A story about Annika Kinshra
Styx and Stones
Two cultists walked down the halls of the corridor at a leisurely pace. The first wore robes accented with silver trim, clearly of fine make. The second carried several notebooks and many pieces of loose paper.
Low screams echoed through the halls, broken only by the sound of their footsteps.
They stopped before a cell door, guarded by two undead soldiers. The senior acolyte turned to the other. “Let me give you one last piece of advice. No matter what happens, don’t let her see you scared.”
“Of course, Acolyte.” He struggled all the papers in his arms.
“Good.” He turned back to the door, and unlocked it with a long, silver key. The guards stood aside and they entered the small cell warily.
A woman, almost feral in appearance, was curled up in a far corner of the cell, her arms and legs chained loosely to the far wall. Her long, dark hair was matted over part of her face, her skin streaked with soot and grime. She wore ragged clothing.
The senior acolyte asked, “How are we feeling today, Annika?”
A short pause, then the woman replied, “How do you think I feel?”
“I’ll assume that was rhetorical.”
“No. I’m genuinely curious as to your opinion.” She said, hatred clear in her voice.
“There’s no need to be rude.”
She glared at him. “Oh. So I’m supposed to treat my captors nicely? Maybe I’ll get a bigger room, some bread that isn’t stale or moldy?”
“That is the general idea, yes.”
“Hm. Let me think about that.” She leaned back against a wall, clearly pretending to think. A few moments later, she responded. “No.”
“I have some more questions for you, Annika.”
She rested her head against the wall. “Don’t you always?”
“How did you get here?”
She sighed boredly. “You’d think you’d know the answer to that by now.”
“Answer the question.” He opened a leather-bound notebook, and held his quill ready.
“I don’t know how many years ago it was. Ten or so.”
He wrote down exactly what she said, then added, “It was eight years ago. Focus.”
“The elders in the Order had given me a mission. The Order of the Silver Hand.”
“It was just a scouting mission. It was only supposed to take a week, two at max.” She laughed bitterly.
“Why did they send you to Northrend? What were you supposed to find?”
“They had heard some rumors. Crazy cultists and giant spiders. They sent us to check it out.”
“You were not alone.”
“No. Look, we’ve been over this, can’t you just leave me alone?” she snapped.
“I could. But that would mean that you’re of no more use to us.”
“So kill me already. I’ve told you everything I know.”
She glared at him. “Yes, I have. How many times have we had this conversation?”
He shuffled through some of his papers, then replied. “Four hundred and three times. And you know what happens when you don’t answer my questions.”
“Hmph. Fine. We were surrounded by the goddamn Scourge. !%!!ing spiders everywhere. I got distracted by some lights in the sky, and I got dragged under. Everything went dark. When I came too, I couldn’t move an inch. Couldn’t even open my mouth to scream. Webs all over. I heard some strange clicking. Some kinda bug language. Then someone talking in common. ‘Take her to the citadel.’ Is what he said. I hear little bug footsteps, then all goes dark again. I wake up in this cell. There was someone sitting, right where you are now. That guy, he says, “Welcome to the new world” or some crap like that. Long and short of it, he made me an offer. I tells him what I know about Lordaeron, he lets me go. As much as you like to pretend otherwise, I am not that stupid. I told him to stuff it, but he just laughed. He said I’d be changing my mind soon enough. He was right. He had me tortured for weeks, months, years. I don’t know how long exactly. You probably do, in your notes about me. What is it called again?”
“Right. Dossier. It probably has the exact minute that I cracked written down in that. ‘Cuz, you see, in the end everyone cracks. Without exception. It’s just a matter of time. Just a !%!!ing matter of time. Back then, I didn’t know that. I held out as long as I could. So yea. I cracked. I told him all I knew. When I was done, he just sat there quietly. I started to cry. I thought he was going to have them torture me again. So then he makes me another offer. I join up with him, and get my power back. Y’see, sometime during the torture, I stopped believing in the Light. And the Light doesn’t stay in an unwilling heart. So I accepted. Seemed a hell of a lot better than rotting to death in this !%!!ing cell. So they started training me, for a year or so. All in all, boring as a dark iron drill.”
“Until you got your runeblade.”
“Heh, yea. Now that was interesting! I never really got the hang of necromancy, but that sword…mm! Made it all easy as pie.”
“Perhaps a little too easy."
“Heh. You could say that.” She shifted slightly, her chains clanking against the stone.
“You killed a lot of our people.”
“For me to kill them they’d have to be alive, neh?”
“They were not undead, Annika.”
She coughed dryly. “Let me ask you a question.”
“If someone’s braindead, are they alive?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You keep breathing, you keep moving, but there’s no thoughts up there. If someone else is doing your thinking for you, are you alive?”
“Stay on topic, Annika.”
She shrugged slightly. “Where was I? Oh right. My runeblade. Is it true you have to keep it locked up?”
“Annika.” He said, warningly.
“It’s a reasonable question.”
“I believe they had it melted down.”
“I guess they’ll have to make me a new one, then.”
“What do you mean?”
Her cold blue eyes met his, and her voice seemed on the edge of a growl. “I am going to get out of here one day, Acolyte. And when I do, I want my !!**ing runeblade back.”
“Keep in mind, Annika, you are kept alive for study, nothing more.”
“You got whatever you needed to know years ago. I know why they keep me alive.”
“And why is that?”
“I scare you.”
“The Scourge fear nothing, least of all an amateur death knight.”
“ ‘Amateur’? From where I stand, the other death knights are the ‘amateurs’. I went so far into that runeblade that I came out the other side.” She laughed quietly, her fingers prying at a loose stone in the floor.
“An eloquent analogy, but wholly incorrect.”
“Well, you’d know, wouldn’t you. You have the dossier. You know all about me.”
“The fact of the matter is we know nothing about you. Every day we meet, you come up with a different story.”
“Who’s to say that one of them isn’t true?”
“Who indeed.” He sighed. “I’m really disappointed in you, Annika. You’ve been lying to me, all these years?”
She smiled to herself – she had pried the stone from cell floor. She answered absently, “Have I?” She stood and turned away from the acolyte, the stone concealed in her hand.
“Annika, don’t waste my time.”
“More than I already have?”
He sighed, putting the notebook aside. “I’m willing to make you a deal. You tell me why you’re like this, and I won’t ask any more questions. Ever.”
“You want to know why I’m like this?” she looked down and to the right. There. She turned, hurling the rock at the acolyte. It flew through the bars of her cage and hit his forehead squarely. A loud crunch was heard throughout the cell.
As he crumpled to the ground, bleeding profusely, she threw herself towards him, struggling against her chains. She screamed, “YOU !!**ING MADE ME LIKE THIS!”
She threw herself towards the cell bars, seeming more animal than human. She calmed somewhat, laughing manically as the cell’s guards rushed forward to help the acolyte. His unmoving form was half-carried, half dragged from the room.
The woman once known as Annika turned her gaze to the acolyte’s apprentice, who had frozen in a strange mix of shock and awe. She smiled sweetly at him, suddenly the picture of calm composure. Her voice dripped with sincerity as she said, “Congratulations, acolyte. You’ve been promoted.”