Friday, 25 October 2013

Caer Darrow

   Caer Darrow. An old town on the Isle of Darrow, erected around the old Arathorian fortress. The fortress was sacked during the Second War, but was soon restored by the Barov family. They were a great family, once. Wealthy and well-regarded, as such families always were. They owned the land from Darrowmere, to Southshore and Brill, once upon a time.
   The house and family fell to ruin by the hand of Kel'Thuzad, and this is where history becomes more present.
   The House of Barov became Scholomance, a school of necromancy. The Barovs gave the lower reaches of their home to the cause when they were promised immortality as favour from the Lich King, but soon became slaves to the school itself.
   Those that lived in the surrounding town didn't know of the Barovs' treachery, however - no one did. And as the Cult of the Damned worked to bring the Plague of Undeath to reality, the citizens of Caer Darrow continued their lives as normal.

   The Island is a ruin, now. No one is left. The school itself is mostly abandoned, but there are still students and teachers within, but even it is a shadow of its former self. Nothing on the island is as it was.
   My grandmother, on my father's side, used to live there. Fortunately she died before the Plague was unleashed. Unfortunately she was risen not long afterwards and didn't get to enjoy the peace of death as she should have. As we all should have. Still, I suppose I can't complain. I can't say that I was ever ready to die. I was only nineteen, afterall.
   I was Edwena Sunthorn once upon a time, I lived with my brother and grandmother on my mother's side just outside Andorhal, in what is now, fittingly, the Western Plaguelands. Though I've left that life behind me. People look down on us Undead - even those we call our allies. But it isn't quite the curse it appears to be. It's a second chance, with a form of almost immunity to simpler things that could have knocked us back or killed us in life. Petty things that lead to a dishonourable death, like the need to eat, or the threat of drowning. You might even say that we're evolved.

   But despite having tried to leave that life behind, there are fragments that still remain. I have not completely lost myself, even if I have become a different person. I still get flashes of my life before, I can see, hear, smell and touch things all at once, as if I was actually there, even though half of those senses are dead now.
   And so it is, that this Hallow's End, when the visions became more persistant, that I couldn't help going back there, to Caer Darrow. I may have lived in Andorhal, but I spent much time on that island, exploring as a child does.

   I found myself a boat - a simple, shabby thing, but it floated nevertheless - and made my way across Darrowmere Lake. The land surrounding is slowly returning to life, there are pockets of green here and there, and animals are returning to health. Andorhal is under repairs, but Scourge still dwell within, and are being fought back by both the Forsaken and the Humans, who simultaneously fight for control.
   When I landed at the jetty, possessing an orange, swirling sphere containing spectral essence to aid my exploration, I was greeted immediately by a familiar, translucent face. Rory. He had been a friend to my grandmother, and had even babysat me when I kicked up a fuss about going shopping with her. His face was expressionless, and his eyes were almost empty, but there was a spark of something there, something that you almost never see from ghosts. There was some kind of life in his dead eyes.
   What was more startling was that he was aware that he was dead. He spoke to me, told me of his anguish towards what had become of the citizens of Caer Darrow, and himself included. He didn't seem to know me, though - but then, how could he? A rotten face is hardly something recognisable, and we weren't that close. But he had always been a wise man, and the wisdom and intelligence seems to have stayed with him.

   I looked up towards the rest of the island. It's smaller than I remember it, but I haven't been here for...well, since I was about fourteen. I've lost count of the number of years that have passed since my...transformation. The land here is still plagued, the ground covered in an orange fungus, with enormous pulsing sacs of ooze here and there. I've often wondered about those things, just exactly what they were - if they were eggsacs or simply just volcanic ooze waiting to spew toxins and plague everywhere once the land had almost healed. I have little idea, and though I've wondered, in truth I've never been quite interested enough to investigate.
   I continued up the jetty and stepped onto the spongy ground. It squealched beneath my feet, and a foul odour permeated the air. Or, it looked like it would have, anyway. Guards still patrol the roads, just as spectral as old Rory, but they seem unaware of their fate. As they passed me, they warned me to behave myself. I wonder, though: they have been cursed to continue as though still alive, finding no rest at all. Some of us can still see them, but...they don't appear to truly see us. They seemed not to notice my appearance. I have to wonder if I have taken the form of an ordinary human, or taken the place of someone who was once here, and if they still see their town as being pristine and far from what it truly now is. What do they see when they look around? Or do they see anything at all?

   Artist Renfray, who was once commissioned by my own family, still dwells within the ruins of her home. It stands, but it is empty, aside from a disturbing pile of bones in the fireplace. She turned to me as I stood in the door. "Are they all...dead?" I said nothing. I'm not certain she would have heard me anyway. She then asked if I was Tirion. Clearly she could sense my presence - she wouldn't be talking if she couldn't - but she couldn't see me.
   I moved on. There's nothing I can do for these ghosts anyway.
   One man was lying on the bank of the lake. All of him was. His ghost was laying where his skeleton still was. He seemed irritated to have been disturbed, and claimed to have lots to do before Uther's visit. The more I thought about it, the more I began to piece things together. No one here on this island seemed to realise they were dead except Rory, and, to a degree, Renfray. She was at least aware that something was wrong. But they all seemed to be vigilant to some degree. Perhaps cursed to live out the happiest memory, which was doubtlessly Uther's visit.
   I continued onwards, and the more I encountered, the more my suspicions were confirmed. They all seemed so excited about the visit of the world's most reknowned Paladin.
   I soon reached the gates to the keep. Two ghostly guards stood on either side, beside skeletons. I wonder if those skeletons belonged to them? They warned me that they were watching me, as the others had, but I don't truly believe they were. I believe they are working more mechanically, like a Goblin or Gnomish invention, and didn't honestly notice anything I was doing.

   The buildings within the keep were ruined. Some still stood, but they were unfit for living in. The fountain at the centre had dried up long ago, and had become overgrown with moss. Candles still flicker along the rim, however, an eerie memorial I believe. Though who comes along and lights them, and replaces burnt out candles, I don't know. And having said that, wouldn't the wind have blown them out?
   Hallow's End decorations adorn the place, but I don't know how. Why would the ghosts put them up if they believed it was the date of Uther's visit? Some of the ghosts are certainly aware of themselves, but why would they bother to decorate? It was a line of thought I did away with immediately.

   Two small children, Sammy and Melia run circles around the fountain. Even people who cannot see the ghosts claim to have heard them, and fled the place. I can't blame them for fleeing. Anyone who hasn't been through the horrors of Undeath couldn't possibly bear it without being just a little bit twisted. It is, however, of no consequence to me.
   The blacksmith, Magnus Frostwake, and Baker Masterton, both still sell their wares as though it were a normal day. Most curiously, however, the breads are fresh, but the baker's home is empty of any kind of cooking utensils. There is only broken furniture, and four skeletons.

   I soon found myself stood outside of Scholomance itself. Students are still working below in the catacombs, studying necromancy. I heard several screams and cackles, as well as strange, gutteral howls, the likes of which I've never heard before, coming from deep within. I wasn't worried, they sounded very distant. I headed through the gates and turned right. I wasn't looking for combat today, and decided to steer clear of the school itself, instead preferring to investigate the ruins of the house.
   There are skeletons everywhere, but no ghosts. The ghosts of the servants and maids have long since departed, while the Barov family, aside from the two surviving brothers, all dwell inside the school as undead themselves. In a way, they received their promised immortality. But not, I'm sure, in the way they imagined.
   The keep used to stand so tall and proud. I'd never been inside it before, while alive or dead, so it was all new to me, and all I could do was try to imagine what it used to be like. A hard task when there's little but a few pieces of broken furniture, fallen beams, rats and skeletons inside.

   I explored the house for a good hour, every nook and cranny, and I was admittedly keeping my eyes open for valuables, but I found none. I was just about to leave when I heard another cackle and gutteral howl, but they were much, much closer than they had been before. I left then, hurrying a little, partially through fear I admit, but also because today was not a visit out of a hunger for battle. It was merely to satiate my interest, and my mind had gotten so clouded with the details of this place that I had truly dropped my guard.
   It was a satisfying trip, however, and I can tell grandmother what has become of her home. Though I'm not sure she cares. I can't say I blame her.

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