Blackmail in Shades of Gray

I wrote this for an RP contest on my server’s forum. The prompt being to write a new story about villains winning, either from the view of the villain or from the hero. This particular story involves the same rogue from A Broken Song in Three Voices, Necronim.

Originally I was going to try my hand at writing something purely villainous (I have the backstory for an undead warlock and she is Evil) but then my rogue got an idea and ran away with me. I’m not certain yet whether this particular event will be an official part of his story or not yet but it might be.

ornament

You wanted a monster.

Then I will give you a monster.

The rage tightened what was left of his throat and made the backs of his empty eye sockets ache. If he still had a pulse, it would have been thrumming in time with the emotion, but there were no more echoes of blood in his veins. It might have also been making his limbs twitch with nervous energy but he was both trained to not allow such things and most of those nerves were dead anyway.

Instead all he had was the feeling burning inside of him, speaking to a part of him that he’d tried his best to forget. Calling to memories that were better left in the dust and rot.

Yet he was willing to drag them back out for this .

Necronim breathed out despite not actually needing to, the action ingrained into him and what he was about to do. Then he rose up from his hiding spot, sweeping one arm around the throat of the hapless soldier who hadn’t heard him coming. The other came up with dagger in hand and he shoved the blade straight through the man’s spinal cord at the neck just between helm and gorget with brutal efficiency. Only a weak gasp managed to escape from the poor soul’s throat before the life bled out of him.

Kill quickly and silently if you must, was the old mantra of the SI:7 trainers in his day. Be a ghost. Leave no traces.

He caught the soldier and dragged him back behind the crates that had been his hiding spot, grinding his exposed teeth together as the words rang through his head. Except that his intent wasn’t to be silent minus whittling down the guards. And he had no intention of not leaving any traces.

If they wanted a monster, they would have a monster. He was going to make sure that they knew he’d been there as well.

Creeping through the great old barn, Necronim quickly dispatched the other handful of soldiers that were at the fringe of the area. Guarding the center, boxed off by heavy crates except for one opening. They were just men and women doing their jobs…yet they stood in his way. Stood between him and…

No, no, don’t think of the goal yet.

Think of the kill.

Kill first. Goal second.

Else he’d never find the strength to do what had to be done.

Setting his jaw, Necronim prowled around the edge of the boxed off area, looking for any weaknesses. Unsurprisingly there were none. There was only the single entrance, intending to funnel him into the space inside.

A space he had no knowledge of, so he couldn’t begin to guess what faced him. All he had was the crumpled letter his sister had sent to him, demanding a trade and for the abomination to come alone.

He crouched at a distance and stared at the space for a long moment, trying to work around doing anything but what he was thinking. As he did, the fallen soldier next to him slowly breathed his last, mouth moving helplessly like a fish out of water, his eyes already gone glassy. Necronim watched him blankly as he finally slipped away and wondered absently what true death actually tasted like.

Then he rose and strode into the little corridor of crates that led him to the center area of the barn that had been cut off from the rest. There were more crates piled lazily inside, like the jumble of brightly painted children’s blocks his nephew played with. Perched upon each were one or two figures in black armor similar to his own, though the maker’s marks were no doubt as different as the slight tweaks to the style. They all wore dark hoods with masks drawn up high over their noses, skin dabbed black underneath where it showed to hide better in shadow.

The ranks of SI:7 stared at the shadow of their former brother and Necronim grinned back at them. He flexed the bare bones of his fingers, remembering how they could tear through flesh and bone if need be. How he did not need weapons to be dangerous anymore.

“Where is he?” he asked flatly. The dozen fold masked faces merely stared back at him in silence. Sneering, Necronim let go an inch of his control and his movements were abruptly more fluid as he crouched down. He wanted to snarl but he swallowed the noise, feeling like it was glass in his rage-clenched throat.

The muscles in his legs coiled and he shifted his boots to ready the spring that would bring him face to face with the closest operative when a noise from the dimmest shadows of the barn stopped him. An older man, grizzled by a hard life and greying with a dark eyepatch to match his leathers, stepped forward with a cold smile. Necronim realized that he knew him a moment later, recognizing familiar features that were so different yet the same from his memories.

And in his arms was his nephew Toric, the little boy slumped against the man’s shoulder in a manner that suggested drugs.

Necronim growled then, the sound distinctly inhuman, before he hissed, “You’re a dead man, Gorick. You just don’t know it yet.”

Gorick laughed bitterly before saying, “So speaks the dead man .” His smile was empty as it quirked his lips, echoing a time when Necronim had been the same. An empty shell. A cold killer.

When only the task that was put before him was what mattered and he pressed forward until he reached it. He’d been that man once – had done anything and everything in his power to see his sister healthy, even betray SI:7 – and it had cost him everything .

He wasn’t so blind to forward motion anymore.

“You want something,” Necronim spat. “Just like you always did when we were trainees.”

That made Gorick scowl and he growled, “The young man I knew died . You are but a shadow of him…but you could be a useful shadow.”

Terror clenched the remnants of his stomach and he tilted his head to the side, using that motion instead of narrowing his eyes. Since he didn’t exactly have eyes to narrow anymore.

“What,” he growled. “Do. You. Want?

Gorick laughed darkly before he smiled, mockingly patting Toric’s back. “You haven’t figured it out, old friend? I don’t want anything.”

It isn’t him.

Who put him up to it then? Who…

“Shaw,” breathed Necronim, the rage stuttering for a brief fleeting second.

“Wants you brought in. He’s got…questions.”

Snarling aloud at the pause, he spat, “If Shaw has just some questions , he can meet me in a neutral zone. I’ll answer so long as they don’t betray the Horde.”

“At least the bits of it you care about?” asked Gorick pointedly. “Like that elf, Duskstrider, and his sister? The orc scout Crowstalker? Or is it just mostly that tauren? Bloodwolf was it, the older one?”

Fear lanced through Necronim. They had been watching him?! For how long? How long had someone from SI:7 been hounding his steps and never known it? They knew who he cared about. Knew that he couldn’t care less about the Forsaken, if the comment about bits he cared about could be taken further.

Gorick just smirked and nodded, saying, “Oh yes, we’ve been watching. Since the campaign in Northrend.”

That was how they knew .

“You and Cord Bowman,” continued the grizzled man as he shifted Toric against his shoulder. “You fought shoulder-to-shoulder in Northrend. Spawned a friendship. Battle brothers. It was rather suspicious for one of our own soldiers to be so close to a Forsaken rogue so quickly even with that. So we looked into it.”

The automatic response of I am not Forsaken welled in his throat but Necronim couldn’t speak. He was transfixed in horror, frozen and unable to do anything but listen.

“So we looked into you. The rogue who calls himself naught but Necronim . Who tells nothing of his past. Except…that’s how rumors get started.”

SI:7 had turned him into a killer and their skills were well known. Those who knew their tactics and motions didn’t find it hard to connect the fact that he’d been a member in his life. He’d never confirmed the rumor to strangers but that hadn’t stopped the story from going around.

“And then,” continued the man, sounding almost gleeful, “one of our men saw the brand.”

Reflexively Necronim’s left hand moved to clasp the bracer that covered his right forearm. He wasn’t certain it was still the practice but when he’d betrayed SI:7, he’d been branded with what one of the men who had held him down dubbed a mark fit for a traitor . Instead of the normal emblem of crossed daggers that represented the organization, these were separated with the blades facing downward towards a single intersecting point and nestled between the hilts was a skull. He normally kept it covered, beneath bracer and tightly wrapped cloth, but sometimes necessity demanded he strip entirely to get at a wound.

Gorick shrugged casually and finished, “At that point, we could take a guess. There aren’t very many who’ve been declared traitors by SI:7 and only one who managed to escape the Stockade dungeon before he could fully see punishment. After we dug into your records we found a curious thing: little Mara Tathdyl was now Mara Bowman, wife and mother of the children of your good friend Cord.”

“So,” croaked Necronim, “you know. Now what?”

“Now is the question of what you do,” replied Gorick with a grim smile as he lifted his free hand to rest it on Toric’s back. “Obviously we had to take this one in order to get you here in the first place. So tell me, Saran , what lengths will you go to for your nephew? For your dear, sweet nieces? For your poor widowed sister?”

Clenching his hands into fists, he growled in reply, “You know what lengths I’ve gone to for my sister, Gorick. So you tell me, how far do you think I’ll go to protect her children from people like you ?”

The man smiled in reply and murmured, “As far as we can take you without you breaking.”

Necronim stared hard at the man, wondering if he could move fast enough across the space between them. If he could tear his throat open with his bare hands in that split instant before realization of what was going on kicked in. The slim chance of missing , however, stopped him.

If he went for such a move and hurt his nephew, he’d never forgive himself.

“After all,” Gorick said a moment later, his voice sickeningly sweet, “it would be quite a shame for something to happen to anyone you care about. Your sister, for instance, all alone with four children to raise on just a widow’s military pittance? Particularly if your eldest niece – what was her name, Sarla, Sarta, Sara, oh no matter – lost that fine apprenticeship with the blacksmith that she just received.”

Fear and rage squeezed his throat dry but Necronim managed to hiss, “You leave them alone.” Yet the man across from him just smiled, lightly bouncing Toric, before he went on.

“That elf Duskstrider is always disappearing off into the wilderness. It’d be an utter tragedy for him to die there. Perhaps in just the right place for his poor older sister to find him? I’ve heard she raised him, practically sees herself as his mother more than a sister.”

“Stop,” breathed Necronim, tightening his fists.

“Doesn’t the Horde prize its scouts? They are such brave souls, aren’t they? Trekking into enemy territory to spy upon their workings. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Crowstalker just vanished while out there? Would she be believed dead…or a traitor?”

Stop .”

Gorick just smirked as he went on, “Thunder Bluff is such a high place. It would be a truly sad day if someone were to arrange a little accident for that druid, Bloodwolf. Little bit of sleep poison and then just a small push. We’d say goodbye to poor, what was her first name? Oh, yes, Caren. Perhaps we could arrange for her sister to find her body as well.”

STOP! ” howled Necronim, his voice rising into a shriek at the end that echoed those days of madness and lack of control. He was ‘breathing’ in harsh pants and gasps a moment later, his shoulder heaving, just as he noticed that every SI:7 agent was on their feet with daggers in hand. They had moved into an arch around him with Gorick as the keystone and the only way out was to turn and flee the way he came.

But Gorick still had his nephew and…he couldn’t risk him going through with his threats. Not to his friends. Not to his family.

Shaw might not have gone through with the actual threat. Gorick had always been cold, however, and willing to do what had to be done to see a job succeed. If he thought that killing them would bring Necronim to heel, he would do all of the things required to make those happen with his own hands.

“Are you going to come quietly, little shadow?”

The question needled into his skull and the obstinate, raging part of him screamed no . He reflexively opened his hands and flexed his fingers, a low growl starting in the back of his throat before he could stop it. Staring at the man for a long moment, he imagined what he would do if he could let go as he’d intended when he’d come here.

One leap would bring him in line with Gorick and he could open the man’s throat with a single swipe. He’d go down gurgling and the rest would move in, intending on avenging their leader. Necronim would probably earn a knife or two in the back or side but the simple stab of knives had never stopped a raging undead. He’d have a hard time taking on so many but he could probably do it if he managed to get behind some and hamstring them. Take them down and they were lesser threats, easier to take down, easier to kill, easier to devour .

No.

Bowing his head, Necronim drew in a long breath then let it out. Too close. Too close to being back there.

“One condition,” he said softly.

Gorick scoffed at that, saying, “You think you can get conditions ?”

Slowly lifting his head and tilting it to the side to regard the man quietly, Necronim replied, “If you want to take me in and get points with Shaw, I want but one thing Gorick. It’s simple.”

“Ha, simple. Fine then, shadow , what do you want?”

“You leave them alone. Every one. Pull back your men watching them and stop with the threats.”

Gorick sneered at that. “You really expect me to believe that you would not try to escape if I didn’t keep tabs on them? If I didn’t keep my threats fresh? I’m not fool enough to agree with any conditions of yours.”

He smiled coldly as he tiptoed the fingers of his free hand up Toric’s back and then slowly slipped his hand around the boy’s neck. “No deal,” he said. “You either come or I start working my way through everyone you care about. Starting with this poor little thing. It would be so sad, after all, for him to die so young.”

Rage made Necronim take a reflexive step forward, the anger at the threat nearly making him blind. He realized a moment later that the other agents had moved in closer, tightening the arch and starting to close off his escape route.

“You fucking shit , Gorick,” he hissed. “He’s just a boy .”

“Children die all the time,” the man replied casually. As if they were merely talking about the weather.

All of the fight went out of Necronim at that. He was unable to hold on to the urge to fight when faced with Gorick’s cold disconnect. And if giving up had a chance of saving them…by the Light, he would do what he had to.

“You win.”

“What was that?”

You heard me,” snarled Necronim angrily. “Now take him back to his mother.”

Gorick arched an eyebrow as he brushed his thumb idly over Toric’s neck. “Is that an order, shadow?” he asked softly.

Please .”

That made the man laugh and his hand finally fell away from the boy, allowing Necronim to breathe a little sigh of relief. Gorick grinned as he said, “I like this. You at my mercy. So very different from when we were actually working together, Saran.”

“Necronim,” he hissed bitterly in response. “As you said, Saran Tathdyl is dead.”

“I’ll call you what I like, shadow,” came the snapped reply. Gorick then jerked his head towards one of the agents and said, “Take his weapons. Search everywhere that he might be hiding them on that rotted corpse of his. I’ve got to go visit our poor widow and tell her that her undead brother betrayed her and kidnapped her son but we got him back safe and sound. Alas…the brother didn’t survive.”

Hissing Necronim started to move forward again but stopped himself, thinking of the safety of his sister and the others. “She won’t believe you!” he snapped as Gorick stood there smiling at him. “Mara knows better!”

“What will she know for certain if you just disappear?” asked Gorick slyly. As Necronim felt hands reach out to touch his arms, the man added, “She’ll just know you for the traitor you really are.”

The hands on him grew more firm and Necronim bowed his head as his daggers were pulled from their sheaths at his waist. They took the ones secured to his shoulderpads, the two thrust into each boot, and even found the slim little blades he kept in hidden sheaths on the outside of his pants along the thigh.

He’d give them credit that not one of them faltered at touching him. Even his sister had hesitated when he’d first come back into her life.

When they finished, Necronim lifted his head and said darkly, “If you harm them – any of them – there won’t be anything to stop me, Gorick. I will hunt you to the ends of the world if I have to. I promise you that.”

The man just smiled at him.

“We’ll see how well you can keep that promise, shadow.” He then jerked his chin at the agents and went on, “Tie him up tight and take him back to Stormwind. Not to Shaw though. I want to present him myself.”

There was no audible reply but Necronim saw several heads dip briefly before he felt pressure on one shoulder turning him away. Panic rose in his throat suddenly and he started to reach out but stopped himself. He wanted to beg to touch Toric just once, to feel the reassuring weight of him in his arms. Yet he knew that Gorick wouldn’t allow it if only to continue his cruelty.

He had always been cruel.

Instead he let himself be turned away and tried to content himself with the thought that he’d bought their safety with his life. It probably wouldn’t hold knowing Gorick but, at that point, all bets were off. He’d keep the promise he had just made if that happened.

Until then, he would cooperate. Enough to get by.

As he was escorted out of the barn past the guards he’d taken out, Necronim noticed that not one of the agents turned to regard them. There wasn’t even a flicker of concern…because, of course, Gorick had always planned for them to die.

He squared his shoulders as two of them tied up his hands and stared at the bed of the wagon they’d led him to that was hidden at the back of the barn. The one he’d thought had been long abandoned when he had done a quick reconnaissance before going in. Then his legs were tied tight as well – tight enough to cut off circulation if he had still been alive – and four of them hauled him up into the wagon. Another threw a heavy tarp over him with a gruff comment of, “No need to scare the locals,” to which some of the others laughed.

After that, there was only laying there in the dark listening, waiting for them to begin moving. Necronim replayed everything over and over in his head then, trying to think if he could have done anything differently, if there had been some loophole he could have slipped through. It felt like hours that he laid there going over it and he couldn’t think of one .

There was really only one thought in his head as he pictured Gorick standing there in front of him again, cold-eyed and calm as he threatened everyone Necronim held dear in such an even tone.

I thought they wanted a monster.

Turns out they already had one.

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