As if in a dream, the heart of Lordaeron's undead army crashed forward. Shouted commands were strangely muted. The heavy cavalry poured through the breach, skeletal hooves somehow finding purchase on the wrecked remains of the wall. The Forsaken struggled to squeeze through, the gap sometimes as narrow as four abreast.
Then the defenders' artillery fired with a dull, echoing crack. Man and horse burst into dust and gore where the shells landed. Musketfire erupted like the tapping of distant drums: row after row went down. But these veterans had lived through the horrors of Icecrown. They poured through, unrelenting, in order to give fight to the defenders beyond. The second wave arrived, hurling grapples to the walltop as oil poured down. All at once, the front burst into flame. Still the gunfire peppered them; still the Forsaken charged.
Some reached the walltop, only to be cut down. The defenders weren't human. Those rabid, lupine animals that had been lurking around Silverpine had actually been organized into a fighting force. Where guns and swords failed, tooth and claw tore into the undead army.
The Forsaken surged again, weapons spattered with blood and awash in rainwater. The figures who fought were gray in the mist, their cries somehow silent echoes as they were hacked apart. By now, even the defenders were reeling. They had killed so many: could anything be left?
The first wave of orcs caught the Gilneans by surprise. Horde forces rushed forward over a carpet of corpses, lust for victory in their eyes and throats. Everything was silent now. And then it was gone.
In its place stood the Bulwark, the half-finished fortifications that lined Lordaeron's border with what had become known as the Plaguelands. Master Apothecary Lydon was there, his left arm missing and an enormous gash across his face. He spoke urgently to his people, but no sound came out. He was orchestrating a last-minute defense at the Bulwark, but had little to work with. The heart of the Forsaken army had been sacrificed at Gilneas.
What little remained faced off against an organized force of humans and dwarves marching west, fresh from its victory at Andorhal. The ragged force that remained at the Bulwark had little hope of victory. The rest of the Horde was nowhere in sight.
This isn't real, Sylvanas realized, suddenly aware of her own consciousness observing these ghostly events as they unfolded. She was dead: she could feel it, but her spirit was being held in limbo. What is this?
The last thing she remembered was falling to her demise. These visions—they were like memories of events that hadn't yet happened. Where did they come from? Where was she now?
The capital was suddenly under siege. King Wrynn stood beyond the burning remains of the zeppelin tower, drawing diagrams of the Undercity for his generals. He had stormed the city before; he was confident of victory.
Within the city walls, bonfires raged. Sylvanas seethed; the Alliance was already burning the corpses. No. Wait. She tried to make sense out of the clouded vision. The few Forsaken who remain are throwing themselves into the bonfires, she realized, rather than facing their executioners.
"This isn't real!" Sylvanas announced, her voice echoing in her head and sounding as it had when she had been alive. Were her people really so weak? No—no! Garrosh had all but murdered the best of her troops in his own wasteful campaigns. The Forsaken leadership had been gutted. That was what these visions showed.
The mists closed up completely as the future became indistinct. Sylvanas could no longer feel her body. She was floating in some kind of limbo. She realized she could see herself, and held up her hands in silent awe. Her flesh was a golden pink again, firm and luminous as it had been in life. But she was not alone here.
With a gasp, she saw that she was surrounded. Nine warrior women drifted in a circle around her, and their beauty outshone even hers. The Val'kyr appeared as they had in life. Some had raven-dark hair that fell around tan faces and jewel-like blue eyes. Others had blonde manes the pale, brilliant color of sun shining on snow. Their faces were soft, but their jaws hard. Their arms were smooth and muscled; their thighs wide and strong. Each held a different weapon: a spear, a halberd, a great two-handed claymore that stretched from chin to ground in a shimmering swath of polished steel. Each was the greatest warrior of her generation.
They were all just like me, Sylvanas saw. Vain, victorious, and proud.
"Yes, we were," said the blonde Val'kyr armed with the claymore, answering Sylvanas as if she'd spoken aloud. Her voice was rich and full. "I am Annhylde the Caller. These are my sister battlemaidens, and we are the only nine who remain. We served the warriors of the north in life, and chose to continue our service in death."
"To serve the Lich King."
The vision of Annhylde rankled. "Did you choose to serve the Lich King?" she asked.
"What is this? What are these visions?" Sylvanas demanded.
"Visions of the future," Annhylde explained. "Every life leaves a wake in its passing. This is yours."
"It doesn't take a crystal ball to see Hellscream squandering the Horde's resources, tearing it apart in his lust for conquest." Sylvanas felt the old anger welling up again, but couldn't feel her body respond. She couldn't feel anything. "Where have you taken me? I should be dead."
"You are," said another Val'kyr, her hair the color of coal.
"I've tasted oblivion before," Sylvanas protested. "You're keeping me in limbo. Why?"
Annhylde remained patient, her voice soothing and measured. "To show you the consequences of your passing, and to offer you a choice…"
"I've made my choice," Sylvanas interrupted.
"Your people will perish!" said the dark-haired Val'kyr. She had clearly been the youngest of the battlemaidens in life and was now the most impatient in her undeath.
Sylvanas thought about her people. They had come far from their decimated origins, the yearning, confused mob of fresh corpses huddled about the ruins of Lordaeron's wrecked capital. The Forsaken were truly a nation now: a fetid, gore-caked, hideous mass of lifeless husks, skilled in combat, devastating with the arcane arts, and unhindered by fetters of morality. They had been honed into the perfect weapon. Her weapon. And they had struck the killing blow for which she had built them. She cared nothing for their fate.
"Let them perish!" Sylvanas cried. "I am finished with them!"
Annhylde raised a hand to quiet her younger sister-in-arms. "Hush, Agatha. She does not know. She must see more." The Val'kyr leader directed her luminous green eyes to Sylvanas, their edges rimmed with sadness. "Sylvanas Windrunner, the oblivion you seek is yours. We will not stop you."
Annhylde's eyes closed, and at once the figures vanished into their faceless spectral forms.
Then Sylvanas felt herself being pulled away, her senses reeling. Everything disappeared, and time stopped.
"She is lost!" Agatha wailed.