Awakening as an undead had been the most disorienting occurrence of her existence, until that moment when she cast her glowing blue eyes upon the scene before her.
Numerous things that could only be Gnomish contraptions whizzed by her in a great, unending stream. Moved along on wheels and forming an enclosed compartment of metal and glass, the constructs resembled no vehicle she had ever witnessed before. She dared not get a closer look, as whomever steered the things seemed to have no intentions of slowing down. They moved faster than she knew was possible by a Gnome-made vehicle along a street that was black with colored stripes and resembled no street she could recall.
With a forced resolve, Effraeti wrenched her gaze from the astonishing scene before her and looked long to her right, then her left, and back again. The street seemed to go forever in both directions. Bare, skeletal trees marched in a neat row behind her and again on the far side, where a street of vehicles moving at a similar speed went in the other direction.
Either direction looked identical to Effraeti.
With a frown and a furrowing of her brow, she pulled out her map. Imbued with magical abilities to display wherever she was at any given time, somehow Effraeti was not overly surprised to find the map would not show her current location and irritably jammed it back into her pack.
The Death Knight pulled her Hearthstone from her bag, and murmured the appropriate combination of syllables over the small stone’s smooth surface. The Heartstone’s runes stayed unlit, the stone seemingly lifeless. Effraeti did not know what this meant – it should have returned her to the Scarlet Raven in Darkshire. Back into her pack the stone went.
Effraeti then attempted to summon a Deathgate – a Death Knight portal to her home, Ebon Hold. Nothing intended happened, just large knife of pain that shot through her head like a lightning bolt. It drove her almost to her knees, but was just as quickly gone, and Effraeti was able to recollect herself.
Then, she thought to summon Sorrow, her Deathcharger, her faithful undead mount who had never once failed to come to her – until now. Effraeti called and called, “Sorrow, to me!” to no avail. But Sorrow came to her from the Nether, and his lack of response puzzled her.
Resigned to walking, and to the fact that she was not getting out of here of her owns mean, Effraeti decided to waste no more time. The direction to her right felt more promising, as there seemed to be more vehicles heading in that direction. Effraeti made a quick glance to the sun’s position, getting low in the sky. The air was cold and the vegetation dead-looking, and so the Death Knight knew dusk would be fast approaching.
The cold did not concern her, her dead flesh barely felt it, merely the idea of being somewhere so unfamiliar to her, and trying to navigate to someplace useful, in the dark.
So, with the shiny, speeding vehicles rushing past her on her left, Effraeti set off toward an unknown destination from an unknown point of origin.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As Effraeti walked on, it began to snow, heavily. The cold and the descending precipitation did not faze her, only brought to mind the fact that it might slow her progress – though, progress towards what, she was still unsure. She absently tugged her cowl more tightly around her face, more from habit than discomfort.
She had passed a few inns, or what she assumed to be inns, as the creatures in the fast moving vehicles seemed to rest there. But even their resting seemed quick, and then they were on the street once more. These strange inns did not look the place where she might find a Mage, however, so she continued on.
A soft glow of white light from behind her and the noise of something other than her on the fine gravel beneath her hooves caused Effraeti to pause, straining her ears to better hear what approached her. The crunch of tiny stones stopped, close behind her, and Effraeti drew her Runeblade and spun on the stranger immediately.
It was one of the strange vehicles, come to rest removed from the others.
Effraeti’s body did not relax as a door on the side opened and someone stepped out.
“A human?” she blurted before she could stop herself.
It was a young man, possessed of dirty-blonde hair and bright, curious blue eyes. His clothes were strange, but Effraeti thought them to be some kind of cloth. Could this oddly dressed human be a Mage? Perhaps he could send her home.
“Sorry to startle you, miss, but you must be freezing. Can I give you a ride somewhere?” he asked her. The accent was one she could not identify, but she understood him easily enough.
“Are you a Mage?” she asked, the tip of her blade dropping slightly.
“Uhm, no…” he replied, slowly. “But it’s warmer in the car. It’s freezing out here. Do you need a ride?”
“I am unsure of where I am going. I appear to be lost and my map has proved unhelpful,” Effraeti answered, glancing around them. With darkness fast encroaching and the snow falling heavier now, she could barely see him and what he had referred to as a car, only the lights that shone from the front of it.
Effraeti’s blade came up again as the man approached her. He put his hands up before him, in a calming manner. “Whoa, now. I’m just getting the door for you.” After crossing the front of the vehicles, he opened a door on the opposite side and beckoned her over.
Meeting his gaze, she could identify no malice there, only genuine curiosity and concern. So Effraeti sheathed her sword and stepped forward.
Warm air and some kind of quietly playing music drifted out of the vehicle at her. She stuck her head in and looked around. There were cloth seats in the front, and the steering mechanism was surrounded by an awe-inspiring panel of brightly colored lights in red and blue. The lights seemed to mark various gauges and buttons and knobs. It was unlike anything she had ever seen, even on the ships of the Na’aru, and all in so small a vehicle.
Suddenly, Effraeti recalled herself and her companion, standing beside her and still holding the door. When she straightened and looked at him, his gaze seemed amused, despite the fact he trembled from the cold.
“My apologies. I have never seen anything like this,” the Death Knight feebly explained.
“A car? Really? Well, climb on in,” he encouraged.
Removing her Runeblade from her back, Effraeti caught a slight flinch from the young man, so she quickly seated herself and cradled the Runeblade between herself and the door once it closed.
She was still gaping at the interior of the machine when he opened the other door and got situated.
“My name is Jonathan Payne, but you can just call me Jon,” he told her, his smile warm and friendly. “Only my mother calls me Jonathan, and usually only when she’s mad at me.” He chuckled, but stopped abruptly when she merely watched him and did not reply. “What’s your name, miss?”
“I am called Effraeti,” she replied.
“Is that some kind of Russian name? That is your accent, isn’t it?”
Effraeti cocked her head and regarded him questioningly. “I am unfamiliar with wherever that may be. But long ago, I originated from Argus.”
“Hmm, I see.” The young man furrowed his brows. “Usually, I wouldn’t pick someone up from the side of the road – I’m surprised I even saw you in the storm and the dark, actually. But you definitely seem lost. You look like you just left a Comic Con or something. Great costume by the way. The sword is really convincing too.”
Effraeti studied him, questioningly. “My Runeblade is quite real, I assure you.”
“And that thing you’ve done with your eyes. Are those contacts?” He smiled again, briefly, and leaned forward a bit, receiving only another thoughtfully confused look from his passenger.
Effraeti studied him, and Jon seemed to grow uncomfortable and settled back into his seat once more, straightening himself. He broke silence several moments later with a nervous clearing of his throat. “Well, where can I take you, Effraeti?”
The question caused her to break the gaze, glancing out the vehicle’s glass and into the snowstorm beyond. “Without knowing where I am starting, my path is unclear to me. This whole place is strange.” Her glowing blue eyes settled upon the young man again. “But anywhere familiar would be a start. That is why I hope to seek a Mage.”
“A Mage, huh? And what could a Mage do for you?” Jon asked.
“Create a portal for me to get Stormwind, of course,” Effraeti replied quickly, her tone growing an edge like the answer was obvious.
“Right. So a Mage. Well, I’m not sure I know where to find one of those.” The young man was smiling slightly as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Does my plight amuse you, human?” Effraeti growled, her mood quickly souring.
Eyes widening, Jon stammered, “No, ma’am. Just doing what I can to help. No need to take offense.” He gently patted the air between them, illustrating his wish for her ease herself.
Effraeti took a deep breath and released it slowly. “My apologies, Jon. I am most certainly disoriented and frustrated. I do not mean to disrespect your good will. As it is, you stopped for a stranger with only the best of intentions.”
“No need to apologize. I couldn’t leave you out there, no matter how strangely dressed you are.” He smiled, and Effraeti found herself with the slightest of grins tugging at her lips, though it was likely a stiff smile and lost in the shadow of her cowl.
“I was thinking your clothing was the strange set between us,” Effraeti replied with a ghost of a chuckle. “You do not even carry a weapon.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Well, when we get into town, we can stop for some food. I’m not sure how long you were out there, but I imagine you’re hungry, eh?” Jon asked her in his pleasant conversational tone, the one that seemed to say he thought all that was going on was perfectly normal.
In reality, the young man had to keep reassuring himself he was awake and that the strange woman sitting in the passenger seat of his Golf was real. The longer he spent in her presence, the more he began to believe her strange glowing eyes, unusual clothing and blue skin were not a costume, and her accent was not Russian. There were other strange things about her that he could not put his finger on.
“Your offer is kind, but I do not require food.”
“You mean you’re not hungry?”
“No, I mean that since my body is no longer living, it does not require any nutritional supplement.” Her eyes swept over and stopped on him, and from the corner of his vision, Jon could see the unsettling, cold blue orbs glowing from beneath her cowl, and that look confirmed for him without a doubt that her statement was truth.
“Oh, shit… So you’re dead, or something?” Jon attempted to keep the tremor from his voice and failed.
“Yes, my unliving status tends to make those who still draw breath uncomfortable, so I tend to try and avoid it as a conversational subject until it arises on its own.” Effraeti sat impassively in her seat, watching the road before them, her smooth, blue hands neatly folded on her lap, her posture rigid.
“I’d say so,” Jon blurted.
“You would prefer me to have lied?”
“Well… maybe… less honest?”
Effraeti made a disgruntled exhalation. “I may be an undead abomination, but I am still a Draenei through memory if not through flesh.” The words came out as if through clenched teeth, which Jon assumed they likely were.
“I’m sorry if I offended you, Miss Effraeti.”
“It is nothing. As an undead, I have no feelings.”
“Well, that’s an obvious lie,” Jon countered with a sarcastic bark of a laugh.
Effraeti snapped her gaze in his direction and raised an eyebrow curiously. “How would you know anything of my disposition?” A frown was visible on her face from the light of cars passing in the other direction.
“I don’t claim to,” Jon said, somewhat defensively. “But it is obvious that there are feelings in you – you are angry with me.”
Effraeti blinked, opening and then closing her mouth without saying anything. She was quiet for a long moment before finally making the quiet response of, “I did not think of it in that way. You are right. Do you suppose that if there is room in me for feelings of distress and anger, then perhaps there is room for emotions of a more pleasant nature?” Her eyes were wide as she regarded him, her face hopeful.
“Well, it sounds to me like you just answered that.” Jon shot a disarming grin at her.
This time, Effraeti’s own smile was less cold and more genuine. It still seemed to come to her with a great amount of effort, but the result lit her face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In an attempt to keep from making Jon uncomfortable, Effraeti slowly ate small bits of the food put before her. It was something Jon called French Fries, and though she had no idea what that might mean the small strips of fried potato were quite tasty, especially dipped in a red sauce called Catchup.
Their earlier conversation had opened up a line of thought Effraeti had not believed possible. The prophetic words of A’dal came back to her:
The Light is not done with you, my child. First, you must rediscover yourself, only then may you return to champion your previous cause. It will be a long journey, and a far one, but have faith and continue your path, straight and true.
Effraeti supposed she should not be too surprised, the words of Prophet Velen and the Na’aru usually meant little when spoken and only came to life as those peerings into the future began to unfold. She bowed her head, her eyes closing, and silently thanked the Light that she would indeed be given another chance – something she had not dared to hope, even after all of the words of A’dal in the Terrace of Light.
Jon afforded her her silence, respectful of the avenues of thought he had opened in her. He merely ate, studying her while she was lost within herself.
When she happened to glance up from the depths of her reverie, he merely smiled and nodded at her, as if answering some unasked question. She blinked, a tiny gasp escaping her, and briefly shook her head to clear it. When she again looked upon the young man, it was still there.
Somehow the lighting behind him cast just right as to frame him in a halo of light.
Effraeti witnessed a catch in her throat and fought to swallow down the discomfort.
Jon’s gaze turned puzzled, and as he began to ask, “What’s wrong?” a serving girl walked past behind him, breaking the moment. Even after she was gone, the light did not settle the same, and Effraeti had to wonder what it meant.
The Light watching over her? The thought was almost too much.
“For someone who needs no sleep, I am suddenly very weary,” Effraeti admitted, touching her hand to her forehead, almost needing it there to hold her head up.
“No problem. Let me flag down the waitress and we’ll get out of here,” Jon promised.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jon noticed that Effraeti’s entire demeanor had changed between when he had first came upon her to now. There was much self-reflection going on, something that seemed foreign and uncomfortable to her.
Or perhaps just uncomfortable to her since her death?
Jon was still having trouble putting his head around the whole situation. At first, he had thought her odd dress and behavior some sort of cosplay, but that was obviously not the case.
Somehow, Effraeti was for real.
To make matters more confused in his mind, he could not recall how – at 70 miles per hour, in the dark, in a snowstorm – he had even seen her on the side of the road. He supposed he may have caught a glint of her Runeblade, but something had caused him to know she was there and pull over. He just did not know what.
The young man wanted to help her get home, but he no idea where that was or how to go about it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Effraeti laid down, staring at the dark ceiling above.
One would think she would be used to sleeping – or what passed for sleeping to the dead – in strange places and strange beds, after the countless inns that had been her places of rest since she had broken free of the Lich King and set off from Ebon Hold, but apparently the awakening of one emotion had led to another and soon she was feeling overrun by them. Add to that the guilt of sleeping in Jon’s bed while he was out on the couch and she was merely there, wide-eyed and contemplating.
And trying to identify each emotion as it hit her without luck.
Unbidden, an image of Lazheward laying next to her flooded her thoughts. So sudden it was that a quiet sob escaped Effraeti. There were no tears, her undead eyes could not create them, but the sudden wave of emotion at recalling him at that moment stung her eyes and wracked her entire body for several minutes with large sobs of despair.
So overcome was she that she did not notice the shadow in the doorway until Jon asked, “Effraeti? Are you alright?”
The Death Knight sat bolt upright and fought to compose herself, but her voice was tremulous when she replied, “I am fine.”
Jon sat on the corner of the bed and cautiously rested his hand atop her’s. Effraeti did not pull away, but it took her a moment to look up and meet his gaze.
“Is there anything I can do?” Jon asked, his voice barely a whisper.
“I feel… so out of control of myself…” Effraeti murmured, her voice sounding small to her own ears. She trailed off, thinking to say more, but her lips would not form the words.
Jon shifted, looking uncomfortable, and like he misread her pause. “Do you want me to leave?”
“No!” Effraeti said, the word coming out more forceful than she meant it to. “No, please stay. I do not want to be alone right now, Jon. My mind does not appear to be my own.”
“What can I do?”
“Just stay with me. Perhaps it will help calm my mind.” Effraeti blinked a few times and glanced around, left and right, feeling lost. Then, she laid back down on her side, her eyes staring out at nothing, but refusing to close.
Jon scooted up the bed and settled beside her, close but not touching. Effraeti could just feel his breath on her hair.
Without thinking of what she did, she rolled over and buried her face in the shirt covering his chest grasping pieces of it in both of her hands desperately. For a moment, she felt Jon tense, and then he hugged her tightly to him as the sobs began to wrack her again.
Her eyes stung with tears that would not fall.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jon kept his arms tightly around her, despite the fact that Effraeti had exhausted herself into a peaceful slumber. Her skin was cool to the touch but smooth beneath his fingers. Her face was finally relaxed and Jon realized her to be quite beautiful, without the perpetual frown that had crossed it since he had happened upon her. Even in the dim light, merely the illumination from the hallway fixture, Jon could see the red rings still framing her closed, puffy eyes. Her hair was only slightly tousled from sleep, the long, straight locks feathered in long bangs to either side, falling in front of her ears.
Jon brushed a stray piece back from her face, and Effraeti stirred and murmured something – something in a language he did not understand.
But she settled again, her cheek pressed against his chest, her fingers still loosely tangled in the front of his shirt.
Though he tried to stay awake, his cheek resting on the top of her head and his free hand absently stroking her hair, the gentle rise and fall of her body lulled him to sleep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Effraeti awoke, disoriented.
The room was silent, with the start of dawn just seeping through the large window at the head of the bed. There was no second body beside her, and after a moment of acclimating herself, Effraeti realized she was no longer with Jon.
She was back at the Scarlet Raven.
It took several minutes for the reality of what that meant to sink in. She was back, back someplace that was not strange and foreign. But at the same time, that also meant that Jon was gone.
And with a twinge of regret, Effraeti realized that she had never had a chance to thank him for any of it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.