Chapter V

"You are a suspicious woman, yet you have been rather trusting of me," Varimathras said, apparently guessing her thoughts. "I have tried to merit that trust. It is not something which demons generally offer one another. Let me assure you that I value it very highly."

"Why?" Sylvanas asked again.

Varimathras rustled his wings uneasily. "Please, Milady, let me take you back to the Quarter. The day is cold, and there may be other enemies between here and the Elevator. We will talk on the way."

"So be it," Sylvanas said. She waved her two new skeletons toward Lord Dirath. "Kill him." The knight still stood mired in Varimathras' sleep spell. The skeletons promptly turned and clanked over to the unconscious man, who became a dead man shortly thereafter. His armor clattered on the tile floor as he fell.

"See if you can make a new man of him," Sylvanas said. "There's a soul gem in his horse's saddle bag that you should have a look at later."

"Certainly, Milady," Varimathras said. "I will see that he is brought below once we return. And now, if you permit it?"

"Yes, of course." Varimathras moved forward with his bounding half-walk and gently lifted her from the cold throne. Sylvanas knew, logically, that a demon should be warm, but she was still surprised by the heat pulsing through his arms as he picked her up. He turned to face the six strangers.

"Milady, I meant to introduce those who assisted me in slaying your enemies," he said. "This is Lord Narinth Braindrinker and what remains of his cohort."

"What are they?" Sylvanas said, trying to get a good look without moving her head from Varimathras' chest. She was rapidly discovering that, while she had long considered herself indifferent to cold, she had been wrong.

"They are death knights, my Queen."

"These are death knights?"

Lord Braindrinker, the only skeleton with a full globe on his staff, stood up straighter. A profound, hissing bass issued from beneath his hood. "Yes, Lady. We were the first. The shaman raised us, and when the Horde fell, we were forgotten."

"They will not have us now," said another. "Nor would the Scourge. Their knights wear flesh as they would a garment."

"Then you are Forsaken," Sylvanas said. "As we are. You are welcome to join us. If you are loyal, I will see you rewarded. If you betray me, your existence will end. Do you understand?"

"Of course, Master," hissed six voices. The old knights bowed deeply.

"Then follow me," Varimathras said, and just like that, he was in the air, gliding through the doorway of the throne chamber. Sylvanas heard bone clatter on tile as her new subjects followed.

"Now answer my question," Sylvanas muttered into his chest. She was no doubt ruining the fabric of his doublet. She would see he had another one.

"Which question, Milady?"

"Why?"

"Oh, that," Varimathras said. "Ahem." Black eyes looked at her sidelong, very close now. "Do you know, at my age I thought I would be settled down with four or five Maidens of Pain by now? But I went to war for the Burning Legion, instead. Am I hurting you, Milady?"

Sylvanas clung tightly to his doublet with her mostly-uninjured right hand. She would never wear red velvet, of course, but she began to see it might have its uses.

"No. Keep talking."

"Yes, my Queen." His wings flapped on almost soundlessly, sweeping the snow away from her face as they moved through the air. "I came to this strange continent, bent on advancing my own ambitions, and then we were cut off from our orders. And then I met a powerful, a cunning, and a very angry woman, and I am afraid I rather lost my head." He sounded, if anything, slightly embarrassed. "You will note I do not say heart. I am not sure a Nathrezim can be said to have one."
"That's all right," Sylvanas said. "I don't believe I have one, either."

No. The bitterness was still there, the aching desire for vengeance filling her almost as fully as the pain. But she might, if she was very fortunate, find something else there as well.

After all, trustworthy councilors were not so easy to come by. Neither, for that matter, were warm bodies in the Undercity.

"Then if you will take an old demon's advice, it will be my honor to serve," Varimathras said. His tone became the fussier one with which she was very familiar. "I will ask, Milady, that next time you choose to leave the Quarter you will please take your honor guard with you."

"Oh, yes?" Sylvanas retorted. "And what about my majordomo? Who, may I ask, is ruling the Undercity at this moment?"

An embarrassed cough was the only answer, almost lost in the wind.

"I thought so," Sylvanas said.

So on they flew through the cold of a Lordaeron winter, the banshee in the arms of the demon. And beneath them, falling slightly behind, six old death knights clattered through the snow. Under the blackening grime, one of them had a robe which might, at one time, conceivably have been yellow.

"Run faster," said Lord Braindrinker.

"Very well," growled another. The skeleton in the possibly-yellow robe muttered something.

"What was that?" Braindrinker asked sharply.

"Nothing, Lord."

"I thought you said 'This is why I ended - "

"No, Lord."

"Indeed," the old knight said coldly. "And I know for a fact why you did it, and if you don't stop saying that, I will pull off every one of your metatarsals."

In the rising wind, much sound was lost. But it was just possible that one of the knights was heard to mutter, "That doesn't hurt!"

Probably not

THE END

Explanatory Note:

If you didn't get that last bit, it may be because you have not played Warcraft II. If you haven't, I urge you to do so. The graphics aren't as good, but the gameplay has much to recommend it, including more strategy and less RPG elements. I have no idea why Blizzard did not feel compelled to explain what happened to the skeletal death knights from WCII, but I plan to throw them into at least one more story of mine because I think they are far more interesting than the new "pale 'n pretty" variety.

You are no doubt familiar with the spells Unholy Armor, Death and Decay, Death Coil, Raise Dead, and Tornado. All of these originally belonged to the death knights, who were a spellcaster (with the Ogre Magi) rather than a melee unit. They rode horses in the original game, and were quite effective against enemy gryphons and buildings.

All this to say that I thought that since they are not heard from in the WCIII universe, they must be few and bedraggled. My reasoning is that no doubt the new Scourge would sneer at them, and they in turn would be far from impressed by this "giving up your soul for a sword" business (given that Shadow Council members had to give up their LIVES to be granted use of a human body). Thanks for reading and if you liked this, please check out the "Unlikely Heroes" series!