Friday, January 5, 2018

The Congregation

If someone had told her that the very Light itself flowed through the cathedral, not a single doubt would have escaped her. Everywhere she looked seem to positively radiate the holy source, from the priests and paladins who wielded it, to the sun as it glared through the various windows that dotted the enormous hall. Each window lovingly carved to depict a verse from a holy text, or at least so she had been told. Far as she could determine, they mostly appeared to be people performing miracles, or fighting off the forces of evil.

The latter of which, happened to include the Scourge. Which, unfortunately, she happened to bear a striking resemblance to. Namely because, far as any of the holy individuals gathered, she was little better than them, if she was any better at all. She carried the same taint, was cursed by the same plague, and smelled of the same rot as any of the Scourge soldiers they had valiantly slain in the name of the Light. Her bones may be better cared for, and better covered by what skin she had left, but she could feel any number of them forcing away the idea of simply smiting her where she sat.

An ironic twist of fate, she believed, considering that they had taken up residence in a cathedral that had once housed the Scarlet Crusade. None of them would want to admit it, but at least some likely agreed with the Crusade's lust for the eradication of the undead. To rid the world of the abominations of nature, as they considered them to be, via the method of holy fire. But, to keep themselves from that image, they were forced to act pleasant, and keep their distances.

In return, she had kept her distance, back against a wall, seated lazily on a bench. When one of them stared at her in disgust, she stared blankly back. Once they realized that she had no need to blink, they would relent and return to whatever they had happened to be doing. At some point, she told herself, she was going to determine just who exactly it was she wanted to speak to. That moment had yet to come.

On the recommendation of a necromancer, she was seeking out a wielder of the Light. Someone who could perhaps help her with her terminal problem of being undead. In a way that didn't end with her being dead once more, that is. Except knowing absolutely no one made it impossible to decide on who was worth bothering with any details. Any number of races were prowling about, ranging from humans and elves to Draenei and Tauren, and each and every one of them seemed like poor ideas to approach.

The longer she sat idly by, the more she considered the fact that the entire suggestion had likely been meant as a joke at her expense. Something to send her off on a journey that was going to end with her being a smoldering pile of ash being danced upon by a number of individuals dressed in matching golden armor. On the one hand, she considered that immensely cruel, and was silently wishing she had maybe put at least a couple of holes into the necromancer. In this situation though, now that she thought about it, there was no other hand. At first she wanted to believe she could respect the macabre nature of the joke, but by this point was more frustrated than anything.

Each minute that passed seem to find her slouching more and more. To the point where her shoulders appeared to be folding straight into her knees. An uncomfortable sight to behold, she presumed, and a pose that would have caused her back problems if her spine wasn't hunched and deformed as it was. Forcing herself to sit up, she could feel individual parts of it pop and crack and they settled back into place, and took the moment to appreciate the fact that the entire process was painless. The same could be said for her the rest of her, her bones scraping and grinding against each other in a symphony of horrible noises as she returned to a standing position, making for the cathedral's grand exit.

So distant were her thoughts that she barely noticed as a priest growing gradually closer to her. It wasn't until they collided that her attention returned to the area around her. In an instant she had skittered back against one of the hall's many pillars, crouching low, hands hovering over her daggers. Her beady eyes bored into the priestess she had rammed into, who herself had already retreated a good distance away, her pale hands coming up to cover her mouth.

When it became apparent that there was no need for her blades, Lenora straightened herself, hands dropping lazily to her sides. Eyes darting away from the priestess in an awkward fit of embarrassment, she let out a hoarse mutter.


The priestess blinked at the noise, taking a moment to be sure that it had actually come from the undead woman. Or perhaps she was more surprised by the fact that she could still manage to speak Common. Regardless of the reason for her surprise, the priestess managed to overcome it, returning herself to something resembling composure. Brushing off what dust had gathered on her robe, she shook her head dismissively, "Don't worry about it. I am at least partially to blame."

Lenora allowed her head to bob up and down at the prospect of sharing the blame. Anything to keep from having to be too apologetic, and to end this quicker. She wanted to leave, and this had only extended the entire ordeal of her departure.

"If you don't mind me asking," the priestess said, taking a step closer, "I am curious about what it is you're doing here."

She blinked once, then twice, turning her attention from the exit to the priestess. Another set of blinking didn't exactly do anything to help her confusion, but she proceeded to do it anyway. There wasn't so much surprise in the question, she assumed most everyone else had been wondering why an undead had crawled into their halls and sat herself down there without saying a word, but rather the suddenness of it. There was supposed to be conversation leading up to such a brazen question. Something about manners, and dancing around an issue before it could be fully address. And here it was being simply ignored.

Inching ever so slightly closer, her eyes narrowed, darting left and right to confirm that there wasn't some paladin waiting in the wings to burn her in holy flame. Deciding the coast was clear, she allowed her shoulders to roll, "Uh. Just. Just looking for some help."

It wasn't the response the priestess was expecting, made clear by the way her eyebrows knitted together, and how long it took her to process. Her hands rose and dropped as though she were about to start making a point, but said points appeared to die before they could ever leave her mouth. Taking yet another step closer, she eyed the undead woman over once more. Had Lenora been standing straight up, they likely would have been similar in height. But hunched over as she was, that involved the priestess literally looking down on her.

"It sounds. Sounds really. Uh," Lenora said, looking away again, "Sounds really stupid. I. I know."

A short chuckle escaped from the priestess, "I am inclined to agree." Once more Lenora turned, eyes narrowing at the bluntness of the response, but she didn't say anything more. Slightly taken aback, the priestess brought her hands up defensively, offering a soft smile, "I can't imagine what sort of help you imagined you could get, especially from anyone here."

Lenora's shoulders shifted up in a shrug once more, "I. I don't know. Just. Maybe. If anyone. Seeing if anyone could. Fix. This." She made a weak gesture to herself.

A more serious expression took over the priestess's face, "There's nothing here to fix that, save having one of the senior members give you a merciful death."

"I. I figured. I figured that out," she muttered, rubbing the back of her neck, "Still. Still thought I. I thought I should. Find out." The priestess gave her a questioning look, to which the undead huffed, "Just. Just think about. Think about what you'd. You'd do."

It surprised Lenora to find that the woman's already pale face could go a few shades lighter. All it took to reach such a point was for the woman to imagine the curse of undeath. If anything, Lenora wondered if she wasn't going to throw up from the thought, with the way she started swaying, but she steadied herself, shaking off whatever had just possessed her.

"Yes, well," she said, idly bringing her hands together, "I suppose that makes sense. But you'll find no solutions here. The Light has the power to return the dead to life, but only in the state that they left it. Or so I have been taught." Lenora's eyes narrowed as she considered that. "So were you resurrected, you would only be returned as you are now. Or worse, given how the Light might sear you."

Her eyes once more scanned the room, considering that. And again, all she could bring herself to do was shrug. Even if she hadn't know it for certain, she had know that hoping for some sort of miracle cure was insane. Not that she had stopped hoping.

"Guess. Guess I'll just. Start. Looking somewhere else."

The priestess blinked, head tilting at the prospect, "There isn't a cure for undeath. Nothing about you can be fixed. Your body is." She paused, biting her lip for once to prevent herself from making such a clear statement, "Obviously not well. And I doubt that your spirit has done any better for being tied to such a thing." As Lenora opened her mouth to make some final statement, she continued, "But there if there was someone who could help in matters of the soul, there might be individuals trained for the task. My instructor once told me of her sister, beyond the Dark Portal, who had trained to be a 'Soulpriest'. Though last I heard, they weren't welcome to outsiders."

Letting her eyes drop to the floor, Lenora stared at the white tile. Without another word, she turned to begin shuffling towards the door. Behind her she could hear the priestess scuffling along after her. Still saying things that she couldn't be bothered to listen to. She pushed herself past the heavy doors the moment she reached them, giving no regard for the cold beyond. Nor the snow, with her bony feet pressing on without missing a beat.

At some point her little sabbatical was going to have to end. She knew was much, tried to convince herself as much. In fact, if she were wise, it would have ended before now. Before going to the ends and edges of the known world, and now beyond, for the sake of a solution that didn't exist. The answer to her question was well known, and she simply refused to heed it. Everyone else seemed to have gotten with the program, and settled into the fact that this was their normal, or at least had convinced themselves to play the part. Once more her eyes narrowed, and her fists clenched.

An eternity awaited her. Either one of darkness when she had her final death, or an uncountable number of lifetimes spent falling to pieces and struggling to keep herself together. And since that was the case, who was to say she was wrong in spending all of it searching for the ever illusive third option.