Because of the association of some of the drawings with stories, this idea to clean out my backlog of unposted art is turning into cleaning out some of my backlog of unposted stories, too.
Way back when, I wrote a story about the experience of my Forsaken Mage. With Cataclysm and the Worgen and Goblins already announced at the time I wrote the story, the story ended with my Forsaken looking at the Greymane Wall and remembering that she had an older sister who lived in Gilneas. After Cataclysm launched and I’d played through the Worgen starting zone, I started writing a story about my Worgen Mage and how she was separated from her family, then unexpectedly reunited with her now-Forsaken sister. I wrote fragments of significant events in the story, but never quite managed to get them all completed, transitioned, and tied together. I also began a story intended to explore my Forsaken character’s reactions to the new storyline for Silverpine introduced in Cataclysm, culminating with her perspective of the meeting with her sister. After I’d got it started, though, it turned out that I wasn’t really all that interested in writing it, and so I never continued it.
I was working from a personal headcanon timeline that assigned to each expansion an amount of calendar time corresponding to the real-world calendar time that we actually spent playing it — roughly two years per expansion, rather than the one year per expansion in the official chronology. When the Ultimate Visual Guide came out, I realized that I had my timeline entirely wrong because I’d underestimated the amount of time between the end of the Second War and the beginning of the Third War. Now my story didn’t work at all. I suppose I could still make it work if I retcon my original story about my Forsaken and let the sisters be a decade or so older instead of relatively young women…
If I’d ever properly finished these stories, I would have posted them in multiple parts, so all the unfinished bits and pieces make a rather long post. I’ve put them behind a cut and you can read them or not as you please.
Kymberlea in Exile
Despite what you may have heard about her valor in the various battles of Gilneas City, Kymberlea Atkin was not herself a Gilnean.
Rather, she was from Lordaeron. She was born on a dairy farm in the westernmost valley of the Tirisfal Glades, the eldest of what would eventually be a family of thirteen children. As a young girl, she showed a precocious aptitude for the magical arts, and so, when she was about fifteen, her grandfather arranged for her to be apprenticed to an Enchanter in Gilneas City, about a week’s journey to the south.
Kymberlea had no sooner arrived in Gilneas than King Greymane withdrew from the Alliance and began constructing a Wall at the Silverpine border. While the Wall was building, Kym’s father visited every spring and autumn, making Gilneas City the southern terminus of his semi-annual cheese delivery tours. A few times, he brought her mother with him, which is how Kym was able to meet her youngest siblings, the second twins. Five years of Kym’s seven-year apprenticeship had passed when the Wall was finished and the gates closed with a resounding and implacable thud. Kym was shocked and angry — how could King Greymane do this? She had known that the Wall would soon be completed in the spring of that year, and only the finishing touches had remained when her father had visited in the fall, but she had not even thought of going home with him because she had not expected the King’s policy to be so severe. And now she was to be trapped in Gilneas, separated from her family, for Light knows how long?!
It wasn’t that life in Gilneas City was bad — in truth, Kym enjoyed living in the big, bustling city a lot more than she was willing to admit aloud to her parents. She did miss them, though, and her siblings, too — especially the oldest of her younger sisters, who was five years younger than herself and the fifth child in the family after the eldest son and the first twins.
And then there was Bertram Atkin, an apprentice of the Jeweler down the street from her Master’s shop. Kym encountered him frequently as they both ran midday errands to the baker or the fruit seller, and he had been one of the few to not poke fun at her northern accent during those first lonely months in the city. He was kind to her because she was pretty; she liked him because he treated her nicely. Acquaintance developed into friendship, friendship developed into fondness, fondness developed into romance. Bertie was a few years older than Kym, and when he finished his apprenticeship and began his journeyman work, he began saving so that they could get married. He asked Kym’s father for her hand on his last visit before the Wall closed.
That winter, strange and disturbing rumors drifted back into the city from the guards posted atop the Wall and from the few ships of other nations that were still allowed into the Port of Gilneas. Everyone in Lordaeron was dying of a terrible sickness. The dead were rising, turned into horrible monsters. Arthas Menethil had killed everyone in Stratholme. He had gone to Northrend, chasing a demon, then returned and slain his father. It was said that Tirisfal Glades had been hit especially hard by the sudden Plague. Desperate refugees piled up at the foot of the Greymane Wall, but no-one matching the description of anyone in Kymberlea’s family was seen in their camps. Kym’s anger at the king grew, raged, crested, slumped into sad resignation that her family were probably all dead. She would never see any of them again, as themselves; she might see their bodies, but only as unknowing, uncaring, mindless undead.
Due to the terms of her apprenticeship, Kym and Bertie could not be married until she had completed it. Over the next two years, Bertie and his parents and siblings were at her side through her anger, her desperation, her grief. The summer after she became a journeyman, Kym and Bertie were married at Light’s Dawn Chapel, but their joy was tempered by the aching absence of her family.
Across the Wall, the world grew darker. The news that trickled in from the Wall and the occasional trading ship was dismaying. A faction of the Scourge had revolted, it was said, and established their own mockery of a kingdom under the ruins of Lordaeron City. There was war against the Scourge, against the orcs, against demons. Messengers from the other Human kingdoms arrived at the Wall periodically, begging aid. King Greymane steadfastly refused.
The Wall did not protect Gilneas from war. After several years of simmering discontent over how the Wall would, and then had, cut off Pyrewood Village and Silverlaine Keep from the rest of Gilneas, a full scale rebellion, led by Lord Darius Crowley, erupted. Invested in establishing Bertie’s livelihood and with a toddler and another baby coming soon, Kymberlea kept her sympathy for the rebels very quiet. But one night when Gilneas City was in chaos and everyone sensible was inside their houses with the doors barred, she sheltered Lord Crowley’s teenage daughter. Kym doubted that Lorna would remember her; it would be just another resting place among the blur for the poor girl.
The Scourge, or perhaps the supposedly independent and free-willed undead who styled themselves the Forsaken, periodically assaulted the Wall. In desperation, King Greymane allowed Archmage Arugal to summon some kind of animal monster to fight them. In the short term, this was effective. It wasn’t long, though, before it began to be whispered that the monsters had overrun all of Silverpine Forest. Kymberlea heard rumors that the guilt over what had happened to the good Gilneans of Pyrewood Village and Silverlaine Keep had broken Arugal’s mind so badly that he had begun to think of the monsters as not just his responsibility, but also his children. Many people who had previously spoken out against the Wall were now as equally outspoken about their gratitude that the Wall protected them from the Scourge and from Arugal’s monsters.
The next year, King Greymane and some of his closest advisors began making regular hunting parties in the Blackwald, the great forest in the south of Gilneas. Rumor had it that Arugal’s monsters, the wolfmen, the Worgen, had been spotted on this side of the Wall. Even worse were the whispers that if a Worgen didn’t kill you outright, its bite would make you become one yourself.
For a few years, Gilneas City tried to be bright and cheerful, but the undercurrent of rising tension could never be fully ignored or suppressed. News from the north came less and less frequently. The Headlands were lost. Then the Worgen were in the City itself.
A member of the City Guard knocked on Kymberlea’s door, urging her to evacuate her family before it was too late. Bertie ran in few minutes later, having been advised to do the same by a guardsman visiting his shop. They gathered up the children, four of them by now, two boys and two girls, and hurriedly packed trunks of clothing and baskets of food. Bertie’s parents arrived with their carriage in about an hour, headed to Bertie’s grandparents’ estate, south of the City. “Perhaps we will not be any safer there than we are here,” his father said, “but at least we will be with the rest of the family.”
Kymberlea loaded her family and her belongings into the carriage, but as she hopped on the step to climb in herself, suddenly something inside her snapped.
“No,” she said, jumping back down to the street, “no, I can’t just leave and let the only home I have left be destroyed. Darling children, you will be safe with Nana and Opa. Be happy for them until I can come out to meet you, or better still, until you can come back to meet me. Bertie, love, I’m sorry. I can’t go with you to the country. I’ve lost my home once and I can’t let this one go without fighting for it. The guardsmen said Prince Liam is here in Market Square. I will join up with him and his men and they will watch out for me. Go, GO!”
The carriage clattered away and Kymberlea wondered for a moment if, for all her brave words, she would ever see her husband and her children again. She knew, though, that she would rather die trying to defend this place that she had learned to love and call “home” than live knowing that she had meekly, fearfully given it up.
As if she were a sick horse, Kymberlea’s jaws were forced open, a cold funnel was inserted, and a strange-smelling, slightly sludgy concoction was poured onto the back of her tongue. Convulsively, she swallowed. The stuff stung as it went down, and she coughed. Already she could feel her heart beginning to race. Breathing suddenly became difficult, and her sides heaved with the effort. Her head swam. After several agonizing minutes, her heart slowed, her breathing eased, and she suddenly felt much better, with only a lingering tingle on her scalp.
She opened her eyes. A figure with golden hair shining in the weak sunlight stood before her. She blinked, and it resolved into a wonderfully familiar face.
“Bertie!” she cried.
“Kym!” her husband’s voice ached with relief. “I knew you would pull through!”
“Yes,” said another voice, behind her, “Your wife is a very strong woman, Mr. Atkin.” Kym recognized the speaker as the King’s Alchemist, Krennan Aranas… when had she become acquainted with someone in the king’s court? And why was she restrained? she wondered, as she suddenly became aware of hard wood clamped around her neck and wrists. Just how ill had she been, and for how long?
The alchemist freed her. Bertie rushed to embrace her. Something was odd… why was it Bertie’s head resting under her chin, instead of the other way ’round as it had always been?
“Gently, my love,” Bertie said. “Mind the claws.”
Claws? Kymberlea released Bertie abruptly and looked down at her hands. They were now covered with pale brown fur, and, indeed, wicked-looking claws curved where her fingernails should have been.
Suddenly, she remembered standing desperately with Lord Crowley at the cathedral and the worgen crashing through the beautiful windows.
“Oh, no!” she wailed, and it came out as a howl. “I’m a Worgen, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” the alchemist answered, “but I have developed a medicine that will help you keep your right mind. You have just survived your first dose, and you will have to take it every few days — well, perhaps only once a week if your mind is strong enough — until we can find a more permanent cure for the Curse. Your husband is a very brave man, Mrs. Atkin, to come here to Duskhaven in search of you instead of remaining with the other refugees from the City at Stormglen Village.”
“So,” a new voice growled. Kym and Bertie turned to see Lord Godfrey, his spectacles gleaming under his top hat, aiming a rifle squarely at Kym. “It seems that Krennan’s potion did not kill you. I suppose that means the human inside of you is in control, then. I guess I won’t be shooting you after all. At least, not yet. Just remember, Mrs. Atkin, I’ve got my eye on you. You so much as try anything funny, and you’ll get a bullet between the eyes.” He turned and stalked away.
Kymberlea was grateful for the assistance of the Kaldorei, and she was not insensible to the honor of their hospitality, but Darnassus was no place for four human children to grow up. She and Bertie sailed with King Greymane’s company to Stormwind. There, Bertie set about the difficult task of establishing himself as a precious metals smith and jeweler. After making inquiries, Kym enrolled the two older children in Miss Danna’s school. She was at the bakery with the two younger children one morning when she heard someone calling her name. Turning, she saw an older woman who looked vaguely familiar.
“It is you!” exclaimed the woman, “By my soul, it is good to see that at least one of you survived.”
Now Kymberlea remembered her. “Auntie Kimmie!” She embraced her mother’s best friend. “I was in Gilneas, of course, and did not escape that land’s curse — but how came you to escape the Plague?”
“My son Robert, you know, went to learn the shipwright’s trade in Southshore. I was there visiting him, to see his new baby, when the news of the Plague came. Robbie wouldn’t let me go back home, saying that the rest of the family was sure to be dead, and undead, before I even arrived and that he was glad to have me, at least, safe. Instead, he immediately put us all on a boat and we sailed south. We lived in Menethil Harbor for a while, until King Varian returned and began building the great ships to go to Northrend. Naturally, he needed many shipwrights, so then Robbie moved us here.”
After that bittersweet reunion, Kymberlea spent many happy days in company with Kimorene. Eventually, she began leaving the two younger children with “Nana Morene” during the day while she ventured out into the countryside surrounding Stormwind, looking for odds and ends of work she could do for the folk. Bertie’s business would have struggled to gain a foothold in the busy city market even without the southerners’ prejudices against Gilneans and Worgen, and all too often it was all they could do just to feed the children. As she fulfilled the villagers’ and farmers’ requests, Kym often found herself drawing on the latent talent for Magic that had emerged during the last, desperate battle against the Worgen in Gilneas City and the succeeding invasion of the Forsaken. Her skill and power in using magic grew and, inevitably, she ended up using some of her hard earned coins to pay for further training. Some months later, when she returned from a whole week spent in Westfall, Kym was quite startled when the Mage who had been teaching her informed her that not only was King Greymane aware of, and following, her progress, but he had also commissioned a craftsman to make her a Staff when she reached the degree of skill she had just attained. There was a catch, however — she would have to travel to Silverpine Forest to collect the required materials from Baron Silverlaine’s ruined castle.
Bertie responded far more enthusiastically to this news than she had expected. “Kym, my love! This is grand! I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished!” He hesitated, much as she had before telling him of the quest. “If you do go to Silverpine, perhaps you could also go down into Gilneas and see if you might be able to recover any of the things we had to leave behind?”
They discussed it for a week, between themselves and with Kimorene and her son. There were Gilneans in Stormwind who were associated with Lord Crowley’s resistance group; they would be able to help Kym get safely to Gilneas City after she finished her errands in Silverpine. There was not much hope that much would be left un-looted in their home and shop, but Kym and Bertie had agreed that she at least had to look. She would also visit Bertie’s grandparents’ country estate and search for the cache of money rumored to be buried under the rose trellis. The whole adventure would probably take two or three weeks. Kimorene would look after the children while Kym was gone. The older children, surprisingly, were much more distressed about the prospect of her absence than were the younger ones. The little ones had gotten used to being with Nana Morene and liked her a lot, and Kym suspected that they were much more afraid of her Worgen form than they were willing to tell her. The big kids, however, guessed more closely at the danger of the plan and worried that she might not come back. Kym had had enough experience with the Spirit Healer by now — stories told only to Bertie in hushed, tremulous tones long after the children were asleep — to tell them quite confidently that yes, she would be coming back, and she now surmised that their anxiety arose more from having never fully recovered from her disappearance after she first succumbed to the Worgen curse than from her current plans.
The Bloodfang pack howled their triumph over the fallen trio of traitors. Slowly the rest of the adventuring party with whom she had come to the Keep dissipated, until finally Kymberlea was left standing alone with Ivar, looking down at Arugal’s ruined study.
“What are you still — oh, you’re the one what wants to go across the Wall. Come along, then.” The Packleader dropped to all fours and leapt off into the forest. Kymberlea could barely keep up and was panting with exhaustion when they finally came to a cave with other Worgen, and a campfire, inside.
“Soft City Worgen,” a woman in the shadows sneered. “Didn’t have to live for years by your wits and your teeth.”
“That may be,” Ivar growled, “but Crowley owes her a debt… somethin’ about protectin’ his daughter… and she’s to be escorted across the Wall and down to the City. She’s a capable enough Mage, so she’ll pull her own weight should you encounter Rotters. But mind you — ” and he turned to her with that wide, fanged grin that was still so unsettling ” — the Libs only agreed to get you there. I hope you remembered to bring a Hearthstone.”
The crowd of Worgen in the cave laughed bitterly, and Kym fought down the impulse to check right then and there that her Hearthstone was indeed still lying safely wrapped in the bottom of her rucksack where she had packed it.
Kymberlea rounded a corner and found herself face-to-face with a robed female Forsaken. Startled, she shot out a Frost Nova, then Blinked off at an angle. She felt ice forming around her own feet for a fraction of a second and heard it shattering as she moved. Looking around, she saw the Forsaken free of the Frost Nova she had cast and another twenty feet further away. A Mage. Two Frostbolts and an Ice Lance hit Kym as she incanted a Pyroblast; the fight was on.
Though Mage duels were normally conducted at absolute maximum range, something about this Forsaken’s movements seemed oddly… familiar to Kymberlea. She Blinked toward her opponent, trying to get a closer look. Surprised, the Forsaken hesitated in her casting and Kymberlea got a clear view of her face. This Forsaken appeared to have died very young — a teenager, no more than sixteen at the oldest. She also seemed to be remarkably well-preserved; her whole face was intact and Kym could even see the faint shadows of freckles spattered across her cheeks and nose. The shape of the face, the cant of the brows, the turned up nose, the fullness of the lips, the wispy bangs of ash-blonde hair over the forehead, those freckles! Even with the witchlight burning in the eyes, could it be?
Kivrinne and the New Forsaken
The Royal Apothecary Society had never officially expelled her, and she had never formally left, either, because the “R.A.S.” tag on the placard outside her workroom was good for business. Nevertheless, when the Lich King was defeated and the Dark Lady returned from Northrend and turned her full attention to consolidating the dominion of the Forsaken over all Lordaeron, Kivrinne was not surprised that she was not among the Apothecaries chosen to work in the new Forsaken outposts. Since returning from her last trip to Silverpine, she had been distracted from her admittedly eccentric plague resistance research itself by the project of creating a sustainable pool of test subjects for her experiments. She had spent the past several months breeding rats and mice, documenting and attempting to understand the factors that affected their outward characteristics and behaviors, with the goal of establishing a line (or two, or three) of rodents with uniform qualities.
Absorbed in this work, Kivrinne registered only bits and snatches of news about the Dark Lady’s battles and construction projects in various places. The first time she left the Undercity after the great earthquakes, she was astonished at the changes which had taken place in Brill. The old Brill had been rather cozy, in a shabby sort of way. Perhaps, thought Kivrinne, it had somehow reminded her of the long-lost village where she grew up, though she had no memories of that place that she could consciously recall. The new Brill felt cold and menacing.
Kivrinne knew that the Lich King could create many different types of Undead beings. Of these, the most powerful were the Val’kyr, created from the Vrykul women of Northrend and themselves capable of raising the dead into unlife. When Kivrinne heard that three Val’kyr had willingly accompanied the Banshee Queen back to Lordaeron and were even now creating new Forsaken in Deathknell, well, this she had to see for herself.
Having discovered that certain herbs could be obtained in better quality and quantity from Gilneas, Kivrinne returned to the lands beyond the Wall as soon as she could manage. When she’d collected a suitable supply of reagents, she decided to explore Gilneas City a little more — she’d only seen a few parts of it when she was there with the Dark Lady’s forces previously. Perhaps, she admitted to herself, she was curious to see the place where her sister had gone.
Turning into an alleyway to leave the courtyard she had just finished investigating, Kivrinne nearly collided with a female Worgen. Instinctively, she cast Frost Nova and Blinked away. Turning, she saw the Worgen woman now on the other side of the courtyard. After a few furious exchanges of frost and fire spells, the Worgen suddenly Blinked right into Kivrinne’s face. Kivrinne was so startled that she lost concentration on the spell she had been casting. The Worgen’s eyes narrowed, then widened, and then she took a step backward, and, putting her hands over her face, began to cry. Now Kivrinne was really puzzled. She’d never seen a Worgen be anything but aggressive.
As the Worgen wept, her form shrank and her hair and muzzle and claws receded, until a relatively normal-looking middle-aged human woman stood before Kivrinne. “It’s you!” she said, lifting streaming eyes, “Kivrinne, is it really you?”
Close-up, something about the Worgen’s eyes had seemed familiar, and now Kivrinne recognized why. “Kymberlea…?”
Only the crows and the mice saw the strange sight of a human and a Forsaken tightly embracing, weeping into each other’s shoulders, and what they thought about it, they never said.