Book 6 – Prologue

The battle was long since over. No swords clanged together, echoing from the vaulted ceilings; shouts weren’t ringing out. There were no more cries of death as another body fell, broken and lifeless, to the floor. The champions of Azeroth had long since looted the place, taking what was valuable and dropping the rest on the floor to be abandoned and eroded by time. All that was left was silence. Deafening, mind-wrenching silence.
Then, down the hall before Kael’thas’s chamber, in among the bodies festering in their own pooled blood, a glowing green eye slowly opened. It blinked and searched about, but was met only with the death she’d been breathing in.
Someone has to be alive, she thought. I can’t be the only one. “Help!” she cried weakly. “Is anyone there?” Even her voice didn’t seem to echo in the stifling quiet.
She pushed the bodies from herself, crying out at the pain it brought to her wounds. Once she was free, she waited, panting and catching her breath. With what little energy she had, she pressed her palm over the wound across her torso, where a great axe had pierced straight through her armor to cut open her flesh and shatter her sternum. Her low energy provided only enough to repair the bones and stop the bleeding, but not close the wound.
She first went to Kael’thas’s chamber, searching in amongst the corpses for him. Her gaze raised to the gaping wound in the ceiling, from which she beheld the night stars blinking in the darkness.
“My prince,” she whispered. “Oh, gods.”
She stumbled through the Keep, checking bodies as she went.
I can’t be the only…
All were dead. Even the dragonhawks and their hatchlings. She ran to the entry hall, then threw herself to the ground outside where she screamed up at the black sky.
Why not me, too? she thought as she cried for her people and her comrades. Why leave me behind?
She hobbled to the edge of the balcony overlooking the stars and stared out at the abyss of space unfolding beneath her.
It would be so easy…
She stepped forward, her toes on the edge of the balcony, and closed her eyes. Wind which shouldn’t be there fluttered through her hair and when she looked, she gasped. “Stormbreaker.”
The dragonhawk warbled and whined, then faltered in his flight. His wing had been cut and now seeped blood across it.
“Stormbreaker!” The knight urged the creature to the walkway, where he laid down. She used her little energy to stop the bleeding. Weak as she was, she could only do that—stitching the wound would have to wait. “My darling. How did you survive?”
The creature warbled and shoved his snout into her hands.
They stayed sitting that way for a long while, unaware of the passage of time as she slowly healed the two of them just a little at a time.
“We’re going to have scars, my friend.”
When they were finally fit to move, they went inside. Her stomach growled and so she made her way to the kitchens. She found bread, wine, and meat rashers, then returned to the front.
“All right, boy, we don’t have much mea— No!” She dropped her food; the wine bottle shattered and the bread soaked it up until it was a red mush.
The blood knight, however, was sick to her stomach for another reason. Stormbreaker, while waiting for his mistress, had cannibalized several hatchling corpses—she could not tell how many, just that there were wings and tails snapped off by his sharp beak. Now, though, he was picking at an astromancer; he’d already devoured one of her legs. The dragonhawk pulled at her other leg and in one snap and a sickening crunch of bone, severed the limb and swallowed it whole. The woman gagged, then whistled shrill. He flew to her and purred contentedly.
“I know. You’re hungry. But…you can’t eat them, okay? Those are my friends.” She gasped as tears dripped from her eyes. She fell to her knees, clasping both hands over her mouth to scream in angry sorrow as it really began to set in that she was alone.
When she finally calmed down and wiped her eyes, Stormbreaker was halfway through the dead woman’s torso. She screamed at him to stop and he went to her, curiously tilting his head. The knight led him back outside and climbed onto his back—a task made difficult without a saddle. She flew to each of the surrounding satellites, leaving him outside as she checked for any living soul. When she reached the Botanica she stopped to eat a fruit from one of the stations. She decided it would be a good place to make her home with its abundant supply of edible vegetation.
Something stirred in the corner and she quickly grabbed the sword from a nearby corpse. “Show yourself!”
With small, slithering, creaking steps a lasher circled from a hiding spot in a dark corner behind one of the planters. The knight laughed and lowered the weapon as it approached, vines reaching out. It was so small, little older than a seedling. She lifted it into her arms and it wrapped frightened vines behind her neck.
“There, there, plant. All the bad people are gone. I’ve got you.”
She spent the following days dragging corpses to the balcony and tossing them into the nether below. Stormbreaker stared on with curiosity as she told him no every time one passed him. The next day she flew to the Mechanar and did the same. Then the Arcatraz. By the time she returned to the Keep the smell of death was more pungent. It clung in the air, humid and sickly. The scent of rotting flesh hit her in the doorway, causing her to retch. She took a cloth rubbed with mint oils and wrapped it over her face, then got to work.
She first went into the quarters hall, her heart pounding, knowing who she would find, though hoping beyond hope that maybe, somehow, just this one other person had survived and was still hiding. The room she went into was familiar–it was hers, after all. Two beds were on either side and over the top of her own was the still figure. Her heart clenched and tears immediately poured down her cheeks. The woman on the bed was laying with eyes clenched shut and lips purple, her hands were wrapped tightly around a pendant that hung on a golden chain around her neck. Her veins spidered green across her ivory skin; the blood knight found the cause after a short inspection. She’d been stabbed in the back with a poisoned blade.
“Zatrine,” she said on a soft whimper. “Why you?” She gasped for air and pulled the woman’s body into her arms.
When she had no more tears to cry, she took the pendant from around Zatrine’s neck and clasped it around her own. After an agonizing minute of thought, she rearranged the body on the bed onto her back, hands over her chest, so she simply looked like she might be sleeping. The knight brushed the other woman’s creamy locks out of her face and took a stuttering breath. Finally she left the room, shutting and locking it behind her to remain as a tomb for her dearest friend. With a heavy heart she began clearing the bodies of the Keep.
She was only halfway through when the length of her task made itself apparent. She gripped a man’s arms and pulled to drag him through the hallway. His boot caught on a lantern’s post and, due to her momentum, caused her to fall backward, ripping his arms from the sockets as the decaying flesh gave way. The blood knight dropped his separated limbs and skittered backward, though her stomach had hardened by then. She took a tapestry from a room and laid it out, then carefully loaded several bodies onto it.
“I should have thought of this sooner. Damn.”
Able to haul five at a time, her task completed much faster. As she’d done with the other satellites, she stopped to look around the empty, blood-stained main room, remembering how it looked with her friends filling its hallways, talking and laughing. Out on the balcony she stood with her mask off and took a deep breath, then began singing a sin’dorei song of mourning.
Over the next month she worked at cleaning the Botanica of all the blood and proof of the death which had occurred inside. She found a room which she made her own and put a shallow pot of soil in one corner for the lasher to sleep on.
It was months before she saw another living being. They came in through the main entrance and began collecting items of value.
“Hey!” she shouted.
“I thought all the blood knights were dead,” one of them said.
She strode forward. “That’s mine. This is all mine.” She ripped an item from one of their hands.
He immediately retaliated, slashing up her face with a poisoned blade, cutting her left eyebrow in half—the long strands of it fell to the ground at her feet. After a moment to process what had happened, she backed away, grabbing a weapon from the wall. The polearm slashed through the air in her grasp, slitting the man’s throat. She proceeded to sweep through them, taking them out one at a time. Clearly these were simple looters with little combat experience.
She whistled. “Stormbreaker! Dinner time.”
The remaining three took off for the exit as the dragonhawk swooped in behind her and grabbed a still dying man in his beak. She chased them to the entrance, cutting the heels of one to stop him before stabbing through the side of his neck. As the other two reached their mounts outside, she hurled her spear. It flew through the air, impaling the man through his lower back into the side of his gryphon. The creature shrieked in pain and turned to snap at the man as though it was he who was causing it such pain. The final man ducked and huddled beside his own gryphon, his hands up in surrender.
She strode to him and pulled him up by the hair. “Tell everyone you meet that this is my home and it will not be looted by any of you depraved pieces of shit. I’m not someone they want to fuck with.”
He nodded as she released him and shoved him onto his mount. She slapped the gryphon so it would take off and fly away. The others she removed the saddles, untied, and shooed from her porch. The final one was still squawking in pain, though it had torn the man’s throat open.
“I’m sorry.” The knight shoved the spear deeper into the creature, killing it.
The bodies were piled in the entry hall as she boarded the doorway closed. Stormbreaker made himself cozy on a bed of straw and picked at one of them.
“No!” She rushed forward to stop him, removed the man’s weapons, then backed away. “You could’ve hurt yourself, silly beast.” She went through to disarm all the others, then left the area for him to roost in.
Months passed. Then years. Every so often someone would come to her door, break the boards, and either meet Stormbreaker or make it inside long enough to meet their end at her hands. They all had the same story: they were there to either prove the bogeyman of Tempest Keep was just a ghost story to scare off looters, or to kill the last blood knight for all the lives she’d taken. Scars accumulated on her face and arms from the battles she’d had to fight with no time to put on her armor.
Every few months if one of the trespassers was particularly attractive, she would seduce them. If they pleased her she let them live, if not then they died and became Stormbreaker’s next meal.
Only one of them got the drop on her. This man was an elf with beautiful features. She kept him for several days, and he showed no signs of wanting to kill her. Then one night as she was atop him, he withdrew a dagger. She was just fast enough to steer the weapon away from her chest. It stabbed into her side and she hissed and punched him hard enough to break his nose, then skittered across the bed. He got up on his knees and made his way to her, lips pursed in anger. Vines stretched up and wrapped around his neck from behind. They twisted and circled and squeezed tighter and tighter until the bones crackled within. His arms fell limp at his sides, though he remained upright, his eyes open and empty in a lightless, ghostly white she was all too familiar with. He was thrown to the side and the lasher, now much larger, creeped up onto the bed.
“Plant,” she gasped. “Thank you.” The knight relaxed, laying her head back as she held to the knife still in her side.
Plant wove its vines under and around her in an odd sort of hug. She pursed her lips and ripped the knife from her side, crying out before quickly healing the wound. Once it knew she was okay, it wrapped its vines around the dead elf and dragged his corpse through the Botanica and into the entry hall, where Stormbreaker perked and trilled. Plant made a strange squeaking back at him, then returned to his mistress’s side.
The years wore on. She learned to tie the men up and never keep them longer than a night. She fashioned her own mask from one in the armory, covering as much of her face as she could. She taught herself to blacksmith and weave to clothe and armor herself. Anything she couldn’t obtain within the Keep somewhere she would fly down to the surface and walk to Area 52 for, with a cloak around her, head covered, and nothing identifying her as a blood knight. The goblins, however, didn’t care and didn’t reveal if they knew who she was—which they did.
She loved her hair too much to cut it off, though she wanted it out of her way. She braided the sides and put the top in a leather tie, then rubbed the rest into dreadlocks. She didn’t know how long it had been, only that her hair grew longer and she had to rebraid it and dreadlock the rest to her scalp.
Her dreadlocks were to her waist—the braids much farther—when a strange night elf came into the Botanica. Stormbreaker lifted his head from his nest in the entry hall and watched the man walk calmly by—the dragonhawk didn’t make a single sound, just laid his head back down to continue his nap. The man’s calm demeanor never changed, even as the blood knight strode to him to block his path. He smiled softly at her gleaming armor, his own gaze meeting the scowling eyes behind the mask.
“Ah, there you are,” he said as though greeting an old friend.
“How did you get past Stormbreaker?” she demanded.
His smile never wavered. “He simply let me pass, of course.”
“Because a smart animal knows not to pick fights with those higher up the food chain than they are.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Kazdormu, and I’m in need of someone equipped with your particular skillset.” He held up his hand as she took a breath to speak. “It’s all right, I don’t need your name, I know you don’t quite remember it. Now go ahead and ask your question.”
She wet her lips in thought as she looked him over. “What’s in it for me?”
“Anything you want.”
“Anything at all?”
“Of course.” His smile was kind and genuine.
She looked around at the empty Botanica. “What if I said all I truly want is to not be here? Alone. To not have had to clean this place of corpses. Can you do that, huh?” she asked on a snarl. “Can you change the fucking past?”
Roused by her agitation, the dragonhawk squeezed in through the doorway.
Kazdormu stepped to her and a chill ran up her spine as an uneasy feeling swirled in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes darted to the right where Plant and Stormbreaker were frozen, locked in time.
“Yes, I can.”
“They’re coming with me,” she said softly. “What is my mission?”
He grinned and time around them returned to normal. He took her hand in his. “You, my pet, are going to help me rewrite history.”

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