Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sorrow and the Fury

Can also be read on fanfiction.net. Please leave a review if you check it out!

One of the most interesting characters to come out of Cataclysm—introduced in the Fangs of the Father rogue legendary quest chain—was Wrathion, the Black Prince. Players who do the quest chain in the Badlands can learn of his origin, and everyone can work with him in Pandaria at level 90. His story is ongoing, but I've found him to be a very unique and intriguing character. You like him, but are wary of what he isn't telling you.

It's easy to sort of let it slip your mind that he's probably only about a year old, maybe less. He's obviously an extraordinary individual, but that doesn't change the fact that he's still young (especially for a dragon), and he's been through a lot. This story I've written is both for this aspect of Wrathion, as well as many of the feelings I've had to deal with in the last couple years of my personal life.

Please enjoy!


The journey had been a long one, and he suspected he overestimated his own strength when he first embarked on the journey. After slipping aboard a few ships to make it back to the Eastern Kingdoms, he opted to fly the remaining distance to the Badlands. But his wings were not so big or so strong yet. He all but collapsed onto a still-smoldering plateau to catch his breath, his tiny body heaving with labored gasps for many minutes.

When at last he felt a bit more rested, he rolled over onto his tummy, and peered down at the scarred earth under his feet. Father, he thought, and a mixture of fury and loneliness rushed over him. He wanted a parent now. To cuddle up to, to feel safe with, to trust with his safety. But no—he had been doomed from his very conception to never have that. The unfairness of it all prompted a helpless roar of anguish, squeaky and small at first, that continued even as he changed. As he morphed, his body growing in size and form, so too did his cry, ending in a raw, pained sob, the voice of a young man.

His eyes, piercing red but tearless, looked blearily ahead.

The landscape was as dry and bleak as his heart, in that moment.

Now in the guise of a human, Wrathion pushed himself up into a standing position, and absently dusted the grit and sand from his gloves and knees. The scorching heat might have been unbearable to most, but black dragons were not affected by such things. Indeed, Wrathion had learned there had been an Obsidian Dragonshrine in Dragonblight, located at the base of a volcano whose lava still churned. Under the earth, nestled by the lava… this was where black dragons liked it best. And here was Wrathion, the only remaining black dragon, and he had never curled up in the warmth of a volcano before.

He clenched his fists, a small growl escaping his lips, before he composed himself. He knew this would be an emotional journey; it was why he dismissed his many guards before leaving. He could not let them see him like this. Still, Wrathion had hoped he was above all this. He didn’t love his father, or anyone else in his family. That was why they all had to die… right?

But there was a thin line between the mind and the heart, the logic and the instinct, that Wrathion could not overcome, and that was why he was here, instead of Pandaria. He rather preferred Pandaria to the rest of Azeroth. What he’d seen of Azeroth was war-torn, or—as the case was here—ravaged by Deathwing. The scars of the Cataclysm would not heal quickly. Even now he saw ugly, molten, black-and-red lines across the landscape, as if Deathwing had vomited his hate onto the land, destroying everything he happened to touch. It was not how the Earthwarder began, but it was how he had died, and how he would forever be remembered.

My legacy will be better than this.

Wrathion transformed again, and in his true form—a tiny black whelpling—he fluttered off, down to where his instinct tugged him. He saw a Horde settlement and opted to give it a wide berth as he flew past. His real destination lay northwest… in the Ruins of Kargath. It did not take long to arrive, and Wrathion changed back into his human form once more as he landed, surveying the scene.

Kargath had been rebuilt not too far away, but the original town had been devastated in the Cataclysm. The ruins now were a cemetery. Wrathion stepped carefully around the many tiny skeletons of whelps that littered the ground as he walked… skeletons that could easily have been his own, the skeletons of his numerous brothers and sisters he never knew. There were so many, making the path difficult, and as Wrathion spied one hidden in the sand too late, he stumbled to avoid crushing it under his feet. He put out a hand to catch his fall on what looked, out of the corner of his eye, like a ruined building.

He gasped.

The first thing he felt was her presence, warm and comforting, even from within the confines of his egg. Everything was dark, but so long as he felt her close he knew everything would be all right. She spoke to him frequently, alternating between soft coos of how she would protect him… to angry snarls of rage, against the red dragons, the world, everything. She swore her captors would pay, and that is how he was named.

“My little Wrathion—that is to be your name,” she hissed, and he trembled within his egg at the fury and love with which she said it. “You are stronger than all the others! Those red dragons will one day know your wrath, and you will lead our kin to slaughter them for what they have done to us!”

At the time, he didn’t completely understand what she meant. He didn’t yet know what wrath was.

Not, at least, until she died.

Wrathion staggered a little at the memory, and looked up wildly. What he initially thought was a beam from some destroyed building was, in fact, a bone. A giant rib, arching towards the sky. He had to step back a few feet to take it all in, and his breathing quickened in realization. Time and scavengers had easily stripped the corpse clean, leaving the skeleton of the black dragon Nyxondra to bleach in the scorching sun. In death, his mother was pristine. Pure. Free.

Picking his way towards her head, Wrathion carefully sat in front of the enormous skull and tried to peer into her eye sockets. He tried to imagine her alive, in his mind, but he realized he never saw his mother alive. He had been in an egg the whole time. All he could imagine was what other adult black dragons looked like.

“Well, Mother,” he said, somewhat awkward, but not knowing what else to do, “I’m here, now. I wonder if you can hear me, wherever you are.”

Wrathion wasn’t sure what he thought happened after death. Many of the mortal races spoke of an afterlife. The Pandaren spoke of a bridge that spirits had to cross to go into such a realm. He kind of liked that idea, that there was a bridge of no return that separated this cruel world from the other, untainted one. Maybe now, his mother sat on the other side of that bridge to watch her only remaining child, and see what he was doing now.

But then he recalled his mother, his siblings, his father… and realized they were far from untainted. The Old Gods had corrupted Deathwing, and thus every single one of them, down to the blood. Even newborn black whelps had come into the world plagued with fury and evil in their hearts. Wrathion would have been one of them, if it had not been for a certain red dragon and her efforts…

He bit his lip, unsure. Maybe in death, the corruption goes away…?

“Mother, I… came to visit you,” he continued. “I thought I could hear you calling me. Maybe it was just me, though. Maybe I wanted to imagine you still wanted me. But I wasn’t born the child you were hoping for, I imagine. You wanted to fill me with your wrath… but I’m not that angry. Not like you were.”

Even within his egg, Wrathion knew what had happened to him and his mother. Nyxondra had been captured by the red dragon, Rheastrasza, and forced to lay eggs for an experiment. Wrathion and his siblings were experimented on, in a desperate attempt to create a black dragon free from the Old God taint that Deathwing had passed to every member of his dragonflight. Wrathion had felt the pain his siblings went through, and writhed in sadness when he felt them die. His mother’s agonized roars shook his eggshell when another one of his siblings was taken from her side, and another one died to the experiment.

Wrathion had been the only egg to successfully become purified, by some ancient titan device. In the meantime, Nyxondra had escaped, rousing her remaining children to her side and attempting to roost in the ruins here. But Rhea had her killed… and as soon as she breathed her last, Wrathion knew he was alone.

With a trembling hand, Wrathion reached out to touch the skull’s nose, petting it carefully. “Your captor is slain, Mother,” he said softly. As if somehow that would be a comfort to the skeletal dragon. Deathwing had sought out Wrathion’s egg, but Rhea had kept it hidden, sacrificing herself in the process. “Rhea was killed by Father. But I’m still here. And I don’t have to do Father’s bidding anymore.”

In a way, Wrathion was grateful to Rhea, for freeing him of taint. If she had not, Wrathion would be dead like all the other black dragons, or even out still causing pain and suffering to the mortals of the world. But her actions… enslaving his mother, tormenting her and her children before killing them… was it worth it? He couldn’t say yes, but he couldn’t say no either.

“I’m free, Mother. And so are you. It’s better to sleep like this than to suffer, isn’t it?” He continued to stroke the skeleton as he pondered the course of his short life. “I’ve had to take care of myself. I’ve had to do terrible things to remain free. But I want the world to be a better place, too. I don’t want to live in a world where war destroys everything. I saw what Father did. This world deserves better.”

He finally let his gloved hand drop, and pushed himself back up to his feet. He realized he was trembling, even though the air was blistering hot, and he stared at his quaking hands. “I-I’m better than Father. I’m better than you,” he whispered. “You would have made me hate this world. I thought you loved me, Mother. Why would you want a life like that for me?”

The question made him pause. Wrathion blinked slowly, staring at Nyxondra’s lifeless eye sockets. Maybe… that was why she had to die, too. If she had somehow survived, she would have treated Wrathion cruelly, raising him to be a servant of Deathwing. Who knows, the black dragonflight itself might have experimented on him also. He’d heard stories of the atrocities the black dragons and their allies committed. If things didn’t happen the way they had happened, Wrathion would not be who he was today.

The hopelessness of the situation suddenly dawned upon him, overwhelming. He had to be born an orphan, the only one of his kind left, in order to be free. He had to kill the rest of his family to ensure they wouldn’t harm him or anyone else.

But worst of all… he had to spend the rest of his life never knowing that feeling of warmth and security ever again. He would never know what it was like to look into his mother’s eyes, to touch noses with her and cuddle close to her, and know he was loved. Even if Nyxondra was tainted, she was still his mother, and in her maternal instinct knew how to curl around her eggs and keep them near. Even in her insanity, she still knew how to love her eggs.

How to love him.

A scream of grief tore its way from his throat, taking even him by surprise, and in his fury he brought his clenched fist down at Nyxondra’s skull. He wanted so badly to hit her, but as his fist drew near, it slowed and simply rested to a gentle stop against the bleached bone. Tears filled his eyes, despite his best efforts to keep them back. Tears were for mortals, weren’t they?

No… tears, grief… they were for the living.

Wrathion sank to his knees again, and in doing so transformed. He shrank into his whelp form, and like a baby to its mother curled into the shade of Nyxondra’s skeleton, nuzzling close.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” he whispered, closing his eyes and pretending she was still alive, and could still hear him. “It’s better this way, isn’t it? I miss you, though. It’d be easier if I didn’t… but I do.”

His weakness appalled him, but in the end, he was still a child. An extraordinary and intelligent child, a prince of the black dragonflight… but a child nonetheless.

Surely there was no shame in a child wanting to say goodbye to his mother.


Final notes:

This story was written in memory of my own mother, who passed away 3 years ago. While I certainly did not have the same relationship with her as Wrathion did with Nyxondra in the story, I think my feelings about losing a mother were able to be expressed through the story well, even while I explored the character of Wrathion himself. The title of the story is taken from the quest of the same name in the Badlands, where you are asked by Rhea to slay Nyxondra.

Missing and loving you, Mommy. May all my real life achievements continue to make you proud.
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