(( This is my 2010 Blizzard Global Writing Contest entry. It didn’t win, it wasn’t a finalist, it didn’t get an honorable mention, but I still kind of like it. Comments are awesome and critique is welcome, but please be gentle. :3 Teh Shizu is a little flaily today.
Also, Serreina was – wow, she was not terribly nice when she first came back. To those of you who dealt with her in RP then, I’m sorry … ish. But not really, because she’s at her best when she’s grouchy.
Oh, and the final word count: 3,333. This amuses me. ))
A Soul Reforged
“Serreina Nightfury, you are relieved of duty until further notice. You will continue your training here and in Outland. You are not to enter Northrend until I clear you to do so. Do you understand?”
“Sir – “
“There is only one acceptable answer.”
“But, sir,” she blurted out, “I need to fight. We’re going to end the Lich King’s reign at last. I need to go!”
“I know you do,” he said, his tone gruff but not unkind, “and I believe you will – later, when you are able to tell the difference between friend and foe.”
Serreina blinked, taken aback. “You think I would turn on my fellow knights?”
“Can you say with certainty that you wouldn’t?”
Serreina started to speak, wanting desperately to say yes, that she could keep herself together in combat, that she was strong enough; but even as she opened her mouth she knew that would be a lie. Mograine watched silently, his expression unreadable.
“Northrend will test you as you have never been tested before,” he said after a moment. “You will see reminders of your past at every turn. You will see agents of the Scourge committing the atrocities you yourself committed not so long ago. I can’t expect complete sanity from any Knight of the Ebon Blade, not after all that we have experienced, but believe me when I say that fighting there requires a presence of mind that you currently do not possess. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Serreina drew herself to her full height and looked directly into the highlord’s eyes. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. By the way, Serreina … “
“You have something many of us don’t: your family. You have a second chance to be part of your children’s lives, and they have a second chance to be part of yours. Do yourself a favor and stop trying to kill them.”
The scene replayed itself endlessly in Serreina Nightfury’s mind as she stared at the shards of her runeblade. She had another blade now, of course, but it wasn’t the same. Sorrowblade had always felt like an extension of her being; striking enemies with it was like striking them with her own hand. This new blade was merely a sword with runes inscribed on it – a solid, dependable weapon, but an ordinary weapon nonetheless. As much as she hated to admit it, she needed Sorrowblade.
The problem was, she wasn’t sure she was prepared to reforge it. She and the semi-sentient runeblade shared too much history, none of it good. Her new sword might feel like an unwieldy lump of steel in her hands, but it had never driven her to insanity.
The night elf turned, allowing herself a small smile. Like Serreina, Syliah Runesong had been a priestess of Elune in life; unlike Serreina, she had managed not to go mad and attempt to kill her own children upon her release from the Lich King’s service. She peered at Serreina with the contemplative, searching expression that had become so familiar.
“Admitting that you need that blade doesn’t mean you’re weak.”
A muscle in Serreina’s eyelid twitched; she clapped a hand over the entire side of her face, glaring one-eyed at Syliah. “I don’t need it.”
“Of course you do. You are part of Sorrowblade, and it is part of you; it will continue to call to you until it is whole again. You will not be complete without it. Now, don’t give me that look; that’s how runeblades are designed to work. You know that.” Syliah rested her hand on Serreina’s armored shoulder. “There is no shame in accepting that you will eventually have to reforge it, just as there is no shame in realizing that you aren’t yet ready to do so.”
Serreina pursed her lips, feeling the familiar rage rising within and barely resisting the urge to begin screaming. Syliah wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know, but hearing her own thoughts expressed aloud by someone she knew was not insane somehow made her feel worse, not better. With a frustrated hiss, she shrugged off Syliah’s hand and began to gather up the shards of Sorrowblade, which she placed carefully in her knapsack.
“I need to go.”
“Serreina – “
“I’m fine. I just – I need to go. Sedaara is waiting for me.” With her knapsack in one hand and her sword in the other, Serreina turned and began to walk away. “We have business to attend to in Outland, remember?”
Syliah’s hand closed around Serreina’s elbow. “Just be careful. Please.”
“Now, Syliah, when have you ever known me not to be careful?” Serreina pulled her arm out of the other death knight’s grip and strode purposefully toward the bone gryphon roost. “I’ll be fine. I promise.”
Outland was a shattered world, ripped apart by dark magic and overrun by the forces of the Burning Legion. Great chunks of land floated in the sky, and there were many areas where falling off the edge of the world and into the Twisting Nether was a very real threat. Very few lush, green areas remained; those that had somehow survived fought a constant battle with the fel magic and demonic weaponry that still lurked in every part of the ravaged planet. And, of course, the demons that remained still needed to be destroyed.
Still, there was beauty to be found in the brokenness. The same energies that had torn the planet apart had also created great splashes of color in the skies; swirls and streaks and splashes of the most vivid colors played against each other in an impressive almost-natural light show. The effect, while somewhat violent, was strangely calming – and it was certainly much nicer to look at than the scenery around Acherus.
Serreina shook her head, chuckling. If Syliah were here, she would undoubtedly inform Serreina that the same was true for her, that something beautiful remained, that she hadn’t always been the way she was now, that she could someday reclaim some small part of herself.
“Um – ahem – Miss, uh, Nightfury?”
The words jerked Serreina out of her reverie and back into the real world. She frowned sharply at the one who had interrupted her, a human boy who looked very young even for his race. Of course, in comparison to the night elves, everyone was young. “Yes?”
Gulping audibly, the boy held out a carefully folded letter, which was decorated with drawings of cats and wolves and other animals Serreina couldn’t begin to identify. The death knight’s expression softened; there was only one person she knew who drew extensively on every letter she wrote. She smiled at the boy, who smiled nervously back.
“I apologize,” she said. “You startled me. By the way, you could have simply left this in the post.”
“Yes, ma’am, but the lady said she didn’t think you checked your post.”
Serreina shook her head; trust Shizukera to find a way to get around her attempts to avoid contact with anyone but the draenei woman with whom she traveled. She took the letter, handed the boy some coin for his trouble, then sat on a nearby bench and began to read.
Hello again, Mother!
I keep sending you letters, but I think you aren’t reading your post since you haven’t written back. I know you have demons to clean up and your commission to earn back, but it’s still a little annoying, because writing a letter is really difficult when you can barely see the paper you’re writing on. Since it’s harder to ignore a letter when it’s being handed to you in person, I asked this human boy to deliver it to you. I hope you didn’t scare him too much; death knights frighten him and you happen to be one. I know you didn’t ask to be one, but still. It’s just what you are.
I’ve also been told that you’re being very hard on yourself for what happened, you know, with you trying to kill me and my mate and threatening my brother too. I can’t speak for them, but you have my forgiveness, at least. Don’t misunderstand me – I still don’t trust you, and if you try to attack Taldarion or Saal again I will make sure you regret it. But I still love you and I know you’re trying really hard to learn how to be a person again, so I’m willing to give you that chance.
Hoping to see you in Northrend soon,
P.S. Please tell Sedaara that the kitten she gave me is happy and healthy and still hasn’t been eaten. I don’t eat kittens. That would be weird and very wrong.
Serreina stared at the letter for a long time, her brow furrowed. The shards of her runeblade projected something intense that she couldn’t quite identify – resentment, perhaps? If it was resentment, was it solely the blade’s, or was it hers as well? After all, it had been Shizukera who had shattered the blade, both freeing and sundering the soul she and Sorrowblade were forced to share. The irony was staggering: Serreina owed her sanity to her daughter, but the act that had broken the runeblade’s hold on her had very nearly killed her.
Still, her daughter was willing to give her a second chance, and that was something she could hold onto.
“You look like you need a cinnamon roll, Rei-Rei.”
Serreina jumped, then blinked as an enormous cinnamon roll appeared in front of her; she hadn’t even heard the draenei approach. Her resentment vanished as she bit into the roll, however; there were few ills that this particular pastry couldn’t cure.
“You know, this is the one food I can still taste properly.”
“It’s baked with love,” Sedaara declared. “And magic. Lots of magic. Anyway, have you heard from Shizzy?”
“Yes. She said to tell you she hasn’t eaten the kitten you gave her and that it would be” – Serreina paused to consult the letter – “‘weird and very wrong’ to do so.”
“Good. Kittens are not for eating.”
Serreina cocked her head in confusion but did not ask for further explanation; as much as she would have liked to know why her companion believed night elves ate felines, she had long since accepted the fact that Sedaara’s thoughts meandered along paths only she herself could possibly navigate. So she simply swallowed the last bite of pastry, wiped her hands on a spare piece of netherweave, and stood up.
“Come,” she said. “I believe we still have some pest control to do.”
Of all the demons she had encountered and killed in her time, dreadlords were among those she hated the most. The reason for this was simple: her death had come at the hands of a dreadlord, and the necromancers had claimed her body shortly afterward. Serreina believed this was a perfectly valid reason to want to rip any remaining ones limb from limb and feed their souls to her runeblade as slowly and painfully as she possibly could.
This one was not cooperating with that desire, and he was trying to toy with her.
“Ah, so much rage,” he said mockingly, effortlessly deflecting the strike she aimed at his heart. “Perhaps it’s clouding your judgment? Your kind are usually much better fighters than this – but then, you weren’t always a death knight, were you?”
“No, but I am now.” And it was your kind that killed me.
She struck once more, the blade aimed again for the dreadlord’s heart. He deflected her a second time, then stretched out a hand, hurling bolts of magic in her direction. She quickly summoned a shell of energy around herself, absorbing the brunt of the attack, but the last of the bolts caught her squarely in the chest as the shield dissipated. She fell to her knees, her sword falling from her hand, and the demon lifted his weapon to attack.
The dreadlord whirled around, searching for the speaker. Serreina followed his gaze to a young night elf perched in a nearby tree. She wore a simple leather harness and kilt, a blindfold covered her eyes, and the intricately carved bow she carried bore the distinctive green glow of fel magic.
Shizukera – for this was unmistakably Shizukera – waved cheerfully at Serreina, then fired a shot at the dreadlord. The arrow grazed the demon’s ribcage and tore through his wing; the demon roared in pain and peeled of in Shizukera’s direction, firing off a barrage of shadow bolts. Shizukera dodged one, then another, then a third, only to slip on the branch and fall out of the tree, landing on the rocky ground with a painful thud. As Shizukera scrambled for her bow, the dreadlord lifted his hand, preparing another spell.
Something deep within Serreina snapped. For all the anger her Shizukera’s decision to bind a demon’s soul to her own had caused, for all Serreina’s own crazed attempts to kill her, this was her daughter.
She had already watched demons destroy her people’s home, kill her mate, and tear apart her family. She would not allow that to happen again.
The death knight rose, her fingers curled tightly around her sword’s hilt. She extended her free hand toward the demon, and a band of dark energy swirled around him, sending him zooming directly toward her. The startled demon lifted his weapon to attack, but Serreina pressed her advantage, deflecting his strike and burying her blade deep in the demon’s chest.
“The combined forces of the Burning Legion and the Scourge couldn’t keep us apart, fiend,” she hissed, “and neither can you.”
She jerked her blade out of the dreadlord’s chest and turned to Shizukera, who was leaning against the tree, her ears drooping and her face very purple.
“That was embarrassing … and my butt hurts.”
“That is why you never taunt a foe unless you’re standing on solid ground.”
“You engaged a dreadlord by yourself, and you’re lecturing me about taunting foes?” Shizukera brushed the dust off her kilt, wincing. “Where’s Sedaara? You’re supposed to be traveling together.”
“She’s taking a nap. I decided to take a walk. Unfortunately, I ran into this – stop frowning at me, Shizukera,” she snapped. “There’s nothing saying I have to be under supervision every minute of the day.”
“I was looking for you. You’re pretty easy to find, which is a good thing since you apparently don’t check your post.” Even with the blindfold covering her eyes, it was easy to tell that she was staring at Serreina very intently. “You look different. Happier. Not so angry. Are you all right?”
“Yes.” Serreina smiled. “I figured something out, that’s all.”
Shizukera tilted her head. “And what was that?”
“I can protect people.” The death knight paused, searching for the right words to express her thoughts. “Someone told me I could be more than just a killing machine. I don’t know that I believe that, but … I can be more than that. I can be a protector. A defender. Can’t I?”
“Of course you can. Isn’t that what you’ve been doing this whole time?”
Serreina blinked. “What?”
“When you were Scourge, you killed people because that was what you were ordered to do and you had to obey.” Shizukera beamed at her mother. “But when’s the last time you attacked something that wasn’t trying to kill you or someone close to you first?”
“A few weeks ago.”
“That was different. You were completely insane.”
“That’s not an excuse. Shizukera … “ Serreina grasped her daughter’s hands in hers. “I never told you how sorry I am for all that I did to you, and I never thanked you for saving me.”
“But you nearly died when I did that.” Shizukera’s ears drooped again. “Syliah tracked me down in Ironforge after you headed here. She told me about everything you went through after you returned to Acherus, you know, after I broke Sorrowblade. She said you hallucinated a lot and tried to get her to let you go back to the Scourge.”
Serreina pursed her lips. She remembered very little of the days following the shattering of her runeblade, but she vividly recalled her attempt to convince Syliah that she should be allowed to return to the Scourge because she had so thoroughly squandered her freedom. She gave her head a quick shake, as if doing so would dislodge the jagged pieces of those memories.
“I suffered, yes,” she said at last, “but if you hadn’t shattered Sorrowblade, at least one of us would be dead now. You did what you had to do.” She kissed her daughter gently on the forehead. “I am very proud of you.”
“Even though I’m a demon hunter?”
“Yes. Even though you’re a demon hunter.” Serreina smiled ruefully. “We each fight fire with fire, Shizukera. You had a choice where I did not, and I have a long way to go before I can fully accept that decision, but I can’t fault you for it.”
Shizukera whistled sharply, and a large purple frostsaber appeared at her side. She climbed atop the animal’s back and beamed at Serreina, who couldn’t help but smile back; her daughter’s enthusiasm had always been contagious.
“For what it’s worth,” Shizukera said, “I’m proud of you too.”
She whistled again, and the cat leapt into action, bounding easily through the dense thickets of Terokkar. As cat and rider disappeared in the forests, Serreina summoned her own deathcharger. An idea was forming in her head, one that was at once exhilirating and frightening; she needed to act on it now, before she lost her nerve.
“Come, Relentless,” she said. “I have a weapon to reforge.”
Some hours later, she was back in Acherus, staring warily into the runeforge. The shards of Sorrowblade lay within, the runes glowing weakly; she wondered briefly whether the runeblade was as nervous as she was. She doubted it. After all, it wasn’t the blade that was risking its barely-recovered sanity.
“The blade I use now is an ordinary sword into which I engraved my runes,” she said at last. “I haven’t forged one myself since I was a newly raised death knight. I’ve never needed to do so.”
“I know. That’s why I’m here.”
Serreina raised an eyebrow. “When did you become a weaponsmith?”
“When you were mad. I thought it would be a useful skill.”
“You weren’t wrong.”
“I never am. You should know that by now.” Syliah offered Serreina an encouraging smile. “It will be fine. I promise.”
“What if it tries to take control of me again?”
“It won’t. You’re strong enough now. Your mind and your soul belong to none but you. Serreina, trust me.”
Serreina stared at the hammer in her hand. She looked at the shards, then at Syliah, then back at the shards.
She took a deep breath and brought the hammer down.
My dearest daughter,
By the time you receive this letter, I will be in Northrend, battling the Scourge in their own territory. Yes, Highlord Mograine has finally allowed me to rejoin my brothers and sisters here – he seemed quite impressed (and, dare I say it, pleased) when he realized that I control the reforged Sorrowblade, not the other way around.
In some ways, I feel as though I am returning home; after all, this is where the Scourge originated, and I trained here for some time before I was sent to Acherus. I still hear the call of the Lich King; I still feel that constant pull toward Icecrown. But do not worry – I will not rejoin him. When I return to the Citadel, it will be to kill Arthas, not to return to his service. I have ties to this world that I will not abandon. I have loved ones to watch over and a world to defend.
I am no longer Scourge. I am free.
And I intend to stay that way.
All my love,
Knight of the Ebon Blade.