A (No Longer Brief) History Of Mort (Book 1)
- - by Unclemort
Not far East of Lorderan once lay the town of Stratholme. The buildings of Stratholme may still stand, but the town itself is long dead, as are the majority of it's former inhabitants. The lucky ones are dead anyway. For many the sweet sleep of death has been denied. This is a short history of one of those unfortunates cursed with Undeath.
And he couldn't be happier.
(Edited subject because this honker seems to have taken on a life of it's own.)
Every noble adventurer has a history. Some turn of events that has shaped their existence and helped mold who they are and why they adventure. Usually it involves great hardship, harrowing deeds of bravery and self sacrifice.
If youre looking for such a thing, push off, you wont find it here. This is the story of a complete bastard.
On the outskirts of Stratholme was a small, pastoral farming village populated by the kind of people you would expect to find during that period in the Eastern Kingdom's history. Swarthy, leather faced farmers and their plump, equally leather faced wives usually with 4 or 5 boisterous children either helping out on the farm or making a nuisance of themselves as young children are want to do. Of course at the time of this tale they're all pretty much doomed.
In the Northern corner of this village was a small, well kept cottage with an immaculate, thriving garden surrounding the house. Flowers and herbs predominated and passers-by would often stop to smell the flowers and be greeted by the elderly resident and his charming, wrinkled smile. This was the much beloved Town Healer, skilled in
curing or treating injuries of all kinds, from debilitating illness to broken bones or child's skinned knee. He had long, pristine white hair and eyes that seemed to sparkle in the noon day sun.
His name was Frank, and Mortimer couldn't stand him.
"Empty headed pillock!" Mort spat as he strode purposefully past. "Oooh, Town Healer! Ewww, ain't we the Great Towne Healer!" he said, rolling the R and somehow managing to convey capital letters along with his extreme disgust.
Mort (or, as the townsfolk called him, That cranky old bastard) hated Frank and everyone else. Every last leather faced man and his fat little wife, every child and their snot filled noses. Whereas Frank was the one people went to when a loved one needed healing, folks came from far and wide to see Old Mort when there was a less than loved one who needed taking care of. They would sometimes leave Morts house with small, plain brown paper wrapped packages containing foul smelling liquid which, if shaken or dropped, usually resulted in the visitors untimely (and often messy) demise.
Anything Mort gave you was to be treated very, very carefully.
Morts house, on the Western fringe of the town, was the polar opposite of Franks. It fit Mort to a T. It was run down, mangy, and very, very old. While Frank's garden was full of sweet flowers and gentle, healing herbs, Mort's garden was, well... Not quite the same. Smelling the things which grew in Mort's garden could result in a nose falling off. The perimeter was strewn with the corpses of bees foolish enough to try and feed there, and skeletal remains of things which, at one time, may have been bunnies going in but something revolting coming out. Both house and Mort had been part of the town for as long as anyone could remember, and there was talk about town as to how each had survived as long. Dark magic for the house, sheer bloodyheadedness for Mort.
From time to time a do-gooder (usually a Paladin in training) would visit the town, hear about Old Mort, and try to bring him back to the Light. Or High Elf maidens, glowing with Octarine and Arcane powers, out on quests for the High Mages Dalaran, would take it upon themselves to offer comfort to the poor, lonely old man. None of them were ever seen again.
Then The Scourge.
Word reached the village of horrible things happening in other villages such as Brill. Entire households dropping dead, only to rise again as mindless zombies, killing anything and anyone in their path. Robed strangers performing dark rituals in graveyards summoning foul creatures made from the decayed parts of multiple corpses. If it wasnt for the fact that Mort hadnt left town in decades, many would have thought he was behind this.
It was heard that Prince Arthas, son of the King and prize student of Uther Lightbringer himself was working to put an end to this blight and a cheer went up throughout town. Arthas! Three cheers for Arthas! they all said over pints in the local pub.
Bollix to Arthas. Mort said from outside. And bollix taller yew as well. Yer all dead, and yer tew daft ter know
There are many things that can be said about Mort. Quite a few unpleasant adjectives would work nicely, as a matter of fact. But stupid? Not one of them. He saw clear as day what was happening and what WOULD happen. Ever the pessimist, but rarely wrong. On this night, while Frank sipped a pint with the other townsfolk in the pub, Mort made his way out of town, pushing a wheelbarrow as fast as his scrawny legs could move him. He didnt know for sure what it was that was causing the dead to rise, but one thing he did know: in each town people began dying shortly after shipments of grain arrived, and hed seen wagons rolling into town just today. He FELT the death in them. When youd poisoned so many people in your day, you got a sixth sense about such things. Someone had once tried to poison Mort Bits of them were found strewn across the countryside for weeks.
Hed bade goodbye to his home, his sanctuary for the last 130 years (yes, he really was quite old), packed up what he could fit in his rusted wheelbarrow, and high tailed it. Mort didnt bother trying to warn anyone. It wasnt just because he knew no one would listen to him, it was because he rather liked the idea that every man, woman and child would soon be worse off than being dead.
Mort hummed a happy little tune as he walked. He smiled. He hadnt smile this much since that young child had wandered into his garden after a ball. It had walked in on one side, cute and curious, and slithered out the other as a horrible monstrosity.
As he thought more and more about what was to become of the town and Stratholme, Mort actually giggled.
Some days later, in another town, Mort heard about what befell Stratholme, how Arthas had put every living soul to the sword and set fire to nearly every home, building and farmhouse.
Ah, good lad. Peraps Arthas aint sbad after all Mort said to himself.
Every hero has his rewards, and every mean spirited old coot gets what is coming to themEdit
More or less.
Nearly a week had passed since the destruction of Stratholme. During that time, Mortimer had been overtaken by caravans of displaced farmers and townsfolk from across the kingdom, making their way West from Lorderan. Since none of them knew him, many had offered food and drink to the Poor Old Man and his burden. To repay their kindness, Mort had offered them bread baked from grains he had nicked before his departure.
Yes, he was a complete and total bastard.
While passing through Silverpine Forest, an area he had visited several times in his youth, Mortimer ran into new denizens lurking about in the shadows. Great, black wolves, perverted by dark magics and grown to frightening dimensions, preying upon lone refugees and anyone foolish enough to go into the woods alone. By and large, these beasts left Mort well enough alone. Professional courtesy.
Word eventually reached his ears of the unspeakable betrayal of Prince Arthas, the murder of the King, and the fall of Lorderan to the Scourge. This had an odd effect on Mort. For the first time in all his years, pushing on nearly 150 years, he felt Something. The King? Murdered by Arthas? Mort had always hated the king, sure. Hed hated the kingdom. But it was HIS kingdom. HE was supposed to be the blight upon society. Most of his life had been spent finding new and different ways to torment, to subvert the normal, every day existence of his fellow man. At first, he had even appreciated the revolting beauty of the pestilence which had taken hold. But this was somehow different. This was more He couldnt put his finger on it. One thing he knew for sure, was that he was angry. Its one thing to knock off some annoying Paladin, or poison the odd traveler. It was another thing entirely to destroy the kingdom.
If there was one thing Mort couldnt stand, it was being out done. Not by some Johnny Come Lately.
He made his way without incident past the spires of what was now being called Shadowfang Keep, and noticed the howls in the night and felt the rabid minds not far off of Arugals handiwork. A few times he ran across what remained of villagers who had met, first hand, the source of those howls.
The Dalaran Mages ignored him as he passed their outposts on the border of Hillsbrad. He was, after all, just another refugee. And of course, he offered them all some lovely fresh baked bread...
After what seemed to Mort an eternity of walking he reached Tarren Mill. A few bands of displaced citizens had managed to make it that far as well, and the tavern was full to bursting people. Leaving his wheelbarrow hidden in a bush, Mort pushed his way inside, leaning heavily and unnecessarily on his walking stick, and was offered a stool at the bar.
The barkeep was a jovial sort, red in the nose and face from nipping a few too many tastes of his own product. Conversation was loud and business was brisk.
So, where do you hail from, old man? the barkeep yelled over the din.
Eh? WHUT?! Oh wull, until a few weeks ago, I were from Stratholme.
At mention of that name conversation in the pub stopped, and all eyes turned toward Mort.
Here You poor, poor man said a women down the bar, you must have lost everything and everyone dear to you.
Not one to miss an opportunity, Mort feigned a small sob. Oh Aye, aye. All me kin. Me ancestral home. All gone. Or Worse. Still, stiff upper lip, wot? I got ter keep going! Im needed now, ye know. I were the healer in me town, and theres much that will need doing, Im sure.
I knew someone from Stratholme! piped in another person at the bar, a weasel faced man with a voice that made Mort want to retch. Used to tell me tales about this rotten old bugger what made folks lives miserable. Real bastard, he was.
I heard tell of him as well! said another. What was his name? Mark?
Mortimer said Mort. Aye, lived in tha big old house outside town.
THAT was the name! Rotten old codger, I heard. Real tosser.
Oh aye, aye said Mort. Thats him to a T. He was grinning. When Mort grinned, people died.
Still said the barman, got what he had coming, didnt he? Probably put to the sword by Arthas, Damn his black soul to hell. Thomas, you had business with that bloke in Stratholme what sold fabrics an such. Ever heard about Old Mort?
Course I did! Folks round those parts used ter say Mort had been dead for years but were too STUPID to know his heart had stopped!
Hoots of laughter from about the pub.
Some said Mort was old in the day of their grandfathers and grandmothers. Ugly old thing, too. Curdled milk to cheese just by looking at it. More laughter at Morts expense.
Hang on said the barman, this keg is spent. Someone give us a hand with a new one, will you?
Oh please, allow me said Mort. Least I could do to repay your kindness, yeh know. Actually, speaking of, this next round is on me. Ive a few gold saved up, and with no grandchildren left to leave it to, its the least I could do. Cheers went up throughout the pub. Matter of fact, until this keg run dry, its on me!
For nearly an hour there was considerable drinking and toasts raised to That Kind Old Man. There was also more tales of Mort told, more general agreement that he got what was coming to him.
When the cask had run nearly dry the barman rose to get a fresh one from the back. Here, let me said Mort. You just finish that pint in your hand. Whats that make? Four? Five? Ah, theres a good man. In their inebriated state no one took notice of how this seemingly frail old thing easily hefted the fresh keg into place. Nor that, before lifting, he had pulled the stopper and poured in the contents of a small, black bottle.
This one is marked Special Reserve, Barman. Fine brew, is it?
It is, indeed! Arrived yesterday from a master brewer friend of mine. Bit expensive though, old Here, whats your name again?
Frank lied Mort. All me friends call me Frank. And tonight, money is no object as nothing is too good for all me new mates, now is it? Let me pass a fresh round to everyone and well raise a toast, shall we?
More cheers rose up and lots of What a nice old man! Did he say his name was Frank? Heard about him
Once everyone had a mug of their own, Mort went into the back and poured himself one from a fresh, untapped Special Reserve keg and rejoined the crowd. Now, Id like you all ta raise yer mugs and join me, if you will. To old friends missed, and new friends found!
CHEERS! As a whole, each and every mug was drained down to the last drop, including Morts.
Ah he said, that was a fine pint, if I do say. Has a familiar bite. Yeh know, I said to myself coming in here, I said Mort, old son the conversation not only fell, it plummeted. I said Im sure theres some fine ale to be had in there, and surely to be some good folk to share it with. Of course I was dead wrong, as all I found was you sad lot of stupid sods. Ye see The stories yeh heard about Auld Mort? They werent all of it. Not by arf. What a mean, rotten old bastard he is? Or, should say, I am? Oh Im much, much worse.
Realization spread across the faces of each patron, outward from around Mort like dominoes. The barman tried to stand and was met by Morts walking stick, striking him so hard he performed two full rotations before crashing to the floor. Thomas and several others stood and moved menacingly toward Mort who just smiled and counted down from five.
There was silence for several seconds, followed by the sound of bodies slumping in the chairs or falling to the floor, followed by Morts giggling.
Pillocks, the LOT of yew! Stepping into the back room, Mort poured himself another pint and drained it with a happy sigh. Good brew, I must say. Packs a wee punch, it does. Id swear Ive had this before, tho he said, and looked at the side of the keg. And he froze.
There, with the name of the brewer, was the name of its town of origin.
Brewed from only the finest grains in Brill! Dated a few weeks earlier. Mort did some quick and rather paniced calculations. This would have been put in to ferment right around the time of the spread of the Scourge.
Mort stood rock still. Fear held him in place like a vice. No, not me, he thought. Not me, not one of them mindless THINGS!
Then he heard it. The wheezing. The shuffling of feet. He turned, and looked square in the dented, pale face of the barman. His jaw hung at an impossible angle from where Mort had struck him, and his eyes were rolled up into his head. Behind him stood, or rather lurched, Thomas and the other bar patrons, staring blankly about.
Backing away, Mort tripped over the keg. But the recently risen dead seemed completely uninterested in him and began a slow, shambling walk out the door. Soon screams filled the night as these wretched creatures began tearing into the town guards and other townsfolk. There are sounds worse than screams. There is the sound of eating.
Stepping cautiously into the night, Mort saw someone. Some THING moving toward him. It floated above the ground in a mist of darkness, eyes glowing, spreading decay as it went. As it neared he could now hear it speaking.
It seemed to be counting down from five.
And that, you might say, was the End of Mort.
More accurately though, it was just the beginning.
The continued tale of Mort, as he begins a new lifeEdit
Or, more to the point, he was aware.
He didnt know where he was, only that it was cold and damp and he lay on something hard. Cautiously he moved a finger. Then his arm. So far, so good. He wasnt dead. He tried to remember where he'd been. Slowly he remembered an inn. A pub.
Bugger all, I must have had quite a few, he said to himself. Still, with that much ale and that much he couldn't remember... One thing he DID know was that he should also have a hangover to end all hangovers, if it was enough to cause him to black out like that. No, wait, he'd only had 2 or 3 pints, not his usual 10 or 20.
Mort experimented some more. Toes? Wiggling. Right. He focused on his head. Neck? Working. OK, now were cooking with rocket fuel.
Should he test his eyes? You know, open them? Best not to rush things, he thought. Never was a morning person. There was something off, though, and he couldnt quite place his finger on it. What was he so afraid of? Mort sighed.
And of course, that was when hed found he hadn't really been breathing. You never really notice that you breath. No one is ever really aware of it since it's just reflex, but when you have STOPPED doing something which you've been doing all your life, it eventually sinks in, as it has for Mort.
Breathing continued to utterly fail to happen.
He wasn't holding his breath, either. He just wasn't breathing.
"Errrr" he said out loud.
Further inventory was needed. He listened. Ah, yes, that was something else. His heart had, as it were, also failed to beat. Again, one never quite notices such a thing until it's stubbornly failing to happen.
Mort's eyes opened wide and he REMEMBERED. The pub. His special additive. Killing the barkeep. Brill ale. Seeing the...
How did he know what that was? He'd heard about the idea of a Lich before. Anyone who dabbled in Dark Doings knew, logically, what a lich was, but no one he knew had ever seen one and lived.
"You didnt either, yeh silly old pillock" he said.
Sitting up, now he could take in where he was. It was a crypt. Others lay on stone slabs near him, men and women, partially decomposed. One of them moved and a low groan escaped her. Yes, now he remembered. The thoughts of another mind in his own. The shambling armies of Undead. Falling upon townspeople, guards and anyone else who got in their way. The feeding.
"BUGGER ALL! I ate a PALERDIN!"
Mort spat and tried to wipe the taste from his mouth but there was no saliva to work with. Of all the revolting things he could now remember, he just HAD to have gone and eaten a Paladin, didn't he? I mean, that Lich in his mind just HAD to make them eat one of THEM, didn't he? Killing a Paladin, sure, no big deal, he'd done that plenty of times, but EAT one? Why not poop? I mean torture the Undead minions at your command, make them dance, sing "I'm a little teapot", but eat a Paladin? That was just wrong.
"Pull yerself together, Mort old son."
There was some steps ahead of him leading upward and, he presumed, out. That was as good a place to start as any, and he may as well get moving. Look on the plus side, he thought, at least you're not shambling anymore. Couldnt abide shambling.
Some of the others were beginning to get up as well. One woman sat on her slab and quietly sobbed.
"I... I ate them" she said.
"Wut, a Palerdin? Aye, me as well, but ye'll get over it. Just gargle raw sewage, tha' should get the taste out an' replace it wif summin' better."
"No. I mean, yes, but I mean I killed. My family. My children. My husband."
Mort nearly said something very Mort-ish along the lines of "Stop yer whimperin' ye cow! So ye killed yer kin? I killed me own mum ages ago, never looked back!" But oddly enough what left his mouth was "Aye, lass Aye. It weren't yew wut did tha'. It were a Lich. Ya didn't know what ye did, now, did ye?"
Then he sat, put his arm over her shoulders and she sobbed dry tears on his chest. "There, lass. It weren't you what did that. They knew that in the end, and they're in finer places now than us. Cry now, luv, theres a good girl. Yer alright. Mort's here, Let it all out."
They sat like that for a full five minutes. In that time, several other cadavers had gotten up, looked around, some muttering, and walked out.
"All done, lass? Thats good. Now, yew listen ter Auld Mort. It were a Lich what did that, killed yer kin. It were a Lich what made you thus, ye see? Ye didn't do nothin, but now yeh CAN do somethin. We all can" Mort said softly.
"I don't understand. What can I do? What is there? I'm dead! Undead!!"
"Aye, y'are. But ye walk, don't ye? And I have in mind something, oh aye. Something Mort is a might good at yeh see? One of me favorite words of all time."
She looked at him with green glowing eyes in the semi darkness, a question written on her decayed features.
"Revenge, Miss. Revenge. Whatever it was wut did this to us? We can make the bastard pay and pay dear, can't we?"
Gradually her face changed. From sadness to blank. Her jaw set and Mort could hear the faint grinding.
"Yes. Revenge. Thank you, Mort. I think I like the sound of that word very much."
She hugged him, then stood and ran up the steps.
"Wull slap my head and call me Margret! Did she just hug me?!?"
Even for Mort, sometimes a simple action can have shocking consequences.Edit
Well, there was nothing for it. He was dead. Err Undead. Mort stood, straightened his filthy robes, and walked up the steps. If there was one thing he was, other than a complete bastard, it was pragmatic.
Stepping out into the dreary light, Mort took in his surroundings. Others were leaving the crypt and being greeted by a bald Undead standing along a path leading away and into a wretched looking town. As each one spoke to him, they nodded then hurried down the path. Near the man's feet was a pile of weapons and armor; daggers, swords, maces and off to the side some staves and shields.
"About time you woke up. We were ready to toss you into the fire with the others, but it looks like you made it" the man said.
"Bugger off" Mort replied, "who the bleedin' hell'r yew?"
"I am Mordo, the caretaker of the crypt of Deathknell. And you are the Lich King's slave no more. Speak with Shadow Priest Sarvis in the chapel at the base of the hill, he will tell you more of what you must know."
"Shadder Priest? Whut ye wants me ter talk to a Priest fer? Last rights? I'm already dead ye pillock."
Mordo simply stared. "I said speak with Sarvis, old man. Piss off."
Grumbling, Mort grabbed a rather mangy looking mace and made his way down the path toward what had obviously once been a chapel. The weight of the weapon in his hand felt reassuring and Mort decided what he needed right now was to smack someone with it. The area bustled with activity as other recently risen ran in and out. He walked in and saw a rather run down fellow along with other Undead at the back, standing about and issuing orders to those who spoke to him.
"Ere, I were told ter come find ye" Mort said. He couldnt help but notice Service seemed to have lost his jaw.
"We Forsaken are at war with the Lich King's army of the Scourge: necromantically raised armies of the undead, foul beasts of the north, and tormented spectres."
"How're ye doin' tha' then?" Mort asked.
"Pardon?" Sarvis was rather taken aback by this festering old man's impunity.
"Talkin' wi'out a jaw an' yer tongue danglin' like a bull's nether region. I mean, I 'ave a ard 'ime ooin' ih aike iss, but you sound just fine."
Sarvis sighed and pressed on.
"The northern part of the village has become overrun with the Mindless Ones, and they must be destroyed. Destroy them, Priest, show them no mercy, our former brothers and sisters as they might be. The Fallen are nothing but The Lich King's slaves."
"We who?" Mort askd.
"Foresaken" replied Sarvis.
"Foreskin? Look, YEW might be sommat whut got cut off the end of a..."
Mort shook his head, dislodging a large beetle from his ear. Howd that get in there, he thought.
"Nobody asked ME if I were fornuthin! I don't hold with bein' forced inter anything wi'out a proper ... HANG ON, what yer mean PRIEST!?!"
"Yes, Priest" said Sarvis. "You're a Priest now. Each of us, as we awake from the Lich King's control, choose our path. Some walk up from the crypt and instantly attack the nearest creature with magic, their fate to be a Mage or Warlock. Others pick up a sword and shield, becoming Warriors, the strong hand of our armies. Or daggers, killing silently and without mercy, thus becoming one of our deadly Rogues. Upon waking, your first act decided your fate and your place in our numbers."
"I din't do naught but talk ter this woman who were cryin'! I never did nothin' priestish in 150 years and Im not about ter begin, ye git. Theres got ter be some mistake som'wheres."
Sarvis sighed. Theres always one in the crowd who just HAS to be difficult. "Look, you did something healing, regardless of if you knew it or not. Now, the northern part of the village has become overrun with the Mindless Ones, and they must be destroyed. Destroy them, show them no mercy, our former brothers and sisters as they might be. The Fallen are nothing but The Lich King's slaves."
"How do I do that, then? Just walk over an' say 'Hallo, yer Mindless, I'm 'fraid ye've got ter die'? Or whut, hits 'em with this mace? Listen, mate, me arms ain't whut they used ter be. I couldn't break wind with this." Mort could, in fact, inflict a fair amount of damage with this mace, but he was irritable right now and didnt feel like taking orders.
"You SMITE them" said Sarvis.
"Look, are you going to stand there repeating everything I say to you, or go out and do as I say? When you see a mindless one, think to yourself 'SMITE!' It'll come naturally. Now get out there and start killing!"
Oh, there will be killing alright, me'laddo, Mort thought to himself looking at Sarvis. I'll make SURE theres some killing, and youre tops on the list.