Aveith: Introduction

They told him that he likely answered to another name, once. An elf name. The woman who brought him from the Court of Bones to Acherus suggested that, with the right connections and the right incentive, it might be possible to find out who he had once been.

He considered it unnecessary.

They called him Lump because he stood there like a lump until there was fighting to do. She – Angharad was her name, a proper name – excelled at pointing him in the direction of things to kill. Most of the remaining Ebon Knights blended in with the living. They took certain measures to appear normal. Breathing. Speaking in a semblance of a normal voice. Observing social boundaries and rituals.

Not so with Lump. He didn’t breathe, and he didn’t talk. He existed, more like furniture than a person. It didn’t bother him because there wasn’t enough left to be bothered. Attending social functions wasted time and energy because he could not relate to anyone. On the rare occasion that he stumbled across a gathering of some sort, a few awkward moments passed while people attempted to engage him in conversation. Once that failed, the void zone around him grew. He was a boulder in the center of a river. Everyone else flowed around him like water.

As far as Lump cared, the situation suited him. If everyone kept a safe distance he wouldn’t have to worry about killing the wrong person.

Sometimes, in battle, flashes of memory returned to him. Brilliant, blinding scenes that seared themselves into his mind so that he couldn’t escape them. Faces, voices, laughter, sobbing. These fragments only confused and irritated him. If he could have stopped them, he would, but he needed to kill the way living things needed to breathe. Without that trade – a life for his own – he would be lost. The unexpected cost of the trade was that momentary glimpse of the person he was before he died.

Angharad directed him so that he only killed those whose lives were forfeit anyway. Demons, mostly. He knew that Acherus had moved, had a vague memory of it being someplace else. Dalaran, too. In some of his memories, he viewed it from below. In some, it was not floating in the air but sprawled across the earth. It befuddled him to have bits and pieces of three different Dalarans in his mind. Sometimes he got lost, or found himself at the edge of the floating island with no idea if the place he was trying to reach still existed.

Beyond that, though, was something wrong about Dalaran. He stood in one of its cobbled alleys, oblivious to the living people giving him a wide berth as they hurried past. There – a brief tug at his mind. It was not unlike the call of the Frozen Throne, though several degrees of magnitude weaker. The Lich King’s call was an iron cable with no slack. This was a whisper, a silken thread leading off into a maze.

Angharad was not there to give him something useful to do, so Lump followed the thread. The worst that would happen, he knew, was that it would lead him to the edge of the city, and he would have to turn back and find other ways to occupy himself.

He lumbered through the crowded streets, surrounded by a foot or so of empty space. The living were iron filings, and he was a negatively polarized magnet. It made his task, such as it was, easier. No one jostled him in his pursuit of the elusive tug toward some unknown destination. The only barriers to his progress were walls and buildings. Several times, he retraced his steps when his path brought him to a dead end.

Little by little, the urge faded. He thought that the closer he drew to his destination, the more pronounced the call would become. Yet he stood in front of a shop near the Alliance enclave and felt nothing pulling him along. Momentarily lost, he looked up at the storefront.

Glorious Goods. The door stood wide open, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of bottles, barrels, casks, crates, bundles, and packets. A faint whiff of spices and tannin escaped the shop. Lump took a step closer.

An elf woman stood at the counter, chatting in flawless Common with the proprietor of the store. All he saw was the back of her head, her platinum-colored hair bound in a loose braid draped over one shoulder. Her leather clothing was a deep red that was almost black in the shadowy interior of the shop. The color of dried blood, he thought.

There was something familiar about her hair, and Lump stared a few moments longer than he should have. The shopkeeper’s gaze flicked toward the him for only an instant, but it was enough. The woman turned her head to see what had drawn his attention.

For a brief moment, he saw her face in profile, so familiar that he felt he could have drawn it from memory. Then she saw his face, and everything happened at once.

She froze, her complexion going deathly pale beneath her tan. For the space of one beat of her heart, she didn’t move. The next instant, he was lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling of the shop. He never saw the leg sweep or the blow to his chest that overbalanced him.

This was new.

A blade pressed against his throat, above the spiked saronite brace embedded in his flesh.

This, too, was new.

“You.”

Her voice… he could not say where he had heard it, or who it belonged to. But he knew it the way he knew her face, deep in his bones.

“You are supposed to be dead.”

He would have told her that he was, in fact, dead. Except that he couldn’t. Whatever had killed him had made mincemeat of his throat in the process of decapitating him. The Scourge reanimators hadn’t thought it worth the extreme measures to try and repair shredded vocal cords. A machine didn’t need to speak in order to function. He tried to raise one of his hands to point at the collar around his neck, to show her that he couldn’t respond. But she anticipated the motion and pinned his arms with her own weight.

Her face was unreadable. The piercing green glow of her eyes bored into him, and he fought not to squirm. It would be easy enough to throw her aside. She was not so heavy that he should be pinned or helpless. But he knew her, or had known her, and he found himself holding back because of it.

“Ahem.” The shopkeeper’s voice, from somewhere above. “Ms. Silvermane, if I could ask you to refrain from drawing the attention of the Kirin Tor? Bad for business, you know.”

Another heartbeat, and she disappeared. Lump looked around the shop. She hadn’t just released him, she had vanished into thin air.

The shopkeeper picked up some sort of glass instrument from the counter and polished it with interest.

“I’d be worried, if I were you.” He set the instrument down and leveled a cool look at Lump. “If she wanted me dead, I’d be worried.”

Lump merely nodded in acknowledgment. He took one more look around the shop, as though expecting to see her standing in one of the dark corners, but there was no sign of her.

With a small wave of farewell and apology for the shopkeeper, Lump left the shop and emerged into the bright light of a Dalaran afternoon.

Connections and incentive, Angharad had told him. If he had those, he could find out anything he wanted about his past. He wondered if a name would be proper incentive.

Silvermane.

Unbidden, a memory surfaced. A woman cowered against a stone wall, cringing away from something. Someone. He looked down at his hands. Dried blood coated long, sharp nails and stood stark against waxy-looking flesh. There was blood in his mouth. He could taste it – salty, sweet, viscous. It coated his tongue when he tried to swallow. The woman cringed again, curling in on herself and sobbing. Her hair, dirty and stringy as it was, shone silver beneath the grime and blood.

Silvermane.

For the first time since Angharad coaxed him into leaving the Citadel, Lump found himself wondering who he had been before he died. Those brief flashes of memory were like the shattered pieces of a crystal vase. He could not see how they fit together.

He could find out. He would find out.

In the narrow alley behind Glorious Goods, Lump closed his eyes and felt for the connection to Acherus. Necromantic energy spilled from his outstretched hand, oozing up the stones of the shop’s wall until the gate was complete. He stepped through without a backward glance and the portal dissipated.

From her perch on the roof of the shop, the elf in red leather watched. Long after the portal vanished, she crouched motionless in the shadow of the building’s chimney, waiting.

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