Acherus had never been more busy, at least in the Draenei’s memory.  The forges rang with the sound of hammers on saronite and felsteel at all hours, the mindless skeletons stoking the balefurnaces uncaring and unnoticing of the impossible heat and pounding metal.   Classes of the newly raised moved in cohorts through the training floor, newly-issued runeblades tempered in warfare between opposing cohorts – only the strong, after all, could be allowed to join the Blade.  That dozens were torn to bits for every handful that were granted their armor?  A meaningless statistic, grist for the teeth of the floating necropolis.

Twice, the death knight saw familiar, dead faces – former soldiers of the alliance and horde she’d seen on the battlefield – fighting for their existence in the training pit.  It brought a twinge of something painful inside, something she had not felt in ages.

She avoided the war tables, bringing the halberd that had been reforged in Templar fires straight for the runeforge, the blue and gold of her armor a sharp contrast to the frozen blacks of the Blade.   She set to work engraving the runes along the haft of the polearm, a painstaking task that absorbed her for some time.

 

Aunne was brought out of that by a shove, from a gauntleted hand – she bared teeth and snarled at the Knight that touched her.

 

“Ooooh.  Lookit boys, this one hasn’t completely lost her fangs.”  The human wasn’t one she knew – but she knew few of the Blade these days.   Behind the group she saw Amal’thazad hovering; it was impossible to read his expression (he was just a skull, after all), but she knew he was watching the exchange with some interest.  The human went on:

“The Cold One says you were one of his most promising disciples.  Were, being the important word, of course.”

 

“Yeah,” added a goblin, leaning on the runeforge, glowing eyes appraising, cold. “NOt too many of you old ones left, huh?  Must be a hell of a thing, getting replaced by the rookies so easy.”

Aunne considered them all for a moment – then settled on ignoring them, going back to her halberd, and the painstaking, fiddly work of etching. 

“We’re -talking- to you.  Personable-like.  Don’t you like us?”

 

“I don’t think she likes us, Hec.”

 

“Change is coming, Draenei.  And you’re not.. in.  Where are your trophies for the hall?  How about your prisoners for the runemaking?  Deathlord has been asking for volunteers, and you haven’t turned up.”  Again, the human shoved at her shoulder with a gauntleted hand.

Aunne spoke then, softly – carefully. “You may to say what you like to whoever you like.  But if you are touching me again, I will to rip your arms off and push them through your belly, before I am ending you.  I will to do this slowly, after I am breaking your spine so you to can have time to be enjoying the experience, yes?  Only then, will I to end you, and to allow your cohort to have another chosen.”  

“You aren’t strong enough.  You and the other old ones?  You’re done.”  He balled his right hand into a fist – and sent the Draenei crashing to the saronite floor.

 

Aunne… giggled, then.  Standing with inhuman grace – “… Always, there is being a test.”  Cold, cold enough to burn, burst forth from that blue-enameled frame – “You were being warned, young one.  And now you will to see.”

She was polite, before she pulled them apart – kicks and well-timed rakes of gauntlet-claws sent the human tumbling into the pit, past one of the chained abominations, where they would run no risk of damaging any of the more important bits of the Necropolis.  She picked up a longblade from a nearby rack; good enough.  The balance was a little off, but not too awful.   Then?  She took him apart, joint by joint, piece by piece.  She froze his bones then shattered them, grinding her way gleefully through his extremities and removing any hope they would simply be easily reattached.  It was not a fight, or even a spar – but, rather, most of a decade of experience, of power, and of rage unleashed on the younger Knight as an object lesson.

He begged her to stop – then he begged her to end him, and when she finally did, she claimed his axe for her own. “This.  This is -mine-.”  And she turned, then, to those that had gathered, watching.. and mostly to Amal’thazad, who still stared. “I will to collect yours, if you do not to learn, yes?  Does anyone else wish to try?”

Many eyes burned blue with hatred… but none stepped forward.  The Cold One showed no sign beyond the faint twist of his jaw that indicated a smirk.  But.. she heard his voice in her head:  I told Him you would always be a powerful instrument.  I am pleased you did not make me a liar, my student.  He is well pleased.

 

Get out of my head.  She snarled in her own mind.  You have not to been invited.

 

The lich bowed, slightly – and returned to his duties.

She kept the axe, leaving the halberd behind when she called the Gate.

Author Aunne
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