Summary: Andorhal wasn't the only thing to fall that day. Koltira regrets nothing, but Sylvanas isn't a very nice hostess and he doubts he'd complain much about a rescue this time.
AN: This is set directly after the events in the Horde-side Battle for Andorhal quest chain.
After The Fall
It was surprising how much it hurt to bleed. Koltira groaned as consciousness rolled over him, reaching reflexively for the unholy power that usually writhed just beneath his skin. But he felt hollow, scooped out, and the force that responded to his will was barely enough to stop the green-tinged blood oozing from the gaping wound in his chest. No matter. Pain might have been a shock to senses dulled by ice and necromancy, but it was an inconsequential annoyance in the face of his other problems.
"Bitch," he hissed under his breath as he opened his eyes and took in the fetid dungeon. No Korkon Guard stood watch here. They'd probably have some interesting questions about the grotesque experiments strewn over the stained workbench against the far wall if they did; just looking at the mess of organs and potions made Koltira glad he could elect not to breathe in the smell of the room. The broken armour that had been stripped from him lay in a bloody pile on the floor. Somewhere far above, faint sounds of the Undercity drifted down through the stone.
Carefully he tested the shackles that bound his wrists and ankles, ignoring the dark blood that stained the wood of the raised table. They were nothing special, and under normal circumstances he would have laughed at the inefficacy of trying to bind him with such things, but he was almost drained. Later he'd have to ponder how Sylvanas had managed to purge so much accumulated runic power from his flesh, and what it might mean for the Ebon Blade when they rode against her. Because without a doubt, they would be riding against her. They hadn't gained their freedom, spilt their blood for Horde and Alliance both, only to be forced once more into servitude. For the moment though, he focused his thoughts on Byfrost. Shook his head. Closed his eyes again and focused harder.
The runeblade didn't even register the slightest twinge on the outskirts of his consciousness, and thin tendrils of fear froze the sharp edge off his anger. Even when he'd last been at the mercy of an enemy Byfrost had been close at hand, bolstering his strength and waiting with an eager gleam to sing with the blood of those stupid enough to try and contain him. But now... nothing. The hole in his awareness where the runeblade usually resided was far more unsettling than the one in his chest.
He continued working his wrists against the shackles, feeling for the slightest weakness in their resistance. Of course last time he'd been at the mercy of the Scarlet Onslaught, a significantly less formidable foe than the Banshee Queen herself. Last time, he'd had Thassarian to be an idiot and refuse to accept his failure without sending a rescue party after him.
Koltira frowned as he struggled harder against the cold iron. Thassarian. What a fool. If the human was even still alive, he was probably already plotting a raid against the Undercity itself like some hysterical woman.
He hoped Thassarian was still alive to make a fool of himself again. The hope was tinged with the bitter realisation that it made sense for him to die this way, in the bowels of the Undercity. Thassarian had been the death of him the first time, so why shouldn't he be the second time as well? For all that Koltira would much rather that death come directly on the edge of Thassarian's blade, dying for a battlefield bargain with him would do in a pinch. Not dying at all would of course be preferable though, he thought as he stopped straining against his bonds. Riding at the front of that raid against the Undercity and taking Sylvanas's head would make him feel much, much better.
With a sigh, he laid his head back against the wood and concentrated on conserving his strength. If he was certain of only one thing, it was that he was going to need it for whatever Sylvanas had planned.
"I knew it from the start, you know," Apothecary Faranell rasped, the gross sound of his voice carrying over the bubbling of his cauldron and the clinking of instruments as he worked on the far side of the room. "You death knights were going to be trouble. Too many divided loyalties. Now, if you'd only pledge yourself to the Dark Lady properly, we wouldn't have a problem."
Koltira ignored him. The Forsaken had been saying much the same thing for the last few days, or at least it seemed like it. Perhaps it was all just blurring together.
The shuffling of the Apothecary came closer. "No? I won't say I'm disappointed."
Hot agony streaked through his limbs and coalesced over his heart as the Apothecary slammed the sharp end of his invention into his chest. He was sure there wasn't a single drop of runic power left for the device to steal, not after days of this, not when he'd already been so drained. Koltira's fingers clenched hard enough to break, sharp bone grating beneath thin skin, but he remained silent. He'd die all over again before they'd make him scream, and if they thought they could break his loyalties with pain they were sorely mistaken.
Pain, however, didn't seem to be the overall objective. Koltira eased his eyes open at the Apothecary's sharp tutting, and saw that the canister attached to the device in those bony fingers was conspicuously empty of the glowing green ichor that had filled it after every other application.
No wonder he felt like such a husk.
Faranell called out through the bars that covered the only doorway. "Fetch the Dark Lady. It's time."
Koltira's fingers twitched, the pain sharp in contrast to the dull ache that remained in his chest. He was going to kill that banshee, with or without his power. Thought she could break him, did she? Thought she could scare him into submission with a little pain and a little exhaustion? She was so stupid. She should have known better than anyone that the Lich King had been a greater master of pain and perversion than she could ever hope to be.
He could feel her presence coming down the hall. Her presence... and Byfrost's. The runeblade was as starved as he was, maybe they'd come up with some way of draining it too, but by its very proximity it gave him strength. Sylvanas was even stupider than he'd thought. He lifted his head and opened his eyes properly as the bars swung open and the Banshee Queen strode in, Byfrost swung casually over her shoulder, five shambling, cowed humans in chains behind her.
He spat at her even has his eyes narrowed. "You achieve nothing but your own damnation here, Sylvanas. Nobody will stand for this, not the Horde, not the Ebon Blade, not the Alliance."
"Oh, Koltira," she said brightly, swinging Byfrost down and wedging its wide tip into the cracked stone at her feet. "You speak of things you don't yet understand. But you will." She gestured to Faranell, who resumed his position beside the raised table and readied his rune-draining device.
Sylvanas closed the distance between them, taking his chin roughly in her hand and jerking it up. "The Ebon Blade, for one, are not a concern at the moment. Your brothers and sisters are still far too stunned by the tragic loss of two such significant members from their ranks."
"You lie," he hissed. She had to be lying. To believe otherwise was to believe that... no. He wouldn't contemplate it.
"I do not. So stop daydreaming of another whirlwind rescue courtesy of your Alliance prince charming, because I can promise you it isn't coming."
She thrust her fingers deep into his chest wound and dug, twisted, and he was ashamed to admit that he couldn't have distinguished between the pain from her words and the pain from her hand right then. Sylvanas withdrew her fingers with a deceptively tender smile, wiping the gore from them across his face. "I told you, Koltira. You are weak, for so many reasons. We will break you of this attachment to your human playmate, of your compassion for the living. You will be better for this... a true champion of the undead."
He spat again, tasting his own blood, this time hitting her directly in the eye. "Nobody will use me again. Least of all you."
The Banshee Queen wiped her face smugly with her sleeve as she hefted Byfrost once more. "You will pay for your defiance, death knight." And she turned, nimbly given the size of the runeblade that surely felt unfamiliar in her hands, and cleaved the head from the closest shackled human's shoulders.
Now he could taste blood. He tasted it as it ran bright red and vital along the channels and runes on Byfrost's surface, soaked up ravenously by the starving blade. The sudden rush of power was almost painful, surprising to dried out tissues, but he didn't waste it, lifting his wrist and preparing to—
Faranell buried the sharp tip of his device in his chest once more, and the delicious sensation of strength that had begun to infuse his limbs was sucked away. He thrashed against the chains, flesh tearing against iron and broken bone, and cursed Sylvanas with the foulest epithets he could recall in every language he knew.
She laughed, red eyes meeting his blue. "Oh, I haven't even started yet, Koltira, darling."
By the time she used Byfrost to kill the fifth human, he was screaming.
More days passed in an ebb and flow of pain and thirst and tantalising torture. The growing number of human corpses remained piled on the floor, and even without the smell the decaying pile made him wish he still had enough semblance of living to vomit. Surely it would help make him feel better. He'd never felt so used up, not in his life, not in the death that had followed it. He hated to admit it, but perhaps Sylvanas had managed to match and even surpass Arthas's depravity after all.
Part of him still clung to the hope that he would not be forgotten, that even now a plan might be underway to free him. Another part, the coldest, hardest part of him that had been a true Death Knight of the Scourge, laughed at his hope. That kind of desperate belief in others truly was weakness, it said, and proved he was deserving of all Sylvanas did to him. He ignored it best he could, keeping Thassarian and the human's foolish faith at the forefront of his mind. It wasn't weakness to rely on a runeblade, so why should a bond with another person that gave the same strength be considered such?
Sylvanas came and went again that day, and as he slumped against the chains Koltira was forced to realise that he didn't care if it was weakness or not, he just wanted that damned rescue party to come through that damned door and end this. He wasn't such a fool that he didn't know when he was beaten.
He swallowed hard. Did it again. There was a strange sensation in his throat, a familiar feeling. Only just within reach.
He tensed for Sylvanas's return, but long minutes passed and she did not come. Byfrost's presence didn't move further away, either. Hesitantly, wary of that bitch's games, he reached more consciously for the empathic entity of the runeblade. It grabbed at him, as traumatised by the separation as he was, feeding him what power it could. Something was dripping on the blade, constantly enough that a thin stream of unbroken strength reached him through the connection. Surely it couldn't be accidental, leaving the runeblade where it had even a chance of coming into contact with anything that could replenish the unholy glow of his eyes, the strength of his limbs.
Maybe somebody was looking out for him, after all.
The sensation was like the taste of rotten meat on the back of his tongue, foul, tainted. Whatever fluid it was that dripped so steadily down Byfrost's length was not freshly dead, not by a long shot, but it was enough. He gave the shackles at his wrists an investigatory tug, ignoring the pain, before closing his eyes and focusing inward. He could wait. He could hold on to those scraps of power being fed through the tenuous link with every bit of will that remained within him. Oh, the runes would still fade from Byfrost's blade, and his strength would wane, and eventually they would think they had broken him and let their guard down.
A feral grin accompanied the thought. They would be wrong. So very, very wrong. And whether he was rescued or had to die fighting alone, whether he got to do it shoulder to familiar human shoulder or not, he'd show that banshee bitch what weakness meant to a Knight of the Ebon Blade.