Big one. Get comfy.
Okay, right. This is a sort of reboot of the Arkenheart character. Not really, though, as everything else you’ve read remains true to the letter. What follows is simply a rewrite of the original Arkenheart story, posted on CQQ nearly a year ago.
Essentially, the rewrite is DARKER and EDGIER.
Effectively, the rewrite is intended to do two things.
First, the original wasn’t nearly malevolent enough. I wanted Arkenheart’s start to be a far more evil act on her part than it was originally. Morally questionable at best, an unjustifiable atrocity at worst. Arkenheart herself is not evil, but this does not mean she is incapable of committing evil acts, given the right impetus.
The loss of her sister is one such powerful impetus.
Also, I wanted to create Arkenheart’s sister as an actual character. It’s pretty dumb of me to try and build pathos for an individual we never meet. We still don’t, but Arkenheart does her best to rectify that. You’ll see.
Also also, I realize that there is a metric ton of weird punctuation in the dialogue. I hope it isn’t awkward. That’s just the way the characters were talking in my head, so I tried to transfer that. By necessity dialogue has to be written different from strict narrative writing. I’m not particularly good at writing dialogue yet. As such, easily half of this entire thing is talking to practice exactly that.
On the technical side, I think I did extended dialogue correctly. Starting each paragraph with speech with quotation marks, but not using them at the end of a paragraph if the next paragraph is the exact same individual speaking. Rules nuts lemme know if I did it wrong.
Also also also, speaking of time lines. I’m… not entirely sure if I want to follow the official timeline. The official timeline would have all the events of vanilla WoW take place one year, the entirety of TBC the next, and the entirety of Wrath the third. That seems… awfully short to me.
Still, to give a rough estimate, Arkenheart’s story would begin roughly several months (up to six, maybe?) after the launch of TBC. Whether I decide to honor Blizzard’s timeline or not remains to be seen. With the details I already have down, that would mean Arkenheart would spend the entirety of TBC training. So either TBC was longer than Blizzard says or Arkie had nothing to do with it.
I’m unwilling to shorten Blood Knight training any further, a year to go from recruit to a full fledged knight is already short enough. Or I could simply retcon the hell out of Recruitment Day and eliminate the orc character entirely. Which seems mean, as I like that orc. He’s good guy. Always brings bacon to the neighbourhood BBQ.
Or just simply avoid mentioning specific dates and time lengths whenever possible and just pretend timelines don’t exist. That could work too.
Whelp. Here goes.
“I was never the brave one, you know.” Arkenheart sat back in the wooden chair, smiling faintly. “I remember, I had this stuffed animal, a lynx, maybe. I would carry it around, pretty much everywhere I went, for comfort or something. You know how kids are, yeah? Not the sharpest bunch a candles in the toolshed.”
She laughed. “She came up with that saying too. By accident at first, but we kept using it. Wrong, yeah, but you’d know what we meant when we said it. Just a little silly thing we had. Like that lynx. Sometimes this big ol’ lightning storm would flare up. Rain’d hammer down, lightning would flash, and that thunder! Such loud thunder! It would shake the walls!”
She shook her head. “I was always so scared. Thought some big, evil monster was coming to get me. I would hug my little stuffed cat and run and find mom or dad. But they weren’t always there. Dad was always off fighting some war, maybe trolls or the Horde or who knows what else. Mom’s a priest, but hey, even a priest gets called off for this or that. Especially during all those wars dad would fight. She was a skilled healer, mom was. Strict, though. Dad always spoiled us, bringing back trinkets and things from wherever he was at.”
She rose from her seat, moving towards the makeshift kitchen, little more than a small cryobox and a flat table. “Gonna make myself a bite to eat. You want anything? No? Ahh well. I make a mean sandwich. You’re really missing out on some tasty food here.”
Taking out a loaf of bread, she continued. “Where was I? Right, stuffed kitty. Anyway, sometimes there wouldn’t be anyone to run to for protection. Dad would be off fighting orcs or trolls on some battlefield far away, or mom would be off healing war victims or some other random thing with friends or fellow priests or who knows what. Tea parties maybe. Priests are weird like that.
“So I’d take my stuffed kitty and I’d go hide in a corner somewhere. I’d hug that little cat as hard as I could, just a little scared girl. Me and my lynx, my little stuffed defender. The storm would crash and I’d hug that damn cat and cry and whimper. Not her. She was brave. Strong. She thought lightning storms were fun. She’d laugh when the thunder hit. All her life she was like that. I’d hide in a corner, and she… she would come find me, you know?
“She’d come find me, come hug me, tell me that I was a big baby for being so scared. I’d sit there and snivel and cry, but she’d hug me, tell me it was all okay. That everything’d be better soon. And you know what? I’d believe her. Despite all the evidence, the flashes of lightning, I believed her. My mind would scream ‘run! hide! not safe!’ but she’d just look at me, you know, like ‘what are you worrying about, nothing dangerous at all is happening here’.
“And you know what else? She was right. The clouds went away. The sun came out. Everything was okay.”
Having completed construction of her sandwich, Arkenheart moved back to the wooden chair. “Cheese and mostly-ham. Want some? No? You’re loss.” She took a bite of the sandwich. Looking at it thoughtfully, she set it aside.
“On second thought I’ll eat this later. Gotta finish up with you first. Um… right. Storms. Wasn’t just storms either, ho no! That girl was reckless as hell. She’d go out and splash in the puddles, throw herself in the mud and fight imaginary murlocs. I was worried about getting sick, getting dirt on my clothes or some nonsense. If it wasn’t for her, I woulda stayed inside, playing with dolls maybe. Never woulda found the world.
“She made sure I did. Brought me with her. Threw me into mud puddles. Climbed trees with me. Talked me into jumping out of them into ponds. To think I was technically the older one! She wanted to become a knight or paladin or something when she got older. Dad would let her play with weapons, at first just the wooden ones. Mom didn’t approve of course, but hey, that’s what moms do. Or don’t, as it were.
“Maybe seeing her running around with a fake sword smacking trees and shrubs was just a little odd. Heh, maybe she wanted two perfect daughters or something, I dunno. Dad would always put her up on his lap, tell her stories about war, scary stories about orc raids in the night, fearsome trolls in warpaint attacking at dawn and things like that.
“I suppose, maybe I was jealous of that. Jealous that she was so strong and brave and confident and here I was, the older one, so weak, shy and timid. I wanted to be just like her. My little sister an’ I looked up to her. It was that or hate her yeah? I think I did briefly, but when someone thinks it’s fun when you push them into a scum covered pond you can’t really hate ’em anymore.
“I prob’ly wouldn’t’ve made any friends without her, too. She’d always go meandering about, visiting the other houses. We’d go stomp in their gardens, rip branches off of trees, throw rocks in their windows or something. Little terrors, we were. Only one other kid in the whole area our age. A boy. Don’t remember his name though. Theo, Talon, Tidas… something like that.
“Ha! She talked him into coming along on our little escapades. The three of us wreaked havoc like you wouldn’t believe. This one time, we lured this huge spider into this one old guy’s house, an’ we tried to trap it in his bedroom. What a nasty little surprise for the old poofer! Haha! Spider almost killed the boy, though. Pretty much my fault, slamming the window shut on ‘im like that. Spider went berserk and fight or flight instincts kicked in. And hell, you do not stand and fight a spider twice your size.
“Oh don’t look at me like that! He was fine. Turns out the old guy was some old mage, disintegrated that spider like it was nothing. Still, we rascals had to be punished! My sister didn’t get caught, though. But we… hm. She never got caught, come to think of it… I got caught tons. So did whatsisface… Huh. Things you remember in hindsight yeah?
“She was there when it counted though. Like I said. She was always there when I needed her. Remember when the Scourge ripped through here? I’m sure you haven’t forgotten, what a clusterfuck that was. Our house was directly in the path. We were told we’d be fine, no enemy had ever gotten past the elf gates.
“Except, you know, then they did. Before we even knew what was happening we were waist deep in undead. Heh, waste deep? Good joke in there somewhere. Yeah, so Scourge. Screaming, shouting, everyone was running, fighting, bleeding, dying… I didn’t… I froze up… I wasn’t a fighter. Sure, I had brawled, a few times… but that was just play fighting. Nothing serious.”
She shifted her gaze to stare at some far away point on the wall.
“I just stood there… these horrible… things, clawing towards me. I was so scared. So terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I woulda died there, had my sister not come for me. She had a sword, I guess one of dad’s. She knew how to use it, too. Dunno when she learned. Cut a ghoul right as it grabbed for me.
“I never asked her what she saw in me. I knew I stared at her. Petrified. She screamed at me to move, told me to run, to get away. ‘Move! Run, you stupid bitch, run!’ Those were her exact words. I ran. I ran as hard as I could. I ran ’till I couldn’t even stand anymore. Just ran and ran and ran until I collapsed on the ground. So tired and weak.
“She never left me. She had stayed right behind me, fending off whatever undead came our way. When I fell, she yelled at me again. Told me to get up, to get moving, or else I’d be dead.”
Arkenheart shook her head, a single tear droplet tracking down each cheek. “I was twenty two years old then. I fell in the dirt, and cried at my own helplessness. How pathetic is that? I never asked her what she thought then. What could she think, seeing her older sister sobbing in the dirt? All I know is she picked me up. She slung me across her shoulders, and kept running. Sometimes she’d have to drop me to fight off things that got too close. I’d just lie there… wallowing in fear or whatever stupid thing shuts down your nervous system when death stares at you.”
She sighed. “Nothing was the same after that. We barely had enough time to escape with the clothes we were wearing. We lost damn near everything. We used to be nobility, fortunes to our name. We even lost dad. But you know what I didn’t lose? I didn’t lose her. I didn’t lose my sister. Even when we were both blasted out of our minds on whatever drug we managed to score, I still had her. Even when mom killed herself, overdose you know, she was there. She was always there. No matter what.”
Arkenheart sat forward, her voice taking on a dangerous tone.
“You might be wondering why I’m telling you this. Why am I sitting here, telling you all about my sister?” She rose again, moving around to the back of the other wooden chair in the room.
She lowered her head down to the ear of the blood elf bound in the other chair.
“I need you to understand what you took from me. I need you to understand what I lost when you took her.”
The blood elf let out a small whimper.
“Now, I’m going to remove the gag. I want to hear you defend yourself. Try to justify this. Remember, no screaming for help, or I’ll take your other leg.” The gag fell from the mouth of the tied elf.
“Please… please don’t do this…” his voice cracked as he spoke.
Arkenheart moved to stand in front of him. Gazing into his broken, battered face. “Why? Why should I not end you? Give me even one reason to let you live, and I shall.”
“Please! I- I was just desperate! We all were! I mean, after… after we lost the Sunwell, everything was chaos! Everything! We all did what we had to- to survive! You did! I did!”
“You entrapped young women, drugged them, and shipped them off to be whores!”
“I didn’t have a choice! I just… I owed them. They would kill me if I didn’t pay them back, and… and… I’m sorry, just please, please let me go!”
Arkenheart shook her head. “’Fraid not. The deal was, you give me a reason to allow your sorry ass to keep breathing. You haven’t. So far you’ve managed to tell me that you were weak and spineless. Not good reasons. You don’t even know who ‘them’ are, so you can’t help me.”
“No! Please! No don’t! I haven’t even done… that, in such a long time! That was three years ago, at least! Please I have a wife! I have a daughter!”
Arkenheart smiled the smile of a predator. “Much better reasons, those ones. Do you have any idea how hard it was to track you down? Whatever friend helped you disappear did a damn fine job of it. Then I had to get all the planning done, get all the scheduling done just right. Had to grab you without being seen. Had to get you someplace where we wouldn’t be found.”
Moving behind the bound elf again, she continued. “Still. As you said , that was some time ago. You’re married, starting your own little family. You’re quite obviously sorry. You certainly go to the chapel often enough for atonement. All good reasons to let you keep your miserable life. I suppose I could kill your family instead. Would that be fair?”
The blood elf nodded. “Fair’s fair! I kill your family, you kill mine, right? Right? Blood for an eye and all that? You won’t kill me?”
“Betrayed your own family at the end. Figures. Say your last, little man.”
“But… wait! You said-”
“I lied. People do that. You lied plenty to Sariah.”
The blood elf only managed to get out a yelp as his chair was viciously kicked over.
He begged for his life as his captor loomed over him. He pleaded, wept, offered her anything for his life.
His pleas changed to terrified screaming as the blows began to fall. Fists slammed into his already broken body, iron-shod boots pounded into unprotected organs.
The chair itself snapped and broke under the weight of the brutal attack. His bones quickly followed suit.
His screams quieted, gradually fading into bloody gurgling.
The screams of rage continued long after his body fails.
Arkenheart kept hitting the broken body. She repeatedly slammed her fists into his face even as tears streamed down her own. Blood slowly seeped from the ruins of his body as the sounds of raw rage and loss escaped from hers.
Eventually she tired. Grew silent.
Taking several steps away from the mess that used to be a living man, she looked at her work. Gore dripped off her hands.
She fell to her knees.
She knelt in a pool of blood not her own.
She wept, quietly, almost sedately. No wailing sobs, no screams, not even any violent shaking. There simply wasn’t any energy left for such expressions of sorrow. That did not stop her from experiencing the sorrow.
For her sister, long since vanished without a trace.
For herself, a weakling who couldn’t even protect their own sibling.
Who was to blame? The laughable excuse for law enforcement that refused to care? The world for allowing such a business to exist? Or her own?
Her sister needed her only once. Arkenheart had always followed Sariah, always depended on Sariah, always leaned on Sariah for support. The one time Sariah needed Arkenheart, the latter wasn’t there.
Her fault and hers alone. She had failed Sariah.
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, blood had been repaid in blood. Vengeance was all she could offer.
What of the man she murdered? What of the family she had just robbed of a loving father and husband?
She found she felt nothing for them. This broken corpse deserved everything that happened to him. The pain his family would feel was entirely on his hands.
His blood dripped from Arkenheart’s still clenched fists.
Why was there no guilt? Where was the sinking feeling of having committed a wrong? This went against everything society said was good and just. The only crime worse than murder was betrayal of the state.
Why, then, did it feel so right?
She would mull on that later. For now, she had to finish up her little perfect crime.
Only one last point of business to take care of.
Her business associate waited outside. He had been of great assistance in helping her locate her prey. He had even provided this abandoned storage area for her to use. He was utterly infatuated with her, she knew. That quality had been rather useful. Without him, she wouldn’t have made it this far.
Without him, there would be no witnesses.
Leaving the room, she spied her associate across the massive warehouse.
He waved to her, a change of clothing already prepared. Her current clothes would have to be destroyed along with the warehouse, of course. Stripping, she hurled her bloody clothes aside contemptuously. He helped her dress, far slower than was comfortable for her.
He never saw it coming. He had helped himself to her body as payment multiple times. A quick smile was all it took to put him at ease. He wrapped his arms around her waist, quietly telling her all the naughty things he had planned for this evening’s bedroom antics. He loved it when she got all violent. He could get used to her killing people.
A quick arm movement was all it took to end the flow of blood to his brain.
She dragged his body into the room even as he scrabbled at the tatters of his throat.
Arkenheart looked upon her work. Two corpses. Years of hate culminated in a fountain of torture and gore.
She shook her head slightly. Unhooking a small grenade from her belt, she thumbed the delayed ignition, tossing it through the open door to the storage room.
She made it several blocks away before the grenade exploded. The entire building had been rigged with key explosives, tanks filled with flammable liquids kept in strategic locations.
The entire complex was transformed into a massive, roiling inferno within seconds.
She watched the blaze with her fellow citizens. A large crowd quickly assembled, murmurs and whispers as everyone watched the warehouses go up in flames. Her thoughts wandered. She wondered why her conscience felt clear. Clearer, anyway.
War was war. One had to defend their homes, their family, by any means necessary.
Murder was something different.. Nothing but cold killing for no other purpose than to kill.
This was wrong.
That man had a family. A wife. A daughter who turned two in a couple months. Had he deserved to die?
What about her accomplice? A lecherous asshole with a mind for seedy business, nothing more. Did he have a family?
For three years, her soul had buckled under the weight of losing her sister. But of those two men? A grim sense of satisfaction, perhaps. Nothing more.
Sariah’s blood had been repaid. That was all that mattered.
Another warehouse toppled under the flames, the distant sound of wood and stone bursting and cracking under the heat. She winced at the sound.
She had forgotten her sandwich.