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Author Topic: Of Woods and Hunger  (Read 1783 times)


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Of Woods and Hunger
« on: 19 Apr 2010, 15:22 »

(This is just a quick story about Mizhara in another game. Yes, it's WoW, but you've all played it so shush! It's part two of a trilogy, but the beginning and the end was written with a specific guild in mind and with alot of internal things going on, so it's not suitable for posting elsewhere. But before the Of Woods and Hunger story, I'll write down a quick synopsis of the first story:

* The time is near the end of the Scourge domination of Lordaeron, not too long after Sylvanas claimed the city as Undercity.
*  Mizhara is a housewife with a loving husband and two children, in a cottage located somewhere far to the west of Southshore.
* Ghouls break down the door, her husband takes the dagger he used on a pair of leather straps to fight the Ghouls and die.
* The last thing she sees before a ghoul rips her eyes out and kills her, is another ghoul on the area out front killing her children.
* She awakes, not understanding anything. She can still see, somehow. She 'feels' it is now an extension of her will, somehow.
* Hating what she sees, she ties the leather straps around her head to try and block it out. She fails.
* While cradling her two dead children in her arms, howling her sorrow into the night, she is assailed by people from a nearby village.
* (This bit was fleshed out far more in the story): She accepts that she'll never again be accepted, and her mind breaks.
* She feels the dual pull of both the Lich King and Sylvanas battling for control, and she has her will restored from the weakened Lich King by Sylvanas.
* She kills all the villagers.
* Feeling the pull of the Forsaken, and their 'glorious' queen Sylvanas, she starts moving north with a cruel grin on her face.

So that was basically the intro to Mizhara in WoW, how she had become to be an Undead Rogue with straps over her face and a dagger on her side. The following is a continuation of that story, since it didn't tell how she got north to Undercity or how she became a fiercely loyal Deathstalker in Sylvanas' service. She's been roleplayed for years on that server, and earned her badges and merits, but her background was still a little too mysterious, and from that was borne Of Woods and Hunger. I hope you'll enjoy it: )

Prequel - of Travelers and Locals.

The inn was slightly dark. Not many felt it should be otherwise, though. In Southshore, so close to the taint of the Forsaken and their cruel Mistress Sylvanas... Well, it's understandable that people feel the need for a somber atmosphere. The inn itself was slightly quiet as not only one, but two travelers had chosen to stay there for the night.

They were sitting alone on each side of the broad table, even though they hadn't come together. Well, alone, except for all the locals gravitating closer without seeming to be interested at all. New people were a rarity up here, and they might have some interesting news or stories to tell. Later, they'd all wish they hadn't heard a word that was said that night. Nor witnessed what happened afterwards.

"A story, you say?"

The slightly whispering voice of the smallest traveller still managed to carry far enough for the curious locals' ears to catch, even though her head was shrouded deep in a hood's shadow. A cloak hid most of the rest of her body, except for the dark leather armor she wore.

"Well, you asked if I had anything to tell, and... Well, this story is one of many things I could tell. Why this story in particular, you'll find out when I'm done telling it. Are you interested in hearing it?"

The broadshouldered traveler hid a grin as he noticed all the locals - completely coincidentally he was sure - moved slightly closer and seemed to will the smaller traveler into saying yes. Apparently their collective wills worked well, as the traveler nodded slowly and they all breathed a collective sigh of relief that they wouldn't have to urge him themselves.

He leaned on the chair's back, wetting his throat with half the contents of a mug. As he rested the mug on his thigh instead of the table, he looked far more serious than he did before. His eyes showed a slight reluctance coupled with grim determination. Apparently this story wasn't something he really enjoyed telling.

He let his head rest forwards for a second as he let the story come forwards in his head. Forwards, from where he used to hide it on the road from inn to inn, town to town and even continent to continent. There wasn't many places left where he hadn't told his story. He smiled slightly at telling it so close to where it came into being. He spent a few seconds thinking of coming full circle before he spoke.

When he spoke, it seemed like a shadow moved across the room.

Chapter one - of Where the dead travel.

The shadows were growing longer. A day of work was about to end. Little Jack - as he was known even amongst his own family - wished Big Jack didn't care so much about money. Sure, the mages of Dalaran paid well for the lumber cut in Silverpine forest. Something about the plague having done something or other to the wood, making it ideal for their purposes. But it still meant the woodcutting had to be done in Silverpine.

Big Jack - Little Jack's father - had repeatedly told him there weren't any undeads left in Silverpine forest. They had all either been killed off, or were gathering near Lordae... Undercity. He had to stop thinking of it as Lordaeron's capitol. Now it was just a blight on the land, filled with monstrosities and horrible creatures. Anyway, they were all up there and Little Jack was down south, far from them. Big Jack had said this, and he believed him. Until the dark came along.

"Big Jack! Isn't it time to get back to the cabin?" The safe, warm, brightly lit cabin where the door had a very stout lock and very hard wood. Silverpine wood. He looked over to where Big Jack was stacking the logs they'd cut that day. They'd done well. The Mages and Magicians would pay well for this load.

Big Jack cast a glance at his son, then at the shadows the boy had been eyeing a minute ago. "Let's just finish stacking these, so we can bring the horses tomorrow and start carting this to Dalaran. I've told you before, there's nothing to worry about. Until dark falls, we're perfectly safe." Yes... Until the dark fell and the howling started. When the Worgen started roaming the land. There was a reason for the stout lock and hard wood. Not even the mages of Dalaran knew exactly how it had happened, but a whole village now suffered from a curse. A whole village, and even some stray creatures elsewhere in the forest. As far as they knew, the village had held around forty to sixty people and still did. In daylight.

It was too far into Silverpine forest for the Mages to bother sending an expedition to deal with it, so the only way to deal with it was staying behind a barred door at night.

Little Jack nodded, and started helping Big Jack. The faster it was done, the faster they could get back to Momma. Little Jack always thought of her as Momma, even though he was almost sixteen years old. Anita was such a kind woman, and Little Jack kept being amazed at how lucky he was to be born into her care. Without her kindness, he didn't think he could have lived in Silverpine forest any longer.

It took less than half an hour to finish the stack and secure it with the wedges he'd cut earlier in the day. Giving each an extra kick to make sure they were wedged well into the woodpiles, he nodded to himself about a job well done. He didn't expect much praise from Big Jack. Little Jack always thought of him as Big Jack. Never poppa or father. Blood was all well and good, but fatherhood meant more than a name.

Wordlessly, Little Jack started hefting half the tools they'd used over the day and started trudging towards the cabin. He knew his tasks, as he'd been doing this almost since right after the undeads had vanished and all that was left were the Worgen. It wasn't too long ago, but Big Jack's hefty woodcutter hands were quick to teach something, usually with a cuff on the ear. They were about halfway home when Little Jack spotted something moving to the south. Worgen! He dropped the tools and almost fell in sheer panic before he turned his head and saw it was just a woman, barely able to stand. As he watched, she took two wavering steps towards them before falling face first to the hard soil in the forest.

He almost reached her, running, before the harsh words of Big Jack - You are not my real father! I refuse to believe it! - stopped him in his tracks. "Don't! Look at her, son!" Little Jack shaked off the word "son" before taking a longer look at the woman. He gasped as he saw burns on her side, and what looked like frostbite on half her left arm. The combination could only mean one thing. She'd been up against the mages of Dalaran. How on Azeroth had she survived long enough to get this far up north? It was at least a five hour trek on foot, and wounded like that she'd probably spend twice that much. Especially through the wilds, and not the roads.

That's when a deep chill went down his spine, as he realized it. She hadn't survived it, she had been dead before the mages had even laid an eye on her. Wounds like that would have killed any living human long before they'd get through a trek like that. He looked to Big Jack, his eyes as wide as they could go. "Wha... h... She... What do we do, Big Jack?" He wished dearly he didn't sound that panicked in front of Big Jack. He was sure to be getting the disappointed silent treatment for a week... If he lived long enough.

Big Jack stood there looking at the body for a while, his axe in his hand. He stroked his beard and mustache as he always did when he was deep in thought. "What are you waiting for? Cut her head off! Or... or... Just cut it off!" Little Jack had heard stories of the dead not necessarily needing a head to walk around, but he didn't really care much right now. Without a head - and to be sure, arms and legs - she couldn't kill him and eat him and taint him and raise him and enslave him and torture him and.. and... Well, she couldn't do it, whatever she'd do after that. Although, he wasn't too sure about that either. He looked pleadingly at Big Jack and his big axe.

Another chill went down Little Jack's spine as Big Jack suddenly grinned viciously and let his axe rest on his shoulder again. Little Jack knew Big Jack wasn't a nice man, and he was about to see cruelty beyond what he could imagine even the undeads would do.
« Last Edit: 19 Apr 2010, 15:24 by Mizhara »


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Re: Of Woods and Hunger
« Reply #1 on: 19 Apr 2010, 15:22 »

Chapter two - of Feeding the Hunger

The traveler took another deep draw from the mug of stout, almost draining the mug entirely. One of the locals wordlessly pushed another mug in front of him. A story like this was worth a few mugs of Southshore's finest. Not that the word finest meant anything beyond that it wasn't real horse piss. It just tasted like it. The other traveler said nothing, and drank nothing. The locals nodded to themselves. A woman would surely lose her apetite for both food and good... okay, not good, but still drink, when hearing the beginning of such a story.

The traveler nodded his thanks and cradled the mug in his hand without drinking from it. Once again, he spent a couple of seconds bringing the story back from it's hiding place again. Mentally, he browsed it quickly before coming back to where he left it.

"Big Jack! What are you doing?" Little Jack was now on the edge of hysteria. The undead wouldn't be chopped up after all, and he was still in danger of being killed, eaten and... well, all the horrible stuff he'd been thinking up every time he couldn't sleep. He watched as Big Jack didn't say anything, but easily hoisted the undead woman onto his huge shoulder. "Stop crying, Little Jack. She's not awake, and I have an idea."

Little Jack quickly wiped his cheeks to remove the moisture there. He wasn't crying! He had just... gotten dust in his eyes when he ran towards the woman! He didn't say this, of course. He knew better than to speak against Big Jack when he was in one of his... moods. And judging from the light that seemed to shine from Big Jack's eyes, he was definitely in one of his moods. Little Jack had sometimes found the remains of one of the few animals that still roamed this forest. The results of his fath... Big Jack's moods.

He willed his feet to move, and his hands to pick up the tools he'd dropped, before following his father. They weren't heading home? Little Jack couldn't tell if he was relieved that they weren't bringing the undead woman to Momma, or if he was terrified of not coming home to Momma at all. Walking behind Big Jack and his grinning face, he studied the undead woman. He noticed that the little bit of her face that he could see was pale as anything he'd ever seen. She looked like his grandmother had done when they brought her out of the coldstore when the ground thawed enough to bury her. Pale as the snow she'd been found in.

That was strange. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like her eyes was covered in leather straps. He wasn't sure, but he thought they belonged to a bull's harness. Black, thin and very strong. The woman's hair was long. It reached her shoulders, and then some. And it was darker than any hair he'd ever seen before, even though it had a reddish tint as the sinking sun sometimes found it's way through the branches to illuminate this undead abomination.

Her clothes were mostly rags. Her legs were covered in men's leggings, and the weave looked course enough for any worker. Her chest was covered in the same fabric. Dark, dirty, ragged but apparently quite durable. The only things those clothes apparently couldn't take was the furious magic of the Mages of Dalaran. If she had come this far north... Had she killed anyone to get past them? No, no... That couldn't be true. Those mages were powerful creatures beyond anything Little Jack had ever been able to imagine before watching them practice their arts on the ruins that stood left. Cleaning up, they called it as what used to be a home suddenly erupted in fire and exploded outwards. That fire left only a rough blackened patch of ground, that could be used for new buildings.

No, she hadn't been able to kill any of them, Little Jack was sure of this. Yet.. How had she gotten past them, when they'd obviously noticed her? He wished he could see the blade on the dagger she had on her hip. Even if she'd cleaned it, it would show at least a tiny bit of blood somewhere, if she'd killed someone with it.

Keeping his focus on her, he started wondering who she were. Thousands and thousands of people had fallen to the undead avalanche that came southwards, destroying everything in their path and corrupting anything close to it. This woman was obviously one of them. Why was she traveling north? Oh.. Lorda... Undercity. She was heading there, like all the other undead had. This one had obviously been one of the latest victims of the plague, and had been traveling alone.

Who would she have been if she hadn't died? Little Jack pondered this for a while, imagining everything from a baker's daughter to a soldier's wife. For a very quick moment, an image of this woman standing in the place of Momma flashed through his mind. He quickly suppressed that image. No one as kind as Momma could become undead. No mother would die and come back like that. But that didn't mean this woman couldn't have been kind, of course. Just not as kind as Momma, since she was undead now.

And Big Jack was in one of his moods. He wasn't kind. When Big Jack died, Little Jack would burn him so he wouldn't come back to be mean again. Like he would be to this woman, he was sure of it. No one could be mean like Big Jack could, probably not even this undead woman. Suddenly he felt pity towards her. She could have been a nice woman, for all he knew. Did she really deserve this? Couldn't they just leave her and let her go to Undercity like the rest of her kind?

But it was too late to say anything, even he had dared to. They'd almost gotten to the village where the Worgen walked around, pretending to be human. Pretending? Of course they were pretending. Little Jack refused to think that humans would live on, knowing what they were. They were probably Worgen by day too, just didn't look like it.

He looked into the clearing they had walked into, and noticed the big dead Oak in the middle. It would have been worth a fortune, if they had had the possibility of transporting it all the way to Dalaran. Frowning slightly he was about to ask Big Jack what they were doing, when Big Jack started walking towards the dead tree with a huge vicious grin on his face.

Little Jack winced as Big Jack dropped the woman as if she was just a sack of potatoes. "Right, son. You know what's beyond that forest edge over there?" Little Jack nodded. "Yes, it's the villa.." He didn't get any further before Big Jack cuffed him in the ear. "It's over fourty bloodthirsty, vicious Worgen! Can you imagine what they'd do to you, boy?" Little Jack looked terrified as he nodded furiously. His imagination didn't have much trouble with such things, and conjured up images that almost made him wet his pants. Big Jack didn't mean to leave him here, did he?

He breathed a sigh of relief as Big Jack turned to the undead woman and puller her dagger out of the sheath. Was that really blood? Little Jack didn't have time to wonder much before Big Jack stuck the dagger into the ground underneath one of the lower branches. "And here, son... We have something those Worgen can do all those things to...". The laughter coming from Big Jack right then had a quality to it that chilled Little Jack to the bone. Not even the nightly howling of the Worgen could chill him that quickly, nor that deep.

"Time to feed the hunger..." Big Jack murmured before taking the undead on his shoulder again. Who's hunger? Little Jack wondered. Your's or the Worgens'? Big Jack managed to hold her hands together far enough up the tree so she was hanging two feet off the ground. Shock filled Little Jack as he slammed the dagger through her wrists, to the hilt. Somehow, she hung there, suspended from the dagger. Little Jack had to keep in a yelp of fear and disgust as Big Jack quickly tore the leather straps from her head, revealing wounds where her eyes should be. Slowly, oh so slowly, a few droplets of blood dripped from her... eyes... as if she was crying.

Little Jack didn't remember much after that, except rejecting Momma's offer of a warm plate of food once they got home. He'd just left someone... perhaps a kind someone... to the Worgen. What had Big Jack said? There was over fourty of them there...

Little Jack went to bed, but didn't sleep that night. He didn't want to have the dreams he knew so well he'd have, but he didn't manage to keep the images of the Worgen and their... fun, from his mind anyway. He could hear the howling... Night had fallen, and the Worgen were hunting.


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Re: Of Woods and Hunger
« Reply #2 on: 19 Apr 2010, 15:23 »

Chapter three - Over fourty

It was quiet in the Southshore inn. No one could have imagined that traveling strangers could have stories like this one to share. Most of the stories told by travelers were outlandish, boasting, over the top. And the locals loved them all, and loved the friendly jeering that always followed such a story. The storyteller would of course drink for free that night, but the price was that everyone could slap him on the back, laughing about how unbelievable that story was. And like all good storytellers, he'd good naturedly tap the side of his nose and say "believe what you will, good man. But I saw it happen" in a way that everyone knew was bluff. It was an old game, and it had been played out a hundred times over the years, to everyone's satisfaction.

This was new, though. This tale had a ring of truth to it, and so far the evil one hadn't been the one they thought it would have been. Some even sat back, brooding about stories of their own, should they ever have the courage to speak of their hidden pasts.

But all kept their eyes on the traveler, because even though he didn't play the game they liked, the story was riveting. The traveler in question had taken an artistic break after his last words, and eyed everyone in turn, knowing just how well he had their imaginations working. Lastly, he looked into the shadows of the hood in front of him. He wasn't sure why, as she didn't give any outwards hint of interest, but he had a feeling no one had ever listened quite so intently to this story before.

Taking another sip, he'd moved down from gulps and draws since this was the fifth mug, he prepared himself to continue the story.

No one would think it, but there's quite a few things that needs to be done before a tree could be properly cut, especially here in Silverpine. The bark had to be penetrated, and the wood sniffed to make sure it wasn't plagued enough to have become just a mush. The only good wood was the one that had died so fast it was almost as hard as stone. Then you had to make sure of where it landed once cut. That was almost a science, Little Jack knew. He hated his fa... Big Jack, but he had to respect the fact that he knew everything there was to know about woodcutting. Anyway, there were many things to do, but today Little Jack fumbled everything. Nothing he did, turned out as it used to do.

And no wonder. Never before had he tried to perform his chores when the fate of an unknown woman had played again and again before his inner eye. Had she screamed before she died? Do undead people die? Or do they just live on in the torn apart bits and pieces of their bodies, never able to do anything but silently scream in agony and pain? Little Jack swallowed, but the lump in his throat refused to budge. He knew his imagination was a little too... imaginative at times, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't too far off the mark.

She had been quite pretty, except for the wounds where her eyes should have been. Had that been how she died, he wondered. Then he cursed as something more important intruded on the young mind. The axe he had been using to pierce the bark of a tree had slipped and almost gone straight into his shin.

"Oh for... You're being useless today, Little Jack..." The target of this comment hid a scowl directed at Big Jack. He hadn't exactly done much himself today. Just pulled out those leather straps and stroked them while chuckling. Big Jack grinned as he set his eyes on his son. "I know what it is...". Little Jack felt like burying the axe in Big Jack's chest, then immediately his mind recoiled from the thought in horror. No, Little Jack wasn't like his fath... Big Jack. He refused to be.

"Since you can't do your share of the work, I've got another task for you, son." Little Jack flinched at the glimmer in Big Jack's eyes. "You will go to the old oak, and bury what's left of that pretty little undead lass." Little Jack felt like a bucket of icewater had been poured down his neck. "Bu.. But it's so close to the village! By rights, I shouldn't even have been there yesterday!" The excuses flowed over his tongue effortlessly. He knew the real reason why he didn't want to go there. His mind quickly conjured up images of severed hands choking him to death as revenge for what he and Big Jack had done.

Half an hour later, Little Jack still wiped a few tears from his eyes, while calling himself nine kinds of idiot. No one talks back to Big Jack. Not without walking stiffly afterwards. And walked he had, he was almost upon the open field with the oak. Okay, walking stiffly might have accounted for some of his slowness, but his feet felt like stone. What would he see when he came upon the glen? He'd slaughtered sheep, like most young boys his age. But sheep didn't have hands, arms, pale skin... They weren't human. Perhaps the woman wasn't human either, but she looked like it.

His thoughts kept churning, conjuring up worse and worse images for every step he took. By the time he came to the treeline, he was shivering worse than his grandfather had been the weeks before he died. Passing the last tree and stepping into the clearing, his mind first refused to accept what he saw before him. Then, he slowly leaned forwards and vomited up the little he had managed to eat that morning.

Who can tell what Big Jack thought when he heard the panicked sound of his son running through the woods, yelling for Big Jack? It's beyond anybody's guess, really. What we know, is that even he looked surprised at the look on his son's face as the young lad came bursting through the underbrush.

"What's the matter, lad? Wasn't there anything left of her to bury?"

Little Jack spent some time regaining his breath. He'd been running the whole way from the oak, and screaming for Big Jack most of the time. When he spoke, his voice seemed eerily calm while still having a quivering undertone of deep fear.

"There wasn't a single corpse to bury... There were over fourty..."


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Re: Of Woods and Hunger
« Reply #3 on: 19 Apr 2010, 15:23 »

Chapter four - Where illusions end

Now the story had gone more towards what they were used to. Incredible numbers, feats of strength unheard of and more. Still, this wasn't quite right. Where was the hero of the story? Where was the one they could cheer for, or fear for? Little Jack was likable enough, but nowhere near heroic enough.

Still, the story held them tighter than most stories they heard in Southshore inn, so the mugs of Southshore's finest kept being passed towards the storyteller. No one but the maid sighingly noticed that he mostly let the contents pour to the floor when he distracted them with some gesture. No wonder really, she thought. That had to be the eleventh mug he'd been passed.

The traveler didn't quite seem to want to finish the story though. He kept his head down as the story kept playing itself in his mind. The other traveler leaned forwards as he started talking.

The tools were left behind as Big and Little Jack raced towards the cabin. Little Jack could barely keep up, as he'd exhausted himself on the run back to Big Jack. The cursing of Big Jack as he'd realized what Little Jack was saying still kept ringing through Little Jack's head. Hell, he could scarcely believe it himself. The undead woman was still alive. He'd walked around the field four times, trying to find her amongst the piles of dead Worgen.

The undead still lived... and what they'd done to her could hardly have made her any more well inclined towards them than she'd been before they saw her fall over. With luck, she'd mindlessly continue north to their city. If they weren't lucky, she knew how to track.

Well, that was the reason not all the tools were abandoned. Big Jack had his biggest axe held in a grip tight enough to whiten his knuckles, as he ran for all he was worth. For once, Little Jack's imagination failed to conjure up images of what might be ahead of them. The only things he saw as he pulled his last bits of strength and stuffed it all into his feet, was his Momma's face. His Momma doing all kinds of things around the house. Carrying water, cooking dinner, darning his socks... Always having a warm smile to bestow on her son, even though she didn't have much else to give.

He almost ran into the back of Big Jack. He had stopped as he broke the treeline around the cabin. Little Jack quickly looked around to see if he could spot Momma. He sighed with relief as he couldn't see any sign of struggle or Momma's corp... no, he wouldn't think of that. Then his breath stopped as he noticed what Big Jack had seen immediately.

The door - strong, heavy Silverpine wood with a sturdy lock - stood slightly ajar. The door was never allowed to be ajar, whether anyone was inside or not. Some of the animals of the forest were still sick by the plague. Then he noticed the shutters on the windows, they were closed. Momma always opened them during the day, saying she would not live like a bear in the winter.

Big Jack barely caught his shoulder as his son tried to storm towards the door. "Quiet, lad. I'll go first." Little Jack stared in confusion on his father. Never before had he heard him speak in such concerned tones. Was his father human after all? The shock, more than the words, kept Little Jack behind Big Jack as the broadshouldered man walked slowly towards the cabin, making a slight detour to get a look behind the wellhouse to make sure there were no one hiding behind it.

Sweat pored down Little Jack's face even though he felt chilled to the bone. He held his breath as Big Jack reached the door of the cabin. Any time now, a monster would come screaming out the door, only to be cut in half by the big axe. Any time now... Big Jack nudged the door with the axe, and Little Jack winced at the sound of the hinges creaking against the rust he'd never gotten around to oil.

He couldn't wait any longer. He ran to stand next to Big Jack and stared into the darkness behind the door. Of course, the shutters wouldn't let sunlight in. The few streams of light coming in the door didn't reveal anything in the shadows further in. They entered quietly.

Even Little Jack knew better than to speak. If Momma could answer, she would already have said something. They were both inside now, staring intently into the darkness, stretching all their senses to the limit. Later on, Little Jack would blush when he thought of the moment when he let out a little water, hearing the muffled whimper further in the cabin. Then they felt more than saw movement ahead of them. Sparks flew from their flintstone as a dagger was scraped across it, then the room got slightly better illuminated by the oil lamp on the table.

Little Jack let the rest of his water go when he saw Momma tied and gagged on Big Jack's chair, - the only one with a back and armrests - looking wildeyed at the two who had entered the cabin. The next thing he noticed was that the dagger that'd produced the sparks was now resting on her throat. His eyes following the blade, they came to a pale, fine hand. He winced as he noticed the wound piercing the wrist. Then he raised his eyes enough to look into the two wounds in the face of a grinning undead woman. Her voice seemed to hold two qualities at once. First, she sounded like crystalline chimes, but then she sounded harsh. Then the two blended together.

"Greetings, boys... Took you long enough." The undead's voice seemed to lengthen, and pause excessively long between sentences. She kept the dagger steady on Momma's throat as she grabbed her chin with her other hand. "We've been waiting for hours, haven't we, dearest little woman? I actually got hungry while waiting..."

Little Jack struggled not to scream as the undead licked Momma's cheek, and only then noticed that Momma's ear was missing and that the undead was licking the blood from the wound.

"Oh, where's my manners... I'm Mizhara. I would have introduced myself earlier, but I was... eheh... slightly incapacitated." She indicated the burns and frostbite from before, but the wounds seemed to have grown alot smaller since they'd seen her last. Not that she looked any better. She had wounds covering almost her entire body, differing in depth and length from scrapes to what would have been considered lethal on either of the humans in the cabin.

"Tsk tsk tsk" came the sound from the undead as Big Jack took a step forwards, then froze as the dagger's point suddenly slightly pierced the skin of Momma's throat. Another muffled whimper escaped from Momma's gagged mouth. "Careful, Big Jack... Ah yes, that's right. I know your names. Momma and I had a delightful little conversation while you were gone. I told her all about how we met, and how much fun we had." Now the undead's voice turned cold. Little Jack thought that was it, Momma was about to die. "Imagine her face as I told her of your little... eheh... fun. Imagine her face as I told her of the erection I felt pressing against me as you hung me on that tree. Of your... Hunger..."

Now the undead's grin had become that of a wolf, as she watched the pain in Big Jack's face as his guilty little secrets came out before his beloved woman. "Pluh... puhlease.. please don't hurt Momma!" Little Jack didn't recognize his own voice. Not even when Big Jack beat him out in the woods did he sound this whiny and scared. He knew the instant the words left his mouth that they'd never do any good. The undead shifted her eyeless gaze onto him, then grinned wider as she noticed the urine staining the left leg of his pants. "Puh.. Puh.. Puhlease?" Her voice was mocking him to the core. "Did you Puh puh please when your father hung me from the tree as a present to those worg men? Where was your compassion then? I could smell you, you know. You smelled just like your father... weaker, but it was there. I smelled the same hunger from you, as I did from your father."

The undead's words rocked Little Jack to his core. No... No, he was not like his father! It was all a lie! His mind jerked back from the truth in his head. He knew he'd had daydreams of hurting his father. Of watching him scream in pain. But that was only against his father! Not against anyone else... Okay, once in a while he thought of catching animals, but not humans! Little Jack heard a slight whimper come from himself as he fell back against the wall and slid down, sobbing as he stared into the eyes of Momma. Was that really disgust he saw in her eyes? No... It couldn't be.

The undead laughed wickedly as if she knew exactly what went through his mind. He let the tears flow as he saw the undead lean in to whisper in his Momma's remaining ear. He barely caught her words. "He'll become worse than his father... I smelled it on him." Then she looked up at Big Jack. "The leather straps, I know you have them. Give them to her." Big Jack stood rooted to the floor for a few seconds before he mechanically pulled the two leather straps out of his pocket and walked slowly towards Momma. She flinched and closed her eyes as he carefully put them in her right hand and gently closed her fingers on them. The inside stained by the blood from the undead's still open wounds.

Little Jack winced as she fast as lightning cut the bonds securing Momma to the chair, the returned her dagger to her throat before Big Jack could even blink. "Now, dearest... Put them on me..." The undead seemed enormously pleased by Momma's terrified look as she moved slowly, the dagger never leaving her throat. Her hands fumbling slightly as she crossed the leather straps across Mizhara's face, once more covering the wounds. "Tighter, lass..." A whimper came from both Momma and Little Jack as the dagger pressed harder against the throat.

Momma finished her task and then stood quivering, crying with closed eyes as Mizhara seemed to inhale the fear oozing from her. "Thank you, lass. You've been such a wonderful host. I think it's only fitting that I'll give you a gift in return. I'm going to let your son live..." The grin from the undead indicated this was not the gift she spoke of. Then she confirmed it as she turned Momma back around towards the two men at the entrance, and leaned in on Momma's good ear. "And you won't have to live to see him become his father..."

Little Jack screamed as the undead slit Momma's throat in one fluid motion. The blood sprayed almost through the entire room, hitting both Big and Little Jack. It must have been the tears in Little Jack's eyes, and the distraction from the undead's vicious laughter. The look in Momma's eyes, mingling with the pain, couldn't have been gratitude. It couldn't have been! Shock and pain froze Little Jack, and his muscles lost all tone. He couldn't have moved to save his life as he watched Momma slump to the ground, the blood quickly pooling around her as the life slowly drained out of her eyes.

Big Jack had no such problem. A roar of pain, hatred and fear shattered the air in the cabin as he stormed towards the undead, his axe already describing an arch over his head. The undead merely smiled as she sidestepped and with the speed of a striking snake hit Big Jack under his left arm, a mark of blood quickly spreading through the cloth of his shirt. She hadn't considered his sheer strength though, as the axe changed direction midair and hit her in the side with the flat of the blade. She went flying across the room and hit a stool in the corner, crushing it to pieces.

Little Jack silently looked on as she got to her feet as if nothing had happened. Why was she still smiling? She was fighting... No one smiles when they fight for their lives. He couldn't even manage to summon enough emotion to feel afraid when she blurred and reappeared on Big Jack's exposed right side. Her dagger dipped in quicker than before, this time making an identical mark under his right arm. She'd apparently learned quickly, as the axe whizzed underneath her leaping body. Little Jack couldn't help but notice the grace of movement as she turned in the air, landing lightly behind Big Jack. One single swipe was all it took to cut behind both his knees.

She rolled backwards, getting back out of the reach of the huge axe. Had this been a seasoned fighter, she might have failed, but a woodcutter's not used to his victims moving, after all. He turned to face her, and almost stumbled. The undead grinned as she spoke, her voice colder than winter's ice. "Can you feel it? The blood leaving your body, leaving you cold while your clothes get warm and sticky? I've learned alot about how the human body works, while finding out how my own body works. You'd be amazed how easy a human is to kill..." She laughed as Big Jack fell to one knee, fumbling his axe. Little Jack let out a hysteric little giggle as he realized his father was bleeding almost as much as his Momma had been, only from four wounds instead of one.

"I don't have to do anything more. Just watch, as your arms and legs lose their strength. The darkness should be pressing on you now, am I right? Can you feel it closing in? And the darkness within finally consuming you?" Mizhara laughed again, keeping her gaze on Big Jack's. "I could just let you die like that... But then, we were talking of hunger, weren't we. Well, I have one of my own..." Little Jack summoned enough strength for a scream as Mizhara once again leapt for his father... yes, he is my father... I know that now. Big Jack could hardly snarl before Mizhara had her teeth in his throat. A toss of her head, and blood once more sprayed across the room as she ripped it out.

Littl... no. Just Jack started crying again as his father fell onto his back, the undead monster on his chest. He could barely believe his eyes as she grinned and started ripping his gut open with her teeth and hands. Her nails seemed more like claws as they ripped through flesh. Jack vomited as he heard the sickening sound of the undead feeding on his father's flesh, and barely noticed that all her wounds seemed to heal before his eyes. Somehow, the flesh she ingested aided her own body in repairing the damage it had sustained from the Worgen.

He had no tears left as she finished feeding and stood up, blood covering her arms, face and most of her clothes. She picked up the dagger and put it in her sheathe, seemingly ignoring the limp boy near the door. He knew it wouldn't last. And as if he'd spoken aloud, she turned to face him, a terrible grin on her face. He didn't feel fear as she walked sinuously towards him, a predator if he'd ever seen one. All he felt was calm emptiness, even when she knelt before him. He did however, feel a slight twinge of surprise as she pulled him to him and gave him a hug. He felt the sticky blood of his father on her cheek as it was laid on his own. Underneat that, she still felt cold as ice. Not even his flesh could warm her, apparently. Her voice was amused as she whispered in his ear.

"Like I promised Momma, I will let you live. I have a task for you, though... You will travel south, and you will tell everyone you meet of what you've seen today. Tell the story of Mizhara and Little Jack. Tell the story of the hunger you've witnessed in yourself... your father... but most importantly, tell the story of Mizhara's hunger. I am going to be making a name for myself, and you will be part of that. You will be telling part of my story, the part you witnessed for yourself..."

She leaned backwards, letting her eyeless gaze penetrate his eyes as her grin widened slightly. "And while we're talking of hunger, never fear your own. Now you know how it looks like when monsters walk the earth... Your own can never match it. Now do as I say... Run, boy. Run south and live..."

Jack didn't even glance at the bodies of his parents. He ran south until he reached Dalaran, and fainted as soon as he saw the Wizards and Mages working in the ruins around the magical shield. All the way south, he heard the laughter of Mizhara running through his mind. His last thought before the darkness enveloped him seemed strange. Why was she smiling like that? What did she know that he didn't? Perhaps... Perhaps she had no more illusions left. He smiled as the mages approached him and he fainted.


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Re: Of Woods and Hunger
« Reply #4 on: 19 Apr 2010, 15:24 »

Chapter Five - Of storytellers, travelers and markings

The locals seemed stunned. No one looked at the travelers, especially the storyteller. Everyone stared into the deeps of their mugs as he drained the last of his mug. A sardonic grin crept onto his face as he put the mug down on the table. Apparently, he wasn't unaware of the storyteller game, as he smiling tapped the side of his nose and spoke slightly coldly. "Believe what you will, but I know what I saw... And what Just Jack sees, he knows to be true..."

The locals shivered as one. The maid stood near the serving desk, her hand on her chest and a look of fear and revulsion was painted on her face as she stared at Jack. He didn't even seem to notice the mood of the inn having changed during this last part of his story. Didn't notice, or was too used to it.

"I've told this story at every inn I've stayed at the last five years. Twenty one years of age, and I've traveled through most of the lands where the Alliance holds sway, and even seen some of the lands held by the Horde. Still, no matter where I rested, someone heard me tell my story. I guess I could have just held my tongue and tried to forget. But I know... one day I'll meet her again, and that day I'll be able to face her eyeless gaze and tell her that her name has been spread throughout the Eastern Kingdoms and even beyond that. And then... perhaps then.. she'll let Just Jack die..."

He sighed as he leaned his head back, seemingly weary beyond words. He didn't even bother looking at the locals, as he already knew what they were doing. Slowly but surely, they were all muttering something about needing to head home. His story was never well received anywhere. One by one, they slowly left the inn as the outside turned darker and darker. He'd sleep alone at the inn tonight, as even the maid and innkeeper would seek shelter elsewhere.

He was actually grateful for that. Sometimes he'd even be chased out of town instead of just shunned. He laughed softly to himself as he realized he didn't mind that either. Less chance for his hunger to grow beyond his control. She'd been right about that, the undead lass. She'd smelled it on him, and known exactly what was growing within him. A legacy after his father, he guessed. He leaned his head forwards and frowned as he noticed the other traveler still sitting in front of him, studying him.

"Why are you still here? Didn't you notice I'm not really company for decent folk?" His words had a bitter twist as they left his mouth. A whispered chuckle came from underneath the hood she still wore. A whisper followed. "And who says I'm decent folk, Little Jack?" He couldn't stop himself from gaping as she removed the hood and he saw the crossed leather straps across her face. Aside from her clothes and weapons, she hadn't changed even in the slightest. Five years had marked him heavily since he'd been found by the Mages of Dalaran, and here she sat before him as if they were still in the cabin in Silverpine. Even her grin was unchanged.

Words failed him, and he just sat there staring at her. She finally broke the silence, speaking as if they were just old friends. "You tell the story well. It's almost exactly as I remember it." He just nodded dumbly. "I try to be true to what happened. Sometimes I worry that I don't really remember what happened, and only remember the words of the story. That I've constructed the memories from the words, and not the other way around." She nodded slowly, while leaning back in her chair, one arm dangling over the chair's back. "I know the feeling. I'm a storyteller myself, and I sometimes feel the same. Do we really remember things, or do we just remember ourselves telling others about it? It's a pleasing little riddle, isn't it?"

He shivered slightly as he grasped the mug only to realize it was empty. "Damn... I really wouldn't have minded a last drink before I die." He looked up from the empty mug as she started laughing. That too was exactly as it was back in the cabin. Perhaps he did remember it, instead of just remembering the story. "Who says I'm going to kill you, Just Jack? You've done well... Still, that's not what's going to save your life, Just Jack. You will live on, and tell a new story. Well, at least something more than your first story. You see, we Forsaken are going to be alot more active in the future. And you're going to help us by telling of what we do..." Her grin widened as he now noticed the red glow outside. Something was burning.

He ran to a window and heard the sounds of battle. He was no stranger to it, as a traveler was far from safe on the roads these days. The glass in the window was poor, and he could only see shadows moving in the streets and hear the screams of pain and metal on metal. A full scale battle was roaming through the streets, between villagers who knew exactly where they lived and was prepared for this, and these... Forsaken? Was that what she called them? A shiver went down his spine as he imagined the undead gathered at Undercity being strong enough to mount an assault on Southshore.

He walked slowly back to his seat, and faced Mizhara with a look of grim determination on his face. "And if I don't want to tell the story?" Again she laughed. Her voice was almost bubbling with amusement as she spoke. "Oh don't look so offended, Just Jack. Let me tell you why you'll tell the story. Because of your hunger... You feel it when you tell the story, don't you? You feel it growing the second you enter a town, and it's there all the time. Gnawing at your spine and your mind. But when you tell the story, it lessens... It's sated by the look and fear on your listeners. You feed the hunger, every time the story is told..." Now she looked pleased and knowing. He could feel his face turn slightly disbelieving at how easily this undead read him. "You want to live, to feed the hunger... You don't want death at all, or you'd never have left that cabin..." The words pierced him, and he snarled. Before he could get up and draw his blade though, the undead was already in the air.

Landing on the table, a dagger on his throat and her face inches from his, he could almost feel the scent of blood on her breath. For several long seconds they were frozen, facing eachother like that. The sounds of battle got stronger every second, and the glow of torched buildings got stronger. A streamer of smoke came in over the poorly fitted door. Jack was about to speak as Mizhara suddenly pressed her left hand on his cheek, and the words turned to a scream of pain. His flesh burned as if a branding iron was pressed on his face, and he smelled his own burned flesh. When she finally pulled her hand off his face, he saw through teary eyes a stone in her palm. "A... eheh... friend of mine made this for me... You can't believe how much she wanted for it, but I'd say it was worth every relic she had me hunt down."

He noticed a glowing mark on the stone, and almost felt the heat emanating from it as his cheek burned like hellfire. The mark seemed to be two daggers, held by crossed forearms. A thought struck him, and he realized it was the letter M, stylized as a personal seal.

"Now you are marked as mine. The horde in general won't know it or even care if they do, but no Deathstalker will touch you. I can't have you killed by my own people if you're going to tell the story of Mizhara, can I?" Her grin had only grown as she'd burned his cheek. He couldn't find words to match her own, and only thought for himself as he stared into the grinning visage of the monster before him. The story of Mizhara? No, it will be the story of Mizhara the Ever Smiling.

She laughed as he immediately grabbed his pack and went through the door as soon as she let the dagger vanish from her hand. He burst through the door, before he had even thought of the battle raging outside. He got a rough reminder as one of the undead came rushing towards him, two swords already homing in on his chest. He knew he couldn't get out his own sword in time, but his hand groped for the hilt nonetheless. Suddenly the undead stopped as if struck, studied him for a second and then just nodded to him and ran past him, another victim already in sight. The mark... she hadn't lied. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, the screams of men, women and children following him as if at least that part of them could join him in his flight. Their bodies, after all, were doomed to become feasts for this undead force. Amongst the screams though, he could hear the cold yet amused laughter of Mizhara...

Epilogue - Of removed illusions and new beginnings

Jack stopped at the hill behind the giant wall he had passed. Turning around slowly, he could still see the smoke of Soutshore in the distance. A few straggling refugees kept trickling along the road, as if they were following in his footsteps. No wonder, really. Arathi Highlands was the only place a human could go when there was no shelter to be had in Soutshore or the area around it.

Well, until the Alliance sent a punitive force to reclaim Southshore and possibly take a poke at whatever northern town the Forsaken struck from. They'd have to, if they wished to have even the slightest hold on Hillsbrad. Just Jack had learned a thing or two in his travels, and the illusion of territory was one of the lessons he'd learned. Strange, how this illusion was so important to the important people who ruled over the rest. Not to mention how the rest were the ones paying the price for keeping up the illusion of borders and resources.

His hand went up to his cheek, gently following the outline of the mark she had put there. He was hers now... That couldn't be forgotten and no illusions could hide it. He wondered why she'd chosen him as her storyteller. Sure, she didn't have much to choose from after murdering his parents that first time, but in that raid she could probably have picked any of the locals who had listened to his story. That could have become an even better story, as the local traveled around talking about Just Jack who'd come to Soutshore to die at the hands of Mizhara the Ever Smiling.

No, there was no question why she'd chosen him. He knew that as well as she knew him. She'd chosen him because of what he was. Because of what he did on his travels. After all, she knew exactly who he was, and she'd known since his father had nailed her to that oak.

Jack smiled to himself as he shook his head. He always got introspective the day after telling the story. As it should be, really, as he relives one of the defining moments of his life. His eye caught movement on the road next to the hill. A refugee, on her way through Arathi, hoping to find Alliance forces somewhere ahead. Shouldering his pack, with food he'd stolen from an abandoned farm near Southshore, he started slowly down towards her. Slowly, so he didn't frighten her.

"Don't worry, lass. I'm not dangerous. I just have more food than I can eat, and you look like you need a meal before you continue your travels. And for that matter, I would take it amiss if a pretty young lass as yourself had to walk without protection through dangerous lands like this."

His words seemed at first to frighten the young woman, but as she studied him she seemed to calm down. No wonder, thought Jack. He knew he looked like a trustworthy man. The mark would probably give people pause, but his demeanor should be enough to overcome any distrust born from that.

A few more words, and a gentle hand on her shoulder, and the lass was quickly turned from a frightened refugee to a flattered young lady who couldn't believe her luck at meeting such a charming and strong looking man in her darkest hour. Yes, thought Jack, she certainly wouldn't mind following him to the campsite he'd already made when he passed through here on his way to Southshore.

As he led her off the path and towards the campsite, he pondered the events of yesterday. Hmm... Perhaps he'd tell her the new story before he satisfied his hunger. His smile turned into a grin very similar to Mizhara's own. Yes, she'd definitely known who she sent out in the world...