The Corruption of Asher
Asher watched the fire, silent. His mother, Dorabel, sat on the bed with him, her heavily muscled arm around him. She smiled, watching the light dance in her son's eyes. She was about to leave him, and he couldn't understand why. He pulled away from her touch, his emotions pushing her away. Dorabel sighed, and kneeled before him, her gleaming Lightforge armor glinting in the flickering flames. “Asher, look at me.” Defiant, he turns his head looking out his window to the forge below. “Asher, please.” A desperate quality to her voice caused him to face her. “You know what I have to do. I told you why. I have to back up my guild mates in the Argent Dawn, to take down Rattlegore. Too many have died at his hands. He must be stopped.” A blank look covered Asher's face. He had heard all of this before.
“The guild is ready to leave, but I must tell you something.” She stood up, her stout Dwarven frame outlined by the fire. She picked up her son, looking him in the eye. “By the light! Asher! You are almost too big to carry!” She laughed, as her eyes moistened with tears. She looked into his defiant face, memorizing it. “I love you Asher, with all of my being. The worst thing a mother can to her child is to go away.” He squirmed in her arms, but she did not let go. “I will be back by morning.” She lay him down on the bed, and gently tucked him in. His eyes snapped shut as she kissed his forehead. “I love you Asher.” She walked to the stairs, and turned, taking a last look at her son. A single tear fell onto her tabard. Looking at her son, she remembered the reason she joined the Argent Dawn in the first place, so that mothers would not worry about their sons being killed by the evil of the world. She wiped her eyes and walked out into the great Dwarven city, filled with soot and brimstone, which lay out before her. Ironforge. ...
Her guild mates were waiting for her in front of her home. The party leader, a night elf hunter known as Barley, smiled weakly. “This could not be avoided, Dorabel.” She frowned up at him, his impossibly long ears twitching at her withering gaze.
“I know. So let's go, and get this over with. I would like to be back before my son wakes.” She moved toward the Hippogryph master. A young human warlock, known only as SoulStealer, stepped in front of her.
“This night is filled with evil, Dorabel. A dark omen fills these cavernous walls. You are not meant to go on this mission.” A shadow crosses his face. “I don't think you should go with us. You will only be a liability.”
Dorabel frowned up at her dark companion. “Just what do you mean, SoulStealer?”
“Rattlegore is a terrible enemy, Paladin, one who should not be underestimated. I cannot tell you more, as my voidwalker is now silent.” He nods his head toward the blue demon next to him. “Jakalarak has seen a terrible fate for you. For the sake of your child, and the Argent Dawn, you should stay behind.”
Dorabel, shaking with fury, stalked towards SoulStealer. The gnome warrior, Giztra stepped between the two of them, sticking a sword in each of their ribs. Quietly she said, “If anyone spills any blood on this ground, it will be me. Understood?”
Dorabel, looked over the gnomes head, into the dark eyes of the human. “Listen to me, demon trafficker, and listen well. My child is just that. Mine. My concern! Not yours!” She stepped back, looking over her guild mates. “I am Dorabel Faithhammer, a member of Argent Dawn! I will not rest until Rattlegore is dead. Now, who is coming with me?” Without waiting for a response, she turned and walked to the Hippogryph master. A few minutes later, she landed in the Eastern Plaguelands, followed shortly by the rest of her guildmates. ...
That day, though, a hundred savage undead had fallen to Dorabel's flaming sword, Destiny, when they arrived at Rattlegore's chamber. The party took a moment to rest up as they formulated their plans. “Rattlegore is not a subtle enemy,” said Pieren, the parties priest. “Giztra and Dorabel should go in first, to get rid of his Bone Golems, then we can all focus on Rattlegore.” Everyone nodded in agreement.
One by one, the Bone Golems fell. Destiny caused flaming tracers to form in the air around her. Finally, the party turned their attention to Rattlegore. An evil glint formed in the eye sockets of the skeletal undead, as he attacked the party...
When the battle was over, the party from the Argent Dawn lay dead at Rattlegore's feet. The undead monstrosity grabbed the lifeless body of Dorabel, and began to eat the flesh off her bones, tossing them into a huge pile in the middle of his chamber.
As Rattlegore turned to devour another member of his party, SoulStealer rose from the dead, using his Soul Stone. He moved out of the room quietly, and used his hearthstone to teleport back to Ironforge. A few minutes later, he stood on the doorstep of the House of Faithhammer. He knocked quietly. A young dwarven boy opened the door. “Asher, my name is--nevermind. I am a friend of your--”
“She's dead.” Asher said, cutting the stranger off. Soulstealer took a moment to look for the right words, and when they didn't come he decided on the truth. “Yes. Rattlegore killed us all. He ate your mother first. I assume he ate the others as well.”
“And you, warlock! What did you do to save her? You are standing here alive, well, while my mother sits in the belly of the undead!” A primal scream, guttural and animalistic, escapes from Asher. “Get out! Get out, you bastard! And don't come back!” Soulstealer nodded, understanding and walked away. Asher stood silent, inner rage causing his entire body to quake, as he wept bitter tears... and plotted his revenge against the monster that killed his mother.
Part 1 – Rattlegore Down
“RATTLEGORE!!!” Asher cried. His party, all guildmates in the Keepers of the Realm, stood behind him. They knew this mission was not about gold, or equipment, or even experience. This mission was about revenge-- hard, cold-blooded revenge. A cackle filled the hallway outside Rattlegore's chamber.
“Come and get me, Paladin! I will eat your flesh and dine on your bones!”
Unable to control himself, Asher charged Rattlegore, striking him over and over with his mace. His guildmates quickly dispatched the Bone Golems, and began to back up the raging Asher. “You killed my mother, you bastard! Now it's time for you to return to the nether realm you come from!”
He struck him again, but Rattlegore countered, striking Asher across the face, leaving four bleeding lines across his face. Four rivulets of blood ran down the cuts on Asher's face. “What is your name, dwarf?” he asked, as he was hit by a barrage of arrows from Ehteht, the night elf hunter.
“I am Asher. I am the Light!” His mace struck the undead again, throwing bone chips into the air. Rattlegore laughed, his teeth chattering together like a demonic squirrel.
“I remember your mother well. She was very good, very tender. I wonder if her son is the same?” He stood above Asher, and swung down with all his might. He missed. Asher lined up his shot, hitting Rattlegore in the chest. His ribcage exploded in a shower of broken bones. The dark light behind his eyes dimmed as Asher stood above him. “This is not over, Asher Faithhammer, not by a long chalk,” Rattlegore hissed as the dark light in his eyes dimmed at last.
Asher fell to the floor, tears of joy and pain streaming down his face. Ehteht walked over to him, and placed a strong hand on his shoulder. “Its over, Ash. Let's go home, and have some of that awful ale you dwarves like to drink so much. We will celebrate our victory, and raise a glass to your mother.” Asher shook his head, tears falling to the left and right. “Perhaps shortly, but there is something I must do first.” Asher stood, and opened one of his sacks. “I must have a reminder.” Rattlegore's broken skeleton lay in front of him. Asher ripped free the skull and spine of the murderer, and put it in his sack.
Delmagan, a dwarven warrior, and a long-time friend of Asher, looked at him as if he were mad. “What are you doing, friend?”
“Taking home a trophy.”
That night, they did drink. To excess. Asher and Ehteht walked to the House of Faithhamer, stumbling and singing dwarven and elven dirges of lost loved ones. He took Asher up the stairs to his childhood room, and let him pass out on the bed. As he left, Ehteht noticed the grisly skull and spine of Rattlegore in the front room next to the fire. He paused, thinking of hurling the lot of it into the lava of the Great Forge. He was no rogue though, and if his friend wanted a trophy, then so be it. Besides, Ehteht thought, what harm could come?
Asher grumbled in his sleep.
He jerked up in bed, looking around the room for whoever was speaking. Seeing nothing, and feeling none too chipper, he lay back down. “That'll teach me to drink that Darkmoon Faire Special Reserve.” He clutched his head in agony from his hangover, and lay back down.
He sat bolt upright in bed. “Mother?” The disembodied voice of his mother spoke into his head.
Yes, Asher, it's me.
“Where are you?” he asked, searching the room, his naked feet slapping on the floor.
I am inside you, child. The voice hesitated a moment. Come downstairs, and I will tell you everything.
A few moments later, Asher sits in a chair staring at the trophy he brought back from Scholomance.
How much do you know about Rattlegore, Asher?
“Not much, really.”
Rattlegore gets his power from the flesh he eats, and the bones he rests upon. He fed on me, which as caused my soul to become trapped in the nether realms.
Asher nodded. He sat silently for a moment, taking the information in. After a moment, he asked, “Can you come back?”
Not without help.
“Tell me what I must do, then,” he said, without reservation.
The power to bring me back is in the bones. Use your hammer smithing talents to fashion a weapon from your trophy and use it to fight the undead, horde, and your other enemies. The mace you create will drain bits of life energy from them and in time I will be able to return to you, my loving son.
Asher stood up, grabbed the trophy and his blacksmithing tools. Naked feet and all, he went to the Great Forge and began hammering, forming the skull and spine into a weapon. The other smiths, engineers and hard-boiled miners watched, as the sparks flew at Asher as he worked.
Hours later, Asher stood in his living room, holding his new weapon. It was well balanced and sturdy. Now he needed something to use it on.
Part 2 – The Stockades
Never before had there been a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than in the Stormwind Stockades. Three days earlier, a riot had broken out in Azeroth's only maximum security prison, led by the charismatic Bazil Thredd. Within hours of the riot, Thredd had killed the guards, who hadn't had the good fortune of escaping with Warden Thelwater. They had broken through the main door of the prison into Stormwind, but the Warden and the remaining guards were able to halt the felons, confining them to the prison. Asher heard of the riot from a gnome mage while on the tram from Ironforge to Stormwind. Once he stepped into the Dwarven District of Stormwind, he knew what he had to do, not just for the citizens of Stormwind, but for the soul of his mother.
The Stockades were a huge, gleaming white building buried under the Canal District of Stormwind. Asher walked into the front door to see a number of archers take down another inmate attempting to escape. A broad-chested human barked orders and congratulated his men. “Good job, boys! That was Mad Mooney Smith! Seems only the crazy ones are trying to escape now!” He turned, hearing Asher's armor clink behind him. “Ho, Paladin. Come to help?”
Asher nodded. “Aye, I have. I am Asher. I have come to rid you of your problem.” He extends his hand, and the Warden shakes it heartily.
“I am Warden Thelwater.” The Warden smiled. He looked over Asher, and saw the mace on his back. “I know of you, Asher. You're the one who killed Rattlegore.”
Asher nodded, and wielded his mace. “Aye, but I cannot take all the credit, as my guildmates backed me up that day.”
“It's a good dwarf who thanks his friends for his accomplishments.” He looks somber a moment. “Even with your victories, are you sure you can do this alone? I have seen entire groups of adventurers enter this prison over the last few days and never come out. There are some very dangerous men down there.”
“None are as dangerous as me, Warden. Tell me what to expect.”
“The real threat is Bazil Thredd. These types of riots are usually controlled by one man, and Thredd is it. If you cut the head off the snake, the snake will die.” The Warden, picking his teeth with a bit of wood.
Asher entered the Stockades, but before his eyes could adjust to the darkness, four inmates rushed him. Three days of fighting, blood, and waste had caused the stench to be overpowering. Everything breakable in the place littered the floor in shards and pieces: doors, furniture, crockery, people. The four inmates in front of him were broken, desperate men. Their weapons were crude: boards with nails, shanks, and the like. One had a two-handed mace, and knew how to wield it. Asher targeted him first, blocking the inmate's first strike, and countering with a strike of his own. The skull struck the inmate in the chest. A green cloud formed around the inmate, and his pale skin took on the same greenish quality. He could no longer hold his mace up properly. Asher swung again, striking the inmate across the face. The skull mace flared to life. Asher could feel the inmate's life force entering the mace, as a dark green haze obscured the mace as he searched for another target.
Perfect, my love, but one is not enough.
With his mother's soothing voice in his head, he took out the other three with strikes from the mace. Each one caused it to flare up with its green haze. Asher stalked down the filthy hallway, barely keeping his lunch down from the foul air, killing one inmate after another. “Bazil Thredd!” he called. “I am Asher, and I am here to bring justice to these dank halls! Come out, and face me like a man!”
Some inmates attacked, which he quickly dispatched. Others cowered. He left those for the warden, as only the strongest life force was good enough for his mother. From down the cell block, Asher heard Bazil screaming, “Protect me, you assholes! Line up, the four of you!”Asher sprinted down the hall toward the voice, killing an inmate who tried to stand in his way with one blow. He darted into the room, seeing Bazil and his four inmate protectors.
“A paladin?! You're kidding, right?” Bazil started laughing, gripping his sides in mirth. Asher growled, and consecrated the area around him. His five enemies screamed in pain, as the holy light seared the sins of their souls. He grabbed the closest inmate, and twisted his neck around. The inmate fell to the floor, burning up from the inside with light. Another inmate jumped in, and hit Asher with a board with a huge spike sticking out of it. The spike punctured his Lightforge Spaulders, and tore into his arm. Blood trickled down Asher's side, as he felt his body grow heavy with disease.
He growled, “Death to all of you.” The mace swung around, catching the three inmates in fatal strikes.
Bazil Thredd fell to his knees, putting his hands on his head. “I surrender! I surrender! Mercy!” Asher looked down at him.
“Justice knows no mercy! By the Light, Bazil Thredd, I sentence you to death!” He raises his mace into the air...
“Noooooo!” ... and strikes Bazil down. The mace flares to life, as the corpse of Thredd begins to shrivel and wither, a green cloud forms around his inert corpse.
That night, Asher went into the Elwynn Forest and picked up a bottle of wine from his favorite winery. He sat alone in his room. The skull mace sat next to the fire. His mother spoke to him.
It is not enough, Asher. We must try something different.
“What do you suggest, mother?”
She paused for a long while. In the Badlands, there is a mine known as Uldaman. There you will find an enchanting trainer. She will teach you to become an enchanter.
Asher looked stunned, but he nodded. He enjoyed being a blacksmith, but helping his mother was the first priority.
From there you will travel to the Barrens, where you will seek a forsaken warlock...
Asher gasped, and jumped up angrily. “Never will I deal with a demon trafficker! Let alone the undead! SoulStealer let you die. I can never forgive him, or the selfish lot of them. Bastards one and all.”
Asher, I would never put you in a position like this if it weren't important. Tam Freely owns an enchanting formula known as lifestealing... and it doesn't matter how you feel about him.
She laughs darkly into his ear. Asher cackles madly along.
Part 3 – The High Keeper
The trip through Uldaman was easier than Asher expected. The Troggs, which had recently caused the shutdown of the mine, fell to his skull mace. Each life taken added to the power of his mother. Enchanting was easier than he expected as well. Blacksmithing was tedious and boring, but the power of enchanting was something that he could not ignore. Afterwards, he spent a few days in Ironforge, honing his skill and learning the ins and outs of his new-found enchantments. He was sitting alone in his study, reading The Rise and Fall of Lordaeron, when he heard a knock at his door. He stood and answered the door.
The High Keeper stood on the other side. The High Keeper was the spiritual focus of the guild so having the venerable night elf on his doorstep was an honor at least, a bad omen at worst. “May I come in, Asher?” he asked, with a smile. Asher nodded, closing the door behind him.
The High Keeper stood next to the fire. “To what do I owe this honor, Keeper?”
The High Keeper thought for a moment, pausing to choose the right words as was his habit. “Your class leader, Jessyca, said that you were out of sorts since your defeat of Rattlegore. I thought I would come by, to see if there was anything I could do for you.” Or spy. “Maybe you would...”
Don't listen to him Asher! He means to spy on you! You must get him out of here.... Asher stood, staring into the fire, not knowing what to do.
Asher visibly flinched, so much that The High Keeper saw it. “Asher, come with me to Fray Island. I want to have a Priest look at you. Make sure you are fit and healthy.”
“I... I... don't think...”
Wait! Asher. Go with him, but wait till nightfall to leave.
“I don't think I can go right now, Keeper, but I can in a few hours. Let me finish up a few things, and I will meet you at the Deepwater Tavern in Menthil Harbor. We can ride the boat to Theramore and Ride to Fray Island together.” Asher plastered a smile on his face so real, even he believed it.
That night on Fray Island, Asher snuck away into the water and crossed the bay. From there he mounted up, and rode into the Barrens. From the island, The High Keeper puts away his ornate spyglass and walks back into the building shaking his head.
“Welcome to the Barrens, Paladin. Not too often do we get such upstanding members of the Alliance here.” The undead, Tam Freely, laughed, and looked Asher over with those sunken, dead eyes. Asher glared at the stinking pile of flesh.
“You have something I want, horde filth. The enchanting formula lifestealing.”
Freely laughed manically. “That's rich! The Paladin wants to know a 'forbidden' secret! That's a laugh, dwarf. Even then, you can't afford it.”
“Name your price, warlock.”
“I want your mace.”
It was Asher's turn to laugh. “What for, warlock?! You can't even lift the thing, let alone wield it.”
Enraged, the warlock began to cast a spell, but before he could finish casting, Asher donned his mace, and brought up Seal of Command. The power of the holy light surrounded Asher in a golden nimbus.
“I know what you are thinking. 'Can I finish this spell before he kills me with his huge mace?' So I have just one question for you. Do you feel lucky, warlock? Do you?”
Tam Freely dropped his hands, his spell fizzling, and admitted defeat. Asher lowered his mace, and as he does, the warlock curses him with weakness and runs away. Asher tries to cast Holy Shock, but his mother's voice stops him.
No, son! Kill him with the mace! His power will add to what I have already.
The curse began to severely weaken him, and he knew the fight must end quickly or this upstart warlock would kill him. He chased after the cowardly Freely, hitting him with the mace. One after another, he endured the warlock's attacks, as the coward hit him from afar. That is, until he got too close. Asher stunned him with his Hammer of Justice, and struck Tam Freely down. The warlock's soul visibly entered the mace.
Yesssss.... Asssshhhher, that is the kind of power I need. Search his body, son. Find the formula.
“Yes, mother.” He set about his grisly task. He found the formula, and read it over. Asher learned it quickly, and brought out the reagents to enchant the mace.
Good, son, enchant it quickly so we can get back to Fray Island. I have another task for you there.
“Yes, mother,” he said dryly. Asher pulled out his Arcanite Rod, and placed the reagents onto the mace. He waved the rod over the mace, and said the command words. A surge of energy loosed into the mace, and knocked him backwards. Asher sat up, looking at his treasure with an unnatural love. The mace was glowing now, around the skull a purple light shone. The eyes of the skull began to glow with the same intensity.
”It's beautiful,” he muttered.
Part 4 – Endgame
Asher crept into the guild house. His mother's words ringing in his ears. The High Keeper slept on the floor, resting his head on a small pillow.
Strike him down, my son. Destroy the High Keeper, and steal his life. His life force, bolstered by the enchantment, will allow me to return to life! We can be together again, my son!
“This is the not the way of the light, mother,” Asher muttered.
Do it! Asher! Do it now! Her words held power. A power he was unable to resist.
The skull mace rose above the High Keeper, its purple glow giving the sleeping elf a ghostly look. Asher's eyes are filled with a dark glow, just then, the High Keeper woke. “Asher, no!” He brought the mace down, crushing the skull of his guild leader. His life force filled Asher and his mother with power.
That's it, Asher! That's it exactly!
Her laughs filled him with joy and terror. He left behind the corpse of the High Keeper, bleeding and broken. Dark clouds obscured the moon as he walked out onto the island. Asher took the mace, and planted it into the ground. The eyes of the mace pointed to the northeast, the direction of Scholomance. His face weary, his body tired, he watched the purple glow of the skull mace envelope the entire mace, and he sunk into the ground. The ground around it began to glow and pulsate. The ground rippled and bucked, throwing Asher off his feet.
The bones of those who had died on Fray Island began popping out of the ground, and collecting around the mace, as if it were a Pied Piper of bones. All at once, a great explosion of light blinded Asher. He blinked, clearing his eyes, and looked for his mother.
All he saw before him was Rattlegore! In his mother's voice, Rattlegore spoke, “Poor little Asher. My loving child.” The bony jaw of Rattlegore bounced up and down with amusement as he mocked Asher. “My loving son!”
Asher, unable to control his emotions, cried, “You lying, dirty bastard! Now you die for real!” “Not this time,” said Rattlegore.
“I am Asher. I am the Light!” Asher brought out his secondary weapon, a one-handed mace he picked up from a troll priest, and his Draconian Deflector. He rushes Rattlegore, the battle begun!
Minutes later, with Asher bleeding and broken, he struck Rattlegore across the skull.
Finally, the undead beast dropped into a pile of broken bones. The souls of those Asher had killed were set free. Asher watched as the soul of the High Keeper moved toward the guild house. He followed and watched as the soul hovered over its body.
“Your soul is free of Rattlegore, wise leader, reenter the light so that you may live!” Asher finished his Resurrection spell, and watched as the High Keeper's eyelids fluttered open. He saw Asher and smiled up at him. “Keeper, I am so...”
“No need to apologize, young Asher. It was foretold to me that you were being manipulated. What I didn't know was how bad.” He sighed. “I failed you as much as you failed me.” Asher looked at this leader, and smiled.
“Look at it this way. Tomorrow will be much better than today.”