Cutting Wood Part 1
My name is Ralkath Desare, and I’m dead.
I suppose a little story as to how I ended up in such a state would be in order? Very well then, I have no delusions about myself, or those who worked with me. I was a greedy man, and as any priest will tell you, the Light punished me for it.
It began as a small enough operation, but terribly effective. We started with little things, ambushing traders and caravans. The gold from that was used to sweeten up some guards in nearby towns and from there we began to learn of the bigger hauls. As our fortunes increased so too did our numbers, thugs and bandits seeking that big score came flocking. However as these things tend to go, our growing numbers and boldness attracted a heavy handed approach from the local authorities. They set up ambushes and lures, we took some of the bait, and after one ambush resulted in an entire squad of dead guards the powers that be decided that hiring outside, disposable help would be a more cost effective approach.
For a while all was quiet, caravans were left untouched as we hoped to convince the authorities we had fled with our spoils. Until of course, a whisper reached us about a trade caravan that had come all the way from the lands of the Draenei, and as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, bandits like us had heard of the beautiful expensive gems and diamonds the Draenei cut and traded. Well, naturally my men and women all agreed that this would be our final job, we could live like nobility from the profits of selling such treasures to the Goblins and that was our plan.
One of my scouts spotted the *caravan* long before it reached the ambush point and by the Light, I should have known something was terribly wrong. A lone elekk, plodded along the roads, its rider seemingly oblivious. I convinced myself that the guards had probably tried to warn the rider but he was simply so unfamiliar with the common tongue that he underestimated the gravity of the situation he was riding towards. So I told the largest number of my people to head back to our hideout and start packing up for the journey to Booty Bay.
Brazenly, as the rider came to our waiting spot, I strode out onto the road and waved him to a halt, the bags hanging from his Elekk jingled and chimed with sounds of their contents shifting about. The rider climbed down, and walked forward to meet me, by this point I was almost offended at how easy this had been. Until he stood before me and the first true twinge of fear hit me, the man, and I use that word very loosely, was a giant. He towered over even the burliest and biggest of the men working for me. Still I thought, this is probably normal for their kind. He lowered his hood and smiled faintly, a brief flash of his fangs and spoke in a voice that I felt as much as heard.
- What, seems to be the trouble my friend?*
Instantly, my fears were realised, he spoke the common tongue with no trips, no stumbles. His pronunciation was flawless. I don’t know what betrayed me, was it a look in my eyes, a shift in my stance, did he smell the fear from me? All I know was before I realised what I was doing I was reaching for my blade and then I was moving through the air, the wind knocked from my body.
In a daze I managed to raise my head, shifting the blinding pain in my chest aside for a moment, and what I saw chilled me. The bags on the Elekk, heavy looking and jingling, had been ripped open as the Draenei moved to defend himself from the half dozen or so bandits who charged him, what they had contained, what had been jingling were copper coins in the bags, and two maces each seemingly as large as the men he wielded them against. The noise from the bags had also concealed the noise of the Draeneis armour, now the robe was gone and I saw it all, and realised what a fool I had been.
I’ve seen terrible things, I’ve done terrible things. I enjoyed it. I smiled as I did theses things, murder, theft…worse, but this creature chilled me to my very bones. It was not a look of malice, not any cruelty in his actions, it was the neutral expression on his face as he broke men against his weapons, the calm, collected way he ended lives. No swing was wasted, with each movement of his weapons another life was snuffed out.
I tried to place the look, the expression he wore, and when I did, it horrified me. I knew that look, it was the look of mild disinterest a man would wear while he cut wood, or performed some menial task. That's all this was to him.
It ended pitifully quickly, but truly what hope had a few thugs against a, demon like that. He stood over me and still, that calm emotionless gaze was set like stone upon his face. He spoke only a few words to me.
- You have broken the laws of the Alliance and murdered subjects of the Holy Light, I have been commissioned to end your life and so it ends. My comrades found your hideout hours ago, and will as we speak, be eliminating the rest of your people. May the Holy Light have mercy upon your soul.*
With that, he raised one of his maces.
My name is Ralkath Desare, and I am dead.
My people have a saying, once bitten, twice shy. I never did hold to that.
Imagine waking, after a terrible nightmare, only to find that the nightmare had been real, and you had been a prisoner in your own body, watching as you did things so unspeakably vile and evil that they do not bear mention here.
That was an experience I had, along with many other Knights of Death who managed to wrestle control back from the traitor king. The first thing to come back, once the initial shock had passed, and I had been told we were welcomed back in our former lands as soldiers and perhaps, heroes of the Alliance, was the manner of my passing. The emotionless gaze, the fear, the millisecond of blinding agony. The blackness that followed.
As I mentioned before, I was an evil man, and I earned my fate. Does that mean I should simply, forget about the man who killed me? Move on? No. In order to start again, I needed to erase my past.
A bandit in life, a hero in unlife. Sounds like a tale of repentance you tell a child as you put it to sleep. A tale of a man who saw the error of his ways and reformed. The idea held some appeal to me. You may think me a fool, after all the Draenei who killed me did so effortlessly what point was there in going after him? Then I thought about it, and at that time, I was a mere human, a bandit, now I was so much more.
So I set out in search of the Draenei mercenary. Months of searching yielded no luck, nothing, I began to believe I had missed my chance, that my murderer had met his end at the hands of another. Many a time I would cross paths with a Draenei and believe I had found him, but I began to learn how to tell them apart, subtle things, the length or lack or layout, of their facial appendages, was a good way to do just that.
As my search went on, I was frequently victim to the hatred and ridicule of the masses, who saw in me the enemy they so hated. I took to hiding what I was, wearing a cowl, not speaking unless it was absolutely vital. It seemed my glorious and noble change, my repentance, was not wanted. Still, I blamed this on the ghost of my past that clung to me.
I had all but given up when chance, or perhaps fate, brought my quarry to me. I was working out of Valiance keep, and had been ordered to assist some specialists in collapsing some tunnels the scourge were using to reinforce their siege of the base, the partner I was assigned to assist was a beast of a Draenei, wielding maces the size of men, his armour was ornate, decorated and familiar.
During my travels and searches, I envisioned ending the life of the man who killed me as being some glorious victory, something dramatic, and then, there he was. My nemesis, and he did not even recognise me. He made no sign of acknowledgment, he looked at me and muttered in that voice I still remembered so well, *Keep up with me, and don’t fool around, I have other business to attend once we are done.*
I was incredulous, outraged, but I kept my calm, he would die, and it would not be glorious, I would stab the cur in the back, I would leave him dying, and weeping for the scourge to find. I would break him and he would remember me, I would be all that he thought of as his life slipped away.
We worked well together, I will admit, we approached our objective by sneaking along the beach, wading through the icy water behind the keep. I was quite glad of my condition, for the Draenei, Ormel, as I had learned he was called. Seemed to be in a great deal of pain, so cold was the water. Once we reached the cliffs, slightly east of the keep we climbed, and eventually arrived on a small grassy plain, infested with scourge, we moved quickly between rocky outcroppings, dispatching those who noticed us.
Once we arrived at the target tunnel and placed the charges we had been given, not without fending off quite a number of the wretched insect creatures mind you, we lit the fuse and made haste back towards the cliffs we had scaled to get to our objective.
Then the world shook as the charges detonated, cavalry from the keep who were waiting on the explosions took their cue, and charged the lines of scourge, now cut off from additional support, it was a brief and bloody battle, on a scale I had never seen. In little over an hour, when all was said and done, Ormel turned to me and made the slightest nod. A gesture I was to take as respect I guess.
I returned the gesture, taking in my surroundings as I did, the cliffs to our right, the plains to our left, the dead scourge littering the battlefield, the imposing Warsong hold just over some rugged rock face further in land.
*You never did tell me your name, Death Knight*
I was shaken from my observations when he spoke, I looked down at my hands and then back at Ormel, who was eyeing me curiously.
*My name, is Ralkath Desare.*
Ormel nodded and made some comment about my skills that I did not hear, again, he had insulted me, was it so meagre a thing, to take my life, surely he had known my name! He had been contracted to kill me!
I had obviously shown some sign of my anger, as he straightened and looked down at me, those cold eyes, the eyes of the man who murdered me. Piercing me.
*Ralkath? What’s wrong lad?*
I snapped, I screamed, I cursed him, I cursed his family, and almost as an afterthought…I attacked him.
He was utterly unprepared for the attack itself or the fury behind it, he staggered back stumbling and nearly falling as I lunged, and swung my sword each attack closer to attaining my goal, to avenging myself, he was calling out my name, demanding that I stop. I didn’t care for his pleas, his words. I wanted to end him.
Then he had enough, with a single fluid movement he had sidestepped one of my lunges and spun around driving his armoured elbow into the side of my helm, nearly knocking me from my feet, I was shaken from my bloodthirsty assault. His armour had a few gouges torn from it, and one of them was leaking blue blood down the front of his armour.
*You killed me, you demon scum!*
He furrowed his brow for a moment, clearly puzzled and then the look of realisation set in, he looked down at the bloody gouge in his armour and scowled, reaching back over his head for his maces he held them both loosely at his side.
*You want revenge then, Ralkath Desare? I will remove you from this world a second time, and this time I will leave no body to recover.*
I struck with everything I had, my blade and, his own blood. I was so much more now, then what I had been. Unholy power coursed throw my body, and I unleashed it on the Draenei. I would see him die his slow inglorious death, it would be perfect, it would be revenge.
As our weapons locked the blood from his wound stopped coursing down his body and defied gravity, it ran up, along his body, down his arm and across our weapons, until it went under my gauntlets. I would take this and empower my own abilities with his blood.
The moment he noticed this, he broke the lock. I thought I had enough. I thought I could take him, I attacked again, a feinted thrust followed by a sweeping strike with the edge of my rune blade, he matched me still, move for move. I couldn’t understand, I was stronger then him, how could he still match me?
There was no denying that my initial attack, and the wound it had inflicted was taking its toll on him, it was only a matter of keeping him on the back foot until he lost too much blood.
Or so I thought, in my arrogance I had allowed myself to fall for his feint, the wound I had inflicted was superficial, a glancing blow, had I not been so caught up in trying to kill him, I would have noted the relatively small blood flow. However, I did not.
Ormel dropped to one knee, as one of his maces rolled away, the other hand still held on to its mace tight and I aimed a swing to sever it, then he sprung his trap, he launched to his hooves, dropping the mace he had still held and grabbed both my wrists in one giant hand and I saw the brief flash of light off the blade of a dagger in his other hand as he plunged it into my armpit.
I howled, releasing my own blade as he caught my throat and lifted me into the air, I panicked and kicked out at him, he threw me to the ground and with a sickening snap, crushed my remaining good arm at the elbow, with one stomp of his hoof.
I could not even scream, he dragged me, towards the still burning pit that had earlier been collapsed by our explosives.
*I never meant for you to come back, Ralkath. I will not repeat that mistake again. What is it you humans say? Once bitten, twice shy?*
I was dead shortly after he tossed me into the pit, and now here I am, a lonely ghost on a lonely cliff, sharing my stories with you. I was very wealthy in life you know, thanks to my…pursuits…I don’t think the guards ever did find all the things I looted and stole.
How would you like to know where to find those very treasures? I only require one simple thing in return.