Hallow’s End: The Wicker Man

“Please,” Cian said.  “Please, can we not do this?”

“You dinnae hafta do anythin’,” Ingomar said.  “We, on t’other hand, have a job tae do.”

“Don’t worry so much!” Eulalia said. “It’ll be fun!  It’s a festival, right?  People dancing, eating pumpkins and whatnot.  Everyone is happy when they’re dancing!”

“People have their guards down during festivals,” Linnaris mumbled.  “Give me your poor, your huddled gold coins, yearning to breathe free!”

“I believe you have misapprehended the situation,” Cian said.

“Laddie, we’re jes’ gonna scout around a bit an’ then report back,” Ingomar said.  “If ye want tae go have some tea an’ scones while we handle this, I won’ judge ye.”  She paused. “At least, not to yer face.”

Cian set his teeth. “Can’t I just tell you what happens?”

“We ‘ave specific instructions tae observe these Forsaken shenanigans up close,” Ingomar said. “Nothin’doing.”

“Oh, is that what Hallow Ending is all about?  I wonder why we do stuff for it?” said Eulalia.

“The same reason!  Our freedom from the Lich King is the whole basis for Hallow’s End,” Cian said.

“Now I know I’m not up on my learnings,” Eulalia said. “But aren’t we non-friends with the dead folks?”

Ingomar bit into a pumpkin-shaped candy and her body swelled, turning orange in the process.  “Yup.”

“So why are we getting fancy about their happy time?”

“Candy,” Ingomar said. “Lots and lots ‘o candy.”

“Let’s get moving, people,” Linnaris said, from atop the saddle of her nightsaber. “My thievin’ fingers are itching.”

“I just want to offer a pre-emptive I told you so,” Cian said, as they set out for Silverpine Forest.

“My reply counts for noo an’ later,” said Ingomar. “Shut yer yap.”


The season of red, gold, and green was upon them.  Jacob Miller smiled as the leaves fell gently from the trees in the orchard, creating a thin blanket on the grass.  Soon he would rake them into piles.  His children would jump in the leaves, throw them in fistfuls, and then the leaves would burn in a great bonfire, which would fill the crisp air with warm, crackling scents.  Apple-picking time was upon them, too.  Jacob liked to get the job done early, before too many of the trees’ fruits were filched by Southshore’s enemies.

His eldest daughter stood on top of a short ladder, on tiptoes, reaching for a fat apple hanging from the end of a branch.

“Mind yourself, girl,” he said, steadying the wobbly ladder.

“Don’t be worryin’ about me!” she laughed, jumping from the ladder and grabbing the apple as she fell.  She landed on her knees in the leaves, the apple clutched in her hand.  Grinning at her father, she tossed her prize into an already overflowing bucket.

Jacob pulled himself out from the under the ladder, which had crashed into him after his daughter’s leap.  Frowning, he said, “All right, Sarah, I think you’ve finished up for today.  Why don’t you go on and get a start on dinner?  I’ll take them apples down to the inn.”

He fussed over her before he let her go, making sure that she hadn’t twisted anything important or skinned herself too badly.  Sarah complained, pushing her father away.

“Daddy, I’m fine,” she said.  “It was a little jump.  I ain’t gonna die from reachin’ for apples.”

“I know it,” he grumbled, seizing the bucket of apples. “Just gotta be sure is all.”

Sarah dusted off the skirt of her dress and kissed her father on the forehead.  “I’ll see you in a minute, Daddy.”

He watched her slight form shrink away from him.  He called after her, “Round up your sisters, now!”

She waved at him, and then ran out of sight.

Jacob carried the bucket into Southshore proper, nodding to the various townspeople as he went.

“Nice looking harvest, Jake,” said Mary Rogers.  “Mind if I borrow a few for some pies?”

“Naw,” he said. “Go on.”

The woman swept an apronful of apples off the bucket’s top.  “I’ll bring you one, honey.”

“Thanks very much,” said Jacob.  He was sweating from the bucket’s weight.  Dusk was near, and he wanted to get back to his daughters.  “I’ll be seein’ you, Mary.”

She smiled at him, too widely, insincere, and moved on.

The inn reeked of rotten eggs.  Jacob coughed and almost dropped the apples.

“Light-damned Forsaken,” growled the innkeeper.  “That’s the third time today!”

“Hey there,” Jacob said, his eyes watering, his fingers bright red and aching.  With restrained desperation, he said, “Where can I put these?”

“Oh, right here behind the counter, Jake,” the innkeeper said.  “Preciate it.”

“All my daughter’s work,” he said proudly.

“Sarah?  Good strong girl,” the innkeeper said.  “You’re lucky to have her.”

“Sure am,” Jacob said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Be careful,” said the innkeeper.  “Lots of them Forsaken hanging about lately.  Don’t know why we even cotton to their wretched holiday.”

“My girls like the treats part of it,” Jacob said. “But will do.”  He left in a hurry, and not just on account of the smell, or the darkness.

But it was dark.  The sweat on his neck and chest cooled quickly after he stepped out, and Jacob shivered.  He thought of his girls, alone in their house on the edge of Southshore, and of the Forsaken, emboldened by their perverse celebrations.  He abandoned the patrolled main street, planning to jog a faster route through the fields.

He was halfway home when he heard it.  Something—a group of somethings, more like—tearing up the corn.  A snicker-snack of chopping blades, the crunch of crisp stalks under heavy feet.  Thieves.

Jacob didn’t have time for this.  He had to get home, lock his doors, secure his windows, tuck his girls into bed—Ana, the youngest, wouldn’t sleep without a story first.

Still, these were the town’s communal crops.  Everyone was fed by their harvest, everyone contributed to their growth.  Jacob had no weapons on him.  He’d sprint back to town and alert the guards.  They’d handle this.

Regretfully, he turned around.

“Hello,” said the man behind him, his yellow eyes glowing fiercely in the dark.  “Won’t you join us for our festival?”

Forsaken surrounded him, leering with their jack-o-lantern faces.

“I, I don’t want no harm,” Jacob said feebly.

“But we do,” a woman rasped, and she struck him sharply in the back of the head.

Before falling unconscious, Jacob thought of his daughters.


Most of the Dalaran wizards in Silverpine were dead.  Cian didn’t think much of this when they passed the human camps on the road to the Undercity; more would come.  In his early days of undeath, when he was still struggling to remember his abilities, he had even ‘practiced’ on some of these humans.  He wasn’t proud of it, but he maintained that the wizards had struck first, lobbing fireballs at his back while he liberated the contents of a treasure chest.  As his gray skin melted against his bones, he had thought, “Well, if that’s how it’s gonna be.”

“Poor mages,” Ingomar said, as their mounts clopped by the destroyed camps.

“Maybe if they’d stick to rebuilding their precious city instead of assaulting innocent, harmless Forsaken,” said Cian.

Ingomar laughed. “Laddie, there don’ be a soul among ye what’s innocent an’ harmless.”

Cian shrugged. “Just saying.  They should mind their own business.  Like some other folks I know.”

“You got to calm it down,” said Eulalia. “We’ll just come at’em with our arms open, so they know we are friendly, and offering hugs!”

“You can do that,” Linnaris said. “I think I’ll hang back.”

“Aye,” said Ingomar.  “S not like we’re plannin’ to ride into th’ middle of a crowd, Cian.  We’re jus’ gonna survey the area.”

“Maybe kill a few guards,” Linnaris said.  “If they get too close.  Or appear to have money.”

“Abominations guard the festival,” Cian grunted.  “You’d have to reach into their bellies for any coin.”

“I’m not opposed to that,” Linnaris said cheerfully.

They traveled along the road without much further event, until Cian spotted a party of Forsaken marching out of the Sepulcher.

“Stop,” he said, rounding his horse so that it blocked his companions’ progress.  “We need to let that group gain some distance on us.”

“The hell we do,” Ingomar said.  She brought her ram nose to nose with Cian’s horse, and the two animals glared at each other menacingly.

“I won’t ask you to do this for me,” said Cian. “But it would certainly make this trip harder if you exposed me as an actual traitor.”

Ingomar and her ram stood down, begrudgingly.  They waited on the road for about ten minutes before continuing on into Tirisfal.

Groans and howls echoed throughout the shadowed pines.  Farms once thrived in these lands, but now the fields were in shambles, the barns haunted, the houses crumbling.  Ghouls wandered the dead acres, their gaping maws in search of flesh to consume, while the children of Arugal loped and skulked in the ever present dark, their black claws hungrily tearing at the soil.  Stale, fungal smells rose from the barren earth, and the dead grass reeked of an aged decay.  The forest was wholly infected, as much a corpse as any of its residents.

Cian felt thoroughly at home.  Or he would have, were he not so anxious about his friends’ current enterprise.  He urged his horse away from the group as the walls of Lordaeron came into view.  A small group of Forsaken—the same party from earlier—had gathered in front of a giant straw effigy of a human.  Several abomination guards flanked the undead, idly swinging their chains and axes, brimming with dull-witted menace.

“I’m heading into Brill,” said Cian. “You’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“We’ve got as long as we need,” Ingomar said. “Go on and get ye a pastie, we’ll find ye.”

“Maybe I ought to stay …”

“Go!  We’re professionals!” Linnaris said.  She grinned at him. “Or at least I am.”

“Fine, fine,” said Cian. “Try not to cause too much of a disturbance.”

Linnaris caught Eulalia by the back of her tabard, as the hunter was already inching dangerously close to an abomination, muttering something about taming it for a pet. “Right.”


The inn was packed with the lively dead that night.  Emily Thrash observed the posturing and conversation from the kitchen, where she was baking an apple pie.  Most of the faces were local, people she saw every day, coming in for their evening drink.  Some were the newly wakened, struggling to remember their old skills—or learn new ones.  But, just as many were unrecognizable, seasoned by greater battles than those offered in Brill.  In particular, Emily noticed a rogue, who came in and sat near the entrance, deliberately removed from the celebrations going on in the middle of the inn.  This in and of itself was interesting—the Forsaken all participated in Hallow’s End with great zeal—but when a patron shouted drunkenly to her, the rogue looked up, and his yellow eyes glowered at her with infuriating disdain.

“Thrash!” the patron, a young mage, shouted. “Got a prisoner in the basement who’s looking a bit peckish, if you ask me!”

She smiled, and purred convincingly. “I got just the treat for his like.”

“Thrash’s cooking is brilliant!” the mage yelled, to anyone who listened. “The prisoners love it!  That is, until they realize their organs are shriveling into prunes.”

This elicited a few approving chuckles, and the contemptuous glare from the rogue in the corner.

Emily lifted the finished pie from the fire, undisturbed by the flames curling around her bones.  She waited for the rogue’s attention to shift back to the grains of wood in his table, and carried the pie down into the basement.

A human farmer was chained to a stack of moldy barrels.

“Got you a present,” she said, in a shrill, mocking tone, so that the undead above could hear her.

“You’re killing me, you witch!” the farmer shouted, and struggled against his chains.  Cruel laughter filtered down the basement steps. “I won’t eat any more.”

“Oh, but you will,” said Emily. “You’ll eat as much as you can take!”

She knelt down beside him and whispered, “Good work.  They’ll never suspect.”

The farmer smiled. “Thank you kindly, ma’am.”

She fed him bits of pie gently, and the man’s eyes closed in bliss as the warm, flaky sweetness filled his throat.  She baked with good ingredients: fruit and flour stolen from the humans, butter she churned herself, just enough sugar, everything fresh and pure.  It was true that the prisoners loved her cooking, for as long as they were alive to enjoy it.

At first, the captives reacted as expected—repulsed by her pale green skin, the exposed bones on her cheeks where the skin had rotted out, the black spots of decay ringing the empty hollows of her eyes.  The farmers and mountaineers brought in by the deathstalkers were considered little more than experiment fodder by Brill and the Undercity at large, and they were well aware of this.  They expected her food to poison and kill them, or to alter them irrevocably in some cruelly inventive fashion. But she didn’t put anything worse in her food than a little too much butter, now and then.

The basement steps creaked under the weight of someone’s boots.

“Choke,” Emily hissed to the farmer, and she shoved a chunk of sticky, crumbly pie down his throat, with such panicked violence that her nails nicked his cheek.  They both cringed, and the man wrenched against his manacles, spitting and shouting abuse as he eagerly swallowed the greater portion of his force-feeding.

The rogue stared at this scene, his expression inscrutable—he had pulled up his leather mask.

“What are you doing to him?” he asked.

“She’s torturing me!  Torturing me terribly!” the farmer cried.  “Please, no more, you monster!”  But, out of the rogue’s view, the farmer’s hands grabbed at Emily’s pan.  She sighed and pushed another handful of pie past the farmer’s lips.

To the rogue, she growled, “What’s it to you?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “But this human has another visitor.”

A neophyte warrior appeared at the top of the steps, clutching a pumpkin, his posture taut and excited.

“Mmm, pumpkin,” the farmer murmured, but Emily froze.

Hastily, she said, “I—I’m not finished with him yet!  Come back later!”

“No,” the warrior said. “This won’t take long, and I ain’t carryin’ this thing around longer than I got to.”

He held out the pumpkin to the farmer. “Here ya go, mate.”

Unthinkingly, the farmer leaned down and took a generous bite from the pumpkin.

The rogue watched impassively as the farmer doubled over, moaning,“Oh … I don’t … feel right …”

Emily’s pan clattered to the floor, as her hands flew to her mouth.  The farmer’s body degenerated rapidly, and he became a ghoul, clawing at his own head in pain and terror, gargling, “My mind … my body …!”

His torso severed itself from his legs, and he collapsed on the ground, in a heap of shining muscle and bone.

“Did your work a right bit faster, dinnit I?” the warrior said cheerfully.  “Have a lovely Hallow’s End, mates.”

The rogue watched Emily, who shook visibly for several minutes after the warrior left.

“It never gets any easier,” she mumbled.

Before the rogue could question her, excited shouts from upstairs interrupted them.

A well-dressed mage had jumped onto a long table, knocking over candles and plates, shouting, “We’ve got a treat tonight, lads!  A special surprise for our Wicker Man burning!  Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have procured a live specimen!”

Chatter broke out after the mage stepped down.  Emily ran back down to the basement, to hide the horror evident on her face.  The rogue followed her, sitting down in the middle of the steps, peering at her through the bars on the banister.

“You got no right to judge me,” Emily said. “I do what I can for those boys.”

“I haven’t said anything.”

“No, but sure as hell you’re thinking it.”

He didn’t reply, and in the silence that followed, Emily thought of something.

“You ain’t gonna rat me out, are you?”

The rogue blinked at her.

Emily went on, nervously, “If them up there knew how I carried on down here, they’d toss me out quicker than I could spit.  And then where would I go?”

“No … I won’t tell anyone.  I don’t care.”

“Don’t care ‘bout what?” a thick, throaty voice interjected, and Emily looked beyond the rogue to see a warlock clamping her gloved hands down on the rogue’s shoulders.

Unperturbed, he said, “Hello, Kesriana.”

“Salutations, Mr. McCulloch!  Who is this lovely lady?” Kesriana pronounced the word ‘lovely’ in such a way that Emily knew she meant the opposite.  The warlock had bone-white skin that was relatively free of blemishes, wide golden eyes, and dark hair spilling over her silk mantle.  Her lips were small and full, blackened with rot but free of lesions, no maggots poking out at all.  Emily surmised that she must have been quite beautiful in life, given her well-kept corpse.

Emily hooked a finger round the protruding bone in her cheek. She hadn’t died with such blessings.

“A baker,” McCulloch said.

“You have an interesting record with that type.”

McCulloch grunted.

“Anyway, I saw you skulk in here and I wanted to ask if you’d accompany me to the festival.  I’m sure you just heard about the new entertainment.”

“I don’t think so.”

Kesriana pouted, and raked a claw across the front of McCulloch’s face mask.  “Sad to see that you’re still no fun whatsoever.”

He shrugged, and stood up.

“Hang on,” Emily said. “I, I wanna go.”

“Go on then,” McCulloch said. “Sneak whoever they’ve caught some pie.  I’m sure he’ll enjoy it while he burns to death.”

Anger rose like bile in Emily’s throat. “You shouldn’t run your mouth about situations you don’t understand.”

“What are you two yammering on about?” Kesriana yawned. “Come on, they’re about to light the fires!”

“I said I won’t—” McCulloch began, but Kesriana seized his arm and dragged him away.  He grumbled weakly, but didn’t attempt to escape as Kesriana pulled him out of the room.

Emily followed, trembling, leaving behind the remains of the farmer and her pie.


“Uther ha’ mercy, this is nae good,” Ingomar breathed.

“I know,” Eulalia said fretfully. “Almost nobody is jiggling with their feet!  I thought this was a party.”

“Look at it a bit more carefully, lass.”

Eulalia bit her lip.  The crowd of zombie folks had thickened lots since their getting there, but they all stood still, like they were maybe listening for birds or thinking very hard about putting together a sentence (these were Eulalia’s primary reasons for a quiet mouth, after all).  Their bodies were still and faced forward, and their little eye holes seemed focus on the fake man statute in front of them.  Their chests heaved, so they were all live, or dead, or whatever.  The patchwork flesh men weren’t moving much either, just garbling like sick tallstriders and hacking meanly at the grass.  At the front of everyone, a female undead spoke, but she was too far for Eulalia to hear.  She edged closer, turning over more details: grubs writhing in the soil, the growl of lieful dogs (pretending puppy face when they were really demons!).  Scents of dried blood, bonfires built on damp wood, metal and bone.

Another step forward.  Ingomar frowned at her expectantly.

“Stop focusin’ on tha little bits and look at what’s right in front ‘o ye,” she said.

Eulalia looked up from the ground and back at the undead assembly.  They were surrounding something.  A cage.  With a human inside.

“Oh, oh,” Eulalia said.  “I thought I sensed a human nearby, but that didn’t make sense, cos everything here’s dead, cept you’n’me’n’Linn’n’maybe the moss on that tree behind us, and so—”

“Point taken,” Ingomar said.

Linnaris, who had been sneaking up close, crept back to them then, her purses considerably fatter than before.

“Looks like we have a situation, ladies,” she said.  She began to describe the important lady’s words, but Eulalia wasn’t listening.  She stared intently at the Forsaken gathering, which was talking and laughing with their human cage-friend.  She thought they were being very friendly, but the man was huddled in a corner of his cage, like the rabbits Eulalia sometimes caught for eating.

The important lady lifted a lit torch high into the air.  The Forsaken cheered.

Uh oh.

“He’s a rabbit!” Eulalia said, in a hushed, revelatory whisper.

Linnaris and Ingomar, who had been discussing strategy, said, “What?”

“They’re going to eat him!” she said.  “Although, certainly, there’s not enough of him for everyone …”

“I don’t think they’re planning to eat him,” said Linnaris grimly. “But cooking can’t be too far off.”

“We’ve got to stop it!  We’ve got to stop it right now!” Eulalia cried. “And, and we gotta tell Cian …”

“No, lass,” Ingomar said.  “He was right about what he said earlier.  We cannae involve him direct, else he’ll be branded a traitor.  And I’m loathe tae be accountable for tha.’”

“What kind of country makes you a traitor for helping people?” Eulalia said.

“Er, the kind that’s at war with the person you want to help?” Linnaris said.

Eulalia shook her head.

“Anyway, lass, did ye happen tae catch our plan?”

“No,” Eulalia mumbled. “I was busy thinking about rabbits.”

“All righ’, I’ll explain it again …”


At the tavern, before going down into the basement after the baker, a priest had sat down across from him and said, “You have woman trouble.”

“Women,” he’d corrected automatically, and then said, “How the hell do you know?”

“I’d feed you a line about how priests are trained in such things,” she replied, “but really, I just recognize the expression.  My husband used to look like that when he was alive, just after a fight.  Still does, actually.  Except that now I can actually see the muscles when he’s frowning.”  She chortled.

“I’m not exactly fighting,” said Cian. “Though maybe I should be.”

“You’re pretty handsome, considering,” said the priest.  “I’m sure your girlfriend thinks she’s lucky.” She paused. “As long as she’s not still alive or anything …”

Cian coughed, then muttered, “I don’t have a girlfriend.  Not that it’s any of your business.”

“What is she, then?”

“Do you pry into the life of every stranger you meet?”

“I do my best,” the woman said, smiling.  “Oh, by the way—fortitude.”

A sudden rush of vigor shot up Cian’s spine, as a holy symbol shimmer briefly above his head.  “Thanks.”

“No problem, handsome.”

A warrior sat down beside the priest, clutching two mugs and a carafe of mead.  He kissed his wife, ignoring Cian completely.  Cian decided to get the hell out of there before they went any further, and at that point he had gone after the baker.  He had pulled his mask up to just beneath his eyes, troubled that his expression revealed his worries so nakedly.

He was grateful for the mask’s disguise when he and Kesriana (with the baker tiptoeing after them) arrived at the Wicker Man gathering.  The farmer they’d captured was drenched in his own terrified sweat, and his pupils were dilated, as though he’d been drugged.

Cian forced his gaze away, onto Kes.  “So … killed any prominent family members lately?”

“Just an uncle in Alterac,” she said boredly.

Cian had met Kes shortly after waking.  She had killed her fair share of Dalaran wizards, too.  But mostly she was interested in her own bloodline, which had apparently been murderous even before the Plague.  (“Some people say their family holidays are bloodbaths, but we take that phrase to its logical extreme,” she had explained)
Something about inheritance and last cousin standing and so on.

“What about yourself?” she asked.

“Oh, you know,” he said. “The usual.”

“Nothing, then,” she said. “Since you hate accomplishment.”

“Listen,” he said hotly, “if this is about that time we had to poison someone’s dog …”

“Relax.  I think your love of failure is very charming.”

“Just because I have some human decency—”

Kesriana laughed. “Oh, honey.  So precious.  You wouldn’t feed that cute puppy its poison, but you sure killed it after I did …”
“I can’t be responsible for everyone’s choices,” he said stiffly.

Kesriana nodded to the cage. “I guess not.”

“Emily,” the farmer croaked suddenly, his shaking hands slippery against the bars of his cage, “Emily, help me!”

The baker behind them shook like a tuning fork, unable to approach the cage.

“Emily!” the farmer reached through the bars, towards the baker, and a nearby mage singed the prisoner’s fingers.  He flinched, and tears streamed down his cheeks. “Please, you got to help me.  The girls—our girls—what’re they gonna do without either of us … I, I bet Ana ain’t even slept since I got taken here—please.”

Emily Thrash choked on a sob. “I, I can’t, Jake … I can’t do nothin’.”

“Shut it,” one Forsaken said, to the farmer. “Don’t be talking to her.”

“She’s  my wife …”

“Not any more,” said another one. “Now close your disgusting mouth!”

The crowd surged forward, knocking the cage over sideways.

Emily screamed and tried to push through to her husband, but the masses held her back.  Cian caught her as she stumbled, her thin body racked with dry heaving.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Calm down.”

“They’re gonna kill him!” she shrieked, twisting clumps of his leather vest in her hands. “My husband!”

“Them’s the breaks, sweetheart,” Kesriana said.

Cian sighed.

“What?  I killed my husband ages ago.  It really wasn’t a big deal.”

The Forsaken had hoisted up the cage and were carrying it to a hollow carved out of the wicker man’s chest.  Several other undead stood by, their torches ready.

“What can I do?” Emily moaned.  “Save him, please, I can’t—”

“Oi, uglies!” A rich, booming voice broke over the throng.  Everyone turned to see a dwarf paladin astride an armored, shining charger, grinning wildly. “Why don’ ye slackjawed daffodils come get some ‘o this!”  The paladin stood up on her saddle and bent over, wiggling her rear at the undead.

Instantly enraged, the mob swarmed after her, and she clucked at her horse, which took off towards the forest.

“Who is that?” Kes said. “How tacky.”

“The cavalry,” Cian muttered, eyes darting around in search of Linn and Eulalia.

“Hey, what are those two doing?” Kes said, pointing to the farmer’s cage.  Sure enough, two familiar night elves were opening it.  Kesriana marched over to them, incantations forming on her lips.

“Oww,” Eulalia said, as her throat and arms began to bleed from Kes’s curse.  “Why do you hafta be like that?”

Linnaris helped the farmer out of the cage.

“C’mon guy, hop on,” she said, and the man crawled onto Linnaris’s back. “Let’s move, Euls.”

“Just where do you think you’re going?” Kesriana said.

“Out!” Linnaris said.  She winked at Cian. “Catch you later.”

“Oh, I do not think so,” Kes said, but before she could cast another spell, Cian grabbed her wrist and drew her away. “Cian!  What’re you …”

Eulalia lingered, and Cian said, “I’ll catch up, Eulie.”

She nodded, and dashed off after a sprinting Linnaris.

“You dirty traitor!” Kes cried.

“Yup,” Cian said heavily, calling for his mount. “Sorry.”

He directed his horse to follow the undead crowd, all of whom had closed in on Ingomar.

“Bring it on!” Ingomar taunted them, leaping off of her horse. “I ain’t scared ‘o the likes of YOU!”

“Everyone!” Cian shouted over the din, “The prisoner’s escaped.  We’ve been duped!”

He locked eyes with Ingomar, who flashed her teeth at him.  A divine shield burst into form around her, and green light swirled around her fists.  She was clutching her hearthstone.

“Later, suckers!” she laughed, disappearing right as the shield’s protection failed.

Not wanting to know what the incensed mob would do next, Cian escape as soon as he was able (when he left, a number of Forsaken were viciously attacking the giant effigy).  He headed for the border between Silverpine and Tirisfal, where Eulalia and Linnaris waited, with the farmer in tow. Unfortunately, Kesriana and Emily followed him.

“These are your friends?” Kes said. “So you knew what was going to happen?”

“I didn’t, actually,” said Cian. “They didn’t tell me anything.”

“For your own good,” said Linnaris.  “We didn’t want to expose you.”  She glanced at Kes. “Looks like you did a bang-up job of that one on your own.”

“I didn’t know what you were thinking,” Cian said.  To Kes, he added, “Guess you think I’m really a failure now, eh?”

She shrugged. “Actually, I don’t care.  I’m just upset you never told me!”

“U-um,” said Emily.  “Thank you …” She bowed low before Eulalia and Linnaris. “For savin’ Jake …”

The farmer slid off of Linn’s nightsaber and limped over to Emily.  “Hi there, Em.”

She turned away. “Don’t be lookin’ at me, Jake, you know I hate all this.  Just get on home, fast as you can.”

He leaned over, his body quaking, though with exhaustion or revulsion, Cian couldn’t tell.  Jake kissed the top of his wife’s hair lightly, and murmured something in her ear.  Then, he limped back to the nightsaber and climbed up.

“We’d better go,” Eulalia said. “I can sense unhappy zombies coming close.”

“Keep in touch, Cian,” Kesriana said. “Let me know if you spot any of my cousins in Stormwind, so I can send them some vials of poison.”

“I’ll try.”

“Let’s get you back to Brill, honey,” Kes said to Emily, who was staring fixedly at the road.  “You can ride on the back of ol’ Flamehoof.”

They parted ways.  On the ride to Southshore, Eulalia said, “What did you tell your wife?”

“Euls!” Linnaris said. “What have we said about respecting personal boundaries?”

“S’okay,” Jake said. “I jus’ told her I missed her.  I spend every day missin’ her.”

None of them had much to say to that.


A few days after his ordeal, Jacob woke to find a fresh apple pie steaming on his windowsill.  He fed the beguiling pastry to his daughters, who lavished praise upon their slices and begged for more.

While in town that afternoon, he thanked Mary Rogers for her gift.

“Hon, it wasn’t me,” she said. “I ain’t hardly broke into them apples.”

Jacob looked west, towards Tirisfal. “Oh.”