Blue, the creature that was once Henry Walker thinks. Molly had a blue dress.
For a moment, its jaw hangs open in slack surprise. Now it stands, stunned as if struck, from the foreign sensation of thinking.
A rising hiss, a rush of volume, and consciousness washes away; the Master’s voice has returned.
The creature that was once Henry Walker closes its grip once more, snapping the neck of the woman it holds aloft. She is flung into a corner to land gracelessly, a bag of meat and sticks in her second-best blue dress.
A week later, another unexpected thought. This time, the quiet lasts long enough for the creature to glance around. The mass of Scourge has broken rank, shock registering in those that still have eyes.
Not the only one this is happening
And then it is gone.
The little girl runs like it matters. She will run out of breath eventually, and the creature never will. She weaves between pumpkins and underneath wheelbarrows, bare feet kicking up dust behind her, a battered doll clutched in one small, sweaty fist.
The creature kicks away the pumpkin, bats aside the wheelbarrow, continues its efficient pursuit. It does not hurry. If it does not get the girl, another of its kind will. They have all the time in the world, and they are unstoppable.
The creature stops.
We wanted a little girl, Molly and me.
The creature blinks.
The girl is getting away, the last bright flash of her blonde pigtails disappearing as she reaches the edge of the woods.
Soon, the Master’s voice will return.
Soon, the creature will rise and give chase. It will kill.
It waits for it, and for the first time, feels something like sorrow.
In its mind, a bellow of rage
And then… silence.
My name is Henry Walker.
The creature raises its palm to its face. Tough, calloused skin has turned a sickly, mottled greenish-gray. Deep, untreated wounds make jagged canyons, crusted with dirt and thick with jellied blood.
My name is Henry Walker, and I’ve become some kind of monster.
They’ve been walking for five days, and only he and Ratslin are left.
There were sixteen of them when they left Cinderhome. There was no plan; they’d simply realized there were others like them on the road and moved together for safety. With their minds broken free, their kind has become the hunted; the Scourge, the Legion, the humans, and the traitor prince batter them from all sides.
But the other fourteen didn’t fall in battle, and the truth of it makes Henry shiver from a cold he shouldn’t be able to feel.
No one had given it a second thought when Elise had started picking up pebbles and putting them in her pockets… that is, until they’d crossed the bridge. She’d made such a small splash, sunk so fast.
Henry got to know the look, a sort of wild-eyed panic. They’d mutter… that was always the start of it, the muttering… a litany of names, friends, family, lovers.
The ones they’d seen die in front of their eyes… or worse, the ones they’d torn to shreds with their own ragged nails.
The remembering was killing them all faster than Arthas ever could.
Kendall had picked up a sword off a rotting paladin, and quick, so quick, he’d plunged it into his heart. Sizzling smoke – the blade had been blessed – and he’d crumpled.
His face, pockmarked with maggot holes, eyes filmed with white, had looked so hopeful. At rest. His cracked lips drawn wide over filthy teeth, the first smile Henry had seen on him since they’d met.
Henry knew the others had seen that look of peace.
He figured that was why five more of them were dead by morning.
“Weak,” Ratslin had hissed in disgust, yanking the dagger from another’s chest. “So disgustingly weak. It’s always the fresh ones.”
And there’s just the two of them now, and Henry can feel Ratslin’s eyes on him.
“You’re fresh, too,” Ratslin finally says. “But you’re not like them…”
Henry shrugs. “You keep saying that word, fresh. I don’t know what it means.”
“Where’d you hail from? Darrowshire? Vandermar?”
“Had a place just outside Hearthglen.”
Ratslin nods knowingly. “Yeah. Fresh. Me, I lived in Brill… first town the plague hit. Figure I’ve been undead months longer than you. Easy to tell… you care.”
Henry blinks. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I see you, you know. You’re headed somewhere, looking for someone. Keeps you going, unlike those suckers. True love or revenge, I can’t tell… but you care. Don’t off yourself like those idiots, and you’ll get over it.”
Henry stops walking, and Ratslin chuckles.
“Death’s got a way with a person, Henry. Body goes stone-cold and your heart follows right along. All the color goes out of your feeling just like wash left out in the sun, bleached all pale and bloodless. Whoever it is you’re hunting… you’ll wake up one morning and you won’t give a tinker’s damn.”
Henry’s hands clench into fists. “That isn’t gonna happen to me.”
Ratslin just laughs. “A woman, then. Gotta be.”
A woman, yes, and when his cracked and oozing feet finally carry him back home, Henry swears to himself he can still smell her.
He’s lying to himself, and he knows it: the little farmhouse smells just like everything else here, rotting meat and sick-sweet putrefaction and copper-bright stale blood.
Molly’d been a baker, and she’d carried home the smells of her father’s shop; cinnamon in her hair, cocoa dusting her arms, skin-warmed vanilla wafting from her neck. She’d been soft and round and freckled, rude and frank and funny, buttered-soft little hands a constellation of tiny burn marks.
These, these are the memories that torment: the warm, soft weight of her curled against him, a stray lock of her hair tickling his arm. Her laughter ringing through the house, mischief in her soft brown eyes, his head pillowed on her breast as she idly curled his hair around her finger.
He paces the house slowly, methodically. His ruined fingertips rise to trace a shredded curtain, dip to touch a smear of spilled flour.
It’s impossible. Between the looters, the Scourge, the livestock gone plagued and feral, there are tracks everywhere and no way to tell what happened when. Alive, dead, undead… he may never know what happened to her.
Then the light hits it… a spark glinting beneath the kitchen table. His heart sinks.
He pulls it up by the snapped chain: a small silver locket. He reaches out to open the clasp, glimpse the silhouettes of them inside… but the moment he touches it, he pulls his hand back with a surprised, angry hiss.
And, after everything, this is the moment Henry Walker finally cries.
He sinks to one knee, his forehead against the table’s edge, and wails like a child, although his dim and ghostlit eyes make no tears. He’d had the locket engraved as a wedding gift; their names, their wedding date… and the symbol of the Holy Light.
She is gone… and he is damned.
Suddenly, Ratslin’s voice in his head: You’ll wake up one morning and you won’t give a tinker’s damn.
Henry thinks of cold winter mornings in a hot nest of blankets. He thinks of freckle trails down a soft and ticklish belly. He thinks of cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla.
He ties the ends of the chain together and slips it over his neck.
The locket lands just above his heart, and the sudden stab of pain makes him lurch, grabbing the table to keep from going down. The skin of his chest blisters and steams and stinks, the rancid, oily reek of burning hair followed by an almost-pleasant odor of cooking meat.
It will do.
The clerk is bored, but Henry feels like he could jump out of his own skin. Sylvanas’ decree has been very clear; certain items are not allowed in Forsaken territory. The list is long and comprehensive, ranging from plants to pets to personal items.
And, most importantly, objects of the Holy Light, forbidden to all but priests.
Henry’s stolen the robe off a cleric’s corpse, rubbed it over rocks and into dirt. The staff is simply a long stick, but he’s hoping they won’t inspect that too closely.
“Priest,” Henry says. He tries to sound confident.
The clerk raises an eyebrow; Henry’s not the first to try this scam to keep a family heirloom. “Really. You look a little farmboy to me.”
Cold laughter behind him. “Looks like a farmboy, never could preach worth a damn, but yeah… he’s our priest.”
Henry whirls to see his savior’s face.
It’s his sister-in-law Jenny, his brother Noah’s wife, and his heart leaps despite the shock of seeing her like this.
“Thank you, my child,” Henry says.
The clerk waves his pencil dismissively. “Go on through.”
“Is she —?”
He’s pulled Jenny into a corner, his mind exploding with hope and dread, his grip on her arm too tight, but he can’t bring himself to care…
Jenny glares. “Oh, I’m just fine, Henry, thank you so much for asking, and you’re welcome, by the way…”
He resists the urge to shake her, fights to keep his voice steady. “Not now, dammit. Is she with you?”
“As far as I know, your precious little pudding is still alive.”
“As far as you know? Is that all you know?”
And now Jenny smiles… a superbly unpleasant experience.
“Actually, Henry, I know quite a bit. I even know where she is.” Jenny’s smile becomes an awful grin. “I saw her… and her new husband.”
Henry takes a staggering step back, and Jenny’s tone turns light, syrup-sweet. “I suppose we should have seen it coming. She and Noah always did get along. And we can’t really blame them, can we? After all, the vows did only last until death.”
Henry can’t stop shaking his head. “No, no, that can’t be right. I’d believe you saw them together, but that… that doesn’t mean anything, they’re family, of course they’d stick together…”
“I never kissed any of my family like that,” Jenny cackles.
Henry shivers. He feels like he’s folding in on himself, getting smaller and smaller until finally, blessedly, he might disappear.
“Do you know why I died, Henry?” Jenny’s advancing on him now, the tip of a bony finger jabbing into his chest. “I didn’t have to.”
Henry shakes his head again, takes another step back.
“Andorhal grain,” Jenny’s in his face, flecks of spittle flying from her mouth. “Andorhal grain, Henry, and we lived on a wheat farm! Too lazy, too busy running his mouth in town… going to plow tomorrow, going to plant tomorrow. Cupboards so bare the rats moved out, and I had to sell the cow and buy my own damned death!”
“Look at me.” Jenny’s ravaged fingers climb her cheeks like spiders. “Noah killed me just as sure as he’d shot me, and what’d he get? Away without so much as a tickly cough and your sweet, plump little wife to lay his murdering hands on.”
The mental image twists Henry’s stomach; he sits down heavily on a bench.
“Don’t think I never noticed you, Henry.” Jenny’s voice is almost kind now. “Solid as a rock, and didn’t Noah know it, didn’t he use it. How many times did you cover for him? Do his chores? Loan him money? Half our farm was yours by right, and you let him talk you out of it. That silver tongue worked on me and it worked on you and now it’s working on your Molly.”
Henry can’t seem to stop shaking his head, like he’s trying to dislodge his thoughts.
Jenny folds her arms. “I’ll make you a deal, Henry. I’ll tell you exactly where Molly is.”
He looks up, wary. “And in return…?”
“I want Noah dead.”
Henry’s back to the head shaking. “No. I can’t. I don’t care what he did, I can’t kill my own brother…”
Jenny snorts. “Oh, you are so fresh.”
“You lied your way in here… didn’t you, boy?”
Henry freezes, his eyes darting towards the door.
“I’m not going to tell anyone.” Lankester leans forward against his staff; he looks more amused than angry. “But I don’t appreciate having my time wasted. Why would you pretend to be a priest?”
Henry never was very good at lying. He simply unbuttons his shirt.
Lankester takes a hissing, startled breath, then a step closer. The little locket has made a black, crusted crater for itself in Henry’s chest.
“How long have you been wearing that thing?” Lankester asks, eyes wide.
Henry shrugs and closes his shirt. “Couple of months? Maybe a year? Not real clear on time…”
“Couple of months, maybe a year,” Lankester repeats to himself, shaking his head. “Does it still hurt?”
“Like hell… but it stinks less now.”
Lankester considers this in silence, then nods. “I’ll train you.”
Henry’s jaw drops. “But… you’re right, I lied. I never was a priest, not anything like one…”
Lankester points to the locket. “Who was it? Wife? Child? Parent?”
“Well, if you still had her, you wouldn’t wear that, so…” Lankester settles back in his chair. “I’m offering you a very rare chance here, Henry. I can give you skills. Skills you can use to find your wife… or avenge her.”
Henry’s response is immediate. “When do I start?”
He learns to pull the shadows from the land and twist them, channeling and shaping the darkness. He learns to force it from his body in fierce bolts, in lightning-forked streams. He is surprised; he is actually good at this.
There are subtle arts to learn, too; worming yourself into a mind, molding and twisting it as you would the darkness. This, he has no talent for whatsoever.
“You’re a simple man, Henry,” Lankester always says. “Stick to what you’re good at.”
Lankester gives him a test. There’s a scout from the Scarlet Crusade near Brill; he is to find and exterminate him.
Henry watches as the light fades from the man’s eyes.
That’s the first time I’ve ever killed anyone, Henry thinks.
Then, of course, he remembers.
He waits for the regret, the piercing sorrow, as the faces of the innocents he murdered swim in his view.
It doesn’t come.
Henry sits down heavily next to the scout’s corpse. His emotions are there, yes, but muffled and far away…
Bleached all pale and bloodless.
His eyes widen. Is it happening to him already?
He thinks of Molly, and it hurts… but not quite enough.
There is something new, though.
It feels like it’s growing up through his mind, festering and spreading, pushing all other thoughts aside.
He can’t stop thinking about his brother.
Day and night matter little in the Undercity; the Forsaken have built themselves a communal tomb. There is no weather, no sunlight, not even a residential district; homes are for people who need to sleep, cook food, make love.
Make love… he’s been thinking about that. He can’t stop thinking about that, thinking about Molly and Noah. The day comes and the night comes and he twists and weaves the shadow, and every day, he feels a little more dead. He’d never felt as alive as he had when he’d been with Molly, every sense awake, the silk of her hair and her sweet cinnamon smell and the sound of her laughter.
He imagines her with his brother and his stomach twists and cramps.
In life, Henry Walker had been a busy man… too busy to dwell much on the topic of his useless older brother. Noah had been like a mosquito buzzing around the edges of Henry’s life, one Henry had to throw money at every few weeks for the relief of Noah going away to spend it.
But here, in the endless twilight of the city’s sewers, Henry has all the time in the world… and more and more, he’s spending it remembering all the ways Noah’s done him wrong. The two girls before Molly, both of whom ended up in Noah’s bed. The way Noah’d wheedled Henry out of his share of the family farm, and that after Noah’d left Henry to care for their mother alone.
Work hard, his parents had said. Be good. The Light will reward you.
Near as Henry can tell, Noah’s never worked hard or done a thing right in his whole damned life, and he’s managed to end up with every reward Henry’s earned.
The anger, the bitterness, seem only to strengthen him as he works the Shadow. He’s not calling the shadow any longer so much as it’s coming to him, surging to him, twining around him like an affectionate animal.
It’s not fair… but you could make it fair.
He’s no longer sure if the small, whispering voices in the back of his head are his own thoughts or the Shadow. He doesn’t suppose it matters.
He finds Jenny near the bank. She looks worse than ever, hardly recognizable as female, angry lines etched into her sagging skin.
“I’ll take your deal,” Henry says. “Tell me where they are.”
Jenny’s returning smile chills him in a way he didn’t think was still possible.
“I’d like to be included on the next mission against the Crusade,” Henry says.
Lankester looks up from his book, arches an eyebrow. “And why’s that?”
“My brother’s one of them. And I’m going to murder him.”
Lankester nods, unfazed. “Fair enough. I’ll sign you up.”
That stupid, overconfident orc.
The smaller of the two orcs has charged ahead into a hallway… and straight into a pack of Crusaders.
His panicked yells for help send the rest of them running, the larger orc quickly assessing the situation and charging. He swings his shield, beating aside a flurry of swords, pushing the other orc behind him.
The tauren skids into the doorway, her hands circling, green light swirling into existence between them. Henry runs, gathering the shadows to him, directing them as a burst of dark energy. It seals itself across the mouth of a red-clad cleric, slamming his jaw shut in the midst of a muttered spell. The troll is only visible as flashes of blue and silver, his daggers moving almost too fast to see.
Behind him, the tauren screams; the crusaders have figured out that she’s the reason they can’t kill the others, and three of them are on her. Henry focuses his will, creating a shimmering bubble that covers her; the crusaders beat on it, yelping in frustration as their weapons simply bounce off.
And then one turns on him, running his blade through Henry’s midsection.
His concentration breaks, the shield dropping, and the tauren’s cries of pain become a death gurgle. She falls in a heap behind him, hooves clattering against the marble.
“Heal him, mon!”
Without the druid, the biggest of the orcs can’t hold out much longer. Behind his dented shield, blood is spilling from a cut in his forehead; he blows it out of his eyes like sweat. His jaw is set against the pain, no hope in his eyes.
“Yo, priest! Heal him… we ain’t gonna last wi’out him…”
“I can’t!” Henry looks at the troll in despair. “I never trained for… Forsaken can’t…”
“Then we all gonna die.”
Henry can’t die. Not now. Not when he’s so close… so close to finding her, so close to his vengeance.
He reaches out with his mind, brushing past the shadows that offer themselves to him eagerly, searching.
He recoils at a sudden white-hot jolt, then presses on with more determination. He knows this fire, has worn it on his chest, this has to be right…
He finds it and draws…
The agony is indescribable, like molten lava passing through him. With the last of his willpower, he takes that pain and throws it…
Golden light shoots from Henry’s fingertips, the radiance dazzling the room. The warrior shimmers for a moment and straightens, the cut on his forehead seeming to zipper itself shut.
Henry steels himself. It’s harder this time, knowing what’s coming, how he will pay, but he finds that brightness and pulls it into himself, unfeeling tissues and rotten nerves roaring with sensation. He hears a moan of agony and realizes it’s his own, his ghostlit eyes clamped shut and cracked lips split by his teeth.
He’s panting, staggering, he’s fallen back against a curtained wall. He feels like he’s hollow, his skin the thin shell for a mass of flame, burning him from the inside out. A trickle of something foul that used to be blood spills from his nose onto the fine crimson carpet.
So what if we die? his mind shrieks. It’s got to be better than this!
Behind his closed eyes, he sees Molly’s face.
He screams and draws…
The largest of the Crusaders goes down in a clatter of fancy plate armor. The troll is a blur again, another Crusader toppling with a dagger in his back, then another.
Henry’s barely conscious of this. There is only the pain, blocking out all thought. The light is rushing through him now, ripping him open; his knees give way, and then his consciousness.
“You’re very brave,” Lankester says. “An idiot, of course. But very brave. How do you feel?”
Henry’s head is pounding as he struggles up on the table. “Like a roasted pig.”
Lankester chuckles. “Do you remember what happened?”
Henry rubs his temples. The Monastery, that hair-trigger orc, the fallen tauren, and then…
The pain. Then there’d been the pain. Pain he thought he’d never survive.
But it’s remembering what came after that makes Henry freeze.
He’d woken up screaming, and when the others wanted to retreat, he’d thrown himself at them, demanding that they go on, in a blind panic that he’d lose his chance to find her.
He hadn’t felt emotions like that in a long, long time.
“Lankester,” Henry finally says, “You told me Forsaken couldn’t use the Light.”
“Some of them can’t,” Lankester shrugs. “A few can, but even fewer are willing to. As I’m sure you found out, it hurts like hell.”
Henry steeples his hands. “When I woke up… that orc asked if I could resurrect the tauren. Is that really possible?”
“It is, but don’t get excited. The Light can bring Forsaken back from true death, but only to their undead state. You’re not gonna wake up handsome.”
Henry opens his mouth, but Lankester cuts him off. “And don’t go thinking you can scamper off to the Plaguelands and bring Aunty Sue back, either. The corpse has to be fresh, extremely fresh, and if you thought the pain of healing was bad… bringing someone back from the dead is worse, unimaginably worse.”
Henry considers this, then looks up. “Could you train me?”
Lankester smiles a little. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask ever since I saw that crater in your chest.”
The pain rips through him, seeming to shred him from the inside. Henry grits his teeth, but does not falter; a moment later, radiance spills from him in every direction. Now the pain is without as well as within, and he watches the small hairs of his arm sizzle and crumple.
Lankester is standing several yards away, reading a book, well out of the blast zone. “For obvious reasons, I’d reserve that one for an emergency.”
Henry laughs, leaning against a tree for support. He feels hideously sore, sunburnt all over… but he feels, he actually feels something.
“My wife had the most beautiful hair,” Henry whispers. “It was the color of new-turned earth. So soft… I used to pet it like she was a cat.”
“Mmm,” Lankester nods, bored. He scratches at his scalp, pulls out a maggot, and tosses it aside. “I think you’re ready.”
When the Monastery falls, they push on into the Plaguelands. It’s after Andorhal, where Henry passes out again, that he starts taking the potions Maia Winterhoof has been offering.
“I meant for those to help you rest and recover,” Maia says, her voice reproving as she reaches into her bag for his next dose. “Not anesthetize you so that you could do four times as much damage to yourself before you keel over.”
He doesn’t tell her… hasn’t told anyone… just how many missions he’s been volunteering for. The Scarlet Crusade is all over Lordaeron; Molly and Noah could be anywhere, and to the Horde, they’d be two more humans for the slaughter. He can’t let that happen.
He also hasn’t told Maia that her potions aren’t cutting it anymore, that he’s started chewing Silverleaf just to stay conscious, that the pain never goes away now, a dull ache in his bones even when he’s not fighting.
He doesn’t tell her that the pain is almost an acquired taste, that he loves the rush of feeling, the surge of emotion, the flood of memories, how Molly’s face swims before his cloudy eyes, crisp and colorful and anything but bleached.
And that makes it all absolutely worth it.
“You were from around here, weren’t you?”
Henry nods at Brom’s rumbled question. They’ve made camp in the hills just above Hearthglen; Henry has a panoramic view of the ruins of his memories.
Hearthglen has been remarkably preserved, unnaturally clean and white against the blighted grass and sour mustard clouds. Henry gazes down familiar roads, smiling a little as he remembers how badly their old wagon had creaked, heading down to market day.
Brom lifts his horns to gaze out upon the town. “Is Fordring in that keep? That doesn’t bode well.”
“Mardenholde,” Henry nods. “A direct attack would be suicide. Even the Scourge couldn’t take it.”
Drokk moves alongside them, tapping a scroll against his chin. “Well, we’re not attacking directly… at least, not yet. The Blightcaller’s sent us a list of weak targets… non-zealots with questionable loyalties that ought to talk with a little… encouragement. I sent Zen’jai scouting. If we’re going after Fordring, Isillien, and the rest, I want to know exactly what we’re walking into.”
Henry nods, settling himself against a rock and pulling out another of Maia’s vials. He decorks it with his teeth, swigs it before it can spill; his hands shake so badly now. Henry sighs and shuts his eyes against Brom’s look of concern.
“Got one, mon!”
There’s a rustle of bushes and Zen’jai appears, dragging one of the Crusaders by his collar. From the sound of it, the man’s not making much of a case for himself, weeping and wailing in fear; Henry can hear Drokk’s grunt of disgust.
Henry tucks the bottle back in his pocket, pushing himself back up and turning to face the prisoner.
And goes even colder.
“Let me go!” Noah Walker screeches, his voice cracking pitifully. “They’ll notice I’m gone! They’re gonna come after you!”
“Dis one fierce like lion,” Zen’jai smirks, pointing at the wet stain growing on Noah’s trousers.
Henry feels like he’s moving in slow motion, watching as his brother thrashes against his bonds in terror, tears streaming down his face. Henry’s waited so long for this moment, pictured it so many times… he and his brother meeting on the field of battle, the cry of triumph as he sent the shadows after him.
It has never been this, never anything like this, with his brother drenched in sweat and urine, helpless with terror. Henry doubts Noah could fight back even if he weren’t bound. Seeing him so pathetic isn’t satisfying at all, and it’s clear that Noah doesn’t recognize him.
“What’s your name, boy?” Henry asks, fighting to keep his voice steady. “Just a few simple questions, and you might make it out alive.”
Noah turns his face away. “It’s Henry. Henry Walker.”
Drokk and Brom share a look of surprise, but it can’t match Henry’s own face.
He didn’t just steal my wife, Henry realizes, shocked to silence. He stole my identity, my better reputation…
He moves behind Noah, tries to keep his voice light. “You a family man, Henry?”
“Uh… yeah!” Noah babbles, trying to squirm around to read his interrogator’s face. “I’ve got, um, six kids at home, and it’s just me to take care of them, lost the wife to a fever…”
Henry leans down, taking hold of his brother’s shoulders, patting lightly. “Impressive. Six kids in the two years since you moved to Hearthglen? You do get around.”
The confusion on Noah’s face is mirrored on Drokk’s. “Henry… do you know this man somehow?”
Noah’s head snaps up at the name, his eyes widening in realization. “Oh, no… oh no, no, no…”
“Gentlemen,” Henry says smoothly. He feels so calm now, so focused, poised on the edge. “I’d like for you to meet my brother. I’d love for you all to get acquainted, but I promised his wife I’d kill him.”
Now Noah’s frantic, writhing against his ropes. “Henry, I had to… you don’t understand…”
Brom shakes his head. “Henry, I’m sorry, but we don’t have time for this now…”
“Of course.” Henry smiles pleasantly. “I just have one more question for him.”
And Henry explodes into motion, whipping his cudgel from his belt, smashing it into Noah’s cheek.
“WHERE… IS… MY… WIFE?” Henry screams, each word punctuated with a blow. Blood sprays from Noah’s mouth in a gruesome fan as his head whips back and forth.
“I don’t KNOW!” Noah bleats, squirming to avoid the raining blows. “Henry, I don’t know, I don’t know, I haven’t seen her since the Scourge attacked, I saw her running towards Hearthglen with the rest of us and then I never saw her again… I’m pretty sure she’s dead… Henry, please, please stop, please…”
Brom lunges forward, enfolds Henry’s arms in his powerful hands. “He’s not lying.”
Henry’s panting, almost foaming at the mouth. “He always lies. Jenny said…”
“Jenny?” Noah’s eyes widen, and he spits a mouthful of blood. “Jenny’s… one of you?”
“Henry,” Brom insists. “Calm down, you’re out of control.”
“You are uncommonly honorable for your kind,” Drokk agrees. “I would not be quick to take many at their word. Who is this ‘Jenny’?”
One day, all you’ll care about is revenge.
And it all clicks into place.
“Jenny just wanted you dead,” Henry whispers, taking a staggering step back. “And I was her best shot at making that happen. She didn’t care what she had to say or who she had to hurt…”
The cudgel falls from his hand; it rolls on the ground, leaving a bloodied trail.
“Please, Henry,” Noah whimpers. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know about Hearthglen, about the Crusade, about the Highlord, anything… but I don’t know where Molly is, I swear.”
Henry turns away from him, raising his hand. Golden light shoots out, and Noah’s injuries knit themselves together.
Henry doesn’t even flinch.
He’s been sitting on the rock for an hour when Brom joins him.
“I’d always wondered what your vendetta against the Crusade was.” Brom lowers himself carefully onto the ground. “I didn’t realize you were looking for your wife. I’d always had the impression that your kind stopped caring about that sort of thing.”
“Usually, we do,” Henry says. “I made sure I wouldn’t.”
Henry lets out a rueful chuckle. “Actually, it’d be more accurate to say I tortured myself so I wouldn’t. I managed to keep myself fresh. And all for a lie.”
“We’re done with your brother. He’s told us everything we could think of to ask and more. What should we do with him?”
Henry looks out at the devastation; another thick plague-cloud rolls in from the East. “Is there anywhere else a human would be safe? He can’t go back to the Crusade now.”
“The Argent Dawn would take him, I think. They’d be just as interested in his information, and we’re heading that way anyway.”
Henry nods, and they sit in silence for a long moment.
“Ever since I met you, you’ve been so driven, Henry. What will you do now?”
Alive or dead, Henry Walker’s never been any good at lying. “I’m going as far up the Scourge chain as I can get. They’re the ones who killed Molly and me. If I can get to Arthas, I will, but we both know I won’t make it that long. I’m burning up from the inside.”
“You could stop. Use the shadow like the others of your kind… find a different path altogether.”
Henry shakes his head. “Can’t do it. I need this. Without it, I’ll turn into Jenny, just twisted with hate. Maybe I’d track down Noah again, kill him just ‘cause I’m angry he gets to be alive. Who knows what I’d do. I don’t wanna find out.”
Brom considers this, then speaks gently. “I think you underestimate yourself.”
“I’m done, Brom. I’m tired. I’m real tired of this.”
They strike Hearthglen, but find it in chaos; the Highlord and the Grand Inquisitor dead, dozens of others fallen in the streets. Rumors swirl among the survivors, each one more outlandish than the one before; some say the old hermit by the Thondoril did it, and others even claim it was a dead paladin of the Silver Hand, wreaking vengeance from beyond the grave.
They push on, towards Tyr’s Hand and the Argent Dawn outpost… and at the rate Henry’s going, he’ll never see the inside of Stratholme.
He’s not just using the Light to heal anymore; he’s wielding it like he once wielded the shadow, pushing himself to the very limit. Brom has to shield his eyes against the glare as white flame spills from Henry’s fingertips, firework-bright, Scourge withering in an arc before him.
“What was that?” Brom shouts, flinging up an arm as Henry does it again.
Henry doesn’t answer, his face frozen in a rictus of pain or ecstasy, gnarled hands weaving a cloud of gold between them. A pack of plaguehounds surround him, but Henry is beyond noticing; one pulls a sheet of loose flesh from Henry’s back, only to rear back yelping as pure Light spills from the wound.
“This way!” Zen’jai calls. He’s found a break in the wall of Scourge around Corin’s Crossing, the closest thing to a safe passage they’re going to get. When Henry doesn’t follow them, Brom shakes his head and scoops him up under his arm.
“No more today, you hear me?” Brom says sternly, ducking and weaving to follow the path Zen’jai is slicing through the plagued underbrush. “You’re no good to us dead.”
Henry doesn’t answer; Brom isn’t sure if he can answer. Henry’s actually hot to the touch, faintly glowing, his paper-thin skin seemingly lit from within.
Drokk hefts the unconscious Noah higher on his shoulder, shaking his head. “Henry’s not going to make it much longer. The kind of warlock magic that brought him back… he was never meant for this.”
Finally, Brom sees the spire of the chapel in the distance. He heaves a sigh of relief, quickening his pace… but Drokk blocks his way with an arm.
“Hang back,” Drokk hisses. “Something’s wrong. The earth’s moving…”
Zen’jai is craning his neck up, pointing towards the sky and a massive dark shape rolling across it. “Was dat there before?”
Henry’s eyes snap open. “He’s here.”
They clear the hill and freeze, stunned.
The chapel is a war zone, a sea of clashing bodies thousands strong. Mounted Death Knights and hideous giants are swarming the little church, the defenders horribly outnumbered.
“They’re doomed,” Brom mutters. “Aiding them will only get us killed as well. We must return to the Bulwark immediately and warn the rest of the Argent Dawn.”
“Good idea,” Henry says. “You do that.”
Something in his tone sets Drokk on edge. “You’re not coming with us?”
“No.” Henry’s voice is perfectly calm, almost dreamy. “No, I’m staying here. Look: there’s Mograine, there’s Thassarian. I can feel Arthas nearby. This is exactly what I wanted.”
Brom starts to protest, but Drokk puts a restraining hand on his arm. “He’s right. This is a good death. Let’s go.”
Henry barely notices them leaving. He’s walking again, not far from the road he’d walked with Ratslin, reaching out with his mind. Calling the Light is so easy now; it comes to this burnt-out husk as the shadows once had. He flings it out, a glimmering arc of radiance ripping through him, and smiles grimly as a dozen Scourge fall before it.
The agony twists him, makes him clutch his robes, but he reaches out again. The Light seems stronger here, more pure and potent… and he takes more this time, more than he’s ever taken at once. It surges through him like a backdraft, leaving him stunned and speechless. He’s cleared the Scourge in a swath that quickly fills in with more surging bodies.
He sees them, the nightmares of his bloody past: Orbaz, Koltira, the others on their massive dreadsteeds. If he takes them down, even one of them, he can die, he can rest. Henry pushes onward grimly, slowly bending inward, forcing the light through and out his body, the screams of agony he can no longer bite back his anguished battle cry.
The forces of the Argent Dawn are falling back, falling lifeless. To his right, an elf and tauren are fighting back-to-back; a stocky dwarf runs before him, blasting away at ghouls with his shotgun. Henry directs a blast of healing light at a wounded gnome; she hits the ground, clearly amazed to be alive, and runs back into the fight.
Blood in his eyes, and he flicks it away with one golden, glowing hand; there’s a warrior in front of him, dual blades flashing. She takes a hard blow to the helmet, knocking her forward, but Henry sends a spiraling bolt of light her way. The warrior straightens, pulling off her ruined helmet and tossing it aside.
Her hair spills out, blood-spattered and the color of new-turned earth.
Stumbling, almost falling, Henry uses the momentum to rush forward. The warrior takes another hit, one that bends her back with its force.
Another golden surge; it envelops the warrior, lighting up her face.
Henry whispers her name in disbelief, but there’s no time to overcome his shock; there are four ghouls on Molly now, their ragged claws scraping against her armor.
The pain is gone, driven out by pure adrenaline. Henry throws his arms forward, making explosions of light that blind and dazzle. Molly runs ahead, blades raised, but everything in her path evaporates; she halts, stunned, looking around for the source of the magic.
She sees him, and her mouth falls open. He can see it in her eyes; unlike Noah, she’s recognized him immediately.
She takes a step towards him… then freezes, her eyes looking down at the sword through her chest.
She mouths his name and falls.
Henry is screaming, an incomprehensible roar. Light floods through him, toppling the Scourge in a ring around him, but he doesn’t even notice; he’s searching his memory for a spell he’s never done, never dared to try.
Bringing someone back from the dead is worse, unimaginably worse…
He blasts his mind open and lets the Light pour through.
The stitching at his neck and chest rips open, brightness pouring from the ragged gashes. The bare planes of his bones glow like the goblins’ neon. A cloud of radiance rises from him in a gust that blows the listless remains of his hair back, surging from him and into Molly.
She opens her eyes, stumbles to her feet. “Henry?”
And then, when she’s seen him: “HENRY!”
Henry has sunk to his knees, oblivious to the new flashes of light overhead and unholy screams. Scourge are vaporizing all around them, the mob suddenly clearing, and Molly’s running to him, catching him just before he hits the ground.
“Oh Henry, Henry, you’re alive, you’re alive…”
She’s sobbing, clutching his emaciated, rotten frame to her own healthy chest, burying her sweet face in the gnarled, maggot-marked leather of his neck.
He can’t speak, can’t think, can only shake with disbelief as he raises a wizened hand to touch her hair. He thought she’d scream, she’d run, he’d thought…
“Henry, it’s going to be okay!” Molly’s babbling, her color high, sweat dripping in her eyes. “Tirion just got here, I think we’re actually going to win…”
“Molly, I’m… I’m not going to be okay…”
His words are drowned out by the sound of hooves, and Henry’s eyes snap up. He’d know that armor anywhere, that’s Orbaz Bloodbane, turning tail and fleeing, taking a small group of the death knights with him. Molly’s pressed her head to Henry’s chest, she’s not watching as Orbaz snarls and raises his sword…
NO, Henry screams, and he can’t tell anymore if it’s in his mind or out loud. He reaches in desperation for the Light, his body starting to shake and seize in Molly’s arms. He finds the blinding source beneath the church, unbelievably bright, and fills himself with it, a snatch of prayer
Just let me save her. Kill me if it saves her…
Henry steals one last look at her sweet face, those eyes looking at him with a softness he never thought he’d see again.
And then he explodes.
Henry opens his eyes to a blood-red sky.
The pain is back, all over and excruciating. He’s lying on the ground. He raises one hand; the mottled gray-green skin is charred and black on his palms and fingertips.
Molly is gone, and fresh agony surges through him. He’d failed to die… had he also failed to save her?
His vision swims, and then he sees her; alive and unharmed a short distance away, talking to the tauren and night elf he’d seen earlier. Molly’s back is to him, but she’s gesturing animatedly in his direction. Oddly, the night elf and the tauren seem as excited as she is.
He struggles to a sitting position, presses his burnt palm to his aching head. The scene in front of him makes no sense; Arthas’ right-hand death knights are helping members of the Argent Dawn to their feet, and Tirion Fordring, who died years ago, walks the battlefield.
The wrenching in his chest is unlike anything he’s ever felt, a steady pulsing of pain. He twists the silver chain around a finger, lifting the locket away from his skin… but for the first time, it doesn’t help.
Curious, he pulls the locket out and over his robes, reaching in to brush his fingers over the long-burnt crater, checking for a new wound.
He jerks his hand out of his robe, laying it flat over his chest.
Beneath his palm, he feels the steady thumping of his heart.