A/N: So I took a bunch of stories down a while back, and I'm putting them back up. I'm trying to find all of the Impervious side stories, and they should be coming up in the next day or so, along with any Impervious chapters I haven't reposted yet.
Gregor Smithson stared into his small farm house, a hand to his head, covering one of his eyes as though if he only viewed half the mess, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. His son, Andrew, who should have been out plowing the fields while Gregor and his wife, Emily, had gone into town for supplies, stood near the hall to the back of the house with a hoe in hand. Apparently he'd been trying to knock down some of the higher clumps of ice in the room. The young man pointed the tool toward his sister, Katherine.
"It's her fault."
The young girl, barely thirteen, opened her mouth to protest, but instead thought better of it and slouched as though to make herself disappear. Gregor really needed to raise the money to send her to Dalaran for training. Or just find someone willing to tutor her. She had ample talent in frost magic and had promised him over and over that she would use her 'great' powers to keep any early frosts from harming their crops come next autumn. While he knew her intentions were pure, he couldn't fend off the nightmares of what might become of his livelihood, should she actually try to implement such a spell, especially one that she devised on her own.
One day, if she could get the proper training, she would be an excellent mage. However, that day would be after extensive training in both magic and patience.
In the meantime, Gregor was debating how they were going to get rid of the icicles hanging off almost every surface in their home before Emily returned. Luckily for his children, his wife never seemed to tire from trips and had stopped by one of the neighboring farms to chat, telling him that she'd walk home and be there in time for dinner. She'd given him a wink as though to imply that he should tell Katherine to get it together and cook something up.
Gregor ran his fingers through his thick brown hair, his green eyes inspecting his moronic children. Honestly, both he and Emily were smart enough, so how had this happened? Perhaps it was his daughter's over ambition.
Finally, he let out a weary sigh and looked over the house again. "What exactly caused this?"
"I wanted to make ice cream," Katherine whispered. As though she feared a severe reprimand, she abruptly darted over to their small table to one side of the room, her feet crunching through the frost on the floor, and held up a bowl. "It sort of worked. ...It's cold."
Andrew scowled and thwacked her on the back of the head. "Idiot. We don't need sweets."
He had always been the more practical of the two. The young man had it in his head that Gregor was far too old—he was only thirty seven—to be manning the farm by himself and Andrew was convinced that any day now Gregor was going to ask him to take over. While he liked his son's confidence, he wasn't too keen on his assumptions. Gregor easily had another ten or twenty years in him before he'd need to pass the torch. Instead, he ought to have married his son off by now and waved goodbye as the eighteen year old headed off to start his own family.
So far, that was but an idle dream. Like sending Katherine to be trained.
As Gregor commanded his children to get to work cleaning up the house and he took to the fields to get as much done as he could before his wife came home to see a wasted weekend, he couldn't help but smile. There was never a dull moment.
They weren't poor by any means—though the taxes had been weighing down on them of late, making Gregor and Emily chose the cheaper foods and forgo treats for the children—but Katherine had it in her head that if she was to be trained, it was going to be by elves. They had been practicing magic far longer than any human and, realistically, she thought they were pretty.
On occasion, elven traders passed by their farm on their way to the human cities and Gregor had to say he agreed with his daughter—the elves were amazing casters. He'd seen one of them take care of a group of thieves that was trying to take over the highway. That one person could take on so many...
A chill ran down Gregor's back and he paused in his work to look over his shoulder. Jason Henderson, the town's outcast of sorts, stood a few feet behind him, a patient look on his eerie face. When he saw he had the farmer's attention, he hurried over to him, disregarding the neat rows of tilled earth. Even as Gregor frowned, Jason clasped his hand and held it.
The boy was an orphan and Gregor had taken him in for a time, offering him shelter and food and training in being a farmhand, allowing the young man to help Andrew and him in the fields. However, Jason had grown bored with his work and had left to work in town instead. Not that he hadn't been grateful to Gregor. In fact, he'd offered to help send Katherine to school, though his daughter had quietly pulled Gregor aside to ask him not to take Jason's help. She didn't trust him.
Jason normally smiled whenever he saw Gregor, but this time, he was all business. "You have to leave."
Gregor blinked a few times, confused. "I'm sorry?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Jason looked as though he feared someone to be watching them. Gregor frowned. "Are you in trouble?"
"Me?" Jason scoffed. "No. Everything I could want is about to come to be." He ignored Gregor when the farmer asked what he meant. "You're the only one in this whole town—whole country, as far as I'm concerned, who has a heart. Different people deserve different fates and this...you are not meant for it. So you have to leave." Jason looked at him desperately for a moment before rifling through his robe pockets. Gregor frowned. When had the young man started wearing robes? Was he practicing magic? Jason produced a decent sized sack that jingled as he shoved it toward Gregor. "Take this and leave. Please."
He didn't wait for the farmer to reject the money before he looked over his shoulder again and darted off and out of the fields. While Gregor wanted to chase the man down and demand an explanation, he also wanted to have most of the field done before his wife got home. She might talk to the neighbors for a long time, but it wouldn't be forever.
He'd gotten half the field done before Andrew came out to take over, telling his father to inspect the house. Gregor had to say he was pleased. He couldn't see any hints of the earlier fiasco and Katherine was already setting the table as she prepared dinner.
Her face brightened when she saw her father and she paused to perch on their table, calling to him before he could walk back to his bedroom. "I think I might have found someone who will train me."
Gregor eyed her abruptly. "You didn't...let anyone into the house while we were gone?"
"Andrew did it," Katherine spoke quickly. "He's an adult, right? So it's okay."
Gregor felt his eye twitch. He sighed and slumped into a chair beside his daughter. "And I still don't want you letting strangers in the house. Who was it?"
"Two elven men. Their wagon's tire busted about a mile down the road and they were really tired," Katherine nodded her head sympathetically. "They were so worn, it would have been mean to make them walk all the way into town, right?"
"And one of these men is going to train you?" Gregor asked, suspicious. Perhaps he should search the house for their lockbox.
"Oh, no," Katherine waved her hand dismissively. "They weren't mages. Come on, dad. If they were mages, they could fix their own wheel." She didn't let her father argue that maybe they couldn't. "But one of them, a Sethyl Sunsomething-or-other, said he knew some people who might not mind taking a human pupil." She blushed, but quickly tried to hide that his looks had been part of the reason she'd all but begged Andrew to let the elves in. She'd thought her brother was going to call her stupid in front of them, but he'd proved surprisingly nice, even offering the elves a place to stay for the night, though they'd politely declined. A brief rest was all they needed...and help fixing their wagon, of course. "He was a priest, too. So, it would have been wrong to cast him out, right? We should be nice to those of the Light."
Gregor frowned and readied to chastise his daughter, but just shook his head. What was the use? She knew that he didn't think being religious made you a good person, but rather actions did. He'd seen plenty of corrupt clerics pass by, always asking for tithes to use to support the local taverns...though they seemed to have tapered off of late. He dismissed the notion as he sniffed the air, ignoring his daughter's hopeful look. "Something's burning."
With a yelp, Katherine jumped up from her seat and ran over to a stew that was bubbling over on the fire.
Jason wasn't in any of his usual haunts. Gregor frowned as he paced the length of the town square, trying to remember if there was anywhere else that the strange young man had said he liked to hang out. He often told Gregor of his adventures, though of late he'd been a bit more reserved about his interests. However, Gregor had dismissed it as being personal, perhaps the young man had found himself a lady. The farmer had never been one to boast his personal life—save for the births of his children—and he thought that perhaps Jason had caught on to his mannerisms somewhat. After all, he had partially raised him.
Gregor knew he should probably head back home soon. He had told his wife that he'd forgotten to get something in town, though he hadn't been able to give her a straight answer as to what. He was a horrible liar.
Gregor was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost missed the sound of the horse as it neighed and skidded to a halt a few feet short of him. With a blink, the farmer looked to his side to see a trader sitting atop his steed, eyeing him.
"Have you lost your mind?"
There was humor in the question and Gregor walked around to the side of the horse to clasp hands with the man, Mathew Cunningham. Mathew could have been a soldier with his physique and discipline, but had instead chosen a life of trade, claiming that he didn't like being tied down to one place. His route took him all the way from Lordaeron to Stormwind.
As Gregor apologized for walking out in front of him, Mathew swung off his steed and merely shook his head, a half smile in place. "What would I tell Em if I ran over her husband, hmm?"
Gregor laughed. Most didn't like Mathew, thinking him a single-minded prick, but Gregor got along with him just fine. Mathew just had a tendency to misread—or not read at all—other people's emotions, which had led to more than a few shouting matches.
Pausing as Mathew launched into some story about an innkeeper's daughter getting angry with him, Gregor apologized again when he noticed his friend looked somewhat hurt by his divided attention.
"I'm sorry, but I'm...well, something odd is going on and I'm trying to get to the bottom of it."
Mathew eyed him for a moment before slapping a hand on his shoulder. "Want to let me in on it? Perhaps I can help."
With a shrug, Gregor pointed across the way toward the inn. His old horse was tied up near the entrance. "Why not? I'm not getting anywhere on my own."
After a drink or two, Gregor told Mathew about the warning he'd received, as well as what looked to be almost every extra copper Jason had ever earned. He tapped the sack, which rested heavily in one of his pockets. "I'm worried about the boy."
"Perhaps he's run away?" Mathew offered, though he was the one to strike that notion. "I suppose not without his money..."
"Maybe he found a benevolent traveler who took him in? Free of charge?"
"People may be good, but they're not that good," Mathew muttered.
Their conversation had lasted well into the evening and Gregor had stayed the night in town. While he knew Emily might worry, he figured it would be better than risking his horse stumbling on a rut or loose rock in the dark.
Both he and Mathew were woken about midnight by a commotion going on downstairs. When they went to see what it was, they found that nearly the entire town had gathered in the street just outside the inn and it was nearly impossible to get any of the townsmen to pay attention to them long enough to give them a word of information. The people had rallied together in the dead of night to hear some man speak about an end of life or some such nonsense—neither Gregor nor Mathew ever gave religions of any sort much thought, but both were mildly surprised by the turn out for this one. It took nearly twenty minutes of searching the crowd and a rather generous tip to the innkeeper before he would finally step aside and speak with them.
"What is going on?" Gregor demanded, his patience thin. He hated being woken up. He had an internal clock that just clicked every morning and got him up before dawn. Regardless of how much sleep he got. Thus, he loathed losing any.
"Master Kel'thuzad has come to speak to us," the innkeeper murmured, somewhat awed by the notion.
Gregor had never heard of the man. However, he apparently had a huge following. The farmer was about to ask if there were any other inns in town that wouldn't be plagued by this man's notoriety, when an idea struck him and he eyed the crowd outside. "Do you suppose he would let me step in for a moment?"
The innkeeper's eyes snapped toward the farmer, his gaze dark. "Why would you do that?"
"I've spent all day looking for Jason. Jason Henderson. Orphaned after that terrible fire a few years ago—"
"That whelp? He's dead." The man spat the words with such hatred that it took both Gregor and Mathew by surprise.
Gregor reached forward to the innkeeper as he paled. "Dead? How? What happened to him? I saw him—" The way the innkeeper was watching him, he felt uneasy telling the truth and did his best to lie. "I saw him just recently, it seems. What killed him?"
"Some animal," the innkeeper shrugged, abruptly calming down.
"Where? Has anyone gone to take care of the creature?"
"Oh," the man smiled, his a sadistic light in his eyes making his grin perverse. "Everything's been taken care of."
Mathew and Gregor didn't wait for morning. Rather, they'd packed their sparse belongings and hit the road well before dawn, desperately trying to put space between themselves and the strange happenings.
It took all of Gregor's strength to not fling the door to his house open. As he pushed into the room, he saw his wife and daughter quietly kneading bread. Emily started talking without looking up.
"I told you we didn't forget anything. I swear, I must have gone over the list in my head forty times since you left."
Gregor walked over to the two and hugged them to him for a long, quiet moment. Then he arched his eyebrows and motioned with his chin to the door, where Mathew still stood. "I have a surprise for you."
He released his wife and put both hands on Katherine's shoulders. "How would you like to visit Stormwind? They say there's a few elves who live there. Perhaps you could get an apprenticeship down there, hmm?" He noticed the look of concern on his wife's face and shrugged quickly. "Or you could just enjoy the vacation. No need to make any rash decisions."
"Just what are you thinking?" Emily put her hands on her hips, flour smudging her dress.
"We've been holed up in this farm for twenty years," Gregor wrapped his arms around his wife's waist and kissed her. "When we got married, I promised you the world and this little plot of land is hardly that. A trip to Stormwind is a start, isn't it?"
"I don't need the world," Emily whispered, looping her arms around his neck and kissing him again. "I have you—"
"Due respect to the lovers," Mathew called out, ruining their moment. "But I've a schedule to keep and if I'm going to bring your lot with me, we need to move."
Emily frowned at Mathew as Katherine darted over to him and grinned. "On our way to Stormwind, will you tell us about the time you visited the goblins during the midsummer festival?"
Mathew gave her a stern frown. "Now, look here. Goblins are not some novelty to..." his voice trailed off as Katherine gave him a pitiful look. He patted her head and turned his gaze away. "I'll tell you about the goblins."
Katherine clapped her hands together and whirled away to go pack, though she stopped in her tracks and looked worriedly at her father. "What if Sethyl comes back with his mage friend? They'll think I wasn't serious about training."
Crossing his arms, Gregor made a shooing motion toward her. "I'm going to stay behind a day or so to get affairs in order and make sure someone looks after the farm while we're gone. I'll leave a note for them if they don't come back before I leave." As Katherine giddily accepted his response and ran to her room, Emily tugged on his shoulder.
"You expect me to deal with our children and that man on my own?"
"I'll probably catch up in a day or two," Gregor grinned and leaned his forehead against hers. "You know how carelessly fast I ride. In the worst case scenario, give me a week before you start worrying, alright? Now then, where's Andrew?"
Gregor slouched into his chair and rested his feet near the fire place. Thank the light he would be leaving in the morning, he couldn't take much more of the leftover bread Emily had left him. The Johnsons were going to look after the farm while they were away. It had taken half of his savings to pay them to do it, but they had finally caved.
He frowned. Jason's money was sitting on the table beside him. It probably wouldn't have stretched the bank so much if he'd just used that to pay off his neighbors, but he couldn't bring himself to use a dead man's earnings.
It shouldn't have taken the death of a friend to move him into action. Andrew had always wanted to go to one of the bigger cities—honestly, the boy would have settled for Lordaeron's capital, so he was ecstatic to be going so far south—and while he had at first declared he would stay back and help his father with business, it hadn't taken much to convince him to leave.
Just as Gregor was considering heading to bed—not that he would sleep well without Emily—a loud banging began on his door. Gregor glanced at the old clock on the wall. His grandfather had made it ages ago and it had stayed in the family ever since. Miraculously, it still ran, even so many years later.
Who would be calling this late at night?
Gregor figured it must be someone in trouble, perhaps another victim of that animal. He grabbed a small knife from the table—should the animal be close as well—and headed to the door.
As he swung it open, his mouth hung open. Jason stumbled into the room, covered in blood and smelling like something that had just clawed its way out of the nether. Jason looked up at Gregor, closing the door behind him. The young man looked disappointed at first, though Gregor hardly registered that. Jason looked like he'd just come from the grave. His skin was somehow taunt and sagging at once and his eyes looked like they were almost glowing. Yellow.
Gregor quickly caught himself and pulled Jason to the table, sitting him down and rushing to find his family's first aid kit. Between Katherine's spells and Andrew's overzealous nature, the damn kit was always in the strangest places. He would have to chastise them when he caught up.
"Don't bother," Jason murmured when he realized what Gregor was doing.
The farmer paused to look at him. There was so much blood. He ignored the young man's comment and shuffled through a few more cabinets before he found the gauze and hurried back to the table. "Where are you hurt?"
"Everywhere," Jason murmured. "They didn't mention it would hurt like this. Maybe it will get better as time goes on?" His gaze drifted toward the nearest window and then he looked down at the candle near it. With a frown, he jerked the curtains closed. "Why didn't you leave when I told you to?"
Gregor jerked the young man's sleeve up and found one of the cuts. There was dried blood around it, though it didn't look like it was oozing any longer. But it hadn't clotted either. While he was no doctor, something about this whole mess seemed wrong. Gregor dabbed at the cut and Jason watched him, bored. "You really don't need to bother. Why didn't you leave?"
"I'm going in the morning," Gregor murmured, eyeing the torn flesh. It definitely looked like a knife had cut it. How had anyone seen him and thought it was an animal? "You'll come with me."
"Wrong," Jason muttered, abruptly moving his arm away to lean against it. His eyes seemed brighter than they had been just moments before. "Why couldn't you have left before it was too late?"
"I had to get things in order," Gregor replied automatically. He frowned as the world seemed to get hazy for a second before clearing. Fatigue?
Jason scratched his forehead, though frowned when the action didn't seem to help with his itch. His fingers were so boney. Almost skeletal. "You should have just left." He paused and looked around. "Where's Mrs. Smithson and the others?"
"On their way to Stormwind," Gregor murmured. Jason lowered his arm back to the table as he shifted in his chair and Gregor shivered as he realized that the young man didn't look like he was breathing. Thinking it a silly notion, he still couldn't help himself. Gregor reached out and caught the man's wrist, feeling for a heartbeat. There wasn't one. As he jerked back, the world went hazy again and he felt an abrupt, sharp ache in his chest. The pain lingered a moment before dulling.
Jason was watching him with an apathetic look. "I did what I could for you, but you didn't listen."
The world blurred again. This time it lasted almost thirty seconds before subsiding. Gregor could feel a dull ache creeping into his joints. "What...is this?"
"A plague," Jason smirked before correcting himself. "The plague. Let's see those self-righteous bastards of the light fix this one." He noticed Gregor still looked confused and grinned from ear to ear, his lips stretching unnaturally. "It's genius really. Those paladin pricks are always talking about defending all life, right? So what will they do when they're against their own kind?"
"What?" Gregor concentrated on focusing, and he felt the aches recede.
"Think of it as a cure for death," Jason held his arms out. "I may not have a heartbeat, but look at me! Still here. And I have power," he grinned. "I'm stronger than I ever was living."
Gregor's mind tried to wrap around what the man was saying. The boy had some disease... Gregor sucked in a sharp breath as he realized the betrayal that had just happened. "You...gave this to me?"
"I wouldn't have if you hadn't been here," Jason muttered. He shrugged. "I figured, if you were still here, it wouldn't be right for you or your family to suffer the fear knowing that it was coming. I thought you should be some of the first. It's an honor, really—"
He let out a cry as Gregor slashed him with his knife. Jason stumbled to his feet, knocking his chair over. He stared at Gregor with a look of dismay. "Why would you—"
"You came here to kill my family!" Gregor shouted, though it made his throat throb.
"I came here to give you the honor of being some of the first," Jason hissed. In a moment, he wasn't the young man Gregor had taken in, but a rotting monster. As Gregor lunged for it again, the creature darted out of his reach and extinguished the candle with his fingertips. For a moment, the smell of burnt flesh wafted over that of a rotting carcass and Gregor was lost in the darkness as his eyes struggled to adjust. He let out a sharp cry when he felt teeth sink into one of his shoulders and he jerked the knife up, slamming it into something soft, an eye.
The undead howled in pain and jerked away. As Gregor whirled around to face it, he caught sight of its gruesome face, illuminated by its own glowing eyes, though one was dimmer than the other. Lashing out quickly, Gregor slashed at the creature's throat. It fell to the ground gurgling in pain, its vocal cords cut.
Gregor leapt on top of the monster and stabbed down again and again with his knife. He didn't stop until he realized that the creature's head was completely severed.
Stumbling to his feet, he staggered back over to the candle and tried to light it. However, his hands were shaking too much and he was having trouble concentrating on anything other than the pangs of pain that had begun to shudder through his body. He gave up on the wick, glancing back at the floor to make sure that the rotting corpse was still dead. He hesitated before gathering himself as best he could and dragged the body over and shoved it out the door of his house. He threw the head after it.
While he knew he ought to clean up the mess that was no doubt covering his floor, he instead allowed himself to slide down against the door, gasping a few times. It was hard to breathe and the wound in his shoulder felt like infection was already setting in.
Whatever it was that he had was moving fast, but he could probably still make it into town, or at least a neighbor's, before he succumbed. After all, his steed was faster than most, even old as it was, and he was a skilled rider. He could easily seek out help.
He paused, thinking about Jason's corpse. The boy had said that whatever this was had risen him, hadn't it?
Gregor let out a few jagged coughs before regaining control of his breathing and slowly moving along the wall back to his bedroom. It took effort to make it from the doorway to his bed and he almost stopped there, though he managed to drag himself a few feet further, to one of the few other pieces of furniture in the room. He reached to his nightstand and rummaged through his drawer until his hands shakily took hold of his only picture of Emily. She'd always hated sitting still for portraits and she'd all but demanded he throw that one out, claiming that she looked horrible in it. He'd thought she looked like an angel, though he'd hidden it to appease her.
Clutching the frame to his aching chest, he lay down and curled up on his bed. Perhaps, if he stayed indoors, and let this thing run its course, he could keep it from spreading to anyone else. As the dull aches throughout his body rose to become screaming throbs that vied for his attention, he had to fight the urge to get up and try to find help. Jason had been a sick boy in life. He wouldn't let the fool's actions take any other lives.
Gregor lay there for what could have been hours or years, his sense of time all but lost to the wretched waves of disorienting pain sweeping his body. He tried to choke back a sob when he noticed his pillow seemed illuminated by a dim yellow light and squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to think of Emily and Katherine and Andrew and the life they would make for themselves in Stormwind. Perhaps Mathew would take care of them in his place.
His last thought before his heart stopped beating was of Emily on their wedding day, fiddling with a few stands of golden hair that refused to stay out of her face. As she was ready to cry that everything had gone wrong, the rain that had kept up over their area for almost a week had abruptly subsided. The sun had caught her and she had given him the most beautiful smile, her hair and skin shimmering like she was made of the light herself.
She really had been his angel.
Less than a month later, Lordaeron was lost to the living.