Friday, April 17, 2009

Barraccus: The Past Returns

Before I start on this next part, I wanted to explain something. It seems like, story-wise, death knights all would have especially good reason to hate Arthas and want revenge on him, but when I originally made Barraccus, he had no reason. I also didn't really plan on his memory coming back. But his story kind of took off by itself, so I wound up needing to find a reason for him to want vengeance, and also a reason for his memory loss.

There are several ways to lose your memory. A blow to the head, hypnotism, maybe even some kinds of drugs could cause it. In a magic-based world like Warcraft, there are spells and curses that could cause amnesia as well. Or, you could have something so traumatic happen that your brain kind of shuts it away, to try and protect yourself. This is the reason I came up with for Barraccus' amnesia. So yes, this part is rather violent; if it bothers you, I apologize.


The Lich King held Barraccus with his dark gaze. “I remember you,” he said coldly into his mind. “But you don’t remember everything about yourself, do you? Let me show you, death knight. I give you your memory back.” Then a dark presence filled his head, and he knew nothing for a long time. He gradually came back to the light, but to his surprise and dismay, he did not wake up. Instead, he found himself back in his dream, only now he somehow knew every detail.

Her name was Luraniel, and she was his wife. It was an arranged marriage, but it had worked well from the start, and they were soon all but inseparable. They had their first son, Talanel, after five years, and their second, Kureldar, after another ten. When Kure was a little over a year old, they decided to go on a trip to Lordaeron to visit with some cousins of Lu’s, who lived there with the humans. She had not heard from them for over a year, but didn’t think much about it because they were notoriously bad at keeping in touch. So they left on a warm spring morning, crossing the sea and taking horses across the land.

When they arrived, however, they both sensed that something was wrong. The landscape surrounding the city looked empty and sickened. They rode slowly through the diseased terrain, watching constantly for signs of danger or of other people. When they finally reached the cousins’ house, all they found was a burned-out shell, with a blackened skeleton sitting ominously just inside. Barraccus and Luraniel looked at each other, fear and worry mirrored in both their faces.

They had left the house and were making their way to the city of Lordaeron when the ambush came. The horses started snorting and fighting the reins, trying to bolt. Expert riders, Barraccus and Lu held them in firmly. The boys were both terrified by now, with Tal pressed tight against his father and Kure fussing in the carry-sling worn by Lu. Then the ghouls first appeared, coming out of the gloom silently but giving voice to shrieks and howls when they spotted the little family. The two night elves tried to run, kicking the horses and steering for where they thought the city was. They never reached it. More undead came up in front of them, some of them spellcasters that threw bolts of shadow at the horses, killing them instantly.

Barraccus and Luraniel tumbled from the fallen horses. Somehow they made it to their feet, and both boys were unharmed by the fall. Grabbing Tal up in his arms, Barraccus screamed at Lu, “Run!” and they both made a last dash toward what they hoped was safety. They were headed off by more ghouls. As the trap closed around them, the two night elves stood back-to-back, the young ones held between them protectively. The undead crept in from all sides, preparing to attack.

Suddenly the ring of ghouls parted, and a massive robed figure approached them. It looked at them with cruel red eyes from the depths of its black hood. Then a deep, cold voice rang out in their heads, “What are you living ones doing in my land?” The terrified elves made no answer; they just pressed closer together, trying to hide the boys. “As you wish,” the monstrosity in front of them said, and he turned to his army of undead. “Kill them.”

Barraccus felt all hope die at that moment. He gripped his sword tighter, determined that he would take as many of them as possible down with him. Next to him, Lu did the same.

The undead milled about them for several more minutes. When the attack came, it was unexpectedly swift. At least a dozen ghouls leaped at them with harsh screams. Barraccus struck as hard as he could and swept several aside, but to his horror, he saw the remainder snatch Talanel and drag him away faster than either parent could react. He froze as his son’s screams rang out, then ended abruptly in a gurgle, quickly drowned out by the growls and shrieks of the ghouls. Luraniel’s screams joined those of the undead. He had not gotten over his shock before they struck again, this time at his wife. Bony, filthy claws ripped through her clothes and into the flesh beneath, tearing her badly and ripping the carry-sling free. Blood was everywhere. He saw, with a sort of detachment, that the sling was ripped through in several places and becoming soaked with his younger son’s blood, and knew that Kure could not have survived the attack. Even as the thought was registering, another ghoul came closer and pulled the sling away.

Barraccus was suddenly, violently ill. As he heaved and retched, trying to stay on his feet and hold his sword out defensively, the cold, hard voice rang out again. “Hold, minions. Don’t kill these ones yet,” he said as he stepped forward again. His chilling eyes bored into both night elves, as if searching for something. Luraniel was moaning beside her husband, trying to hold her stomach together as blood poured from the gashes in her arms and torso. Finally the huge figure stepped back and waved to the nearest ghouls. “Finish her, but take him alive,” he commanded. Barraccus screamed out his fear and rage, and struck furiously as the ghouls lunged for his wife. Somehow he managed to fend them all off, smashing several of them into oblivion. He heard a bark of laughter from the ghastly figure, then a shouted command. He yelled again as several ghouls and a few animated skeletons surged at him, tearing his sword out of his hands and immobilizing him. Held fast, he was forced to watch as more undead went for his wife again, and they literally ripped her to pieces in front of him.

Barraccus went mad. He forgot everything around him except for destroying anything he could get his hands on. Fed from his fury and grief, his strength was such that he was able to pull free, and he killed a ghoul and two skeletons with his bare hands before a blow from behind sent him spiraling down into darkness.

When he woke, he was in a tiny, cramped cell. The floor was covered with filth and the decaying remains of its former occupants. He had barely gotten his bearings and was wondering why he was still alive when a hulking figure in dark robes came to his door and peered through the slot. Glowing red eyes studied him like he was some kind of insect. Finally a cold reptilian voice spoke to him. “You are the masster’ss now. He hass….planss… for you.” Before Barraccus could ask what it meant, the figure was gone.

He did not have long to wonder. Before long a pack of ghouls led by another red-eyed creature came and took him out of the cell, into another room which smelled even worse. It was a torture chamber, and they put it to good use. Barraccus lost his voice from screaming after the first hour, and passed out soon after.

The following weeks were a living hell. He was tortured nonstop, until all he could do, when they stopped and returned him to his cell, was lie limply on the filthy floor. His wounds festered and he became sick and feverish. In a rare moment of lucidity, he started wondering if he had caught the plague. The undead fed him every so often by forcing his mouth open and pouring in a thin, nasty gruel. He couldn't keep it down most of the time, and when he retched it up they would cuff him, like a misbehaving dog, and force it into him again. He had no way to keep track of time; for all he knew he had been there forever.

The physical torture, however, was nothing compared to the emotional torture they put him through. Whenever he was conscious, in the torture chamber or his cell, either the head necromancer or one of his underlings would fill his mind with images of the deaths of his wife and sons. The images were played over and over without end, until he passed out once again. He began to think he would do anything to end the suffering.

Finally, after he had been there about a month, the huge figure that had captured him returned. He was brought from his cell and dropped in front of the creature. His jailors stepped back with bows and whispers of “Here he isss, Masster.” The unholy eyes lowered to stare at Barraccus.

The voice spoke again in his head. “So, you are not much like you were when we first met, are you?” He chuckled, and the sound made Barraccus think of graves and moldering earth, and unfeeling ice. It was true; at this point he was little more than a skeleton, and only the rough ministrations of his jailors were keeping him alive. The Master continued, “You will die soon, there is no stopping it. You are infected with the plague, and when you do die, you will rise again as undead, under my control. What do you think of that, little slug?” Barraccus could not answer, he could barely hold onto consciousness. The figure leaned down, looking at him almost tenderly. “I can keep that from happening, of course. But before I do, you will swear your fealty to me, and serve me for the rest of your days. If you refuse, you will die, and I can make sure it is the most painful thing you have yet endured. What you have suffered so far will be a trifle. Do you understand?”

Barraccus managed to roll his red, bloodshot eyes upward toward the unearthly thing towering above him. He opened his mouth, but couldn't make anything come out but a whispering groan. The Master waited. Finally Barraccus whispered hoarsely, “I…swear. Please…make it…stop.” At that, the monster above him began to laugh, and his glowing eyes bored into Barraccus’ until they consumed everything, then it all went black.

The next time he woke, he was a death knight.

When the fighting was done, Riatha was the first to notice Barraccus collapsed on the ground, shuddering as if he was having a seizure. She called to the others as she ran to his side. They soon had him in bed in the closest inn, and Riatha sent word to Alanon. When the druid arrived, he first examined Barraccus, then cast several spells on him. Nothing seemed to make any difference. Finally, he and Riatha brought the death knight home.

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