November 29, 2010

Dark Lady: The Rage

Dear Vereesa, my sister.

Doubtless you are aware of my fate, of what I have become.

The Banshee Queen. The Dark Lady. Queen of the Forsaken.

I am leader of one of the most feared nations in Azeroth. My people revere me like a goddess, and even my own allies whisper my name in fear and dread. My word is law, my orders obeyed without question, and my power is unrivaled.

I would not wish this life upon anyone.

When I heard you had relocated to Dalaran, my cold heart clenched, sister. A tiny spark within me cried out in joy that you were still alive and healthy, that in my wretched existence, there was one thing that still shone brightly in the shadows.

I wanted to run to you, collapse at your feet, explain my grief, share my pain with someone who would understand. I know that you of all people would not judge me for what I have had to do to survive...for the dark deeds I have committed.

But I dared not. I feared what seeing you would do to me, Vereesa. Beautiful, vibrant, and happily in love...everything I was not, everything that had been coldly and cruelly stolen from me. As much as I wanted to see you again, I think it might have broken me, might have shattered whatever shreds of sanity I still retain in this accursed shell.

My sister, I no longer feel the same emotions as the living. No longer do I find myself capable of feeling or appreciating things such as love, joy, or peace. Only bitterness and rage reside now within my heart. Deep inside, I know how terrible and aberrant my existence is...but I cannot do anything about it. I am cursed.

Grieve for me, Vereesa, for what I have become...for I can no longer do so.

Why do I not leave these undead creatures behind, you might ask? It is difficult for me to explain. You and I, we are sisters, born of blood and flesh. But my people and I...we are siblings of a different sort.

The torture we endured at Arthas' hands is impossible to describe, as is the utter bliss and release we felt after clawing our way to freedom. The paladins call each other brothers, not of blood, but of honor. The kinship I feel towards my people is similar, though our bond is one of mutual suffering and an unrelenting desire for vengeance.

I could never leave them and rejoin the living, for no one amongst you could ever understand my pain. Not you, not Rhonin, not even the purest, noblest Naaru. But my people, from the most savage Deathguard to the lowliest mushroom vendor...we understand. We experienced it together. No words are necessary, no sympathy or hollow words exchanged. It is simply our past. It is who we are.

I could no sooner abandon them than I could you, Vereesa.

But enough about me. I must concentrate. I am writing you to share some disturbing news, and to ask you a vitally important favor. I could ask this of no one else, sister.

With the Lich King's destruction, my singled-minded ambition for so many years, I expected to feel satisfaction or closure. Instead, I simply feel...lost. I find myself unsure and directionless. For the first time since leading my people to freedom and taking up the mantle of the Banshee Queen, I do not know what to do.

My Forsaken look to me for guidance and strength, but with the tyrant dead, what purpose remains in this world for us? What will become of those freed from his grasp, but still shackled to their mortal coils?

More importantly, though, is a new threat that has arisen to threaten and endanger my people's survival - ourselves.

I fear we are losing control.

We are born of hatred, of evil. It is our origin, our very reason for existing. For years we were able to use this passion to fuel our crusade against the Lich King. Our enmity towards him started the day he created us; never before have we known a life without Arthas haunting our thoughts. But with him gone, I have noticed an alarming dissonance and instability starting to spread throughout our minds, including my own.

Always before had my desire for revenge guided me, focused my will and ambitions toward avenging the vile acts Arthas had inflicted upon us. I delighted in purging the Lich King's mindless victims from this world, in freeing my tormented cousins from their agony. The anger honed our determination, united our entire race.

But now, our greatest strength has become our most dreaded nemesis. My heart still smolders with the same bitterness and rage that have driven me all these years...only this time, there is no one left to hate.

Every day I can feel the beast inside clawing at my defenses, snarling for release. It urges me to unleash my ire, to seek revenge, to kill and maim anything that draws breath. I find myself jealous and resentful of the living, even my allies in the Horde, even of you, my sister.

At best, these desires are a significant distraction. At worst, I find myself distracted, unable to focus or think clearly, and it is all I can do simply to keep my hands dry of blood. Where once my thoughts were utterly focused and concentrated on our objectives, I now find myself struggling with wild suspicions and paranoia. Tactics that I would have previously dismissed as rash and undisciplined now seem frighteningly appealing.

It is not just the Forsaken, either. Like us, the death knights of Acherus were also once the Lich King's servants. I spoke with their leader, Darion Mograine, and though I had to pry and poke past his stoic demeanor, he eventually admitted that he had also recently noticed some strange behavior in his troops. An uncharacteristic outburst, a momentary lapse in self-control...minor incidents, but ones that confirmed my fears.

I am deeply worried, sister. Without an outlet, something upon which we can focus and discharge this building, seething rage, I do not know what will happen to my people. I fear that this unbridled hostility will drive us mad, or even worse, turn us back into the mindless, savage monsters we once were.

Vereesa, I beg of you: do not let this happen. If I should ever lose myself, and become that which I fought against with all my soul...if I ever become an abomination like Arthas...

Kill me.

Do not let me become the monster.

I have included with this letter a special arrow. It is powerfully enchanted, and has been coated with one of my Royal Apothecary Society's failed plague strains. Do not worry, for it is completely harmless to you. It only has the power to slay the undead...including a Forsaken.

Do you recognize the sapphire arrowhead, sister? It once belonged to a necklace I had thought long lost, until my minions found it in the ruins of our former home. Our sister Alleria gave us each one, keeping one for herself, and swore that no matter what happened, we'd always be together...

I have kept this memento close all these years, as a reminder of who I once was, of the people I loved in my former life. Alleria, wherever you are, I thank you for this gift, for letting me retain this small portion of humanity when all else was stripped from me.

The loving gift of the first sister, fired from the hands of the second, into the damned heart of the third. If this were the manner in which I met my demise, I believe my spirit could finally find peace.

Even now, I can feel the darkness looming behind my eyelids, the anger twisting my thoughts, weakening my resolve. I fear it is a only a matter of time.

Shorel'aran, sister.


Show/Hide Letter Notes

Pertinent Lore:

Sylvanas Windrunner
Quest: The Lady's Necklace - the deeply-buried side of Sylvanas that still loves her sisters
Quest: Sylvanas' Vengeance - her uncertainty and doubt following Arthas' death
Quest: The Warchief Cometh - Cataclysm quest that hints at a darker, alarming side (spoilers)

This story, of the uncontrollable rage and hatred that overwhelms Sylvanas after the Lich King's death, was my original idea for the NaNoWriMo project. I'd learned that her actions in Cataclysm were alarmingly...bad, and wondered if perhaps she wasn't losing control of herself and her faculties without someone to direct her anger toward. I originally wrote about this theory in this post

I could definitely picture it driving her almost mad, so that she loses sight of who she is and what her people were working towards. Sadly, the way she's shaped up so far, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see her become a villain. :(

I originally intended this to be a short story, not a Letter. It was going to have Sylvanas approaching Darion Mograine and discuss their mutual problem, since they are both former LK servants who have broken free. I had a vague plan of having them set off on a secret mission into the depths of Icecrown, where they sought a remaining fragment (possibly phylactery) of the Lich King's spirit, hoping to destroy it and free themselves from this building madness. There they would encounter Anub'arak, back from the dead AGAIN, who would be having similar problems - as long as this piece of Arthas still existed, he would be doomed to raise from the dead in eternal torment. The three of them would team up and...well, that's as far as I got.

I had this semi-story on the backburner the entire month, but for the life of me could NOT figure out how I could do it in letter format. So eventually I decided to focus on what the main point of it was (Sylvanas) and also to finish up the "Dark Lady" series I started with the earlier "Dark Lady: The General" letter.

I thought it would be good to explain Sylvanas' perspective a little. That the reason she is so loyal and devoted to her people is because they share a common bond closer than anything else in the world. Their time under the Lich King's control is almost akin to being in the womb, with their freedom equating to their birth. They are just as much siblings as Sylvanas, Vereesa and Alleria, and I thought it would make for a fitting analogy.

I also wanted to emphasize just how big a cultural shock this is for the Forsaken. They have literally hated the Lich King their entire existence. The equivalent would be...I dunno, the night elves suddenly losing touch with Elune. It would cause chaos, anarchy - they wouldn't know what to do without Elune's familiar presence. This is what I envision Forsaken society to be like, without a Lich King. I'm not sure I did a great job of describing this in the letter. :\

The main point of the letter, though, was to have Sylvanas eventually ask her sister to kill her, if ever she did lose control and become that which she most despised. When I reached that point in the letter, it occurred to me that there WAS an in-game item/quest that could come into play here - the Lady's Necklace.

For those who have never leveled a blood elf, this is a random drop found on mobs on Windrunner Spire, which starts a quest to take it back to the Undercity and give it to Sylvanas. The necklace is a gift from Alleria to Sylvanas, given just before Alleria ventured through the Dark Portal with other members of the Alliance (and until Wrath, had not been heard from since).

When you give her the necklace, Sylvanas is momentarily taken aback with memory, before coming to her senses and denying that it affected her. However, she will then summon some banshees and sing the Lament of the Highborne, a heart-wrenching, tragic dirge that is really quite sad to witness. I make it a point of handing in this quest on every blood elf I level, and sitting and listening to the whole song.

Having Sylvanas turn the locket into a powerful weapon - fittingly, an arrow - that would be able to slay her seemed appropriate. Actually, it seemed like something Blizzard would have a player do; find a tragic memento from the past which would then become a terrible foe's one weakness. In any case, Sylvanas making her own bane from a necklace she'd received from Alleria, and giving that weapon to their other sister, one of the only people Sylvanas would love/trust with such a deed...there's some great symbolism and poetry there.

(And yes, comic fans, it IS a lot like Superman giving the last piece of kryptonite to Batman for safe-keeping, to ensure that if Superman ever went bad, he knew that someone he trusted completely would have the means of defeating him, and wouldn't hesitate to use it.)

Amusingly, I actually had this ALL WRONG until I was 95% done the letter. I had gotten Alleria and Vereesa mixed up, and everything had been addressed to Alleria (who's actually still missing). So I had to go back and change all the references and rewrite portions to make sense, since Alleria is still missing, and it's Vereesa in Dalaran with Rhonin. Sigh. It all worked out though.

Drawing comparisons between Sylvanas and Vereesa/Alleria, both happily married/in love with Rhonin/Turalyon respectively, is even more tragic when you consider Sylvanas' Gold Coin, which can be fished up in Dalaran. I seriously love these coins.

I wanted to work in the Forsaken idle quote "Remember, patience...discipline," as it is a nice statement as to the mindset of the Forsaken. Coldly logical and methodical, free of rash impulses and impetuous behavior. However, I couldn't find a way to work it in that didn't feel clunky or tacked-on.

The "What will become of those freed from his grasp, but still shackled to their mortal coils?" is a direct quote from the very cool RP quest "Sylvanas' Vengeance" where you return a vial of Sylvanas' blood to her after killing the Lich King with Shadowmourne. Her lines in the quest resolution strongly hint that she is not sure what to do now, and is worrying about the future.

Alleria describes the three Windrunner necklaces in the novel "Beyond the Dark Portal."

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