More than a month had passed since Zhill set out on his own, and he found himself still without purpose or direction. He had thrown in with a group of goblins which operated a small camp in the southern jungles, selling goods and transportation to lands west. With what little coin he had, Zhill purchase passage and found himself in a sparse plain known as the Barrens. While it was in close proximity to a central stronghold of the Horde, he made a point to avoid being seen by anyone. He had hoped that time alone with his thoughts would bring answers, instead it brought madness.
“We should have killed her!”
“We should have feasted on her lungs and then eaten her brains!”
“That is not who I am. I remember not being like this.”
“We are us! We are what we have become! We must feed!”
“I won’t do that any more. I am not a monster!”
Zhill looked up to find himself at the base of a large hill with no living thing in sight. “What am I doing,” he asked himself. The bond of the Forsaken had weakened to the point where he was only barely cognizant of its presence. Yet it still held him, acting as a lifeline, and he felt much like a man that was starving. Though he had killed beasts for food and drank their blood, it was not the same as taking a living soul. There was some element that was simply not there, even though his belly was full. While he required little sleep, it had evaded him ever since he had last taken a life. Whatever he had become, he sensed now that he was starting to un-become. His body had maintained its strength and form from the game that he hunted. But he felt that some immaterial piece of his being had begun to unravel.
“We only live to kill!”
“There must be more to life than death.”
“We are the Shadow of Death! We kill! We feed!”
“That wasn’t my choice. I won’t live like this anymore.”
“We must feed!”
“Why couldn’t they have just left me dead?”
Zhill’s mind reeled with confusion as he grappled with his own thoughts. The conflicting desires for carnage and peace warred withing his soul, as his body plodded mindlessly forward. He had nearly walked out into the middle of a well-worn trail through the thick forest when his thoughts cleared for a moment. Stepping back behind a tree, he wondered how far he had traveled in his delirium. It was evident that it had been some time as he remembered that night had not yet fallen when he was still in the plains. As he crouched in silence, regathering his composure, the sound of voices echoing off the lush canopy overhead snared his attention.
“People! We can eat them!”
“No,” he argued weakly.
“We must! We hunger! We will eat and then all will be clear! No more confusion, no more wandering! The Shadow of Death returns!”
Zhill breathed heavily as he poured the last of his will into resistance, but it was useless. His hunger for flesh could be denied no longer. Creeping deeper into the woods, he circled behind the voices, stepping onto the trail behind them. As he drew closer, they prattled on ignorantly, unaware of his presence. Two in robes walked on either side of a taller armored man. “A feast fit for a king.” Possessed by his urges, Zhill’s focus was keenly narrowed to the man, his first target; so much so that he was nearly deaf to the whispers interspersed in their conversation.
“He will come?”
“Yes, he was seen near here.”
“How can you be sure?”
“This Shadow could not resist such an opportunity.”
Though his mind understood that he was walking into a trap, his hunger drove him powerfully forward as though he were watching his own body under another’s control. A vicious bite at the man’s neck filled his mouth with the sweet nectar of blood and startled the man’s companions. Zhill ripped a large chunk of flesh from his neck before allowing him to recklessly fall to the ground. Dropping to his knees as he swallowed a mouthful of meat, he was blinded by hunger as he prepared to snap at the man’s neck again. He was not aware of the dwarf weaving a spell at his left until it had been released. Suddenly his flesh was scorched as he was engulfed in flame and blown several yards back. Crawling to his feet, Zhill looked at the dwarf and elf that faced him, as his mind returned.
“You fool,” the elf spat at the other. “We have to trap him. I wont let you escape this time!”
Zhill hurled a dagger at the woman as a bolt of light shot from her hand. As before, when she had struck him in Stormwind, he was seized with such intense pain that it felt as if his very soul were on fire. Drawing upon the last of his strength, Zhill scrambled into the cover of the forest, enduring the agony that came with each step. The elf, it seemed, had fallen to the ground when his blade impaled her shoulder. While the dwarf knelt over her, Zhill set his mind to increasing the distance between them as he was overwhelmed with a new sensation: fear.