The Rebirth of Zhill
As a disclaimer, I must say that certain names of places, races, and other material appear in this story for which Blizzard and World of Warcraft completely deserve credit. I have merely attempted to create my own story based off concepts depicted in that game for no other reason than personal entertainment and expression of creativity. All credit for material that, likewise, relates to Guild Wars 2 should go to ArenaNet and should not be considered in any way in the same way as those elements that are my original work.
So read it for enjoyment and nothing else and don't sue me. Kthx!
As an explanatory first post, I will say this will be a fanfic. My goal here is to connect the character I loved so much with the new character I love so much, those being my WoW Rogue with my GW2 Slyvari Warrior.
Yes it will take some very creative liberties to jump from that world into this one, but I just can't make a new "Zhill". It wouldn't be right. So then I have to find some way to connect them. This will be the log of his life (or unlife since he was undead), death in the world of GW2, and rebirth as a Sylvari. This obviously breaks certain aspects of the lore. But I say "screw lore!" Seriously I have a way to tie it in that should be at least half-way acceptable.
One last piece of info before I begin. I came up with the name "Zhill" when I was using WoW's random name generator. I dont remember what the suggestion was, but imagine it was something like Zilitus. I tried to shorten it to Zil, but that was too short. Zill was taken. So, throw in an "h" and a legend is born.
Table of Contents
- Part 1: Unlife
- Part 2: The Shadow Embraced/Human Foe
- Part 3: Invasion
- Part 4: Trespasser
- Part 5: Hero
- Part 6: Calm
- Part 7: Storm
- Part 8: The end...
- Part 9: ...of the beginning
- Part 10: Rebirth
Part 1: Unlife
Mirky clouded thoughts. But most definitely rage.
Like a beam of light peircing a dark room, furious rage boiled within, making its presence known even through the fog in his mind.
Words were spoken, but he could not comprehend them. Someone, appearing only as a dark blot on his vision was standing before him with hand extended. He wiped his eyes and wobbled as he stood to his feet.
"Zhill," the voice said, much more clearly. A tingling sensation passed over him and instantly his senses began to sharpen. "Go forth and serve the Forsaken." More driven than compliant, Zhill, immediately sensing that the name was his own as it was spoken, shambled forward out of the dark and molded crypt into black night. Though there not a moon visible in the sky, he found that everything he could see seemed more perceptible as if illuminated by some invisible light.
A wolf. It crept silently towards rotted buildings that were decrepit from time and abandonment, but Zhill had seen it. Possessed by the burning fire that demanded satiation, Zhill sprinted to the wolf and pounced upon its back, stabbing clawed fingers deeply into its throat causing hot sticky blood to spew. Though it tried to struggle, soon it was lying motionless as he bit into its side and tore flesh away, exposing steaming organs to the cold night air. Feasting ravenously upon its innards, Zhill had no thought than the quenching of the madness that had seized him.
The sensation began to pass as blood pooled around him, kneeling at the creatures belly, and Zhill sat back looking at a gaping hole that looked more like a wound that had errupted from within. Slowly his senses began to return and he gazed down at pale white hands covered in thick red blood. Instantly slapping his hands to his face, he knew, somehow, that it was not his own. As the horror set in, he could not keep himself from uttering his thoughts aloud.
"Who am I?"
"What have I become!?
The dark of night, as he would grow to learn, was very slow to give up what secrets it held.
Part 2: The Shadow Embraced/Human Foe
Zhill stood after time beyond measure had passed, more drawn by internal guiding than an act of his own will. Proceeding into one of the shambled buildings, he found others that looked as he supposed he did: skin that had seemingly been bleached white for many years, but without the telltale indicators of age such as wrinkles or skin spots. Bone was visible on many, whether it was an appendage no longer covered by skin or an odd protrusion elsewhere on the body. Yet all shared the same black lifeless eyes.
Though one stood at the end of this abandoned hall serving as some sort of guide or overseer and speaking words to him, they did not penetrate the tangled cluster of his thoughts. As his body turned to set out on its new course to fulfill these new orders, his mind continued to wander, clinging desperately to the fading echo of he felt must be his previous life.
He had been someone else. He was sure of it. He could almost summon images from his weakening memory before his mind's eye. But they remained just out of reach. As he continued walking towards a cave entrance, the thoughts faded further and further away while the bond that held his soul strengthened its grip. Within moments he could not even remember what he had been trying to remember, and instead focused on the shiny black objects moving in the distance.
Spiders, something within reminded him. A nest had been established in proximity to the desolate village the Forsaken had claimed for their own. They stood as a representation of an obstacle to progress and had to be eliminated. Creeping silently towards the cave entrance and the insects that were nearly half as large as himself, Zhill was indeterably focused. Stepping out from a thin wedge of shadow to their flank, Zhill took advantage of the element of surprise.
Instantly one of them had fallen and was writhing violently on the ground, two of its legs lazily spewing thick black blood into the lifeless soil. Zhill flashed the old dagger he had again, and sliced the gut of the creature wide open. The other spider had hesitated, moving in a lateral motion in response to this new threat. It had intended to circle around this predator, but instead the movement was perfectly anticipated. A feinting strike from the blade caused the spider to step quickly in the opposite direction as Zhill had expected. Moving deftly, he stepped behind the rounded body of the creature and drove his dagger deep into its back, the point protruding out of its belly. Though the spider tried to free itself as it emitted a screeching, high pitched wail, it was useless because the blade had stuck in the ground pinning it there.
Removing the blade without a thought of cleaning it, Zhill left the beast to die alone as its blood stained the ground in a wide dark circle. Stepping into the complete darkness of the cave he felt a burning in his soul. If one yet remained within him. Death had brought to him new life, and the raging fire now surged up from some dark place as he announced himself to the world: "I am Zhill! I am the Shadow of Death!"
Zhill sat motionlessly at the thick trunk of a shrubbery listening to their conversation. Humans. Their stench would be unbearable if it were not for the sweet nectar that pumped through their veins. They were a plague on the land and worthy of nothing more than serving as food for the Forsaken. Having been told of a group that had recently attempted to breach their territory, Zhill had come to turn the tide.
Though his memory was gone, he had been able to retain a single glimmer. A spark of something that was altogether not as he was now. And he thrust that ember deep into his being, wary that some magic might try to unloose it. Because he could no longer understand it, and to give no thought that he was not the same as other Forsaken, he embraced this new body and its purpose with a sickened delight. Even when spiders, wolves, and other creatures formed with distorted bodies by some wicked magic, had assaulted him, he had been unstoppable. There was never a sensation of pain to hold him back and his rage had allowed him to push beyond others of his kind often.
Even death could not restrict him. When a small band of animated skeletons had severed his limbs and beat him to the ground, this new life had not failed him. Though it occurred slowly, his body had mended itself and, in time, he had his vengeance. Now he sat glaring at these pitiful creatures he swore would fall at his hand.
The humans were not like other creatures. They were too given to fear. The few that he had already slain had died with faces petrified in horror. He had only taken them one at a time, but he knew that they could not provide an adequate challenge due to the weakness of their own timidity. This encounter would be brief.
As Zhill closed in, he could hear them speaking in hushed tones that betrayed them. He did not need to be within arm's reach to tell that the cloak of night that had enveloped them had put them on edge, imagining horrible creatures waiting in the dark to take them. Yet he was close; close enough to warm himself by the same fire they had made, though they remained oblivious to his presence. Moving into position, he let his festering rage bubble to the surface as he whispered, "Death takes you."
Before the closest man could react, Zhill had deeply slashed his eyes and retreated back into shadow. The man blindly groped at his face in pain as his two companions stood immobilized in fear. Almost invisibly, he struck the next in the throat, sending a full spray of blood over the small fire where it boiled with a loud hiss. It was then, as two lay on the ground defeated, that Zhill stepped into the light of the fire to face the third man. He stood holding a drawn sword which quivered in the air as he proceeded to urinate on himself uncontrollably.
"You can not out run your shadow," Zhill said softly with dreadful malice. The man instantly dropped his weapon and fled, but the darkness could not save him. Quickly drawing his arm back, Zhill flung his dagger with deadly accuracy, not waiting to watch it land with a dull thunk as it deeply penetrated the man's skull.
Drawing his other dagger, he thrust it into an eye socket of his first victim, silencing his cries for help. Searching the two at the fire yielded a note that he found very interesting. It spoke of a fortress nearby which commanded these human forces. One of their champions had lead a band of them into Forsaken territory to "purge the ill stain." Zhill knew, as he retrieved both of his knives, that this information would be rewarded by those that had sent him. Sprinting off into the moonless night, Zhill found himself strangely without any sense of delight at the thought of fulfilling his orders with such success. The only sensation that lingered in his dark soul was the thirst for Death.
Part 3: Invasion
Zhill had stopped momentarily on his journey south, leaving a nearly literal trail of bodies along the way. He fumed silently as he rested though he needed no rest, another advantage of this new life. He was virtually unstoppable, or at least he felt so. He did not sleep, rarely experienced muscle fatigue, and only needed to answer the pangs of hunger occasionally to maintain his strength. But this benefit could not quell his wrathful disappointment, which was largely to blame for the prolific destruction that lingered like the wake of his passing.
The chance to strike should have been his. After all, he had discovered the news about the human stronghold, now known to be a monastery just a short distance from the ruined keep the Forsaken had claimed for their own called Undercity. Yet he had not been deemed suitable for the task. He could not help but feel insulted, and reasonably dealt out his vengeance upon any living creature he came across as he traveled to his new destination. It was not that he cared for honor, prestige, or other simulations of humanity. He knew such things were passed. It was the lost opportunity to wreak further havoc against the invading humans that turned him towards a reckless pursuit of carnage.
The town's name was Southshore, and he was told that it was an important port for humans to bring in supplies and additional soldiers. As he surveyed the sleepy village in the hours of pre-dawn, it seemed as peaceful as a graveyard. Off in the shadows Zhill caught a flicker of movement that would have been invisible to any but their kind. Moving quietly through the low grass, he joined another who looked like himself, while altogether different. This one was adorned by a tall mohawk and eyes which matched Zhill's in color, but were far more fierce. “Who are you and what brings you here?”
There was no question of loyalty, for all had been taught that one could not be as they were and defy the will of the Forsaken. “I am Zhill. I am the Shadow of Death. And I seek the blood of any pitiful creature unfortunate enough to be found in my gaze. If you seek to attack this village, then let me spill much blood at your side." Looking off towards the sleepy community, he continued: "This will be...delicious!” The other, silently unsheathing a large sword, raised it high into the early morning air, signaling the small invading force. Though there were scarcely more than twenty that noiselessly crept up to join them, Zhill knew that if their determination was half of his own, the town would be in ashes before daybreak.
“The Shadow of Death leads us,” the other had spoken back to his band, indicating the beginning of things. Understanding without being directly told, Zhill slinked off g the town that seemed oblivious to his presence. Though a few were going about their daily chores, none noticed as he lurked from shadow to shadow, piercing further and further into the town. When he had nearly reached its epicenter, he stopped to light a small torch that would serve as the signal for those that followed him.
Looking around the corner, he spotted two guards standing watch in what he supposed was the town hall. All appearances indicated that they were numbly serving their duty without any sense of immediacy. Stepping back behind the building, he hurled the torch high into the air where it arced to the wooden roof of a stable. Within seconds it would be ablaze. As Zhill turned back to observe the two sleepy guardsmen, his eye caught something that his mind challenged him to recognize. When he looked again, there was nothing. But it was a sort of nothing that seemed out of place.
Utilizing a trick he had taught himself, he whipped his gaze back and forth over the spot that was bothering him, watching as the trees and buildings blurred. Yet a single spot had not. Now he could clearly see the distortion of some man-sized figure perched beside one of the buildings, yet it was nearly altogether invisible. It was a trap. Somehow, these humans had known. Quickly turning his gaze towards the stable, he saw a sliver of black smoke snaking into the sky. It was too late.
The invading band had not come in yelling and screaming, as their incompetent foes would, but were already breaching the edge of the town in silence. There would be no warning of the invasion. There was only one action to take and only a moment in which to take it. Hurling a dagger with deadly power, he struck what he had thought was this man, but turned out to be some sort of large cat, as it fell from its invisible cloak dead. Pulling his short sword, Zhill charged the crouching figure, an elven archer who took aim, yelling as loudly as he could.
Before he reached his target, he had been struck twice in the chest with arrows. Yet his decision had proved fruitful. Expecting a wave of attackers much like themselves, men in armor poured from the hall expecting to see a mass of enemies. Zhill could see the surprised confusion on their faces when they saw only one, struggling to reach this elf as he was continually peirced with arrows. They nearly broke out into laughter. Until the horrific shrieks of women and children forcibly brought to the end of their lives pierced the morning sky.
As the failure to surprise registered, the invaders had changed their targets. Now inside the buildings, Zhill could imagine them ruthlessly slaughtering defenseless humans who died in abject terror. Stricken with panic, the humans scattered like an upturned bee hive, desperately seeking to protect their loved ones. The elf, seeing Zhill fall to the ground, foolishly decided to come and taunt him as he died.
“Wretched creature,” he sneered. “May you be banished back to the grave.”
Zhill, expecting such haughtiness from an elf, had waited patiently, showing a weaker hand than he possessed. “You first,” he rasped as he leapt to his feet and wickedly slashed his throat. With the chaos of the invasion, he was barely noticed as he held the elf's chin and watched him spasm with the throes of death. When he had nearly expired, Zhill let him fall to the ground and then thrust his sword through his skull deep into the ground. “Who is wretched now?”
Quickly retrieving the thrown blade, Zhill paused to look at the battle underway. His only kin fought from the protected corridors of the buildings as the humans poured themselves at the entrances, hoping to force their way in. But battle was no stranger to Zhill, and he could see plainly that the day would be lost. Sprinting off towards the docks, he left the clamour of battle behind him as he pulled the arrows from his body and cast them into the water. Jumping into a small boat, he pushed himself from shore and allowed the tide to take him out. The invasion had been poorly planned, and was only nearly salvaged by his own serendipitous arrival. The Forsaken, for all their conspiring, would never reach that for which they aspired. As he slowed his breathing to match the lazy lapping of the water against the craft, Zhill wondered if perhaps the will of the Forsaken was not as indomitable as his own.
Part 4: Trespasser
Zhill awoke slowly, the sounds of water rushing against the shore and the gentle rocking of the boat drawing him from sleep. He wondered how long he had been unconscious as he shielded his eyes from the bright afternoon sun. Though his thoughts were still muddled, he could hear a distorted babbling off in the distance. Sitting up in the craft, he sensed that his body had rested well from the previous encounter, and it was just as well.
Turning his eyes to scan the horizon, Zhill discovered that the current had carried him into some sort of bay that was much too close to a village for his comfort. The sound, taking shape much like a blurry image drawing near, turned out to be the hustle and bustle of a small dwarven community. Instantly and noiselessly he exited the boat and perched in stillness next to a large tree. He was far enough from the ancient stone structures that he had not yet been seen, yet he realized that, in order to get safely away, he would have to remain undetected.
As he began moving eastward towards a mountain pass that would lead him to safer regions in the south, he was relieved to discover that most of the local populous stayed close to home. There were a few men in full suits of armor that seemed to either position themselves at certain points on the outskirts of the village, or patrolled up and down the road that ran through the area. But otherwise the landscape was serene. And still, not one observed even the slightest trace of his passing.
When he had finally reached the entrance to the high mountains that served as the entrance of the pass, he allowed himself a moment of self-praise. Though the trip had taken him several hours due to the slow stealthy speed at which he had traveled, and he had been keenly focused nearly to the point of paranoia, he was now completely reassured. Underestimating the distance from his position to the pass, Zhill allowed himself to relax as he stood; an act he would regret for the rest of his unnatural life.
He did not understand the words that had been spoken, but he knew their tone: righteous fury. Turning, Zhill saw a stout dwarf pull down the face guard on his helm as he charged in wielding a large blade that was nearly as long as himself. By the markings on his armor, Zhill immediately recognized him as a paladin, a knight dedicated to holy service. A short distance behind him was an elven woman carrying a staff with a holy symbol at the top: a priest. The pair caused him to seethe in rage. As the dwarf closed to strike, Zhill pulled a small pouch from his belt and threw it to the ground were it exploded in a cloud of pale yellow smoke. Though the paladin swung his blade with great fury, it found no target.
Zhill, as if carried by a streak of lightning, suddenly appeared behind the female, striking her head violently with the hilt of his dagger. He watched with ravenous delight as she fell to one knee. Visibly dazed, but only for a moment. It would be enough.
With a few short, powerful strides Zhill had covered the distance between himself and the dwarf, who continued to slice through the smoke at an enemy that was not there. Zhill found it almost too easy to position himself behind him and slide his blade between the plates of his armor where it pierced some internal organ. He guessed it to be a lung.
Though wounded, the paladin turned with a start and thrust his sword powerfully forward, violently spearing Zhill cleanly through his side. As Zhill clutched at the blade, attempted to slide it backwards out of his stomach, the dwarf took the opportunity to deftly remove his helmet as he coughed up blood. He began speaking again, sensing that he had won a great victory.
The paladin had paused, and that was all Zhill needed. Still impaled by his sword, Zhill looked up with a wicked grin. The blow had been significant, and he though he had suffered more serious wounds before, there hadn't been many. However, none had yet stopped him cold. As the dwarf's face twisted with confused horror, Zhill slashed his dagger across his throat in a blur. He continued to stare menacingly as hot sticky blood sprayed from the dwarf's throat covering his pale white face. The blade had been poisoned, but this one would not live to be wracked by its effects. The paladin fell to the ground clutching his throat with both hands as blood continued to spray in a pulsing sputter from the gaping wound. Zhill's smile only grew more broad as his mouth opened and his tongue began to slither out. The dwarf tried to mutter frightened curses but his voice had gone. Tears began to form as though he knew what was about to come, and he mouthed the word "mercy". Grabbing the dwarf's beard roughly and pulling his face close, Zhill shook his head from side to side slowly, indicating how much mercy he would give.
With mouth opened, Zhill bit furiously at his face, his teeth sinking deeply into his right cheek. With a twist of his head, he tore away flesh and began to chew on it as the paladin's right eye fell from its socket. Even though his mouth was nearly full, blood running sloppily down his chin, Zhill prepared to continue his meal but he was knocked to the ground by a sharp burning blast at his shoulders.
Standing quickly to retaliate, he saw the elf ready herself to attack again. Zhill, however, considered that she may not have ever seen a companion chewed up like jerky, as a look of terror swept across her face. Not wasting a moment, Zhill flung his arm forward, hurling his dagger with deadly accuracy. Yet, instead of striking the woman's throat as it should have, it bounced harmlessly off some invisible shield. Burning with an insatiable desire to kill, he charged recklessly at the woman as she fired another white bolt at his chest. It seared with a pain greater than anything he had before experienced, but his momentum carried him forward. Clawing wildly, his hands were deflected by whatever invisible force the woman had summoned. Though she tried to avert her eyes, the elf looked back at Zhill when he ceased his flailing.
Spitting the contents of his mouth at her, they both watched in silence as the bits of skin and spittle slid slowly down the magic shield towards the earth. "You can not hide from the Shadow of Death," Zhill threatened in a raspy voice. Though he was content to wait her out, the shot from a rifle drew his attention. Looking in the distance, he saw a group of dwarves running to the woman's aid. Knowing this was not a fight he could win, Zhill casually retrieved his dagger and walked over to the paladin who still lay on the ground convulsing. Reaching down and ripping more meat from his face as leisurely as one might pick an apple, he turned back with a smile and said "A snack for later." The woman, stricken with fear, looked back to see how close the others were before readying another blast. But when she turned again she was alone with her dying companion.
Sprinting silently through the mountain pass, Zhill popped the bit of dwarven flesh into his mouth with a smile. He would live to kill another day.
Part 5: Hero
His journey had taken him longer than his mind, weakened from lack of water and food, could recall. But Zhill had finally reached a desert so desolate than none of the allies of the humans dared to enter. Though his strength was as empty as the horizon, Zhill's body had mended its wound. And he had gained a sword as a trophy from it as well. He had traveled far on a single mouthful of dwarven meat, and now his ribs protruded like the cacti around him as he trudged onward, hoping to find some safe haven.
After walking for what seemed like hours, a collection of buildings appeared in the distance. Though he initially believed it to be a mirage, his unconquerable will drove him onward. As he drew near, Zhill saw a few single story building centered around a much larger hall from which several figures exited. Plodding closer, becoming weaker with each step, Zhill shuffled towards them as they watched in silence. The only sound other than the whistle of the wind was that of his feet scraping the earth, leaving behind ragged footprints as he closed with the thin wedge of shade the tall building provided. When he finally escaped the sun's glare, he put his hands on his knees as he bent over and breathed wildly. Without looking up, he announced himself with a hushed "Hi."
The assembly, a mixture of orcs, trolls, and cow-like tauren, stood glaring in judgment. It was the way of the Horde: the rag-tag union always demanded that respect be earned rather than given. A wide tauren stepped forward from the back of the group and stood towering over Zhill. The cow-like beast looked as strong as he was large, and he spoke with a deep voice that rumbled with confidence. "What business does the Forsaken have in the Badlands?"
He just wanted a morsel of food, and something to drink, and then he would distance himself from this mob that leered at him with disgust. He could only imagine how he appeared, with dried blood still caked on his face. Only, Zhill was too exhausted to care about their games. "I..." He tried to speak but the words died in his parched throat.
Still doubled over, Zhill was caught off guard when a small metal flask appeared before his eyes. Reaching out to take it, he was in slight awe as he looked at how tiny his thin skeletal hand seemed against this tauren's huge furry fist. Quickly taking a deep gulp, he found the strength to speak. "I am Zhill, and I only seek refuge."
Wiping the sand from his eyes, Zhill looked up to see the mob whispering among themselves. "Your lies wont extend your life," the tauren threatened as he drew a monstrous double bladed axe.
His rage instantly boiled. He was as tired of political maneuvering and power games as the undead could possibly be. Summoning the last of his strength, he stood upright, starred the large warrior in the eyes. "I am Zhill! I am the Shadow of Death! Let me pass or I shall feast on every one of your weak souls!"
Time seemed to stop as silence fell on the group. Even the wind seemed to be waiting to see what would happen next. Zhill waited, too weakened to act but unwilling to let them think otherwise. The tauren leaned closely, his nose nearly touching Zhill's as he whispered, "You're every bit as mad as they say, aren't you?"
"Most likely," Zhill responded, unsure of what else to say. He nearly jumped with fear when the tauren exploded in bellowing laughter and punched his shoulder hard enough to knock him to the ground. "Fate has shined on us brothers," the large warrior exclaimed as he turned back to the group. "The Scourge of Southshore brought to our doorstep at such a time as this!" Reaching back a big meaty hand, the tauren effortlessly pulled Zhill to his feet. "Make room for our brother!"
"We thought you to be a legend," the tauren explained as Zhill gazed at him quizzically. "The pride of the Horde welcomes you, Shadow of Death." It was a name he had taken for himself in his insane pursuit of carnage. Zhill had never imagined that it would become a reputation that preceded him. "If you hunger for blood," the tauren continued as they walked into the large hall, "then you shall have a feast in deed. For tomorrow night we plan to ravage the humans while they sleep in their fortified city of Stormwind." Zhill had heard of the place, but had never heard of any of the Forsaken daring to even approach its borders. "Our plan requires the....special talents of one such as you, and we would be honored if you would join us."
As others came up to him, shaking his hand and welcoming him, Zhill felt a profound sense of significance that he had never found with the Forsaken. As if sensing the call of destiny, he submitted wholly to the circumstances into which he had been thrust. "Count me in."
Part 6: Calm
Zhill had not noticed initially, but gradually he began to sense that the bond that they held over him was weakening. Though he had thought he was merely carried along by the bond of the Forsaken like a leaf on a stream, he realized that he had been free to go along with the invasion plan by exercise of his own will. He did not know what they had done in raising him from the dead, but he could tell that the magic was only strengthened in the proximity of other Forsaken. It had been several weeks since he had last seen any of his kind and, for a moment, he almost felt free. It had caused Zhill to smile with a toothy grin that would likely have caused young children to die of fright.
“Its a Summoning Stone,” the warlock had explained before Zhill had departed. “Just loft it into the air as you call my name, and I shall appear.” He had traveled with a scouting part deep into dwarven territory with the stone secured in one of his pouches. There he was lead to a cavern that was so well hidden that even he did not see it until it was pointed out to him. The scouts had informed him of how they had tunneled from the bottom of the cave into an underground passageway that ran between Ironforge and Stormwind. There in that dark passage, the Horde would assemble and strike out at the humans. For quite a while, Zhill sat there considering casting the stone aside and returning to the Forsaken, but the allure of freedom ultimately won over him.
Having found a portion of the tunnel that was especially dark, Zhill had summoned the warlock. In less than an hour scores of shadows filed the tunnel as the one he had summoned called forth another warlock, who in turned summoned another as the first began summoning his companions. Zhill stood watching in amazement as more figures appeared with a distinct popping sound. Though there were many orcs, trolls, and tauren, he was the only one of his kind present, a fact that did not discourage him in the slightest. As he stood by waiting for what would come next, a dark shape loomed in front of him. “How fares the Shadow?”
Zhill looked up with a wicked grin upon recognizing the large tauren warrior. “I am ready. This will be glorious.” “Glorious indeed,” the tauren exclaimed with a short but deep laugh. “I have spoken with our Captain and he has told me that you are to lead us in.” Though he didn't care much for formality, Zhill could not ignore the honor of being first to draw blood. “The entrance is this way,” he remarked as he walked further down the passageway.
The small army proceeded up the tunnel calmly, secure in the knowledge that it had been blocked off by a magical ward on the far side. There would be no reinforcements, and by the time a message was passed, the city would already be in ruins. As they approached the large door that separated the tunnel system from the city, the air was still with anticipation. An orc, shorter but also wider than himself, passed among the crowd giving last instructions to the leaders of the various groups of the force. As he finally approached the gate, Zhill was plainly aware of the orc's right to lead. The fierce warrior had a gaze that nearly startled him, and would likely put great fear in any of his enemies. “Years of planning have gone into this assault,” he said in a gruff and scratchy voice. “It is fitting that we should be lead by the Shadow of Death.” He smiled broadly showing his yellowed teeth as Zhill considered how to respond. Drawing both of his daggers, he nodded to the orc, showing his readiness. “I will open the door and then you proceed,” he instructed. “Go far and deep, striking terror in their hearts, and know that the strength of the Horde is behind you.”
The moment had been created for him. Destiny had carried Zhill to this point in time, he was sure of it. As he crouched in anticipation, he sensed the greatness that had been thrust upon him. Zhill licked his lips quickly as the orc gripped the wide oak handle to the door.
When he pulled it open, a rush of foul air wafted by the waiting mob. Zhill had begun sprinting the moment there had been enough space for him to pass, but nearly came to a stop when he saw a wall of armored men up ahead. Almost without though, Zhill cast a pouch from his side towards the end of the passageway that lead out into the city where it exploded into a billowing yellow cloud of smoke. As the humans erupted in a fit of coughing, Zhill weaved through the line, slashing in every direction he could before sprinting to an alleyway across the street. He paused dumbly in the shadows as a thunderous roar echoed behind him. “They knew we were coming,” Zhill muttered to himself. Turning back towards the others, he watched as the line of defenders began to buckle against the mass that poured against them. In a moment the first wave had been broken. But before the invaders could spread out further, the writhing army was confronted by a second and larger wave of humans, dwarves, and elves. Zhill was transfixed as he saw bolts of magic fly in every direction and warriors collided with each other with a horrendous ring of steel against steel. This is what he had come for. This was the hour when Death would reign. Suddenly, the spark that he had rammed deep into his dark soul forced a question to the surface: “To what end?”
Years of planning to strike at a foe that had been warned of their coming. Even his own recent addition to the plot, a quest for more bloodshed and destruction, seemed meaningless. Though the warlocks continued to summon their allies, the battle would be a stalemate. Much blood would be shed and may would die on both sides, “But what will change,” his thoughts questioned him.
The futility of his hatred towards humans instantly overwhelmed him. As much as the sense of free will, had exhilarated him, Zhill now felt empty and completely without purpose. Was this his destiny? Had he been brought to this moment to cast his life away like a pawn? Another meaningless casualty in an endless conflict whose beginnings had been forgotten? Zhill began to sweat profusely as his soul came under the burden of the lives he had extinguished in the name of this frivolous fight. Only the sound of a sniffle returned his thoughts to the moment at hand.
Zhill turned to see a small girl with pointed ears looking at him fearfully. Though he had witnessed others as they became paralyzed with fear in his presence, this was different. Through the pitch black depravity in which his soul had been plunged, a single thought resonated, “I am a monster.”
As he sheathed his blades, hoping to quell her fears, the girl began to cry loudly. Feeling a dripping on his cheek, Zhill brought his hand to his face to discover that fresh warm tears were streaming from his eyes. Yet it was quickly interrupted by pain.
White hot pain.
Zhill was gripped by the sensation that his very bones were being boiled inside his skin. As he tried to stand, every muscle screamed in agony. A horrid stench filled his nostrils, washing over him with waves of nausea. The odor which nearly caused him to wretch was that of his own searing skin. As he shouted with pain, his cry was echoed by the little girl who now cowered behind another. Looking up, Zhill's eyes locked with the female elf he had previously encountered. She gazed upon him with pure disgust and hatred as currents of anguish flooded his soul. “Im sorry,” he whispered with deep remorse.
She knew that she alone did not posses the power to destroy him, and he no longer had a desire to strike, leaving them to stare into eachother's eyes for a long silent moment. “Begone foul demon,” the woman shouted as Zhill retreated quickly. The city, wholly taken up in its own defense, had hardly noticed his passing as Zhill escaped to the south.
Part 7: Storm
More than a month had passed since Zhill set out on his own, and he found himself still without purpose or direction. He had thrown in with a group of goblins which operated a small camp in the southern jungles, selling goods and transportation to lands west. With what little coin he had, Zhill purchase passage and found himself in a sparse plain known as the Barrens. While it was in close proximity to a central stronghold of the Horde, he made a point to avoid being seen by anyone. He had hoped that time alone with his thoughts would bring answers, instead it brought madness.
“We should have killed her!”
“We should have feasted on her lungs and then eaten her brains!”
“That is not who I am. I remember not being like this.”
“We are us! We are what we have become! We must feed!”
“I won't do that any more. I am not a monster!”
Zhill looked up to find himself at the base of a large hill with no living thing in sight. “What am I doing,” he asked himself. The bond of the Forsaken had weakened to the point where he was only barely cognizant of its presence. Yet it still held him, acting as a lifeline, and he felt much like a man that was starving. Though he had killed beasts for food and drank their blood, it was not the same as taking a living soul. There was some element that was simply not there, even though his belly was full. While he required little sleep, it had evaded him ever since he had last taken a life. Whatever he had become, he sensed now that he was starting to un-become. His body had maintained its strength and form from the game that he hunted. But he felt that some immaterial piece of his being had begun to unravel.
“We only live to kill!”
“There must be more to life than death.”
“We are the Shadow of Death! We kill! We feed!”
“That wasn't my choice. I won't live like this anymore.”
“We must feed!”
“Why couldn't they have just left me dead?”
Zhill's mind reeled with confusion as he grappled with his own thoughts. The conflicting desires for carnage and peace warred withing his soul, as his body plodded mindlessly forward. He had nearly walked out into the middle of a well-worn trail through the thick forest when his thoughts cleared for a moment. Stepping back behind a tree, he wondered how far he had traveled in his delirium. It was evident that it had been some time as he remembered that night had not yet fallen when he was still in the plains. As he crouched in silence, regathering his composure, the sound of voices echoing off the lush canopy overhead snared his attention.
“People! We can eat them!”
“No,” he argued weakly.
“We must! We hunger! We will eat and then all will be clear! No more confusion, no more wandering! The Shadow of Death returns!”
Zhill breathed heavily as he poured the last of his will into resistance, but it was useless. His hunger for flesh could be denied no longer. Creeping deeper into the woods, he circled behind the voices, stepping onto the trail behind them. As he drew closer, they prattled on ignorantly, unaware of his presence. Two in robes walked on either side of a taller armored man. “A feast fit for a king." Possessed by his urges, Zhill's focus was keenly narrowed to the man, his first target; so much so that he was nearly deaf to the whispers interspersed in their conversation.
“He will come?”
“Yes, he was seen near here.”
“How can you be sure?”
“This Shadow could not resist such an opportunity.”
Though his mind understood that he was walking into a trap, his hunger drove him powerfully forward as though he were watching his own body under another's control. A vicious bite at the man's neck filled his mouth with the sweet nectar of blood and startled the man's companions. Zhill ripped a large chunk of flesh from his neck before allowing him to recklessly fall to the ground. Dropping to his knees as he swallowed a mouthful of meat, he was blinded by hunger as he prepared to snap at the man's neck again. He was not aware of the dwarf weaving a spell at his left until it had been released. Suddenly his flesh was scorched as he was engulfed in flame and blown several yards back. Crawling to his feet, Zhill looked at the dwarf and elf that faced him, as his mind returned.
“You fool,” the elf spat at the other. “We have to trap him. I wont let you escape this time!”
Zhill hurled a dagger at the woman as a bolt of light shot from her hand. As before, when she had struck him in Stormwind, he was seized with such intense pain that it felt as if his very soul were on fire. Drawing upon the last of his strength, Zhill scrambled into the cover of the forest, enduring the agony that came with each step. The elf, it seemed, had fallen to the ground when his blade impaled her shoulder. While the dwarf knelt over her, Zhill set his mind to increasing the distance between them as he was overwhelmed with a new sensation: fear.
Part 8: The end...
What had begun as a simple escape had turned into something much more dire. Initially thinking he had happened upon someone who had taken up a vendetta against him, Zhill thought less of the female elf that pursued him than of his receding lunacy. It was soon evident, however, that he was racing for his own life. And he was losing
With the elf and dwarf seemingly far behind, Zhill had eased himself into a much more casual pace south towards no particular destination until it became clear that he was no longer the hunter, but the prey. A pair of rangers had fired on him with their bows, not nearly coming close, before releasing their wolves to chase him down. When he had thrown them off with a false trail that was further obfuscated by his climbing a tall oak, Zhill found himself eye to eye with a large black crow that cawed repeatedly as if to mark his hiding spot. Wildly jumping to lower lying branches of nearby trees, he made his way to an edge of the forest that bordered a small lake, into which he dove hoping to escape by remaining submerged. Zhill watched as the shadows at the shoreline waled back and forth cluelessly, thinking he had escaped. Curious amazement took hold as he observed several magical bolts fired into the air overhead.
With a dull crack similar to the sound of a large boulder being hurled into the water, Zhill saw that the entire lake was being frozen from the center outwards by the magical bolts. Swimming frantically, Zhill managed to surface on the far side of the shore just as the water became a solid white mass, freezing his boot to the surface. Yanking his foot carelessly, Zhill left behind the dark leather shoe as he pulled at least one of his foot bones out of joint. Still he ran.
The chase went on for days. There were moments, times when the world would seem still, where Zhill was sure that it was over. But then some sound such as men shouting from horseback, or a wild animal gazing at him all too knowingly would set him fleeing again. What little strength he retained had been stretched to its limit and he knew he could not travel much further. He considered himself fortunate when he finally came to an expansive range of canyons in the southern desert. Casting himself headlong over the edge, Zhill tumbled through the air as the ground rushed towards him from hundreds of feet below. When his body struck the hard stone floor of the canyon, the sickening crack of his bones shattering echoed off the yellowed rocky walls. Wracked with intense pain, Zhill forced a crazed bloody smile at the shadows that leered at him from high above. They couldn't jump down after him, their bodies were too frail. They would have to find another way down which would cost them precious time.
Zhill lay motionless, unable to even shoo away the flies that gathered at his open wounds as his body mended itself back together. Although it had taken hours, when he was finally able to stand, Zhill began hobbling further south, the sounds of limbs out of joint popping with each step. There was no way they could possibly catch up with him now. He had made it! He was finally free! A few more hours travel by night would put him in the Salt Flats.
Long ago, perhaps during the previous life he could barely remember, the whole area had been a large bay that had connected to the sea. Yet time had caused the waters to dry up leaving behind a wasteland. No one traveled through the Salt Flats due to the excessive temperatures, merciless winds, and complete lack of vegetation or water. Anything in the flats was already dead or soon would be. "And that makes it the perfect retreat for me," Zhill thought to himself. When he had reached his desert paradise, he fell to the ground beside the whitened skull of some creature that had been dead for ages. "A moment's rest, and then I will figure out what to do."
Zhill awoke in the middle of the night feeling invigorated as though he had just risen from the grave. And instantly his mind turned to the warmly burning spark of memory that lingered. In a moment, understanding was birthed inside him. Zhill was nothing. Whatever soul that had occupied his body gave strength to his body and was part of him. What little of himself that emulated a person was an unnatural marriage of soul and dark magic. "Zhill" was nothing more than an animated cyst, drawing the lifeforce from the pitifully trapped soul within to fuel the dark magics that bound him. He realized that there was no hope for the life he now lived, as that life was merely stolen from another and could not be returned no matter how much he now wished it. Hope could only be found in his own demise.
Zhill shielded his eyes from the bright sun over head as he dug himself out of the shallow grave made by the sandy winds that had whipped around him through the night. With his senses returning to him, Zhill was surprised that the wind had suddenly stopped. Standing to his feet his eyes grew wide with shock. No fewer than 10 people in robes stood surrounding him. Off to one side was a group of others, a mix of warriors and rangers with their animal companions. Zhill spun to face the elf that had doggedly pursued him as she began speaking in low tones, waving her arms in some elaborate pattern. He charged violently at her, hoping to push past and flee. But before he was even within arm's reach, he was thrust backwards by some invisible force.
Looking for the culprit, Zhill stood to his feet and saw that he was in the center of a circle that had been drawn in the sand. He instantly knew that it was some sort of magical ward from the intricate runes that covered the ground where he stood. Shuffling his feet quickly trying to undo the spell, his alarm grew as the symbols remained unaltered. Zhill jumped with fright as the woman continued chanting, causing the runes to glow with a pale blue light. When she had finished, the individuals to either side continued the chant seamlessly as the magical hue shifted towards the outer circle. He was suddeny struck with the realization that whatever was about to happen would take place as soon as the chant had been completed by all those that surrounded him.
"There shall be no pity for you," the elf spoke up. "Just as you took your victims without remorse, so shall you suffer for eternity." Charging the barrier again in panicked futility, Zhill bounced roughly back towards the ground as she continued. "The circle binds you. There is no way for you to escape its grasp. You will be banished to the underworld, where your soul will be tormented in darkness as you receive the anguish that you have brought upon the innocent souls you have destroyed." Only four chants remained before the circle was complete. Rising to his feet again, Zhill's mind was a flurry of thought. "There has to be some way of escape," he silently reasoned. "Please let me out," he pleaded sincerely. "I promise I won't kill ever again!"
"Its too late for that," she answered in a voice full of hate. Zhill charged again only to fall backwards just as he had before. "I told you that you can not escape you stupid wretch," she said mockingly. "You must pay!"
The last chant came to a conclusion as she made her pronouncement. As an electrified hum radiated from the ground, Zhill stood indomitably, feeling the warm fire within himself pulse in harmony with his thoughts. Drawing his blade, he extended his arm out before him. Turning the knife towards his own heart, he took a final breath and spoke.
"I give my life to release this soul."
Falling to his knees, Zhill watched as blood sprayed from his chest onto the ground out before him. Though he could feel his life fading, the warmth inside him continued to grow. Leaning forward, Zhill placed his palms on the sand as blood poured into the runes on the ground in thick rivulets. As he collapsed to the ground, what little sensation that had remained continuing to fade, the hum became a high pitched whine and the air within the circle became wildly turbulent.
"What is this," the woman asked in disbelief. "What is happening?"
Zhill looked up from where he lay to see confusion and fear on the faces of those that had surrounded him, but now backed further away from the circle. The noise around him grew deafening as the air continued to churn and twist as though it were trying to tear itself apart. He knew something was wrong, and that the soul chained within him remained bound. All he had done, he concluded as his vision darkened, was make things much worse.
The violent storm that had erupted inside the circle suddenly came to an abrupt halt. For an instant Zhill thought, as the world seemed to take on a calm stillness, he would somehow make it through this. As he weakly lifted his head to see what had happened, it seemd that all of reality imploded upon him.
For time which seemed endless, Zhill could not discern whether the din in his ears was his own tortured screams, or the effect of the spell, or some warped mix of the two. His only thought was agony as it seemed that his very existence was being ripped to minuscule shreds and fused back together with searing fire each second. After suffering an eternity of pain, Zhill was surrounded by the sound of a dull crash as a new sensation enveloped him. Slowly falling as he continued to convulse in his affliction, he felt soft cool earth slowly rise to meet him as he landed sleepily. When he dared to take a breath, his body quickened to life as water rushed down his throat. Instinctively launching himself upward, Zhill flailed wildly as he reached the surface of the water and coughed deeply expelling the liquid he had swallowed. His chest throbbed with burning pain as blood poured into the water around him.
Reaching an arm outwards, he attempted to swim towards a small island with a single thick tree growing at its center. Zhill was filled with a fresh sensation of horror as he saw that his hand had nearly disintegrated. Kicking spasmodically, he could only watch as his skin continued to melt away, taking his body with it. Alarmed shouts in some strange language sounded from nearby, but Zhill willed himself on toward land. But soon he was sinking beneath the surface again as his body continued to deteriorate.
As he reached the island, Zhill used the only arm he had left to craw along the sand beneath the surface of the water, pulling himself towards an opening that glowed with a dull green light. Murkily he looked back to see what was left of his body, which now ended in a soggy mess at his intestines. His lone skeletal hand pulled him deeper into a subterranean cave past tree roots that cascaded around him like a woman's hair. Stretching his arm out again, he watched with defeat as it dislodged from his shoulder and floated lazily towards a root thicker than his head that pulsed with a pale green light. "This is the end," Zhill concluded to himself as his torso pitched forward slowly into a group of roots which tangled around him. Summoning the last of his will, he forced his mouth open as water poured into his lungs, allowing himself to sink into the darkness of death.
Part 9: ...of the beginning
Slowly he became aware of his surroundings, or more precisely the lack of them. He was...floating? The experience was as alien as the way the soft green light that enveloped him provided a sense of warmth that was not at all physical. In fact nothing was physical. He keenly perceived that he could not "feel" anything.
Zhill? Was that him? It wasn't his voice that he had heard, although he didn't understand how he could be so sure. It was so...comforting; he wanted to stay right where he was forever and never leave the satisfaction that he felt in this sea of green with the voice calling his name.
"Zhill, do you know how you arrived here?"
The voice resonated in a manner that challenged his every sense to understand its nature yet was conveyed with absolute clarity. While there was a sensation of memory, he could recall nothing. He couldn't remember who he was or even how he had come to be where he now was.
"You have come to us from very far away, and you have helped us as we have helped you." The voice was soft and reassuring without any hint of deception.
He curiously pondered whether that was the reason he couldn't remember anything.
"In order to preserve your soul, what was left of your mind had to be sacrificed."
He was strangely aware that such thoughts should have bothered him, yet the didn't. He struggled to think of anything other than the comfort of the presence that surrounded him.
"You may remain here with me if you desire."
Her voice pleasantly urged him to remain. Yet he felt something else. A deep stirring as though there were something inside that could not yet rest. Like a man rousing from slumber, a blur of thoughts slowly came to him. He had once...lived. In some way that was different than he existed now.
"Your body came to rest at my roots." While her words were beyond his understanding, her meaning pressed into his thoughts. "Your physical shell deteriorated and I fed on its nutrients. This allowed me to absorb your soul, although that was an unforseen consequence. I give life to my children who grow and live in the world around them. Their thoughts and experiences aid those who have not yet been born just as the energies that brought you to us have."
Zhill could sense that there was nothing more he could do. Whatever he had held him together had been absorbed and dispersed by this benevolent entity to the lifeforms it created. Again the stirrings resonated in his thoughts.
"You may find that you have something yet to offer to us and our world. It is a choice that is yours alone."
The thought of some other life intrigued him as much as it puzzled him. The stirrings urged him to seek out that part which was missing in spite of the calming influence that surrounded him. The only thing he did know is that he was not finished. Yet he wondered what he might become.
"Your identity will remain, and I will make for you a shell that will match the strength of your soul. But I can not protect you once you are born into the world. I can not prevent the pain and suffering that you must endure. You have sacrificed much in coming to us and if you wish to stay you may remain and rest here with me."
Zhill knew he that must go on. If there would be a time for his soul to rest, it would not come now. He would always yearn to seek out ... something. As pleasant and comforting as his existence currently was, it could not provide what he felt was missing.
"Rest now. When you awake, you will not remember your time with me, yet I will leave you with a trace of my presence. You will never be the same as those around you, nor will you be able to rest until you have brought your own soul to peace. And though none will be able to show you your path, you will never be alone."
As the light around him grew dim, Zhill's mind settled into a slumber, blanketed by the assurance that there were many things yet to come.
Part 10: Rebirth