This is in fact a sequel to the first tale, "The Gravedigger: Dawn of Hope."
***DISCLAIMER. I try to make my stories stand alone, but you may be lost here and there if you do read this before the first part.***
If you have not yet read that story then you may be a wee bit lost when reading this -- repetitive but needed. Feel free to continue if you want, but I do suggest reading the other story first. Your choice, of course.
Anyway, come, sit, stay, drink coffee, cry, smile, laugh, and most importantly...
Looming overhead the gray clouds blotted with blotches of black make their appearance known. Wondrous mountain peaks covered in piles of puffy white reach towards the angry sky. Brown, muddy ground runs down the sloping walls. A small town waits in the safety of the peak's comforting base.
Paths of gray run in various directions from the center of town and into the fields of snow. Ominous buildings lean awkwardly into the sky, while pockets of orange and red run from their tops. Pillars of smoke billow into the sky, matching the height of the mountains.
Broken walls stretch into the lonely air, while black scorch marks scatter the terrain.
Bodies litter the entrances and all the roads of the small town. All signs of the marvelous splendors of nature vanish. As I stand here, watching the smoldering ruins of the wasted town, a sickening feeling sweeps over me.
I am alone.
Where is everyone?
We came in together. All I can see are corpses of ones far gone. Where is everyone?! When did the attack come? Why was I not woken for this?
All is silent but the scrapping of my boots against the firm snow. Flames lick the sky and dance with fate's design. Pebbles rub into the bottom of my shoes. Smoke hinders my vision.
I make to open my mouth, but nothing comes out. Tired arms rise and battle the gathering smoke. Feet march forward aimlessly. Eyes barely able to see more than a few yards in any direction.
Drums pound mercilessly at the cages of confining pressure. Blood rows angrily down the paths of tightened fury. Lungs heave air in and throw air out at a frightening pace. Anxiety grips my being.
Suddenly I stumble forward. Feet fight to grip the ground below. Arms extend to give futile aid. Eyes direct down to follow both. Fortunately the able soles find balance once again.
Coming upright, I can now see an open pocket before me. It is there I see something. Standing in the middle of this clear space is a black figure. Heavy, metallic armor clasps to almost every inch of the being. Its face is hidden behind a sinister helmet. A black cape drags to the ground, where a familiar blade's tip rests.
Runes run the sides of the sword and move to the sick skull at the handle. Blue smoke pukes from the tiny eyes of the crafted ram's head. It's tendrils dance back down the blade. Blue trails run to the ground and dance over a lone figure in the snow.
Its bony body lies twisted at the feet of the standing figure. A tattered, green hood lies broken and dirty upon the snow. In his hand…a cracked bow.
Muscles churn acid within me. Tears build at the dams of my eyes. It cannot be. It cannot be!
I make to scream, but nothing comes out. I make to cry, but nothing flows.
The standing figure moves.
I make to shout, but silence caresses my body.
It looks in my direction.
I make to yell, but only rage builds within.
His weapon rises.
I make to raise my shovel, and it moves so willingly.
A deep bellow crushes all silence and brings the nightmare of its existence to me, "Light will not save you here, Hope." White hair bounces across the faceplate of the figure as he speaks, "These are my lands. All trespassers will find themselves soon welcome."
Feet crack the soil below me. No longer do I control myself. Arms raise my weapon higher. Wind whips the sides of my face. Smoke parts in my path. I will not stand here silent! I will end you!
The malformed blade lifts to the figure's front. Smoke pours from all sides of the sinister creature. His voice booms again, "Rage consume you."
My trusty shovel lifts above my head as I close in. His blade shakes in his palms. Everything grows hazy as I near him. All reality blurs. Even my target ahead looses shape. But my anger burns bright!
I stop moving. Something is holding me back! Where is it?! Let go of me. He must be punished!
Black fuses with white. Red builds into orange. All the colors fade into one; darkness consumes all. My eyes cannot make out the figure anymore. What is going on? Where is he?!
Then, as if on cue, his voice returns, "You are mine, Hope Blackwood." He pauses as all turns to black, "Your master calls. Obey my call. Obey the cry…"
I stand now in a sea of black. My body is gone. All has vanished into nothingness. All is gone, but my anger. All is gone…but the voice…
"Obey the order…of the Lich King."
Cold creeps across all inches of my body.
Heavy eyelids break. Light creeps in and overwhelms the tender orbs below. Slowly the covers reel back completely. I twist my head side to side. First I see Carlin resting to my right side with Mark a few feet from him.
Instantly I fling my head in the other direction. Relief cushions the horrible churning within me. Bones rest against the wooden railing. A green, tattered, but not dirty, hood rests upon a turned head. Nathanos rests comfortably, but appears to be looking away.
I gaze back forward and sigh heavily. Ahead of me is a large zeppelin. Beyond it is another ship, and further on are heavy, gray clouds. All of it reminds of me that horrible sight.
Was that real? You were having a terrible dream. He was having a bad dream.
Suddenly Nathanos' voice booms loudly, "Nightmare again, eh, Worm?" He speaks without looking at me. I sigh, but do not reply. Instead, I flinch in my spot and fidget awkwardly.
Cold palms rush the front of my face. A deep chill erupts throughout my body. I twist in my spot, but that does nothing but stir the cold air. It is so unbelievably cold. You need a blanket. He knows it. I am not sure what I need, but I need to move. My body aches, and I need to stand. No matter how cold it is. You are crazy! He is nuts!
Jerking up, my knees lock briefly before I am able to brace the railings. Wobbling limbs hold me firmly. Soon, I am able to pull myself to my feet. Frosty bursts wash over me, but I do not care.
Slowly, I lift upwards. Bones snap and pop horrifically. Why is this so hard? Come on! You are not that old, Hope! You are slower than Carlin! He is Carlin's grandpa! Finally, after what feels like a good hour, I fumble with my footing and come upright.
I dust the ice sickles from my chest. Packed pockets of show fall to the deck, shattering on contact. From the corner of my eyes is the undead man.
He rocks before calling to me, "Why in the world are you standing, twit?" Again he speaks without looking at me.
I shake myself a bit to let an oddly warming sensation flow through me. After a second, I glance down to him and reply, "Stiff limbs. You know, living pains and all."
Now he glares at me and blurts, "At least my dead bones know the stupidity of what you are doing."
Muscles within the edges of my mouth creek, but do not work; a sudden change in scenery diverts my attention. A thick gray cloud passes only feet from the side of the ship. I twist and watch a heavy fog roll over the front of the bow.
Moving forward, I creep across the front of the deck. Each second my vision shrinks. Each second if fades into a gray haze. Each second it all fades into one color until finally it simply caresses only the sides of the ship.
I twist to my side, and I can still see a bit in each direction. The other zeppelins nearest to us are still partially visible, but this fog is definitely heavy and sudden. It blocks almost all sight…like in my dream. You mean nightmare. He means doom!
Once again my heart races wildly. Veins surge heat and adrenaline through all passages. Calm down, Hope. This is nothing. It has nothing to do with that dream. Nope, loss of vision has no connection at all.
Sight shrinks, leaving me with nothing but the heavy wall of air. Leaving me with nothing but that sick, twisted voice. It is almost as if I can hear it calling again…
"Da mist, mon."
A sudden, startling, raspy voice forces me to stumble forward. I reach my arm out and grip a rope at the edge of the ship. That was close. You have no idea. He…has a general idea.
Once I am balanced I move a bit. Instantly, I am startled by a figure to my left. A thick, heavy suit rests over his shoulders and run down his entire body. A heavy scarf rests around his neck. Wooden spikes jut from the circular object in his hand.
Muscles tighten and flinch. I jerk upright as my body twitches. You idiot, calm down. He needs to relax…that is the captain. It is then I notice the small, green ears protruding from the back of his large, brown helmet. Only Skippy…
"Da mist is here now, mon." Again the deep, crackling voice erupts from behind.
I spin. A mound of blankets twitches. Extending from the cloth mess is a large, green nose and two equally as large ears. From here I cannot make out his eyes, but from his nose I can tell he is staring over Nathanos' railing.
Piles of cloth jiggle as he repositions himself. Limbs lift patches up and down, while a chest heaves heavily. Seconds pass before he is comfortable again. Nose and ears shift towards me.
There is a long silence as he looks upon. Eyes burn into my soul. Sightless vision tells me untold tales. He fidgets again. Suddenly, a more muffled voice calls to me, "Mist of evil, mon."
I turn away from him and look forward. I fidget before I clear my throat. Then, unwillingly, I find myself speaking, "The Mist? Seems more like a blanket of clouds to me…"
Again I hear the troll from behind, "Mon, in da colds of da north, there be enemy'a'plenty." He pauses briefly, "De undead are not da only foul beasts here…"
A silence sweeps the deck. I cold rushes across my once numb body. Harsh winds bite feverishly at my flesh. Clothing does nothing to stop the bitter chomping of the chill. One arm pulls close to my body. Wrapping it tight, I prepare a warmer position.
The troll continues, "Dere be worst things upon dese shores den scourge, mon."
I do not move. I do not need to. I do not want to. You do not dare to. He knows better.
I simply stare straight ahead. Pockets of black and gray mingle. Pulses of white climb into the spiraling mess and entangle perfectly. All thoughts vanish as I stare into the nothingness. All worries seem to disappear. All seems so calm…
"Consider yourself warned, Worm!" Nathanos' loud cry shatters my thought, "You are in Northrend."
Regretfully I turn and watch him sitting on the deck. He looks forward and partially at me as he rests there.
After a second chuckles, "Where the cold is the sweetest pleasure you will find."
I stare oddly at him and look into his eyes. He glares awkwardly back. Overwhelmingly his sight breaks me, and I look up at the purple balloon overhead. Closing my eyes I let the wind wrap around me. Images of the Lich King fill my mind.
Images of him standing over the broken body fill my mind. Pockets of flames flick the edges of my mind. Air squeezes my lungs. Breathing becomes harder. Blue clouds twist across all my sight. Tentacles of frosty wind crawl for me.
They cling to my body. They burn against my flesh. His voice booms for me. It booms unnaturally loud and unnaturally familiar.
So cold. So very cold. You are really crazy. He needs to sit down!
I should. I know I should. My body could be warm again. No point in worrying about it now. You must! He must obey us!
In time, but for now…I shall enjoy this…sweetest pleasure.
While I can…