Chapter 1: Clipped Wings
The blade slipped from her hands, unsteady, wet with water, with blood. The metal dragged against her arm, the skin raw and torn, and fell beneath the water’s surface. She didn’t try to catch it - she couldn’t. Her strength was gone. Her resolve, was gone.
Desdimonda blinked, watching the lines of blood slip from the wounds and pool into the water, blackened by the night and her blood. The mirror of stars rippled in the disturbed water as she moved. She trailed her limp fingers across the surface, breaking the swathe of light and image of Azeroth’s moon that was a familiar sight, but did nothing to make her feel at ease nor at home.
Home . She sneered at the word, her eyelids falling - falling heavier as she watched the blood continue to drip. She had no home anymore. Azeroth was where she was born - she could at least deduce that from her race. But beyond that? Where were her ties? Where were those that had mourned when she had become, this ?
Dead. Like me.
Desdimonda smirked; a wry smile curving her lips as her eyelids closed. Slowly she felt her body fall back onto the water, it’s rippling surface lapping against her skin. It was brisk, but the cold no longer bothered her. If anything, she enjoyed it. The frigid winds of the north, biting at her face, whipping through her hair; the first frost of morning, soft, welcoming, against her fingers as she touched the leaves, watching the snow trickle over her skin. They had called her Desdimonda the Icebinder. But now, at this moment, as she lay back onto the water, her bare, aching body floating, her light blue hair splayed beneath her, her arms and legs weeping blood, she didn’t want them to call her anything.
She idly wondered how far the blade had fallen beneath the surface. Had it settled on the lake bed, it’s gleaming metal edge doomed to rust, to wither from it’s watery grave with the stones and weeds? She opened her eyes for a moment, just enough to watch the wings of a bird soar high across the moon, stippling it’s light. The air was cool tonight. And quiet. The birds of Ashenvale chirped their night song; the ripple of the water, a melodic trance. And all else she could hear was a delicate serenity. It was part of the beauty of Ashenvale, and why she had come here so often. And why she had come here tonight. There was no-one to stop her here. There was no-one to judge her, or to pull the blade back, or to talk her down. All that surrounded her was nature - nature that avoided her, and night elf Sentinels that would sooner kill her than ask questions.
But that wasn’t the only reason. Something about Ashenvale tugged on a memory. A memory that lingered. A memory that wouldn’t manifest, but one that she knew was there. This place once meant something to her for some reason. Once.
Desdi had wondered often if she could drown. She did not breathe anymore. She could not remember the last time she had. Would water filling her lungs, her body, her throat and bring upon her true death? She had a distinct feeling the unholy magic that held her body together and made her ‘live’ would fight against such a scenario.
It fought against her wounds now. She could feel the threads of unholy and blood magic almost sing against her skin and creep within her mind, aching to heal her self inflicted wounds. After all, she had to be at her best to kill, to satiate the unending path of a death knight.
But Desdi hadn’t killed in fourteen weeks and five days. And oh, how her body reminded her. The pain was unending. The pain was like nothing she had felt in life or in undeath. Not even the sever from the Lich King and Frostmourne had hurt this much - not even when a priest healed her with their holy light, or a paladin caught her in the battle with their holy crusade. Nothing, compared to this.
Her body cried, it begged for her to kill. It needed the essence of another’s life to ease it’s pain. But she would not give in, even if it drove her to insanity. She was tired; tired of this, tired of being something she never asked to be.
And with each cut of the blade into her body, she barely even felt the pain. It was already masked by her body’s desperation, by it’s yearning for her to take up her swords and kill.
In a way, she was answering the cry. Because she hoped tonight would be her last.
He had expected Ashenvale to feel like it always had, with that vague familiarity of home. Even after the trespassing of the orcs and the Horde; even after Deathwing shattered the ground and scorched the earth; even after Garrosh had pushed closer, closer, into Ashenvale territory, it had always held that same feeling of comfort. But as Selvyn walked beneath the sweeping canopies of leaves of green, blue, purple; as the night’s animals walked by him without fear, he could feel something different this night.
A haze of death had hung around Ashenvale for so many years, it’s scent lingering beneath the fauna, the nature, the animals that prowled, but tonight, it was like a beacon.
Sel paused, drawing his hand across a scarred trunk of an ancient tree. He closed his eyes, and listened. He listened for what he could hear, as much as what he could not. The nightingales sung, as ever, their melody weaving through the branches, the leaves, soaring to the cloudless sky and it’s cacophony of stars. The owls hooted gently, perched high above, blind to humans, to orcs, but not to the kaldorei. The foxes prowled; the deer slept; the wolves - the wolves were restless. Unsettled. Sel’s fingers pressed into the bark of the tree as he focused, feeling the restless souls of the wolves. They often roamed by the lake to the south, but tonight they avoided it in fear.
Fear. He drew his thumb over the bark as he breathed in deeply. Not only did death permeate the forest this night, but he had felt fear too. But the closer he drew to its source, the more he realised it was twinned with an aching void of hopelessness and anguish. Sel lifted his hand off the tree, opened his eyes, and with a breath, with a blink, he fell forward to all fours as he shifted form to an elegant feline, with a coat tinged purple in echo of his hair. He padded the ground, feeling the earth shift beneath his large paws as he extended his claws. The animals nearby did not flinch at his shift, they were used to the kaldorei druids making Ashenvale their home.
Large eyes surveyed the forest before him as he turned to where he had felt the echo of death and the waves of fear. He bounded forward, taking a moment to revel in the stretch of his limbs and the whip of the night air gliding over his body, ruffling his sleek fur and carrying the scent he sought. The forest’s animals cried out to him as he ran past, calling for his aid to whatever it was that disturbed their home.
Sel leaped over tree roots that stuck out several feet from the ground, the ancient wood covered in an uneven coat of moss. Small flowers bloomed beneath the moonlight, their white petals reflecting the light, so pristine. Their scent coiled in the air as Sel bounded away, catching the edge of the root with his back paws, sending up a spray of moss. He could see the edge of Mystral lake now, it’s great canopies of drooping leaves stretching high towards the star swathed sky, with the tips breaking the surface of the lake, and the odd falling leaf cascading a ripple across the water.
Sel paused several paces from the edge, obscured by a towering tree. He padded to the right, feeling the beat of his heart rise. It was loud enough that it rung in his ears and pounded in his throat. Was it his own fear that he could smell now? What was it that he had to fear here? Was he walking into a trap, laid by the Horde and the Forsaken? Was that why death permeated the air? But what of the fear and the unending hopelessness; a hopelessness that saw no end. A hopelessness that cried, for help. He took another step out from behind the tree and watched the water ripple, for near the lake’s centre lay a woman, wearing nothing but the light of the moon and the blood on her arms.
With a step, and another, Sel shifted from his feline form back to the broad, tall Kaldorei form that now ran to the edge of the lake, his braided hair falling past his shoulder. He cast aside his leather vest before he waded into the water, pushing past the ice cold brisk that braced his skin. The woman was motionless. Her eyes closed, body, limp. The closer Sel approached, the darker he saw the water had become. The scarlet tinge of her blood surrounded her like an unholy aura, purging her of her life essence with each drop, with each passing moment she lay here naked and alone.
“What happened to you?” he said, quietly.
His feet no longer touched the bottom and he had to swim. At last, he reached her, and without word, took her into his arms, the bloodied water splashing against their skin. As he cradled her limp body against his chest, he saw the endless cuts along her arms and thighs. Some old - the silvery scars indented on her pallid skin - but most were new, weeping lines of blood into the water. How long had she been here? How much blood did she have left ?
Selvyn paused for a moment. His breath held; his heart without beat. For she was no human, she was an elf.
And from the second he touched her, he knew. She was not dead.
But she was not alive.
Chapter 2: I'm Meaner Than My Demons
After Selvyn finds Desdimonda in the lake, he takes her back to comfort and safety and tries to do what he can to help; to make sure she survives.
Still unconscious, Desdimonda relives a dream; a memory, of Him.
His bare feet sank into the ground, scattered with leaves as he walked, almost half a run. She was not heavy, her body was thin, petite and void of any clothing and armour. But it was her presence that weighed. It was her that had brought upon the veil of death, of fear, of anguish upon Ashenvale. Her, alone. For she bore the taint of undeath; she was a Death Knight, a fallen blood elf raised by the Lich King to serve him in undeath. He knew they had regained their free will; he knew they no longer served his will, that they served their own. But then why - why was she here…like this? Morbidly for a second, he thought, that was the very reason why.
The animals shied away from them as he walked, fearful of her presence. The branches of trees turned away from her body on instinct to preserve their life. A stray leaf brushed against her foot and it shuddered, fighting against the unholy magic coiling within her, screaming, crying out for a bite, for a taste of lesser life essence that it could find - anywhere . The forest could hear her body wail in desperation - and Sel could feel it.
His eyes wandered to the wounds on her arms, trying to find all possibilities instead of what in his gut he knew it was. Wounds from another - they were easier to heal. From yourself? He was unsure if they ever could. This wasn’t the first time he had seen someone try to die by their own hand. By Elune, he was old. He had seen a lot; he had seen enough .
He approached a small house, nestled at the foot of a towering tree, it’s low hanging branches cascading over its front, granting it privacy. It was somewhere he didn’t necessarily call home, nor was it solely his. Several druids of the Circle were aware of its presence and used it when passing, or if they had business in Ashenvale, far from home. But tonight, it was Sel’s.
With his back, he pushed open the door and wordless, set her down on the neatly made bed, her wet hair sticking to her skin in clumps. Strands glided over Sel’s arms as he moved her with ease, taking care not to knock her wounded limbs. He pulled a cushion from the bed, tore the cover into several strips and lay them at her side. He sank to his knees by the bed and pulled the drawers of the bedside table open one by one, searching the contents, seeking a vial of solution to help clean her wounds. Nothing. He shuffled to the side and opened the bottom drawer of the dresser and pulled free a crystal vial, wrapped in a pale blue ribbon, etched with faded writing that said ‘peacebloom’.
“As good as I’m going to get,” he said quietly as he uncorked the vial with his teeth, dropping the topper to the floor before dousing a strip of cloth with the liquid. “This is going to sting, girl.” Sel paused, the cloth poised above her arm as he pondered the thought ‘do they feel pain still?’. Pulling her arm straight, careful of his finely tipped claws, he began to dab the doused cloth over her wounds, slowly wiping away the excess blood and ensuring the open wounds were clean.
At his touch, she stirred. Her body arched, just a little. Her head shifted against the pillow and her fingers tightened around his hand. She murmured something. It was ineligible, but he was sure it was Thalassian.
“You feel something,” he said as he continued to tend to her wounds. He pulled back her hand, watching hers react to the void his had left. He doused a new cloth and began to clean her other arm, stretching over her body carefully. They cuts were endless. Some shallow, some deep. All, with purpose. He slowed as he noticed the several thin scars, faded with age that stained her skin, that spoke the words her unconscious self could not. He set down her washed arm and shifted to her thighs. Feeling her stir again he reached for a blanket draped over the foot of the bed and lay it over her bare crotch, careful not to catch the fabric in her wounds.
Here, the wounds were shaky and staggered. Did it hurt more here? Taking a clean rag, he wiped away the blood and cleaned the wounds. Each press against the cuts pulled a soft whimper, a murmur, an unintelligible word past her lips. Her body moved more; her eyelids flickered; her fingers flexed. At any moment, he expected her to awake, to express her disdain at his presence, to fight against his help and try to leave. But she didn’t.
Her eyes remained shut, her body, exhausted from the pain and loss of blood kept her unconscious. Selvyn was glad. For many reasons. He cast aside the sodden rags, stained red, and shredded clean, dry strips off the pillow’s cover that sat at his feet. But before he began to bind her arms and thighs, he paused, dropping the cloth to the floor. He held his hands above her body, his fingers curving into his palms as threads of magic wove between his hands, casting a green hue onto her skin.
“I’ve healed your kind before,” he said, watching her head turn. Strands of blue hair dragged against the pillow, bunching at her neck. “But will it work tonight?”
He moved a hand to her arm, the threads of magic spiralling through the air as he moved. Tentative, he hovered his hand a breath from her skin, so close he could feel the unholy magic radiate from her skin, it’s clawing tendrils pushing against the pulse of his life magic.
And then, he began.
Whispering words to the wind, invoking the guardians, Sel began to weave his magic through her wounds. Or he tried. Her body resisted. It fought. It pushed. But so did Sel. With a hand to her shoulder, his other poised above her arm, coiling his magic, he went one wound at a time. He watched the life magic curve through the cuts; he watched it pull back together her skin and revitalise her lost essence. The resistance was there. It pushed, pushed, creeping along his skin and seeping into his thoughts. But it was weakened by her physical state and by her pain .
The pain that hung from each limb, each bone, almost every part of her body. But, why ?
He searched his memories, his thoughts, his experiences and time with other death knights as to find the answer to why she suffered like this. But, he could think of nothing. Did he really know so little of her kin? Those he had interacted with kept so much to themselves and talked so little with outsiders. But, he thought as he shifted to her thigh, taking care not to disturb the cloth over her crotch, had anyone taken the time to ask?
Her restlessness was beginning to ease as his magic worked through the wounds on her legs. Sel hoped it was also easing her pain, somewhat. Her eyelids no longer flickered, but settled, as she slipped deeper into unconsciousness; her arms relaxed, her fingers uncoiling from their clenched fist. As he drew his fingers over the last of her wounds, Sel fell back onto his heels and let out a long, weary sigh, pushing back his askew hair, strands of purple catching on his lips. For a while, he just watched her. He almost expected his work to undo, for her body to reject the life magic that had stitched together her wounds and eased her suffering. But, it didn’t. She lay impeccably still. Her chest did not rise and fall with a breath, and her limbs were motionless, her lips parted. One would be excused for thinking she were dead.
“I’ve done what I can,” he said, more for himself than for her.
But will it be enough?
Sel stood and stretched, the tips of his fingers brushing the roof of the small house. He looked down at his bare chest, remembering he had left his discarded vest by the lake. He glanced to her bare body; she must have clothes somewhere? Armour? A weapon left behind? He glanced at the open door and considered leaving to retrieve what he could find. But he just closed the door behind, the ragged metal on metal of the bolt echoing off the walls as he secured it shut. He couldn’t leave her alone, not like this. She might awake at any moment, confused, scared, in pain, and disturb her wounds.
Sel pushed off several cushions off a chaise on the opposite side of the room and lay down, his braid falling past his shoulder, the tip almost brushing against the floor.
He would stay - but why? She was a death knight, the antithesis of what he was, and she was Horde .
But then he remembered the fear he had first felt upon stepping in Ashenvale this night. He had thought it was the forest’s fear, he had thought it feared for an intrusion upon its lands. But it was her fear he felt, her hopelessness; her desperate cry, for help.
Can you even fathom what it is like to obey a thought that is not your own? And then, enjoy what you do? You look at me in disgust, in terror, for what I am now. But you know nothing of what I used to be.
Desdimonda strode through Death’s Breach, the long, embroidered cloak she favoured to wear when she commanded billowing behind her with each step. Her armour hissed pleasantly as she moved, the dark blue sheen catching the radiant glow of the fires of Havenshire. A cacophony of screams, of the hiss of arrows, of the crunch of bones, of the defying cries of the citizens filled the air. It made the hairs on her skin bristle; it made her hold her head that little bit higher.
Everything had gone just as they wanted, as they had planned. No. As they had been ordered . Herself, Mograine, Thassarian, Salanaar; the list of important figures of the Scourge that were here was almost endless. There was a niggling thought in her mind that wanted to ask why. Why were we all here? Surely just a handful of us could accomplish what is necessary? But his will extinguished that thought; it extinguished almost all else that was not of use to him and this mission. She had grown accustomed to the way his will worked. The intricacies of how it changed when needed; of how it amplified her desire to kill, or her need to control, when the situation arose. She often oversaw the intake of new death knights, wishing to observe how they took to undeath and to Him . She had watched those of a lesser mind go insane from the touch of his will, and she had then watched them fall as they tasted her blade. A part of her wondered if she was ever this weak.
Desdi felt a familiar presence at her side as she approached the edge of Death’s Breach; Thassarian. He was loosening his steeds reins alongside Koltira and Orbaz.
“Lady Icebinder,” nodded Thassarian, a smirk curving his lips.
Desdi cocked her hip and flexed her hand over the hilt of one of her rune blades, the icy haze hovering by the tips of her fingers. “Don’t call me Lady. I fucking hate it.”
Thassarian grunted a laugh as he fastened Dusk’s reins. “I know.”
“Where are you going? I haven’t been inf-”
“We do not need to move on your command, my Lady ,” sneered Orbaz as he mounted his steed with one swift motion. “His will commands, not yours.”
She flexed her hand over the cold, round pommel of her rune blade as Orbaz spoke, his words almost as brisk as her weapon. “Thank you for that astute reminder, Orbaz,” she said, running a hand over Dusks’s face as Thassarian mounted her saddle.
“Mograine ordered us further ahead to New Avalon; more specifically the Scarlet Tavern. We’ve to try and find some clue of this courier that is meant to show face today,” said Thassarian as Koltira strode up atop Bloodmist.
Desdimonda nodded at her fellow elf, his white hair falling forward with the small, curt nod. Koltira spoke more with his blade than he did with words. His exception was Thassarian; brothers in death, they called each other. Tilting back her head, her long ponytail grazing her fur lined cloak, she felt a thought claw at the back of her mind - that thought. It shimmered, like a dying flame, desperate to live. She tried to hold on, she tried, she -
“He sends three of his best, on a reconnaissance mission?” said Desdi. The words felt hollow, distant, and as she finished speaking, she struggled to remember why she had spoken at all.
“What of it? Are you questioning His will? Do you seek your true death so freely, my Lady?” said Orbaz, his words biting, bitter and loud. His Deathcharger took a step closer. Thassarian held out a hand to halt him.
Desdimonda paused and blinked slowly, regaining her composure; composure that had slipped for a second. A second too long, a second long enough to be questioned by Orbaz.
“I am just noting that warriors of your calibre could be put to better use than simple, retrieval.”
Orbaz straightened himself on his steed and rode past Koltira and Thassarian, pushing his hand out of his path.
“Any request I fulfil by His will is a worthy cause,” he said, elongating each word with pride.
Desdimonda nodded, feeling her mouth curve to a smile. “Of course. You are right.”
Thassarian paused at Desdimonda as Koltira and Orbaz rode on ahead, he wound Dusk’s reins in between his armoured hands. He parted his lips as if to speak, but all he said, was silence. He turned, and left.
Your blade has not tasted blood this day, Desdimonda.
Take the lives of those that still scream. Finish them.
The order was like a song, plucked in a key just for her. His words wound through her mind like silk, glancing, gracing her consciousness like it was the only thing she had ever heard; like it was the only thing she ever wanted to hear.
Spill their blood.
It was constant; it was unending.
Take their essence for your own. Feel their death empower you .
Desdimonda watched as her three fellow Death Knights rode through burning, dying Havenshire, their bodies becoming smaller, the noise of their chargers, faint.
Finish them .
She did not seek her steed. No. She would do this on foot. Each hand took hold of a rune blade, and they sung beneath her touch. The haze of ice that hovered by the blades weaved through her fingers as she poised her blades by her sides, ready to strike. She passed several gheists, crawling on all fours. On instinct, they lowered their heads at her approach, but she barely even noticed them. An initiate was approaching Salanaar, and as she passed, he turned to watch, drawn in by her aura.
Every step she took left behind a patch of ice. Her feet pulled up sharp, thin icicles from the ground as she walked, the white frost etching her ebony armour as it crept over the surface, creating an intricate pattern. Prince Valanar moved to speak to his fellow commander, but as he saw the aura of frost surround her, as her hunger, her desire, her command satiated the air, he turned away and left her alone. The last thing he wanted to do was step between a death knight and their hunger.
The heat from the fires that swept through the buildings, that burned their flesh, their existence, was putrid. It swilled through the air, coiling black swathes of smoke all around the sky. But all around Desdi, as she walked, she emanated a frigid, bitter wind that bit through the smog. The cries of the citizens became louder, desperate, and they fuelled her. They made her steps quicker and the grip upon her blades, tighter.
A geist leaped before her and pinned down a retreating male, his leg half gnarled. It’s claws ripped through what remained of his scorched clothing and tore at his chest as if it were her blade. He screamed, oh, he screamed. Thin strips of flesh hung from the geists hands as it tore, slowly this time, exposing what lay beneath the human’s chest. Desdi strode past the geist as it began to consume the human, the scent of blood heady; intoxicating.
She walked past a dying woman who held the body of her dead son. Raising a blade, Desdi drew it clean through her neck, severing her head without a thought. Desdi shivered as she felt her waning life essence seep beneath her skin, as she felt the unholy magic that held her together strengthen from the blood she had shed. But it was not enough. The cries were waning; the bodies were few. Desdi looked around her, at the empty houses, at the burning fields, at the road that led to the shore. She paused.
Footsteps behind her shuffled nervously. A whimper. A muffled voice. Her armour hissed as she turned. The ice at her feet froze the grass and as she walked, the small blades broke off with a clink.
“Trying to run, are we?” said Desdi in common as she saw a couple backed up against a tree, the man holding a dagger, and the woman a blunted axe.
They tried to stand tall in challenge to her words with their weapons ready to strike, but their bodies betrayed them.
“You do not scare me,” spat the woman, taking a step forward, threatening Desdi with her axe.
Desdi smirked and waved a hand, casting out a sharp blast of cold to the woman. Her back hit the tree and she gasped, breathless at the assault of cold. Her fingers slipped on the axe and she almost dropped it. “Your body says otherwise. And your partner here almost pissed himself at the sight of me.”
The man tried to defy her words, to raise his weapon, but he did nothing but tremble, and stare.
“Please - l-leave us alone,” begged the woman, trying to steady the tremble of the grip on her axe. “Have mercy.”
Mercy shows weakness; are you weak, Desdimonda?
For a moment, Desdi felt His will falter. Enough to let him see her challenge his words; enough to let him see her falter and expose her weakness. Desdi stepped forward and extended a hand, still poised with her blade. The girl rose from the ground, her feet dangling as her back dragged against the tree with a hiss. Her grip on the axe faltered and it fell to the grass with a thud.
“What - what are you-” began the man, but Desdi send a wave of ice towards him, the shards of frost pinning him against the tree.
The girl clawed at her neck, gasped, desperate for the air that she could no longer breathe. Desdi tapped each of her fingers over the hilt of her blade, watching as an echo of her fingers pressed against the woman’s throat, tighter, tighter. Desdi could feel the threads of her life begin to wind towards her. They called to her; they sought her. And she smiled.
The girl’s lips were blue, her neck was weeping blood from the scratches of desperation she had made and then, Desdi let her fall, just a breath away from death, her small body collapsing at the foot of the tree.
Eyes wide, lips parted and on her knees, the girl raised her hands towards Desdimonda, mouthing ‘thank you, thank you’.
“Mercy - thank you. Mercy.”
Desdi laughed and raised her blade, the edge stained with the blood of the headless mother. “Never.” And with one quick, brisk motion, she sliced open the woman’s throat, the spray of blood peppering her face, her hands, her armour, and the whimpering man still pinned to the tree. He cried out the girls name, followed by several sobs of despair.
Desdi raised the back of her hand to her face, wiping the trail of blood from her cheek. It felt too hot. She licked her lips, tasting the tart, coppery tang against her tongue.
“Why? Why are you doing this?” he asked through his tears as she approached.
Desdi paused, and smiled, the heady haze of the girl’s life essence was like a drug, permeating her being, reminding her what it meant to be .
“Because I want to.”
Chapter 3: Falling To Pieces
Desdimonda wakes up, at last, and realises her attempt was unsuccessful. Shaken by the memory and the fact she hadn't planned to live another day, she tries to understand the company that found her; that saved her.
“Because I enjoy it.”
Desdi’s eyes opened wide, and without thought, she sat upright and turned her head, her matted, drying hair falling over her back. And then, the pain took hold, and she cried. She cried out as the unending hunger that had been left unanswered for weeks, for so long, clawed at her body. And that was before she remembered the cuts on her arms and legs. Her skin prickled as some of the wounds opened, the thin lines of red blood beginning to stain her pallid skin.
And then, she realised she was not alone. For before her, knelt at the side of - where was she? - this bed, was a Night Elf.
“Who the fuck are you?” said Desdi in Thalassian as she reached for her blades on instinct, only to find they were gone. The pain intensified, reacting to the realisation that she was unarmed and she swore, clutching the edge of the bed as she watched the blood seep from several of her open wounds. It was then that she also realised she was very much naked. She made little effort to cover herself, uncaring that her breasts showed, two small silver hoops looped through both peaked nipples. The blanket over her crotch was enough.
“Your wounds are opening again,” said Sel in fluent Thalassian as he ignored her initial words and reached out for her arm, his fingers wrapping around her wrist with a gentle, but firm grip. His touch were so warm.
“Let them,” she said, trying to pull free her hand from his grip. But she was weak; by hell, she was weak.
Sel lifted his head and caught her gaze. “I didn’t carry you all this way and heal your wounds to let you bleed all over my bed. Again.”
She tried to fight against his grip again, but her weakness won. “ Shit . And - who are you again? And why is an Alliance asshole trying to help me?”
“This Alliance asshole is called Selvyn. But just call me Sel,” he said while hovering his hand over her arm and calling forth his life magic once more. Desdi flinched on instinct. Sel reassured his grip on her wrist and looked back up at her. “It’s not holy.”
Sel nodded. “What gave it away?”
“You stink of leaves,” she said, scathing, as she watched the magic curve around her arm and into her wounds.
Sel smirked, a shock of purple hair falling forward from his loose braid. “And I’m helping you because I don’t tend to just walk past dying people, no matter what banner they serve under.”
At his words, Desdi bristled, her body tensing. The haunt of her memory dictated her actions, her words; her . She tried to shake it off. She tried to push away the echo of His words that lingered in the back of her mind. A memory that she wished she had lost, instead of the thousand others she had.
“I don’t serve anyone but myself ,” she said, louder than she had wished. The words were curt and bitter, and twinned with another attempt at freeing herself from Sel’s grasp. But it was even weaker than before and her arm stayed within his warm hold.
“I didn’t mean to word it in such a way,” he said, setting down her arm by her side. “My apologies.”
“You should have kept walking too,” she said, casting her eyes around the small house. From the cracked wooden walls; to the windows draped in exquisitely embroidered fabric. To the cushions scattered on the floor; to the shredded cloth by her feet, stained in her blood.
Sel sat back onto his heels, rolling his shoulders as he eased the tension. “But I didn’t.”
Desdi stared at him. She stared at the slant of his ears; gentler than hers. She stared at the long, thick, purple hair, braided loosely to the side, several strands awry that fell about his shoulders. The dim candlelight cast shadows over his bared chest, dulling the blue hue of his skin. She could see faint silvery scars cover his chest, and one long ragged slash crown his right hip.
He stayed quiet, peaceful almost, as she stared, clasping his hands loosely in his lap, long, tipped claws catching the light. He didn’t avert his eyes when she caught his gaze. She held it, in an almost challenge, the only sound around them the gentle song of the Nightingale as it flew past outside.
“What is your name?” he asked, breaking the quiet.
She looked away, pondering giving him a false name. But why? What did it matter? “Desdimonda. I prefer Desdi.”
“Unusual name. I haven’t heard it before,” said Sel, smiling a little. He made no effort to stand or move, and kept sitting still, serenely.
“I’ve killed countless elves like you,” she said, the words spilling forth without thought.
“I do not doubt,” said Sel, his words soft. His face remained impassive; serene. “Am I going to be another?”
Desdi paused. She shifted the blanket that covered her crotch and traced several of the cuts on her thigh with a cold finger.
“Where are my blades? Where is my armour?” she asked, a blunted nail pressing into an old cut, feeling the rough scar.
“Still down by the lake, I suppose. Along with my vest.” He rose from the floor, the tip of his braid brushing against Desdi’s knee. “I’ll go and retrieve what I can find.”
“Why?” she asked. As he moved, scents of peacebloom, of damp hair, of foliage filled the air.
“You like that question, don’t you?” said Sel, a wry smile tugging the corner of his mouth.
Desdi blinked, her focus was still readjusting, and her body was still regaining its composure from her unconsciousness. She couldn’t remember the last time she had fallen unconscious from something other than drugs, and everything felt surreal; unnatural, and that she was going to wake up for real at any moment. She was sure if she just outstretched her hand and pulled forth her unholy will, she could strangle him where he stood; or cast a shard of ice through his heart; or pull the life from his body with a coil of magic. But the simple thought of standing, of exerting her energy into anything but just existing , made the pain within her heighten. It rang in her ears, it burned beneath her skin in an unsettling twin of frost and fire. And it took everything she had to hide it from Sel. Because it made her weak .
“You are going to help arm a death knight of the Horde,” she said, pulling forth her matted blue hair past her shoulder. If she kept her hands busy, it was a distraction from the pain, so she told herself. “In your home?”
Sel shrugged, gesturing around him. “This isn’t really my place. And Horde, Alliance, we all walk upon the same earth; we all bleed blood; we all breathe the same air.”
“You’re so full of shit,” said Desdi.
Sel laughed gently. “I prefer pragmatic .”
“Also. I don’t breathe,” she said, winding her fingers through her dried hair.
Sel nodded. “That, you don’t. But you still bleed. And you bled a lot.”
Desdi, said nothing.
Watching the candle’s flame flicker, he turned to the door to leave, but paused. “Do you want something else to wear? I haven’t got much. There’s a spare robe or two in the dresser. Tunic maybe. You must be cold. I know I am.”
“I like the cold,” she said as she begun to weave her hair into a thick braid. “And I have no shame in being seen naked.”
Sel slid open the bolts on the door and turned back to face Desdi. “I noticed.” And he left.
When she could no longer sense his presence, when she was sure he was far enough away, Desdi let out a whimper, a cry, and doubled over in pain on the edge of the bed, her fingers biting into the straw packed mattress. This had been the longest she had gone without a kill; period. She was beating her last record now by eleven days. By day four, she was unsure if she would last the night. But she did. And the pain remained. It stayed, and she endured, letting it scour away at her essence, letting it draw upon every last coil of magic that sustained her until she was sure her body would just, stop.
It didn’t. So she tried to stop it tonight.
It didn’t. It stayed, and she endured.
Desdi stared at the cuts on her arms and legs, sealed together by Sel’s magic. She scratched at the dried up blood, congealed in a corner of a cut, her nail picking, picking, hoping to tear it open and that it would never stop. But even her touch, hurt. Mere skin to skin felt like acid to flesh; like fire to ice, and she stopped, unable to bear another touch.
She stood. The blanket fell to the floor in a pile by the dried rags, sodden red with her blood. She took a step. Another. What was she doing? It hurt to move. She should just sit and wait until Sel’s return, don her armour and weapons, then leave.
Reaching out a hand, she touched the flame of the candle on the dresser, curling her fingers around the flame. It reminded her of Sel’s touch; warm, soothing. The thought made her withdraw her hand and she opened a drawer of the dresser violently and pulled the first tunic she saw free; green - of course it’s green - embroidered with silver leavers - really? - and pulled it over her head. It was long enough that it covered the cuts on her thighs, but not her arms. She was past caring now, for the simple task of a few steps to the dresser to put on a tunic had almost made her collapse. And as she reached the bed, she half stumbled, half sat back down, her fingers digging into the soft bedding as she tried to regain her composure for Sel’s return.
I am not weak. I am not weak.
Desdimonda drew her fingers over a tapestry that hung from the wall; faded, the threads fraying at the bottom. It depicted a scene of a great white stag, rearing before a full moon. Tracing the antlers with a finger, she knew this white stag was important to druids, but the name escaped her.
Turning, she winced. The floor beneath her feet felt like it was covered in nails; the tunic against her skin felt like rusted metal. But she was tired of just sitting and waiting. A staff, propped in the corner of the room caught her eye. She slowly footed over, curling her fists, containing her cries of pain, until she reached the elaborately carved wood. An intricate carving of a wolf’s head topped the staff, with small amber gemstones pressed into the wood for it’s eyes. Desdi ran her hand over the head, feeling the soft bumps and grooves that echoed the fur, the point of the ears and it’s fangs. But that wasn’t where the carving ended. For around the base of the wolf’s head, wove ivy, and leaves, and flowers, carved into the wood. Small gemstones, faded paint and silver effigy decorated the wood. It, was beautiful.
She took the staff into both her hands, the leather and ribbons that wound and hung from it, slipping past her fingers. Blue, and turquoise and silver and purple. She ran a finger along a purple ribbon, blinking back a memory. A memory of tying back her hair with such a ribbon. Hair that once shone as red as her blood.
The door creaked open. Desdi jumped with surprise and turned to Sel, placing back the staff against the wall at once, whilst also pulling forth all her resolve to hide her pain.
“You found my weapon. And I found yours,” he said, gesturing to the rune blades hung awkwardly from his hips, notched on the last hole of her belt. Desdi, smirked. The sight was extraordinary. A Night Elf druid, bearing her rune blades on each of his hips, their icy chill creeping from their hilts, glancing along his skin, trying to push away their wrongful owner. A large bag was hoisted over his shoulder, clinking metal. “Your armour too. A bracer was missing. But I found it, in the lake.”
“You went into the lake?” said Desdi as she looked in the bag as he set it down, casting her eyes over the ebony, scarred armour, tinged with blue.
“Already been in once tonight. Second time wasn’t going to hurt,” he said with a wry smile as he clicked shut the door. “I also found this.” He pulled a dagger from his belt. The hand was ornate, reminiscent of the architecture and armour of the High Elves that once served in Quel’Thalas. Sweeping curves were etched into the hilt, and extended onto the blade itself, adorned with a language that read the word ‘Ember’.
Desdi took it from Sel’s hands, her fingers brushing against his warm skin. It was the last thing she remembered, dropping the dagger into the lake, wondering if it had fallen to the bed, washed of her blood. She said nothing, but set it down on the dresser by the lit candle. It weighed heavy in her hands, and it made her remember.
“My blades don’t like you,” she said, turning away from the dagger. “Let me rephrase that. They don’t like you alive.”
Sel undid the belt that sat around his waist, nipping against the skin. Her svelte frame was evident in the struggle he had in fastening the holster to carry the twin blades home. He did his best to avoid touching the hilts, the metal, seeing the way the runes shone beneath their sheaths, calling to their master, desperate for their return.
“I can’t say we’re going to become friends either,” said Sel as he eyed the blades sliding by his hips. By Cenarius, they were cold. Like they had been plucked from within Icecrown itself.
He held out the swords by the belt towards her. Desdi took a step forward, feeling her skin bristle with anticipation. She missed them; her body missed them. It called to them as she reached out, the tips of fingers disappearing beneath a swirl of ice, a thin spray of snow falling to her feet in a flurry. Her eyes shone; they shone that ethereal blue. It wasn’t like the light of Elune, thought Sel, a comfort, a wash of beauty. It was…unsettling.
But as Desdi took hold of her blades, she staggered. The weight of them made her knees buckle; they made her steps falter; they made her cry out unexpectedly, and unwanted. She cursed, tightening her grip around the black leather, feeling the metal tips of her sheaths drag against the floor. The relief of having her blades by her side again was overwhelming . It made her remember what it felt like to have a heart that beat.
The blood magic within gripped her heart, answering the runes of her blades, hearing their desperation for a kill, and sensing the life nearby that could so easily be hers.
Take their essence for your own. Feel their death empower you .
The words - His words - echoed in her mind again; a shade of her memory that still lingered. And with it, she stumbled, fell forward and dropped her blades.
She was expecting to hit the floor with a thud. She was expecting to feel the grate of wood against her palms, etched with lines of frost. But she didn’t. A hand caught her; an outstretched arm supported her, and she fell against Sel’s chest as he manoeuvred her to the chaise where he had slept. She inhaled sharply, his scent of wood, of the damned trees and peacebloom filled her nostrils as they moved.
For so long, when she had fallen, she had hit the unforgiving floor - stone, wood, shattered glass - and she had fallen alone. There had been no hand to catch her, no-body to drag her away; no-one.
Why now? Why here? Why him ?
Desdi pulled her hand from his grasp, but did not leave. She turned away, shrugging the shoulder of her tunic back up. It was too damned big.
“You smell like a tree,” she said, pulling one leg, then another, against her chest. Her toes, so pale they were almost tinged blue, pressed into the chaise. It felt…good.
“I get that a lot,” he said, his fingers resting to a point atop his knees. “However, I suspect what just happened, is not something you get a lot?”
Desdi shrugged. “Lately it’s happened a lot. So what?”
“So, we’re just ignoring the crippling, unbelievable pain you’re in?” said Sel, his words dry.
“What of it?” she said, staring at the candle’s flame, watching the wax drip, drip down the side. “And how do you even know how much pain I’m in?”
Sel held out his hand and let several coils of his healing magic wind through his fingers as he moved one by one. “I’ve spent… many …years as a healer within my family, my people, the Cenarion Circle, the Alliance.” He curved his fingers to a peak and the green strands of magic wound high, the threads slowly binding together to create a set of ivy leaves. Desdi shifted her gaze from the candle’s flame, back to Sel, watching him weave the living echo of an ivy from his hand. “I can sense the nuances of illness that others might miss. And some things just become familiar, with time and experience.”
He closed his fist and the ivy disappeared in a puff of green, the trickle of magic falling to Desdi’s feet.
“And you are in so much pain, your body screams it, even if you do not,” said Sel.
She tried to not show that she was mildly impressed with his creative display of magic and just rolled her eyes, curling her toes back into the thick fur of the chaise.
“Again,” she began, staring at his serene eyes, the amber haze highlighting the slide of his cheeks. “What of it?”
“I’m a healer. I help,” said Sel, simply, leaning back against the arm of the chaise. He raised his arm over the back, spreading his hand over the soft fabric, his long nails catching the ends of the fur. He was still topless, the only thing covering him was the light of the candle and the drape of his braided hair.
“I don’t need help,” she said, her conviction waning. “And that’s it? You’re a healer so you help? Right.”
Sel blinked slowly. “You could not don your armour, your blades and walk out of that door and make it fifty paces before the Sentinels captured or killed you.”
Sel smirked and waved a lazy arm towards the door. “The door’s open.”
Desdi looked away, pulling her legs closer, her eyes staring at the wall.
“I thought as much,” said Sel.
“Are you always this irritating?” said Desdi, watching his smile tilt his ears. Several hoops wound through his right ear, with adjoining chains that hung between, elegantly.
“Not always,” said Sel, leaning forward as he tucked a leg beneath him. “Will you at least tell me why you are in so much pain?”
She watched him move a little closer, but she didn’t care. At his words, Desdi cast her eyes to her weapons, discarded on the floor. She considered lying. She considered simply telling him to shut the fuck up. By now, she had almost considered everything including leaving and taking his life.
But she was aimless, lost, with no purpose, no home. She had no-where to go, no-one to see, and nothing to do.
“I haven’t killed in - in a long time.” The words felt awkward as they passed her lips. It felt as if another spoke the words, stiff and rehearsed.
“I knew death knights had to kill, but I didn’t know that not doing it caused…this,” said Sel.
“Yeah well, people like to keep their distance from us, and most of us satiate the need pretty quickly.” She saw her weapons glow, the runes were shimmering in response to her words and emotions as she spoke.
“Why haven’t you?”
Desdi stayed quiet for a long while. Long enough that she noticed every sound within the house. Sel’s breaths; the shimmer of the chains on his ears; the drag of her toes against the chaise; the low, brittle husk of her weapons, their icy crackle so minute, but so loud .
The candle’s flame still burned bright and tall, casting its orange glow over her dagger. She remembered what it had felt like against her skin, the sharp, smooth steel against flesh; effortless, endless.
Sel’s hand touched hers. She flinched, pulling back at once. “What?”
“I think my healing can help ease your pain,” he said, his hand suspended inches above hers. “I noticed when I was tending your wounds that - that it was easing your other pain too. The hunger lessened; you felt…more at peace,” he tried.
“I was unconscious,” she said, bitterly. “Can’t get more at peace than that.”
Sel laughed a little but persisted. “I felt it - I noticed. Believe me, I’ve been doing this healing thing for thousands of years-”
“How old are you?” she asked, lifting her head at her last word.
At that, Sel paused, pushing his braid behind his shoulder. “Old enough.” He reached out again for her hand, but she resisted. “I just want to-”
“Help. I get it. What if I don’t want your help.”
With his hand still suspended, Sel blinked slowly. He could feel the pain radiate from her, like a cry for help. “But you need it.”
And he had said enough .
Desdi stood from the chaise, her steps wobbly, but she did not care. Catching Sel’s gaze, she snarled as she spoke. “Do not presume to know anything about me. Ever.” Striding across the small floor, she picked up her blades with a shaky hand, feeling Sel follow her. Fastening the sheaths to her waist, she turned on her heel and backed away as he approached.
“Desdimonda - I didn’t mean to presume-”
“But you did,” she spat, her fingers flexing around the hilt of her weapons; weapons that sung her song, that promised to ease her pain if she just did the right thing. It would be so easy. He wore little to no armour; he held no weapon; he just wanted to help her.
Take their essence for your own. Feel their death empower you .
His words echoed in her mind again, and for a moment, she was His.
So, she ran. She turned, opened the door with her unsteady hands and ran.
Chapter 4: Who Is In Control?
Desdi runs in fear that she will lose control and answer the longing inside her to take a life. But sometimes not even running can let you escape.
Each step felt like she ran on shattered blades. Her bare skin met leaves, fallen twigs, roots and pine-cones. Branches snagged at her exposed arms, breaking apart her healing wounds. But she barely felt that pain, and she cared even less. Her braid was coming undone, her thick, blue hair falling about her shoulders, stray strands falling into her eyes and catching on her lips.
Her vision was blurred, her ears rang. The further she ran, the colder her footprints became. She began to leave patches of ice behind, small icicles sprouting from the ground as she ran; a memory of her presence. Her fingers hovered by the hilts of her blades, ready to strike at a blink; at a breath.
Where she was going, she had no idea. But she had to get far, she had to get far and fast, because all she wanted to do, all her body needed her to do was take his life. So simple. She had done it countless of times before without thought. Even with her immeasurable pain, she would win. She knew it. The desperation beneath her skin was so intense now that she was sure the blades would do the work for her if she just lifted them towards him.
But this pain, she had to endure. It was her retribution. It was her penance.
She reached the edge of the road. A deer bounded away, followed by the scuttle of several different other animals in all other directions, away from here. All life, ran away from death. It was nothing new. Desdi set her hand on the trunk of a tree and it’s rugged bark froze beneath her touch.
She tried to understand where she was in Ashenvale, but she could barely see five paces before her. And running on the road? She would just get herself killed. And with that thought, an arrow whipped past her ear, catching a wisp of hair before it sunk into the tree she had touched, moments before.
“Shit,” she said, stepping off the path and back into the thick forest. The moonlight was not on her side; it shone like a beacon upon the trees, catching the foliage, the leaves, every little disturbance of movement she made as she ran, ran and ran.
Another arrow sung through the air, barely missing her. She was running up a small hill, her toes digging into the leave bathed ground as she ran. She caught branches of trees; rough, overgrown bark; oversized roots with her hands to help her run and move and hoist her weary body along these unfamiliar, but familiar woods.
And then, she stepped out onto nothing.
Beneath her feet lay blackened ground; beside her the trees were dead, their branches, their trunks snapped, void of all life. Nothing grew here. Nothing existed here, but death. The charred reminded of Deathwing’s shattering hung all around her, but all she saw, was death.
People ask me, “Didn’t you fight his control?”. You fight his control, and you become exactly what it is you fight. He consumes you and makes you into nothing but an instrument of death. I didn’t fight it, so I became it. My own way.
I don’t know which is worse.
A few bodies remained on the black ground; dismembered, bleeding, dead. Had she killed any of them? How many? The skin of a paladin by her feet as she stopped was rotting, scoured by unholy magic. Another, paces ahead, had turned blue, the sharp pointed icicles of frost magic patterned her skin.
Was that me? Had I killed her?
She held out her hand and called forth the crackle of ice around her hand, watching the white wisps of magic weave between her fingers.
Desdi walked along the edge of Light’s Hope chapel, along where the plague lands began to dissipate and become the holy ground of the paladins. The ground beneath her feet almost pained her as she walked, the threads of holy reaching out to assail her, answering the wail of her unholy magic. But that was the last of her worries, for as she held out a hand, staring at her pallid skin; as she touched her breast, feeling no heartbeat; as she looked behind her at the people amassing together death knights and paladin, some who she was sure she was trying to kill, just moments before, she couldn’t remember why , and worst of all, she couldn’t remember who she had become.
Her name. Her name.
“Desdimonda,” called a voice, familiar, but not.
She lifted her head; the voice was approaching with someone. Someone whose heart did not beat. She touched the hilt of her blades, watching the runes whisper and glow beneath her hands. She touched her face, feeling a wet line of blood. Was it hers? Was it someone else’s?
“Lady Desdimonda Icebinder,” called the name again, more urgently.
Her name. Her name, was Desdimonda.
Through everything that surrounded her, through everything that swilled in her mind, she remembered that.
As the footsteps drew nearer, she turned to look upon a face. A face that was familiar? It had to be. They had come here together; they had fought together. He knew her name. He knew, her.
Desdi blinked, pushing aside the cloying panic that was stirring beneath her skin and made her face as impassive as she could. She hoped with the commotion of what had happened that she would be excused for appearing a little, off.
“Yes?” she said to the death knight, his human skin sallow, his hair and beard white. She tried, tried to piece together what she could of him, but it was slipping away. She wanted to grab it, hold it, but the memory was like vapour, dissipating towards the sky, to nothing.
“Are you alright?” asked Thassarian, reaching out a hand to place upon her armoured shoulder.
That, she did not expect. Desdi parted her lips to speak, but she said, nothing. He was asking, by choice. He had come, by choice.
His command was gone; His will, was gone.
“I-” began Desdi, unsure of what her next words were going to be.
Thassarian smiled. “It is a lot to take in, our freedom.”
She turned and stared at what remained of the paladins of Light’s Hope, Tirion standing at their head with Mograine. Those behind Tirion looked fearful, judgemental, and that they would kill any one of them once Tirion had left, or they found an opportune moment.
Desdi did not blame them. Pools of blood and remnants of severed parts of bodies were all that remained of the battle. The bodies were being removed, ready for their funerals. And it had been all their fault; all her fault.
A draenei priest stared at her, her eyes raw from tears. She clutched a bloodied shawl against her breast.
“Azeroth hates us. We have no-where to go. What is left for us?” she said to herself, to Thassarian, to anyone.
Thassarian reaffirmed his grip upon her shoulder just before he spoke.
“ Vengeance .”
Another arrow wailed in the air, but this time she could not see it to dodge and it sunk into her bared shoulder. She swore, she stumbled, and fell forward onto the blackened earth. She could hear their footsteps pound as they ran; she could hear the hiss of their armour as they approached.
Desdi reached up to the arrow in her shoulder, and with one forceful pull, and one loud cry of pain, she pulled some of it free, feeling the cold weep of blood spill from her wound and stain Sel’s tunic. She staggered to her feet, turning to face whatever - whoever - it was that approached. Unsteady hands took hold of her blades, fingers wrapping around the handles firmly. The blades sung; they basked in her touch, in her presence as at last, she called upon them and unsheathed.
The runes shone in the darkness, shrouded in the haze of white ice that forever wove around her blades, empowering them with her magic. Blades poised, her body crying for the shed of blood, for the promise of a kill, she stood ready.
But no-one showed.
She swore and moved, taking her body away from the wide open exposure, bathed in the moonlight. She listened, closely. An arrow notched on a bow, and she searched. She searched before her; nothing. To the side; nothing. Above.
The high branch of a tree shifted, just a little, just enough. The leaves rippling like in a breeze, but there was no wind. Desdi crept back a step, a two, shadowing her body in the canopy of the tree before she outstretched her hand, blade and all, and sent forth a grip of unholy magic towards where she was sure they crouched with their bow. The fingers of unholy grasped something; something warm; something clad in mail; something that screamed. And with that touch, Desdi pulled, dragging a Sentinel to the ground, and to her feet.
The night elf’s back collided with the ground and her bow slipped from her hands, Desdi held her still by the unholy grip upon her neck.
“Leave me the fuck alone,” she cried in Thalassian, hoping she would understand. It was growing so hard to keep her still - and keep her still without wanting to kill her. Just an inch, just a little more, and she could squeeze the life from her throat as she squirmed beneath her hold, desperately fighting to survive.
Finish them. Finish them.
Her vision blurred. It faded in, out, the image of a girl she had killed at Havenshire flickered before her, taking on the form of the Sentinel as her arms moved, seeking the blades tucked by her hips.
“Never,” replied the Sentinel, her voice broken through her breathlessness and simple Thalassian. She knew enough to understand. “You are a blight, a disease to be purged from this land.”
Finish her. Finish her.
The words clawed at the back of her mind, their black threads of unassuming control biting into her mind, making her remember - remember what she was - who, she was.
But at the final moment where she could have ended it with a squeeze of her magic, wrapping around the Sentinel’s neck, Desdi stopped. She faltered and stepped back. It was enough; enough to let the Night Elf jump to her feet and leap at Desdi, her curved blades raised, unrelenting, unforgiving.
Desdi parried the first strike, just in time. Her bare heels skidded across the charred earth from the force and she pushed forward, surged on by her body’s desperation that this was going to be a kill. At last - at last .
“I don’t want to kill you,” cried Desdi, the words pulled forth one by one, for she struggled to speak them, and to believe them. She cast an icy blast of wind at the Sentinel, pushing her back several steps. But it did nothing.
“But I want to kill you,” replied the Sentinel, her words as fierce as her blows. They were fast and precise, and Desdi could no longer play defensive. The night elf’s blade caught her arm, opening one of her wounds, but Desdi barely felt it. “We should have purged you all when we killed Arthas, she said.
“Why?” challenged Desdi as she swung again with her blade. Metal met metal, and the Sentinel’s eyes flashed with malice.
“I lost more than I care to remember to the Scourge - to your kind,” she said, pushing back against Desdi, trying to find an opening with her blades.
“He - he controlled us!” she said, not just for the Sentinel, but for herself. “ We had no fucking control and yet, we have to live with that.”
“What do you want? Pity.” The Sentinel spat on the ground. “You’ll get nothing from me, but death.”
Desdi pushed against her blades. She was slipping; slipping away to what she tried to run from, what she tried to ignore. She wanted to be anything but this, even dead. But she could not even manage that. And she’d be damned if she let some night elf Sentinel do it for her.
“Do you feel the same for those that have joined the Alliance - for your king?”
The Sentinel laughed, her lips curling to a snarl. “I cannot act as they as they are my allies. You however, are not.”
Whispering a word to the wind, a howling wind of ice surrounded Desdi’s body as she swung her blades, infusing her attacks with brittle cold. She watched as each strike, as each hit cast razor sharp icicles against the Sentinel’s skin. If she just hurt her enough, she would leave.
Desdi parried an onslaught of blades, side stepping another. And then behind her, she felt another’s presence. It was soon announced by another arrow to her shoulder.
She cried out, and ignored it, pushing past the pain. Because nothing else mattered now, for she was going to kill.
Her hunger was going to be no more.
Another arrow, and it caught her upper arm. She faltered, just a step, and lowered her weapon from the biting pain. The Sentinel saw her chance, and she took it, brandishing her blades arrogantly, with brawn. But it wasn’t enough. Nothing, was going to be enough.
Desdi’s vision had blurred to all but her victim. The Sentinel was like a beauty, bathed beneath the moonlight, and she was going to be hers . She dropped her blade and outstretched her hand, seizing her by the throat once more. She had no strength to lift her, but just enough to hold her in place to lift her other blade, and pierce her chest. It cut like steel to silk; like fire to ice.
And as the splay of purple blood trickled from her chest, down the blade, over her arm - Desdi had never felt more alive .
The essence of her life wove beneath her skin like threads of nectar, pulling away the pain she had endured for months, without respite. And now, as the Sentinel took her last rasping breaths, whispering words in Darnassian Desdi heard, but didn’t, the pain faded, and for a glorious moment, she forgot what it had even felt like.
“Anashel!” cried the elf who had been loosening her arrows at Desdi. She ran towards her dying friend, towards the death knight that held her body, blade still impaled, and charged at her with her spear poised.
But Desdi just dropped Anashel, roughly pulled free her sword and turned to the Sentinel’s companion. With a chill of ice, she made her steps falter; she made her gaze unfocused; she made her pause, just for that moment too long. Desdi pulled her forward with her unholy force and pushed her to her knees before she lifted her blood stained blade and dragged it across her throat.
It wasn’t until a drop of blood touched her lip, warm, wet, tinged with copper, did she understand exactly what she had done.
The blade fell from her hand as the night elf’s body slumped to a mess of limbs, tangled in the scorched earth at her feet. As it happened, it was like she was watching, five paces behind; it was like she held the strings of someone like her, but not her. It didn’t feel real. She wasn’t here, in time, now. No. This - this was a memory. A cruel trick of her pain addled mind, enticing her of what could be, if only she could remember what she was.
Desdi touched her lip. She stared at the purple stains over her fingers.
A bird flew above, it circled, hovered, then landed several paces before her.
And then, it was not a bird at all.
“I didn’t -” she began, as she stared at Selvyn, his impassive face, his peaceful eyes giving nothing away. “I told her to stop. That I didn’t want to kill-”
And then she fell to her knees, the blackened earth staining her skin as she dropped, the tips of her hair falling into the pool of blood by the Sentinel’s feet.
She fell to her knees, and cried.
Selvyn made to walk towards her, but Desdi shook her head and held out a trembling hand. “No. No-no,” she said, the words trailing away to nothing but a wail.
He paused and knelt on the ground before her and the dead Sentinels. The only sound in the air was her cries of despair.
Chapter 5: I've Gone On Too Long
Selvyn takes Desdi back to the house after her run in with the Sentinels and stays with her as she comes down from her shock.
She didn’t remember going back to the house with Selvyn, letting him carry her swords, but she did.
She didn’t remember stumbling inside and sitting on the edge of the bed, letting Selvyn remove the bloodied, torn, stained tunic, but she did.
She didn’t remember Selvyn removing the arrows from her shoulder and arm, and tending to her wounds once more, but he did.
She felt, nothing. She heard, nothing. And all she could see before her, were the bodies of the Sentinels, their purple blood falling like rain in-front of her eyes. Endless. Drip, drip, smothering her trembling hands that she wanted to scrub clean until they were gone.
The physical pain was gone. It had begun to abate as soon as she had taken the first Sentinel’s life. Her essence, it was rich, it was cloying, it was - was -
Desdi clenched her fists, pressing them into the bed.
Selvyn set a hand on her uninjured shoulder, rolling a thumb over the taut muscle. It would not ease; she, would not ease.
“Did I hurt you? You still have splinters of wood in the wound where you broke the arrow,” said Sel as he set down a shardd of wood on a bloodied cloth by his thigh.
Hurt her? She felt no pain. She felt, free. Gone was the pain that had burned beneath her skin for weeks, for months; gone was the ache beneath her eyes, in her back, to her very bones. Oh, he didn’t hurt her.
But she had hurt herself.
Slowly, she shook her head, feeling her damp strands of hair brush against her chest. When had he wet her hair? She felt Sel’s hand return to the wound at her back and slowly work away.
She tried to remember what it was like to have a heart that beat against her chest; missing beats at the surge of a surprise; rising it’s tempo beneath another’s touch, as the adrenaline flowed beneath her skin.
Each memory she tried to recall slipped through her fingers like grains of earth, falling, falling, the harder she thought. For the memories were pleasant, happy, and that was not how this worked. It was the ache she now felt from taking the lives of the night elves that made her remember what it was like to have a heart. She felt it deep within her chest; a throb, not quite physical, not quite - not quite anything. But it was there.
Rationally, she knew that she would not have lived much longer if she hadn’t killed. But, wasn’t that the point? Wasn’t that why she had cut herself so much that she would bleed to death in the lake? A part of her knew it wasn’t going to be enough. A part of her knew she might be found. And when she had tried to stop, to resist the kill, her body had taken over. It had consumed her every movement, desire, and thought.
Like He had.
She closed her eyes, squeezing them shut as she at last felt a twinge of something from Sel’s touch as he pulled another splinter of wood from her back.
“I think that’s the last one,” he said, pushing aside the bloodied rag of wooden shards. “Let me patch this one up, and you can rest.” His leg that was tucked beneath his other shifted, pressing against Desdi’s lower back. His warmth was comforting, somewhat. It radiated from his hands, from his chest that hovered close to her back as he worked his magic through her broken skin, repairing what damage he could.
“I’m tired of resting,” she said, turning her palms upward on her lap. She could see the flecks of the Sentinel’s blood still stuck beneath her fingernails. She blinked, curling her hands into the blanket on her lap.
“I can’t say I am,” he said, trying to suppress a yawn. His fingers paused for a moment as his body sagged, aching, exhausted. He hadn’t slept in over a day, and he had travelled far in flight before arriving in Ashenvale. “And I sometimes forget that it can be more difficult to heal death knights that others,” he said, watching the last threads of his life magic pull together her skin at the top of her shoulder.
Desdi wanted to reply, to say something that would make her leave, so he would stop wasting his time on her. But the words never came. The shock was waning, but the exhaustion was not.
“Do you know many?” she asked.
Desdi ran a hand over her arm, feeling the raised wounds beneath her fingertips. “Many death knights?”
“Oh,” said Sel, pulling back his hand and the weaves of magic. He was done, at last. “A few. There’s always one at an Alliance foothold somewhere. I fought alongside them, and grew to call one a friend. He didn’t talk much about being a death knight though? Or maybe…” said Sel, pausing as he thought. “I just didn’t ask.”
“What happened to him?” she asked, finding the simple conversation distracting enough from the deep ache in her chest, threatening to pull her back to the aura of shock.
“We…” he sighed as he shifted behind Desdi, dragging his leg gently against her back as he moved to sit at her side. His leather trousers were rolled to his knees and splattered with blood; hers and theirs. “We had differing opinions on the relations between the Horde. He was quick and eager to kill any he saw - especially orcs and forsaken. I remember that.”
Desdi shuffled a breadth away from him as he sat by her, pulling the blanket around her back and drawing it forward so it hung over her shoulders, draping over the peak of her nipples. She tucked a leg beneath her other as he talked.
“Why don’t you feel the same?” she asked, as she stared at him, as she watched the dimming candlelight cast it’s flicker of light over his features. The chains from his ears shifted, twinkling, as he dipped his head in thought, the slant of his ears catching the light, the dark hue of his skin lightening to the sky blue of her hair. She watched as he wound an unused strip of cloth around his fingers as he thought; as his brows shifted, rising, knitting together, the wisp of his eyebrows moving each time.
At last, he turned to face her. “I would say my age has given me a chance to think - a chance to realise there is more to life than one side facing the other. But there are many who are older than me who feel like my old death knight friend did - and worse. I -” he paused, rubbing his eyes. “I have heard so many tales of the ‘murderous Horde’ and their ‘savage’ ways. And I admit - I have also seen it. But my people - and the Alliance - they speak of it as if we are absolved of what we do. We persecute these people sometimes down to simply how they look, and then murder them in cold blood for the banner that flies above them.”
As Desdi listened, she stared at the floor, at her hands, clasping them together.
“I know it is never as simple as either side make it out to be,” he said, rolling his shoulder as he eased the tension. “I am loyal to my people and to the decisions Tyrande chooses for us. And those choices she took in allying us with those who now form, well, the Alliance.”
“Have you always felt like this?” she asked, the words forming before she even realised.
Sel paused, winding the last piece of cloth around his fingers. “No,” he said, holding her gaze, her shining blue eyes slowly regaining their presence now that her body healed; now that it had fed . “Have you always fought against your need to kill?”
Desdi looked away, staring at the candle’s glow on her dagger, still sitting atop the dresser. “No.”
“What changed?” he asked, leaning forward onto his thighs by his elbows, his hands suspended before his face; bloodied, worn, tired.
At Light’s Hope, I was given back my free will. I was give back, hope. But I no longer knew who I was. What does one do with hope when they cannot even remember their name? I clung onto the only thing I knew. And I knew how to kill.
The Death Coil hit Desdi hard, staggering her stance, pushing her back a pace. She sneered at her sparring partner and raised an arm, channelling her howling, frigid winds. They circled her body and she charged, blades raised, a cry of battle ringing out through the upper hall of Acherus. The other hadn’t expected that; she had thought her Coil would have done more damage than that. But then again, this was the one they had called the Icebinder.
“Is that all?” challenged the one called Gisena, a smile surrounding her tusks. They wore little in the way of armour. Ragged, stained tunics clung to their bodies that if they were breathing, living beings, would be soaked with sweat.
Desdi’s blades met Gisena’s axe with a clang, and she pushed her all her force, trying to break the orc’s stance. But she held strong. “Try me,” replied Desdi as she kept her facade, unwilling to let it show that Gisena might win. The orc laughed and freed a hand from her axe long enough to summon a clawing red decay at her feet, seeking Desdi’s exposed flesh, pulling at her unholy energy, at her blood magic, at the frost that pulsed around her skin like an aura.
“You are nothing without Him,” goaded Gisena, her eyes slanted. “Lady Icebinder.”
One of Desdi’s blades slipped, and she was forced to step back, pushed by Gisena’s force.
Are you weak, Desdimonda?
That voice; His voice, echoed in her head as Gisena continued to push against her, determined to win.
Desdi’s eyes unfocused; her ears rang; the grip on her weapons trembled, and she cried out, screaming at anyone - anything.
It had been three weeks since they had regained their freewill and Arthas had fled back to Northrend. Three weeks Desdi had tried to hide the loss of her memory, and feign that she was the death knight they all knew.
But she didn’t know that person. She had snippets, flashes of her past; feelings that re-emerged when she spoke to some people, their faces forming piece by piece with each word, each gaze, each day that passed by. But there was so much she had lost. And she was afraid.
But above everything, she was angry. Angry at Arthas, at the death knights that mocked her now they were beginning to notice she had lost her fervour, that she had lost what made them call her Icebinder. She was angry at Thassarian for joining the Alliance; she was angry at Mograine for his lectures on reigning in control; she was angry at the citizens of Orgrimmar who pelted her with rocks, with food, insults and threats as she returned to pledge the Ebon Knights as allies. And she was angry at herself; for losing her memory; for being the person they talked about and for not; for wanting nothing more than to kill.
She was so, fucking, angry.
Are you weak, Desdimonda?
“ I am not weak ,” she screamed as a blast of ice burst from her hands, from her weapons, casting her hair behind her in a fan as she resisted Gisena’s assault and fought back and back and back, swinging both her weapons with renewed fury. One blade caught Gisena’s chest, slicing it open, splaying her blackened blood over Desdi’s face. “And I am not Icebinder. I am not - I am not-” Her other blade echoed the cut to her abdomen and Gisena dropped her axe as she cried out, falling to her knees. “ I am not weak ”
Desdi felt two hands pull her back, the fingers digging into her bared arms, stained with Gisena’s blood. She let go of her blades and they fell to the floor with a clang, the metal on stone ringing in the air.
“Desdimonda - stop - stop. I’ve got you,” said Koltira as he pulled her away, slowly, as several other death knights entered the sparring pit, dragging dying Gisena away, or simply staring at the wide eyed, blood stained Desdimonda, the trail of ice still weaving around her arms.
“I changed,” she said, holding out an arm before her, staring at the cuts, the wounds; some old, but most new. “Until tonight, I didn’t realise just how much.”
“Do they hurt? I could tend to them more if you need,” he said, holding out his arm by hers. He never made to take hold of her arm, he just waited for her permission, or denial.
Desdi shook her head, stretching her fingers, watching her pallid skin roll over her bones, her joints. She felt, invigorated . She felt, released . “I barely feel the pain from these,” she said, mirroring the stance of his arm. Her hands were small, and could sit neatly within his palm, she thought idly. She looked up, catching his gaze. “Thank you.”
Sel, smiled. “I just did what was right.”
She withdrew her arm, nestling it beneath the blanket and stared ahead, pushing herself further onto the bed so her legs lay across the linen covered straw. She rubbed her eyes, heaving a weary sigh. “I wouldn’t have done what you did. I would have kept on walking - I would have killed someone who murdered my allies - my people. I don’t deserve…this.”
He began to unwind the cloth around his fingers, staying quiet, thinking, before his words. “You defended yourself against those Sentinels. They attacked you simply because of who - and what - you are. It is what I was talking about before with the Alliance and the path they are walking down; kill first, ask later.”
As Sel spoke, his eyelids were heavy and the light amber of his eyes dulled. Desdi could feel the exhaustion emanate from him with each elongated word, with each nuance of his face, with each tired, sluggish gesture of his body. She couldn’t sleep, but he should.
“Get some sleep,” she said, pulling the blanket over her bared skin, the tips of her toes poking out at the bottom as she leaned against the wall, propping a cushion at her back.
He made to move, to submit to the veil of sleep that called to him. But he turned to her, picking up a stray bandage off the bed. “What about you? I remember that the death knights I knew barely slept - if ever.”
“I had a close friend - a shaman - who taught me to meditate. I do that sometimes. It sends my mind into a sort of slumber. But lately, I’ve found it rather difficult,” she said, looking around the small room to the drawers, the dresser, seeking something.
“Meditation never came easily to me,” he said, rising from the bed. He followed her gaze as she looked around the room.
“Do you have any books?” she asked, sitting upright. “I’ll read while you sleep.”
“So you are staying,” he said, his words twinned with a smile.
Desdi shrugged, her face impassive. “Where else do I have to go?”
At that, Sel had no reply. He just lifted his satchel from the floor and opened it atop the dresser, pulling two books from it. One black leather bound, the spine worn, the pages warped. The other was hardbacked and blue.
“They er,” he began, running his hand over the blue one. “One is in Darnassian, and the other in Common.”
“I speak more than Thalassian,” she said in mostly fluent common.
Sel laughed and set down his satchel and the leather bound book. “As do I,” he replied in Orcish, his dulcet Darnassian twinge making the words sound elongated, but pleasant.
Desdi smiled as she outstretched her hand towards the book he held. “What is it?”
“An account of Anduin Lothar’s life,” he said, back in Thalassian, as Desdi took the book, the tips of her fingers brushing against his. She was cold; so cold. But it never seemed to bother her. Even as she sat there, naked, but for the blanket.
“Thrilling,” she said, with a small smile.
“Better than staring at a wall?”
“I hope so,” she said as she ran her hand over the cover, tracing the embossed words in Common, her lips moving soundlessly in echo. “Sleep well,” she said, not looking up.
“Read well,” he said, taking a last glance at her, shuffling to the edge of the bed and pulling the candle towards the side of the dresser. “Wake me if you need me.”
She just nodded.
Chapter 6: A Chance
Recovering after the night before, Desdi and Sel talk about what next, they are going to do. If anything. A direction? A distraction? Will they take a chance?
Desdimonda thumbed a page; 217.
Desdi turned the book over and set it on her thigh as she sat up straight and rolled her neck, easing the taut muscle that had knitted together from her crooked position. She was perched on a flattened tree stump outside the small house, the blanket folded beneath her and a fresh tunic of Sel’s draped loosely over her body. She worked up the courage all the way to page 164 until she could step outside the door. She paced, she pondered, she held the book in her hand for what felt for hours, staring at the same sentence ‘in the shadow of Blackrock mountain ’ until she could even consider sliding open the bolt to go outside.
But she wanted to - she needed to. The small house felt stifling, claustrophobic, as she sat alone on the edge of the bed, doused in the waning light of the candle. She was also so aware of any noise she made; every shuffle of her feet; every turn of a page; every scratch of her leg. She didn’t want to disturb him.
But why? Why did she care?
Then she stared at her arms, at the wounds that were healing - slowly. She stared at the discarded, bloodied bandages on the floor, with the arrows he had removed. He had helped her, when she could barely even help herself. She lived, because of him.
Her grip on the book tightened. It trembled. She stood. And without another shred of hesitation, she stepped outside, clicked shut the door, and sat atop the nearby tree stump as she felt her anger surge.
She hadn’t wanted to live tonight. That was the whole point of these, she thought, as she pulled the tunic over her thighs, tucking it under her bent knees. I couldn’t even get that right , she thought, as she she opened the book at page 164.
Now, at page 217 she noticed that the moonlight had waned, and the sky was slowly turning blue, the swathe of nights stars faded, gone, and all that remained of the night was the faint white of the moon, low on the horizon, next to the crowning sun. The song of the birds was light and distant. They could feel her nearby and kept away. No animals walked nearby, nothing disturbed the foliage; all was still.
Desdi reached down and touched the grass with her fingers, feeling the brisk drops of dew against her skin. She tucked the book between her thighs and reached down, smothering her hands in dew before wiping the cold water across her face. She smiled, closing her eyes, small droplets catching on her long lashes as she basked in the biting chill. She wanted to bathe, to clean her body of the dried blood, of the flecks of earth that stained her skin. Desdi tried to bathe daily - sometimes twice - it kept her undead body as pristine as if were alive. She covered her hands in more droplets and ran them over her hair, smoothing down the stray, wispy strands. And then she just sat still, her hands clasped and watched the sun creep above the horizon as the first fingers of light spread across Azeroth’s sky.
“Morning,” said Sel as he stretched towards the sky, standing tall on the balls of his feet, a loose kilt hanging from his hips.
Startled, Desdi jumped, catching the book with a hand before it fell to the grass - she hadn’t even heard the door open or felt him approach. She turned and flashed a small smile, her gaze partly hidden beneath a shock of blue hair. Her eyes saw the scar on his hip clearer this time; it was long, rough and ragged, extending past the waist of his kilt.
“I didn’t expect to find you out here,” he said, stretching his arms behind his back.
Desdi shrugged, thumbing the cover of the book. “I like the mornings,” she said, staring at the horizon, hidden behind the canopy of leaves, of tree trunks, of foliage that sprouted as high as mountains. “I like to watch the sun rise. Birds, animals - nature avoids me. It can sense the undeath and unholy within me. But at least the sun cannot look away.”
“That,” began Sel as he sat on the grass near her, crossing his legs. “That is both beautiful, and…sad.”
“I could deal with people turning away from me in disgust,” she said, her fingers pulling on a stray thread of the tunic. “But animals? Even flowers close as we walk by, as if to protect themselves from our very presence. I guess the first time it happened after we were freed - it really made me realise what I had become.”
Sel stayed quiet as she spoke, listening, watching the sunrise with her. He opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn’t find the words. What could he say? The scenario she spoke of was unfathomable to him - nature, life, was his very being . He stretched out a hand and called forth a glow of sunfire. It crested his palm, calling to the morning light.
“I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” said Desdi as she watched the aura of light surround his hand so alike and yet, so far from her own call of ice.
“You don’t always need a reason,” he said, simply, glancing over to her beneath his swathe of purple hair. It was loose, and draped down his back, his shoulder, the tips coiling on the dew covered grass.
“Yeah well I don’t do this talking about feelings bullshit thing often,” said Desdi, clutching the book against her stomach as she re-crossed her legs.
Sel smirked. “I would never have guessed.”
Desdi turned and glared. “Yeah. You really are this annoying.”
He laughed gently as he continued to toy with the light in his palm, warping it, extending it beyond the tips of his fingers, up his arm, drops of it falling to the wet grass.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked, closing his fist, expelling the glow of sunfire with a gentle hiss.
She idly scratched her arm as she pondered her answer. “My wounds are healing,” she said, masking her half truths the best she could.
“That’s not really what I asked,” said Sel, leaning forward on his elbows, resting his chin on his palms. “But I’ll take it.”
Desdi set the book back on her lap and pulled her hair all to one side. She ran her fingers through, slowly, easing the knots. “Do you do this a lot?,” she asked.
“Sit on the grass and watch the morning sun? Sure. What kind of druid would I be otherwise?” he said his brows raised in jest; his mouth curved to a smile.
“That-” Desdi pushed back a smile. “Sarcastic shit.”
“Sarcastic Alliance shit.”
“I meant,” began Desdi, readjusting her legs so her feet pressed into the cold blades of grass. “Do you often harbour and help members of the Horde?”
Sel shrugged. “You’re not my first.”
“It can’t have made you many friends,” she said curling her toes back and forth through the grass, pulling out some blades.
“Only the ones that really mattered,” he said, keeping his gaze forward towards the horizon. The rays of sunlight dappled through the thick canopy of leaves, stippling his bared torso.
They stayed quiet for a while, in a strange contented peace, Desdi echoing his stance, her elbows perching on her knees. Sel watched the trees, he saw the leaves rustle as the birds flew between them, keeping far away. No animal walked by, flew by, or even crawled by. The void of life within Desdimonda terrified them - it confused them. Sel spread his hand and pressed it onto the grass, thin tendrils of yellow and green winding from his fingertips, deep, into the ground. He would try and reassure them that they were in no danger. He turned and glanced at his company, watching as she wound her fingers through her tangled hair, idly, her toes pressed into the grass, comfortably.
“What will you do now?” he asked, breaking the silence, his hand still pressed to the ground.
Desdi paused, her hand suspended mid comb through her hair. “I hadn’t really thought past last night,” she admitted.
Sel lifted his hand from the grass, drops of dew falling like a fall of shattered crystal, caught by the stippled sunlight. “What do you want to do?”
“If I knew that, we wouldn’t be talking,” she said, thumbing the cover of the book once more. The feel of the embossed words beneath her touch, over and over, were oddly calming. She shrugged. “I don’t know - a distraction? A direction? I’ve been aimless for so long.”
“Have…you heard about the summons for the Blasted Lands?” said Sel, his words hesitant, but hopeful.
Staring at the words she thumbed, Desdi slowly nodded, piecing together a vague recollection of the call to arms as she had briefly passed through Orgrimmar on her way here. The more she thought, the more she remembered. At the time, her thoughts, her vision was clouded by a single purpose; to end it all - to end, her. But now, she remembered. Young warriors, old weathered hunters, sceptical shamans and impassive rogues had all huddled around the notice boards and the town criers as they had declared an official call to battle, by order of the Warchief. But she couldn’t remember why .
“Why, though?” she asked.
“Apparently,” said Sel, leaning back onto his hands, his shoulder disturbing the smooth shawl of hair that fell down his side, “the Dark Portal is opening up or something.”
“Shit,” she said, fanning the pages of the book. “A distraction and direction all in one.”
“You could call it that,” he said, tilting back his head, letting his hair splay out behind him and pool upon the grass. He sighed, content, and closed his eyes.
“Is that where you were going?” asked Desdi, as she watched a butterfly hover above his head and circle, the golden hue of it’s wings like his eyes.
“I… was,” said Sel, after a long pause.
“Is that -” Desdi set down the book on the tree stump and onto the grass, her knees pressing into the damp foliage, scattered with fallen leaves. “A butterfly?”
Sel, just smiled.
“How?” she said, simply, watching the small insect hover above Sel’s head, it’s erratic, skittish flight, mesmeric.
“Druid perks,” he said as he held out a hand towards the butterfly. It’s fluttering eased and it descended to his fingers, landing elegantly on his outstretched hand.
She watched the butterfly rest on Sel’s hand. It did not flee, it did not flinch as she leaned closer, studying the minute intricacies of it’s golden wings, speckled with blue, with white and black. She couldn’t recall the last time she had seen one so close.
When I was…alive.
“It trusts you,” she said, sitting back on her heels.
Holding his hand higher, Sel spread his fingers and the butterfly lifted off and soared high, disappearing into the canopy of leaves.
Desdi looked away, staring at where the butterfly flew. “I don’t even know if I can trust myself.”
“Nothing is going to change if we sit here, exchanging quips, insults and tales. You said you wanted a distraction and a direction. Maybe this call to arms will be just it.”
As he spoke, Desdi felt no fear. She felt apprehension, she felt insecurity and doubt. But no fear. There was no-where for her to go and nothing else for her to do. What did she have to lose? Nothing. Because she had, nothing. The last time she had banded together for the Horde - for Azeroth - at the Warchief’s call, was to stand against Deathwing and his allies. But each time she tried to pull forth a memory, or recount a battle, a place she visited - it was like a static haze in her mind. Blurred. Ineligible. She could have walked through hellfire then, and she would not have known. She barely even remembered the fall of Deathwing. But she knew she was there, somehow, surviving.
Would it be like that this time? She had no clue; she didn’t even know what tomorrow would bring.
But she was not going to do this alone.
“Before we leave, can I at least bathe? I stink.”
“So, I’ll get us some supplies from Orgrimmar and then we’ll take the zeppelin to Grom’gol?” said Desdi as she clipped on her breastplate, flattening the tunic beneath. It felt good to wear her armour again; damned good. The tang of oil, of metal, of old blood and grime hung from the plate, and just a little, she was beginning to feel like her again. Like the Desdimonda she remembered; not Icebinder; not Lady; just, her.
“Easy. Just every guard in Orgrimmar to bypass on the way,” said Sel as he tucked several small bottles of liquid into his satchel, wrapping a tunic around them to secure them in place.
“What - like you’ve never been in Orgrimmar before, uninvited?” said Desdi, rolling her shoulders into her spaulders.
Sel paused, stuffing the tunic into his bag more forcefully than he had wanted. “The last time I was there was to bring down your former Warchief,” he said, wrapping a long strip of leather around his forearm. He didn’t meet her eyes as he spoke, and there was a quiver in his words. But Desdi said nothing of it. It wasn’t her place.
“Oh. That,” said Desdi, glancing at her weapons. It was the only thing she had on her bar her armour. Gold. Shit. “I was…occupied.”
“Oh?” said Sel, tucking the end of the leather under itself in the crook of his elbow. He was glad the conversation had shifted.
“A story for another time, maybe,” she said as she slipped on the leather gloves she wore beneath her armoured ones.
Sel began to pull tight the laces at each side of his leather tunic as they talked, the dark blue leather etched with faded gold embroidery. “So you’re going on ahead to Orgrimmar?” he said, reaffirming their plans. As Desdi had washed herself with the cold water of a bucket pulled from the nearby well, they had talked through the door, propped slightly ajar, exchanging ideas and plans. At last, they had settled on what seemed to be the safest - and sensible - plan.
Desdi nodded as she pulled on her gauntlets, easing her fingers into the perfectly moulded plate. “I’ll go ahead, secure a spot on the zeppelin to Grom’gol, and pick up some supplies for us,” she said, pausing as she flexed her hands into the metal. “I’ll get what I can.” She stopped mid sentence, her brows furrowing. “You eat, right?”
Sel laughed. “When I’m hungry, yes,” he said, tying a secure bow at the crest of his hip as the leather tunic moulded against his torso. “You…don’t?”
“Sometimes,” she said. “I don’t need to eat, really. Since my digestive system doesn’t work anymore, the blood magic does the work for me - it’s…” she pushed back a fallen lock of hair, the ends of it catching on her lips. “I guess I eat for pleasure, not necessity.”
Sel turned to tie the other side of his tunic, pushing aside one of his braids to fall down his back. “Well I’ll need food. And water - is water a thing for you?”
“Oh - yeah - water is kind of a necessity, I guess. It helps…” At that, she stopped talking and shrugged off her words, ignoring Sel’s inquisitive glance.
He didn’t press, for he felt her unwillingness to continue. And he just stayed silent, turning back to his tunic, his fingers fumbling with the end of the laces.
Dedsdi watched him, for a moment. She watched as he didn’t press her, she watched as he left her be, because she wanted it. Was it fear? Was it respect? The longer she thought; the longer she stared, the more blurred the answer became.
“I’ll be alright for clothes - I have enough here to take. I also have a small amount of bedding,” said Sel as he picked up the book she had left on his dresser and slotted into his satchel. He rummaged further and pulled out a small velvet pouch, the contents clinking quietly in his hand. He threw it over to her. Desdi caught it awkwardly in her hands. “Some gold for the supplies.”
Clothes. Bedding. Gold.
Shit , she thought. I have nothing on me, but my blades, my armour, and my self pity .
She stared at the pouch, watching it slide against her metal fingers. “I have enough gold - you don’t-”
“Take it,” he said, pulling a handful of filled vials from the bottom drawl of his dresser. He lifted one and shook it, sighing at the void of contents. “Some crushed briarthorn and goldthorn too? Seems I’m all out.”
Desdi stared at the coin purse, drawing her thumb over it, slowly. “Anything else?” she said, the realisation of what she - they - were doing, taking hold.
“That’s all I think. I carry most of my life with me, as it is. And anything else we can pick in Stranglethorn on the way, yes?” he put back the empty vials in the drawer and closed over his satchel before turning back to Desdi, her hand still outstretched, staring at the coin pouch. “I said take it.”
“I’ve known you all of two days and I’m embarking on - on this, with you,” she said, the words spilling forth, louder than she had expected.
“You can turn back at any moment. You can say no and walk away, right now,” he said, pulling his cloak over his shoulders, the thick hide falling past his heel, lined with mottled wolf's fur. “As can I.”
“Do you want to?” she asked, not sure of the answer she wanted to hear.
Sel fastened the cloak across his chest, the leather buckles resting against the blue tunic, faded, where it had sat for years. “No.”
“The same reason you aren’t walking out that door,” he said. “I have no-where else to go.” At that, he echoed Desdi’s earlier uncomfortable break in her words, looked away, and ignored her stare, her parted mouth, desperate to talk.
And like he had, she kept silent, closing her hand around the pouch of coins. He didn’t want questions, he didn’t want to talk - so she didn’t.
Desdi tucked the pouch into the nook of her belt, and they finished readying to depart in silence. At last, Desdi broke the quiet as she notched the holster of her blades above her hips. She was ready.
“So, I secure a cabin; get the supplies; you follow behind in flight and then when the zeppelin leaves, you…”
Sel slung his satchel over his shoulder, adjusting the strap as it pressed against his chest. “Then I land on top of the air balloon - unsuspecting, of course - and find you on one of the decks. Sneak in while in cat shift, stealthed, and…I think that’s it. What could go wrong?” said Sel with a smirk. “I can think of approximately seventeen things just now. Oh. Eighteen.”
“That all?” said Desdi, arching a brow.
“I never said it was a good plan. Strategy isn’t my thing,” he said, pulling free his braids from beneath his cloak.
“I think it’ll work,” said Desdi, adjusting the scarf wound around her neck to protect her skin from the brittle edge of her metal armour. “People see me and often look the other way. It has it’s advantages sometimes.”
Sel smiled, lowering his head. “I’m not either.”
“See you on the other side,” said Desdi as she slid open the bolt of the door and stepped outside, the brisk, afternoon air welcome against her skin.
“Of the zeppelin?” called Sel with a smirk as he watched her leave, his amber eyes the last thing she saw as she turned away.
She wondered if that was going to be the last time she saw him.
He thought, the same.
Chapter 7: Monster
Desdi returns to Orgrimmar to prepare to depart for Stranglethorn Vale. And a moment, a laugh, triggers an unpleasant memory of a time someone tried to make her pay.
WARNING: trigger warning in this chapter for sexual assault; rape; drugging and abuse.
TLDR at the end in the notes if you wanna skip it.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
As Desdi walked through Ashenvale, she kept off the road, acutely aware of the bodies she had left behind at the foot of Ashenvale’s mountain. The memory was fogged to her, and it played out as if she were detached; her body a puppet, its strings waiting to be pulled. The only thing that was prominent - that felt real - was when she consumed their essence, satiating her thirst, like the first sip of water in a parched desert, a breath before death.
Her hand tightened over the pommel of her blade as she remembered, as her body rippled with the memory as she walked through the thick forest that edged demon fall canyon. How long could she push her body this time? And, need she? She was answering the call of the Warchief, to face an unknown foe. She would more than likely have to raise her blade, and take someone - or something’s - life. But when that thing fought you, it was okay, right?
The Sentinels attacked me. I was defending myself. I was defending - defending -def-
She reached for her dagger to hack at the leaves and branches before her to help clear her path, but she noticed it was missing from the small, hidden, sheath at her thigh. Desdi paused, a branch whipping against her face. She left it at Sel’s.
She clenched her fist and marched onward, her steps faster, firmer, pressing into the fallen twigs and bed of leaves as she walked, hidden beneath the canopy, shaded by the mass of leaves.
It’s better I left it , she thought. It’s nothing but steel and memories, stained with my blood.
She could hear the river that ran by the west of Orgrimmar close by. The canopy above was growing sparse; the bed of the forest lighter, brighter, as it neared the dusty, drier lands of Durotar. Pushing through a gap in the trees, Desdi saw the bridge that stretched over the river, connecting Orgrimmar to the edge of Ashenvale. It felt like she had been walking for hours and the sun had dipped down closer to the horizon. She had to hurry - the zeppelin was leaving at nightfall and it would be a day, or more, until the next.
Staring up at the sky, she sought a bird, but saw nothing. Too early, she thought. Keeping to the shadows, Desdi walked along the edge of the forest and to where the guards were posted at the head of the bridge, waving through a small convoy of kodos and tauren that had probably come from Splintertree Post.
Her feet touched the path, welcome to be free of the soft press of grass and leaves. Each step felt laboured, tired, sinking into the mushy earth. She felt a dull ache in her calves as she walked along the dusty path towards the Orgrimmar bridge. It felt so easy to walk on here, she could almost run. But she took her steps with ease, and held her head high. She had nothing to hide. Yet.
She fell in at the back of the convoy, staying far enough behind to show that she wasn’t part of them. One of the guards eyed her warily, reaffirmed his grip on the axe he was leaning on, and nodded her on with a shred of respect. The troll at her other side, ignored her. As she entered the Valley of Spirits, most people did.
Passing a small hut, off the main path, an aroma of plants, of foliage filled the air. The sweet tang of mageroyal; the pale constant of peacebloom and the bitter bite of gold-
Shit. Sel’s herbs.
She paused mid stride and turned to the orc who was bent over a trough of herbs, pulling free a bloom of thistleweed. It was then she realised she had no bag, and all the money she had was Sel’s.
Bank. Bag. Supplies .
Desdi combed back a fallen lock of hair as she walked, changing course as she headed for Orgrimmar’s bank. Here, it was peaceful, the hiss of water, the chime of magic that hung in the air from the shamans and priests from the walkways above was a comfort. It stirred a memory - a comfort of home - from when she was alive. When she was anything, but this. The memory distracted her, and she walked into a troll priest who had been carrying an armful of robes and clothing, which now cascaded to her and Desdi’s feet.
“Shit,” said Desdi as she staggered to the side. She moved to help pick up what she had made the priest drop, but the troll clicked her tongue and just told her to forget it and leave. So she did.
The hum of the city grew louder as she left the Valley of Spirits, descending the steep staircase to the street below. As her feet touched the ground, she heard a blood elf laugh. A male. Loud.
You think I need to pay for my crimes in blood; in tears; by your hand or another’s. You think it your duty to bring justice against me and my kind.
But you don’t need to. I pay for it everyday I still exist. I know what I was. I know the monster you see. I live that monster; I am, that monster .
He laughed as he poured her another drink, the bitter, red liquid filling her chipped glass. A drop spilled onto her fingers and she licked it off as he poured himself another. The bottle was empty. It had been full when he had brought it over to her, alone in the corner of The Broken Tusk, her feet propped up on the table. The inn was full and the bar was packed with patrons from all over Kalimdor and beyond, having their last few nights of revelry before departing for Northrend. But no-one wanted to celebrate with her. Except him.
A blood elf; like her, with red hair to his waist, loose and thick, with a deep set brow crowning his green eyes. He wore no armour, no weapon, no sign of allegiance. Neither however, did she. But it wasn’t hard to understand what she was. The black, laced crop top she wore showed a scar across her stomach, her linen breeches covering where it ended. But her pallid skin radiated cold; her blue tinged hair fell to the floor as she lounged back, propping a leather booted foot on the table.
He had been the only one to speak to her tonight, bar Thassarian at Acherus, and he had brought free alcohol. She should have asked him why, but her yearning for just - companionship - that wasn’t forced, that wasn’t mandatory, took over. Althain, he was called.
Desdi ran her finger around the rim of her glass as he talked. Her vision was skewed; everything looked a little off; her hearing was muffled, all but his words. It took more - a lot more - alcohol than before to get drunk now. Had he even drank as much as her, she wondered. He didn’t seem that drunk.
“Have you been back to Silvermoon?” he asked, leaning forward on the table, his arm so close to hers. It radiated heat; the hairs on her arm bristled.
Desdi shook her head, pushing her finger around the rim of her glass again. “I’ve barely left Acherus,” she admitted. “We haven’t…really had much time to do anything else but prepare for Northrend.”
Althain nodded and urged her to drink up. He just held his glass before him, his fingers white from the pressure. Desdi blinked, unsure if she could trust her vision. Hesitant, she lifted the glass to her lips and took another sip.
“Do you want to go back?” said Althain.
“Silvermoon?” she said, setting down her glass. “I…guess. I don’t think the city would want me back.”
“It’s your home,” he said, swilling the alcohol in his glass.
She blinked, listening. His words were smooth, clearer than hers. Everything was spiralling slowly to a indistinguishable haze, and it didn’t feel right . Two hours before it had, when they had first met, clinked glasses, and she embraced his company as they had vowed to drink the night away. Now she sat in the corner, losing herself to the claws of alcohol as he…didn’t.
Desdi put down the glass, watching the liquid settle as she shook her head. “Home? I don’t have one of them anymore,” she said, pushing the glass away with a finger.
“Find yourself a new one,” he said, pushing the glass back with a smile.
“Everywhere I turn, I am hated,” she said, ignoring the glass. “Even in Acherus - within my people - we cross words and swords.”
He stared at the glass, then back at Desdi, his face impassive, the glow of his eyes, bright. “Why?”
Desdi withdrew her arms, folding before her chest. “Not all of us have taken to our free will so easily,” she said, simply, shuffling a little to the side, giving her first intentions that she wanted to leave. She held out her hand, watching it split it into two before her disturbed vision. She clenched her fist and blinked hard, shaking her head.
“And what about you?” he asked. “How did you take it?”
“Fantastic,” she said, brushing off his question. “Thanks for the drinks but I think I’m going to go. I’m tired of this city and it’s bullshit.”
“Won’t you stay to finish your drink at least?” he asked with a pleasant smile before he took a sip of his.
Desdi rose from her stool, shaking her head. “No - thanks,” she said, but at once, faltered and stumbled into the table, almost cascading the glasses to the floor.
“Careful.” Althain caught her just as she fell and stood, guiding her away from the table, his firm grip seizing her waist and wrist. “Don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he said quietly. Desdi could feel his warm breath against her neck as he guided her through the bar. She tried to pull free from his hold, but she was dizzy, shaken, and unfocused.
No-one stopped him. No-one looked at them. No-one cared .
The cold night air gliding over her skin was her signal that they were outside. She blinked, focusing on everything - anything - she could. No-one patrolled; no-one was nearby.
“Wh-what are you-” she said, her words staggered as her steps. She tried to jerk her wrist free, but his hold was immovable. But all Althain was doing, was walking with her, supporting his drunk date as he walked her along the back of the closed auction house, shrouded in the shade of a thick leafed palm, it’s branches dipping down to the ground, covering their retreat.
The revelry of the tavern had become a distant hum now to Desdi’s ears. Acute sounds became sharper, more pronounced. The scuff of their feet on the ground, on the gravel. The sound of his breath against her neck, her ears as he held her close against his chest, a spread hand pressing into her bared stomach. And then, it was her body colliding with the rough wooden wall of the back of the auction house, the lip of the roof casting it’s shadow over them both.
Desdi barely had time to register what was happening before he pulled the dagger from inside her boot and held it at her throat, the tip biting at the flesh. He held her in place with a knee, hoisted between her legs, forcibly parting them. The knee wasn’t needed to hold her in place, for the surprise of the dagger, of the opportunistic assault was enough to keep her still. And she was sure if she took another step, she would crumble, fall, to a blurred, incapable mess.
“You don’t remember me do you?” he asked, dragging his hand down her stomach to the rim of her trousers.
“If you were always like this, I’m glad I don’t,” she said, lifting a hand to the arm that held the dagger and sinking in her nails, biting at the skin. But he just pressed the tip of the dagger in harder, drawing out a weep of blood that trailed down her neck.
Althain sneered, pushing his hand inside her trousers, dragging his fingers along the crest of her slit. “I fought against you at Light’s Hope. I saw you kill my brothers, my sisters; I saw you enjoy it, even when they begged for mercy.”
“I was controlled by Arthas, you fuck,” she said, clawing at the hand between her legs, desperately trying to pull it away with her clumsy touch.
“You still did it,” he said, grabbing her wrist and slamming it into the wall. “And no-one is making any of you pay .”
“So you are instead? How righteous of you. How fucking noble.” She spat in his face after she spoke, dragging her nails down the arm that held the dagger once more, trying to pry it free. It nicked the skin again and she swore, feeling the trail of blood increase. It crowned over her breasts, pooling at the edge of her top. “Tirion would be disgusted.”
“Don’t you speak his name,” hissed Althain as he pulled back the dagger, released the hold of his knee and by the grip on her wrist, flipped her around, pressing her face first against the wooden wall. Desdi barely had time to turn away, to brace herself for the impact. She dragged her hand against the wood, trying to gain a hold. But it was in vain, as Althain seized both of her hands at the small of her back, the vice grip of his own making any escape she attempted, immovable. The world still moved, when she didn’t; her ears still rang, when there was no noise; and her limbs. They were like static. She knew they were there, but she couldn’t grasp them, control them - or herself . He had done more than fed her liquor.
The cold metal of her dagger pressed against her neck again, promising more than just a nick if she resisted again. Desdi felt something bind her hands together. She felt his breath against her neck. She felt her trousers rip. She felt his cock press against her back as he curled his fingers down, forcing them between her legs.
She heard his laughter; gentle, twinned with the brush of his lips against her ear.
“I, will make you pay.”
Desdi tilted back her head, and stared at nothing. She ignored his touch; the cold air against her skin; his grunts; his mocking words; his laughter; each hit of her shoulders against the wood; each grate of her feet against the ground. It all became, nothing. She stared, at nothing, and remembered, what she was.
Slowly, a whirl of ice emanated from her hands, winding around the binds, freezing them stiff. She pushed once, twice, and they shattered, falling to her feet.
I am, that monster.
A guard found his body at dawn, his neck slashed and a gaping wound where his cock used to be.
Desdi has drinks with a blood elf guy in Orgrimmar who turns out to be a paladin from Lights Hope chapel from the day she regained her free will. He drugs her drink and then tries to make her pay by assaulting her.
She overcomes him, though, as she becomes the monster he sees her as and that she knows she is, and gathers her strength, turns around and kills him.