Do the dead have emotions? True emotions?
The corpse runs faster, faster now through the foggy underbrush. It would have been running out of breath if it drew any, but animated through whatever black arts it draws its strength from, it needs none and continues its shambling pace. Occasionally a thought of caution worms its way through the rotted brain laying dormant in the creature’s pallid skull, a thought of Hide, and it does its best impersonation of a shadow.
As the corpse’s impersonation of true life is left wanting, so is its attempt at stealth. It knows it is being followed and it is careless. Twigs crack underfoot, water splashes up from the river, grass is left trampled in its wake. It is a symphony of panic, a portrait of careless haste, and the eyes of silver and gold are all too happy to observe the show, patrons in the balcony unseen. The spotlight is all yours, little maggot, draw back the curtain and begin the show.
Do the dead have emotions? True emotions?
Who’s to say.
It looms out of the mist at first, the decrepit manor, far more of a tomb than a home for years. These structures have blighted the landscape of Lordaeron for a decade now, springing up seemingly of their own accord like maggots infesting a dead body. Fitting. The corpse of the northland has kept the unshackled dead suckling at its teat for years- and as the corpse runs through the rusted wrought iron gates and into the leaning estate itself, the golden-eyes wonder how much longer this land could provide for them. Or, were it to finally die as well, would they simply raise it from the beyond, too?
The gold and the silver, the tracker and the shadow, Ulthanon and Lorelii- they stay low on a nearby hill, bellies hugging the faded grass. Grey tendrils of mist swirl over and around them, mimicking the clouds that scuttle above. They can smell the rain coming, not long now. Lightning illuminates the distant thunderhead. They wait for movement in the ruins. The wind blows, and with it comes the most distant smell of healthy earth, a kiss of the highlands to the east.
They wait for movement, and they see none.
Past the wrought iron gate set into crumbling stone walls, up the gravel pathway, silent as the wind and just as unseen. What light from the moon remains seems to slide off of him and pass through her altogether. The door, left ajar, creaks back and forth on its own as the wind comes again- they catch it as it creeeaaaaaks inward. Her blades slide out like breathless nothings whispered to a midnight lover.
The upstairs is about to fall down on itself, the staircase half rotted. Holes in the roof, good escape, but the shingles would slide down and give you away. No, can’t be upstairs.
Downstairs is a crypt. It would only make sense. Too much sense. He unslings his bow; he is a poet and the wind is his page. He knocks a flint-tipped haiku and draws the string, draws in his breath, ready to speak its wisdom.
Down they go into the cellar.
Do the dead have emotions? Do they hide when frightened? If so, where would they go? Where do you hide a book? In a library. Where do you hide a corpse? In a fleshworks.
Glass tubes snake their way around the laboratory, hideous arteries pumping baleful green ichor from one vat to another. The place reeks of death defiled, corpses laying out on tables, hanging from hooks in the ceiling like meat for the butcher, cut and splayed and prodded full of needles, that green slime oozing around them all the while. They pick their way around the room, rifling through whatever papers and books lay out, but the realization creeps up on them with a sinking void in the pit of their stomach.
He is not here.
A rustle, a groan, a snapping of tubes- The dead rise from their tortuous rest! Shoulda known they wouldn’t be polite enough to keep sleeping. Mangled heads contort into place and look around the room, their raven-plucked eyesockets seeing without eyes. Their voices rustle past their dried vocal cords as the literal song of the grave.
The Golden stanza,
It sings his ballistic kiss.
Rest again, fallen.
Silver dances through the throng, robbing the rising dead of even more corporeality, but after being neglected to the rusty tools of torture and black science, their faces almost seem grateful to have such fine steel used against them. Silver and Gold cut their way through the lab- now they are back to back as he sinks another poem up to the final verse of its feathers; now she adds her voice, a drop-kick harmony that sends the audience careening into a vat of the green ichor; now they are running for the stairs. The crowd goes wild!
Spilled Plague is asking for regrets, and both the tracker and the shadow know it. But for all their knowledge of martial poetry and song, no words will keep the blood of death contained. The ground itself will grow unquiet. Worse than a cat-eating errand-runner will belch forth from the haunted masonry. For all their art, in all their long years, only one thing has ever stopped the Plague.
The storm is close now, and lightning flares again, lighting the glint of their shared smile into a wolfish grin.
The silence is broken as the house roars with a renewed voice of red and orange and billowing black. The rain is coming down now, but the rain has nothing to add to the conversation, save for its constant hisss of approval. He would be worried about not returning with a corpse, but technically their prey was already a corpse, and at the very least they have ruined a Plaguelab- though not one large enough to be the haunt they sought. Pity- they could only hope the others had more luck.
Passing through the gates once more, the rain slicking his hair against his pauldrons, a glint of metal from the stone caught his eye. Worn down and weathered save for the odd edge that still gleamed, a placard gave a dull reflection set against the brilliant inferno behind them.
Manor Avers it read gloomily, as a support beam gave a staccato crack! behind them and sent a shower of sparks and embers up to combat the downpour.
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