Author: Meridith PM
A Forsaken soldier faces a literal ghost of Lordaeron's past.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Supernatural/Drama - Forsaken - Words: 1,256 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 4 - Published: 12-30-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5624073
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was a staring contest of the dead. On one side, the shade: Little more than a roughly man-shaped wisp of smoke with glowing eyes. If it was able to speak, it didn't deign to, communicating only by following and watching silently. On the other, the undead: The reanimated corpse of a young woman in the blessed plate armor of a paladin. She had introduced herself to the shade as Meganna Wheeler, gone on to inform him of an assortment of personal details, used him as a proxy for talking to herself for a bit, and then finally locked her glowing yellow eyes with his and settled into trying to speak his language of silence.
The moon shone brownly through the haze that permeated the landscape in the part of Lordaeron known as the Plaguelands. They were technically on the border between the more-or-less habitable but still Scourge-infested Western Plaguelands and the completely ruined Eastern Plaguelands, on a massive stone bridge over the Thondroril River, but the atmosphere of death and decomposition and plague still dulled the little ambient light available so late into the night. She stood leaning against the side of the bridge, he floated in the middle, two more dead things in a land overrun by them. The wind carried foul things neither could smell and the sounds of distant battles being carried out against the mindless undead who assaulted this region. Earlier she had been wading chest-deep in Scourge herself, and her armor still had dried clumps of gore in some of the creases, but with her elven partner Tyrelys retiring for some much-needed rest she had found the perfect chance to confront the shade that had been following her for days.
The undead woman broke eye contact first, her gaze shifting down to her gauntleted hands. Her right hand held an old, faded, tattered letter. The left held a tarnished necklace with a sky-blue stone. She had found both on mindless Scourge soldiers she had killed - well, rekilled - just before the shade had started following her, and she felt almost instinctively that one of them was connected to him. He had to be a restless spirit freed from one of the mindless ones. She held the necklace up to him, letting the chain wrap around her fingers to allow the gem to dangle. She tilted her head quizzically and looked for any sign of a reaction, but the shade continued to do little but stare. She sighed and held up the letter instead, unfolding it to show him the writing. Again, there was no reaction from the shade. She frowned and turned the letter to herself, reading the faded words for about the hundredth time:
Dearest Amelia, Tonight I have seen things that will haunt me to the end of time. Stratholme is aflame... and we are responsible. Our Prince led us into the streets of the city tonight; he ordered us to break into the homes of the townspeople and... kill them in their sleep. They were plagued, claimed Lord Arthas, and had to be killed before they killed us. It was a slaughter. Hundreds died silently to the swords of those sworn to protect them. I could stand it no longer; I fled. Deserter I may be, but I could not commit such atrocities. In every home I could not help but see your face, or those of our children, upon the victims as they died. If standing against that means being a traitor, then so be it. I hope to find my way back to you in time, but the roads are unsafe. Give our children my love in my absence. James
Tonight I have seen things that will haunt me to the end of time.
Stratholme is aflame... and we are responsible.
Our Prince led us into the streets of the city tonight; he ordered us to break into the homes of the townspeople and... kill them in their sleep. They were plagued, claimed Lord Arthas, and had to be killed before they killed us.
It was a slaughter. Hundreds died silently to the swords of those sworn to protect them. I could stand it no longer; I fled.
Deserter I may be, but I could not commit such atrocities. In every home I could not help but see your face, or those of our children, upon the victims as they died. If standing against that means being a traitor, then so be it.
I hope to find my way back to you in time, but the roads are unsafe. Give our children my love in my absence.
Meg closed her eyes, her jaw set tight against the memories that welled up in her. She had been in Stratholme that night, not with Arthas' soldiers but as a city guard, declared by their prince to be as plagued as any other resident. She had escaped from the soldiers to find her father killed in his sleep, her brother Dariahn missing. It was her death trying to defend her home from the Scourge who were invading as Arthas carried out his purge that had brought her to this existence, just as she assumed it was his death at the hands of the Scourge that had left this James as one of the mindless soldiers she had spent so much time slaying. She wanted to believe that the shade was James, that he had stayed with her because of this shared horror, but he gave her no sign. If he were a soldier seeking forgiveness for what he and his compatriots has done, he had not yet asked. He could just as easily be some noble haunting the bauble in her left hand. Surely that had to be it.
The river below glistened dully in the moonlight as Meg turned to face it, turning her back to the shade. She rested her elbows on the edge of the bridge, bringing the necklace up to examine it pensively. The blue gem in its tarnished setting gave off as much of a sparkle as the light would allow. Holding her arm out over the river, she let the chain slip through her bony fingers and fall with barely a sound into the water. With a sigh she turned and walked to the eastern end of the bridge. She reached the worn cobbles of the road on the other side before she turned to see if the shade had disappeared with the necklace.
He was still there, following her across the bridge.
Meg looked at the letter again. Ever since regaining her will she had hated Arthas for what he had done to her family and her home, and by association she had hated the soldiers who had carried it out. Had James killed any innocent civilians before his conscience got the better of him? He had at least seen them killed, he had watched other soldiers murder them in their beds and ran away rather than trying to stop it all. He hadn't even tried to fight off the Scourge as she and a handful of other guards had. The letter crumpled in her hand as she closed her eyes again. Could she fault him for wanting to live? She had wanted to live so badly that terrible night, too. And it had been heartbreaking even for her to go against the orders of the Prince. Did she really expect this single soldier to have personally saved her father and her brother?
She looked up at the shade again. She still couldn't be sure that it wasn't someone else, some spirit that had tied itself to her for reasons she couldn't fathom. But she felt that just speaking what she suddenly felt in her heart would do something, even if it was only to bring her own restless soul a little bit of peace. "I know you did the best you could. You did the right thing," she said quietly. "As someone whose family was killed by Arthas' soldiers, I forgive you."
Though it was little more than a reflex, the undead woman held her breath for a moment, heart heavy as she hoped for a reaction and expected none. Then, slowly, the shade grew less and less substantial in the moonlight until nothing remained but a hint of the glow of his eyes. Then he closed them and, having found his peace, he was gone.