Year: 624

Rivendare stared blankly into space as he rode silently to the Scarlet Enclave, not saying a word to the four death knight escorts who accompanied him to his new station at Acherus. He was trying to distance himself from his own pain. Finally, he'd been reassigned to a necropolis – the goal he'd had in mind for seven years. And now, it was the wrong necropolis. There were only two major necropoli, where an important death knight such as himself would go, only two in all of Azeroth, and he'd somehow had the rotten luck to be assigned the wrong one. All his work, for nothing. Everything he'd done to try to convince Kel'Thuzad and the Lich King that he belonged in a higher position than a lowly fortress in Stratholme, everything he'd done to persuade them to reassign him, had worked; yet it had failed, for now he had no backup plan – no way to convince them to move him to Naxxramas. Even in undeath, the world was out to break his heart, again and again.

At least he'd be facing off with Scarlet Crusaders instead of brooding in the back room of the Slaughterhouse. Fighting would take his mind off of Melanie, hopefully. It would at least keep him occupied until Naxxramas left – scheduled to occur a week later. From time to time, Titus remembered this, and deep down, he wanted to cry, but there were no tears left in him. The Scourge had long since beaten that out of him – rather, Arthas had. The Lich King himself was the only one who knew of the inner pain that drove Baron Rivendare's fury.

In all honesty, Titus wasn't sure whether Arthas was being kind or cruel to him: on one hand, he knew full well of his deepest desire to just be near Melanie, and yet did not move him to Naxxramas – or, was he aware? Perhaps he didn't care and had forgotten. On the other hand, sometimes the Lich King's whispers would respond to thoughts of Blaumeux by being as distracting as possible, forcing the death knight back onto a more relevant train of thought – perhaps this wasn't even intentional. He hadn't done that in a long time, though, and by now Rivendare had taught himself to try to focus on other things if he caught himself thinking of Naxxramas or of Melanie.

XXX

"You're quiet, Titus," Darion said. Rivendare shrugged. "Still warming up to Acherus?" A hesitation, then another shrug. Mograine was getting irritated. It was a particularly dull moment in the necropolis, and his new guest was not talking to him. "What, you won't talk to me, just because I'm not your beloved banshee Anasta-"

"I do not love Anastari." Titus' tone was sharp as a knife, his stare just as piercing. "Never suggest otherwise again."

Bemused, Darion muttered, "I didn't mean 'beloved' in that sense…" The word love never even occurred to Mograine that way. It had taken exclusively the meaning it would have in the statement that one loved to slaughter. Why Rivendare would interpret it any other way was beyond him.

Titus just remained quiet for a moment. "My apologies for my outburst… Highlord." He forced himself to add the title. He was jealous of Darion, who would be going to Naxxramas soon, to replace his recently deceased father.

They dropped the subject as an unmounted death knight came to them, a young female night elf. "The war has begun, Highlord."

"Excellent," Darion said, "The Scarlets don't stand a chance. Speak to Thalanor – he'll put you on a gryphon and send you off to Prince Valanar. Suffer well, sister." He turned to Rivendare. "You'd best be off to the crypt, Titus. They'll need your leadership."

XXX

Titus wiped the blood from his brow as he entered the crypt, where he'd help coordinate and direct the assault. A small, sadistic grin was hidden under the blue scarf – in killing, he'd forgotten. For now.

"Welcome, your Lordship," the vampiric elf said.

"Greetings, Keleseth."

They set to work, plotting the downfall of the Crusade. It was not long before death knights began to show up, looking for new orders. A tauren man mentioned how he would never understand the Scarlet thought process.

"My theory is that they lack higher brain function," Titus said, "unable to logically assess a situation and calculate an outcome." He shook his head. "I must admit I enjoy our exchanges with them. Some of the most tragic moments in human history have come of our battles against the Crusade, and yet, here we are, again, locked in combat with them. They have a death wish – I'd slay them myself, but I'm a bit busy. It would be so rude of us to deny them a chance to serve the Lich King… Fulfill their death wish for me, won't you?"

XXX

The forces were gathering outside Light's Hope chapel. Rivendare looked into the scrying orb, watching the death knights already gathered – the youngest of which almost had to be literally held back by Darion to keep them from charging in prematurely. The sky was orange with smoke and fire. Titus finished his preparations and was about to head out to the battlefield, when a messenger caught him.

"Baron Rivendare! There's been a change of plans. Darion will be staying here. You are to report to Naxxramas at once."

If Titus' heart had still been beating, it would have stopped then. Could it be? At long last? "Naxxramas? Right away."

As he mounted a skeletal gryphon to head out to Naxxramas – his horse would be summoned in later – he heard a voice in the distance: "Soldiers of the Scourge, death knights of Acherus, minions of the darkness: hear the call of the Highlord!"

XXX

Titus arrived in Naxxramas. The horrors he saw meant nothing; he ignored all of them entirely. He tried to hold back his excitement, hide it from view. He stopped to check in with Kel'Thuzad, keeping the meeting short – he wasn't there to talk to the lich. Every moment was excruciating; he was so close! As soon as he was dismissed, he made a beeline for the Horsemen's assembly, where three death knights awaited his arrival. One, the female, walked toward him.

She was wearing a helmet, but her slender, elegant form identified her. Rivendare knew at once who she was but a part of him couldn't quite believe it. She stopped right in front of him. "Titus. It's been a long time." Oh, that voice! Twisted by undeath but still music to his ears!

With a trembling hand, he reached out and lightly, gently touched her shoulder, as though afraid that she would vanish as soon as he touched her, but he needed to verify that she was actually there. Then, he carefully removed the helmet, and it all became real for him. The helm clattered to the floor. Titus smiled; Blaumeux's face, while gaunt and pale, with her eyes glowing unnaturally, was still beautiful, at least to him.

He put his arms around her and hugged her tenderly. "Oh, Melanie, you have no idea how sweet it is to see your face again; to hear your voice! How long I've waited!" Blaumeux didn't react initially. She was slightly confused; displays of affection were uncommon for the Scourge, and when they did occur, they were just a pat on the back, or rarely a brisk, rough hug. Nothing like this. Yet, it brought back memories. A faint smile twitched at the edge of her lips.

Rivendare stopped hugging her and looked at the other two horsemen. "Zel, Kor! It's been years."

"Welcome to Naxxramas, lad," the dwarf greeted him. Zeliek gritted his teeth and looked the other way, refusing to speak to Titus.

Under the scarf, Rivendare was wearing the broadest grin he'd displayed since before his death. "The four of us are back together, again. Just as it should be."

"I beg to differ," Zeliek muttered, "You are not the people I knew as a child."

"Shut up 'fore I shove me boot down yer throat," Kor'thazz threatened.

Titus just laughed. It was not the ending Thomas and Marian would have wanted for their son, nor was it the ending he would have dreamed of. Baron Titus Rivendare had been twisted into an evil fiend, stationed in a hellish necropolis.

But he was with his friends and the girl of his dreams, and that was all that mattered to him. For once, he felt truly at home.

THE END.