Obituary

Lydon, a necromancer of the Scourge, seeks second life amongst his victims: the free undead. Bleak and gory, examining the Forsaken prior to the fall of the Lich King.

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3. Travel

Say one thing for the Forsaken, say that a lot of us are honest.

 

Don't make that face. It might stick. And, alright, for all I know, reader, you're one of the orcs who took us on board as part of your Horde, and now you're as undead as I am (as I was, I suppose, hah) thanks to a little double-crossing and our Forsaken plague. How are you enjoying undeath, by the way? The stamina's something, isn't it? And I bet you green skins come in even more fetching shades nowadays. What a fashionable apocalypse.

 

But all-around dubious loyalty aside, there are a few Forsaken who have managed to see through the rage that blights the majority. They have come to recognise their underlying problems. And they're often honest about those. Mental health was always a taboo topic when I was alive. Now, well. What's that southerner saying? Why shy away from 'spilling your guts' about that pesky depression, those bothersome nightmares, the shakes, the bouts of amnesia, the sense of being somehow dislocated from your own body, the urges to find a way to hurt yourself that actually works, when your physical guts are moderately likely to have made a habit of spilling all on their own?

 

See, this is when you laugh, because I'm being funny. If that's not enough for you, then consider this: if my mother had been Forsaken, she might actually have found some reprieve in the ability to talk things through. It is such a very funny world. Makes you want to kick it, doesn't it? Right in its worldly bollocks.

 

You may think this is all a digression, reader, but you can shut your damn zombie-orc craw. I need to tell you a few things about myself, and you're probably going to think I'm an utter lunatic. The fact is this: I am, and I don't care if it makes you uncomfortable, because I am Forsaken. And because this is my memoir anyway, so damned if I know why I'm half-seeking your permission like this.

 

I haven't actually told anyone about my time in the Scholomance before. Not about my life in rural Lordaeron, either. I take it as a sign that my psychological state has healed further than I thought, that I successfully wrote so much of it down without having any major episodes. I specify major because, well. I'm on a meat wagon to hell. What the fuck do you expect.

 

I will test myself further. As you know, I had endured some seven or eight years of extreme violence, both as victim and perpetrator. Even before that, my family never really indulged in the sort of physical contact I had observed in some of our better-off neighbours. Although I slept in the same bed as all but the very youngest of my siblings, we were in the habit of eking out our own sections of the pallet and walling ourselves in with bands of rolled up clothing. Anyone who crossed the lines, intentionally or by accident, was eschewed by the rest for as long as our juvenile brains were entertained by the activity, calling out the disgraced sibling as clingy, weak, babyish.

 

The one occasion that a boundary was broken deliberately and mutually was on the night of my father's accident. There were six of us children then, myself at eight, my eldest brother almost two years behind, and the rest each a year younger than the one who came before them. I recall lying on my back in the gloom, listening to the in and out of everyone's breath, far too fast for any of them to be sleeping, someone muffling weepy hiccoughs in their hands.

 

Across the room, beside our parents' bed, our mother had been chanting, praying, calling the Light down through her and into the spluttering form of our father, laid out on the sheets with the firelight catching in his spilt blood. She had fallen silent now, exhaustion had lowered her to her knees in sleep, but none of us dared speak.

 

I remember catching sight of a sliver of the moon through the thinning thatch overhead and focusing on it as though my father's health hinged on my ability to stare, unblinking, into the moonlight. I would learn to use my magic, I vowed back then, not to fight or to stand beside gilded Dalaran magi, but to carve the silver down from the moon and use it to buy food, a house, a doctor.

 

It was in the midst of this thought that I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I startled, but only slightly: I was well-practiced at stifling myself, and waking my mother was unthinkable. The round, scared face of my eldest sister, Florence, loomed unusually close. She had crept over the wall of crumpled wool that divided us, and she lowered herself closer until she lay right against me.

 

I froze at first, awkward and unsure, and she was really no better off, just as fettered by inexperience as I, but she buried her face in my neck and that was enough to encourage some base instinct for familial affection within us both. I held her close, kissed her head and stroked her hair. She wove her arms around me and nuzzled my chest and throat.

 

The two of us spent the night curled up together, sheltering from our family's tragedy. And then we spent the next few months brutally ashamed. As Mother pulled Father back from the verge of death, we found a new source of fear: a secret certainty that Florence was surely with child.

 

What's all the more mortifying is that I know the damn process now. I know we'd done nothing in the least bit wrong, and yet I still feel illogically guilty about the whole thing. Touch is difficult for me. I couldn't even lay out all my damn baggage on the subject if I tried, which I have.

 

The fact remains that living in a household with parents who put out a new child almost every year, dead or alive, and made inadequate effort to fully conceal the act made close contact into something dangerous to my mind. Then I spent years being struck with knives and books with metal edges and switches and arcane lightning, and striking with blades and poison, stripping away all bodily autonomy with metal chains and unholy power, and do you see? Do you see why it's difficult?

 

This is all relevant, reader, because I did not stay under Darrowmere forever. I could not have remained in the water for more than a few days at most, in fact, or I would have decayed past reconstruction. It felt like months, though. Years, even, all spent in a stupor, myself as an entity suggested only by the sickly dread that festered in the pit of my stomach, and the occasional passing strip of my skin torn free by the fish.

 

And then, quite suddenly to my mind, the darkness left, and I perceived the world turned on its side, the blurred shapes of trees growing horizontally, the sky an orange wall. The wet silt of the shore shifted to accommodate my cheekbone, and a considerable weight pressed down on my chest. I was shoved roughly in the shoulder, and rolled over onto my back.

 

A dark silhouette swung over me, pierced by two bright points of yellow light, and a hand gripped my chin, turning my head for inspection. I could feel all the liquid rolling about in my skull. It trickled from my ear, and the sound of the air and the waves came through to me in jolts, along with words conveyed in a Gilnean accent.

 

'Cult of the Damned, 'in't you.'

 

I coughed in response, and the man jumped back. As I fought to force the water from my lungs, he gave a disbelieving guffaw. His arms forced their way under mine and hauled me upright, my back against his chest and his fists against my diaphragm.

 

'You legend,' he said, compressing my chest until the flow of water bore with it a protesting wail: pitiful, really, but my lungs had softened in the lake and I could feel the flesh tearing inside me. 'Not even properly dead. Not even properly dead!'

 

He released me and I slumped face-first into the ground. My first breath of air was agonizing. It cut its way down my throat like a steel edge, serrated by the sand. I coughed and retched and lost track of the man's movements until I heard him speak again, this time from the left.

 

'You've been face down in a lake, mate, you don't need to do that.' A pause, as I spluttered on. He let out an irritated sigh. 'I mean it. Breathing 'in't useful. Give it up. Fact is, I've got a question, and you're going to nod, 'cause them lungs won't be worth buggery until they're dry, and I got no time for the waiting game, I'll tell you that.'

 

I let out a wheezing, garbled mess of sound. The whole situation was so beyond me that I'd given up trying to comprehend.

 

'Just nod for yes, and shake for no. Hell. It's not that hard. Come on now. Are you a necromancer, mate?'

 

I looked up at him. My sight was still blurry, but I could make out a strange grey pallor to his skin, and as I squinted to make sense of his eyes I came to realise they were empty sockets, filled with gold flame. Undead. I jolted away from him, only to collapse backward into the sand. He laughed again, but there was a hint of malice to the sound this time.

 

'Don't think you'll be going anywhere on them joints, with them muscles. Anywhere without me, that is.'

 

'Can't take me back.' My lungs were in ruin, but my panic was such that I managed to force out the words nonetheless, wheezy and rasping.

 

'Back? You a runaway? Scourge escapee, are you? Well then, that's some shared ground between us, innit. I am too.' He snatched up my hand and shook it vigorously, his teeth bared in a broad grin. 'Edgar Cross. Well met.'

 

I flinched, but it did not deter him.

 

'What I'm still looking to know, though, mate, is whether you're one of them necromancers, or just an untrained lackey. You didn't sweep the floors, you raised the dead. Right?'

 

In my bewilderment, in my dislocation, the danger in such an admission did not even occur to me. I stared. And I nodded.

 

Cross's grin spread to maniac proportions. 'Oh, mate. You don't know how bloody happy that makes me to hear. You and me, Scourge, we're going t'get along like a house on fire. Just you wait and see.'

 

As I could not walk, Cross opted to carry me. You see, now, the relevance of my digression. I spent days in forced contact with the man, his shoulder pressed firmly into my stomach, my head knocking against his shoulder blade with every step he took. Water found its escape through my damn face: I coughed at first, until apathy led me to hang there with my mouth open, water running over my swollen tongue and gathering behind my teeth, still more seeping through my nose and from behind my eyeballs. It was painful and unnatural and relentless, and nothing compared to human contact.

 

I expected him to hurt me. I expected him to strike me at any moment, and focusing on that phantom attack pushed me to the point at which the very absence of agony became painful to me. It didn't seem to matter that my nerves were shot. My imagination was happy to improvise.

 

I wished he would just hurry up and do it. The metal clank I heard with every other step he took was so beautifully generic that he could have been carrying anything. With a sword, he could take off whole limbs. With a serrated knife he could shred my flesh and I could do nothing to stop it, as restrained by my ruined body as a prisoner bound and chained.

 

I noted also the particular sound of his footsteps, far removed from the precise click of boot heels over stone floors: no, he was crossing soft soil instead, which might make precise cuts that bit harder. But then I heard the rustle of leaves and the crackle of snapped twigs too, and that meant there were surely trees about. One of their trunks might make an adequate chopping board. He could take off my fingers, one joint at a time. Best done with a cleaver, I thought, for the chok.

 

He didn't. Instead he spoke to me. He maintained, with only fleeting pauses, a litany of often jokingly-made complaints and idle banter. Although I missed the majority of it completely, far too busy being out of my mind, I nevertheless perceived that my uselessness as a travelling companion was a reoccurring topic.

 

'Not that I blame you too much, mate, what with all the water that came out of them lungs, but what I'd say's standard practice is to smile and nod at the very least, right, which doesn't take anything at all from your voice, does it, but I 'in't picked up on much nodding.' A pause. 'Come on, then! Practice!' Another pause. 'Fine, y'Scourge wanker, I'll just appreciate all this pretty plagueland of yours without you.'

 

Not only did he persist in attempting to engage me in conversation, but he stopped to rest with unusual frequency as well. He'd seat me on the ground, not particularly gentle but clearly making sure he didn't damage me outright, and arrange my limbs to keep me upright. This proved most difficult the first time we stopped, when I was at my very weakest and my very worst.

 

'Dark Lady bloody help me,' he muttered as I slumped to one side, then to the other, when he attempted to straighten me up. 'Come on, I know you've got a spine in there somewhere. You remember rigor mortis? Well, alright, neither do I, but you could give it a shot, eh?'

 

I couldn't. My muscles were sodden and useless, and it was all I could do to roll my eyes up toward him. Even that gesture did me little good. He was still nothing more than a blur of black and blond against the dark wash of the landscape. I struggled for a few seconds to bring him into focus, but it was a futile effort. Mentally exhausted, I allowed my eyes to fall shut.

 

Not half a second later, Cross elbowed me in the side. Rather than flinching, I gave an embarrassing shudder, and awaited the next strike, the proper strike.

 

'If anyone's earned sleep, it's me, alright?' said Cross instead. 'Carrying your bony carcass all this way. Got days of walking ahead, too. Going to be murder on my back.'

 

Then came one of his pauses, which I had only just started to recognise as a prompt for me to speak. I held my tongue, unnerved by these attempts to turn his dribs and drabs of single-singed chatter into some form of dialogue between us. I had no idea how to hold a conversation, even with such a generic figure as someone who would soon be cutting me up. In fact, my brain stammered at the mere thought of another person wanting to hear anything out of me at all.

 

'Not much good at the old sympathy business, are you,' he said without particular malice. 'Lucky bastard. That'll probably make being Forsaken a damn slight easier.'

 

This was not the first time he had made use of the word forsaken, but as he settled down nearby it lodged in my mind. Forsaken by what, forsaken by whom? My thoughts circled the topic. There was something not quite right about it, something I chased hopelessly as I sat in a heap on the ground. It was only a sharp metallic ring that drew me from my thoughts.

 

'Easily startled, in't you,' said Cross.

 

I turned my near-blind head toward him, and made out a familiar grey gleam in his hands.

 

'Just sharpening my daggers, mate. Nothing to worry about.'

 

Until well after he hefted me back onto his shoulders and continued the trek, I thought only of knives, and their optimal application.

 

* * *

 

'Didn't you hear me the first time?'

 

It was the fourth day of travel by Cross's account, although my putrefying eyes, vision worse by the hour, had registered no change in the dull orange light. He thrust his face close to mine, and even then I was barely aware of his proximity until his rancid breath struck my cheeks.

 

My flesh, at least, had started to dry, and some sensation had trickled back into once-numb nerve endings. It was nothing intense, but a greater sense of the tactile world had allowed me, over the two days in which the drying of my flesh had started to yield noticeable improvements, to become a little less absorbed in morbid introversion, and a little more aware of my surroundings. I had, however, refrained from speaking a word, and Cross's temper had started to fray.

 

'Sleeping privilege is mine. If you want some shut-eye, you better do it while I'm walking.'

 

I had, indeed, allowed my eyes to slip shut as I sat, propped against a fallen tree, on one of our many breaks. Now I raised my gaze in his general direction, and could barely differentiate between his dark armour and the trees amongst which he had sought cover from the road.

 

'Are all you necromancers this lazy?' Cross slumped down against a tree trunk, and I lost sight of all but those burning eyes. 'I've met a couple of arcanists in the city and, alright, they do a lot of reading books, but they read those books with enthusiasm, do you get me?'

 

I stared at him blankly, and his eyes rolled.

 

'Moronic question, alright, alright, you wouldn't know enthusiasm if it slapped you in the face. It's what happens when you give a shit about something, mate. Ever managed that? Working with a grin? You ever done that?'

 

This led me back into my head for a moment as I reflected on my work at Caer Darrow: the promise of food at the end of physically challenging labour; the earthy warmth of the stables; the sheer strength inherent in every sinew of the horses' muscles; and the soft regard of their brown eyes as I brushed and fed them. Caring for the beasts had been fulfilling in a way I had never known while scavenging.

 

Thinking back on that time, however, inevitably led my thoughts around to the bloody end of it all. I roused myself from contemplation before I could accidentally disturb memories the lake had kindly compressed into dark sediment at the very bottom of my mind.

 

Cross was still speaking, presumably having circled back to his arcanist acquaintances, as he asked me, 'You know the Kirin Tor, right?'

 

In the blank transitionary period between introspection and the present, I broke my silence unthinkingly. 'Aye.'

 

Cross's gaze, which had been drifting carelessly over the ground, darted back to me in surprise. 'You do, eh?' His tone was carefully casual.

 

'The arch mage.' The sound of my voice held more value to me than the meaning of my words; I spoke carelessly, listening to the deep grating rumble that underlined all I said. 'Kel'thuzad.'

 

'Oh aye,' said Cross bitterly, although his tone tightened into dark amusement soon enough as he continued. 'I'll bet you two were proper mates, right. Tea and cake in the Scholomance every Friday. Right?'

 

Cross's crass, joking supposition was so completely incomprehensible that my mind simply seized. Or maybe I'd be better off saying that I was already poorly connected to my surroundings, and his stupid little joke severed my last mooring, catapulting me into open space. Anyway, as I said, I am insane. I was all the more insane back then. I cringed when Cross stood back up; felt a strange, but not unfamiliar, misery sweep over me as he swung me across his shoulders, helpless once more; and finally managed to force myself back into the present when the sky was kind enough to change.

 

It did so slowly, orange muting steadily into the hazy grey-brown of an overcast sunset. I felt Cross's head rock back on his neck to regard it, and cringed at the touch.

 

'Bulwark soon,' he muttered. My return to silence had rendered him sullen.

 

I had no idea what a bulwark might be, and was ready to discard the thought – until unfamiliar voices sounded out, all as ragged and raspy as Cross's, and I found myself suddenly outnumbered and startlingly afraid.

 

'Put that damn crossbow down!' snarled a female voice. 'That's one of ours, or have you ever seen the Scourge carrying their own? Have you? Well?'

 

'No,' said a deeper, scalier voice begrudgingly. 'Ma'am.'

 

Cross lurched to a halt. 'Appreciated, Vandis. How's things, eh? Seen a lot of action lately, or's the crossbow just for show?'

 

'I use it plenty,' muttered the man.

 

'Rotten,' said the woman called Vandis, 'but not all the way through. This is a nice chokepoint. We've had a few attacks from the Scourge remnants in the east, and a few from those damn crusaders in the west, and they were all deliciously easy to defeat.'

 

'I like the stakes,' said Cross, nodding. 'If you stood them a bit more upright, you'd actually be defending a wall from both sides. Sounds like fun, eh?'

 

'This land will be unified under her majesty's banner soon enough, little man, don't you doubt it.' A slight pause, then: 'So. Is that your excuse for a bushel of Scourge heads?'

 

Cross's shoulders rolled beneath me, and I tensed insofar as my ruined body would allow.

 

'About those heads – you'll have to wait on them. Saw this poor sod afloat in Darrowmere and could hardly leave him, could I? Even for the whim of a beautiful lady.'

 

'Even for the coin of a bulwark captain, you mean,' said Vandis.

 

I heard steps and the rustle of cloth, and thrummed with the knowledge that someone was far closer to me than I would ever like.

 

'One of ours?' she asked.

 

'No, I thought I'd go ahead and help the Scourge through our defences,' said Cross blithely. 'Or wait, not that – the Alliance.' He lowered his voice conspiratorially. 'He's not actually dead.'

 

'You don't amuse me, Cross,' said Vandis, and there was something hard in her tone that verified her words.

 

'Well, fine. Could you do me a favour and fix him up a bit? It'd help if the fellow could walk, you know?'

 

'No,' said Vandis. 'No, you get a move on. And if you see any of the living – you cut out their hearts for me, and don't bother me with jokes about them.'

 

It will come as no surprise to you that these were Forsaken soldiers, those stationed on the border between Tirisfal and what is now the Western Plaguelands. At the time I was not so well-informed. It was a mystery to me which faction these people could belong to if they were against both the living and the Scourge.

 

Animated at last by curiosity, I struggled to push myself upright and managed to turn my head to look at her. She was a slighter silhouette than Cross, but just as undead.

 

'Who are you?'

 

'Shadow priestess Vandis,' she snapped. 'You should teach your charge to listen, Cross.'

 

'No. What faction. Race.'

 

A moment's silence, in which Vandis glanced to the burly man on her left and then to Cross himself.

 

'A member of the free undead who does not know his own people?'

 

'He hit his head, fell in a lake. Blind luck that I found him, really. I did ask you t'fix him. He knows fuck all as he is.'

 

Vandis stared for a moment more, before turning about and waving for Cross to follow. 'Bring him here. I'll see what I can do.'

* * *

 

Working on and off, with no real deference to night or daytime, it took Vandis two days to 'fix' me to Cross's satisfaction. The first twelve hours I spent flat on my back, incurring her wrath with every flinch and shudder. Couldn't I see that she was trying to help me, she wanted to know. Couldn't I see how much easier this would be if she didn't have to hold me down? My reaction was due to my state of helplessness and the proximity of the death magic she used to patch me up, of course, so it was nothing I could contain, not until my muscles were sufficiently repaired to let me sit up.

 

When that changed, so did my behaviour. Sitting amongst unknowns was, when I thought about it, an improvement after a decade surrounded by people I knew to be evil. Vandis's mood picked up when she no-longer had my flinching to contend with, and she idly fed me names that meant nothing to me at the time: the Forgotten Shadow, Sylvanas and, yet again, the Forsaken.

 

It was, in fact, almost pleasant to be spoken to, as Cross tended to take over what would have been my side of the conversation. He disguised my affiliation with practiced ease. I was an infiltrator, he told Vandis, and bored her with the fine details of my discovery by the Scourge and subsequent trip into Darrowmere, swearing loyalty to the Queen right up until the final splash.

 

'Which practically makes him a hero of our cause,' he said, slapping me on the shoulder.

 

I began to suspect this particular kindness was actually a threat, but all I could do was nod along and wonder: which queen and what cause?

 

But I'm not as slow as you probably think. They'd mentioned free undead, and I became increasingly sure that this was some sort of splinter group. My mistake was that I presumed they were once ranking members of the Scourge: those who retain rational thought. It seemed unthinkable that drones, that fodder, might somehow escape the Lich King's grasp. And so I placed Vandis as one of the Cult of the Damned's shadowcasters, as it was dark magic she used to strengthen me. Cross, I presumed, had been an infiltrator. Which I suppose isn't all that far from the truth.

 

It was as I mused on this that Cross himself asked, so casually I did not really absorb the words until later, 'What about his eyes?'

 

Vandis's tone was equally calm. 'Obstruction at the best. Here. Watch and learn.'

 

She bore down upon me with immeasurable strength, although I would have to lie to say I struggled with any force. She'd caught me too much by surprise for that. Cold fingertips forced back my left eyelid and sliced into the eye itself. I felt her fingernails bore grooves in the socket as my eyeball distorted in her grasp. Something popped and shifted inside – the lens displaced. I thrashed and bellowed to no avail. Vandis tightened her grip and pulled. Something wrenched deep in my skull: a cord or a tendon. I felt the length of it move within my head. It wrenched and it pulled and it tore, and she ripped my eyeball away.

 

My whole body convulsed. The pain might have been minimal with my nerves dulled by undeath, but the combination of wrenching and tearing was utterly sickening. And then there was the sight of my own eyeball in someone else's bare-bone fingers, the nerve swinging beneath it and splattering my face with blood.

 

Sight. Proper sight: when I closed my remaining eye, everything became clear and crisp. No more blurring. Colours were reduced to ashen versions of their original hues, but I could still make them out just about. Shaking, frozen, I looked left, then right. The sense of your eyeball moving, the muscles tensing and relaxing, is another of those things you only come to notice when they're gone. I felt no movement in my empty socket, but I perceived that my line of sight shifted as I commanded nonetheless.

 

This was a misunderstanding on my part, but one that is typical to those unused to sight through necromantic spell. In truth, unless you were raised by a particularly stupid necromancer, your sight is actually as panoramic as the restrictions of your skull itself will allow. The sense of looking one way or the next is more to do with focus: a human focuses on one point and only processes the area around that point in full. Learning to look at everything in front of you is difficult, and best left to time.

 

I digress. I swept my focus from left to right, and saw the Bulwark as it then stood: logs sharpened to points standing from the ground at angles to protect the defenders on both sides; soldiers in Lordaeron mail standing with their backs to me, armed with swords and crossbows; the ground still churned and muddy from the relatively recent passing of armies; and Vandis and Cross standing over me.

 

Vandis had shallow features, matted black hair and empty pits for eyes, her skin lifeless grey and pitted cross the cheeks and forehead. Cross was taller and further decayed. His flesh was mottled green and purple as though bruised all over. From forehead to the hinge of his jaw the left side of his face had torn away to the bone, which itself bore fractures in which black ooze had gathered. His long blond hair was well-tended but thinning, the shape of his skull very clear underneath. He wore leather armour in black and grey, and carried not one blade but two: a short sword and a dagger.

 

'Much better, am I right?' Cross's grin really did reach all the way up to his ear, the ragged injury gaping open.

 

'We can do the other in your own time,' said Vandis, 'though it's easier without the anticipation.'

 

It was unsettling, seeing the rotten undead speak, but not so much as to tear my attention away from this bizarre new idea that pain can lead to immediate reward. I reached up to my eye socket and felt a gathering of thick blood there, but also my own necromantic energy fluttering around my fingers. Pain had always been part of something long-term. Through this suffering, I shall become a great necromancer; through your suffering, I will devise poisons and plagues. In the future. Always in the future. Sight had come instantaneously.

 

'Give me an hour,' I said, wanting time to steady myself, to grow used to my new vision.

 

I lasted fifteen minutes at the most, before my desire to experience this new novelty overcame me, and I begged her to tear out my last eye.

 

We left the Bulwark and Vandis not long after, and trekked down into the perennial dusk of Tirisfal Glades. The road was lost back then. Thousands of passing feet had widened it into a track of trampled grass and churned soil so broad it stretched all the way amongst the trees, coating their trunks in dust as high as I am tall. I spied lost armour and weaponry beaten down into the ground, and found myself indistinctly aware of the dead left there as well, although all I ever saw of them was the back of someone's head crushed into earth, hair so choked with dirt I believe Cross failed to notice it at all.

 

I watched the few houses we passed, searching for signs of life that never showed. Farmsteads, too, lay in ruin, reduced to squares of trampled crops hemmed in by fence posts standing bereft of their adjoining beams.

 

'All at the capitol, most likely,' said Cross by means of explanation for the silence. 'That's where we're mostly hiding now, though I hear they're gathering uncertains up in the west, and some of us are getting back cosy in Brill. 'S one of the old towns; wasn't caught too heavy by the army.'

 

'Uncertains?'

 

'People who're maybe survivors, you know. Might come around yet, might not. The queen's got no interest giving up on anyone.'

 

I looked over the desolate sweep of the surrounding land and tried to imagine it as somebody's domain. It was a futile effort.

 

'Y'still haven't said which queen,' I reminded him.

 

Cross laughed. 'Mercy. You're just too bloody clueless, aren't you. Did they not tell you anything about the world when you were down in that shithole, or were you just not listening?'

 

I shrugged, although I knew it was a combination of the two. There had been some talk of the Scourge outside the Scholomance, but nobody had made a great effort to keep me informed, and when I’d come close to overhearing I’d always tuned it out. The outside world was nothing to me. It was something I’d given up.

 

‘Someone smarter can tell you about the queen,’ said Cross. ‘There’ll be plenty of them, down in the capital.’

 

I accepted this. I did not question ‘down’, and I did not wonder after the people we would soon be meeting. I hadn’t even the slightest inkling of what I would soon find, when he took me into the bastion of the Undercity.

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