A Bad Cup of Tea

"Daddy, the tea tastes funny. I think the leaves have turned bad." Cholena made a face and wrinkled her nose at her cup.

"Just drink your tea Cholena. There isn't anything else tonight." Cholena's father seemed nervous as he glanced around at his family eating their dinner.

"It does taste off dear, you should throw those leave out if there are any left." Cholena's mother said absently. She was looking through a pattern book as she often did during the evening meal.

"Can't I just have water?" Cholena asked.

"Just drink your tea Cholena." Her father replied, sounding terse. That was unusual for him. Something must be very wrong. Cholena quickly sipped at her tea, even though it was awful.

Halfway through the meal Cholena was rubbing her eyes and yawning, but so was everyone else. It had been a long day, a whole week of long days. Things hadn't gotten any better since Prince Arthas had come back. In fact, Cholena had seen several wagon's packed and heading south on the road. Her father had talked to the folks on the wagon but he would return telling them it was nothing to worry about. But with people leaving there were fewer hands to work the grain fields that feed the city. Cholena's head hit the table next her plate with a soft thud. Her mother looked up and started to say something, but then she toppled out of her chair.

Swiftly all the other children folded over the table or slumped in their chairs. The man sitting at the head of the table watched, tears running silently down his cheeks.

"Light forgive me, but its better this way." He got up from the table and began the grim task of burying what had been his family.

Yips and barks cut through the air of the ruined farm house. Gnoll diggers had four graves opened and were working on others. They had three corpses lined up the back of a wagon and were pouring some viscous green fluid over them. Other gnolls were man handling a fourth corpse out of the ground when the Brill raid swooped down on them. The skirmish was over quickly, several gnolls lay dieing, the rest scattered and fleeing.

"Torch the wagon, those are for the Lich King now, take the rest up to Deathknell, let them sort it out if there's anything worth saving." The forsaken raiders were quieter than, but not as efficient as, the gnoll grave robbers. The bodies that the gnolls hadn't gotten too were taken quickly to Deathknell.

Cholena sat up rubbing her eyes; they felt all grimy and yucky. She hoped she wasn't coming down with something. She hated being sick. Light it was cold too! Her sisters must have stolen all the blankets again. She opened one eye to see who had the blankets and froze. Even in the dim light she knew she wasn't in the room she shared with her siblings. The people laid out next to her weren't people she recognized either. They were all dead. She was in crypt. Her heart beat faster, and her throat tightened up as she got ready to scream.

No… wait… what if this was one of her brother's playing a joke? One of the bigger boys might think it was funny to carry her down to the crypts so she'd wake up and be scared out of her mind. Ok it was a far-fetched hope, but how else could you rationalize waking up in a crypt next to a bunch of corpses? She got up woodenly and gathered her skirts close around her legs and stumbled away from the bodies. She was not going to give the boys the satisfaction of hearing her scream.

There were stairs and it looked lighter at the top. Cholena stumbled up the stairs and looked around, expecting to spot her brothers hiding in the bushes. What she saw instead was a standing corpse. Before she could draw her breath to scream it was talking at her. It was saying something about almost giving up on her and to go on down to the village. This had to be a joke, a really, really mean and elaborate joke. But her brother's weren't capable of something like this. Who could want to scare her so badly?

Cholena stumbled down to the village to find it was full of moving corpses. She froze in her tracks and started to shake. A kind voice asked her if she was all right. She turned her head to the look at the corpse that was talking to her. She shook her head and started backing away. It said something else to her, something about her pretty blue dress. She looked down in confusion. Her dress was grey… everything was grey. Cholena blinked as it sunk in that nothing had color any more. Nothing had a smell either. Her face must have given away much. The kind voiced corpse told her to go into the old church and everything would be explained.

It was explained, and it wasn't the least bit funny. Cholena stood huddled in the corner and sobbed for the longest time. The other corpses let her. At least this girl wasn't screaming or raving like some of the other newly risen were given to doing.

Cholena hugged her waist and shook, trying to remember what she was supposed do next. She was cold all the time now. It was difficult to make things out when the only colors were black, white and a thousand shades of grey, but she was adjusting. She missed being able to smell, though when she though about it maybe it was a good thing she couldn't. She was a corpse now and corpses generally didn't smell very good. Forsaken, she needed to remember that. Some of the others got mad if you called them a corpse. She was forsaken because the Lady Sylvanas had saved those she could from the Lich King and in turn they saved other corpses… Forsaken from becoming mindless zombie servants.

The Forsaken in Deathknell had started training her in mage craft. Corpses didn't need farmers. They made sure she had the basics and then told her to go to Brill. But she'd never been to Brill before, not even when she was alive. She'd never been very far from her family’s farm at all. She walked hesitantly up to one of the gate guards and was told just to read the road signs. But the road signs were so faded it was hard to read them when they were grey on grey.

There was another guard by the road sign thankfully. Only he made her go steal pumpkins from a farm before he'd tell her how to get to Brill. She was shocked when she saw real people at the farm, not more corpses. She slunk around through the tress, afraid and ashamed of what she was now. What would these people think if they saw her as she was now? Would they attack her? Try to kill her? Could she even die now or was she stuck this way forever?

She was shaking so badly she dropped the pumpkin she was holding. One of the farmers turned hearing the noise. Cholena snatched up the stolen pumpkin and ran away without looking back. Back at the road sign the guard laughed at her but gave her the directions to Brill and told her to deliver the pumpkin to some alchemist there. She went stumbling down the road, head down toward Brill.

She didn't make it very far before a shadow fell over her. She looked up and what was left of her heart did a couple of flips in fear. A gigantic thing was bounding down the path toward her.

"Girly help Gordo! Girly pick Gloom Weed!" It bounced in front of her and looked… excited.

Cholena nodded dumbly and stumbled away from the monstrosity. She hoped she never saw anything like that ever again. Seeing walking corpses was bad, being a walking corpse was worse. But that thing, that Gordo was surely an abomination created from a diseased mind. She shuttered and hurried along toward Brill, stopping only briefly to pick some Gloom Weed from the side of the road. She was too scared to wonder why she was picking useless weeds.

On the outskirts of Brill she came across a corpse… Forsaken dressed in robes that might have once been fine. He was grumbling something and she caught the name Gordo. She thrust her handful or Gloom Weed at him. Instead of thanking her he went into fits about Gordo having people bring him useless weeds when he needed Doom Weed, the flowers to be exact. Cholena stared wide-eyed and just nodded her head when he asked her to get him some Doom Weed. She’d have agreed to just about anything to get away from the angry and obviously crazy forsaken man.

She scuttled on to the first house at the edge of Brill. There she stopped and knocked timidly on the door. As soon as the door opened she thrust the stolen pumpkin out at the man… corpse… Forsaken that answered. He seemed really happy to get the get pumpkin. Cholena sighed in relief, at least not all Forsaken were angry and scary. The man invited her in but she shook her head. He asked her to wait so nicely that she agreed, feeling a little more at ease now. He disappeared inside with the pumpkin but returned a short while later and asked her to take it to one of the prisoners being held in the basement of the Gallows' End Tavern. Her father would never have let her go into a tavern, even though she believed she was old enough to go into one. After all there were children born and raised in taverns.

Cholena took the pumpkin and walked off; more curious about the tavern than the prisoner she was taking the pumpkin too. There were corpses lounging around the main room talking. Cholena skirted around most of them, her head ducked as she snuck furtive glances at the room’s occupants. Maybe taverns weren't so great after all. She hurried through the kitchen and down the stairs. The guards didn't say anything to her; they didn't even try to stop her from going down where the prisoners were. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs herself however and stared. One of the prisoners was a man, a real man not a corpse. The other must have been a dwarf. She'd never seen a dwarf this close before. She froze and started shaking.

The human man was saying something, but she was too scared to understand. Then he snatched the pumpkin away from her and tore into it. Cholena folded her hands in her robe skirts and hunched her shoulders. She should go, but she was curious about the dwarf. Then the man started chocking and she looked up startled. He clawed at his throat and made awful noises.

"Uh oh…" Cholena step forward to try and help the man, but he suddenly changed into something… rotted. She watched wide eyed and horrified as he turned into a nasty putrid thing that collapsed on the floor and twitched.

"I didn't do it!" Cholena cried and fled up stairs, heedlessly pushing through the crowd upstairs. She ran outside and crawled under a bush, shaking and sniffling. She hadn't done it had she? She hadn't just turned a man into something awful that made him die had she? Now she was a Forsaken and a murder? How much worse could this get?

As if on cue, the rain started falling and the world outside the bush became a hazy grey blur that melted together into nothingness. Cholena huddled, hugging her waist and rocking slowly. The chill rain didn't matter; she wasn't likely to catch a cold ever again.

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