So it begins again , thought Necronim as he heard the criers in Stormwind take up the call of the Legion coming. Of men and women to take up arms for the fight. The same call would be going out amongst the Horde from the Warchief.
He looked up from his spot on the floor with his youngest nephew as he heard soft footsteps moving towards him through the home. His sister, Mara, leaned against the doorframe with sorrow in her eyes.
“You’re going aren’t you, big brother?”
It was still funny, all these years after he’d found her alive, with him now technically younger than her in his undeath, that she still called him that.
Nodding, Necronim leaned forward to wave a toy wooden horse in his nephew Toric’s face. The boy’s bright blue eyes – blue like his had been before death had stolen them, replacing them with the golden light of now – lit up and he babbled in that speech babies had before wobbling forward to snatch it. As he let it go, he replied softly, “I have to, little sister.”
“Why?” demanded Mara, sounding angry. And well she should as she’d lost her husband to the fighting in Draenor, months before little Toric was born.
Rising to his feet, Necronim walked slowly towards her and reached out. She put her hands in his easily – something he still marvelled at, her easy acceptance of the rot he still had never quite come to terms with – and breathed, “I can’t lose you again, Saran.”
“I’m already dead, Mara,” he replied, squeezing her flesh and blood fingers gently with his of half-flesh and exposed bone.
“ Don’t ,” Mara hissed.
“Little sister,” soothed Necronim, “I do not fear death. And I will go, I have to go, because if I can stall the Legion for one instant from reaching you or the little ones, I’ll do it. I would fling myself into the Nether if I knew it would keep you safe.”
Tears welled in her eyes and he wanted to brush them away…but couldn’t with only bone for fingertips. Instead she pulled at him and he moved to free his hands, enveloping her in a hug as she sank against his chest with a small sob.
“You’re just like Cord,” she murmured. “He always told me that’s why he served. To make sure that our family and others stayed safe.”
“He was a good man.” Sergeant Cord Bowman had accepted him – a traitor, an undead, a member of the Horde, an enemy of the Alliance – into his home and his family. Merely on the fact that it made his wife happy to see her brother again, even in undeath. “I’m not, Mara.”
She was silent for a long moment, idly smoothing her hands against the shirt he wore underneath his leathers before breathing, “Yes, you are.”
Necronim flinched because he was not but she had never heard his arguments. Not after he’d told her his reasons for what he’d done. Gently, he grasped her face in his hands and put enough pressure so she would lift hers and look at him. He stared into her eyes – gray, like their mother’s – and said, “I am not a good man, sister, in that I do this for no one else. Just you . I will not let the Legion take what’s left of my family. I will find true death first before I let anything happen to any of you.”
Her hand touched his cheek then, fingertips stuttering over an old scar he’d earned before death. “You aren’t responsible for us,” she breathed.
“I promised Cord.”
Mara blinked then, jerking back a little, and asked, “When? When you were both fighting in Draenor?”
Shaking his head and letting his hands fall from her face, Necronim replied, “Before the Northrend campaign. I asked him to find a way to kill me if I turned back to…what I was…should he happen across me like that. In return he asked me to look after you if something happened to him.” Shaking his head, he finished, “I may have broken some of the promises and oaths I’ve made over the years, sister, but I’ve never broken one involving you.”
She stared at him for a long moment, eyes watery and bottom lip quivering, before letting out a soft sob. As she slumped back against him, cradling her head against his shoulder, Necronim curled his arms tightly around her. After a moment her fingers dug into the fabric of his shirt, gripping it tightly.
“You come back ,” she hissed, her voice tight and broken. “You come back to me, big brother.”
Sighing, he replied, “I will make no promises, little sister, but…I will try. ”
“Is that the best I get?”
“It’s all I have.”
Mara sighed then straightened up, pushing away from him as she forcefully regained her composure. Running her fingers back through her hair, she hurriedly said, “Then…if you’re so determined, I’ll gather the children. So they can say goodbye.”
For some reason the word goodbye sounded like forever in the way she said it and Necronim reached out to grab her hands. As she stared at him, he said softly, “I’m not going anywhere.” The same promise he’d made years ago, before his arrest, before death and the Scourge and years of them thinking the other long dead had happened.
Mara seemed to remember that because she smiled sadly at him and gave him the same response, though of course now her voice was far deeper than that of the sickly wisp of a girl she’d been then.
“Neither am I.”
She pulled away then, leaving to go find out wherever her other three children had gotten off to. Necronim stood in front of the doorway for a long moment, staring at where she’d been, then turned back towards Toric. The boy was still playing with his toys on the floor, completely unaware of what was going on around him.
Shaking his head, Necronim crouched down and picked him up. As he hefted Toric up into his shoulder, he said, “I may never see you again, lad.” The boy just gummed at the wooden horse in his hand in reply, blue eyes wide on his face, and Necronim forced a smile. “If I do though…I’ll teach you to wield a sword when you’re old enough. Your sisters too. Make sure you and them do your father proud.”
He owed Cord to take care of his family, of their family, as best he could. So…if he had to claw his way back from death again…he might just find the determination to do it.
He wouldn’t disappoint his sister again.