The heart or the hand.

The heart or the hand.

Those five words keep ringing through my plagued brain. Those five words, those two choices, that proverbial crossroads that led to my rebirth, to my ascension.

My name is Wilkey Plaguenozzle, formely Sparknozzle, and I am a soldier and a chemist for the Ebon Blade, and more recently for the Alliance.

I still remember the last moments of my mortal life so vividly. I was working at a research outpost for the Argent Crusade during the war against the Scourge, my team commissioned by Highlord Fordring himself to create a counteragent for Scourge blight. Our work was critical to the survival of the Crusade and the eyes of the Scourge were unblinking, so our outpost was supposedly cloaked by Kirin Tor magic.

I say supposedly because it didn't work.

It all started when the alarm horn was sounded. It might as well have been the cackle of Bwonsamdi, even though the Loa of death wouldn't even be so disrespectful after what happened. (It all depends on his mood, I suppose.)

"SCOURGE ON THE PERIMETER! TO ARMS!" I awoke to hear one of the security officers on post shout. He grabbed the nearest Kirin Tor mage by the collar, growling, "How the hell did they find us, wizard? You said you cloaked this place for a damned mile!"

"I-I don't know, Knight-Lieutenant. Not even an Eye of Kilrogg or Illidari spectral sight could see through it. W-we tried both, trust me."

Another mage intervened. "Put him down, Keller. It wasn't his fault, or any of us." He said with a blank expression. He gestured the two to walk over to the cloaking runes...

The other mage pointed down. "Scourge counter-glyphs. We've been sabot--"

Bolts of death magic rained down upon the investigating trio, killing them all instantly.

It was the Cult of the Damned. They had infiltrated our outpost, piggybacking as moles within the Kirin Tor, and disabled the shielding as we would later discover. For an organization of magi, the Kirin Tor were woefully naive, although I now give the Cult of the Damned fair credit for their skill as infiltrators- their former agents do come in handy when the need arises.

But I digress. The Scourge swarmed the outpost as quickly as the shield went down. No doubt they were waiting for a signal from the inside. They destroyed everything and killed everyone in sight. The ghouls and the abominations were easy to fool, but the loyalist death knights were cunning and ruthless. Once they showed up, it was over- the last thing I remember from that night was the chill of a runeblade in my back, the expressionless stare of the death knight that took my life.

The worst part? It was Keller- I could tell because he still had his armor on. They had raised him as a death knight!

"Why, Keller...?"
I asked as what remained of my life ebbed away. All I got out of him was a subtle frown and a nod. Deep down, I think he knew what he had done. I think they all knew what they had done.


The necromancers of Icecrown Citadel huddled over a fresh wagon of corpses... It was time for the daily raising.

"Ghouls! Bring me the next one!"
One of the necromancers shouted at his minions.

"Hmm... Gnome. Male. Looks scrawny. Probably couldn't lift a runeblade if his unlife depended on it. Feed him to the plaguehounds."

One of the other necromancers interrupted. "Wait! Wasn't this gnome one of the scientists at the outpost? He might be useful in the lab!"

"Lord Arthas wants death knights, not scientists! The Crusade's literally in our back yard holding a damned carnival, and you speak to me of SCIENTISTS?!"

A voice bellowed from the ceilings of the Citadel... The Lich King himself! "Your comrade is wiser than yourself. Death knights project power, but our armies ride on the back of Scourge science as much as they do on horses. You will raise the little one and assign him to Putricide's lab!"

"But you--"

"DO NOT QUESTION YOUR KING! Or do you want me to feed YOU to the plaguehounds for misappropriating such a valuable asset on the battlefield?"

"N-no, Lord Arthas!" The first Necromancer said, on his knees and groveling for mercy.

"I didn't think so. Now stop sniveling and get to work!"


I remember so much. Too much for an undead- I'm surprised they didn't see me as a threat sooner. They had raised me as one of the undead, along with a few of my other team members. Unfortunately I don't think any of them recognized me or remembered anything besides the knowledge required for their new duties- most of them went down as collateral damage during the siege of the Plagueworks anyway, which I'd consider a mercy after what we experienced.

I guess even the Scourge have a good personnel director, because they assigned us to one of the labs in Icecrown Citadel instead of making me a death knight or a ghoul.

We were working with this giant Forsaken-looking fellow named Professor Putricide doing blight research. They let his brain rot too long, evidently, because despite his genius (I wish I could have picked his brain before they stuck a spear in it...) all he did was spout senile nonsense all day long. We were undead, so there were no breaks. No lunches. No sleep. Not that we needed it, but I could have taken a cigar break just to get away from Doctor Koo-Koo Brain.

We had no perception of time in the Citadel. All we did was science. Lots of science. All day and night, or what passed for it in that frozen hellhole. I love science, so normally this would be a dream for me. However, the shred of me left knew it wasn't. I was contributing to the death of my old friends and I hated it. I couldn't even begin to consider resisting.

Yet.. I did consider it. Just one pinch of the wrong chemical. A barrel of blight conveniently knocked over. That's all it would take and I could run. Run as far as I could. Yet the Citadel was vast and I didn't exactly have a map, and the place was fortified to the core since the Crusade was closing in. I would probably die my last death on the way out but I'd go down a free Gnome.

"Ungrateful little Gnome... I hear all. I see all. I grant you mercy, spare you from the battlefield and you even DARE to consider escaping?"

He heard my thoughts. Every. Damned. One. Sometimes I think he chimed in just to annoy me.

"Is this not the dream of every Gnome, little Sparknozzle? To tinker and invent for all eternity?"

"I'm a chemist, not an engineer! And no, not here it isn't! This is slavery!"

I made the mistake of saying that out loud, and in an instant I had a dozen runeblades pointed at me.

"Get back to work, gnome. Defy the Master again and you'll be dinner for Precious." One of my death knight minders snarled.


So I complied. I went back to work. I bided my time. The Crusade would be arriving any day and this whole mess would be over.

Then the day came. They swarmed through the Citadel, taking down the Scourge's most fearsome commanders one by one. Then they hit the Plagueworks... Putricide and his hounds put up a fight but he finally went down and I was free of his babbling. I could have helped but I don't think they could distinguish me from the other lab workers at that point. So I hid in a barrel like a coward.

"Thank the Light! You have no idea how long I've wanted to kill that rotted son of a bi-"

I covered my mouth quickly, but one of the paladins overturned my barrel, dumping me out and picking me up by my shirt collar.

"Scourge coward! You dare profane the Light?"

I pleaded for my unlife. "Wait! Don't kill me! It's Wilkey! From the outpost!"

Crap. No use. I was going to die. Again...

Fortunately, another soldier came forward, a familiar death knight, this time bearing the mark of the Ebon Blade.

It was exactly who I thought it was, and someone I both dreaded and was excited to see.

"Kellar! Kellar! It's Wilkey Sparknozzle from the outpost! Don't you remember me? Well, you kinda killed me... But you have to remember me now, right?"

He responded! "Stop sniveling, Mr. Sparknozzle. You have a bad habit of that."

I thanked the Light. HE REMEMBERED ME! But what came next spoiled our reunion a bit.

He turned to the soldier that dumped me out. "Commander, what shall we do with this one? I am familiar with him and I am.. Conflicted. He is not a mindless Scourge, yet he works for the enemy. Should he be put to death?"

"Not unless he chooses so. Let him decide his fate. Either way, he shall be free." The Commander responded.

Kellar turned to me, drawing a glowing runeblade. "Wilkey Sparknozzle, I have a proposition for you. You are Scourge. And you have aided and abetted the enemy through your work. You have the blood of the people of Azeroth on your hands, even though you do not hold a blade."

"I was enslaved! You think I didn't dream of killing my captors and busting out of here? Come on, you owe me one after you killed me the first time."

He swung at me, which I somehow dodged. Clearly, he didn't find that funny.

"STOP REMINDING ME!" Kellar bellowed. "I feel bad enough about the things I did! Which, if you'd shut the hell up for a second, is the point I'm getting to. You see, the death knights of the Ebon Blade face a similar dilemma. We work to atone for our sins under the banner of the Scourge, and I offer you a choice. A blade in the heart? Or a blade in the hand? Join us and redeem yourself, or join the pile of bodies on the pyre. The heart or the hand. Which will it be, Mr. Sparknozzle? Either way, I come to you with an offering of mercy."

The heart or the hand.

The heart or the hand.

These words were my crossroads between living and dying. And they still ring through my plagued brain to this day.

"The hand, Knight-Lieutenant Kellar. The hand!"

I chose the hand. I chose to be strong. To live, or to do the best version of living I could in my situation. I had a second chance and I was going to use it!

"Th-thank you, Kellar!" I hugged him, his response to which was to punt me aside. If I had been biologically capable of crying, I would have.

"Like you said, I kinda owe you one..." He said with a smile.

"So, Gnome, you choose to become one of them, to trade one set of shackles for another? Very well... But true freedom is a lie."

I ignored him this time. I was a slave to nobody. For the first time in what I found to be nearly a year, I was free to choose. My allegiance to the Ebon Blade was decided at the tip of a sword, but it was still a choice.


They trained me to be a death knight. In my rebirth, I chose the surname "Plaguenozzle". I had barely ever held a blade in my life, and somehow I took to it quite naturally. It seemed strange being able to use the powers of the unholy to help the cause of Azeroth instead of destroying it. I also managed to return to some of my work as a chemist, my newfound knowledge of Scourge alchemy proving useful in healing areas such as the Plaguelands- I was granted a full pardon by the King of Stormwind for sharing my research.

Kellar- or rather Thomas- and I are on favorable terms. Not great, but favorable. I'd follow him into battle any day, though. It's strange how being murdered by someone can bond you to them.

I am eternally grateful for being given a second chance. I've seen many things since that day, and faced some of the greatest threats Azeroth has ever known, including those we used to call allies. Still, I would offer them the same mercy I was granted, and I wish to show them that we are all brothers and sisters who must unite against a common enemy. It was the Lich King for me, and for them it's.. Whatever the hell is lurking in the shadows. I know a puppet master when I see one, and I fear for our world if they don't see what I see.