“Wake up brother! Stay with me… I need you! We all do…” said a soft feminine voice filled with sadness.
“Leave him Nerrivik! His wounds are too great. We can’t do anything for him anymore” replied another voice.
“But…” sobbed Nerrivik, tears rolling down her furry face.
“I know but we have to go. If we don’t, the Scourge’s going to kill us too.” said the other voice.
Feeling a big hand resting on his head, the dying Worgen heard: “Thank you my friend! You saved my life and that of many others tonight. We won’t forget you. You were like a brother to me. I will protect your sister and our pack until my dying breath. Goodbye …..”
As footsteps fled to the east, the sound of horses arriving from the west was louder and louder, until it was all around. Trying to open his eyes, the Worgen felt a sharp pain in his chest as the blade of a cold sword pierced his heart.
“You killed many of my best soldiers, wolf, but you shall soon become ours. You will be a powerful weapon under my master’s command” said a cold voice before death took hold of the Worgen’s body.
Giltharak suddenly opened his eyes and howled loudly, as if waking up from a terrible nightmare. He felt cold and sweaty all over. His body was wreaked with pain. Sitting up, he tried to find wounds but no trace of blood could be seen through his white fur.
“It must have been a dream” he told himself.
Trying to regain his thoughts, he looked around. He was sitting, naked, in a dark room. The air was filled with death. Shadows were moving all around. Giltharak looked at the one standing closer to him, trying to figure out what it was. It seemed to walk on two feet, its back was arched and its flesh was showing signs of rot. But still, it was standing there, working on some kind of table laden with body parts. For a second, fear took over the poor Worgen but it almost felt… normal. As if he was used to seeing those rotting abominations walking around. The ghoul was assembling what looked like a bigger version of itself. And as Giltharak’s eyes got used to the poor lighting, he could see that many more were doing the exact same thing. He was so absorbed by the grim display of these undead creatures moving in front of his eyes that he didn’t heard heavy footsteps rapidly approaching from behind.
“Welcome to your new life in Acherus, Death Knight”, said a powerful voice.
A cold shiver running up his spine, Giltharak slowly turned his head and came face to face with a massive, dark figure. The Lich King was standing there, gazing down on him with his cold, glowing eyes.
“You’ve been raised from death to be part of my most powerful soldiers, Worgen. Now kneel before your new master and pledge allegiance to the Scourge.”
Giltharak shakily rose up, keeping his head low, and kneeled in front of the Lich King. With a hint of fear lingering in the back of his mind, he answered, as if his voice was guided by darkness deep inside him: “Master, I will serve you and the Scourge for the remainders of time. My blade and claws will mercilessly cut through your enemies’ flesh. May they drown in despair while the Scourge emerges victorious against the Light!”
A cold smiled was drawn on the Lich King’s face as he replied: “Good, my minion. Now, take up your armor and meet me up at the platform overlooking the battlefield.”
He then turned around and quickly left the room. As soon as the Lich King was out of sight, the dark atmosphere in the room seemed to dissipate a little. The stench of the rotting flesh, however, did not. Rising up to his feet, Giltharak slowly walked up to the door the Lich King went through. On a small decrepit table, he found ragged pieces of armor. From the look of it, the armor was probably made for a Tauren. But given the pitiful state it was in, it most probably was salvaged from a dead one. Giltharak was tall, even for a Worgen, towering at 7 and half feet. The armor itself was pretty large but he had trouble putting it on. His broad shoulders were almost tearing the crude material of his robe apart. As for the hood, he had to rip two holes with his claws to make sure his long furry ears weren’t too uncomfortable. It was however impossible to conceal his long gray snout in this cowl. The gloves proved difficult to put on. He eventually had to rip the fingers off to make his claws go through. As for the boots, well, these were more like ankle bands than boots so he had no trouble placing these over his paws. Giltharak took his time, covering his massive frame with the entire garment found on the table. Once ready, the Worgen took another look with his cold blue eyes at the room while slowly making his way towards the door and left the room.
As he walked through the gloomy corridors, Giltharak tried to remember how he ended up here. But, as soon as he tried to reach in his memories, darkness engulfed his thoughts. The more he tried, the more darkness overwhelmed him. The only thing he could somehow remember was his name. Where was he from? What has he done to deserve the honor, or so he thought at that moment, of being chosen by the Lich King to be a Death Knight? And most of all, what was that weird feeling, coming from the farthest reaches of his soul, telling him that this was not where he should be?
After walking for a few minutes, he reached the end of the corridor. As he looked left and right, no doorway or staircase could be seen. However, a small, round platform emitting a weird purple light was placed on the floor. Hesitating for a moment, Giltharak finally decided to get on the platform. A flash of light engulfed the corridor as he was magically transported in a large room, filled with other people. Even though the flash of light couldn’t possibly go unnoticed, everyone kept doing their work as if nothing happened. Across the room, many Death Knight Initiates were gathered around forges, working on their blades. The forge master was walking from one group to the other, giving instructions and punishing severally any mistake. At the center of the room, chained in a small pit, failed initiates were sitting on the floor, waiting for the moment their master would put an end to their misery. Giltharak could identify most of the races of Azeroth; Gnomes, Dwarves, Taurens, Blood Elves and even Forsaken. However, it seemed as if he was the only one of his race. Maybe that was why the Lich King wanted to make him a Death Knight. He might have seen something in Giltharak that no other race of the known world could provide.
Behind the Worgen was a stairway leading to a large balcony. The Lich King was standing there, looking out at the field below the citadel. As Giltharak climbed up the stairs, the echo of the battle raging outside could clearly be heard.
“Come, Death Knight, and gaze upon the field below” said the Lich King. “All those pathetic humans, fighting a battle they will not win. Feel the power of the Scourge at work.”
As Giltharak reached the ledge, he looked down and saw many humans in red armor trying to defend themselves against the Scourge, while citizens were running out of what once were their homes. Waves after waves of ghouls and Death Knights poured down on the valley, killing each and every one standing in their way. The humans were retreating to a small city surrounded by heavily fortified walls. Looking towards the sea, Giltharak could see the masts of large boats, getting ready to set sail.
“As you can see”, said the Lich King, “the Scarlet Crusade is powerless against my assault. Soon, we will crush every single one of them, gathering new soldiers from their dead bodies.”
Pointing to the west, the Lich King continued. “Beyond these mountains stands the Argent Crusade. These so-called defenders of the Light think they can stop us from taking over the Plaguelands. They can’t imagine how wrong they are, especially now that my new champion has arisen.”
“Who is that new champion, master?” asked Giltharak.
Looking back at the Worgen, the Lich King answered: “Well, YOU of course! You must probably be wondering why you are the only one of your race in Acherus don’t you? For a long time, I have watched the Archmage Arugal change your race within the depths of Shadowfang Keep. From the savage beasts you once were, you slowly evolved into a sentient race, able to keep enough control over your feral nature without affecting your ferocity and fighting abilities. When I got word that Arugal was killed by the Forsakens, I sent my best men to raise him back from the dead. While performing the ritual, my scouts found your kind, hiding in the mountains north of Shadowfang Keep. Unfortunately, you were the only one I could capture, at least, for now.”
Looking into the hearth of Acherus, the Lich King continued. “You managed to kill many of my best Death Knights before finally crumbling to the ground, giving enough time to your fellow Worgens to make their escape. Your savageness and fury is impressive, as well as your stamina. I have seen Taurens put a pretty decent fight against my army but they couldn’t measure up to the carnage you caused while trying to escape from my grasp. That is why I wanted you here. With my fury guiding your actions, you shall be unstoppable!”
Kneeling in front of the Lich King, Giltharak replied: “You shall be proud of me, master. Your enemies will tremble at the sight of my bloody claws ripping their comrades apart.”
“That is what I am expecting of you, Worgen” said the Lich King. “But before I send you out to kill the enemies of the Scourge, you will need to learn how to master the powers I gave you as my new Death Knight. Meet with Instructor Razuvious inside Acherus. He will help you get ready to fight under my command.”
With those words, the Lich King turned his sight back onto the battlefield. Giltharak stood up and walked back inside Acherus.
Razuvious was standing near the forge, yelling at a Blood Elf initiate holding a broken blade in his hands.
“Weakling!” yelled Razuvious “How dare you break your blade? You do not deserve the gift the Lich King bestowed upon you. You are pathetic! You will not be of any use to the Scourge.” Looking at two other initiates, the instructor said: “You two, chain him in the pit.”
The two Night Elf initiates put their blades back on the rack in front of them and took hold of the Blood Elf. Looking at the scene, Giltharak could not help but feel pity at the initiate. The Blood Elf saw the look on the Worgen’s face and anger took hold of him.
“What are you looking at, wolf?” said the initiate.
“Weakness!” replied Giltharak with darkness in his voice he never knew he had.
Angrier than ever, the Blood Elf replied: “You overestimate yourself, fur ball! You shall be chained by my side soon enough!”
Giltharak laughed. “We shall see!” he said, turning his attention back to the instructor.
“Worgen”, Razuvious said, “the Lich King have very high hopes in you. And I see that you have a high regard for your own abilities. Let’s see if you’re as good as you sound, initiate…?”
“Giltharak, sir”, replied the Worgen.
“Right. Take a sword in the weapon rack over there and bring it to the forge.”
Giltharak walked up to the rack and searched for a suitable weapon. Many of the blades were useless, either missing a piece or too dull to cut through anything. After almost giving up and walking to another rack, a small glint of red caught his attention. He reached far inside the rack, grabbed the hilt of a sword and took it out. It was almost 5 feet long and looked brand new. Even though it should be pretty heavy considering its size, the sword was surprisingly light in Giltharak’s hands. From the guard, red lines drew weird patterns on the first third of the blade, and a single red stripe was going almost all the way to the tip. The guard was small but Giltharak was able to place his two big hands on the long grip of the sword. It was almost as if that blade was made for a Worgen. A small flash came through his clouded mind. He was sure to have seen that sword somewhere before, but where? It seemed somehow familiar. Chasing that thought away, he met Instructor Razuvious in front of the forge.
Taking a look at Giltharak’s weapon, Razuvious said: “You’ve made quite a discovery there, Worgen: the Haunting Blade. The curse placed on this sword will drink the blood of anyone wounded by its blade, weakening its enemy faster than any other weapon. It is however quite strange. Very few can wield it. You first have to be wounded by the blade, and then kill its original wielder. Only then will the sword accept you as its master and let you fight using it. Many initiates tried to pick that sword up but were unable to take it off the rack let alone bring it here at the forge. You intrigue me, Initiate Giltharak. I will take great interest in training you. That is, if you can forge your blade correctly.”
Turning back toward the forge, Razuvious continued. “This is a Runeforge, where Death Knights create their first Runeblade. Even though your sword is already quite powerful, by placing your weapon on the forge, you’ll be able to infuse it with your powers, giving you command over many things, even death itself. A Death Knight cannot fight without his Runeblade, as it is a part of him. Now, place your sword on the Runeforge, put your hands on the blade and let the power of the Lich King and the Scourge flow through your being and into your weapon.”
Giltharak placed his sword at the center of the forge, closed his eyes and touched the blade. The Worgen immediately felt the sword draining energy from him. The pain was beyond measure and a loud yelp escaped the Worgen’s maw. Darkness was surrounding the blade, as more energy was sipped from Giltharak and mixed with the power of the Runeforge. He was about to collapse when the sword finally released its grip. It now had a dark blue glow upon its blade. Giltharak picked it up from the forge and presented it to his instructor.
Taking a good look at the newly forged blade, Razuvious smiled and said: “Good work, initiate. Your sword seems stronger than it ever was. Most initiates spend days to achieve what you have done in minutes, while some miserably fail at even keeping the blade intact” finished the Instructor, gazing over the failures chained in the pit.
“Now is the time to test it. Take this key. It will unlock the chains of one of these initiates in the pit behind you. Challenge him in a fair fight and kill him. But remember, Worgen, that failure is not an option! If one of those weaklings beats you, it will take your place as a Death Knight and your next rebirth will be as a mindless ghoul.”
With those words in mind, Giltharak took the key and made his way to the pit. As soon as he reached the center, the Worgen looked at all the failed initiates chained around him. All of them were still kneeling on the floor; all but one. The Blood Elf Giltharak met earlier was there, standing straight and looking defiantly at the Worgen.
“You haven’t got what it takes to be a Death Knight, wolf! You shouldn’t be here! Your kind does not deserve the honor of serving the Lich King.”, said the initiate.
Anger took over Giltharak, guided by a dark presence lingering in the back of his mind. “Maybe”, answered the Worgen. “But tell me, who is chained at the wall waiting for death?” Walking toward the Blood Elf and unlocking the initiate’s bounds, he added: “I will put an end to your miserable existence right away if that is your wish.”
“You will be dead before you even realize your mistake, fur ball!” said the Blood Elf.
As soon as he was released, the Blood Elf reached for his armor and his broken sword. While his enemy was getting ready for battle, Giltharak was barely able to keep himself from jumping on the Blood Elf and ripping right through him with his claws. Anger was now filling his mind. His thoughts were dark and murderous, wishing to shed as much blood as possible. However, from the deepest reaches of his soul, a small glint of light emerged and with it came a soft voice calling to him.
“Stay with me, brother. Do not let your mind get overwhelmed by hatred.”
Giltharak stood there, dumbfounded. Somehow, he knew that voice, but couldn’t remember who it belonged to. Trying to remember only caused the Worgen more pain than he was already enduring. In front of him however, the Blood Elf was finally ready for battle. Raising his broken blade, he said, with a hint of haughtiness: “Come and meet your destiny, fur ball! Your white pelt will look amazing as my brand new mantle!”
That was more than Giltharak could take. The small patch of light in the back of his mind instantly disappeared and darkness filled him. His feral instinct took control of his body.
“No one will ever skin me like a beast!” yelled the Worgen
Letting out a bestial roar, Giltharak extended his arm toward his enemy, trying to reach him. A purple beam shot from his hand, grabbing the surprised Blood Elf and bringing him right in front of the furious Death Knight. Paralyzed by fear, the initiate barely had time to stop the first blow as the claws of the Worgen came from the other side and ripped his chest. Taking a small step backward, the Blood Elf noticed a quick flash of red on his left, but only a moment too late. Giltharak’s sword cut one of his arms off and quickly returned to finish the job, cutting the failed initiate’s body in two.
The Worgen stood up, gazing down on what was left of the Blood Elf. His cold eyes then went around the pit, looking at the other chained initiates, trying to find one more prey. They were all cowering in fear at the grim demonstration of what the Worgen was capable of. At the moment, no one dared to look at Giltharak. He was getting ready to pounce on another initiate when a voice coming from outside of the pit stopped him in his track.
Raising his head, Giltharak saw Instructor Razuvious looking at him.
“You are the most vicious initiate I’ve ever seen. It seems as if you were meant to be a Death Knight. You flawlessly used your abilities to kill your opponent quickly, spreading fear all around you. As expected, the fate of the Lich King in your abilities was not misplaced. You will become a very powerful Death Knight. Come now, I think you are ready to be sent on the battlefield as you seem to instinctively know everything you need to. But before we do, the Lich King has called for you, Death Knight Giltharak.”
Without saying a word, the Worgen turned away and slowly climbed the stairs leading out of the pit. His anger was gradually dissipating but his thoughts were darker than ever. Killing that Blood Elf had awoken a hunger for blood that was difficult to control. He needed more blood! He had to kill someone. It did not matter to him anymore if the prey was sentenced to death or not. He had to feel blood on his sharp claws; he had to taste it!
Arriving in front of the Lich King, Giltharak saw a freshly revived Draeinei initiate. She was kneeling in front of the leader of the Scourge, turning her back to the feral Death Knight. Her tail was slowly going from left to right as she listened to her new master. She seemed so vulnerable, so delicate and she smelled so… TASTY! Without a second thought, Giltharak took out his sword and leaped at the initiate. His prey was almost within reach when the Lich King lifted his hand and instantly stopped the Worgen in midair. Giltharak dropped his sword, feeling a powerful, yet invisible hand grabbing him by the throat, squeezing, almost breaking his neck. Giving his final orders to the new initiate who scurried away, the Lich King dropped the choking Death Knight to the ground.
“Worgen, it appears that you have enjoyed killing that failed initiate in the pit. I can see that all of your thoughts are tainted with the blood you have shed today and that you need to spill more. I will help you satisfy the hunger you feel. Prince Valanar is looking for strong soldiers for a few missions inside New Avalon. I think you are the perfect candidate, Death Knight. And besides, you will be able to kill as much humans as you want. You will find the Prince in the camp, under Acherus. Take a Bone Gryphon from the upper level of this citadel to reach the ground. Go now and do not show any mercy at the enemies of the Scourge.”
Taking his sword back, Giltharak answered: “I will do as you order, master.”
“Good” said the Lich King. “Be advised that I will keep an eye on you, Death Knight. I want to make sure you do not cause any collateral damage to my army.”
“As you wish, master” replied Giltharak.
Rising up to his feet, the Worgen saluted the Lich King before taking his leave. His hunger for blood has somewhat receded. He was now feeling ashamed of himself, giving up to his feral instinct like he did. It almost cost the life of yet another person. He had to control his anger. He had to make the Lich King proud of him. He had to find a way to kill his enemies without reverting back to the beast he once was.
Unbeknown to the Worgen, his quest to salvation began, as the small light that almost stopped him from killing the Blood Elf reappeared in the back of his mind. It was still pretty weak, fighting its way through the darkness filling the Death Knight’s mind.
“I do not want to lose you again, brother. I will help you get back to the way you were when you helped us escape from Arugal” said a voice in the back of the Worgen’s mind.
Giltharak couldn’t hear what the voice said but somehow, he felt at peace. A smile appeared on his face as he walked toward the purple platform that would take him to the upper level of Acherus
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