This is my first attempt at Warcraft fanfiction. I never thought I would write one, but then I was brutally assaulted by a bunch of plot bunnies, and this is the result. I'm anything but an expert on Warcraft lore, so if I got something wrong, be gentle with me ;)
I found that there is sadly little Arthas fanfiction around. This is my attempt to remedy that situation. Since I love an evil bastard, I tend to keep them evil in my fics, so be warned, there is no fluff ahead. On the other hand, a one-dimensionally evil villain is a boring thing, so I tried to give him some human traits, as well.
This is mostly a dark fic, and it contains brutality, torture, and rape, sort of. If you are offended by that kind of stuff, or feel uncomfortable with hostage scenarios, please don't read. You've been warned. :)
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I felt was confusion. Confusion about the fact that I was opening my eyes, to be exact.
The last thing I remembered were the cries of the wounded, the ringing sounds when steel clashed with steel... and the sharp pain when a runed blade bit through my armour, deep into my flesh, and the world went dark.
I blinked a couple of times to clear the image in front of my eyes, and finally realized I was lying on a cold, hard stone floor, and staring up into a high, vaulted stone ceiling. Icicles in every size from tiny to huge had formed on the ribs of the arches. The light was dim, and everything was tinted in a bluish hue.
I could hear heavy footsteps moving about, the sounds ringing hollow in the obviously huge empty room, many pairs of feet, and the familiar sounds of people moving in heavy armour.
Where am I?
I should be dead... again.
"Finally awake?", a voice reached my ear. A very familiar voice, though up to now, I mostly had heard it whispering in my mind.
I froze, fright driving its black claws into what was left of my not beating heart.
Please, no... not him...
But there was no mistaking that voice, nor the commanding tone, as he said: "Stand!"
I could not resist that tone, regardless of the fact that I, technically, had been freed from his will, was not slave to his commands anymore. But before I even was aware of what I was doing, I found myself climbing to my feet with awkward, sore movements, my eyes firmly cast down on the flagged stone floor. My body was still aching all over after our defeat at the foot of the Icecrown Citadel.
I had to bite back a hoarse, bitter laugh. What a bunch of fools we all had been, thinking we could take the fight to him instead of fighting on his terms all the time. Thinking we could take him out with one swift, valiant strike of heroism.
He had simply released wave after wave of undead to mow us down, and as could have been expected, here, at the center of his power, they were so much stronger than any we all ever had encountered on our travels. Yes, we had come with a small army, a selected few, the toughest and best champions the Alliance as well as the Horde could muster.
But as the battle wore on, slowly and inevitably we had been decimated. There seemed no end to the flow of undead that swamped the glacier, and we had not once gotten close enough to the gates of the citadel to pose a true threat to Arthas. Who had not even deigned us worthy enough to appear in person.
Fools. Utter, utter fools.
That had been my last thoughts before I died the second time in my life.
And now... he must have raised me once more. Why? Had he claimed me, like last time? But as far as I could tell, I could not hear his voice in my head, and I did not feel the urge to kneel down at his feet and pledge my life to him, like last time.
The only urge I felt was to run like hell, find a place to hide and never crawl out again.
"Look at me", his voice commanded, and reluctantly, I followed the order and raised my eyes. Now I could see that I was in a huge, cathedral like throne room, the windows pointed arcs that seemed to be filled not by glass, but by blue, transparent ice. There were dozens of people, heavily armoured, heavily armed, some moving around, talking quietly, but most had their eyes on me.
Well, if you could call them people. They once had been. They weren't anymore. Just like me.
My own eyes were fixed on the figure that occupied the throne, at the foot of which I obviously had been unceremoniusly dumped while I was unconscious. Or dead?
It had to be him. Never before had I seen him without his helmet on, and even now, he had it with him, resting by his elbow, on the armrest of his throne, that seemed to be made out of the same transparent blue ice as the windows. He still wore his armour, his lower legs clad in thick, white fur, blue steel everywhere else, all spikes and skulls. He had stapled his fingers, and watched me with a smirk on his face that sent shivers of pure dread down my spine.
But still, my eyes were drawn to that face I had never seen before, fascinated much against my will, to his eyes, glowing as blue as my own, the mark of the dark magic that animated us both. Only in his case, the magic was his, and he had used it to rise my sorry corpse to do his bidding.
I realized that though he was nothing like what I had heard in the stories, no trace left of the golden prince of the human realm, he still was handsome, in a twisted, unhealthy way. His hair had lost its golden colour and turned the white of snow, again like my own. But where I kept mine pragmatically short, his was long and silky, flowing over his back and shoulders.
I had always wondered which colour my hair might have been while I was alive, but never had been able to remember. The memories of that life had stayed hazy, at best. Now, my hair was white, and my skin had turned a dark grey that would never be seen on any living blood elf, announcing my undead state as clearly as my glowing blue eyes.
Arthas' skin, as well, had taken an ashen tone in death, and his face bore deep lines and furrows no elven face would ever show. His jaw was square and chiseled, and he had full, sensous lips – the corners of which were lifted in a smile of pure evil.
I could feel my legs start to tremble slightly, and I could not lie to myself enough to convince me that it was from a residing weakness after being wounded – or killed – in battle.
Well. There was no shame in being afraid, face to face with the Lich King, wasn't there?
Only a fool wouldn't have been afraid. An even bigger fool than myself, that was.
"I thought I recognized you", his voice reached my ear again, and the smile on his face broadened with glee. "Iselle. How have you been? Besides dead?"
Somehow, I could not get rid of the feeling that being recognized by the Lich King was nothing to be happy about. I cast my eyes down again, and clasped my hands in front of me, to stop them from shaking.
His armour made nearly no noise as he got up on his feet with surprisingly graceful movements, considering he wore heavy steel. Still, he moved as if his armour weighted nothing.
I flinched when he stepped up to me, and a plate gloved hand reached out and cupped my chin, forcing it up, forcing me to look into his face again. The malicious smile was still in place, and now I started to tremble in earnest, as fear gnawed on my insides like a living thing.
"I had such high hopes for you, once", he said. "You were one of my best. Fearless, unflinching, ruthless and cruel. Strong and deadly." His gloved thumb stroked over my cheek in a mocking caress, his smile widening once more, and I again shivered with dread. "Beautiful."
I had served under him long enough to know very well that he was not complimenting me. Confronted with beauty, the only thing he would feel was the strong urge to destroy it, twist it, until nothing but corruption was left behind. You just had to look on the lands he conquered.
I closed my eyes, not able to look into that gloating face any longer, and tried to control my breathing. My heart, that did not really beat very often, was hammering away in my chest in fright.
"You were one of my best", he repeated, softly. "You could have come far, serving me. And yet, you betrayed me."
I was frightened to death, but still I could not keep my mouth shut at this. "You betrayed us first", I whispered, my voice shaking as bad as the rest of me. "You sent us there to die. We were nothing but a lure for Fordring, to draw him out."
I heard him chuckle, but the steel gloved fingers bit deeper into the skin of my face, making me gasp with pain. "Still as insolent, I see", he said. "I planned on winning that fight. Morgraine switching sides was not something I reckoned with, nor were the effects fighting on holy ground had. Otherwise, Fordring would have met his end that day. And those select few surviving the battle – well, let's just say they would have been rewarded. And I really was thinking that you would be among them."
His fingers grabbed my face even harder, and I moaned, thinking that my jaw would crack every second.
"As it is, you only witnessed my defeat", he hissed, and the sudden fury in his voice made the fear eating away at me rise to panic. I whimpered, trying to pull away, to run, but his grip was like iron, and I could not break free. "And instead of returning to my side, you allied with my enemies. Come knocking on my door, challenging me. I could easily have raised you as one of my mindless thralls again, Iselle. Know why I did not?"
Still full of panic, I tried to shake my head in his grip, not knowing myself if it was an answer to his question, or a desperate attempt to deny the situation I found myself in.
With a swift, vehement motion, he pushed me back, and I flew through the air, crashing to the ground in a graceless heap some yards away.
"Because then, torturing you would not have been half the fun it is going to be now", he growled. "Bring her to my private rooms. One of the cells. Get her up, and heal her. I want her to be strong for tonight's entertainment."
More iron gloved hands grabbed me and dragged me along the corridor, while I howled in fear, fighting like a cornered rat, but of course I had no chance. They dragged me through endless corridors that all seemed the same to me, and finally into an empty room that held a couple of cells in one wall, closed by iron bars, thick as an arm.
They threw me into one of the cells and slammed the door shut behind me, then left the room without a glance back.
I was left lying on the floor, crumbled, and sobbing with fear.
Have you ever heard stories of people heroically resisting torture? Forget about them. It's all bloody lies. Everyone breaks. Everyone talks. The only difference is that the ones trying to be tough get hurt a lot more beforehand. I have tortured enough people in my time to know that very well. Even those hardass Scarlet guys cry like babies after a while. I know because I made them cry.
So I did not even try to be strong. What for? Trying to resist the pain only makes the torturer think of ways to hurt you even more. I screamed, and I cried, and I begged while he worked on me, in his own private torture room. I would have talked, too. I would have told him anything, had he asked but one question.
He did not, of course. There was nothing I could tell him that he did not already know. He just wanted to hurt me. Because that was his idea of fun.
Someone lesser might have raped me, too. He did not. I don't think the thought even crossed his mind. To him, I was lower than a worm. Who would think of raping a worm?
I wasn't sure if that was a blessing or not. Maybe the rape would have been easier to handle. If you have the choice between rape and red hot pokers, what would you choose? What would hurt more? Idle question, since it was the pokers for me. And the knifes. And the needles. And... well, you get the picture.
He worked on me until I finally passed out from pain. It took a long time, since he was an expert on this, knowing exactly when to give me a break, to let me recover enough so he could draw it out as long as possible. I tried to fake unconsciousness a couple of times, hoping he would stop, but it's kind of hard not to scream when burning metal is pressed against your flesh.
I really don't know how long he amused himself with me. Probably hours. Felt like eternity. In the end, he allowed me to slip into blessed darkness, and I lost consciousness.
When I came to, I was lying in my cell, but someone had placed a bed in there, the real thing, no cot, with silken sheets and a duvet. I blinked in confusion again, for a moment not remembering where I was, but then all came rushing back, and I started to shiver violently.
I felt no pain, none at all, and when I looked at my arms, my skin was smooth and unmarked, no trace of the brandings left, and the broken bones healed, obviously. His priests had done a very thorough job on me. I seemed to be wearing a kind of nightdress, made form soft cotton. I was clean and smelled of soap. Someone had really taken good care of me while I was out.
There was a tray with food and a jug of water on the floor, and I had to admit it looked good, the bread fresh, the meat juicy... but my stomach was clenched so much I did not think I would be able to eat.
I huddled under my blanket, and I cried, cried until there were no tears left. I knew what was in store for me. Torture, as much pain as I could take, and then some, until finally, he got tired of me, and I would be killed once more, and probably raised as a mindless ghoul in his army. And there was no escape. Or was there?
Out of my burning, swollen eyes I looked at the tray on the floor. I could just refuse to eat...
Steps nearing the door of the cell made me scoot back against the wall, hugging the blanket to my chest, as if it could offer some protection. As if anything could offer protection against the man – if you could call him that – that now was leaning casually against the bars of my cell.
"Iselle", he said, his voice treacherously gentle. "How are you feeling today?"
I don't think I could have answered that question, even if I wanted to, and I kept staring at my hands, that were gripping the duvet so hard my knuckles were turning white.
He chuckled again, the sound rising goose bumps on my skin, and said: "I am truly happy you came back. I was starting to get bored at night. But I see you have not touched your food. Eat. If you think of starving yourself, forget it. I want you strong, and you don't think I will allow you to grow weak, do you?"
With that, he turned around and left.
After a while, I pulled the tray closer to the bed, and reluctantly started to eat. I really did not want to make him angry at me.
I honestly could not tell how much time passed that way. Some nights, he would leave me alone, probably when he was out, busy spreading the Scourge, destroying the world as I knew it. Most nights, though, I was dragged from my cell, into the torture room, and he would have his way with me for hours, until I was finally allowed to pass out.
In the mornings, I would awake in my cell, healed, bathed, clothed, and fed. He really took good care of his latest toy. I never saw anyone doing it, never saw another person in all that time, except for the guards who came to drag me into the torture room that was next to the one with the cells, to strap me onto the wooden table there, and leave me for the pleasure of their master.
After I while, I slipped into some kind of stupor. I think I was beginning to go crazy, and to be honest, I considered that as a good thing. My mind would just shut off, and the days passed in a slow haze as I not really registered anymore what was going on around me. Unfortunately, nothing to shake you out of a stupor than a lot of pain.
Obviously, I still screamed enough to keep him entertained, because I continued to get dragged into the torture room regularly.
Then, after what probably had been months, something happened that never happened before. It was already late at night, but so far, nobody had come for me, and I was beginning to hope that this would be a night where he was busy elsewhere.
But suddenly, the door to the room opened, and I heard his footsteps approach. By now, I always recognized his footsteps, like every good dog would. I huddled under my blanket, my eyes squeezed shut, and tried to pretend I was asleep.
As if he would just turn around and leave if I were.
"Get her out!", he bellowed, and I flinched, knowing something was wrong, knowing he must be seething with rage, because normally, he would never raise his voice. Hasty footsteps approached, the cell door was opened, and hands grabbed me, pulled me out of my bed, and into the room beyond, to the door, aiming for the torture room opposite, as so often.
Resigned to my fate, not an ounce of fight left in me after all these weeks, I just let myself be dragged along, already sobbing quietly. They started to hoist me onto the torture table, but again his voice rang out, still furious:
"Get out" he barked. "Go!"
They nearly fled the room, and I simply stayed where I was, curled up on the floor in a foetal position, and listened to his agitated footsteps, wandering to and fro for minutes. Something must have happened to shake him up badly. Considering who he was, it was hard to imagine what that might have been.
A heavy military defeat, maybe? His armies beaten in a crucial battle? And he needed someone to vent his fury on?
I nearly whimpered at the thought but quickly repressed the sound, not wanting to bring myself to his attention. But still, I ventured a quick glance at him, trying to gauge his mood.
For once, he was not wearing his armour, but a simple tunic and breeches, and soft leather boots instead of the heavy plate ones. His hair was hanging into his face, as if he had been driving his hands through it again and again, and his eyes were glowing even brighter than usual.
I was struck once more by the thought of how tall he was, how muscular. So much taller and stronger than every elven man I had known. They tended to be slight, and sleek, even those used to wielding a blade.
From my point of view on the ground, he seemed huge, and I huddled up even more, hoping to make myself invisible.
Then I realized his lips were moving, and he was muttering to himself. And now, I could make out parts of his tirade. "Bloody bitch! Treating me like... and the way she looked at me... who does she think she... she left me, for heaven's sake! Left me when I needed her most, needed to be strong, turned her back on me and left..."
It went on like that while I kept staring at him, realizing slowly that he must be speaking of Jaina Proudmoore, his betrothed, who had left him when he was still human, when he started his descent into the darkness by deciding to burn down Stratholme, together with the people he had sworn to protect.
Jaina, whom he seemed to have encountered today, one way or the other.
I also realized that right now, he was probably more Arthas than I had ever seen in him before, the Lich King pushed back by the obviously strong emotions meeting his former love had aroused in him. Whatever had happened, however they had met, it had shaken him up a lot.
Not thinking that that was a good thing for me, I instinctively tried to crawl back, hide under the table, but the movement of course drew his attention, and his head snapped round, fixating me with those wildly glowing eyes, and I froze, like a mouse in front of the snake.
He stared at me for a while, as if he had forgotten about my presence and was trying to remember who I was, his chest heaving under his agitated breath, then he whispered harshly: "Get up."
Shaking, I followed his command, my hands dug into the fabric of the loose gown I wore, and stared to the ground.
"Come here.", he commanded, and I did as he said, my heart beating in my throat, but not daring to defy him. I moved up to him until I stood about an arm's length away, trembling, my eyes still firmly on the ground.
"On your knees", he growled, and I obeyed, wondering what was to come now, when I suddenly realized his fingers were opening his breeches, and my eyes grew large in disbelief.
Never in all that time had he assaulted me in that way, and now...?
He shoved his breeches down a bit and I could not help but think that seemingly, everything was bigger in human males.
"Open your mouth", he hissed, but this time, I was too dumbstruck to obey immediately, and with an impatient growl, he grabbed my jaw with one hand and pressed, until with a pained noise, I had to open my mouth.
Immediately, he shoved himself in, grabbed my head to hold it steady, and started to move, making me choke and gasp for air. Relentlessly, he pushed in and out, making no noise, the only sign that this was affecting him at all the fact that his fingers fisted my hair more and more tightly.
Finally, with a grunt, he came in my mouth, and I coughed and sputtered as he already shoved me backwards to the ground and pulled his breeches up again. Closing them, he left the room without a glance at me. In the corridor, I could hear him calling for the guards to take me back into my cell.
Not moving, I lay on the floor, sprawled where he had shoved me, and stared at the ceiling, trying to understand what just had happened.
At least, it seemed better than a night of torture.
After that, things gradually changed. There still was torture, but I knew that something was different when one night, instead of calling the guards, he simply stepped into my cell, and closed the door behind him, only to stand there wordlessly, staring at me.
When he finally whispered. "On your knees. Now.", I knew perfectly well what was to come. And this time, I was prepared for it.
I readily knelt down before him, and opened his breeches, my hands only trembling slightly.
Better than torture. Right?
He was already half erect, and I took him between my hands, and slowly traced him with the tip of my tongue, before I sucked him in, still very slowly. His hands grabbed my hair again, and I could hear his head leaning back against the wall of the cell.
"Don't even think of biting", he whispered, harshly.
I honestly had been thinking of no such thing. I really did not want to make him angry. But if I tried to put some effort into this... maybe I could get him more interested in that than in torture.
I tried really hard, pulling together every bit of experience I had, every bit of phantasy I could muster. I licked and I sucked and I stroked, and occasionally even nipped lightly, and was thrilled to hear his breath grow quicker, as his hands buried in my hair, and at the end, even a strangled groan escaped from between his clenched teeth.
This time, he drew back before he came, staining my gown, then simply got dressed again and left without another word.
From then on, his nightly visits grew more frequent, and the torture sessions diminished. Plus, he did not seem as enthusiastic about those anymore. It was as if his heart was not into it any longer. They were more like a routine by now, and over quickly.
Either way, I still did my best to keep him interested in my ministrations, though he never touched me in any other way. I guessed that he always came when thoughts of Jaina plagued him, but I could not care less. I was simply glad that the torture slowly seemed to get replaced by this.
I realized that gradually, he relaxed more and more in my presence. By now, he mostly lay down on my bed, and I knelt above him, playing with him, taking my time, trying to draw things out. I really did not want to think about the fact that I was starting to enjoy this, enjoyed feeling him in my mouth, enjoyed hearing him moan softly, enjoyed his hands in my hair, no longer fisting it, but stroking it, caressing it.
I had lost all sense of time, did not now how long I had been imprisoned here, in that citadel of ice, how long it had been since I had experienced anything like love, or friendship, or any kind of social contact.
The truth was, I had begun to crave these moments, crave his touch, the closest thing to human warmth I could get in this place. Sometimes, he would not leave immediately afterwards, but stay for a couple of moments, still stroking my hair.
I knew I was going crazy, but in these moments, I really felt happy.
Then came the day everything changed again.
I really don't know what had gotten into me. I guess it must have been my longing for a bit of warmth, of closeness. Up to now, I had always simply done what he told me to, namely, take him into my mouth and bring him.
That day, that just did not feel enough. After he propped himself up on the bed, and I knelt before him, between his legs, I suddenly could not resist the impulse to see more of him.
Without thinking, I shoved up his tunic, laying bare his stomach, and his chest. I stared down at him for a couple of seconds, a strange heat spreading through me as again, the thought of how beautiful he truly was crossed my mind.
I let my fingers trace the muscles of his chest, and then slowly followed the thin white line of hair that ran down from there, over his hard stomach, down to his navel.
Elven men don't have any body hair at all. I always had imagined the bodies of human males to be hairy as an ape, crude and ugly. Now, seeing him, I realized how mistaken I had been. He was breathtaking.
Not able to take my eyes off him I continued to let my hands run over his chest and stomach, heat starting to pool between my legs, and I realized how much I suddenly wanted him. I had not felt any urges at all, all this time, had not even touched myself, stuck too deep in my misery to even think of something like that.
Even when I had sucked him off, all I had been thinking about was that it kept him from causing me pain, and that I needed that bit of closeness these moments brought.
With a sigh, I bent forward, and ran my tongue over his stomach, up to his chest. There, I was stopped by his tunic, and impatiently, I started pulling on it, trying to get it over his head.
Too my surprise, he complied, sat up and pulled it over his head, dropping it to the floor. Then he settled back, regarding me with an inscrutable expression on his face.
I wasted no thought on what might go on in his head, but just gave in to my hunger, leaned forward and started to kiss and nibble on his neck, down to his collarbone, and back to the little hollow at his throat. His shoulders were so broad. Were all human men built like this?
For a moment he tensed, maybe expecting me to try and rip his throat out with my teeth, or whatever, but then he relaxed again, and I could feel his hands grabbing my hips, pulling me down on him. They were calloused and rough, and felt so good on my skin.
I was so ready for him he slipped in without resistance, and I moaned at the sensation, my nails digging into his chest involuntarily, and he gasped and started to move in me from below, his hands holding my hips steady.
Faster and faster he moved, and I could do nothing but hold on and try to repress my screams. It felt so good, I never wanted it to stop. But when he sat up and captured one of my breasts with his mouth, sucking hard on the tip, the heat between my legs seemed to explode, and I came, screaming, clawing his shoulders.
He fell back, grabbing my hips painfully hard and started driving himself into me a couple of times, until he groaned and shuddered, and then let go of my hips, inhaling deeply, trying to calm his breath.
I wanted nothing more than sink down on his chest and cuddle up to him, but I did not dare, so I just sat there, panting, until after a few moments, he simply shoved me aside, to get up, and got dressed. He left without another glance.
And I spent the rest of the night trying not to think about the fact that I just had thrown myself at my gaoler, my torturer, practically begging him to take me. That I had sex with the monster, the Lich King, enemy of all things living.
And that it had felt wonderful.
From then on, there were no more torture sessions. I could tell myself that that at the very least had been worth it.
He did visit less often, but when he came, I could not get enough. As slowly as he had changed when I had started to take him into my mouth, as slowly he changed now. First, he would just come, fuck me and leave again.
But gradually, there were other things. Touches. His hands on my body, all over. Later followed by lips and tongue, making me writhe and squirm as my nails raked his back, my moans and cries filling the room. I no longer tried to hold back, and I no longer cared who heard.
He also let me touch and kiss him whereever I wanted, and I found and followed every scar his battles had left on his body. He still hardly made a noise, and every moan or sigh I could rip from him made me unbelievably happy.
And when first, he would just push into me and get it done, now he would also hold me, hold me in his arms, close against his body. It was bliss.
The first time he kissed me, it felt incredible. He was on top of me, in me, making me feel so good, my fingers digging in his back, egging him on, when suddenly, his mouth wandered from my jaw to my lips, and he caught them with his, hungrily, demanding, a sigh escaping him.
Moaning, I opened my mouth under his, welcoming him in, wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my fingers in his long, silky, white hair. I could think of nothing anymore than of how much I wanted him, needed him, and I kissed him back as hungrily as he kissed me, dizzy with joy.
Suddenly, I felt him shudder, and he moaned into my mouth, this rare sign of arousal enough to make me follow him over the edge, ripping my mouth from his and sinking my teeth into his neck in extasy.
For the first time, he rolled to his side afterwards, keeping me in his arms, holding me against his chest, and I snuggled up at him, filled with happiness. That night, I fell asleep in his embrace.
When I woke up the next morning, he was gone.
I sat up on my bed and pondered the strange turn of events of the previous night. I really did not want to think about the empty feeling in my chest after waking up alone.
When I heard footsteps approach, my head snapped up, my brows furrowed in confusion. Never before had someone approached me by day. I really could not think that was a good sign, and my heart started beating fast as I stared at the door in fearful anticipation.
I knew it was not his footsteps I was hearing, and it was more than one pair of feet stomping along the corridor in heavy, armoured boots. Finally, the door flew open, and a couple of guards entered, as usual, nothing but walking armours, their faces hidden behind the plate helmets they wore, only their eyes glowing behind the slits.
My confusion grew as I realized they were carrying various pieces of armour, and a weapon I knew very well. My rune sword. Wordlessly, they opened the door of the cell and tossed the armour and weapon inside, the metal making hollow, ringing sounds as it hit the stone floor.
I still stared at them, trying to understand what was happening, when they closed the cell door again and stepped back.
"Get dressed!", one of them said, and they turned and left the room again.
With shaking hands, I picked up an armoured gauntlet from the floor. It was mine, alright. The armour I had worn when we made our harebrained assault on Icecrown Citadel. My underclothes, my backpack, everything.
What was going on?
They had ordered me to get dressed, so I did my best. If you ever have tried to put on plate armour, you know that it's near impossible to do on your own. There are just some straps and buckles that you can't reach. When I was done, I picked up my rune blade and ran my hands lovingly over the shining metal. They had taken very good care of my things, everything was polished, and oiled, the blade sharp and gleaming. It was a strangely exhilarating feeling to hold it in my hands after the long time, and I could feel a bit of my spirit reawaken, something of the warrior I had once been.
After a couple of minutes, the door opened again, and the guards entered, opening the cell door once more. One of them came in, and silently fastened the buckles I could not reach.
Then he stepped out again, and with a motion of his helmeted head, told me to follow.
Confused and not knowing what to expect, I put on my helmet as well, and sheathed my blade, but kept my hand on the hilt. Not because I was thinking of doing something as stupid as attacking, but because it simply felt so good to touch it. It was as if a piece of myself, of who I had been, had been given back to me.
They took me in the middle, and escorted me through the endless, mazelike corridors again, moving up and down stairs seemingly at random. This time, I was in a condition to take in a bit more of my surroundings, but these corridors still looked the same to me, all grey stone, pointed arches, the windows filled with opaque blue ice, and icicles hanging from the ceiling everywhere.
After a march of maybe half an hour, we reached a vault like chamber with a large stairwell disappearing into the darkness, and a couple of closed doors leading to who-knew-where. One wall was dominated by a large portal.
The other death knights threw open the portal, and I squinted at the light that suddenly filtered into the room, not used to anything but the bluish gloom that the ice windows allowed inside. My body was already aching all over from walking, my armour seemingly weighing a ton. I was not used to moving around in plate anymore.
They shoved me outside, the light nearly blinding to my eyes now, as it reflected on every surface around me. Everything, even the ground, was covered with thick, translucent, gleaming ice.
They roughly shoved me along, and I hastily wrapped my cloak around me. It was bitter cold, and though I technically can't freeze, since I'm not exactly living anymore, the cold could still feel damn uncomfortable. And plate armour does not really help to keep you warm.
After a while, my eyes had become accustomed to the light, and I could see we were approaching a monstrous wall that loomed ahead, flanked by gigantic towers, crowned with battlements. My confusion grew as, while we approached, a small door in the huge portal was opened, and we stepped outside, on and over the massive, ice rimmed drawbridge that led over the wide moat before the wall.
As soon as we had crossed it, one of the knights walking behind me gave me a rough push. Not expecting it, my movements still clumsy as I tried to get used to wearing armour again, I stumbled forward and fell, and wordlessly, they all turned back, retreating over the drawbridge.
Now, I truly felt a hint of panic rise. What was this all about?
"Hey!", I yelled, my voice cracked and hoarse, mostly unused for a long time. Whatever Arthas had done when he came to me, talking had never taken a big part in it.
But the heavy wooden door simply slammed closed behind them, and I found myself sprawled on the ground, which consisted of solid ice, alone, no noise to be heard but the howling of the wind, as it blew around the towers.
For a moment, I simply stared at the gate, not believing what was happening. He had thrown me out? Simply sent his lackeys to toss me out, like an old rag? After… yes, after what?
Numbly, I tried to think of what to do next. I think I never had felt so lost in my life. Unlife. Whatever.
Obviously, they just expected me to leave. But I, thinking about where to go, suddenly realized that I could not do it. I had nothing to return to.
My whole life had been uprooted – what – four times now? The first time, when I died on the battlefields of Azeroth. I had found my place within the forces of the Horde, battling the Scourge, and it had seemed such a worthy cause at the time.
When I finally died, slain by Arthas' minions, it had seemed a fitting end. Only it had not been the end, for he had raised me to fight in his ranks, one of his death knights, with no will of my own, only the desire to serve him filling me. I had not doubted, I had not hesitated. I simply had found another place in the world.
But then… his influence had been taken from me, and this time, it had been a struggle to regain my purpose. I had done unmentionable things in his name, so much sin to atone for. I fought to overcome the depression that was dragging me down, fought to overcome the prejudice, the hatred, the distrust many of my newfound allies still held against my kind. And who could blame them?
But I did get back on my feet. I found new friends, new allies, new companions, and had taken up the fight against the Scourge again. Using the powers he had given to me.
Then I had died a second time, and once more, he had brought me back, this time as his personal plaything, to have his revenge on me for witnessing his defeat, for siding with his enemy.
And just when I had come to terms, in a way, with that new lot in life – he had thrown me away like so much garbage.
And I simply did not have the will to start over for the fifth time. There was not enough left of me to gather that strength, to go back and try to pick up the pieces of my life.
He had broken me alright.
I wanted to hurl myself upon that door, yell at them to open up, but I knew it would be of no use. Not if he told them to throw me out. No one would dare crossing his will.
So I just stumbled back over the drawbridge, to the gate, and sank down on the floor on the corner between the wood and the tower that flanked it. Here, I was protected from the wind, but it already felt as if my armour was leeching all warmth out of my body. Shivering, I wriggled out of the plate mail, keeping on only my thick, warm undertunic I wore beneath the cold metal.
I wrapped myself into my coat again, leaned back against the wood and closed my eyes. I could not go on. I would just sit here and wait for something to come and eat me. That way, there would not even be enough left of me to raise as a ghoul.
Again, my sense of time got muddled, and I don't know how long I had been sitting there, in bleak despair, my eyes closed most of the time, simply hoping to die soon. I was cold through and through, but being undead prevents you from getting ill, so that was something that would not kill me, unfortunately.
When I finally heard the door in the gate being opened, I slowly lifted my head, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest.
I honestly could not tell what I've been expecting, but it was only another group of death knights that came out, and walked up to me. I just sat there, staring up at them, not moving a muscle. I could not care less what they did to me.
"Our King sends his regards", the first one said, his voice sounding hollow under his helmet. With these words, his gloved fist shot out and connected with my cheek.
I fell back, spitting blood, not feeling any pain yet, and then they were upon me, with fists and feet, hitting and kicking. I did nothing to fight back, just curled up to protect my stomach, and my face, whimpering.
They were done quickly, my not existing resistance seemingly boring them soon, and they grabbed me and dragged me over the drawbridge, down the steep slope of the glacier beyond. After a couple of minutes, they tossed me to the ground, and I heard metal clatter on ice as they dropped my equipment they obviously had brought along.
"Leave!", one of them said, then they turned and went back to the citadel, leaving me curled up and sobbing once more.
After an eternity, I simply started to crawl up the glacier again. I was beaten, I was hurting all over, and I was at the end of my sanity, I guess. I did not even stop to think about what I was doing, and why. I just did not know what else to do.
Leaving my stuff behind, I stumbled to my feet, doubled up against the pain where kicks and fists had hit my stomach, and dragged myself upwards, slipping on the ice and falling down over and over again, but every time, I got up, and continued my agonizingly slow ascent to the grey walls that loomed in the distance.
When I finally reached them, I was crawling again, too weak to stand anymore. I crossed the drawbridge, back into my old corner, and collapsed, losing consciousness nearly immediately, as if only my will had kept me going up to now.
I came to when I heard heavy boots crunch over ice as someone approached me.
This time, I recognized the steps, and my heart leaped again, but I just stayed put, pretending to be still out.
He sat down next to me, obviously not fooled by my act, and I heard him sigh. "Iselle", he said, and I thought I could hear something like resignation in his voice. "Why won't you leave?"
With an effort, I lifted my head to stare at him, making no reply. How could I have tried to explain something I barely could understand myself? That I had been broken too many times to pick myself up again? How could I expect him to understand something like that, him, who was not even remotely human anymore, despite walking around in a human body?
"I have given you freedom", he continued, his glowing eyes fixed on me, his white hair whipping in the wind. "Just go."
I could do nothing more than slightly shake my head, and I saw his brows knitting together, not pleased with my reaction at all.
"Why?", he asked, then a corner of his mouth turned up in one of his evil smirks. "Don't tell me you love me?"
I just kept staring at him, wordlessly, and he shook his head. "That's insane. You know I can't feel anything like that, don't you? I only feel hatred for everything living, and the desire to serve my master. Arthas is gone. There's only me."
Liar, I thought, while I kept staring at him. Damn liar. You still love her. They might have ripped out your soul, but they could not rip that love out of your heart.
I tried to speak, and coughed, until finally, my voice would obey me at least a little. "Love?", I croaked, my freezing lips hardly able to form the words. "I hate you, you fucking bastard. You've ruined my life more often than I can count."
He flashed me another smirk, seeming genuinely amused, and asked: "Then, why won't you leave? Go back to your little crusade, and try to fight me? Have you finally realized how hopeless your cause is?"
It did not feel like my cause anymore. There truly was no fight left in me. And I knew perfectly well that my words had been a lie, too. I did not hate him. Not anymore. There simply was no point.
Just as he had yanked my chain when I was under his thrall, his chain was yanked by Ner'zhul, whose chain in turn was yanked by Kil'jaeden. He was as much a puppet of a higher force as I had been.
So I simply shrugged, wordlessly, and let my head fall down on my arms, closing my eyes. As far as I was concerned, this conversation was over.
He sighed once more. "You're stubborn", he said. "What am I to do with you?"
I shrugged again, without opening my eyes. "Why throw me out?", I asked him, my voice still nothing more than a croak. "Why not just kill me if you've grown tired of me? Can't have enough ghouls, can you?"
He did not answer to that, his silence filled by the howling wind. Then he got up, and I resigned myself to being left alone in the cold again. But my eyes snapped open in surprise when I heard him kneel down next to me, and my heart beat faster at the sight of the crooked smile that lifted one corner of his mouth.
He lifted me up as if I weighted nothing, and to him, I probably didn't. I rested my head on his plated shoulder, trying not to think about the insane fact that here I was, in the arms of what was probably the most malevolent being on this world, and felt ludicrously safe.
"Do you want to be a ghoul?" I heard him whisper, his breath tickling my ear.
I just shook my head, closing my eyes again, finally feeling some peace seep back into my soul.
"Then I guess you won't", he said, a bit of laughter swinging in his voice, and suddenly, it struck me. What had happened over all these months in that cell. Why he had finally thrown me out, instead of killing me. Why he was here, now, taking me back inside with swift, sure steps.
If I had had enough energy left, I would have broken into crazy laughter. It was a bloody joke, indeed.
He hadn't grown tired of me. Quite the contrary.
It wasn't only me who had lost her mind, growing used to the monster. The monster, in turn, had grown used to me.
I smiled as I wrapped my arms around his neck, holding on tight.
Maybe there was still something I could do to fight the Scourge that invaded our world. I knew my time battling ghouls and their likes on the lands of Azeroth and Northrend was over, finally. No more trying to desperately cull their number, while he rose them from the battlefields more quickly than we could ever hope to destroy them.
But as it was…
If I could distract him from his plans sometimes, get his attention away from tactics, and get him to think about something else instead of destroying the world… maybe this way, I could do much more for my homelands than I could ever have hoped to do by wielding a blade.
And I truly planned to put a lot of effort into it.