Twice Cursed – Escape

The dead do not sleep. Forsaken, Scourge, Death Knight… To rest would be but a tease at the eternal rest that was stolen from you by magic. However, in moments of stillness, in thoughts, sometimes they do dream. And it is a consummation devoutly to be fought – for with dreams come the memories of the lives that came before. Before the pain, and rage, and power that fuels them now, and the undeniable knowledge of one thing.

I was not always like this…

Arugal was insane, driven to such by his guilt and his damnation at the hands of both the Gilnean nobles and the mages of Dalaran. In his insanity, he sent his horrid wolves down upon Pyrewood Village. I had lived there my whole life, had quite the reputation in that little nothing burg. Me, and Lord Harford.

Seldom did you find one of us without finding the other. Pyrewood’s stalwart defenders, standing defiant in the face of the Forsaken that constantly plagued the village’s borders, who fearlessly shot down worgen when they dared to come charging down out of the woods. The feral beasts were hardly a threat, nothing like it had been back in Gilneas. This, of course, was why Pyrewood had broken away and left our mother city. Orphans of Lordaeron as we were, ignored by Stormwind and the Alliance – but also likewise ignored by the Horde for the most part, our little village stood the test of time.

Until Arugal unleashed the fury of Shadowfang Keep upon our little hamlet.

I don’t remember being bitten. Everything from those nightly raids until I began to gain mastery over myself again is a long, painful blur. But when I came back to myself, waking up one night sleeping in a pile of hay within the stables of Shadowfang Keep itself, I cursed Arugal’s name. And when the moon rose and I lost myself to the beast once more, I swore it would not be forever. With the last shred of my humanity, I would rail against him from within the body of the beast until I gained control over its rage.

Time passed – I was aware only of a few moments in between waking in the last rays of the sun and the moon taking control of me, from time to time. Then one night, I said no. I bottled up all the anger, all the rage, all the fury I had within me, and shoved back at the beast trying to tear it’s way from my skin as the moonlight hit me. I failed. I changed. But something WAS different. I was still me.

I looked down at my hands – now massive, meat hook claw-carrying weapons. I gazed at each of my feet, paws built as if I was walking on massively strengthened human toes. A glance into a bucket of water revealed my fearsome visage – long snout, mammoth teeth, golden eyes…. I was a worgen. But inside the worgen body, I was still me. I carried the wolf-curse, but I was no mere animal – no beast like those who attacked my village. I could think, and I could plot revenge.

It took months, working every night to find the human mind within my fellow carriers of the wolf-curse, but slowly a small army of aware worgen began to form in the bowels of Arugal’s very Keep. He was too powerful for our small band to dare attack directly, however – but we did have one chance. We could escape. We could leave and return to Pyrewood Village, or even Gilneas – imagine the hope we could offer the Gilnean people to know the wolf-curse was not always the end of human consciousness!

And so, one night, with Lord Harford at my side once more, our band broke out of the keep and escaped into the night.  The Gilnean mages, however, detected the curse upon us and struck some of us down before we reached the gates, begging in supplication like wounded dogs that they understand we were monsters no longer. But the Gilnean people as a whole could not be made to understand. They looked upon us in fear, even when we wore our human faces… So, once again, Harford and I fled Gilneas.

Being human, joining up with the Stormwind Military was not difficult. And we had learned to control our curse to the point that we never changed unless no one else was around. We kept our secrets, running together through moonlit nights to satisfy the beast within us, and living our lives as humans and loyal subjects of King Wrynn by daylight. It was a good life – the first good life I had known since I first lost my humanity to the bite and the wolf-curse years ago. Our aging was slowed by the curse – other men around us grew older and left the service, but we kept to ourselves. Our curse was known only to the King himself and his closest advisors.

Perhaps then it was not a large surprise when we were among the first called to aid the Silver Hand in the newly renamed Plaguelands, where the new Lich King was establishing a kingdom of death and decay. When facing a supernatural enemy, your own secret weapon is any element of surprise you may possess. Except that no one knew the sheer numbers the Lich King commanded – the Scourge was more massive and more dangerous than we ever could’ve imagined.

Harford and I joined in the first wave of attack. For the first time, we both changed in front of other men – but it was mid-battle, and anyone who noticed seemed more thankful for the extra firepower than afraid of the two massive worgen fighting in their midst. Harford was wounded, and that only fueled my fury. I made sure he was safe with the medics, then turned back to the waves of swarming undead, my eyes set upon the Hold the Lich King dared to try and erect upon Alliance land.

For the first time since Shadowfang Keep, I let the beast within me rage unchecked. Our men were falling left and right. I leaped as far behind the Scourge’s lines as I could, leaving Harford behind, and began wiping out hundreds of the Lich King’s undead armies single handedly. My blades whirled, my fangs snapped fetid bones, and my paws kicked and broke and slashed as I moved through the enemy’s lines. I was fury embodied – a god of death on a battlefield unlike any Azeroth had seen before or since. But my blind rage was to be my undoing. With rage, there is no intelligence, no planning – I had expended all of my energy before I was even three quarters of the way through the undead swarm – and still, they were coming.

They say if your life is ended by a bullet, you never hear it. I heard and felt the sword wielded by an undead warrior that cut through the air with a noise like a guillotine and slit my throat with the simplicity of a knife through butter. My life’s blood poured out onto the ground, and still I tried to fight. The last thing I remember of my mortal life was the overwhelming scent of death, my own blood, and the walking corpses around me. My last sight the shuffling feet of the Scourge armies as they marched on, oblivious to the now dead threat in their midst. And then everything went dark.

“Your will…. Is not your own…”

I woke a Death Knight. Without the mindlessness of the beast, I reveled in every life I took. The Lich King’s words were the highest praises imaginable. The begging of the peasants was music to my ears. Why bother hiding behind my human mask any longer?! I was a force for the Lich King’s will, and I was proud of it.

Until the day I saw Harford again, for the last time.

“Come to finish the job, have you?” His voice was harsh, speaking common with a worgen tongue has never been simple. “You’ll look me in the eyes when…” He trailed off, even as I raised my runeblade to deliver the death blow, my fanged mouth open in a harsh laugh. But his next word stopped me cold. “Reyune?”

I lowered my weapon and growled uncertainly – I hadn’t spoken since my resurrection as a Death Knight… there was no need for me to.

“Reyune, I’d recognize that face anywhere… What… What have they done to you, Reyune?”

I took a step back and growled again, glaring at him. How dare he confuse me. All that matters is the Lich King’s will. All that matters….

“You don’t remember me? We were both servants of Arugal back in Silverpine Forest. Don’t you remember, Pyrewood Village? Gilneas? It was you who saved me, the night we escaped from Shadowfang Keep!”

I shook my head. It was as if a fog was over my brain… I couldn’t… I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I was a Death Knight. I was a servant of the Lich King… what were these memories? Talking with this man, laughing with him… fighting by his side…

“Without you, I would have died. YOU! The most noble worgen I ever knew. What have they done to you, Reyune?! How could this have happened?” He was pleading with me, trying to get me to respond. For the first time since my reawakening, I spoke.

“Harford… I don’t…” I shook my head and growled, dropping my runeblade to the floor and pressing the palms of my paws against the sides of my head… So many conflicts! So many memories! Get out of my head… get out get out get out…

“Remember the man you once were, brother! You were our savior! Fight this!” He stepped forward and gripped my shoulders, and I froze. I met his eyes… and I recognized him. It was as if I was being reborn, awakening again… Finding myself after being so long lost.

“Listen to me, Rey. You must fight against the Lich King’s control. He is a monster that wants to see this world – our world – in ruin. Don’t let him use you! You were once a great hero – you can be again. You decimated his forces the day we lost you, Reyune. Without you, many other good men would’ve died that day… I would have died that day. Fight, damn you! Fight his control!”

I jerked away from him, but held his gaze. Before I could formulate a response, however, my mind still at war with itself, I heard Commander Plaguefist shout from outside.

“What’s going on in there?! What’s taking so long, Wolf Knight?!”

Harford stiffened, then bent down and picked up my runeblade, holding it out to me. “There’s no more time for me, Rey. I’m done for. Finish me off. Do it so they can’t…” I knew what he meant – cut him down in such a way that he could not be raised to serve the Lich King. “Do it,” he whispered. “Do it or they’ll kill us both. Reyune… Remember Gilneas, Pyrewood Village, and Stormwind… Our homes.” He rested a hand on my shoulder. “This world is worth saving.”

I stared at him, hefting my blade in my hands. The commander yelled again, and I knew he would be coming in after me. I held Harford’s gaze, then howled viciously and swung my runeblade with all my might, cutting my oldest friend down and ensuring there wouldn’t be enough of him left to bring back.

The fog slipped back over my brain as I backed away from his mangled remains, blood coating my plate armor and my glowing blade. I had done what I was ordered, no more… The Lich King’s will… I have to… I can’t remember…

The dead do not sleep. But sometimes we dream. And in those few moments of stillness, in those moments we are who we once were. And now that I remember, I swear to you, Arthas, Lich King of the Scourge, I will not rest in peace until you lie in more pieces than my oldest friend. I don’t know how long it will take, but I swear to you on his blood… You will pay.