Featuring: Fargo Bartley

Once freed from the Lich King’s iron grasp, most of those Death Knights who had survived the fateful battle at Light’s Hope Chapel had chosen to avoid the Plaugelands. For most of them it was the last place they had been while alive; it was in those lands that they had fallen, only to be reborn as Death Knights, enslaved to his will. That in and of itself was sufficient motivation to stay away.

However, there were a few that chose to return to these lands; many of them sought to avenge themselves on the Scourge forces that had been responsible for their deaths and enslavement; never mind that the forces left in the Plaguelands were largely a remnant, and the true body of the Lich King’s armies, including their leader, were in Northrend. They simply wanted a chance to strike back at the forces that had given them so much grief in past, and any Scourge would do.

This, however, was not the reason that Fargo Bartley had travelled to the Plaugelands. While he was a Death Knight, and had sworn vengeance against the Lich King for what had been done to him, he had his own reasons to travel here, ones that, while related to the Scourge, at the same time had nothing to do with wipe out their forces.

Instead, he was here to save someone from the Scourge, in a way that only a Death Knight could.

His Deathcharger galloped across the dry, cracked earth, the sound of its flaming hooves on the hard-packed soil the only noise for miles around. Glancing around, Fargo could see signs of movement, but very little of what could be called life. Demonic Plaugehounds and diseased Duskbats watched him as he rode, but seemed disinterested in him; too large and too fast to catch, they instead focused on scrounging for what they could.

He had deliberately avoided the Scourge on this mission, not an easy task at the best of times in these lands. His desire to avoid them, however, was born not of cowardice but of simple caution, his mission was far too vital for him to risk capture or death before fulfilling it.

In many ways, he grimly observed, he had been lucky in his demise and rebirth. In life, Fargo had been an agent of SI:7, Stormwind’s secretive intelligence agency. When he had been reborn, the Scourge had no interest whatsoever in his mind and the secrets contained within; they had simply treated him as another, ultimately expendable thrall, no better then any other of the Death Knights of Archerus.

That had worked to his advantage; the secrets he kept were dangerous ones, ones that could be a threat to his kingdom if revealed. And it was on the matter of such secrets that he had come here, in order to preserve them.

He stopped at a clearing in the midst of the twisted, diseased woods. A small shack stood here, its timbers long rotted, leaving it on the verge of collapse, but for the most part, hidden from the outside world. ‘’Or so it should have been,’’ he thought as he dismounted, grimly surveying the structure. The signs of violence were obvious; the kicked in door, the smashed furniture and the cuts into the wall. The decayed corpses of several Scourge soldiers lay here, clearly abandoned and forgotten.

Looking over it, he could see that the place hadn’t changed since he was last here, save for an extra layer of grime. However, the true concern lay behind it. Stepping out, he headed behind the hovel, eying a mound of dirt in the yard, clearly a hastily dug grave.

Fargo kneeled next to it, looking over it. ‘’Undisturbed, good.’’ He observed, then shook his head as he stood. “Years ago, I let you die through my mistakes.” He began, looking down at the mound. “We both knew the risks when we took on this assignment, however, it is only since then that I have become aware that, by leaving you here, I was potentially taking a greater one.”

“That the Scourge have not yet found and claimed your body is fortunate. While I had previously dismissed the risks, my own brush with the Scourge has made it clear that your being dead is not the end of things.”

“If they were to finds you, they could reanimate you. And while you would be mindless, as I have found, every undead contains the tiniest spark of its original self; I could not run the risk of someone discovering who you are and the information you possessed.”

“Nor could I destroy your body. If your spirit lingered – a very real chance in a place like this – it could still be enslaved and bound to their service. Again, I cannot afford to take that risk. Even if I were to return you to your homeland, your soul may not travel with you.”

“Thus there is only one thing that I can do for you. I regret that it has come to this; however, I know that, if our situation was reversed, you would do the same for me. And, I doubtless would hate you as much for it as I know you will hate me.”

He stepped back, raising one hand, his palm open. Black energy poured from it, crackling as it played over the mound. “Rise from your grave!” He commanded, his voice booming rather then the hushed tones it had spoke in a few minutes before.

The ground before him shifted, then cracked and burst open. An armoured gauntlet reached out, attached to a bare bone arm. As more of the ground shifted, the form within was revealed, clawing its way out of its grave. Standing upright, it revealed its true form; a human skeleton, clad in the rusted, battered remnants of a suit of armour; seemingly identical to the countless others of its type that served the Scourge.

“BRANE!” It called out as it shook its body, loose dirt cascading off it before it turned, looking at its creator. In the depths of its eyeless sockets, there was the slightest hint of recognition, as if acknowledging the man who had just raided it from its earthly grave.

“I understand how you must feel.” He replied. “And I know that you understand the necessity of what I have done.”

The skeleton nodded slowly in reply.

“There is one final thing, however.” He stated, gravely. “Even your name is a threat to us. As much as I would like to, I cannot let you even use that. One day, when all is said and done, you will be buiried with your true name. Until then, you must exist like this. And, as such, it falls to me to give you a monkier that none will associate with your old self. A codename, if you like, one that you have never had before.”

“From this day, you shall be known by the codename Montezuma's Skeleton.”

The skeleton again nodded slowly, clearly comprehending what was said and what was going on.

“So, Monty, shall we-”

Before he could finish, there was a ruslting from the trees. He turned, the two short runeblades he carried at the ready. At the same time, his skeletal companion raised a rusted and battered, but clearly leathal looking blade.

Moments later, a Necromancer stepped from in amongst the trees, a small cluster of Scourge minions behind him. “So what do we have here?” He sneered, eyeing the pair of them. “One of the renegade Death Knights of Archerus. I will bring back your head, traitor, as a prize for the Lich King.”

Fargo merely nodded at his companion, drawing up the cloth bandana that covered the lower half of his face. “Just like old times, then?”

The Skeleton nodded back; in fact, while its reamined an impassive, bare skull, it seemed like it was grinning.

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