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?