Monday, August 3, 2009

Arvoss: Darrowshire, part 1

So here's part one, this is what I've finished so far. I'll post part 2 as soon as it's ready. Enjoy.

It was hard to go back, harder than anything he’d done before. Well, what’d ye expect? he asked himself. It dinnae even look like ‘ome naow. The farms and fields, hills and trees that he had known when he was alive had been sickened, twisted and mutated by the plague that had run rampant ever since the Bloody Prince had brought his Scourge army through. Some of the trees even resembled giant mushrooms now. The wildlife was gone except for those animals that fed on death, and they too had grown twisted and dangerous.

Arvoss topped a small rise and reined Shade to a stop, then looked around carefully, trying to see beneath the corruption and find familiar landmarks. S’not far naow. Little bit more ta th’ north, though. He tapped his heels to his mount’s flanks and moved on.

There was nothing left of the farm but the gutted remains of the house and one silo, still standing despite the rot that permeated everything. He stopped a good distance away, for he could see the movements of several undead loitering around the buildings. He sat on Shade for several long minutes, just looking, and remembering…

Standing in the farmhouse doorway, watching his wife play with their toddler out in the yard. Teaching his son how to weed the garden out near the back door, not many years later. Watching with tears of pride in his eyes as that same son, now in his early teens, waved goodbye and walked away, heading to the capital and the start of his training to join the ranks of the Silver Hand. Standing in the doorway yet again, waiting for the wagon that would take his wife’s body to the small local graveyard, after she lost the battle against the lung infection that had plagued the area all winter.

What are ye lookin’ for, auld man? Neither o’ them is goin’ ta come out runnin’ ta greet ye, no’ afteh all this tahm.

At last, he reined Shade around and rode away from his home of nearly thirty years. He did not look back.

The graveyard was right where he remembered it. He noticed the small Argent Dawn camp absently, but paid them no attention; they similarly ignored him after determining that he was not a threat. The stone marking his wife’s grave was not hard to find. He brushed away years of dust and grime, then sat back and read it to himself. Emelee Torbrynn, it said. Beloved Daughter, Wife and Mother. He looked at the stones nearest, but did not see his son’s name. And ye wouldnae find it, either. If ‘e was killed then, there’d’ve been none left ta bury ‘im, nor mark th’ grave. Ye’re an auld fool, Arvoss. He allowed himself another minute to look, then returned to where he had left Shade nearby, mounting the charger and riding north. He had one more stop to make.

The smoke and ash from Stratholme were visible from across the small lake that served as a moat. He swung down from Shade’s back and dropped the reins; the loyal deathcharger would not go far. Arvoss stood and stared at the remains of the city that had been the place of his birth, and his death.

The ceremony that officially inducted him into the Order of the Silver Hand, held here instead of the capital by special request. Marrying his wife in the same cathedral. Following his Prince into the plagued city to carry out a task that his heart screamed at him not to do.

Arvoss shuddered under the rush of his memories, but was unaware as his mind went back in time, to seven years ago.

His hammer feeling heavier and heavier with each blow. The Light becoming slower to answer his call, until it seemed it was no longer there. The townspeople beginning to fight back, making it harder to strike them, instead of easier. Finding himself cut off from the others, surrounded by an angry mob. The feel of the knife slipping through the vulnerable spot in his plate armor, under his armpit, and finding his heart. Darkness falling over him, along with a cold that has since lodged in his soul and would not leave.

After almost half an hour, he finally pulled his gaze away from the ruined walls. He listened one last time to the howls of the undead inside the city, then walked back to his deathcharger.

Now he finally headed south, to his intended destination. Perhaps he would find some of the answers he sought in Darrowshire.

* * * * * *

The town was quiet; no undead, no ghosts that he could see. Like th’ battle was sae terrible tha’ nothin’ wants ta be near, he thought. He stepped up to the inn and peered inside, but saw nothing. Returning to Shade in the town square, he took one last long, searching look- Was nae point ta comin’. ‘S nothin’ ‘ere but dust. -and suddenly spotted a flicker of movement from a house off to the side. His runeblade in hand just in case, he went to investigate.

He was not truly surprised to find the little girl. “Hi, my name’s Pamela,” she said, trusting and innocent. “Have you seen my dolly? I think I lost her. My daddy’s gone off to war, I wonder when he’ll be back.” He listened to her prattle on with half an ear, his mind wandering again. ‘S no’ only th’ soldiers tha’ suffer in th’ war. Th’ innocents left behin’ ‘ave as much a ‘ard tahm o’ it, more often ‘n no’. Sae tell meh, auld man, d’ye ‘elp ‘er? Or do ye go off on yer foolish quest ta find th’ man ye used ta be, th’ man tha’s dead an’ gone? He straightened up and looked down at the little ghost-girl. “Aright, lass,” he said finally. “Where did ye say ye left th’ dolly agin?”

He wasn’t surprised either to see that the doll had been torn to pieces and scattered across the square. But as he bent to pick up the first piece he found, something materialized and rushed him. He recognized it as a haunt as he straightened and drew his runeblade-

He called upon the Light, feeling it fill him with warmth and power, ready to be used to strike his enemies or to heal his comrades. There was nothing like it in the world...

He came back to himself in an instant, but it was still enough time for the haunt to reach him and stretch out its spectral claws. He could feel the chill of the thing. ‘S no’ a chance for ye. Mah chill is jus’ as strong as yer own. He whispered a word, and the runes along the blade blazed white and cold as he cut through the ghost and watched it shrivel and die, with a final agonizing shriek. He stood there breathing heavily for a few moments more, then lowered his weapon and continued his search.

Thread and needle he got from his kit in Shade’s saddlebags. A few minutes work and the doll was passable, at least. Neveh was good at tha’ sort o’ thing, he thought ruefully as he placed it on the ground at Pamela’s feet. “Annehthin’ else Ah can do for ye, lass?” he asked her. “Well, I miss my family. They left me here and told me to stay and wait for them, but it’s been so long. Do you think you could find my aunt? Or my dad?” the little ghost asked him. “Aye,” he said. “Ah think Ah can do tha’.”

Marlene Redpath’s house was in the middle of Scourge territory, so Arvoss harbored no false hopes as he went inside. “’Ello!” he called. “Anneh one in ‘ere?” She glided into view, studying him intently as he looked at her in turn. He could see right through her, same as her niece. “Ye’re Marlene?” he asked unnecessarily. She nodded. “What brings you here? You’re not dead, but neither are you precisely living.” “Ah’m ‘ere for yer niece, Pamela. She misses ‘er da, an’ Ah’m tryin ta find ‘im for ‘er.” The ghost’s eyes widened. “Pamela? Is she still alive after all this time?” “Ahh, nae,” he answered, shuffling his feet uncomfortably. “She’s kind o’ in th’ same shape ye are.” Her face fell, then she suddenly looked up at him sharply, hope in her eyes.

“I wish that my brother could go back to her, but it’s impossible. Joseph was corrupted by a death knight during the battle and turned into a monster. But perhaps you can help change all that. There is a gnome, Chromie, who is staying nearby in Andorhal. Go to my brother’s grave and find his wedding ring, and take it to her. Please, for his sake and for Pamela’s.” He stared her in the eye for a minute, then slowly Arvoss nodded and left the house.

The grave wasn’t hard to find; it was the biggest one in that section of the yard. He dug through the dirt and found the ring. As he stood, he noticed a strange light forming on top of the headstone. The light took on the shape of a human male, who looked at Arvoss sadly, almost desperately. Arvoss stared back expressionlessly. “Ye cannae ‘urt me nor fright me, son. Ah’m already dead,” he said, then turned to go. As he did, he heard a voice tickling his mind, faint as the evening breeze. “Save me…” He shivered as he pulled himself back into Shade’s saddle and turned toward the ruins of Andorhal.

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