The night is a foe just as deadly in Northrend as many of the creatures one encounters there. The sun sinks below the horizon, taking with it the last of the day's warmth, plunging the arctic regions into fierce, biting cold. Those who venture into the tundra without planning for the night do not come back.
The night in Northrend is also very beautiful. Phantom ribbons light the sky with their soft, undulating glow in a myriad of colors. It is easy to forget, huddled under a thick cloak, looking up at the night sky, just how deadly Northrend is. Such is the land's nature, and the nature of those who dwell there.
They were hearing noises. The sound of sharpened metal passing through something less resilient; maybe a muffled scream. They paid these noises no heed.
They were perched on a ledge overlooking a small settlement nestled in a natural hollow formed by similar outcroppings on all sides. It had been easy to clear the hollow of life, to make room for their hulking tank, its pipes venting foul clouds. Armed with their weapons and their devices, the Forsaken had begun to blanket the hollow. Now, days after their arrival, they were complacent. Any threat to them was sitting in the village in the hollow, weakened, lethargic. Unwilling test subjects, stripped of their honor and their dignity.
They reacted too slowly when he stepped into the camp, when his form was cast in relief by the sick glow coming from the vile tank from which they fueled their devices and weapons. Clad in dark robes and segmented plates the color of night, he strode slowly into their midst. He moved with purpose.
Only when his hand reached up, over his shoulder, only when it grasped the hilt of his ebon runeblade and drew the blade from its place on his back, did they truly come to realize that purpose.
The closest plaguebringer raised his weapon. Too late, he realized, as the runeblade first passed through his gun and then through his torso without so much as slowing.
His second target fared better; this one was smart enough to drop his gun and draw a pair of blades before the distance was closed. The black-clad night elf was willing to take his time; indeed, he seemed to revel in frustrating his opponent by dodging and parrying every thrust or slash, ignoring every opening he could take, and simply allowing the plaguebringer to frustrate himself.
His ire was forgotten, replaced with fear, when the ghoul slammed into his back. The rotting beast's momentum threw him into the ground, its teeth and broken claws tearing into the screaming forsaken. The attacker had already turned his attention to his final two targets.
One ran; he let him. Instead he approached the plaguebringer courageous enough to stay; they traded blows. This time the attacker didn't fight defensively; he moved with speed and power enough to bewilder the plaguebringer, finding holes in his defense with uncanny ease.
He stepped back, lowering his runeblade and causing the forsaken to falter in his attack. The plaguebringer stumbled, his one good eye going wide as maggots the color of dried blood began to burrow their way out of his dessicated flesh, crawling over his skin and consuming him even as he collapsed to the ground.
The attacker smiled under his cowl, turned to survey the cleared area. His smile widened- the one he let flee had paused long enough in his flight to crush the ghoul's skull in hopes of freeing his companion. A lost cause, he realized too late, and resumed his flight.
The attacker raised an arm; dark energy rippled from his free hand, lashing out and gripping the final plaguebringer with merciless intent. He screamed and clawed at the ground as the death knight's power dragged him back to his doom.
He screamed again, a combination of anger and pain, when his attacker drove a pair of blades borrowed from one of his comrades through his shoulders.
As he leaned down, the plaguebringer caught a fleeting look of the face under the cowl: ice-blue eyes, gaunt features and ashen pale skin. "When they find you," Ezrial whispered, "Give them this message. Tell them, 'Never again.' "
He stood up and walked out of sight; there was the sound of sizzling, and the plaguebringer could hear the sound of crackling flames. Something exploded, and he could smell the noxious fumes of their plague tank mixed with the harsh, bitter scent of smoke.
Ezrial dropped the torch and walked away from the plague tank to stand at the edge of the outcropping. As he looked over the settlement of Halgrind and its weakened, suffering Vyrkul, the death knight drew a skull from a pouch on his waist. Raising the item, he spoke.
"Neraz," he called softly. "Can they be cured?" Floating free of his hand, the skull was enveloped in a shimmering cloud of shadow energy. Turning until the two glittering pinpricks of light in its eyesockets could survey the scene below them, it bobbed in place as if in thought. Its teeth and bare jaw clicked together when it spoke.
"They are doomed. They will suffer until they are put out of their misery," the necromancer's skull concluded.
"Then they will die honorable deaths in battle," Ezrial sighed. Raising his runeblade, he began to pick his way down the outcropping, down to his latest task.