*This is a backstory for an alternate universe set of characters Ace and I have on Moon Guard. One is a worgen death knight and the other a paladin. The worgen death knight is Etsiyona (having been turned after Ace’s death due to the Scourge) and the paladin is Wilks (Ace’s personal assistant that died in Icecrown in Ace’s real storyline).
The sun cracked the horizon, shedding a semblance of warmth on the cold stillness of the snow-covered camp. Wilks stood outside, stretching his cold muscles out as he shook off the dregs of his nighttime slumber. Looking around, he let out a slow sigh of disappointment. Elli had not left a message for him to pick up. She hasn’t left any notes for the past few days. “I hope that she’s all right,” he murmured to himself as he shuffled his booted feet. He whispered a quiet prayer to the Light for her well being, nodded to himself and headed to the tent where the officers were gathered for the morning’s discussion.
“Lieutenant Wilks, good of you to join us. Any notes left from your ever so helpful druid friend?” asked the man at the head of the group.
Wilks saluted the major and replied, “No sir, she hasn’t left any for a few days now. I’d like to take a small team out to her last location and see if she’s all right. We owe her that much.” And more.
As they arrived at her last reported location, the ruins of Scourge machinery lay tossed about, as if thrown by an angry titan, and left to rust. A cold wind whistled between the ruins, the only noise in the dead quiet. Too quiet. Wilks stopped, and held up his hand, a silent signal to be at the ready. Suddenly, skeletons burst out of the frozen ground as ghouls dug themselves out as well. Abominations stepped out from behind the ruined hulks embedded in the ground. “Ambush! On me, form up and shields out!” Wilks yelled. His team moved as one, setting up a defensive formation with Wilks as the base.
The Scourge advanced slowly towards the group, and halted just out of melee range. A single ghoul lurched forward from their ranks and its mouth opened. A voice that could not have come from the rotted throat echoed across the battlefield. “We have your ‘friend,’ pitiful Alliance. She has caused us no end of trouble, and soon, she will serve us in turn.”
Wilks’ face reddened in anger. “Elli will never be one of you! She’ll die before she turns!” Spinning in a circle, he threw his holy hammer with all his might, sending it through the ghoul and landing just behind it. Glowing with holy energy, it sent yellow-colored lightning into and through the Scourge nearby. The ghoul, still standing, laughed mockingly as its form slowly disintegrated by the power of the Light.
The Pain. She was floating in a sea of it. Myriads of abrasions, lacerations, burns crisscrossed along her body. The physical pain was nothing. What they did her to body didn’t matter. The pain eating at her heart was far worse to bear. I failed him. Profound loss filled her. I never told him. He never knew. Razored claws of anguish ripped through her heart and soul. He’s gone. My life is gone. Keening her loss silently, she sank quietly into despair.
The Scratching. Scratch, scratch, scratching in her head. It was that incessant scratch, scratch, scratching at her mind that might eventually break her. What bodily torment couldn’t do, the scratch, scratch, scratching might. Invading her feelings. Feeding her pain. Scratch, scratch, scratching little mice tunneling into her thoughts. Scratch, scratch, scratching rats whispering, taunting. Her body shuddered, the relentless assault driving her further into the darkness.
The Nick. It was ever so small. Just a chip. It marred the completeness, the oneness with nature. An agonized howl rose from her, pain answered with cold, mocking laughter. Insidious worms digging, burrowing into the fabric of her connection, slowly chewing through. Threads unraveled faster than she could reweave them. Ends frayed, refused to re-splice, destroying not only the fabric but the foundation. Screams, torn from her devastated soul, ravaged her throat as she fell into the abyss.
The voice. So cold. Reminding her it was her fault. The pain, the isolation, was punishment for her failure. He was gone because of her. She was weak. She hadn’t cared enough. She didn’t really love him. Gone. Gone forever. But it wasn’t just her fault. It was the others too. The undead. Murderous, unnatural beings. They hated him, hated the purity of his Light. Their bodies, dismembered and decimated to eliminate their existence, would pay for their blasphemy. The Horde. Bloodthirsty, savage creatures. They wanted him dead. They celebrated his death, danced on his grave. Their bodies, bleeding and broken to feed the crows, would pay for their sacrilege. The Alliance. Lying, deceitful people. They should have protected him, kept him safe. They could have saved him. They let him die. Their bodies, shredded and scattered to lie rotting, would pay for their treachery. A vengeful howl filled the night sky as claws raced along the snow-covered landscape.
“Morning, Major.” Wilks saluted Romble as he walked into the team’s communal tent. The rest of the soldiers stood at attention.
“At ease, Lieutenant. All of you.” Major Romble’s breath misted in the cold still air, air that was clear of falling snow for the first time in weeks. “I’ve got another one for you boys. But this one’s different. Stronger. Faster. And has no allegiances to anyone.” He dropped a folder to the table. “So far, we haven’t been able to get close enough to capture it. It’s eliminated several hunter teams that were sent to take it out. There’s no pattern to its path. Scourge, Horde, Alliance, doesn’t matter. It kills them all.”
” ‘It’, sir?” One of the team members questioned.
Wilks opened the folder while they spoke, spreading the pages out until he came to a raw sketch of the creature they were to hunt. “A rune knight, Casey. They’re a special kind of death knight. More powerful, intelligent, and very, very hard to kill, much less capture.” He looked up at the Major. “Sir, this … this is going to be a kill mission right? Not to capture? Because …”
Romble shook his head and interrupted, “No Wilks, this is strictly a find and kill. Rune knights are too unpredictable to capture and try to rehabilitate. Find it, and put it down.”
Wilks nodded, then looked back down at the pages. “Worgen, huh. That’s… not common. Unless it was infected before it got turned. Do you have an area where we should start our search, sir?”
Major Romble pointed at a spot on the map. “Here. South of the ToC arena. That’s where it was last spotted. There’s Scourge all over the place so be careful. And good luck, Lieutenant.”
Devastation. A path of ruin lay in front, behind, and to all sides of her. Scourge bodies rested in pieces around her, evidence of the destructive force of her passing. Her unsteady gate made her pause and tilt her head in confusion. She turned her gaze to look down at the leg faltering under her weight. A startled noise, half whine, half growl, left her throat as she stared at the injury. How was she hurt? Old instincts broke forth and took over and she dropped to all fours, craning her head around to lick the open wound.
“Suren it be, that’s her,” whispered the dwarven scout to Wilks. “She jus’ took out a whole mess of scourge, so she’ll be kinda tapped. D’ya see how she be limpin? Musta took one too many bolts a’ shadow.”
Laying flat on a high snowdrift, wearing white colored clothing along with snowflakes crusting all over them, Wilks lifted the gnomish spyglass to eye the solitary figure walking across the way. Heavy snowfall had blanketed the area and the dark clouds above promised for it to continue throughout the night. Turning slowly to the dwarf, he whispered, “Go assemble the team. We’ll take this one out before nightfall. It’ll be too cold in a few. Good job finding this one, Birin. I’ll buy you a hot mug of ale after this.”
The dwarf grinned and responded, “I’ll be holdin’ ya to that, lieutenant. I could be using something warm to get this damnable cold out.” He crawled back down the snowdrift to the campsite where their team had assembled for the day.
Looking again through the spyglass, Wilks studied the rogue knight. One of the warnings Mograine had told them when he took on the assignment of hunting down their kind echoed in his head. “If they do not cause suffering or experience it in some form or fashion, they will go insane and become mindless killing machines, incapable of discerning friend or foe, and will readily kill anything that comes in their path.”
Lowering the spyglass, he whispered to himself, “Light guide you to a quick and painless end, deathknight. Whoever you were in life may you return to it and find peace.” Collapsing the spyglass and putting in his belt, he turned and crawled back down the snow-covered hill.
Sensitive ears caught the sound of something someone trying to quietly approach. Old instincts warred with new abilities for a moment before the monster she’d become won over the creature she once was. Lips raised in silent threat while her body eased over and down, clawed hand reaching for cold steel and broken mind reaching into the darkness within.
“There! Take her down men! Her power is spent!” Wilks shouted as he knelt by the remains of Birin, his face twisted in anger. Birin had been ministering last rites to another casualty when the rune knight made the body explode violently with her necromancy, bone shards from the corpse shredding the dwarf and sending him flying into the snow bank. The remaining members of the squad surrounded the worgen, striking in unison at the two-handed runeblade she wielded, making it fly from her grasp. The runes winked out as it lost contact with her hand, and a fist-wrapped hilt to the back of her head caused her to stagger and fall to her knees. Stalking towards her, mace in hand, Wilks raised it high, a silent prayer to the Light on his lips while Light cascaded down from his weapon.
A light pierced through the abyss, showering her with forgotten warmth. She snarled at the unwelcome intrusion, raged at its appearance in her world.
“Elli.” A soft voice. Warmth. A golden figure holding out a hand to her.
“Ace?” Her mouth, unused to speaking, made guttural sounds. She reached for him, stretched out to him, strained with everything in her to touch him. Claws drove into the walls of the pit, pulled her body towards the voice.
“Ace?!” The voice didn’t sound human but he recognized the name. The worgen’s form wavered to reveal a torn and broken female Kal’dorei kneeling before him. The hand that had wielded so much death and destruction reached out. Her gazed focused behind Wilks, looking through him to something beyond. Pain ravaged eyes pleaded with whatever the woman saw. Recognition finally dawned on him as her silver eyes stared at nothing. “Elli?”
One of the soldiers lowered his sword to block her touch. “Sir?” he questioned, looking at Wilks for confirmation.
“Come back, Elli.” Wings of light surrounded him, beckoning to her. She struggled, strained to get to him. Something moved in her way, something inconsequential. Batting it aside, she reached for him again as the light began fading, the outstretched arms receding. “Elli, you must come back.”
“ACE?! NOOOOOOOOO! DON’T LEAVE ME!!!!” Her anguished scream rent the air. Reality crashed around her as the Light pulled her from the abyss, leaving her in a snow-covered, bloody mess. Awareness flashed across her face as she focused on the young paladin in front of her. “Wilks?” Indescribable agony filled her silver eyes. “He’s gone … my Ace is … gone ….” Tears leaked from those eyes before they rolled back and she collapsed at his feet, her consciousness tumbling back into the abyss.
Looking into her eyes and seeing a faint flicker of sanity, Wilks’ face hardened with resolve. “Stand down, men. This has just turned into a rescue mission. Bind her, and take her sword. She’s going with us.” Standing up and reattaching the mace to his belt, he met the incredulous stares of the squad he led. The runeknight passed out cold, slumping to the frozen ground.
“What? To where? She just killed two of our brothers in arms! And you’re gonna just not kill her?!? Our orders..” Casey exclaimed. Affirming murmurs from the rest of the men as well.
Grimacing, Wilks said firmly, “This is not what we thought it was. A rogue rune knight, insane and a danger to everyone and everything it touches. This,” he stabbed a finger down at the unconscious form, “is not what we were led to believe. Now, I’m taking her to Highlord Mograine for judgment with your help or not. You can go back and report me for dereliction of duty and disobeying orders if you want but saving her is more important to me than what our superiors might do. Hand me her sword.” Picking up her limp bound body and putting it on his shoulder, he let out a grunt as he shifted the load to a comfortable spot. He turned to the group, hand outstretched for the runesword.
“Who is she, lieutenant?” Casey asked. “Someone important, right?” The other knight spoke hesitantly as he handed Wilks the weapon.
Wilks eyed him for a moment then said in a sad voice “A friend who’s lost and needs to be found. I owe her that much. We owe her that much. Otherwise, we’re no better than the ones who did this to her.” Pain and sorrow filled his expression. “She is that nameless druid that has helped us keep our foothold in Icecrown, and even given us opportunity to expand and gain more ground. Her name is Etsiyona Bearwalker.” Sounds of surprise emanated from the group echoed by shuffled steps in the snow. “Now, are you all going to help, or do I have to carry her myself?”
Casey stepped forward, taking the runesword from Wilks’ hand. “I’ll help you sir. It’s a long way to the griffon station.”