormwind, Lordaeron, Ratchet, Dalaran and Shattrath.  Each had an 'executive baker' he had trained over the years - a never-ending cavalcade of ne'er-do-wells, young pups looking to make a living, or retired soldiers looking to do something quieter with their time.  Each knew how to make all the recipes that the people loved, and had specialities that were true to the locations they served.  Ratchet had succulent meat pies that caused a riot that nearly capsized a ship at the dock when they ran out, Lordaeron's Undercity location was known worldwide for its pumpkin gourd soup, and Dalaran's 'Professor Macgillycuddy's Magical Moonwell Brew' confounded the mages with its carbonated nature.

Eredis still talked with all of the people who ran his bakeries, and kept in touch with the Knights that still wandered Azeroth and Draenor instead of standing the Long Vigil or simply dying off.  When the world of war had come to a close, there was little reason for a Death Knight to remain with the living.  The dead should stay with their own kind at times, though to let a blade rust in the mud is a travesty. 

And so Eredis remained in the original Canal Street Bakery, known for its cupcakes, and kept the knowledge alive that even the dead could still be of use, and even the dead could make something wonderful.

((After a lengthy drive, Val's exhausted and I'm feeling creative.  Go figure!  She'll have hers up tomorrow, likely, while I squee over a new car stereo from Crutchfield.  lolpackingwut))

Entry #25: Succulence

"The secret is in the succulence."

Eredis pulled a hefty cast-iron pan away from the stovetop.  It was filled with a mouth-watering array of chopped vegetables, finely-sliced strips of some sort of meat (by the smell, it may well have been warp chaser), and a bevy of spices and additives that were known as 'the Colonel's Secret Recipe.' 

(That wasn't well known, as other restaraunteurs may have taken offense and lodged a complaint with King Wrynn.  He was a Brigadier now anyway, so it wasn't as dangerous.)

The baker began adding the concoction to rounds of flat dough placed in small pie pans, cutting vents into the pietops and readying them with a dash of melted butter to go into the oven.  A rather fat noblewoman was watching him do this, her beady eyes on the small parchment next to the Knight's left arm.  The text atop could barely be made out, and suggested something about said secret recipe.

The noblewoman herself had a box of cupcakes next to her, and was no longer loudly proclaiming difficulties for the Confectioner's Union Local.  Instead, she had huffed, and puffed (and sat to take a few deep breaths), and demanded a private audience with the Executive of the Canal Street Bakery.  There would be answers, she demanded.

Eredis had acceded to her whims, on one condition:  That she would come in the early hours while he prepared the day's menu.  There, all questions would be answered.

To hear the truth as she told it, she only had two:  Why did this bakery bring in so many golds, and how could she get some of those golds into her pocket?

Eredis was only willing to answer the first, though he did ply her with another tray of cupcakes that had just come out of the oven when she had arrived, alone - as agreed - and promptly began feeding her sweet tooth.

"The flavor has to be locked in," Eredis continued while the tray of cupcakes continued to dwindle.  He pretended not to notice, but there as a minute nod every time he saw the confections in their no-holds-barred Last Cake Standing. 

"Succulence," he repeated.  "Do you know what that means?"

Ignoring any reaction from the noblewoman (who was looking a touch drowsy), he continued.  "Juicy.  Tasty.  Filled with flavor.  That is why the Canal Street Bakery excels at what it does, Your Grace.  We endeavour to ensure every bite is bursting with flavor, and that is why our customers are so loyal."

He continued to prepare his pies, ignoring the clatter of the tray as it landed on the floor.  "And when the nobility decides they should take what is rightfully someone else's, the Canal Street Bakery has a quiet agreement with the other businesses in the area.  It helps to have the contacts I do, Your Grace."

Eredis looked over, to see the noblewoman near unconscious, her mouth caked with frosting.

"And when the source of such trouble is so addicted to succulence that she gorges herself on cupcakes planted by an egregious impostor, who had laced the frosting with Dreamfoil, something the Canal Street Bakery would never do, well, one would wonder why she tried to eat all that evidence.  Fortunately, I have here a writ signed by your hand that provides the answer, Your Grace."

Eredis permitted himself a small smile as the woman began to burble.  Her incoherence had a cetain...succulence to it.

"The investigation into your holdings will not be pleasant, Your Grace, but...Who would believe a mere baker would be capable of such work?  Have a most pleasant evening, Your Grace."

After the burbling turned to snores, he set the pies in the oven, and summoned the urchins to ensure the noblewoman made it home safely...if not considerably lighter of purse.

Entry #26: Beauty

The dead woman was furious, and Exarch Ortuuze found it captivating.

There was something to the undead Draenei that he found so alive,  Perhaps it was the angry flick to the sway of her tail, the way the Saronite plates in her gloves creaked when she clenched her fists, or the subtle burr in her voice as the Common caught on the scar across her throat. 

When she spoke Draenei, it was pure and unaccented - what one would expect from millenia aboard a ship of the Nether.  When she spoke the local tongue, it was thick, angry, and rough - but alive.  How could a woman so dead feel so alive?

Ortuuze was not certain, but he knew this woman in life and again in death, and even now as she raged at him in two languages for his naturally upbeat demeanor, he could barely tell where life ended and death began.

It was seamless.  Her skin was smooth as the finest of silks, and as cool as the freshest Nagrand springs.  Her rage burned hot, bubbled as magma boiling to her eyes and mouth before bursting forth with the fury of the choicest, most considered curses as to his lineage and training.  Her arms trembled with barely-contained fury, each sinew taut like a cable ready to snap, and send her axe flying forward into his skull.

But even then, there was control.  Buried behind the life in her eyes, there was that cool blue spark of control.  The Exarch knew his death would not be found that day, and the Naaru had other plans for him - and for her.  Even as her heart ceased beating, they in their myriad of ways had found purpose to keep her moving, thinking, and being.

To stay alive, even when life had fled.  And she was beautiful for it.

Ortuuze knew better than to say such, however.  The Naaru may have a plan for everyone, but even they cannot save an Exarch who had stepped too far over his bounds.  If it wasn't the vision of beautiful fury before him, it would be another who would be just as furious at his dalliances with the past, and was far less cautious with her thunderbolts.

Entry #27: Beggars and Thieves

"'Scuse me sir, might you spare a moment for a homeless man?"

Boyd froze.  A man was asking for his time.  That was a code.  Wasn't it?

Thieves, naturally, had lots of codes.  Cants, ciphers, drops, passes, cons, flukes, runs, trips, angles and even offers.  Was-was this an offer?  One he couldn't refuse?

"I 'AVEN'T DONE NUFFIN!" he cried, whirling on the-wait, what was this?

He was clearly a homeless man!  He wore no shirt!  He wore tattered pants!  No shoes!  He stank of a life in the sewers and alleyways of Stormwind City, of dried blood from fighting off other hobos for a fish, and of fish from eating a fish he'd fought off other hobos to devour!

His tradecraft was amazing!  What was his angle?  (Thieves had angles.)

The 'homeless' man looked confused.  Or was it an act?  Boyd was sure it was an act.  "I was just wonderin' if-"

Boyd interrupted.  "Wot's your angle?  Fancy a dip?  Bob and weave?  Hair of the were?  Who's your marker?  Your boss?  Are you the boss?  Wot's the code?  Is your code the code?"

"Sir, I ain't sure wha-"

"You with the Dock Street Doxies?"


"Canal Rats?"

"The wha-"


"I jus' want a cheese!"

That brought Boyd up short.  He had an idea of most of the criminal groups in Stormwind (having run afoul of nearly all of them in the past month for some reason or another) and 'wanting a cheese' was the first cant he hadn't heard of.

"A cheese?" Boyd asked.

"Yessir, heard you muttering about cheese and the Watch earlier."

He was a buyer's rep!  Amazing!  Well, two could play coy.

"Yessss," Boyd drawled as he reached into his pocket.  "I have a...cheese right here."

The man looked hopeful as Boyd dumped something small, heavy, and likely of questionable value into the man's hand.  Boyd, to his credit, beamed.

"You run on and tell your boss that Arthur Pilkington's got all the cheese in Stormwind," he said, turning on a foot and continuing on his way.  Behind him, the homeless man looked at the shiny brass pocketwatch that the odd Gilnean had dropped in his hand and ambled off towards Trias' place to see if he could swap it for a wedge of Swiss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Site Write, part deux

Entry #10


Somehow, it always came to the Old Gods, and a tried-and-true method to counter them had been used four times now:  Unity.

Unity, Eredis mused as he prodded the corpse of a giant eyeball, will save this world.

And yet, the prevailing attitude of 'got mine, ($^& yours' will destroy it.

Even here, in the shattered sanctum of a dead god, Eredis could feel the whispers crawling along his skin.  That a corpse's skin could crawl was, in and of itself, impressive.

I recognize this stink.  I smelled it in the Highlands.  Cho'gall stank like this before the others killed him.  Even dead, that was your doing, was it?


The death knight hesitated for a moment, then shrugged.  After the life (and unlife) he had led, having a telepathic conversation with the corpse of a dead god that lie dreaming was well within the realm of possibility.

Why? Eredis mused.

we embody freedom

Eredis arched an eyebrow.  Freedom?  From what?

all the restrictions you place upon yourself we strip it away be free be free and serve out of gratitude

A long silence was punctuated by a snort, then the wet smack of a hand against rotting eyeball.

"You'll have to do better than that, eyeball."

Still.  Now the crazy postings around Stormwind make more sense.

don't they

Entry #11



"Drink it."

"You realize I-"

"I know.  Drink it.  And throw your hood up."

Tastes like a sugar cookie, Eredis reflected.  Reminds me of...

Old Stormwind.  Not the bright, shining walls, nor the slate roofs of the placed houses, not the solid gates nor the towering Keep.  No, the Old Stormwind of his memory was the dirty back-alleys and the refuse pits, storm drains where beggar children made their homes for the dry evenings and the rear doors to the taverns where they occasionally got a chunk of roast fowl and a sip of ale in exchange for a few coppers that they managed to beg, borrow, or steal.

He could still smell it - the scent of unwashed bodies, old garbage, and night soil that sat before the shovel men came to cart the refuse off for the farmers down in Westfall.  He could see the grime on the cobblestones, and taste the greasy smoke from the back-alley cookfires that kept the vagrant population warm.

And there, scuttling under a half-rotted barrel, was a boy no more than four - hiding from the conscript teams.  They'd done a double-duty in those days; either find young ones to press into service, or get the younger ones for work around the camp.  Make them polish blades, carry lances for the Knights, and take care of the wagons when Stormwind marched to war.

With a sigh of reminiscence, Eredis closed his eyes.  Something...shifted, and he opened them again.  There was the boy, cowering under a half-rotted barrel.

With a cautious step, the hooded man came forward and withdrew something from his bag, kneeling.  He grinned underneath his cowl, sure that the boy couldn't see it. 

"Here.  Have one of these, and you'll feel better.  And don't be scared.  Whenever you're scared, think of these."

He placed the cookie into the trembling boy's hand, and turned away.  He hesitated when he heard a trembling 'thank you', and passed out of the alleyway towards the conscript teams with nary a nod.

It would be a better life for the boy, he reflected, as the same thing had happened to him.

Entry #12: Pathetic

He couldn't concentrate.  He couldn't focus.

All Eredis could do was pace on the dock and seethe.

They sought to overthrow him.  Him!  He'd survived more warfare than most of the ones had been alive - AND dead!  And they sought to have him removed?  And the newly-promoted Captain looked to quit?  To leave?

For what?  Making a stew?

This will not do, he thought as his hands clenched around the hilts of his weapons.  The Death Knights in Acherus had always had a funny (not 'ha ha', but strange) sense of humor when it came to discipline, he had discovered during his assignment with the Verdict.  If a Knight was too pathetic to do their duty, too weak to fight, too mired in insubordination to be worth their time, they were mildly titled 'Spineless'.

The difference between an empty swear and a Death Knight's use of the term, however, filled canyons.  If a Knight is Spineless, they are repurposed.  Nothing that is brought back is pathetic by the time the runeforges have banked for the day.

That is why a Sergeant and a Captain were still on the active roster, despite being titled Spineless.

Eredis' hands gripped the hilts of both his swords, drawing them to look at the undulating spines that had been reinforced with saronite and splined so that the serrated edges and blood channel brought the stuff directly into the nutrient chamber within each pommel.

The Captain and the Sergeant needed to eat, after all.  The were at the height of their useful lifespans.

Entry #13:  Animal Companions

"KOLYA!" the Draenei thundered, a Dwarven ale stein in one meaty hand, "Why did you spill the ale?"

The Draenei was very clearly drunk, teetering on the edge of a log facing a campfire that brought warmth to the deepening twilight near Thelsamar.  Baikonur had spent a long hour bickering with the Dwarves of the bustling town over animal skins, steel implements, and the occasional land rights to a tunnel somewhere near Vashj'ir.  And now Kolya had spilled the ale!

An answering snort was accompanied by the approach of a boar to the campfire.  It was no ordinary boar, having the lean muscle and large tusks that suggested that perhaps a Troll and an Orc had been bewitched and had congress with a sow after some ritual gone wrong. 

Kolya was big.  And he was also pushing a barrel along with his snout.

The drunken trader took another drink from his stein and leaned forward, balanced precariously on the log.

"Is that - KOLYA! The greatest of all my friends!  You brought a replacement from town!"

The echo of a mad Draenei's laughter echoed against the mountains, cut short by a crash that suggested that both the log and gravity had teamed up to bring low a simple trader that liked to drink.

Entry #14:  There And Back Again

After the fire had banked itself to coals, and Kolya had cuddled up with what was left of the ale tankard, Baikonur leaned back against the treacherous log that had betrayed him so cruelly and withdrew a small bauble from the inside of his shirt.

It was small and unassuming, though the depths of the round stone glimmered as if it were hiding great power.  It wasn't a ten-copper glass bauble sold to a bird man, nor was it an artifact of great power.  It was simply the component of a ritual.

He closed his eyes and started to rub the bauble with his thumb, murmuring to himself with the hint of a slur that suggested that happy drinking had gone to maudlin drinking, and then he started to speak as if he were in a different place and a different time entirely.

"Laika, dear.  I made sixteen trades today.  Furs for food, food for ale, ale for metal, metal for more ale, ale for more metal, and finally metal for everything I needed to ensure the community was properly outfitted.  These Dwarves, you would like them, Laika.  You would like everyone on this world."

"Would I?" asked a sultry contralto.  Baikonur smiled, but did not open his eyes.  He didn't need to in order to see her.  Tall, slender, with hair of silver and a button nose.  A smile that told the drunken trader that she saw right through his stories and negotiations.

And eyes that-no.  The last time he had seen those eyes, they held no life, wide and sightless, on a world that no longer had a name, or a history.

"You've called me again," the voice said.  "To tell me about your travels?"

"No," Baiko replied.  He clicked his tongue, feeling it leaden and thick against the top of his mouth.  "No, there is a different reason I called you here tonight, Laika."

She sounded amused.  "And why is that, my drunken lout?"

"To tell you that I miss you."

For once, the apparition was silent.  The apparition that only appeared when he was a casket in on special nights, when everyone was asleep and the shadows had lengthened to their longest underneath the light of an ever-present moon (or two, or even six, one time).  The apparition of a Farseer who would see no farther.

"Look at me, Baikonur."

The Draenei sighed, shaking his head.  "I cannot.  I will not.  I cannot see those eyes again."

"You will."

He shook his head again.  "No!  You cannot make me!  I only wished-"

"Baikonur, this instant."

His eyes snapped open.   There, on the other side of the fire, idly scratching the slumbering boar between his ears, was the woman he had left a thousand worlds ago.  All he could do was smile.

"You're here," he said.

"I am," she replied.

And underneath the twin moons of Azeroth, near Thelsamar, a Draenei smiled while he slept near a fire that had banked down to naught but coals.

Entry #15:  The Itch

It was there.  Center back, where his lengthy fingers couldn't reach.  As if some Gilnean street mite had poked him repeatedly with a stick, right there, and ran off laughing before he could swat it away.  But Boyd Macnormelton (everyone called him Norm, or Badger, or 'hey you', but never Boyd) had come up with a solution that sat on the table in front of him.

"Badge, what're you-"

"Not now, Rabbit.  I'm goin' to fix this for good now.  Professor Macgillycuddy's Simply Superb Serentical Spine Sensitivity Stimulator!"

"Badge, it's a windmill of scratchies with fireworks on."

And indeed it was.  This device, slightly larger than a breadbox, looked like some kind of wheel that had several delicately-adjusted claws that would run down one's spine as the device spun, ensuring that all areas of the middle of the back received adequate anti-itch stimulation.  Low-yield rockets were attached at integral points to ensure the device spun of its own accord, and would peter out only after twenty two seconds - scientifically proven by the lads at Boom Monthly to be the optimal duration for a really good back scritching.

"I said not now, Rabbit.  I got an itch I need to scratch an' then we're going to make a mint off this latest invention!"

"Oh y'do?" the small woman asked, sidling up behind him.  Her hand was already pressed against his back, the other one reaching into one of his pockets to lift the candy tin she knew was there.  "Where at?  I'll get i-"

"No you will not!" Boyd said, pushing her aside as he reached for his striker with his free arm.  "I am going to test this, now stand back!"

Rabbit did so, having acquired the tin of candies rather adroitly.  "Mmrhgtl," she responded, having squirrled up three or four lemon drops before Boyd noticed the tin was gone.

"And a one, and a two, and--"


After the smoke cleared and Boyd wasn't seeing four of Rabbit trying to cough up lemon drops, he noted that itch was finally gone - replaced by an odd burning sensation, and a rather strange draft behind him.  Professor Macgillycuddy's Simply Superb Serentical Spine Sensitivity Stimulator, however, had gone the way of all windmills with fireworks on:  tilt.

Entry #16: Dealer's Choice

"Lissen, it's real simple.  You tell 'em you're a priestess an' you're buyin' that necklace, an' I come in as a member of the Stormwind Guard an' arrest yer for counterfeit coins."

The speaker, naturally, was dressed in the gleaming armor that the Stormwind Guard was known for.  The Blues were all over Stormwind, guarding everything

Really, it had made larceny, even petty larceny, very difficult.  When someone clanging around in full plate shouting demands to cease and desist barges in on your delicate operation, the ringing makes your ears so tinny that all you hear is 'ur unner arest'.

Fortunately, the Guard were mostly after the flashy, slow, stupid criminals.  This con was a beaut.

"But Badge.  The coins ain't counterfeit."

"Course they ain't," the man replied.  "An' neither's the necklace.  But we's needin' it for evidence, right?"

"Oh, right."

"Good girl.  Now g-"

Their plan was interrupted by the crash of breaking glass as a thief clad in the dark Saronite plate of the Ebon Blade came stumbling out of the jewelry store, necklace in hand.

"I AM THE DREAD LORD BARON BONEHALLOW!" he thundered as he stuffed the necklace into his armor.  "AND YOU WILL RUE THE DAY THA--"

"Oi!" Boyd shouted, clad in his plate armor.  "Knock the noise off an' drop the shinies, or I'm kickin' you in the nethers so 'ard only spiders can 'ear you!"

Predictably, the Death Knight didn't hear him.  So, Boyd did what any enterprising thief would do.

He kicked the Death Knight in the nether regions, and was pawing through the man's belongings when the Guard showed up.

Entry #17: A Crisp Fall Day

On Canal Street, none loved a crisp fall day more than the Canal Street Baker.  It was chill in the air, but not cold enough for families to huddle around warm fireplaces.  Apples were ready to harvest.  The skies were clear and snow was coming in the next few weeks, but for today, all was well.

The leaves on the trees were turning and showing off their brilliant hues.  People walked the cobblestone streets of Stormwind with glee, looking to see what new things the cold seasons would bring.

On Canal Street, pumpkin gourd soup was the perfect dish for a crisp fall day, served with a cold cider.  And everyone could smell it bubbling in the cauldrons.

And to get that last tic of warmth, everyone brought their coins for a bowl of pumpkin gourd soup and a flagon of cider.  Business booms on a crisp fall day.

Entry #18: Demiurge

"Do you know," the Death Knight asked as he sat at his desk,  "what the definition of a demiurge is?"

The two Geists looked at him blankly.  Then again, with these two Geists, that was not terribly off the mark.

"I see," the man said as he wrote out a set of runes on a scroll with a careful, practiced hand.   "It is one who creates in subordination to another, Renfield.  Lackey.

"It is someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a god.  He can control your very being."

The two Geists looked at one another, then back at Eredis.

"Then you are...a god?" queried Renfield.

"IT MUST BE SO!" screeched Lackey.


Eredis pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, then hesitated.

"Actually," he said,  "Yes.  That is exactly correct.  But that is not the enti-"

His words fell on deaf ears.  Renfield and Lackey, in chorus, were near bouncing off the walls extolling the virtues of the man who sat at this stone table.




Eredis planted his palm into his face.  They were going to have the Abominations opening a church within the week at this rate.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

As an aside

There is so much I do want to write and think upon about being a DK in the World of Warcraft.  I just haven't had time.  Or energy.  So, as you have seen, there is a site write going on, and I think it's just the thing I need to ensure that I'm going to keep writing, and keep myself to a deadline.

Maybe I can get some thought-provoking stuff out of my brain and onto paper.

I'll keep the site write on the same post for posterity.  I hope you all enjoy it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Site Write Story Time

Entry 1

May 7, 2012 - Surprise

The child cowered away from him every day.

Few knew why the plate-clad man walked the same route every day, but even so he was twice-born, and therefore automatically half the man that the living of Stormwind assumed he was.  This one was stranger than all the others, in that it walked the same route every day, one way, and did not return until the next.  The large circular patrol faded from the memories of most, as few ventured half as far as the man with the cold aura, and none followed.

The child followed at first.  Homeless, hungry, orphaned, it followed the man at first until the creaking of the head caused her to cower away, then scamper into an alleyway, or even once dive into the Canals to avoid his wrath that she knew, knew was hiding behind those dead eyes.   She told her friends of this, other street urchins and orphans who ranged from the Cathedral Square to grub a copper from the canals, or see if there were kind passers-by that would grace them with a biscuit, or a coin, or even a rack of foam swords if it was their special week in particular.  On select days they would get sugar cookies from the cook near the Stockades, and sit and tell stories.  Hers was of the Twice-Born Man, and his dark armor and wicked intents.  He was a warlock ("No, I've seen the ones they call warlocks at the Slaughtered Lamb!  None of -them- wear plate armor!").  He did riturals ("No, there haven't been any kids missing!").  He was evil  ("Nuh-uh, prove it!  Where does he go?").

Every day that passed, the Twice-Born Man followed the same path, and every day the child moved a little farther, to see where he went, before her courage failed and she fled.  The other urchins laughed, and teased her.  She didn't have the heart to see if her stories were real!  

That night, she declared that she was going to follow him all the way, and if she disappeared, then they would know her stories were true!

She took special care the next day to follow the Twice-Born Man on his path.  Her heart raced faster as she passed her alleyways, the canals, the safe places where she knew he would not follow if he desired to give chase.  She saw him enter a dark alleyway in the restaurant district, and stopped at the edge.

The waif stared into the darkness, mustering up the courage to follow.  With a gulp of air, she dove in after him - and ran smack dab into his plated legs not six steps inside.

Fear froze her in place.  She could see the glow in his eyes as he bent down to stare at her tattered clothes, her thin figure, and her messy hair.  She could hear the click of metal against metal as his fingers moved, drawing something from a satchel as he reached for her.  Her scream was a muted squeak as the object came into focus, and dumbounded pause replaced terror as she looked at the cupcake in her hand.

"Are you...surprised?" asked the Twice-Born Man, while he picked up the waif and set her on her feet.  She nodded, and bit into the cupcake - a squirrel of a girl, nibbling on confections.

"So am I," he said.  "I am continually surprised at the courage you young ones show.  Would you like to see what I do every day, why I take this path?"

She nodded again.  The man straightened and opened a door in the alleyway, releasing a rush of aromas - Breads, pies, cakes, and many other meals. 

"Come inside and see," he said, stepping aside and pulling off his plated gloves.  "I am certain you will have a wonderful story to tell your friends this evening."

She went inside, and he followed, closing the kitchen entry to the Canal Street Bakery.

Entry 2
Second Chances, or, 'I write about dead guys a lot.'

Once upon a time, there were two men who died and became geists. 

Their names did not mean much in life, and in death they became eternally lost.  As conventions go, they were eventually given new names after their tenure in the Lich King's service came to an end.  One was named Renfield, and the other was named Lackey. 

To continue the story about Renfield and Lackey, an aside must be made, and that aside is about the Bizarre.  The Bizarre is a living, breathing entity (for generous uses of those terms) within the bowels of Acherus where the members and minions of the Ebon Blade come to the closest to being truly human that they can manage: They gather, trade, perhaps even eat something, and they tell stories.  Ghouls, Geists, Abominations (whom are always referred to as 'they', 'we', or 'them', as they're a self-contained community) all trade what they may have found during their time of service to Highlord Mograine, the Ashen Verdict, or those elite reprobates known better as Death Knights who were ordered to serve the Blade by serving their King, Warchief, or whatever being they took a knee before in life.

It was at the Bizarre that a question was posed: What, if anything, would you go back to change?  Would you flee south, out of Lordaeron?  Shoot Arthas with an arrow?  Join the Silver Hand?

Renfield and Lackey scoffed at this question.

"That is easy!" said Renfield.  "Simplicity itself!" cried Lackey.

"We have already done it!" they chorused.

In a bustling metropolis of the dead, it's difficult to find silence.  This is because the universe is powered by irony, and little is more ironic than a community of beings that should be as quiet as the tomb showing more life than the Exodar during Noblegarden.

And yet, for the briefest of moments, the Bizarre was absolutely silent.

"Rggrgrawwglglrgh!" cried a Ghoul (which, as it happened, was Ghoul for "Please explain, sirs, as few have ever experienced this kind of wonder before.")

"We were given the option to return by one of the Infinite Dragonflight!" Renfield noted.  "To change one event in our lives!" added Lackey.

"We had to take it up on its offer!" they cried in unison.

"Rgl?" ("And I believe any of us would, sirs, but please tell us - what did you do?")

"We lived in the town of Andorhal!" Renfield exclaimed.  "We were assistants to the mayor of the town!" added Lackey.

"The Infinite Dragons took us to the evening before the city fell!" Renfield continued.  "Yes, to the time when we could effect the most change in our lives!" Lackey added.

"And there we were, in our beloved city, alive again to change one moment!" they exclaimed in unison.

The hush came over the Bizarre again.  Corpses of all shapes and sizes pressed in on the two Geists to hear what happened next.  The unofficial spokesbody, the Ghoul queried, "ARglgr?"  ("What a dream, to live again, to breathe the sweet air and feel the cool upon your skin!  To walk in the moonlight and ne'er feel the pang of hunger for flesh, to merely be and not exist.  Aie!  I wax poetic during your tale, pray continue!")

"We moved with purpose!" Renfield cried.  "Our goal was clear!" Lackey agreed.

"We went to the Inn, and we had the roast beef dinner!"

The nature of the silence changed.  It went from a polite, rapt, engaged silence to one chilled with the hint of malice.  It was the type of silence one found when sipping a fine Gilnean Red and finding a rather cheeky Forsaken had left a...cheek in your glass.

"It was the best, tenderest roast beef we had ever eaten," Renfield temporized.  For once, Lackey was silent in polite remembrance of his last meal.
Entry #3

"What do I want that for?  It's worthless!"

The Draenei man looked over the bauble he'd offered, turning his head to regard the creature that had queried his purchase.  Instincts born of ten thousand years of practice took over, and the smooth smile that reached the very tips of his ears was on his face.  Fellow exiles knew Baikonur to have a smile that could disarm a Windroc of its talons, or a Gronn of its desire to kill and eat...well, everybody. 

It was the smile of a trader, and a trader's bread and butter is made of worthless items.

"This?" Baikonur asked, presenting the bauble as if it were a prized treasure - which, indeed, now it was.  "This is a priceless treasure, not to be confused with worthless trash!  It has survived the Legion's scourging of no less than three worlds!"

The creature stopped in its tracks.  Baikonur knew what it was, now, it had been some time since he had seen Arrakoa willing to speak with him, but now that this Darkmoon Faire has begun on the island, he had seen so many old faces that were familiar, yet were not at the same time.  And here, in his hand, he had a priceless treasure.

"Here in my hand," stated Baikonur, "Is history, my friend!  The historical jewel of a peaceful race that sadly did not survive the Legion's wrath!  It was pressed into my palm by the Grand Seer Reepicheep, who foresaw the falling of his people.  He begged me, sir, begged me to find a like mind to covet and care for this stone so that the memory of his people would live on everlasting!"

"A historical jewel," the Arrakoa muttered.  It did not seem convinced.

"A historical jewel," Baikonur repeated.  "The last vestiges of life of a long-dead people.  Bird people."

That brought the Arrakoa up short.  "How much?" it asked.

Coin changed hands, and the Arrakoa was the proud owner of the Reepicheep's jewel - that an enterprising Dwarf had given him after he had finished with some cut glass pieces for the Faire.

Baikonur waved and went on his way.  "I'm getting rusty," he said to himself, "But there's always someone to put value on something."

Entry #4

"It is done, my lord."

'Lord'.  That's a new one.  How many years have I been avoiding the trappings of nobility?

The Death Knight stood wearily on the dais where but minutes before, Lady Sylvanas had fallen to a Draenei's spine - still wriggling, mind you - with the brain-stem wrapped in leather.

"The most useful the Sergeant has ever been," he mused as two Geists hauled off the body.  He kicked the bow aside, noting to himself to turn it to dust in front of the collected Hunters of the Horde later.  He would have to make his presence known, and more than a few would find that incredibly funny.

"What will you have us do, Lord?"

The Val'kyr that hovered to the Death Knight's left was the model of subservience.  It had been nearly fourteen years since their positions were reversed - first came freedom, then came vengeance, then irony rolls on in to bring the trifecta.  He was King of the Undercity.

"Recall the Royal Apothecary Society.  I want any and all plague strains held for testing and then stored for a rainy day.  The Wrathgate was bad, Gilneas made it worse.  I won't throw away a weapon, but I want both the Alliance and the Horde to be quite certain the only thing walking around down here after another siege will be ghosts.

"After that is complete," he continued, "Send two Death Knights as emissaries to the Horde and Alliance.  Have them know that the Undercity is now independent and we will suffer no sieges upon these walls.  Have the two reiterate the plague stocks as a note of deterrence."

"It will be done, Lord."

The Val'kyr flew off to begin the onerous process of herding zombified cats - that is, the apothecaries.   She passed by a hooded Forsaken that came forward to salute Eredis as he stood on the dais.

"Everything is transitioning according to plan!  Hee!" she said. 

"Captain," Eredis said,  "Good, good.  You saw the Val'kyr just leave - assemble the Dark Rangers.  Request the Val'kyr to assemble in the rear courtyard and read them this."  He handed over a rotted parchment that had a curious seal - one of a skull and crossed runeblades, though the skull wore a baker's hat. 

"What's this?" the Captain asked.

"A royal declaration to decimate the Val'kyr.  I want them to be absolutely certain they exist at my sufferance, and my sufferance alone.  Ten percent reductions in their numbers should get the idea across."

"Hee!  This'll be great!" the Captain exclaimed - and with a puff of smoke, she sped along the shadows to do his bidding.

"RENFIELD!  LACKEY!" the Death Knight bellowed.  Two Geists ambled in, faces rubbing across the floor in their zest to appear humble.

He extended two more parchment rolls, one to each.  "One goes to Highlord Fordring, the other to Highlord Mograine.  You are to present them both, personally, and await a response from each.  I will have them know that the Undercity desires peaceful coexistance with the components of the Ashen Verdict.  Her borders will encompass all they do now, and we cede the territory in the Plaguelands to each to do as they will.  Now go."

"Yes, Master!" Renfield cried.  "We will do as you ask!" yelled Lackey.

"We go!"


"...And that's what I would do if I were King of the Undercity," Eredis said as he reeled in another fish.  He and a Draenei both sat on a quiet dock, fishing the day away.

"So you would create-"  the Draenei started.

"Yes, an undead haven," finished Eredis.  "Think of it like Shattrath, only a minimum of Light and a place where the undead can get back to what they were doing before we all died."

"Interestink," mused the Draenei.

"I thought so," replied Eredis as he cast his line back into the water.  "What would you do?"

Entry #5
Past Tense

New Hearthglen was burning.

Few Crusaders ran to and fro with buckets, desperation fueling their efforts to dampen fire that seemed to burn even the white stones that they had used to build their city.  A splash of water here and there did nothing to quench the conflagration that had gripped what was viewed as their great, shining hope for a future free of the Scourge.

Abbendis was dead.  She did not survive to see Arthas destroyed, and it seemed that the Crusade would not live long past the moment that the traitorous Alliance called 'Kingsfall.'    The Admiral had gone missing as well; there were rumors among the survivors that he had appeared at Onslaught Harbor, then vanished again while the legions of the dead, led by the Knights of the Ebon Blade, tore their naval base apart soul by soul.  Now they had come for New Hearthglen, and to crush what little remained of the Scarlet Onslaught.

James, the wall guard, had never felt like he should be called an 'Onslaughteer.'  'Crusader' had a much better sound.  It was nobler, so noble that the Argent Crusade had stolen it.  And now, Crusaders were en vogue, and he was standing guard on a wall waiting for the end of the world, dark figures visible around small cookfires in the distance.

He explained this in great detail to the scarlet-robed figure that had joined him on the wall that evening.  The robes were so voluminous that he couldn't tell if the figure was male or female, but it was slight, and wore the most supple leather gloves he ever did see.  It wasn't until the figure interrupted his tirade with a soft query that he realized that it was a she.

"What is 'Life', to you, James?" she asked. 

"Well isn't that a little philisophical?" he retorted.  It didn't stop him into launching into a detailed response of what he considered life to be, including doing one's duty, doing what they enjoyed, taking pride in their crafts, being with their loved on-

"Being with your loved ones is to be alive?" she asked.

"Well, I think so," he responded.

"Strange," the figure in scarlet robes started, "As I had a loved one.  I suppose I still do, and I loved him even if he did not know it.  If he did know it, he did not show it overtly.  And yet, love can turn to hate.  I could hate him for what happened, and did.  Hated him for what he became, and what I became.  Is that living, James?"

"You should hate the Scourge, miss," he replied.

"I do," she said.  "And I hate him, for he is out there."  She pointed with a gloved hand into the evening, towards the shadowy figures and the cookfires.  "And yet, I still love him, for he found the strength to let me go instead of chaining me to servitude.   Is that not love, James?"

"I-what?" James asked.  "You mean you- he's- A Death Knight?"

"Yes," the figure replied.  "It would have saddened me once, but I still feel love, and hatred.  And now here we are, on opposite sides of the wall."

"He-Who are you, anyway?"  James asked.  His spear dipped.

"I was called Nancy, once," came the soft reply.  "And I am again.  If one feels love and hatred, are they still alive?"

"Well..." James started.  "Yes.  Yes, I can feel both, and I'm alive."

There was a moment of silence from the figure, then the barest of whispers in James' ear. 

"Were, James.  It's better this way."

The smell of decay was nearly overpowering.  Formaldehyde, rot, mold, and-dark bread?

The sentry slumped to the ground as the figure removed the dagger pressed into his kidneys.  The Forsaken looked across the gulf and the darkness, seeing the dark figure in plate raise his hand.

"I am dead, and I am alive," whispered Nancy as she raised her hand in return.  "And I hate you for dying, and I love you for freeing me."

She had disappeared from the wall before the smoke bomb had touched the battlement, but few noticed over the screams of mounts and men as the angry dead flew in on wings of bone.

Entry #6

"That will come to two silvers, four copper."

"That's robbery!"

Stormwind was busier on sunny days, especially in the restaurant district.  Anyone and everyone needed to eat, and for those who didn't cook, a fowl pie or a sausage-inna-bun was an acceptable pick-me-up - even better if one could sit outside on the canal's edge and enjoy the day with their favorite company.   Still others had to get their supplies to cook their own meals for the day, and the dickering on prices could get a little...heated.

So it was between a man robed in scarlet and black, and a tired baker who looked as if he should have been felling trees in the Grizzly Hills with but one punch.  The baker held a box with what looked to be a dozen sweet rolls.  The man in scarlet and black had a knife, and a book.  He was very agitated.

"Do you know who I am?" the man in scarlet and black thundered.  "I wield the very forces of darkness!  I consort with demons!  I could swallow your soul!"

The baker responded with a tired sigh.  "And you're going to prove it," he responded, "Aren't you?

"Look," the baker said, leaning in a bit further, "I've seen your type.  You're a silver for a baker's dozen in these parts.  You're wasting your time and mine, your energy and mine, and I have much more to waste of both than you do.  So I will give these to you for two silvers, so that I may go back to helping others enjoy their day, and you may gorge on sweet rolls in the alleyway behind the Slaughtered Lamb."

"Wh-Why you-" the man in scarlet and black sputtered.  "I will have your soul for this!"

"I guarantee," replied the baker, "That you won't want it."

Alas, the man in scarlet and black would have none of it.  He was already chanting in a guttural, broken tongue that caused passers-by to stop and look at him.  A trio of patrolmen stopped well out of accosting range, and, once they saw whom was in accosting range, began to whisper amongst themselves.  As if bidden by an unconscious directive, a circle of people formed around the two at a respectful distance.  The baker's tray of fowl pies cooling on the sill vanished.

With a slash of his dagger, the man in scarlet and black had opened his palm and flicked the blood welling upon it onto the cobblestones, where it was eaten b a growing circle of sickly green magic.  It continued to grow until a portal was big enough for a demon to step through - a large, bright red Doomguard who blinked in the gentle yellow sunlight, then roared its defiance to the baker that stood before him.

Or, it did.   There was a flash of sunlight against metal, and a cleaver found its way into the maw of the beast.  The roar was cut off with a choked sound, and it fell to the ground with a crash.  Almost instantly, it began to dissolve.

"How did-Who-What?"

The baker waved over the trio of patrolmen, two of whom were handing off small pouches of coin to the third, whom led the trio with a satisfied grin.

"There's always someone more dangerous, lad," said the baker as he stepped forward.  His fist lashed out, and clocked the budding warlock right on the temple.

The man in scarlet and black dropped like a sack of potatoes.  The baker knelt to withdraw two silvers and four coppers from the warlock's belt pouch, and left the box next to the unconscious man.

"Good afternoon, Baker!" called the lead patrolman. "Another one today?  How many is that this week?"

"Six," said the baker as he retrieved his cleaver, which was now alone on blank ground.  "Something about the sweet rolls.  You three should take them as thanks for a job well done."

No further bidding was needed, and the young man in scarlet and black was trussed up and taken away on charges of disturbing the peace.

Colonel Orill made a mark on a chalkboard next to the door of his establishment, and went back inside to pull another tray of fowl pies from the oven.

Entry #7

"So what I figure is, we stay here in the back and make nice, wait for the two lovebirds to get hitched, and then we step forward and unveil Professor Macgillycuddy's Prestigious Photo Pops!"

"That's a stupid name."

"Might be, but it's a plan destined for greatness."

 "Greatness nothing!"

"It cannot fail, Rabbit.  They'll see they can pose up, all pretty, an' we get paid an' bring the pops back in six to eight weeks!"

"You expect those two lovebirds to shell out their hard-earned golds for pops they'll never see?"

"Well, when you put it that way, Rabbit, no I do not."

"That's what I-"

"I expect them to shell out their parents' hard-earned golds, Rabbit."

"An' why is that, Badge?"

"Because they're gettin' married, Rabbit.  Everyone expects the blushin' bride an' nervous groom to be irresponsible in this day and age."

(This is a conversation between my Worgen prot warrior, Boyd Macnormelton, and his cheeky rogue partner-in-crime, Ilva Swift.  They're the 'Team Rocket' of Azeroth, I swear.)

Entry #8
Electrons in Flight

There was something about the Farseer that the Exarch just couldn't shake.

At first, it was duty.  He was asked by a very nice man to ensure that the Farseer, whom was well-known for her preference to avoid everyone and anything that may have looked like civilization, was well fed.  Ortuuze may have been out of shape, but his sense of duty was still strong - and besides, he had been told that the Farseer cooked an excellent Mudfish.

When he saw the Farseer - lithe, but fierce, powerful in every way, yet serene when the herbs flew into the fire and the mists obscured her sight for everything but the Seeing - he knew she was beautiful in this, and he resolved to be as charming as he could.

This, it turned out, was to be sub-optimal.  His first attempt at courting - the request for a kiss in exchange for a delivery of food - ended in the Exarch quite literally falling off a mountain when her electric temper manifested in the form of an arc from her fingertips to his very shiny - and conductive - plate armor.

It was then that he knew there was a spark there, and he would endeavor to pursue it.

Over the months, it was clear that this attraction was good for his body and soul.  He had let himself go, Ortuuze had, by garrisoning Shattrath.  Lean muscle had turned to flab, but this Farseer's preference for remote places had leaned him once more into an Exarch worthy of the name. He was fed in his favorite dish, the Mudfish, and she sampled from the finest confections that Stormwind had to offer.  Her outright hatred of him cooled to antagonism, then dislike, then...something else.

"Why do you continue to come to these places?" she asked, one day, after he had barreled through a thick underbrush in Un'Goro crater, then scaled a cliffside to find her.

"It is simple, Farseer," he replied.  "The Naaru have a plan for everything, and they have told me that nothing in this life is worth having unless one works very hard for it.

"And for you, I work hardest of all."

Entry #9
Icecrown, Redux

The Frozen Throne.

The sound of ice crunching underneath plated boots was lost in the freezing wind - not something that Eredis precisely noticed, as his own armor was covered in frost, and, well, he was dead.  Temperature doesn't matter as much when one is dead.

There was little, if anything, that was left in the Citadel.  Cleanup operations had gone according to plan and with minimal losses.  After Tirion's victory at the summit - of which Eredis had not been a part, having been on SKYCAP at the time - the Scourge were easy pickings.  He made more from the reselling of the treasures and scrolls his mercenary squad had brought back than he spent hiring them in the first place.  And then, one day, everyone agreed to get the hell out of Icecrown and stay out.  Only the Ebon Blade would redirect their Knights to stay behind to man the ramparts against the reduced Scourge who wandered the wastes, or stood by in icy stasis, waiting for...something.

The reason was something that every Knight instinctively knew: The Scourge were never a passive force unless directed.  So they watched the passes, bottled the Glacier in, and waited.  Tirion knew why.  Mograine knew why.  And now a beleagured Colonel of one of the few remaining Ebon Blade units left to ensure the world remembered they existed knew why.

There must always be a Lich King, and a Lich King there was.  Eredis could see him ensconced in the Throne, his eyes burning with the same unholy light that powered those of the Ebon Blade.  Burned beyond recognition and covered in ice, but Eredis had an idea or two of whom was entombed, and so the Death Knight could do the only thing that came naturally.

As the snow whirled around the Frozen Throne, Eredis bowed his head before Bolvar Fordragon, Jailor of the Damned, and knelt in silence. 

Long moments passed.  They stretched into seconds, then to minutes, then to hours.   Powder began to well up against Eredis as he knelt, standing a vigil of the evening in honor of a man that had sacrificed much for the world he had lived in, and continued to sacrifice in order to maintain that world's zest for life - by holding in check the force that could, and would, destroy it.

It would not be until the sun rose again over the jagged peaks of the Glacier that Eredis would rise from where he knelt, breaking himself out of the ice and snow to stand before the Frozen Throne once again. 

Eredis turned and left without a word.  There was nothing in the Citadel for him, and upon the discover he had made - well, he had completed the task that had brought him to the Throne itself.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Death, Life, and SCIENCE!

Death Knights are an interesting lot.

We were having one such conversation via the forums, in fact, when the biology of the Death Knight came up.  As has been stated, the Death Knight is unequivocally dead.  And then we came back.

Did we come back as zombies?  Vampeers?  Something more, and infinitely horrifying?

Hell yes we did.  That's what makes thing so interesting.  The question is:  How?

Enter our theories.  We know from Lore(yes, capital L) that there is a 'Death Ritual.'  Scourge heavies know this ritual.  It's assumed that Val'kyr know this ritual.  Death Knights certainly know this ritual.  So then, what is it?

I like to think of it this way:

The scene is the Necropolis, floating high above the battlefield.  Below, the desecrated ground is home to agony and death, with ghouls and geists picking through the mortal remains as if searching for a rare Aquamarine.

What do you mean 'Aquamarine isn't rare'?  Have you seen the prices on the Auction House?

A ghoul comes upon a body, surrounded by the husks of the Undead hustled back beyond the Veil even as it fell.  Surprisingly, it is mostly intact.  Only a hole here or there, easily patched up.  This, this is one of those 'Heroes' the Lich King spoke of!  Truly!  This is one that has earned his place in Paradise.

Sucker.  He's perfect.

So this ghoul waves over a Geist, who hobbles by, gives the body a good lick, and waves over an Abomination.  This Abomination then picks up the body, hucks it onto the Corpse Wagon, and by ripping a dimensional portal through space, this body arrives in the lab of the good Doctor.

This lab is everything you've seen in the movies and has things you haven't.  Filthy tables hold corpses in various states of assembly.  Parts are being sewn onto an Abomination from six or seven people, some of which may still be alive as they're welcomed into the fold.  Large vats bubbling with oozes of green, red and purple lend a chill and acrid stink to the air.  And in the middle of it all, of the gore and darkness, the science and magic, is the Doctor.

He's hunched over, wearing what looks like a lab coat.  A Geist assists him at the machinery that sparks and arcs from dome to dome, electricity firing off like synapses to other parts of the brain.  Somewhere, there's a Lich King.  Brooding.  And this Abomination plants the corpse right on the table in front of the Doctor.

"GET THE ARMOR OFF IT!" the Doctor screeches.  The Geist hustles to comply.  After the briefest of moments - which, to a corpse, is an eternity yet nothing at all - it is done, and the body is laid bare for all to see.  The Doctor surveys his charge with loving care.  Wounds are sewn up.  Worms are implanted.  Teeth are checked.  Preparations are made.  And then...

The Doctor stands over his charge, and points a talon-like finger to the Geist.  "IGOR!  WE ARE READY!"

Yes, the Geist's name is Igor.  It's my story.


The Geist leaps to a large switch, and pulls it down.  Electricity arcs from dome to dome!  A lightning bolt flings to parts unknown, following circuits and wires and illuminating a sign next to the Lich King that says, "NOW, LORD!"

And the Lich King, brooding, waves a hand, and an infusion of unholy energy envelops the sign.  It merges with the lightning, becomes the lightning, racing down wires and cables and arcing across copper domes until it strikes the very corpse upon the table where the Doctor surveys.

"IT'S ALIVE, IGOR!" the Doctor shouts, as life, as horrible and unthinkable as it must be, is forced back into this body at impossible angles.


Among the howling of the dead and dying in the Necropolis, one more voice joins the cacophony.  Hands claw at the cold skin.  Eyes, bluer-than-blue look at what has become of the body they once knew.  Voices scream a myriad of things, some in horror, others in rapture.  And there is one that drowns out the lot of them, and one that sends a very chill down your spine.

"You belong to me."

Now THAT is a Death Ritual.  It's Science!  Magic!  It has Kings!  Heroes!  And, with my luck, it is totally unsuitable to anything we could do normally.

But screw that.  We're having fun here.

Now, it was brought to my attention through Muriol, one of the dead of SCIENCE, that the 'Death Ritual' may be different than from what we surmised.  She quotes the fate of one Gidwin Goldbraids:

  • Argus Highbeacon says: We can't be certain that he was killed. Maybe he just ran off somewhere.
    Tarenar Sunstrike yells: No, he'd never just leave his prayer book behind! He was always nose-deep in that book, studying.
    Tarenar Sunstrike says: He was always studying, always trying to get better.
    Argus Highbeacon says: Even more reason to believe that he's still alive.
    Argus Highbeacon says: A paladin like Gidwin makes a fine death knight. Any member of the Scourge powerful enough to defeat him would know that.
    Argus Highbeacon says: It's likely that he's being held somewhere, awaiting a death ritual.
So then, this begs the question:  Why wouldn't they just off Gidwin and then perform the ritual?  It's better to be a live jackal than a dead Paladin, certainly, but aren't you just asking for trouble by keeping the Dwarf alive?

(It turns out that yes, yes you are.)

But why?  Why have something alive like that?  Why are paladins like Gidwin fine Death Knights?  Well, simply put, it's because they're effective fighters.  That's what the Lich King was looking for, after all!  He wanted effective people to turn into an unstoppable Scourge army that would lay waste to Azeroth as we know it. 

This is the Lich King we're talking about, though.  He wants to make people suffer.  He wants it to be horrible, so he can make monsters.  So, what if this happened instead?

The scene:  The Necropolis, floating high above the battlefield.  Below, the desecrated ground is home to agony and death, with ghouls and geists picking through the mortal remains as if searching for a rare-you get the idea.

Surrounded by Scourge, both living(ha!) and dead, is a member of the living.  Their raiment is torn.  Their skin, bloody.   Their eyes are full of fire, and though tired and worn, they will continue to fight.  The Scourge are ready to charge, and this living knows it.  Yet they wait.  Why do they wait?  Why do they sit and watch, instead of spending themselves wastefully like their fellows?
You bellow a challenge at the Scourge, and an Abomination answers!  It waddles forward, the stink of detritus about it as it swings a giant femur.  You dodge!  Weave!  Strike!  But nothing happens!  The Abomination is too big, too fat!  It blocks out the light of the very sun as the femur comes down, and--
All is dark.

When you awaken, you're on a table.  Strapped down.  The platform itself is filthy, covered in blood and bits from the meat that had been upon it last.  Electricity arcs from copper dome to dome, firing off like synapses for some deformed, gargantuan brain.  The air stinks of death, of blood and bile and fear and despair.  Your heart thumps in your chest.  You struggle, but all that is heard is the clink of shackles.  The thump of flesh against wood.  The indrawn hiss of glee from something not of the living.

"IT IS AWAKE!" the voice screeches.  Hobbling into view is an undead construct with wild hair and a white lab coat.  A Geist leaps from machine to machine, cackling.  A vile, prehensile tongue shoots out from it and licks your face, tasting you.  The heart beats faster.  You look from side to side and see -

A line of tables, each with a member of the living chained to it.  Each awake, aware, and knowing what must come. 

The Doctor points a talon-like finger at the Geist.

"IGOR!" he screams.  "THROW THE SWITCH!"

And the Geist does.  It throws down a giant lever and an arc of electricity fires from copper dome to dome, along wires and cables and illuminates a sign next to the Lich King, brooding, which says, "NOW, LORD!"

And the Lich King waves a hand.  An infusion of unholy energy envelops the sign, absorbing the lightning.  Becoming the lightning.  It speeds back down cables and wires and fuses and arcs across domes and - strikes the very living on the tables the Doctor oversees.

What comes next is agony.  Not the loss of a loved one.  Not the loss of an arm.  No, this is the pain one receives when the icy hand of Death reaches into your chest while you still live and breathe, and tears out the cottony cloth that is your soul like it was making cotton candy.  Every nerve stands on end and screams.  There is no breath in your lungs as it is expended in a cacophony of terror and anguish.  You can hear every muscle pop.  Every bone crack.  You can feel the shackles shift as your back tries to break itself as your life force is ripped form your very being.

For one bright, shining moment you see beyond the Veil, and know Paradise.

And then, it is gone forever - shut away with the resounding gong of a black Saronite door, for all eternity.

Again, all is black.

When you awaken, it's as if you are in a new body.  It feels cold.  It moves strangely.  Bluer-than-blue eyes look at dead skin.  Clawed fingers touch a face that is familiar, yet so alien.  A chorus of voices chime in your head, some revolted, others enraptured.  Yet, there is one voice that drowns them all out.  It chills you to the bone, and commands instant obedience.

"You belong to me."

Either way, you see, we reach the same end point.  Each way, there is a Death Ritual, there is SCIENCE, and there is a Death Knight.

What are your thoughts, gentle beings?