Author's Note: This short-story is part of a series detailing the background of Yulenia Deathsong and her life prior to becoming- and as- one of the Scourge. These stories are arranged chronologically within Yulenia's biography.
She felt so cold, as if she'd fallen into a lake of ice which had frozen over after her entry, blocking escape. Yet, even as she drifted in the great expanse, she felt no need to draw breath and no sense of impending emergency should she fail to do so soon. She could hear muffled cries, see blurry objects moving here and there- it was as if she was viewing the world around her in a black and white picture, distorted through the lens of the murky waters around her. As she drifted and her senses slowly became accustomed to the experience, she could make out a faint droning noise off in the distance. She recoiled suddenly as the noise seemed to suddenly cause her to gasp for air, as if she was drowning, yet the waters offered no solace for the woman as she struggled. The seconds that ticked by seemed like hours as the agony and pain surged through her senses as waves in key with each attempt to grasp a hold of precious air. She became certain she would drown in moments.
It never came. She flailed futilely, even as the realization set in that she was drowning but couldn't die. Still, the profane droning continued, a persistent ring to her senses and the distant chant of some strange voice she'd never heard before. Despair and sorrow quickly set in, and in the end, her will surrendered to the great expanse around her. Almost immediately, she felt herself stop moving as she fell away deeper into the expanse, as if she were caught somewhere between being awake and being asleep, but the pain continued.
Am I dead? Is this what it feels like? Where am I? It hurts so much...
There was no answer.
Yulenia felt restrained, as if she were looking through someone else's eyes. Able to feel and listen, but not able to control. Even then, she had no desire to try, as the constant pain echoed through her senses in consistent surges and silenced the tatters that remained of her will. It took a few moments then as her vision seemed to focus, allowing her a glimpse of what was going on outside of her prison. She beheld great ornate spires reaching towards the sky, the great gates of some city that seemed oddly familiar. In front of the gates stood a crowd of hauntingly recognizable people armored in blue armor and regalia, equipped with claymores and longbows. Some wore simple leather garments that had born the tests of war, while others donned shining platemail armor. Yulenia felt something was wrong, clawing its way up from the depths of her mind only to be repressed by some outside force, yet still she squirmed against it uneasily in vain.
At her sides, the ghouls ravenously tore at their invisible chains, while the armored death machines stood still, gnashing at the splattered flesh that covered the plating. The armies faced off at each other for a minute longer before the silent command was uttered throughout the swarm's collective mind, and the chains shattered. The ghouls tore off into a sprint as the war machines creaked forward, their catapults slowly lowering to be loaded with profane cargo. The elves gathered before the gate began to take formations and launch arrows, but it all seemed so familiar to Yulenia. Her body seemed to move on its own, no matter how much she tried to pull herself back. Inevitably, her ethereal form began to march towards the waiting elven defenders.
No... no... NO... NO!!
The ghouls hit the front lines with unholy speed and ravenous hunger. For every ghoul that fell, its bones split and mingled at the command of the necromancers, rising once more as mindless skeletons to continue the feral charge. As the battle continued, the numbers of the Scourge only increased tenfold with each new corpse added to the battlefield. The High Elves were driven, cut down, slaughtered and slain in droves, many turning to flee on the spot as they saw the swarm descend upon them. The ground once more seemed to vomit vile gases into the air as the grass wilted and died, turning to Blight in moments as the undead legion trudged across it.
NO! RUN! GET AWAY!
She was watching it happen all over again, but this time, there wasn't anything she could do. She tried to plead, but was rebuked. She tried to scream, but was silenced. She tried to lash out, but was slapped down. She watched with cold horror as her brethren were cut down and butchered before the ravenous hunger of the ghouls, and the war machines bombarded the final elfgate that led into the soft underbelly of Quel'thalas. Her parents, her friends, everything she had once known now lay beyond that sacred gate and would soon be consumed by the Blight. Her anger swelled and her rage was sent into a fury at her powerlessness, and she clawed at her prison with renewed passion. Her attack must have had some effect, as her ethereal form halted for a moment in the advance on the elfgate and was wracked with convulsions of internal agony.
The banshee suddenly arced her transparent back, and let loose the breathless scream of unbridled agony and hatred which flew towards the final defenders of the fortification. Elven sword and bow alike hit the ground as their owners clawed at their ears, becoming easy targets for the relentless might of the Scourge. The elfgate became splinters in moments, the defenders slaughtered like helpless sheep and the swarm adding to their number.
Yulenia felt withdrawn into herself again, sinking down into the recesses of the great expanse as she was overcome with grief.
The world outside of the stone tomb was a catastrophe of dust, corpses, and ruined buildings. Whatever beauty Quel'thalas had once possessed had been snuffed out in a matter of days since the fall of the first elfgate. Smoke still billowed from a few buildings, but fires did not rage as there had been no siege fire or bombs used. No, the Scourge had merely overrun every defense the High Elves could have possibly mustered, and with each victory, the Scourge added another squad of ghouls and banshees to their number. The bulk of the main Scourge army had pushed further north on their dark agenda, most likely headed for the Sunwell. Many Scourge were left amongst the ruins and in the forests, seeking out and hunting down the last vestiges of elvenkind. The Blight had meanwhile come to encompass and infest the lower expanse of Eversong Forest. Most of the wildlife there had either died or had become tainted by the gases emitted by the ground.
While her form seemed to wave about in an ethereal current, the banshee was still easily recognizable as Yulenia. Like many of the others, she migrated from place to place, slaughtering her former kin in robotic fashion and adding them to the growing piles for later use by the necromancers. The urge to fight against the compulsion had long since died within her, especially when her seething rage and anger caused the banshee to emit tormented cries which tended to result in the deaths of anyone alive nearby to hear it. She had become somewhat somber and impartial, no longer caring or understanding what was going on around her, but the droning pain continued. The last rays of hope within her soul still could be seen in the shadows of her soul.
"Yulenia?!" came the familiar voice of a man, huddled behind a corner to hide from the Scourge. His face was smeared with dirt and dried blood from some earlier battle, and his leather armor- once the uniform of a Farstrider- had been reduced to a tattered mess. His brown hair was little more than a tangled mess, an echo of the tidy man's past.
"R... un...!" the specter forced out in a voice both as ethereal as it was in pain.
She had known this man once, which now seemed so long ago, nearly beyond remembrance. His features sparked her force of will to enrage upon the iron-cast door of her prison once again, but it was still in vain despite- just for an instant- managing for force her way out. The banshee seemed wracked with agony once more as she was repulsed, but no scream of anguish came this time. The young and naive ranger must have realized that some echo of Yulenia yet remained within the tormented figment, as his fear quickly abated. Narrowing his eyes, Saeth bolted from his spot against the wall, running past the banshee. He paused a fair distance past her though, looking back, and waited if only but for a moment to ensure the banshee would give chase. Yulenia couldn't hold any longer, and soon enough, her spectral form turned with the intent to murder.
No! What are you doing?! Run!
Through the ruined streets the two ran, down vaulted alleyways and past the drained canals. Saeth seemed to have some idea of where he was going, but Yulenia couldn't figure out what the younger ranger had planned. At last, his pace slowed as he came to the entry of the stone tomb, mostly left untouched by the invasion of the Scourge due to the remoteness of the site. Sparing a quick glance back towards his spectral pursuant, he disappeared into the dark entry, seeming certain his once-friend would follow. Yulenia couldn't slow her speed any longer, and the banshee hurled towards the opening after the man.
Yulenia emerged several minutes later at the lowest level of the crypt, where she realized what the foolish ranger's idea had been. Saeth stood at the far side of the room with an unsure expression on his face, but at the center of the room was a small slab table used most often for preparing the dead which drew the banshee's attention. There, upon the slab, was Yulenia. The ranger must have survived the initial assault by hiding on the lookout platform, and then recovered her body before rushing for Silvermoon.
"Do you remember, Yulenia?! You can fight this! I know you can! You're still in there!" Saeth blurted out, trying to evoke some feeling once more from the banshee.
It felt strange looking down into her own dead face. For one reason or another, she wanted to look away from it in horror, and at the same time, she was fascinated at the sight of it as well. The banshee approached the stone slab and reached out to touch the cheek of the corpse with her ethereal hand, her expression little more than a cold stare. Memories came flashing through her essence, thoughts and images of the past that no longer seemed to serve any relevant meaning beyond an indication of the life this corpse once possessed. She felt a sudden rush, as though she was being torn away once again from what she used to be, and then only blackness greeted her senses.
Cold... I feel... cold...
"Cold... I feel... cold..." she whispered audibly.
Her eyes suddenly jerked open as her senses cleared all at once. The great expanse had fled away and no longer did it seem as if she were floating in the midst of murky water, drowning as she gasped for air. It was almost as though she was waking up from one of the most hideous nightmares she had ever experienced, and it would have been if it were it not for the fading pain that still coursed through her soul and the profane droning of an unseen commander that held her will at bay. Yulenia sat up on the stone slab, taking a moment to look down in stupid wonder at herself and the tatters her cadaver wore.
"Yulenia! Are you alright?!" came the voice of the panicked man, leaning over the edge of the slab to look into her eyes.
When she met his gaze with her own, all he saw was the glowing embrace of death reflected in her large sunken eyes. Suddenly, her body tore off from the slab in an instant and rushed the ranger, pinning him to the wall with an arm against his neck. Saeth started to gasp for air, the impact of the wall stunning him for a moment as he and Yulenia struggled to realize what was happening.
"...No!" she screamed, a tremble of terror coursing through her soul as she felt herself apply more pressure.
Saeth kept gasping for air, trying to wrestle his way free from the corpse of Yulenia, but couldn't manage it against the necromantic strength that now filled her still veins. The life started to fade from his eyes as the pressure built, the ranger suddenly unable to speak as he tried to free himself. She couldn't stop herself anymore- she felt herself being crushed with fear, rage, and terror all at once as she helplessly tried to shake herself free of the mental domination. Her emotions soon flung into a furry, and still, her body did not abate or obey. The one thing her body did obey was the urge to shriek.
The ranger was suddenly frozen into a look of pure terror as he tried to yell from the pain of hearing the shriek, but only a breathless hoarse gasp came out. His hands surrendered trying to struggle against Yulenia's hold and instead they clutched his ears in a vain attempt to protect them. His eyes went wide a moment later in pain when his eardrums ruptured from the shrieking, and soon a stream of blood began to drip down onto the ground from his earlobes. Yulenia snapped like a worn down branch as she saw his eyes start to roll back into his head and his arms go limp as death took hold of Saeth. She suddenly giggled like an innocent child, ending the shrieking as her eyes went wide with laughter that she couldn't stop. The profane droning in the back of her mind grew quiet as her broken will was allowed to slowly ebb to the surface, causing the breathless laughter only to intensify. The gravity of what she had just done seemed to elude Yulenia then, staring into the broken and lifeless face of one of her best friends.
"For once in your life, you look really cute, Saeth!" she giggled loudly, speaking the words almost as if it were in two voices in her mind, now united together as one.
She released the choke-hold and allowed the corpse to slide down the stone wall into a bloodied mess. She then reached out and grabbed hold of Saeth's collar roughly and lifted the corpse up enough to drag it with her as she made her way back up the stairs of the crypt. Etched into her face was a happy expression bordering on senseless glee, and even her hard steps seemed to skip a beat every now and then as she made the ascent.
When she finally exited the tomb, she skipped along joyously to find the nearest corpse pile for the necromancers, giggling compulsively as she went.