Since this didn't win the World of Warcraft writing competition, I'm going to put it up as a writing sample for you to enjoy. I'm pretty sure that fanfics are covered under fair use, but if Blizzard decides they don't want me to list it, I'll take it down. In the meantime, please enjoy my story in the World of Warcraft Universe (tm Blizzard Entertainment Company), "Coping With Death."
Bramwell said a silent prayer to the Light as he strapped his sword onto his belt. It was dull around the edges and a bit rusty. He just hoped it would be enough to protect his family. He could hear the creatures’ pitiful moans outside his door as they scratched at the wood, too weak to do much more than make a shallow scratch. The sound made a shiver run down his spine as he imagined the splinters beneath their weathered fingernails, and as he heard the clinking of their skeletal joints. It had been a long time since he’d seen any undead in Ravenhill Cemetery, much less since he heard them clawing at his own door.
Grace said in a terrified whisper, “Please, don’t. Maybe they’ll go away.”
Bramwell sighed, “I’m sorry, Love, but it’s part of my job. Besides, you know that they won’t, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you or the boys.”
Grace asked, “But, why are they here?”
Bramwell said, “Not sure. Maybe a tree’s roots were encroaching on a grave or two. I’ll take care of the problem and then hopefully the others will rest easy.”
Bramwell’s children were staring at the door in rapt fascination. Garret, being nine, was more excited than scared, but Bertram hid his face in his older brother’s arm and whimpered slightly, especially when he noticed a few flecks of wood and sawdust fluttering to the ground like snowflakes on Winter Veil. The skeletal nails were making progress, creating a very small scratch mark through the wood, almost enough to see through.
Garret whispered to his five year old brother, “I dare you to go touch it.”
Bertram said, “No. You touch it.”
Grace snapped, “Both of you stay away from that door and away from the windows.”
Bramwell said, “I’m going out back. You two listen to your Mother, and no matter what, you keep that door and the windows locked.”
Grace muttered, “Please, be careful.”
Bramwell kissed her and whispered, “I’ll be fine, Grace.”
Bramwell walked out of the back door of his house. The first thing that struck him was the smell. It was the earthy smell of fresh grave soil combined with the sickeningly sweet stench of rotten meat. It was coming from a corpse that was limping towards him in the distance. The first two were still clawing at his front door, but this one was ambling around the house to search for another way in. The corpse in front of him looked so decomposed that it wasn’t even recognizable. He was glad. Bramwell buried half of the people in the cemetery and he didn’t like the thought of seeing one of them as a monster.
“Small favors,” Bramwell grumbled.
He reached for his sword at his side and waved his other arm in the air, yelling, “Come on, this way, Beastie!”
The creature’s dry eyes seemed to gleam with its ravenous craving as it shambled faster in his direction. It reached its arms out towards him, revealing thick exposed cords of sinewy muscle that made Bramwell feel like retching. Still, he stood his ground.
With one quick pull, Bramwell freed his sword and it went arching through the air at the creature’s head. The beast didn’t have time to react as the blade severed its head from its shoulders. The body swayed for a moment, and then the right arm swiped at Bramwell before the corpse fell unceremoniously to the ground. The blow was enough to leave a nasty gash across Bramwell’s chest.
Bramwell touched the wound gingerly. It was shallow, but it burned.
Bramwell thought, “If the rest of these things don’t do the job, Grace is going to kill me.”
The sound of the struggle was enough to draw the other creatures from the front of the house. One of them was the corpse of a young woman. There was still enough flesh on her bones that Bramwell recognized her. She was the daughter of the Town Crier. She died when she was thrown from her horse, and the disturbing tilt of her neck gave her away. The other was an old man that was entirely skeletal, probably a corpse buried before Bramwell became the caretaker.
Bramwell shouted, “Come on. I’m ready for you.”
The skeletal man ran towards him first. Bramwell just managed to dodge out of the way, cringing as the corpse’s sharp nails that just barely missed his eyes. He struck it with the sword and managed to cut one of the arms off, but that wasn’t enough to stop it. The creature lashed out again, this time much faster than he expected, and its nails went deeply into his arm. Bramwell screamed in surprise and pain as he swung the sword directly into the skeleton’s spine, slicing it in half—but, not before the woman grabbed him from behind, and sank her teeth into his shoulder. Bramwell shrieked and tried to pull away, but her grasp was surprisingly strong and he found himself unable to move.
Bramwell thought, “Is this really how I’m going to die? Killed by one of the people I buried?”
Grace shouted from behind them, “Let go of him!”
There was a sickening squelching sound as Grace slammed the end of a pitch fork through the woman’s back. The edges of it nicked Bramwell’s back as the prongs exited through her chest. Grace turned to the side, using the leverage of the pitch fork to swing the woman’s body away from Bramwell, giving him an opportunity to attack. The sword came down on the woman’s broken neck and she toppled over.
Bramwell grinned and said, “Didn’t I tell you to stay inside?”
Grace said, “You told us to keep the front door or the windows locked—and don’t sass me, Mister. You said you would be fine. Look at you!”
Bramwell touched the wound on his shoulder and grinned sheepishly.
Grace muttered, “Are there any more of them?”
Bramwell said, “I don’t think so. They would’ve made their way to the house by now, poor things.”
Grace said, “Poor things? They’re monsters!”
Bramwell said, “I think they only come towards houses and settlements because somewhere deep down they remember what they’re missing.”
Grace asked, “Then why do they attack?”
Bramwell shrugged, “Bitterness, maybe? Maybe they’re attracted to the warmth of our flesh too. Either way, I need to find out what disturbed their sleep.”
Grace said, “Not tonight. You need to be bandaged, and you need to rest.”
Bramwell sighed and said, “You’re right. But, first thing in the morning I’m going to Grand Hamlet to get the priest. I’ll feel better once the ground is consecrated again.”
Grace glanced at the woman’s body and said, “That’s the Crier’s daughter, isn’t it?”
Bramwell said, “I believe it is.”
Grace asked, “Are we going to tell him?”
Bramwell said, “I don’t think we should. I’ll take her ring to put in the coffin and bury the others’ possessions, tomorrow. We have to burn these bodies tonight, though. It’s the only way to be sure that they won’t get back up.”
Bramwell grabbed the few possessions the corpses’ still had. He took the woman’s ring, the decomposed corpse’s belt buckle, and the old skeletal man’s dagger that was still strapped to his waist, unused. He had heard rumors that some undead used weapons, but in his experience they all seemed like mindless animals, fighting more on instinct than with any real skill. The boys peered out of the door behind them, looking with morbid fascination at the pile of bodies.
Bertram asked, “Are you really going to burn them, Daddy?”
Bramwell said, “I’m afraid so, Son.”
Garret asked, “Can we watch?”
Bramwell glanced at Grace. She slowly shook her head. Still, Garret would probably one day be the caretaker when Bramwell was too old. He needed to see the process.
Bramwell said, “Okay, but after that it’s off to bed for both of you.”
Grace scowled at him but shrugged and headed inside, muttering about preparing the bandages. Bramwell understood why. Burning bodies was nasty business. The smell was sickening and the sight was worse.
Bramwell sat watching the fire with his arms around his boys. His wounds were aching and he was starting to feel feverish. Still, he felt a solemn peace as he watched the bodies burning away, knowing their souls were finally at rest. He was never very religious, but he was always proud of his job and the respect he showed for the dead of Ravenhill. A graveyard was supposed to be a peaceful place, and he intended to keep it that way.
As they retired for the evening, Grace dressed his wounds. She used a salve she made from Silverleaf and Peacebloom to speed up the healing process. Even though she knew about herbs, Grace never knew how to actually boil them into an elixir. Bramwell was grateful that tonight she didn’t try. Supposedly if the two ingredients were boiled together they would heal almost any injury within the day. Still, Bramwell knew from experience, if brewed incorrectly, they would cause terrible stomach cramps and violent vomiting. Even if the salve didn’t heal the wounds, it dulled the pain, which was enough.
Grace muttered, “You’ve got to be more careful. What would the kids and I do without you?”
Bramwell laughed, “You looked like you took pretty good care of yourself out there without my help.”
Grace said, “I’m serious. They could’ve killed you tonight. You’re feverish. I
want the priest to look at you before you bring him here.”
Bramwell rolled his eyes, “He’s got more serious things to worry about than taking care of a few minor cuts and bruises.”
Grace said, “These aren’t minor cuts, Bramwell. They’re red and infected and there’s green pus in them.”
Bramwell looked in the mirror and flinched. She was right. The cuts looked gangrenous even though they were fresh, especially on the bite mark. It was unnatural…
Bramwell said, “Okay, I’ll have him take a look at them too.”
Grace muttered, “Bramwell, I’ve been thinking. Do you think the Defias are right?”
Bramwell asked, “What? Why would you even think that?”
Grace said, “I heard one of their representatives talking last time I went into town. They said that Stormwind doesn’t care about our city and that if something bad ever happened here they wouldn’t even send help. Do you think that’s true?”
Bramwell said, “No, of course not. We’re loyal servants of the King just like everyone else. We pay our tithes to the church, the taxes to the city. If something happens, I know they’ll send someone.”
Grace sighed and said, “It’s just, you’re the caretaker of the graveyard. It shouldn’t be your job to fight those things whenever they show up. Shouldn’t there be a guard or something?”
Bramwell said, “There won’t need to be once the priest consecrates the ground. Don’t worry.”
Grace asked, “Will you just humor me and send a letter to Stromwind asking for a few guards? I have a really bad feeling that things are going to get worse. There haven’t been any attacks in months. Why are they starting up now?”
Bramwell said, “I don’t know. But, if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll send the letter tomorrow.”
Bramwell felt worse when he woke up in the morning. The sheets were moist with sweat, making him feel as though he was coated with slime, like a snail retracing its path. There was blood on the sheets where his wounds had reopened in the middle of the night. Still, at least the day was bright and it looked like good weather for travelling.
Bramwell wrote the letter to Stormwind and sealed it, putting it in his coat pocket. Then, he made his rounds in the cemetery and found the three unearthed graves. It was easy to tell them apart and he finished his small burial ceremony for the retrieved objects in a solemn silence. He also carefully scattered the ashes from the human bonfire from the night before, reciting a little song he heard from his Father that was supposed to protect against evil. Still, as far as Bramwell was concerned, the song sounded more like a necromancer’s chant.
Bramwell’s Father also used to say, “Pray to the dark or the light, Bram. The result is really up to you.”
It made him wonder about his Father…
When Bramwell finished, his boys were up and eating breakfast. He joined them at the table.
Garret asked, “Did you bury the stuff from last night?”
Bramwell said, “Yep, and scattered the ashes.”
Garret asked, “Are you really going to Grand Hamlet?”
Bramwell said, “Yes. I’ll probably be home by nightfall with the priest. Don’t wait up for me though. It really depends on if the weather holds out, and when the priest can leave.”
Bertram asked, “Can you get me some peppermint candies?”
Bramwell asked, “You’ve been talking to the Sven boy again, haven’t you?”
Bertram blushed, “Well, his Dad always brings him back candies when he goes.”
Bramwell chuckled and said, “Well, if you promise to be good for your Mother while I’m away.”
Bertram beamed and said, “I promise!”
Garret asked, hopefully, “Oh, and maybe some fireworks?”
Bramwell said, “We’ll see. What about you, Grace? Should I bring you back something special for putting up with me?”
Grace laughed and said, “Maybe some beauty crème for all the wrinkles you give me.”
Bramwell grinned and said, “Love you, Grace.”
Grace smiled, “I love you too. Promise me something…”
Bramwell said, “Anything.”
Grace took the pendant from around her neck and walked over to Bramwell, putting it around his.
Grace said, “Wear this for luck. It was Dad’s. It’s just superstition, but he said this pendant used to keep him safe.”
Bramwell said, “I’ll wear it, but you’re really worrying too much. I’m just a little tired from the work this morning.”
Bramwell wiped the sweat from his brow with a napkin. He hoped that his lie would be enough to convince her that he was okay. He was starting to get chills and he still had a fever. The bite mark was burning again.
Bramwell finished his breakfast and then went into his tool shed to sharpen his sword. Even though he hoped he wouldn’t need it, it was dangerous to travel without one. The animals were becoming more aggressive, the Defias had a presence in the land, and there were even reports of Ogre sightings in the lower sections of Duskwood. The more he thought about it, the more he began think his wife was right. Maybe it was about time that one of the citizens wrote a letter to Stormwind. He just hoped that his letter wouldn’t be ignored.
As the cart hitched down the road towards Grand Hamlet, Bramwell began to feel uneasy. Something about the road was too silent. He could hear the clop of his old horse’s hooves on the cobblestones echoing down the road like the beating of a drum. His head pounded with every hoof beat. He had a high fever now and his wounds ached with even the slight movement of the cart. Bramwell expected to see more people on the roads between Ravenhill and the city, but the streets were practically deserted.
Bramwell thought, “It’s just my nerves. The quiet is getting to me, or the fever.”
Still, as he continued onward, he noticed something that gave him pause. There was a person running in the woods on the side of the road. He stopped the cart and reached for his sword, thinking it was one of the Defias Brotherhood, a bandit. Then, he saw the green sheen to her skin and realized he was seeing an Orc for the first time in his life. She paused and stared at him for a moment. He stopped the cart and stared back, bewildered.
Bramwell thought, frantically, “What is an Orc doing in Ravenhill?”
The Orc sneered at him and released series of sharp grunts. Its voice sounded like a wild Goretusk trying to attract a mate. The very sound of the creature disgusted him. Still, he realized far too late that the Orc wasn’t looking at him, but was calling to the group on the other side of the cart.
Bramwell heard the bushes next to him rustling and grabbed his sword, but the group was on him immediately. Two more Orcs came out of the underbrush, followed by a large creature that resembled a rough cross between a human and a bull. Two creatures which resembled the undead he fought the previous night were also there, but they were waiting in the bushes. These had daggers and were brandishing them as though they knew how to use them quite well.
Still, Bramwell didn’t have time to take in the entire scene. By the time his sword was unsheathed and he was standing up to fight, the black, bull-like creature was already on the cart with him. The last thing Bramwell saw was the head of a huge hammer rushing towards his face with enough power pushing it forward to splinter a sapling.
Bramwell heard a sickening muffled snap, like the sound of a bone shattering inside of a dog’s jaws. He knew the sound came from his neck. Darkness was closing in around his eyes, but then he thought of his family. If the group of Horde creatures ended up at his house, his family would be helpless. They didn’t have even a sword for protection or another horse to use to escape. The thought made his blood boil and even as his mind seemed to drift away, somehow he realized that his body was still moving. He could hear the surprised grunts and squeals from his opponents and the thought gave him sick satisfaction. Everything was tinted in red and the thick smell of copper was misting in the air around him. Slowly, the red sight and smell overcame all of his emotions and thoughts, and Bramwell fell into darkness.
A woman’s scream awoke Bramwell from what felt like a terrible nightmare, he was lying down on a metal table and looking at a high stone ceiling. He tried get up, but his hands and feet were strapped down. Glancing around him made him want to panic. There were body parts hanging from the ceiling, littered around the room, and a giant abomination of flesh and bone was lying on a table next to him. Even though the creature appeared to be lifeless, for some reason he could easily imagine it getting up and lumbering around, and if it did he felt as though he would lose his mind.
Bramwell heard the woman screaming again, and an impatient voice said, “Just take the potion you stupid wench!”
The woman must’ve taken the potion because after a sick gurgling sound there was nothing but silence.
The voice said, “Interesting reaction.”
Bramwell strained to see who the voice belonged to, but he didn’t have to wait long as the voice’s owner approached him. Bramwell immediately recognized that the man was one of the living dead, like the ones he fought occasionally in the graveyard, but this creature was like none he had ever seen. He was a tall dead man with wild white hair sticking out in all directions and tinted green flesh. His eyes glittered with malice and intelligence and they seemed to glow yellow in the darkness. He was carrying an empty vial in his hand and was preoccupied with the alchemy set next to the table, but only for a moment.
He turned to Bramwell, “Awake at last, I see.”
Bramwell stammered, “Where am I?”
The undead creature responded, “You’re in the safest of places, My Friend. You’re in Undercity under the watchful eye of Our Lady. My name is Apothecary Grayson.”
Bramwell asked, “Have you been torturing me?”
Grayson said, “I see you don’t remember, as expected. No. I’ve liberated you from what you once were. You were what we call a Scourge, a mindless undead being controlled by demonic forces. You are now one of the Forsaken. You’re free.”
Bramwell frowned. He could vaguely remember feeling a savage rage and the thick taste of blood in his mouth. At the time, the taste was heavenly as though blood and flesh was all he wanted to live for—he shivered.
Grayson grinned and said, “I see you can remember a little.”
Bramwell shouted, “Where is my family?”
Grayson frowned and said, “You were alone when we found you. You died during our ambush, but none of us expected you would turn into a Scourge. Since you were so exceptionally strong and savage, I just had to have you. You killed one of the Orcs and nearly cleaved the Tauren in two before we could restrain you.”
Bramwell asked, “Why were you in Ravenhill?”
Grayson said, “We were on a mission from The Lady herself. She asked us to investigate reports that the Scythe of Elune was in the area. A female Night Elf was supposed to be travelling through Duskwood with the weapon.”
Bramwell asked, “But why did you kill me?”
Grayson said, “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were checking the roads to see if she was there and were about to meet up to report our findings when you saw one of our scouts. We couldn’t just let you go. It would jeopardize the mission.”
Bramwell snapped, “Well, was it worth it? Did you find it?”
Grayson shrugged and said, “No. You died in vain. One of your kind found the Scythe first. It had detrimental effects on the entire area. But, at least my personal project of freeing you was a complete success…”
Bramwell asked, “What do you mean it had detrimental effects? What happened?”
Grayson rolled his eyes, “It would only depress you.”
Bramwell said, “I have to know! Tell me, or I swear when you turn me loose I’ll kill myself and ruin your little project.”
Grayson said, “There’s no need to be dramatic. The Scythe summons wolf-like humanoids that are called Worgen. When the man found it, it started summoning them everywhere. Then, a wave of negative energy discharged from the weapon, coating the entire land. All of the trees died, and all the dead rose from their graves as Scourge.”
Bramwell asked, “The dead rose? How many? Where?”
Grayson said, “All of them, in every grave.”
Bramwell began to scream.
Grayson said, “I see. You must’ve been one of the caretakers of a cemetery. That would explain the bite that changed you. If you had a family, it would be best for you to forget them now. They can’t be alive if they lived anywhere near Ravenhill.”
Bramwell said, “That’s not true. You don’t know my wife. She’s strong. She would’ve saved my children. I have to get back.”
Grayson said, “Stop that struggling. You’re in no condition to travel back to Duskwood.”
Grayson’s eyes grew large as the restraints holding Bramwell began to break loose one by one. Bramwell screamed in pain as he pushed his muscles to the breaking point, and then pushed them even further.
Bramwell shouted, “I’m going even if I have to tear my own arms off!”
Grayson snapped, “Will you calm down for just one moment? Fine, I’ll let you go. But, you need to know where you’re going before you rush off and get yourself killed. I worked too hard to have you eaten by a wolf or something.”
Bramwell said, “Alright. But I’m going back to Duskwood no matter what you say.”
Grayson muttered, “You’ve yet to see what you look like. Even if your family is alive, they’ll never accept you.”
Bramwell asked, “What do you mean?”
Grayson said, “You’re one of us now. Allow me to show you.”
Grayson took a silver mirror from his desk and held it up to Bramwell. At first Bramwell wasn’t sure who the person looking back from the mirror even was. His skin was alabaster white. His eyes were mostly gone, but the sockets glowed like Grayson’s with a strange yellow light like the eye shine of an animal. His hair was still brown, but it was frayed. Still, his features were mostly the same.
Bramwell said, “You don’t know my family. They’ll accept me no matter what I look like.”
Grayson muttered, “I don’t know your family, but I know the living, and I know much better than to trust them. It seems you’ll learn that the hard way.”
Grayson removed Bramwell’s restraints, cursing to himself. Bramwell didn’t struggle and simply sat up when the restraints were gone.
Grayson leaned against his lab table and said, “I wanted to do The Lady a service by creating someone exceptional. I could tell that you have an iron will. That’s why I took you under my wing without simply dropping you off at the Sepulcher. ”
Bramwell said, “I’ll never be in your service.”
Grayson said, “You need to accept that you’re a new being now, like a newborn baby. Within days you’ll be able to pick up on all of the Horde languages, and forget the Common you’re speaking now.”
Bramwell said, “I find that hard to believe.”
Grayson said, “Believe what you want, but you’ll soon find everything I’ve said is true. It’s been three days since I saved you, and I was only able to get here that quickly because I knew a mage that owed me a favor. Ravenhill is already lost. You’ll be lucky to get there in a week. Do you still want to go?”
Bramwell said, “Yes. I have to know what happened to my family.”
Grayson sighed and said, “I don’t want my hard work to be in vain, otherwise I’d let you go without any help at all. There’s a town called Brill close by. I have a horse there…”
Grayson scrawled a note onto a piece of parchment and handed it to Bramwell then continued, “Take this to the stable hand and the he’ll let you borrow my horse for the journey. The safest way will be by zeppelin. You’ll see the zeppelin post nearby.”
Bramwell asked, “Wait a minute, a zeppelin? We’re across the sea?”
Grayson ignored him and said, “Stay on the road on the way to the post. Get on the zeppelin to Stranglethorn Vale and ride my horse all the way to Duskwood. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay on the road.”
Bramwell said, “Okay. Go to Brill, get the horse, take the Zeppelin to Stranglethorn and follow the road up to Duskwood.”
Grayson said, “My horse is fast. You may be able to shave a day or two off your journey if you don’t stop for any reason. I just want you to promise me one thing in return.”
Bramwell asked, “What?”
Grayson said, “When you realize I’m right, I want you to come back to me so I can train you. And for The Lady’s sake, don’t trust the humans. They’d sooner kill you than see you back with your family.”
Bramwell said, “You’re wrong. But, if my family is dead, I promise I’ll come back.”
Grayson said, “Then I’ll see you sooner than you think. Follow the signposts out of the city. Good luck.”
Bramwell rushed out of the room, only to be overwhelmed by the city around him. A slimy, green moat was so close in front of him that he almost fell into it. The area that he had just come from looked as though it was somehow alive, sporting a roof like the stomach of a terrible monster. Still, what shocked him most was seeing all of the Forsaken around him.
It seemed to him they were speaking gibberish at first, but he found the more he heard them, the more words he was able to pick out, as though the language was a bastardized version of Common. The undead seemed strangely human; selling wares, running errands, and going about their business. There were even other Horde races scattered among them, dancing, joking and talking.
Bramwell thought, “Maybe we were wrong about them. They don’t seem like animals now. No, I’m starting to think like one of them. It’s this disease rotting my brain. They’re just evil beasts that need to be put down.”
Bramwell wandered around, following the signposts until he approached the gate out of the city. The strange sights around him made him feel dizzy. For a moment, he thought he might be still feverish, that everything he was seeing was just a dream and in reality he was still trundling along the road in his cart. Still, he knew in his heart that everything was real.
Bramwell thought, “What Stormwind wouldn’t give to know about this place. Why, I know where I am, I’m in the ruins of Lordaeron. This is the throne room where Prince Arthas slew his Father. I’ll be a great asset to Stormwind. I can tell the King about the defenses here. They could even plan an assault through the cavern where those giant bats are ferrying people inside. I’ll pay Stormwind a visit after I find my family…”
Bramwell followed the road to Brill in thoughtful silence. When he reached Brill, once again he was struck by the fact the undead settlement looked just like a human township. There was an inn, shops, and even a city hall. The stableman gave Bramwell a suspicious glance as he handed him the paper. Then, he shrugged and pointed to a large undead horse with long spiral horns attached to its skull like decorations on steel barding. It seemed to paw at the dirt with eagerness as Bramwell hoisted himself into the saddle.
The Zeppelin Station loomed in the distance like a giant obelisk grave marker. Bramwell closed the distance easily on the swift creature and sighed with relief as he saw he was just in time to get on the zeppelin to Stranglethorn Vale.
A female goblin said something to him in the language of the undead. He didn’t catch it, but simply nodded his head as though he did.
She cleared her throat and said in Common, “Hon, you’ll have to stable your horse below deck for the trip.”
Bramwell said, “Okay. Sorry.”
She chuckled, “You ain’t from around here, are you?”
Bramwell said, “You could say that.”
She said, “Name’s Sasha Zimbolt. Yours?”
Bramwell muttered, “Bramwell.”
She said, “I’ve never met an undead that didn’t know Undercommon, but who am I to judge? Anyone’s money is always welcome.”
Bramwell felt around in his pockets, realizing he still had his money pouch.
He quickly pulled out a handful of copper and said, “Could you please tell me any news you know about Duskwood?”
Sasha’s eyes glittered with greed, and he noted that she had an almost attractive smile if it weren’t for her shark-like teeth.
As soon as the money dropped into her hand she said, “It’s a terrible place now. There are nothing but Scourge, Worgen, and criminals around Ravenhill. There’s still Grand Hamlet, but they call it Darkshire now.”
Bramwell said, “Suppose someone like me had to sneak in? What advice would you give him?”
She grinned again and said, “Well, first, I would tell him to put on a dark hooded robe so that no one would see his face. Then, I would say he should wear some cologne to mask his scent. And last, if he was riding a horse like yours, I’d say he should leave the horse behind when he gets there.”
Bramwell asked, “Where would he find those things?”
Sasha asked, “How much money do you have in that pouch?”
Bramwell said, “Only a few silver.”
Sasha said, “Look no further, then. I have perfume and cologne, and I have enough material to make a cloak on the way.”
Bramwell paid her the money and said, “Thank you. I think I’ll need all the help I can get.”
Bramwell mostly watched the ocean beneath him as he counted the days until they would arrive at Stranglethorn. Sasha talked to him while she worked. She seemed just as happy to hear his story as he was to tell it. She used an extra linen canvas for ship repairs to make him a cloak. By the time she finished dying the material black, he was surprised to see the ratty old canvas transformed into a well-tailored cloak and hood.
When the Stranglethorn coastline was in sight, Sasha said, “I hope you get to find your family. But, I have to agree with Grayson. Even if you find them, the other humans will never accept you.”
Bramwell said, “Humans are different than you think.”
She said, “I hope for your sake you’re right. Remember what I said about the tigers. If one follows you, eventually it’ll tire of chasing you. But, the jungle trolls are worse. A few arrows to your back won’t kill you, but trying to fight one of them will.”
Bramwell was sad for a moment as he waved goodbye, but the moment quickly passed as he entered the jungle. He could tell that Grayson had indeed saved his life by lending him his horse. Tigers chased him down narrow paths, clearly carved into the jungle with nothing but a machete. The jungle trolls chased him until his back felt like a pin cushion, but he didn’t even look back. After two full days of riding, he finally reached his destination, the edge of Duskwood Forest.
Sasha hadn’t exaggerated at all in her description. If anything she was being kind. Bramwell urged the horse in the direction of his house, ignoring the shambling hordes around him. Still, it seemed there wasn’t much left of his house to investigate. The roof had caved in, as though the very boards had decayed with the withered trees around it.
He opened what remained of the door, afraid at what he would find. The furniture was overturned, but there was no blood, so he quickly went outside. There were deep grooves carved into the muck near the house, meaning at least someone in his family probably escaped on horseback.
Bramwell froze as he heard a familiar voice behind him say, “Halt! Who are you stranger? What are you doing here?”
Bramwell didn’t turn but asked, “Sven, is that you?”
Sven stammered, “Bramwell? I thought you were dead.”
Bramwell turned slowly, “I am.”
Sven immediately reached for his sword, but Bramwell put his hands up and said, “I didn’t come here to fight. I just want to know what happened to my family.”
Sven asked, “Why should I trust you, Monster?”
Bramwell said, “Because it really is me. I’ll let you kill me if you have to, but tell me what I need to know first.”
Sven sighed and said, “Fine. After you disappeared, all Hell broke loose. Wolf monsters popped up everywhere, dead bodies started rising from their graves, and the Defias took advantage of the situation.”
Bramwell asked, “What about my family?”
Sven said, “They survived, but your wife took it really hard. Your children have become wards of Stormwind City. Even though you’re wife is alive, she can barely take care of herself.”
Bramwell asked, “Are you certain?”
Sven said, “Yes. Your wife managed to get the children on your horse and they rode all the way to Grand Hamlet. After what happened, well, it’s understandable how she reacted.”
Bramwell asked, “Where is she now?”
Sven said, “Stormwind as well. She’s become a priestess of the Light. She’s taken a vow of silence, but she hasn’t spoken a word since you disappeared anyway.”
Bramwell asked, “What happened to your family, Sven?”
Sven began to shake, “They were all murdered. I don’t know exactly what happened, but when I came back…”
Bramwell said, “I’m sorry.”
Sven said, “Stormwind abandoned us. They didn’t send any help. So, we created the Darkshire Watch, and we take care of ourselves now.”
Bramwell said, “Thank you for telling me. Don’t worry. Stormwind will change their tune when they hear what I have to say.”
Sven said, “You’re not going to Stormwind.”
Bramwell said, “I have to…”
Bramwell ducked just in time as Sven’s sword whistled through the air, right where his head had been a moment before.
Sven snapped, “You aren’t Bramwell. You might look like him, but you’re just like the rest of these monsters. I pity you, but not enough to put those poor kids through seeing a mockery of their Father!”
For a moment, Bramwell wanted to fight Sven, to tear at him with his bare hands until he was nothing but a tattered lump of flesh and bone. Instead, he ran to the undead horse and galloped as fast as he could away from the graveyard, trying to let the rage that was clouding his judgment fade away as he went. As he reached the border between Duskwood and Westfall, he realized Sven was no longer following him.
Bramwell thought, “Grayson was right. Even if my family accepts me, the other humans will never allow me to stay with them. But, I can’t leave here without saying goodbye to them either. I’ll write a letter to them, and if I can get Sven to send it, I’ll let him kill me afterwards.”
Bramwell carefully kept to the shadows, keeping his glowing eyes pointed at the ground. Eventually, he saw a light ahead, and realized it was a group of the Darkshire Watch. He was about to sneak around them, when he heard his name, and decided to listen, instead. Sven was talking to his best friend, Lars.
Lars asked, “But what did you tell him?”
Sven said, “What could I tell him? I lied and told him his family was in Stormwind. You didn’t see him, Lars.”
Lars said, “But his wife is only staying in town because she thinks he’s still alive…”
Sven said, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t know. I told him she was mentally incapable for caring for the children and joined a convent.”
Lars said, “Good thinking. Can you imagine if he showed himself to her?”
Sven said, “Better for her to die not knowing than to live with the shame of it.”
Bramwell shook with rage. As he did, he noticed a strange ball of black and green light growing in his fingertips. He had a feeling that he could hurl the ball at one of the people in the group and their conversation would stop along with their heart. Still, he somehow managed to calm down, and the light faded away.
Bramwell thought, “My Father was right. It seems Darkness is serving me now...”
Bramwell moved with single-minded determination towards Darkshire, staying in the woods to make sure he wouldn’t be seen. When he saw the lights ahead of him, he gave the city a wide berth until he reached the back of the inn and dismounted from his horse.
Bramwell thought, “I’ll sneak into the cellar. If I can sneak past the cooks, I should be able to blend in with the other customers.”
Bramwell opened the cellar door, shivering at the quiet and darkness around him. Even though he could easily see through the darkness, it was as though the every footstep he made echoed around him. Still, he snuck halfway up the stairs. He could see the cook busying himself near the fire. As soon as his back was turned, Bramwell skirted up the rest of the stairs and rushed into the tavern area.
The tavern was strangely silent. For a moment, Bramwell entertained the idea that Sven had somehow known he was listening in on their conversation and had set him up. Then he noticed the demeanor of the guests around him. Everyone at the tavern was staring into the bottom of a bottle. All of them had lost more than they wished to talk about. The only conversation came from Innkeeper Trelayne, who was gossiping to someone who had walked into the front door. Bramwell simply stepped towards the staircase to the rooms, glancing at the floor and shuffling his feet as though he was tired. No one stopped him.
Bramwell walked down the hall and paused when he saw her through the crack in the door at the end of the hallway. His wife was sitting at a table in the study, resting her head against her arms, asleep. As he gently pushed the door open further, he could see the boys asleep in the bed in the adjacent room. There were dark bags under Grace’s eyes from crying, and for a moment Bramwell almost walked out of the room, thinking Sven was right. Before he could, she opened her eyes.
Grace stammered, “A ghost…”
Bramwell said, “I’m not a ghost, Grace. It’s me.”
Grace asked, “Bramwell?”
Bramwell said, “I had to see you. I knew I couldn’t rest until I did. I shouldn’t have come.”
Grace rushed towards him and embraced him. Her warm flesh made him gasp in surprise, just as his cold flesh made her gasp as well.
Grace said, “You’re alive. The children will be so happy…”
Bramwell said, “I can’t let them see me like this. Grace, I just came to say goodbye.”
Grace said, “Like I would let you go.”
Bramwell said, “Look at me, Grace.”
Grace looked up at him, and for a moment she flinched away in fear. It was as though she was really seeing him for the first time.
Grace’s eyes welled up with tears, “I see. But, I don’t care. I love you.”
Bramwell said, “I love you too, but you know we can’t be together. I want you to tell the children that I love them, and I want you to tell them that I came to you as a ghost to bring this back.”
Bramwell lifted the medallion from his neck and put it around hers.
Grace looked at the floor and muttered, “Okay.”
Bramwell took his money bag from his pocket and said, “There isn’t much left, but use what’s left to buy Bertram’s peppermints. I promised…”
Grace said, “You have to say goodbye to them, Bram.”
Bramwell said, “I want to, but what if they wake up?”
Grace said, “They won’t. They’re exhausted.”
Bramwell went into the room and walked slowly around the bed. He kissed Garret on the forehead and Bertram on the cheek. Bertram stirred in his sleep and pulled the covers closer to his face.
Bramwell whispered, “I’m sorry. I know my lips are cold. I love you, Boys. Take good care of your Mother for me.”
Grace whispered, “They won’t have to. I’ll make sure all of us are safe. Now that I know what happened to you, I can take them away from here.”
Bramwell said, “I love you, Grace. I’m so sorry.”
He kissed her gently on the lips, the way a person might kiss a corpse goodbye, and then walked slowly out of the room, but not before he felt Grace put the chain back around his neck, and dangling from it was her wedding ring.
Grace said, “I love you too. Please, wear that so you can remember me.”
Bramwell said, “I won’t ever take it off.”
Bramwell continued down the staircase, with feelings of peace and numbness spreading over him. He didn’t even look at the men at the tavern or bother to stay away from the cook. He was sure that if they did notice him, they didn’t want to acknowledge what they saw. He rode away in a trance, wandering for days until he reached the zeppelin post and boarded the zeppelin back towards Undercity.
Sasha asked, “Did you find them? Were they alive?”
Bramwell muttered, “Yes, but you were right. The others didn’t let me stay.”
Sasha asked, “But, you got to say goodbye?”
Bramwell said, “Yes. It helps to know they would’ve accepted me.”
He clasped the ring around his neck, wishing he could weep.
Bramwell said, “If I wasn’t such a coward I would’ve let Sven kill me before I left.”
Sasha said, “Don’t think of this as the end, Bramwell, it’s a new beginning.”
Bramwell concentrated on his hand for a moment and noticed the strange ball of black and green light was beginning to form again.
Bramwell muttered, “You know, maybe you’re right.”
As Bramwell entered the Alchemy lab, Grayson dropped the potion he was holding in surprise.
Grayson stammered, “You came back. Did you accomplish what you wanted?”
Bramwell said, “Yes. You were right. My family was dead, and I’ve coped with my death. I’m here to stay.”
Grayson grinned and said, “Excellent. Let’s get started.”