They were camped for the night when the skeletons came. It was Ma'shara's watch; the latest in a string of long and meaningless exercises to her mind, and to be painfully honest she'd been giving it less than her full attention. She stared into the dying embers of the fire, not cold enough to be bothered to get up and get more wood, and poked at them with the blade of one of her rapiers, stirring up a brief tongue of flame and incurring a soft-voiced scolding in the back of her mind. I'm not a stick, you know, Shara. In some people's thoughts, I'm an object of worship and reverence.
Yeah, came the sleepy answer from her other hip, where the moonstone in her second rapier's hilt flickered red-gold in the dim firelight. We're important.
Hush, both of you. The response was automatic any more, a reflexive shushing before she forgot herself and started talking out loud to the weapons. You were tempered in hotter fires. She poked a few more times at the embers, as if to emphasize her point, then sheathed her swords, yawning. "How much longer, moth—"
The words died in her throat, as she glanced over to her mother's sleeping form and saw the ghostly white silhouettes beyond her. "Mother! Skeletons!" It was a pointless application of the endless drills in identification that her mother had put her through, to be able to name the incoming menace, but it was one more thing to scream in the hope of waking up the sleeping woman.
One more fruitless thing, it seemed, as the skeletons closed in around them from all sides, commanded by a hulking figure in black. Ma'shara fought, rapiers screaming like banshees for blood in her mind, her own loathing for the abominations fuelling her to new heights, but there were simply too many of them - and far too soon she was forced to her knees, pinned there by skeletal hands. She struggled, heedless of the pain the clutching fingers inflicted with every motion, ignoring the blood running down across her face, refusing to close her eyes against the approach of the figure in black - and still he approached, carrying her mother's battered body in over one shoulder like a lifeless sack of grain. She could hear her mother's voice: Death knight.
Ma'shara. Such a charming child. His voice seemed to echo inside her skull. I don't suppose you're interested in hearing my proposition.
Ma'shara spit at him. "There is no proposition you could possibly make that would interest me, you undead filth, unless it's to give up your cursed half-life and return to the grave where you belong."
The death knight laughed; a hollow, chilling sound. Your father sends his regards. His final regards. He reached out, backhanding Ma'shara across the face. She reeled back with the blow, the skeletal hands loosening with her movement, and suddenly she was free. A sudden, unfamiliar horror sank into the pit of her stomach, overwhelming her anger and grief, and Ma'shara did something she would neither forget nor forgive herself for. She ran.
She ran through the night, leaving everything behind her save for the swords in her hands and the armour on her back, abandoning the camp, her mother's body, and everything she owned to the skeletons and the knight commanding them. And somehow, despite it all, she outran them. When the dawn broke finally through the trees, lighting her path enough for her to see where her feet were going, she collapsed on the ground, the grief and guilt overwhelming her. And something more: a slow spreading coldness that originated where the knight's hand had struck her cheek, drawing power and knowledge away from her, clouding her mind and her thoughts and weakening her body.