“I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.”
– Walt Whitman, Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
‘Retrieved Incident Report: Naxxramas Security detail 02567. Unknown time and date (source material partially destroyed). Retrieved by Recon Team Alpha Charlie, Argent Crusade, with support from Wintergarde Garrison, 7 Legion (engineering detail), investigations completed at the fall of Naxxramas (Northrend). Report signed off: Shuanna of the Exodar etc etc, time and date: Classified.
Breach in middle section secured. Containment area still active. Intruders tracked and neutralised. Extra rations of meat met with cheers. Chief Administrator requires bones for further experiments. Residual morphic memories detected – suggested method of disposal: Burning. This order is hereby cancelled as request by [inelligible scrawled letters]-uzad. Experiment to resurrect Cat (animal) deemed more important than Geist Alpha (creature). Chief Engineer complaint overruled (Ch. Eng. body to be repurposed at convenient time).’
This is the first recollection we have of me. All of us. I like to read those few lines, jotted down on cheap paper (because the Argent Crusade thought the pen wasn’t mightier than the sword). I think this is our … my … for I am legion … This is my birth certificate. More or less.
I know the words by heart (a shriveled lump of dead tissue that once belonged to a dwarf named Hamadin; it tries to throb but it won’t but morphic muscle memory is stubborn; they filled my chest with body debris and coarse wood shavings). But it doesn’t matter if I can recite the words to anyone who asks for them. On long lonely nights I lay there in bed and read that piece of paper. I don’t know how Master got hold of it. Perhaps her sister was a good sport?
It has been a lot of lonely nights lately. I’ve been tossing and turning, trying to sleep. Now … Scourge never sleep. As such. We rather – power down. It’s like flipping the switch of a machine – we are machines, more or less – and some of us close our eyes. Others don’t. I close my eye, you know. Bonny K and Bonny M, well, they can’t close their eyes because they are skeletal constructs but anyway! We … sleep. Even an undead servant need to wind down, you know. Get som shut-eye. Charge up, that sort of thing. Most of us that am what I am likes this rest. Oh, especially Tink, she loves to sleep and relax. just like Alan the Ghoul.
Ah, yes, perhaps I should tell you a bit of what it means to run a farm? don’t worry, it won’t take long. I will tell you in a minute what happened when Master came back. Hang out with me (as we Scourge like to joke with those who’s been lynched before we raise them).
Alan loves to tend the flowers. The Songbells, to be precise. He’s very good at it too! He keeps the birds away through his smell alone. He keeps the virmen at bay through, well, let’s say … ingenious inventiveness. Ask him what a virghoul is, I dare you!
In his own way – ghouls have a very rough and simple language not many understand – he’s told me exactly why I have to wake him up. He likes to sneak back behind the shed and … power down. you want to know why?
It’s the songbells. They … sing. The wind flows through their tiny stems and bulbs, gently shaking the fruits, and they sing. A faint, eerie sound as of tiny slivers of glass clinking. When you harvest a songbell the concentrated mote of harmony inside makes this beutiful sound, like tapping your nail on a crystal glass, very fast. Emma, my ears, like that sound. She used to be a … wassisname … ah! A hearthsinger. In Stratholme. She sang with a good friend of hers. Until He came …
(My ears don’t like to think about that.)
So the flowers makes him sleepy but he loves them. He feels … harmonious. So Alan sleeps on duty. He used to love to sleep. He’s told me he spent more time in the Wintergard brig than on look-out for Naxx. You know, some people are just like that. He was unhappy, and tired. The first years as a ghoul he spent most of his time wailing. Because, you know.
Ghouls don’t cry.
Creator, who also created Alan once the lazy peon was caught and killed (it wasn’t hard, he was afraid of death back then and still is), well – Creator was going to “repurpose” Alan. But then someone did an administrative error in the depths of Naxx and Alan ended up in “84th Inf Regt”. He was shipped off to Borean Tundra to turn mammoths and bugs. That’s how Master found him; a lowly ghoul, sleeping when he wasn’t wailing, on duty not far from the entrance to Ahn’Kahet. Master saved him, she did. Master saved us all. Gerard and “the bonny twins”, Alan and Ogrash and Fart and Stinker … all of us.
We help out around the farm now. But no one but me dares to speak to the living.
Did I tell you about my hair? Oh yes! Yes I did! It’s not actual hair. It’s a whig. A blonde whig (Tess remembers heir blonde hair; it used to turn her lovers crazy, when she lived in Eversong). So my hair is blonde. It’s a nice whig. Long strands of golden hair, spun from yak hair (not real humanoid hair!). Gina, though she pretends to dislike me, made the whig herself. Then she told me that “fashion” had changed. So one day she brought a pair of scissors and once I stopped screaming she “bobbed” my hair. I don’t know what that means. But it’s pretty.
I … love my hair. It’s … I don’t know. It’s me. I may be smelly (if I forget my mogu perfume). I may be stiff and coarse – but I. Am. Alive. Like I said, some time ago: “Life. Such as it is. Is the mogu alive, yet the do not draw breath? Is Master alive, yet she has no heartbeat? Am I alive, yet I am many?”.
Hair. Is life.
But enough of that (as the pandaren say). Let me tell you about Master. just a moment, I need to wake Alan up. Again. Prod you, ghoul! Get back to work – but don’t work too hard! Remember, Alan, you are free now. You don’t have to be afraid no more. The songbells keeps you company, friend.
(“Muuuraaaah! He-aaa! Haaa… rmony!?”)
Yes, Alan. Be safe.
(“Eeeah! Aaaurggghhh!” Mhr-haaah!”)
Ghouls are not that bad once you get to know them. Honestly!
Master’s been busy for weeks and months lately. Master’s been sad, and angry, and cruel. At one point we started to think that Master was like … Him.
But the Bad Orc far away is in prison now. There are no more battles to be ought. Master have drunk her filling of blood. But she’s been very busy even though no one has any need of an Alliance death knight no more. Bad earth talkers, Dark Shamans, caused a lot of trouble with Haohan and others not long ago. A kinfolk of Master, a draenei male, and a night elf, helped to sort it out. Mercenaries and adventurers and soldiers going home has attacked farmers and each one. So our good friend Mudmug and some other pandaren fellows asked Master if she could kill some orcs. Because it’s tuskfaces with no manners that’s usually cause a stir.
So she did.
She let our farm before daybreak and didn’t return until the wee hour of dawn. Weeks on end. I was very worried. She didn’t as much as look at the flower beds, we had to keep them tended and harvested without her help! Sometimes she was angry and tired, sometimes covered in blood. She hit us, once and again. Me and Alan and even Hossie (a hozen that was shunned by his hill-dwelling brothers and found his way to our farm, hungry and scared since there was a good silver for grabbing hozen heads; it was a daily quest for many brave hero to kill hozen,who really were just hungry – but anyway!). She never changed out of her armor. She just sat there, by a table for a while, staring at nothing. Sometimes she gently touched her locket, the one with two portraits … and sometimes she mumbled “I’m sorry, Menea, I will find you, I will find you, I am so sorry … “
She didn’t even play with Dog.
Dog was sad and afraid. We were all afraid. Alan couldn’t even sleep. As if the songbells had stopped chiming, so too were our life – such as it is for a redeemed Scourge – withering. She hit us, all of us, so many times.
Master called me a monster.
Master reminded me of that time when she had just found me. One night she brought a bundle with her – this was in Zul’Drak when we were helping trolls to survive. I was curious (because that’s how geists are!) so I ripped the bundle open and …
No, I’m not telling you what happened. Even Scourge know what pain is.
Master was “under pressure”, as Gina called it. “It’s like when harvest is in full swing,” she said one day as she combed my hair (uhm, my whig). “Sometimes you don’t have time to be polite and friendly. Sometimes people do things they regret, and you either forgive and let it be gone, Tim. Or the Sha will get you.”
Pehaps how to learn to forgive is what life is all about?
One night Master threw me out of the house, yelling in a drunken voice that “you sleep with the pigs, bitch!”. Then she broke my bed (it’s a nice bed, Mudmug fixed it up the next day while whiping away tears but it is a nice bed). I was terrified. Angry. But most of all sad. My skin crawled (my skin always crawl when I get nervous; then my arms start shaking – it’s residual memory interlapse, as my Creator called it).
Master came back one day, not long ago. A few days ago. She had been busy – so people said – on an isle that time forgot (I don’t know what it means and I don’t want to know what it means!).
This is how it happened:
Thunder rolled in from the north. The weather of the Valley has taken a turn for the worse since some year ago, there’ a lot of thunder going on even though Lei Shen – my Masters sisters helped defeat him – is no more. I have never liked thunder. It reminds me of fire – one of the things the Scourge fear more than Him.
I heard the footfalls on soggy ground outside long before she opened the door. A wind swept through the house as she did. When Master is away I keep a frostfire burning in the fireplace. Master don’t like that, but we are afraid of orange fire and blue fire won’t burn us the way the red-and-golden flames might do. I wasn’t asleep – I only pretended. I hid hal my eye under the whig, curling up under the blanket that Nice Li Li gave me (it has unicorns on it!). I peeked out thorugh strands of golden hair. Master was a shadow against the doorway, her swords drawn. She never enters a room without her weapons drawn.
Then her dead-light eyes stared at me.
We lived in fear then. I was sure she would throw me out, hur me, maybe even rip my head off. Alan whimpered and hugged a tiny little virmen he had rescued a few days earlier from drowning in the pond and the virmen squeeked with terror. It’s not afraid of Alan, it loves Alan. But it is afraid of Master.
Then Master closed the door. Then Mastes sheathed her swords. Then she sat down by the table with a sigh and then she waited for quite some time and then she said:
“I’m dead, inside and out.”
Tiny virmen snuck away from Alan and very carefully, trembling so hard its whiskers almost fell off, snuck up to the calf of Masters leg and whispered: “I have carrot, mother?” Alan very carefully shuffled out of his corner and with a scared smile placed a teracotta urn filled with moist soil and a tiny, green but gently singing, Songbell on the table in front of Master. Champs – you got to hand it to Champs, he never fails to entertain! – removed his helmet and in a skeletal wheese told a dirty poem about a hedgehog and a knob.
I just trembled.
Master sat there for quite some time. Eventually she stood up, strapped off her armor and put it in the wardrobe. She didn’t loose her swords, of course. She closed the wardrobe doors and then stared at them, for a long time, then whispered “I’m home, mommy’s home again.”
Then she went outside. We heard her splash around in the pond. I snuck up to a window and watched her standing there, in the golden light of dawn, naked, rubbing her cold body down with pumice and the sharpened leaves of Spiders Root. Caked dirt and blood, old vomit and still glowing green sludge – it fell from her skin. I don’t know where she had been, what she had fought, and I don’t care.
Master is home again. She dressed in a blue overall. She cut her hair short using a sickle she had sharpened on a piece of stone. As daybreak came and Halfhill started to wake up with the sounds of goats and market-goers, she walked up the stairs to the porch and gave all of us a long, hard, dead look. Then, I don’t know how I could have missed it, she placed her hand on a bundle she had placed on a small wooden table right next to the door.
“I brought you a present, Tim,” Master Said. “I have been … angry. My sister says one should ask for forgiveness, because the Light forgives.” Master sighed, fingering her locket. “Maybe I don’t believe in the Light no more, but the Light still believes in me.”
Alan glanced at me. Tiny virmen twitched and found a piece of carrot. Champs hissed, he always feels uncomfortable if something can’t be hit with a sword (he has no brain, just an empty skull, cut him some slack, okay?).
I slithered out of bed. Fear kept me close to the floor. As I came close to the table close to the door I shot a glance at Master. I was certain she would hit me. It was as of old, right then, at that moment. Just a slave to someone more fortunate.
Master knelt down. My whig had gone askew as I moved. She corrected it. Then she smiled – one of those … living smiles.
I very carefully opened the bundle of coarse linen cloth she had placed on the table by the door. i took great care not to puncture the cloth with my saronite talons (nails, it’s called nails, even though they are quite long – and sharp). I grabbed the cloth and the hemp string … I pulled. As my trembling hands, part of me still sure Master would flog me, carefully removed the cloth and looked at the contents of the bundle, Master said:
“I’m not going away anymore, not for a long time. I was a fool to think I could go back and change what has been done. My home is here now, Draenor is gone. I am so sorry, Tim. I am so sorry …”
I opened the bundle. It was a dress. A pink dress. I looked at Master. Then I said, with a voice bereft of breath but it didn’t matter because at that very moment I ceased to be a geist – and became Alive:
“Master brought me a dress!”
Alan did his best to draw a picture of me, a bit later, as I jumped with joy across the fields and Dog chased me, barking like mad. Here it is
It wasn’t until late that night I knew things will change, when I heard Master whisper to herself, as she sharpened her swords with slow and gentle strokes:
“All those stones the dragon asked for better be worth it.” She glanced at me, over her shoulder, smiling as my hands carefully stroked the pink silk dress: “We’re going home, geist. In a month or two …
We’re going home, at long last.”
– – – – –
Credit for Geist in a Dress-image goes entirely to commenter Razwick92, in the WoW Insider Queue, 20140829 . I asked for an image of a geist in a pink dress and I got it – in short time and all that. But I’m happy, so all is good!
In fact, this entire story depended on that very image – of a geist, in a dress. Isn’t it funny how your brain works? This story had been festering within me, I lacked an image to let it go – but no more!