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Looking Beyond

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Nenicirene's picture

I have written before of how I survived the Fall of Gnomeregan by the barest of margins. While thinking about this matter of late, I have had an insight. I didn't survive that night. I died.

I'm not entirely sure why I never realized it before. I guess it must just be that that was my first death, and I did not yet know that it was possible to transcend mortality or what the experience felt like. I had heard of the great heroes of the distant war coming back from beyond the grave to lead on their armies, but had dismissed it as mere exaggeration and propaganda tied on to stories of near-total defeats and pyrrhic victories. I had not yet realized that presence of the Burning Legion had warped our reality and rent the shroud between the quick and the dead.

I just sat down to work out the numbers. I'd never done it before, because I must have known what I would find. It's obvious enough to anyone with even a smattering of engineering know-how. That blast wave that came up the tunnel and caught me should have crushed me like a bug, and it did. I was smashed against the plate-iron floor with enough force to turn my brain to jelly.

However, I've always been a stubborn one. I wasn't about to let some stupid explosion kill me, not with the dumb name I had then and not with that broken bottle of juice still needing to be cleaned up before someone stepped on it. (I have also realized that that bottle is one more reason why I have never returned to Gnomeregan. For all my rational intellect, a part believes that I can never truly die as long as I have a task left on this world, and that bottle is the first task that I left unfinished, and shall be the last.)

The chill that I felt wasn't just the snow and the wind—it was my spirit lost on the wrong side of the shroud. I must have instinctively clawed my way back into my body and forced it up, still bleeding, and stumbled the rest of the way out of the passage. Now that I think about it, perhaps no other gnome actually survived the tragedy. All of us who are left may simply be those too mean, too stubborn, or too stupid to stay rightly dead.

Since that night, I've died countless times. It's down to just a tickle. I have accepted death as a part of me and transcended it. All around me, the land is filled others who have done the same. What once mighty heroes alone did is now commonplace. Yet, not all people have the will to fly back and forth between the lands of blood and bone. I met on my travels those who weep for others lost, and I have not the heart to tell them they lost their loves for lack of will. I meet sad ghosts who mourn for their forgotten lives, yet do not know how to crawl back into their carcass and urge it to life once again. I meet undead who only partly completed the process, and hang halfway between life and death, rotting and walking at the same time. All of them I pity, and it fills me with sorrow, for though I may be beyond death, I am not yet beyond life.