Author Note

Hmm, don’t think I apologise for the length. Might need to break it up a bit though.. really enjoyed writing this and it was for my application to the Last Stand. Odd bits have changed from the application.

Chapter 1 - The Death of a Fine Whiskey Drinkin’ Man

Smee studied his new schematics in the comfort of his own cabin. He had bought them for quite the pretty penny from a travelling salesman. The gnome had told him it was for a new concoction of explosives, however he had the sneaking suspicion that tomatoes and basil were not quite as explosive as the document made out. This may explain the gnome’s smirk. This was confirmed by the growing rumbling coming from his stomach as he sniffed the concoction. It was a tough life on the ship, but the captain needed a man good with devices and explosives, and above all locks, though possibly his expertise in trading could use some work. Treasure chests could be hell to open; it was almost as if people wanted to stop others opening them. He heard the yell from Handsome Pete up in the nest, “Land ahoy!”, and sighed to himself. Such was the life of a pirate, to travel the seas, avoid the Maelstrom, and raid towns like Brill for all they had. Still, you got to travel and meet new people, at least for a short while anyway.

It was a good long walk to Brill, but none of the crew was particularly bothered, as it gave them chance to build up an appetite and get rid of their sea legs. They expected to be greeted with disdain and disgust, but instead were not greeted at all. “I don’t like it Cap’n, its quiet…” said ‘The Weasel’ “..Almost.. too quiet”. The crew paused in their steps, growing ever wary of the silence, their torches illuminating the thick velvet darkness around them. The Captain turned and bawled “Shut ye trap and lets find some grog, I’ve got a thirst like a Murloc and it needs aquenchin’” As the crew went around the town, they found naught but empty houses, tables still laid with food slowly turning bad, scattered toys and broken furniture as if people had left in a hurry. Smee wandered over to the tavern, a couple of the lads having the same idea, an wayward grin painted across each of their faces as they went in search of the amber nectar.

“Hoy thar barkeep?” shouted Smee, as he crossed the threshold into pitch darkness, his voice cutting through the thick silence. No reply forthcoming, and the pirates took it as a sign that the beer was free. Most of the crew had wandered in after them, torchlight illuminating the dark reaching shadows of this hospice. Before too long, their thirst was quenched, but they thought they’d better drink some more just in case it thought about a-thirstin’ again. A crash from upstairs sent alarm racing through the hearts of the pirates, their cutlasses drawn and ears alert. A few even managed to stand up. The Captain, drunk as a dwarf on any day ending with the letter Y, murmured “Smee, go have a look, ye wee scallywag” then fell over onto the table.

Why me, thought Smee, as he crept up the stairs, his torch throwing light onto the dark corridor. As he reached the upper floor, a strange noise could be heard, a quiet alien sound, a child singing the words “La la, la la, laa laa” in sweet melodies. He crept forward, walking towards the source. He opened the door to see a child, sitting facing away from him on the floor, her gaze on the dolly in her hands. “Hello pet, where is everybody?” he asked in the deeply patronising singsong voice all adults use when addressing a child for important information. “Gone. They went into the woods.” She replied, her voice crisp in the quiet. “Oh, and why didn’t you go with them lass?” “I couldn’t. They were running much too fast. I tripped and fell, and the bad men brought me here” “The bad men?” said Smee, his eyes narrowing as humanoid shapes appeared in the shadows at the corners of the room. “Yes, but I’m okay now. They looked scary at first, but they don’t scare me anymore”. ”Oh no? And why is that child?”. “They took away my eyes” she said, matter of factly, and turned to face Smee.

He fell backwards, tripping over his own feet as he scrambled to get away from the girl, her face dripping with her own blood as empty eye sockets stared deeply into his own. “By the Light’s jockstrap...” he cried, as he stumbled down the stairs, fighting down the urge to vomit as he ran to warn the crew. “Captain! We have a problem!” The Captain looked up, and shouted “Captain? Captain! Has anyone seen the Captain? Damnit! He must be drunk, that miscreant!”, then grumbled to himself as his head fell onto the table again. The rest of the crew had started to wake up, alerted by Smee’s cries and obvious fear, and each of them could hear a dull moaning resounding across the sniffs and clinking of bottles. “What. The. Hell. Is that?” said Jim Wuggen, affectionately known as Big Bear by his friends, a man so fierce, rumour would have it, that he once ripped off a man’s arms and beat him to death with them. The shuffle of feet and the scrabbling of weak fingers could be heard at the windows outside, the groaning growing louder and closer. As they listened, heavy thumps could be heard above, slow and heavy. “Erm.. zombies, I think.” said Smee in a low voice, his cutlass drawn in the torchlight. “Oh bugger. Its a devil to get zombie mucus out of silk” said Freddy the Nonce, his rapier alive and dancing in his hands. “Well, think fast, and lets get back to the boat, you two, grab the Captain” shouted Smee as the zombies started to walk through the door. Hands outstretched, their undead eyes fixed at the middle distance as they shambled towards the pirates, their glowing eyes illuminating the tavern in sickening purple and greens.

Heads went flying and limbs were shorn from their bodies as the zombies met cold pirate steel, the pirates energetically laying into their foe, enjoying the sheer anarchy and bright noises made all the brighter by the alcohol in their veins. None of them paid any attention to the thumping footsteps from upstairs, the chains rattling against floorboards, the noise was too much to hear it. “Hey, this is pretty fun, we should come here more often” shouted Freddy, as he and Handsome Pete did a little jig together as they dispatched another zombie. Smee laughed as he looked over to see Jim Wuggan grabbing hold of one bewildered zombie by the feet and swing it like a club, throwing other zombies this way and that. “Have at ye” Jim shouted over the din, “And ye, and ye..”

Smee laughed as he ripped a zombie’s head clean off, punting it at another zombie like a cannonball. He began to laugh but it was cut short by another noise, a rising guttural scream coming from behind them. Smee turned quickly just as the Abomination split Jim in two with one swing of its giant misshapen axe. Men screamed as they turned and saw the horrific man-made monster swing its chain, ending in a cruel hook that spun through the air, which sadly embedded itself in Freddy’s tuxedoed chest. “Oh, that is NEVER going to come out” he uttered, as the beast threw him into the air and into the ceiling, crushing his bones. The rest of the crew scattered, jumping through windows and running past the Abomination as best they could, its guttural laughter echoing deep as it ran rampage through the men. Smee ran for all he could, throwing himself up the stairs away from the abomination, hearing the desperate cries as men were overcome by the rank legion of undead. A few zombies looked his way, and with a whimpering sob he ran on, through the darkness, into a room and into its closet, his sobs for his friends barely audible over the beating of his heart in his ears, his body curled into a ball as the noises from downstairs quietened.

As time passed, his racing breath and beating heart slowed. The noise from downstairs had stopped. He listened intently, but no noise could be heard. Slowly, he opened the door a crack, his eyes beating against the darkness. With a rush of air and the splinter of wood the doors of the closet cracked and fell apart before his eyes, flung open by unseen hands as he stood face to face with the Abomination. It looked down at him with a swivelling eye, a grimace spreading like a smile over its misshaped face as it whispered in a soft woman’s voice.

“Hello poppet.”.

Smee backed into the cupboard but it was too late. The Abomination’s hand came crashing down, and Smee’s world turned to dark.

Chapter 2 - Waking Up is Such a Chore

Smee slowly opened his eyes, his mind swimming with confusion and dizziness, and saw nothing. He felt as if he was lying down somewhere, his body straight as if in rest. “What the..” he croaked, his voice cracked and dry, “where.. where is this?”. He reached out with his hand in the gloom and met resistance, a hard surface just above this. He followed the shape of the surface to the sides, feeling grooves of wood and edges. To his mind, he was trapped in something shaped like, like a, “No..” he cried aloud, his eyes growing wide in alarm, “NO! I’M STILL ALIVE! HELP ME!” he cried at the top of his lungs, his hands scrabbling at the wooden planks of the coffin above his head. He sobbed in fear, his mind in rebellious mischief, bringing forth images of a slow and painful death by starvation, locked in an earthy tomb with no hopes of escape. Slowly, after a few hours, his panic subsided and turned to a dull aching despair, his scrabbling fingers torn from the wood’s solid façade. Rationally, he decided he could at least see his own tomb, and so he searched his pockets. To his surprise, the search brought out a packet of matches. He struck one, the light illuminating and almost blinding him as he squinted, the smell of goblin match filling the coffin. He looked at the wood in front of him, and there was something scrawled there, scored in the coffin lid.

“Look Down” were the words that greeted him, scored in a deep cut of a knife, and on the basis of there being not much else to do, he did. Lying next to the torn pockets of his trousers was a bottle and what looked like a cigar. He laughed, as he realised his own shipmates must have survived and buried him, as he had told them in the past if he ever died, he wanted something to do in case the afterlife was very dull. The light flickered out and he reached down and grabbed the two items, the space between the coffin lid and his head just enough to bring them into reach when he leaned forward. He reached the bottle up to his head and uncorked it with his teeth, the sweet smell of rum assailing his senses. Well, he thought, if I am going to die, at least I can die drunk, as he took a deep draught of the spirit. It tasted strange, more acute than anything he had ever tasted before, burning his throat and warming his belly. He took out another match, and lit the cigar, the rough smoke assailing his nose and mouth, though it too tasted so strange, so alien to what he remembered cigars to taste like.

As he sat and smoked, his mind still hazy from his panic, he tried to remember what happened. He remembered seeing the abomination open the doors, but couldn’t remember anything after that. Had he passed out? Had the Abomination slammed him down? Had the zombies done something to make him seem dead, so they could delight in knowing his colleagues would bury him alive. It didn’t make any sense. He sighed, deep in thought, and sucked on the cigar a little more, but it had gone out. He frowned, and tried to light a match, but that would not light either for more than a millisecond. Something was desperately hiding from his subconscious as he puzzled over the cigar, something that really didn’t want to be known. As he pondered, a bolt of realisation struck him. The match, the cigar, they had used up the air in here. He should be suffocating now; the coffin had no air to breath left, but he wasn’t.

He was distracted from this rather disturbing fact by the sound of voices, voices muffled by six foot of earth above him. He went into a frenzy, pounding at the wood above him, shouting “Hoy! Help me! I’m still alive! HELP!” The footsteps stopped, and he heard the voices speaking to each other, but he couldn’t hear the words. The voices stopped, and there were other sounds he couldn’t make out. He sighed, and slumped back into the hard wooden back of the coffin. Time passed, but Smee had no idea of how long. He drifted in and out of consciousness, his mind wandering until a thud sounded close to his head awakened him. He started and looked up as the wood above him cracked and splintered, the top of the case peeled away to reveal oddly familiar faces, their eyes glowing in the twilight. Voice so familiar spoke out “He’s awake this time? Ah, finally, wakey wakey sleepyhead. Time to be up and about!” The voice was familiar and gruff. Smee reached over the sides of his coffin and leaned upwards, breathing the air of freedom and salvation. “Gentlemen” he said, “Do I know ye?”

“I should think so you scamp.” One figure leaned forward, the torch lighting the scarred and rotten face of Freddy the Nonce. Smee screamed as he looked at the undead face of his former comrade and blacked out again. As he passed into unconsciousness, he heard the words “And they used to call me the nonce…”

Chapter 3 – I thought the afterlife had more clouds

Smee awoke, and gazed around. The world was dark again, and very wet. He gasped for air and felt his lungs fill with water. He grappled and grasped at the smooth sides of the barrel and kicked his legs to and fro. Quickly, he was drawn from it and hung from the gnarled hands of his saviour, gasping for air. The hands let go, and he was dumped unceremoniously to the ground. As he sat up, the face of Freddy swam into his mind, and to his surprise, then into his vision. He gasped in horror but Freddy spoke “No! We’re not waiting for you to pass out again you big yella pansy! Now stop fecking us around and look at this.” He produced a mirror, and held it directly in front of Smee’s face. It took a few minutes for it to sink in, as Smee stared at the face that looked back at him in the mirror. His jaw hung lower than it ever did, no doubt the work of the abomination, though no pain came from an obviously broken jaw, and his voice suffered no ill effects. His skin was mottled and grey, the later signs of decay around the edges of his features showing but not progressing as he would have expected. His long hair, kept in a ponytail for convenience now hung in green tatters about his head, wafting in the breeze. However one thing disturbed him more than ever. Now that he was out of that coffin, and into the fresh air, his eyes had taken on a powerful yellow glow, an otherworldly light issuing from once bright blue eyes. He reached up with one finger, watching in the mirror as he prodded the glow, and found nothing there. He wiggled his finger and felt the inside of his eye socket, the glow was insubstanial, he had lost those light blue eyes entirely.

He looked back at Freddy in disbelief, “I’m a zombie? How? What? Surely I should be some mindless creature?” Freddy shook his head, “You are Forsaken my friend, something that the Dark Lady will explain to you in good time. Safe to say, you have been given a second chance.” Smee stood up, legs trembling a little and smiled to himself, “So, I won’t be wanting to shuffle around and eat the brains of the living any time soon?” There was a hearty laugh behind him and the mottled face of Jim Wuggen appeared from the gloom, “Aye, well, ye may be wanting to try some brains, I tried it for a while, but they’re far too gloopy. And you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get em out of the head! I would settle for a good rare steak instead.” Smee stood for a moment, taking in the idea of being a member of the walking dead, and turned to Freddy, “So, how in the hell are we undead? I saw you get cleaved in two Jim, and you Freddy, you had a hook the size of a Orc’s jockstrap thrust through your chest.” Freddy chuckled and lifted his shirt “Still got it see, almost clean through. Francis apologised after we had risen”. “Francis?” replied Smee. “Yeah, the abomination in the Brill tavern. Seems he was brought into the Forsaken too, when the war ended. We did have a good laugh when he found out he’d killed us. He bought us drinks for a week in apology, but I guess his pay can’t cover two pirate thirsts.”

Smee chuckled at the idea of being bought drinks by your murderer, as if you had just spilt the man's drink or trod on his foot. Sorry sir, seem to have killed you, care for a drink? His mind wandered a little, and was cast back to his former comrades. “Did anyone else… come back?”. Jim grinned, and spoke “Oh yeah, most of the crew have risen up and joined the Forsaken in one way or another. I’m now a frontline warrior. Freddy here turned out to have some magic in his blood, seems we’ve been harbouring a dress-wearing pansy all this time.” Freddy grinned and produced a glowing light from his hands by way of demonstration, and continued, “Some of the crew even set off again in the Feisty Harlot, ooh, did my heart aflutter to see that ship sailing off again into the twilight. The Captain of course graciously gave up his command of the boat, on account of being still in his grave.” “He hasn’t risen?” asked Smee. “Oh no, he’s risen, he’s one of the walking dead, but he just won’t get up out of his grave. Says he likes it in there, and he would be very appreciative if we drop round every so often with a few bottles of rum. He’ll get bored eventually I think, either that or thirsty. Anyway, we’ve got to take you to see someone, now you’re up and about.”

They set off out of the graveyard and walked up the road, passing into the small town of Brill. Freddy and Jim explained that they had been buried by the Scourge who attacked them in the tavern, and left in the graveyard as reserve troops to be called up during the war. It was a prime area in case the humans ever managed to take back Brill, they would find an army of reserves rising up in the expansive graveyards behind them. However, they were never called up, and only started to rise under the direction of the Dark Lady and her cohorts. Freddy and Jim were the first to rise, and were particularly interested to help their old shipmates, once they had stopped screaming. Most had been okay with the whole deal. Some had gone mad whilst under the earth, and had shambled into the dark forests, shadows of their former selves. One had literally torn himself apart inside the coffin, but was recovering well in the Undercity after having all the bits stitched back together. As far as Freddy and Jim could tell, Lordaeron and the surrounding areas had been destroyed by the Scourge, there had been some kind of civil war in the Undead ranks, and the Dark Lady had been the victor of this war. Suffice to say, it was not in a pirate’s best interests to investigate further into the political machinations of his new nation, and instead to query where the next drink was coming from.

Smee looked up at the huge gates of Lordaeron and wondered what had happened all those years ago, had the humans stood in brave defiance of the Scourge at their gates, or had they run screaming into the night, only to be devoured by those that lay in wait. They walked through the ruins in silence, looking over the desecration of the city, the defilement of its brilliance, though Freddy and Jim must have seen it a hundred times or more. All three had grown up in and around Lordaeron, they knew it from memories long ago, and it was indicative that even a Forsaken can feel some echoes of sadness and sorrow, even if only for a nation now fallen. They continued down past the vacant throne room, and down further, coming to a lift guarded by two of the giant abominations that had claimed Smee’s life. Freddy grinned and shouted “Francis! We found another guy you murdered!” It was somewhat disturbing to come face to face with one’s murderer, but even more to see an abomination actually trying to look ashamed. “Look guys” it said in the familiar effeminate voice “I can’t buy you any more drinks. I’m broke. You’ll just have to accept my most sincere apologies.” “Ah, to the depths with ye” said Jim, an air of disappointment in his voice, “We’ll speak to ya later, Mr Smee here has to see the Lady”.

They continued down, down in a lift that Smee did not remember being there before, the dungeons of Lordaeron reachable only by guarded staircases. As the doors opened and he rounded the corner, he was greeted by, well, a nation under the earth. All around him was the murmer and chatter of tradesmen, purveyors of foods, drinks, weapons, all around him in a hubbub of unlife. He was led through the throng by Jim, who had an unnatural ability to make people move out of his way by means of his boot up their arse. Suddenly someone grabbed Smee by the shirt and his vision was filled by a deranged face grinning inanely. “Hey there, wanna buy a cockroach? They make great pets? No need to feed em, bath em, walk em, they just SIT THERE! Look, this is Monty, say hello Monty.” A cockroach appeared in Smee’s face and wiggled to and fro as Jeremiah said squeakily “Hello stranger, BUY ME!”.

Smee pushed him away and gave him a kick up the arse for good measure, sending the man scuttling back into the shadows, giggling to his cockroach. “Don’t mind him,” said Freddy, “Jeremiah is just a bit warped from his rebirth. In his own words, he’s a leading broker in cockroach futures, and is very keen to promote insect rights and privileges under the glorious rule of Lady Sylvanas.” Smee looked at Freddy with one eyebrow raised, and Freddy shrugged in reply. They trudged through the darkness of the Undercity, entire sections of this vast cavernous area carved from the underbelly of Lordaeron, fine architecture albeit of a morbid nature adorning the roof and ceilings. They came to a large cavernous set of doors, guarded by fierce-faced warriors. "This is where we leave you Smee, go through that arch, and continue down." said Freddy, patting Smee on the back. "You'll be fine, ye wee bilge rat." growled Jim, slamming him hard on his back. Smee looked up at the arches and said "Thanks fellas, catch ye later for a drink eh?" Two “ayes” came back from the departing figures. With a heavy feeling of apprehension, he stepped forward.

Chapter 4 – So who’s this crazy wench now?

Smee continued down the dull dank corridor, each archway covered by two of the fierce guards he had seen at the entrance, he passed them, their eyes drilling into his with dark intentions, ever watchful for threats. He stepped through the last arch into a massive circular room. His gaze swept around the room, but the place was dark and shadowy, dim lanterns lit the ceiling and very little else, but in enclaves he could see more of the guards. “You would be Mr Grimes, I presume” said a voice next to his ear. He spun round to see a white ethereal creature, a woman, or at least it was a woman, now it was a spirit, floating in the air. “Yes, I am he. I mean Smee. Smee Grimes.” He replied. “Good, I am Sharlinda. Mr Freddy said you may be ready to begin.” “Begin what?” he asked inquisitively, “Your new life of course. Follow me Smee.” She said as he beckoned to him, floating slowly through the gloom, suspended in mid air. “You are about meet the saviour of the Forsaken. If you are to continue the existence you have so briefly experienced, I would advise you submit to my Lady’s most humble requests.” The spirit turned away from him and spoke to an unseen figure “My Lady, there is a new recruit to your cause. May I present, Mr Grimes”. Smee stepped forward, unable to see anything in particular “Er, its Smee if its all the same to ye”. A face turned in the twilight, bright shining white eyes opening and shining into the darkness and a smile on her lips.

A dark and gravelled voice, almost otherworldly in origin growled to him out of the shadows “You would do well to kneel.” It took him by surprise so much that he dropped to his knee immediately, his head hung down, blindly obeying an order as if it was his own thought. The woman before him raised a brow, looking pensively off into the darkness, then turned back to Smee smiled again, seeing his deference to her presence, and stepped into the light. “Greetings. I am Lady Sylvanas Windrunner.” Smee lifted his head, and looked up into a pale face of a High Elf. He frowned and started to speak, but was stopped in his tracks by her words “I am the Queen of the Forsaken, and let me make this perfectly clear, we are not Scourge. We were once the mindless minions of the Lich King. I will not bore you with our history; this will be for you to discover yourself. Suffice to say we are now free. Now, you must make a decision.” He stared at her face, his voice almost a whisper in her presence, “What decision, Lady Sylvanas?”. “You must decide whether you wish to continue. Some are not suited to deal with this existence, and it is a gruelling task to come to terms with your new nature. So, do you swear allegiance to the Forsaken, do you swear to protect the interests of your Queen and nation, lay waste to her enemies, destroy those who would cause the Forsaken harm, and uphold the values that we deem worthy to hold?”. Smee sat for a few moments, turning the phrase over in his head. He had never sworn allegiance to any soul, but suddenly he realised if he did not, well she had not mentioned what would happen to him if he did not. He suspected that the wrong answer would lead to him ceasing to exist. “I swear allegiance to you my Lady, and to the Forsaken.” Lady Sylvanas nodded, “Welcome Smee. Please see Varimathas for your assignment.” and turned away from him, her form disappearing into the shadows.

Smee sat there for a few moments, and no sound was forthcoming. He stood, and turned away from the platform. A figure stood in front of him in the darkness, and by way of its outline in the gloom, he was staring at its belt. He turned his head up to see a Dreadlord standing above him, staring down with baleful eyes. “Smee, I am Varimathas. You will follow me.” The Dreadlord turned, walking out of the circular room with Smee following. He thought it best not to argue with a creature that could steal your soul and rip it to shreds. “Smee, I have spoken to your former colleagues, and they tell me you have a valuable set of abilities from your former life. In light of this, I have decided that you shall be assigned to the Deathstalkers. They are a valuable group of investigators, assassins and spies. Please report to Memmet Carkad to begin your training.” Smee nodded, and bowed before the Dreadlord, Varimathas’ fearsome visage cracking into a grin. “I’m sure you will find the work interesting to say the least.” The dark lord began to laugh, and the dark laughter resounded in his ears as Smee stepped out and into his new unlife.

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