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.

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