Going from oldest to most recent, the next thing in my pile of unposted pictures is a pair of doodle-illustrated origin stories for my first two Death Knights, Kregga (Tauren) and Katelaira (Blood Elf).
I posted Katelaira’s story, illustrated with screenshots, shortly after I originally drafted it; today I went back and added to it the doodle illustrations. I deleted and re-created Katelaira two or three times at least, including the first iteration of the “Underpowered Death Knight” concept. Eventually, she got permanently pruned from my roster.
I began collecting screenshots with which to illustrate Kregga’s backstory. I wrote a summation of Grimtotem lore to try to understand what her motivations would be. That only gave me difficulties with the story that I’d written. Then Cataclysm came along and messed up a lot of areas where I’d wanted to take screenshots. I left the story to gather dust, though I did eventually post what I considered to be the most important bit of it.
That said, if you’re interested in reading my (rather bad) first draft of Kregga’s backstory and seeing the (rather clumsy) doodles that accompanied it, click past the cut to read more. Please remember that this story was written during Wrath of the Lich King, long before we knew anything about what was to come in The Shattering!
Perhaps you have heard that among Cairne’s tauren, in Thrall’s Horde, there are not, and cannot be, any rogues. You may have been told that this is in part because of the difficulty of moving silently on hooves and in part because the tauren are too honorable.
This is poppycock, of course. Hooves can be padded. And any fledgling rogue who has had to pickpocket that ruffian Gamon in Orgrimmar, or any adventurer who has tangled with the pirate Mr Smite in the Deadmines or with the Twilight’s Hammer, knows that there are the weak-willed and power-hungry to be found in any race.
As a youngling growing up in Greatwood Vale, I, like all other Grimtotem youth, wanted nothing more than to be chosen for Elder Crone Magatha’s Honor Guard. That elite group of specially trained warriors were entrusted with all her most important tasks. We sparred fiercely amongst ourselves, knowing that the elders were watching us closely.
After I had passed through the Rites of the Earthmother, I was sent to Darkcloud Pinnacle to further hone my fighting skills against our ancient enemies, the centaur.
(This picture was drawn a couple of years later, when I was still trying to figure out what to do with the story)
In time, messengers arrived from Magatha bearing documents from her new and mostly mysterious allies. The elders at Darkcloud Pinnacle then gave me a great honor — they sent me back to Thunder Bluff with the messengers to receive armor and weapons from the great smith, Mosarn.
After obtaining my new gear, I expected to return to centaur hunting in the Needles. Instead, I was given a load of new armor and weapons to carry to the recently established Blackhoof Village and Direhorn Post settlements. I found my kin at Dustwallow Marsh in a state of great excitement over the slow incursions of the humans from Theramore further into the marsh. Indeed, I had observed, with some annoyance, a human inn being constructed at the border with the Barrens during my journey.
My agemates chattered about harassing the human mage whose farm was near our new village. I thought they were unwise, for a human who chose to live alone in the marsh must be very powerful indeed, and it would not, perhaps, be prudent to anger her.
I could not stay in the Marsh for long, however, and soon returned to the Needles. When I arrived, the elders instructed me to continue on to our compoud in Feralas.
“There is no more for you to learn here,” they said. “There is more powerful, more cunning prey to be sought in Feralas, and they need young warriors of your skill.”
So I went to Feralas, and practiced moving silently among forest and brambles, and taking my quarry alive.
(This is my favorite of the original set of doodle illustrations)
Why we were collecting sprite darters, I never fully understood. It was one of Magatha’s mysterious plots.
I was scouting the night elf fortress, Feathermoon Stronghold, when the messenger arrived from Magatha requesting each village to send its most able young warriors to Thunder Bluff for a special mission. I was elated to be chosen for that group — this could be my chance to prove myself and be selected for the Honor Guard at last!
“My Forsaken allies have informed me,” said Magatha to the dozen of us who had been sent, “of a school for specialized combat run by humans in the Alterac Mountains. You are to find this school and learn from the humans such as they have to teach. Bring their secrets home to me so that we may use them against them.”
The humans at Ravenholdt Manor laughed when they saw us coming, and laughed even harder when we requested training. They stopped laughing when the school’s lucky cat mascot disappeared without a trace the day after our arrival, then reappeared, alive but sedated, out of my satchel at the dinner table that evening.
(I assembled several (non-moggable) ninja RP outfits for Kregga, which you can see toward the bottom of this post of RP outfits)
And so we trained in stealth and subtlety and other arts of assassination that had been developed more highly by the humans than by the Shu’halo. No doubt, there were tauren who knew how to be ruffians and bandits, but until Magatha sent us to Ravenholdt, there were none who knew how to be Ningha.
We had thought, those of us who spent those seasons in Alterac spying on the humans, that we were being trained up to do Magatha’s most delicate and difficult work. When we returned, however, it seemed that perhaps instead she had only been sending those most likely to be troublesome somewhere to get us out of the way.
I found, upon traveling to Greatwood Vale to visit my family, that my village had wiped out our neighbors at Camp Aparaje. I was shocked; we had coexisted mostly peacefully with them in my youth. I went to Blackhoof Village to visit some friends, and found the obnoxious human inn in smoking ruins — which was good! — but it had been shoddily done and the evidence pointed right at my kinsmen.
I was appalled. If only Magatha had waited for the return of her Ningha, and given us the task, there would have been no careless hoofprints or discarded shields leading to the Grimtotem!
Things only got worse; when I visited Feralas again, I learned that the actions of the Grimtotem during my seasons at Ravenholdt had resulted in a bounty on our heads from Orgrimmar.
I agreed that the humans — and other pests — must be pushed back out of Kalimdor. I and my fellow Ningha, though, felt furious, and not a little betrayed, that our supposedly special training had not been utilized to accomplish those objectives more efficiently and cleanly.
Magatha laughed at us. “Yes,” she said, “I want you to be angry. There is great power in anger. I have a greater task for you now, to take that power and master it. The Forsaken have need of your anger in the elimination of the Scarlet Crusade. I have heard whispers of a army being massed against that menace, and you, my chosen ones, are to join it and bring back its power to serve our purposes here.”
Thus, seething with anger and frustration and lust for power, we presented ourselves at the doors of the Scholomance and surrendered to the Cult of the Damned. The Lich King, through the masters at the Scholomance, saw Magatha’s instructions in our minds. The last thing I remember before I drank the acolytes’ draught and my thoughts and will became no longer my own is the sound of his laughter at her presumption.
Fortunately for us, and certainly for me, the higher-ups in the Cult of the Damned decided that we weren’t good for much more than warrioring and sent us off to Acherus to be trained as Death Knights.
The way of the Death Knight is not subtle. It is one of blatant, crushing power. And yet, though it ran so counter to my training as a Ningha, it was an intoxicating power. Had I known of it before Magatha sent us, I might have sought it of my own accord, for power and skill ever drew me, like moth to a candle flame.
Again, fortunately, I was not among those Death Knights assigned to serve under the Four Horsemen of Naxxramas when the devastation of the Scarlet Crusade was complete and the Lich King massed his forces for the assault on Lights Hope Chapel.
I’m sure you have heard about what happened there. As the Lich King had planned, Tirion Fordring was lured out of hiding. The Ashbringer revolted from Highlord Mograine’s hands and became purified in Fordring’s. In the shock of this unexpected event, the Lich King’s control slipped, and all of us there were shaken free of his grip. I returned to Magatha and reported that the Scarlet Crusade had been destroyed and that we had claimed the Lich King’s unholy power for our own.
(This is the only image that survives from the screenshots I’d started to collect for this story)
But it was an empty report, a hollow victory. Without Fordring, I would not have returned at all. I could not have.
So there I was, cast adrift, no longer in the thrall of the Lich King, no longer willing to serve the leader of my people whom I had once adored, no longer able to feel the touch and whisper of the ancestors, no longer quite at home in any place I went. I could not quite bring myself to desire revenge against Magatha, but I could turn the Lich King’s stolen power against him and work vengeance for all the horrors he — and I — had wrought upon my world.
My name is Kregga Grimtotem, and I am a Knight of the Ebon Blade.