He cursed his stupidity. Really, it was his fault alone that he had ended up in the heart of Blackrock Mountain, at the mercy of Blackhand. His fault for being stupid enough to venture near the Mountain in the first place. Taldarg made no visible sign of his anger and irritation, though. He had already been stripped down to nothing but sack-cloth pants, disarmed of everything, and chained to a wall by his limbs and neck. He didn't need to be weakened any further. He'd carefully tested the chains since the effects of the spell that had knocked him out had worn off. They were strong, yes, but meant for humans or fledgling orcs. Not a hulking mass of thanatoically-enhanced muscle. Even so, he had to time his escape carefully. The young, black-skinned Orc that held guard over him was armed, armored and eager to smash his skull. After several hours of working out his plan, Taldarg put it into action. He lifted his azure gaze from the ground to the guard that stood leaning against the wall. The guard sneered. "What is it, [i]abomination[/i]. I should strike you for simply having the nerve to look at me." Taldarg continued to stare him down, not saying a word and keeping his gaunt, horribly scarred face neutral. With a scowl, the guard pushed himself off of the wall. "You think you're stronger than us, that's it. That you're better than us." The Death Knight's only response was a slight narrowing of the eyes. The guard growled and marched forward. "I've heard what the older warriors have said-- and they are fools. You are no hero, no great warrior. You are a monstrosity. Whatever you MIGHT have been, you are scum, now." A slight tilt of the chin, a flex of a hand. "Your insolence and presence [i]enrages[/i] me, beast!" spat the guard, marching up close to Taldarg. "By all rights I should cut off your head, and see if your blood still flows!" [i]Just a little closer, maggot. Come in just a little bit closer.[/i] The guard had drawn his double-sided axe, and tossed it from hand to hand. "I'll gladly do the deed, once they come to their senses and decide to execute you." "I could have bested you in life," hissed Taldarg in his wicked, ethereal voice, "and I can best you in undeath." Nostrils flaring, the guard closed the rest of the distance and stood nose-to-collarbone with Taldarg. "REALLY, freak?" With a grinding noise and a snap, Taldarg's right arm shattered its restraints and closed in a vice around the guard's neck. Before the smaller, younger orc could react, the Knight's left hand joined in as well. Taldarg bared his teeth as the guard struggled, neck snapping and veins bursting. "Really." -------- The liberated Death Knight bolted down the halls of Blackrock Spire. He had made sure to at least grab the guard's axe, for his leather armor was of no use to him. He was sure that he could keep himself alive should he run into any patrols on his way to the armory. He knew all the routes, all the shortcuts. It hadn't been too long since he used to stride through these halls himself, after all. After several minutes of evading patrols, taking shortcuts, and butchering lone wanderers, Taldarg had arrived outside the armory. He dispatched the sole guard with ease, and broke down the door just as easily. He had made it halfway into the racks of weapons before the horns sounded. The hulking mass paused and cursed. Picking through the various armaments and armor, he mused. [i]They must have found a body. It won't be long before they arrive. Fifteen minutes, estimated. Less if I am wrong and the patrols were closer. Where is the damned... ah.[/i] Casually smashing a door aside, he had found a storeroom with the property of various prisoners; including his. They fortunately hadn't destroyed it: the plate-mail, the swords, the two-handed runeaxe. The only thing missing was his leather mask, the one he wore almost constantly. He hissed as he discarded the hand-axe and donned his armor. [i]No serious loss. I can appropriate another one.[/i] -------- As it turned out, his estimations were somewhat right. They had arrived in roughly fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, the estimations were wrong. It wasn't a patrol, it was seemingly the entire damned mountain. Taldarg stood in the hallway outside of the armory, with an uncountable number of orcs and trolls on either side of him and a ten foot space between them on either side. They didn't attack, they didn't cajole-- they just stood there, watching him as a child watches a particularly fascinating insect, waiting for something. But what? Even as Taldarg begun to scowl and contemplate, a voice rang out from the crowd on his right. "Honorcleave! [b]Honorcleave[/b]! You've returned!" He spun around, the gravelly rumble eerily familiar. The ranks parted, and out strode a tall, massive Orc, with white hair and ebony-black armor that was only a few shades darker than his skin. Blood red eyes stared into runic blue, and a look of surprise and realization met one of indifference and irritation. "Your face has changed considerably, but not enough to make you unrecognizable. It has been a long time, Honorcleave. [i]Years[/i]." "I am not here of my own accord, Gul'rend. You wretches incapacitated me and dragged me in. I have no intention of staying." Gul'rend frowned. "We are your family, Taldarg. We only want you home." "You [i]want[/i] me as part of your asinine war machine. Step aside." "Such a strong, esteemed warrior of the Black-Tooth Grin. We had sung many a Lok'vadnod about you after your disappearance... are you really so warped?" "No, I am not warped," sneered Taldarg. "I am wise." "I have pleaded and pleaded for a stay of execution, Taldarg! I had thought you would rejoin us, your family, the true Horde!" Gul'rend's tone was one of disappointment as opposed to anger, something that irritated Taldarg to no end. "Step [i]aside[/i], Gul'rend, before I force you aside. You and the rest of the ingrates behind you." "So many days spent talking, conversing, swapping tales of battle. What of Gorrum? Gurvarg? Modak? Your friends, your family?" "Worthless relics of a life long dead." Taldarg turned his back to the towering warrior and started towards the blockade of Horde. "What about Nekarna?" Taldarg stopped. He wasn't sure why he stopped, because he had every intent of ignoring Gul'rend if he mentioned Taldarg's life-mate. But there was something-- [b]something[/b]-- that made him pause, and turn, and stare. Gul'rend gave Taldarg a bittersweet smile. "You do not want to know what has become of her?" "[i]What[/i]? [i][b]What[/b][/i] has become of her?" His own words took Taldarg aback-- where was this vitriol and concern coming from? "I challenge you. If you win, then I tell you what has become of your life-mate, and you are free to leave. If I win, then you stay, and I shall tell you as well. If you decline, then you shall never know." "FINE. I will have you on the ground within the span of a heartbeat," hissed Taldarg, the runes on his axe flaring, "You'll be telling me everything." With a melancholy expression, Gul'rend drew his own weapon: A red, serrated great-axe, the pommel in the shape of the Horde's symbol. "So be it, Honorcleave." -------- The duel was short, bloody, and brutal. Pacing led to feints, feints led to blows, blows lead to all out combat. Gul'rend had always out-matched Taldarg's axemanship, and Taldarg was never quite fast enough to dodge as Gul'rend was capable of doing. But, then again, Gul'rend didn't have the powers and abilities of a Death Knight. When they locked blades, Taldarg slammed Gul'rend back with a runic gale. When Gul'rend hopped back from a strike, Taldarg blasted him full-on with necrotic energy. Gul'rend's blows may have been more numerous, but Taldarg's strikes left Gul'rend wretching and feverish with dark infection. A strike to the chest damaged organs and caused terrible bleeding for a living being-- but for an Undead, it was simply a minor annoyance. In the end, raw Undead power won out over Living skill. Taldarg, soaked in black-blood, stood triumphant over the weakened, battered Warrior. The Death Knight grabbed him up by what remained of his battle-harness. "Now. Tell me. What has become of Nekarna." Gul'rend coughed up black-tinged vomit, staring up into Taldarg's face with his one remaining eye, voice distorted on account of his fractured jaw. "When... you had left, she demanded that we search. Blackhand denied the request. She demanded again. Blackhand shot it down." A cold, icy ball settled in the remnants of Taldarg's stomach, a reaction that he hadn't thought possible. [i]They detained her.[/i] "She started growing resentful. Things started happening; she would not show up for guard duty, she would skip practices, weapons would start disappearing. Several others would exhibit similar habits as well." [i]She was distraught and they were merely consoling her.[/i] "After what must have been the eighteenth request, Blackhand grew angered and ordered her brought to him personally. The men he sent found her quarters empty; her and several of our friends had tried to go out looking for you." [i]And she managed to escape.[/i] "Blackhand caught her, and had her executed. I wasn't present for th--" Gul'rend's eyes bulged as Taldarg gripped his throat. Rage-- pure, undiluted, primal [b]RAGE[/b]-- coursed through the Death Knight's weathered veins. She had been killed. They killed her. Killed her! KILLED HER! "You-- Don't-- I pleaded for-- I-- I tried to--" Gul'rend looked down in terror as Taldarg lifted him up by the neck. The warrior writhed and convulsed as dark energy poured into his form. A hideous gurgle escaped his throat as Taldarg slammed him into the wall and he begun to rot from the inside out, still alive. He made a final sound that was somewhat similar to "sorry", and expired. The warriors in the corridor watched like statues as Taldarg stared at the ground and Gul'rend rotted. Nobody dared to do so much as breathe. "He slew Lightbreaker! Kill him!" A young orc, just old enough to have reached adulthood, bolted forward from the crowd on the left. As he cocked back his axe, Taldarg raised an armored palm, his blue eyes now pure, blazing red with rage. The entire left side of the corridor was obliterated by the sheer force of the runic blast. Before they could comprehend what had happened, those on the right side followed suit. With an ear-shattering scream of rage, the Death Knight bolted down the ruined halls, not caring who he slew or where he went. He had every intention of making this homecoming a mass burial.
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