This is a monologue meant to button up a fanfiction story I wrote for World of Warcraft. I’m not allowed to post the story here for now, but perhaps I will in the future. For now, here’s a look at one of the characters in that story.
Title: Josiah Speaks with his Wife
Author: Cesar Mateo Gonzalez
Once all was seen and said, Josiah went looking for the thing he was after, having seen it through the demon’s bottled eye. His diminutive, blasphemous shape struggled through the underbrush, burning the foliage around every handhold and footstep as he forged a treacherous path in one of the jungles of the southern isles. His handprints made the bark smoke and crumble, while the leaves and roots withered under his feet.
He found what he was looking for.
Encrusted onto a tree-stump with great force, there rested under vines and moss, a darkened, cavernous helm and a cuirass. The metal was bathed in rust, fused together by rain that promised to cleanse everything except the trees. It was sitting there, as though enthroned, watching the days go by.
He savored his own dread as he stalked up to that shape, grinning perversely while some deeply buried part of himself roiled in his heart, panicked and trying to flee from the mounting anticipation of what he might see entombed in that desecrated suit of armor, in that Death Knight’s corpse.
But that self-torturing thrill was replaced by anger once he came close enough to see that none of his old nightmares were true; the armor was empty. Lying there, sleeping as only a forgotten weapon can, unworriedly rusting away, melting a little more from one year to the next. There were no bones inside. Not even a naked ribcage being picked clean by beetles and vermin.
“So, this is the end you came to, my dear wife”, Josiah said climbing up to peer into helm’s eyes. “This was your reward for breaking all the promises you ever made. But who am I to speak to you this way, you ask? You never as much as saw a gnome in your quaint little life, all the way out there in Lordaeron.”
The theatrics melted away from his face under the heat of his feral grin. His bleach-white, square teeth gleamed.
“I knew you wouldn’t recognize me, dear wife, because I don’t come before you quite as you left me. The last time you saw me I had a little more hair, I was five and a half feet taller, and your sword was through my chest.”
He paused and turned, as if letting the armor wallow in the horror of that revelation.
“To honor and to hold, in sickness and in health, for better or for worst”, he intoned with exaggerated grandiosity. “Remember that oath? I knew the moment you said yes that you’d break it. I saw it in your deceitful eyes that you’d find a way to stab me in the back! I know, always -I felt it every day- that the life I could give you wasn’t good enough. But when I tried to get a better one for the both of us in this world you spat in my eye!”
Squeezing his fists, tightening his square-toothed jowls, Josiah hissed in the armor’s faceplate.
“You never tried to even understand what I was trying to do. Passing judgment was easier, and more manageable for your obtuse little mind.”
The helm tilted when he jabbed his stubby finger at its forehead. The reddened-brown layer singed and smoked in an instant around the fingerprint, leaving the dark steel beneath that outer layer bare.
“Where is that righteousness now?!” he asked “Where are your Holy Words and admonitions? I knew every last one of your lies the moment you spoke them! When you said being a fishmonger’s wife was enough for you, you were lying! Every time you professed your satisfaction, every time you explained away your glances at the nobles and magistrates. Lies! You wanted their life. You hungered for better than I could give you, and I could see it. Why didn’t you want me to change the world so that I could give you everything you wanted? I know why, I’ll tell you. It was because you didn’t want it from me. You wanted it from them! Even when you swore your life away to the Light, you were lying; look at what you became, a servant of the Scourge, just like me!”
The shriek echoed away, punctuated by the sound of birds taking off in the distance. He forced his voice down to a quivering whisper.
“And when you bargained your soul away, what did you ask for? What did you trade away for all of your vain little life? Petty, short-sighted revenge; that was all it took for you to surrender your beliefs and your soul over to the Adversary. Revenge for yourself and our son–”
He stopped himself then, as if realizing what he had said a moment after he spoke it and wanted to bite it back.
“You’re to blame for what happened to the both of you. You brought it onto yourself, and him. What did you expect the Demons would do? They knew who you were and what you meant to me. They knew I’d betray them for you. I just needed more time, I needed more power. But you took the Oaths of a Holy Order, and what a pretty little symbol you became for them for them. A paladin in skirts, wielding a school-book and a kettle, you rose up against the Great Plague and its emissaries in the name of the Light. Like a brave mouse, you stood defiantly in the path of the thresher.”
He laughed with a maddened cackle.
“What, exactly, did you hope to accomplish? What could a peasant-girl have going through her head when she does such a thing? Was it because of me? I was trying to change the world, to free us from the yoke of kings, wealth and death itself! I was learning the arithmetic of the Universe, how it was woven so I could change it, while you marched forth in defense for a world that overlooked us. I willingly damned my soul for that! That was my bargain, my very being, traded away for the power to free you from all those things! All of those plans were ruined, though; you just couldn’t trust me to know what I was doing.”
Josiah stood on the knee-caps of his wife’s armor, withdrawing from that incensed mood and crossing his arms at his chest. He smiled faintly, either out of a pang of regret or out of sublime cruelty.
“Do you remember when they brought me to you?” Josiah asked in a soft voice. “You were chained down to the altar already. At first I didn’t know it was you. You were just another one of the paladins the Burning Legion was claiming for itself, and I would have never imagined that you. But they made sure I knew. At first I was elated. It was a promotion! Only those who would be more than mere acolytes were called upon to rip the soul out of a paladin. The demons had such grand plans for them, for the power they held…”
“Then, I saw it was you. They made sure you knew it was me too, didn’t they? They told you, just so you would be ready, just so you would be filled with so much anger so that when they made their offer, you just couldn’t turn it down.”
He took his dagger out of his belt, and stabbed it into a fissure that, cleanly, was just wide and long enough for the serpentine blade to slip in. It rang hollow when the hilt hit home.
“See? It still fits”, he whispered obscenely. “Just as it did back then, while they watched me do this to you. And after it was done, they carried me away. I wish I could’ve been there for the conversation you had with when they turned you away from your precious Light. Oh, to have listened to you for once, just once, telling the truth.”
Josiah sucked in a breath through his teeth as he straightened, grasping the rim of the armor’s chest-plate, scathing it with his stare. “I remember the next time I saw you so vividly. You were wearing this. It fit you so well back then.” Biting into his lip, Josiah was seized by the memory. “You were seething so angrily, so beautifully. I was in love with it, even while I screamed. You had the ghouls hound me, pin me, tearing me apart. Do you remember what you told me then? Do you?”
Josiah stepped back across the armor’s thigh lifting his head as his emotion bubbled to froth. “You said ‘Taste your immortality!’ As if that was all I was after! As if I hadn’t been fighting for you! For our son! Immortality?! You foolish wench! It was for freedom! Our freedom!”
He swung his fist at the helm, knocking it off the rest of the armor with the anti-climatic sound of a pot being flung. Glaring down at it incandescently, he roared with his squeaky voice. “You tasted your own as well, that night! You drank deep from that chalice, darling! And when you took your sword and stabbed right through my soul, I got to see just how much!”
Taking a deep breath, he stepped down from the armor’s thighs to pick up the lonesome helm, scowling, almost sadly now, at it. “You really, really wanted me dead, didn’t you? Not only dead, you wanted to unmake me so that I couldn’t even be a ghost. You sent my soul into the void to burn away to nothing.” At that, he smirked unpleasantly, embittered. “It didn’t quite work out that way, now did it?”
As he dusted off the helm and clambered back onto the armor to replace it, Josiah sighed as he told it a tale. “There once was a gnome, Herbert Rattleflash, who thought he would compete in the teleportation market. He was a clever one. He thought to himself, ‘we can do it without a receiving pad! We just have to go through the inter-planar dominion’” Here, Josiah paused. He arched a brow as he fastidiously adjusted the helm back precisely where it was a moment ago. “At least, he thought something along those lines. I don’t rightly recall. Nevertheless! Lo did he find his shortcut, straight to me. I had been there, for centuries, minutes, years, moments, thoughts, breaths! He found me, and I saw the way out, through him. Oh the secrets I learned, watching, suffering, listening, wailing as so many things flew past. I saw how Sargeras’ star dawned on the universe’s horizon, torn from its body and streaking across nothingness’ sky!”
Cackling again momentarily, Josiah allowed the last of that angry, frantic energy to evaporate from him. The air still sizzled faintly as the breeze brushed against him. All he had left was his scowl. He stood there for a moment, staring deep into what he imagined where her eyes would be.
“Those secrets led me to you, my love. I hunted you down just as surely as you hunted me that night. It took me years. It took the blood and death of plenty of others for me to stand here.” Josiah tightened his jowls again, but there was no blood in it, none of that effervescent hatred there was a moment ago. “I can bring you back. I can enslave you to my will. I can make you remember. I can give you your mind back, free to hate me, free to suffer as you ought to. But I won’t! I won’t crush your pitiful little soul back into this empty thing! I won’t make you see what you lost, what you did to me! I won’t demand my pound of flesh from you!”
By then, he was screaming again, his face contorted with an emotion between inconsolable grief and anger. “I won’t put you through any of that! Do you hear me?! I won’t!” He brought his hands sharply onto his face as he hunched his head down, shaking where he stood.
“I won’t”, he muttered as he reined himself in, grimacing still as he straightened. “I’m going to let you rest instead. Rest, forget. Find your way somewhere new, away from all of this, away from them, away from me.”
He leapt down from the armor’s knees then, turning his back on it, walking away with the clatter of the chains coiled on his limbs. Before he was out of sight, however, he stopped, and glanced over his shoulder.
“Just carry one thing you, wherever it is you go. You failed! I won, and you, -you-, failed!”
He was gone a moment later, and the forest’s voice closed around the fading echo of his farewell.