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Tetzel at a glance
Tetzel-00

Demographic

Middle-aged male undead

Work

Priest, alchemist, herbalist

Alignment

Lawful Neutral

Motivation

Service — and now, revenge

Disposition

Melancholy, but labile

Comportment

Courteous

Family

Gustaf (father), Lorelei (sister)


Johann Tetzel is an undead priest, herbalist, and alchemist, as well as designer/adventurer Ruinwen Lachenn’s lawyer and accountant. He was previously a Scarlet Crusade preacher infamous for selling indulgences and vaccines against undeath.

Background

Southshore and Human Supremacy

Johann Tetzel was born and raised in Southshore, where, like his childhood friends Sally Whitemane and Renault Mograine, he grew increasingly concerned about the rumors of reanimated corpses springing up in the north.

His father, Gustaf, was a priest of the Argent Dawn and famous in some circles for his “forbidden experiment”: he kept Johann’s sister Lorelei’s ears plugged and raised her in a complete absence of sound to discover if human language was learned or innate — and if it was innate, what the “original” human speech was.

As it turned out, speech is learned, not innate — and the unfortunate Lorelei grew up both mute and mentally stunted. Gustaf then spent the rest of his life trying to rehabilitate her back into society.

Because of Gustaf’s experiment and presumed expertise in the matter, however, he was later called upon to help rehabilitate two feral adult night elves in Darnassus — a certain Isilyë and Yarralomë — who had famously been transformed into animals for a five year period in Darkshore, lost all memory of who they were, and were later discovered eating one of their children.

Tetzel-01

Young Sally, Renault, and Johann in Southshore

Gustaf’s family accompanied him on his mission to the elvish capital. It was there that Johann — then a teenager training to be a priest in the Argent Dawn like his father — experienced a profound change of heart about the non-human races.

He had always been under the impression that the night elves were among the noblest of races, but witnessing Isilyë and Yarralomë’s amoral savagery first hand made him reconsider the once implausible theory of his old friends Sally and Renault that night elves were in fact descended from trolls, that humans alone could be trusted in their apocalyptic struggle against the Scourge.

Years later, Gustaf took his family to Forest Song in Ashenvale to assess the mental and spiritual health of Isilyë and Yarralomë’s one surviving child, who was being raised there in secret as a protection against the intrusive public scrutiny her circumstances invited. He made a detailed study of her — the only record of her existence — before finally returning home to Southshore.

No sooner did they arrive than Johann took his still unpacked bags and headed straight to the Scarlet Monastery in Tirisfal to join Sally and Renault in the new anti-Scourge order called the Scarlet Crusade, of which Renault had suspiciously already been made a commander.

Tetzel-04

Johann reports to the Scarlet Monastery

Tetzel-02

Renault as the new Scarlet Commander

The Scarlet Crusade

As estranged from reality as the Scarlet Crusade was often accused of being, it proved to be as earthly as any other human institution when it came to appointments to higher office.

Johann quickly discovered that he had a talent for preaching, and his success in this arena got him a commission from Grand Inquisitor Isillien to preach — and sell — various indulgences to the populace, most infamously the indulgence to buy one’s friends and relatives out of Shadow:

„Sobald das Geld im Kasten klingt, die Seele in den Himmel springt!“
“As soon as money in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory’s fire springs!”[1]

Accusations of fraud never stuck; he simply made too much money for his benefactors for them to tolerate any dissent.

Later, when his childhood friend Sally — now an Inquisitor — sought to become the Scarlet Monastery’s High Inquisitor, Johann plied his talent for sales to raise money to pay off the debt she incurred while securing the acquisition of Isillien and the other Inquisitors.

His efforts were a huge success; Sally became High Inquisitor (and de facto supreme commander) of the Scarlet Monastery, and Johann himself was made an Inquisitor and, after some years of similar fund-raising service at the Monastery and in Hearthglen, sent to the besieged city of Tyr’s Hand to help pay for the ascendency of High General Brigitte Abbendis on the pretense of raising funds for the restoration of the Scarlet Basilica.

Tetzel-03

Sally as the High Inquisitor of the Scarlet Monastery

It was then that Johann’s streak of good fortune ran out.

Undeath of a Salesman

One of Johann’s biggest sellers was a fraudulent elixir sold as a vaccine against undeath. It was, in fact, nothing more than grain alcohol. After the hysteria over the Andorhal grain scare subsided enough, certain grain resellers lobbied to relax restrictions, and as contaminated grain got into Tyr’s Hand and started turning people into zombies, panic took hold of the city and Tetzel found himself overwhelmed by demand for his elixir. But some of his elixir stock was also contaminated, which made more zombies, which increased demand for his elixir even more.

Almost overnight, the city that had for so long withstood the Scourge’s siege from without fell to undeath from within.

Only one man seemed unaffected by the plague of undeath: Johann himself.

It didn’t take long for the town to deduce that he alone had not taken the elixir, an oversight that was quickly and violently corrected by an angry mob that dragged him out in front of the Scarlet Basilica, force-fed him his own elixir, then savaged him when he rose into undeath — particularly his jaw, which was hacked and torn from his face and nailed to the basilica door for the lies it had told them all.

Then they threw him into a cell while they deliberated on what to do with him. And with themselves.


Meanwhile, word of the fate of Tyr’s Hand quickly reached Light’s Hope Chapel, and a preemptive strike was ordered.

Tetzel-05

Tyr’s Hand invaded

Johann watched helplessly as one of the invaders — a druid who had taken the form of a panther — clawed its way past his jailers. The cat then leapt into its normal form — a male night elf — to rifle through the jailers’ pockets in search of the cell keys.

Then, one by one, the elf opened each cell door and bludgeoned the undead prisoner inside to “true” death with his staff.

Finally he came to Johann’s cell.

The invasion already had Johann dazed with disbelief, but just as a man who lost an arm can sometimes still feel it tingling, so Johann felt his phantom jaw drop to the floor as he stared into the face of the advancing night elf and recognized where he saw it first.

It was Yarralomë, one of the two feral night elves that Johann’s father had tried to rehabilitate.

Yarralomë strode into the cell, raised his staff to jab it into Johann’s face … then froze as recognition took hold of him.

The two men stood in mutual horror for a time before Yarralomë broke the silence: “Johann Tetzel you?”

Johann nodded. It was all he could do in his mouthless condition.

“You know who me?” Yarralomë asked. Johann remembered now that the two night elves never did quite get the hang of talking normally, for all his father’s efforts.

Johann nodded again.

More awkward silence. Johann thought he saw a flash of the night elf’s fangs when he spoke, and remembered that it was when he met Yarralomë and Isilyë years ago in Darnassus that he first noticed that night elves had fangs at all — and wondered even then why a civilized race would need them.

“What me owe you family,” Yarralomë finally said, “beyond count.” He lowered his staff. “Me back now in world. Serve Circle again. Even marry soon.”

What was left of Johann’s face registered surprise.

Yarralomë quickly outlined his nuptial plans for the vernal equinox to a Sentinel and crusader in the Argent Dawn named Lómion.

At this, Johann’s surprise contorted into alarm.

“Lómion” was the name the Sentinels gave to the one surviving child of Yarralomë’s incestuous union with his sister Isilyë. And because the deranged pair were eating Lómion’s brother when she was found, Johann’s family had to take an oath of silence about her identity when they were given access to her. And now, for all those precautions, Fate had led the child inexorably and perversely back to the father.

Johann frantically tried to warn Yarralomë, oath of silence be damned. But his jawlessness just made him sound as monstrous as he looked.

Yarralomë raised his staff and backed away. “Chaos outside; if you leave now, no one stop,” he said, then added before leaving the room: “And Johann — you one of monster now. When again us meet, us enemy.”

I’m the monster?! Johann thought, his indignation overcoming his shock. If it weren’t for my family, you’d have eaten your precious bride-daughter by now, you troll!

Johann did as he was advised and fled Tyr’s Hand. But not before packing a few things first — including his late father’s book recording his experiences with Yarralomë, Isilyë, and Lómion.

Something told him he’d be needing it later.

Tetzel Forsaken

The shrill bark came like an unexpected slap to the face: HEY!!!

Tetzel looked up at the glaring blood elf mage. He was a scribe now in Undercity, the rotting, decrepit hive of his former enemy, and because of his new speaking disability, this was the best work he could get.

Tetzel-06

Tetzel in hell

Here he was known only as “Tetzel” — shame and prudence kept him from divulging his full name — though he vowed to himself that someday, when he finally stands over the defeated, soon-to-be corpses of Yarralomë and his former friend Sally (who had put a bounty on his head in an effort to publicly distance herself from him), he would announce his full name again.

“Are you listening?” the customer shouted into his face. “Did you lose your ears as well as your mouth?”

Tetzel glared back at her as he penned on a separate sheet of paper:

I was a man of rank before I came here. I do not respond well to being barked at.

“Oh,” said the blood elf apologetically as she kneeled down and put a sympathetic hand over his. “And what was your name?” she asked.

Tetzel. Just Tetz—

The blood elf stayed his hand with hers. “Tetzel,” she said, her eyes full of concern, “When I see you talk this way, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Does he know how much I don’t care?’ WRITE!!!

Tetzel weighed the probable outcomes of stabbing the snarling harpy with his quill, then slumped back in his chair and indicated that he was ready to resume taking dictation.

“So where were we?” the elf continued, now sweetly. “Reward: 10,000 gold pieces for the capture and delivery of the night elves Isilyë and Yarralomë. 5,000 gold pieces for any information that results in their apprehension. Last seen in the Black Temple. Must be al—”

Tetzel’s hand froze midway through this, and his gaze went far away.

The blood elf’s face flashed with surprised annoyance, then filled with the same spurious sympathy it did earlier. “Was I going too fast?” she asked.

Tetzel scrawled as fast as he could before the elf could follow up with some mean-spirited barb:

GET YOUR MONEY TOGETHER O HARPY — TODAY FORTUNE SMILES ON BOTH OF US

The elf stared searchingly into his face a long time.

“Call me Ruinwen,” she smiled.

Apt Pupa

Tetzel wasn’t clear on why Ruinwen wanted the Cannibals of Darkshore, as Isilyë and Yarralomë were popularly called. He sensed it had nothing to do with their cannibalism or the minor celebrity that came with it, but was retribution for some egregious wrong they had perpetrated against her before their ordeal. In any case, for 10,000 gold pieces, Tetzel was content to let Ruinwen’s reasons be her own.

Alas for Ruinwen, her revenge was not as sweet as she had hoped for.

She had planned to destabilize Yarralomë by sending him Gustaf Tetzel’s journal — proof that he had just married and coupled with his own daughter/niece — then abduct him, castrate and otherwise torture him, and learn Isilyë’s whereabouts before finally killing him. Instead, Yarralomë went berserk on learning what he done, killed his bride Lómion, then killed himself — all before Ruinwen could get to him.

Tetzel parted company with Ruinwen then, having been paid only half of the reward money for delivering half of the wanted night elves, and retreated into Tirisfal Glades, where he lived for some time as an herb-picking hermit.

One day, there was a knock at his door. It was Ruinwen, and she wanted Tetzel’s help again.

Lómion’s corpse, it turned out, had been carried off by the Scourge and transformed into a death knight of the Ebon Blade. But something had happened at the battle at Light’s Hope Chapel, and the Ebon Blade knights were now returning to their former masters.

Ruinwen wanted to send a neutral party to arrange a meeting between Lómion and Tetzel, in which the two would catch up, swap stories about being forced into undeath, and Tetzel would inform Lómion that her mother, Isilyë, was still alive somewhere, probably in Northrend. Ruinwen calculated that this would incite Lómion to find Isilyë herself, and, as long as Tetzel maintained friendly relations with Lómion, he could pass on Isilyë’s specific whereabouts to Ruinwen once he knew them.

But Tetzel was done working with Ruinwen, and whatever his dislike of Isilyë, he had no specific beef with Lómion strong enough to warrant feigning friendship with her in order to kill her mother. “I’m not a monster,” he told Ruinwen, then closed the door on her.

Tetzel-07

An unexpected party: Ruinwen at Chez Tetzel

The next day, Tetzel began hearing a foreign voice in his head.

I know who you are, Johann, the voice would say.

When Tetzel ignored the voice, it became more insistent — and threatening.

What do you think they would do to you if they found out what you were?

“You don’t exist,” Tetzel gurgled. By the Light, I’m going insane, he thought.

You’re already insane, said the voice. But I’m going to cure you.

Tetzel could feel something in his head then. Something physical. And not his.

That’s me, said the voice. I’m a grub. My name is Virgil Grubbs. And I live in your head now.

You’re a talking maggot?

I’m a talking grub. And I’ll talk to the authorities if you don’t do exactly as I say.

Tetzel began shaking his head violently to see if he could rattle whatever it was that he felt in his skull. Nothing. Then he tried banging his head against the wall. No avail. Finally, desperately, he jabbed a finger hard into his ear and kept pushing until his finger was deep in his skull. Something grabbed onto it, and when he tried to pull out, he couldn’t.

If you do that again, I’m keeping the finger, said the voice. Whatever was holding Tetzel’s finger let go.

The voice told Tetzel to go to an abandoned hut near the shore up north and open the chest he found there. When Tetzel refused, the thing in his skull began violently burrowing about his desiccated brain, which wasn’t so much painful as unbearably maddening. Tetzel finally complied, went to the hut, and opened the chest.

In it he found the robes of a Scarlet Inquisitor.

They’re your robes, said the voice. From Tyr’s Hand.

That’s impossible, thought Tetzel. How does a maggot procure clothes?

You’ll soon see there isn’t much I can’t do, said the voice. Now put them on.

Again, Tetzel refused, and again came the violent burrowing about his brain.

Tetzel put on the vestments.

Tetzel-08

Tetzel back in uniform

Now face the chair.

Tetzel did as he was told.

Condemn it.

What?

Condemn it — as if it were a man accused.

“You are hereby condemned,” Tetzel gurgled.

Mean it.

“You are hereby condemned!”

Make me believe it.

“I declare you anathematized and judge you condemned to eternal Shadow!”

Though Tetzel was being forced to play this game, part of him was starting to enjoy it, for it reminded him of that long-forgotten time when he was man to be reckoned with, a kingmaker ... and it ignited a brief, irrational hope of what he could be again.

Now go downstairs, the voice commanded.

Tetzel strode down the stairs, and as he did so he noticed that he was standing straighter than before, buttressed by the robes of authority and the muscle memory of clout. But all thought of that vanished when he got to the basement and saw a man in Scarlet Crusade livery tied to a post there.

This man is your enemy now. Condemn him.

Again the refusal. And the burrowing. And the compliance.

Tetzel straightened himself out and faced the bound man. “Wherefore in the name of the Light, of Grand Inquisitor Isillien, and all the heroes of the Crusade,” he declared in what might have been a loud, clear voice but for his missing jaw, “In virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in this world and the next, we deprive this man and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Light, we separate him from the society of all uncontaminated humanity, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Church in this world and the next, we declare him anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal Shadow with all the reprobate; we deliver him to Fire to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.”[2]

Well done, said the voice. Now — execute justice.

This time, the creature in Tetzel’s head had but to stir before Tetzel shouted indistinctly, picked up the ax that was waiting for him, and cleaved the man’s head off his neck.

Now — eat his brain.

Are you out of your mind, maggot? Tetzel threw down the ax.

Johann, the voice began menacingly.

Tetzel could see there was no way out of this — he couldn’t fight the maddening burrowing in his skull, couldn’t silence the voice. But nor could he bring himself to eat a man’s brain.

In a flash, he saw what he needed to do.

Tetzel bolted up the stairs and out of the hut, and even as the burrowing began he kept running blindly into the night, clutching his head, until he reached the cliffs overlooking the shore. And then he kept running until the vertigo of free fall overtook the intolerable squirming in his head. And then blackness.

Tetzel-09

Tetzel out of options


Tetzel didn’t expect to open his eyes again. But open them he did.

He was still falling. But very, very slowly.

You can’t escape me that easily, Johann, said the voice. You can’t ever escape me.

For a second, Tetzel hoped that this had all been a dream, but the renewed squirm in his head snapped him out of hope and back into horror and despair.

I’m going to hurt you now, the voice said. Badly. It’s for your own good.


Later that night, Tetzel staggered back into the hut where the man he had beheaded lay waiting for him in the basement.

He shuffled toward the corpse, zombie-like in his defeat, then stopped. Undead though he was, he wasn’t sure how to do this.

Pick up the rock, commanded the voice, and sure enough, a large rock that wasn’t there before now sat on the floor by the severed head. Use it to crush the head. Use it like those night elves did when they ate their young.

Is that what this is about, maggot? Tetzel asked. This won’t make me a monster, only you.

Do it.

I am your instrument in this, maggot, thought Tetzel wearily. It is not I who does this, but you, and the crime of this is yours alone.

Tetzel kneeled to the floor, picked up the rock, and brought it down on the face of the condemned. And then, hesitantly, wincingly, he dug a finger into the man’s skull and brought a dollop of brain to his mouth.

At that moment, the entire world changed forever.

As the bloody pulp slid down Tetzel’s throat, his whole body tingled with renewed ... vitality. For a moment, he felt as if he were alive again, as if his long undeath had just been a horrible dream. He took another tentative scoop, then another, and before he could stop himself he brought the crushed skull to his mouth and was slurping blood and brains as fast as his jawless mouth could manage. Then he began ripping at the flesh, at the eyes, at the tongue, and when he had completely stripped the skull of anything remotely edible, his wide-eyed gaze fixed on the headless corpse.

Tetzel-10

This is who you are now.

Tetzel couldn’t be sure if this was the grub’s voice or his own.


Tetzel! Wake up!

Tetzel opened his eyes. The half-eaten cadaver was next to him, which made Tetzel instinctively look away — not because he was repulsed, but because he feared he might start convulsively digging into it again.

Time to get to work!

What work?

The way you felt last night — there’s a way for you to feel that again. And soon. And you’ll be serving the living, not the dead.

What are you talking about, maggot?

The elf. The uncommonly attractive elf who was here. Go to her. Beg her to take you back. She alone is your salvation.

Why her?

In the omelet she’s making, a lot of eggs will be broken. Eggs no one will miss. As Tetzel mulled this over, the voice added: If word ever got out about your background, people in Tirisfal might react ... unpleasantly. But the elf won’t care. The Scarlet Crusade is not her fight.

Tetzel sat pensively for a moment. Why do you care, maggot? he asked at last.

I’m your guardian grub! said the voice glibly.

There’s no such thing, maggot, Tetzel said, almost wistfully.

Grub, the voice corrected. And I have a name.

What, “Virgil”? That’s a funny name for a larva, said Tetzel. Is that really what they call you?

They call me MISTER Grubbs! said the voice.

Fine, you’re Mr. Grubbs, said Tetzel.

And with that, the vague pressure from the squirming thing in Tetzel’s skull vanished as a rat-sized larva appeared from thin air on the ground in front of him, then leapt impossibly high up in the air and landed somewhere in the recesses of the cadaver.

Tetzel-12

Mr. Grubbs in the flesh

“This is where we say good-bye, Johann,” said a thin, barely audible voice coming from within the cadaver. “I’m starving, and you need to talk to the elf. The pretty one.”

It seemed strange to Tetzel that a larval insect would twice reference the beauty of an elf or any other non-insect, but he was glad to leave the cruel tutelage of Mr. Grubbs behind him — and he knew now that he could never go back to a hermit’s life. Not after last night.


“Who are you?” asked the doorman.

“Tetzel.”

“She’s been expecting you,” said the doorman. “Come in.”

Tetzel stepped in ... and then froze in his tracks.

“Tetzel!” Ruinwen smiled from across the room. “I take it you’ve reconsidered my proposal.”

She was standing stark naked against a podium, quill in hand, eyes skyward. An equally naked Ruinwen was taking shape on a painter’s canvas in a corner of the room, while a goblin with no discernible function stood in another.

Tetzel-11

The full Ruinwen

“This is a bad time,” Tetzel offered.

“Not at all,” said Ruinwen cheerfully. “I’m just being immortalized for posterity. Better to get it done now while I still look like this.”

“Of course,” Tetzel awkwardly agreed, his eyes trying to find somewhere in the room where Ruinwen’s lady bits — or artistic copies of them — were not vying for attention.

His gaze rested on a notebook, titled in handwritten Thalassian On Druidical Shapeshifting.

“They’re letting blood elves into the Cenarion Circle now?” Tetzel asked, not anxious to get to the matter at hand.

Ruinwen seemed momentarily perplexed. “What? Oh, that.” Her head resumed its pose for posterity. “That,” she said with a hint of disdain, “was my father’s attempt to teach himself druidical shapechanging. He was a mage, like me, and could shapechange other people, but not himself.”

“Hmm,” Tetzel offered. “Was he successful?”

“No.”

A long, awkward silence followed.

“So anyway,” Tetzel began again, “I was wrong to have reservations about involving Lómion in what we talked about. She’s an abomination of Nature, pure and simple. And even if she weren’t —” Tetzel’s gaze went far away to those uncomfortable days spent in Darnassus with his father “— there’s that savagery that all night elves hide and which negates her non-combatant status.”

“So she has it coming, then?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Tetzel —” Without warning she turned her head sharply to the painter and barked PAINT!!!, then continued sweetly as ever: “— You see that goblin in the corner there? He deals guns to one of Isilyë’s associates. There’s a good chance I can find out where that conniving bitch is through him. So you see, I probably don’t need you anymore.”

Tetzel pondered the veracity of this a moment. “If that were true, madam, I doubt you would have received me.”

The room fell quiet but for the sound of brush strokes.

“‘M’lady,’” Ruinwen corrected.

“I’m sorry?”

“‘M’lady,’” she repeated. “Or ‘Lady’. Or ‘Lady Ruinwen’. Circumstances have prevented me from going back to Silvermoon to claim my inheritance, but I’m noble born.”

“Fine. You’re Lady Ruinwen,” said Tetzel.

Silence. Brushstrokes.

“It’s always good to have options,” Ruinwen declared at last. “Come back tomorrow, Tetzel. And be ready to travel.”

Tetzel turned and left. He was already starting to regret working for Ruinwen again, but then he remembered the sweet euphoria of brains in his mouth, and the thought of Ruinwen troubled him no more.


“Is he gone?” Ruinwen asked.

“Yes, Lady,” said the doorman.

“Alright, everyone out!” Ruinwen snapped. NOW!!!

The doorman, the painter, and the gun-dealing goblin cleared the room. Ruinwen’s imperious bearing gave way to woozy desperation as her eyes darted about the room for a bucket, a box, any sort of receptacle.

She tore open a drawer just in time to double over and retch with a force that surprised her.

Then again. And again. Then the dry heaves.

Sonofabitch! she thought when she saw that her hair had not escaped the streams.

She slumped down to the floor, exhausted and sore.

That damned Scarlet Crusader corpse, she concluded.

So delicious earlier today. So bitterly foul now.

Her father’s journal should have warned that this might happen.

A Mouth Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Tetzel leapt from his sepulchral slumber at the jarring sound of metal pounding on wood.

When he opened the door to his cabin, no one appeared to to be there — until an impatient voice from below his field of vision asked, “You Tetzel?”

Tetzel looked down to find a pair of goblins, each carrying tool kits and wearing aprons stained by the necrotic goo that passed for blood in Undercity.

“Who are you two?” Tetzel asked warily.

“Yeesh, she’s right. I can barely understand him,” said one goblin as he pushed his way past Tetzel.

“He’s Naznik. I’m Whiznik,” said the other, who followed.

“Now wait right there!” Tetzel protested. “Who —?”

“The Lady sent us,” said Naznik.

“Which ‘Lady’?” Tetzel asked.

“The only one that matters,” said Whiznik.

While Tetzel puzzled over this (Ruinwen? Sylvanas?), Naznik threw out a set of sinister tools on a table while Whiznik unfurled a tarp and set it on the floor nearby.

“Now hold it right there! What are you two...” Tetzel stopped mid-sentence when he saw an assortment of prosthetic jawbones being dumped onto another table.

“Pick the one you like,” Naznik grinned with counterfeit courtesy of a snake oil salesman. “It’s all paid for.”

“But be quick about it,” advised Whiznik. “We need to get back to the shop before we open.”

Tetzel eyed the grisly jumble of jaws with trepidation. “What if I don’t want this?” he asked.

“It’s not up to you,” said Whiznik restively.

“We can’t leave here until you can speak like a normal person,” explained Naznik.

Tetzel stared back at them in disbelief, then in defiance, as if in a contest of wills with the domineering blood elf who spoke through the goblin pair like a ventriloquist. Naznik met his gaze and didn’t budge, while behind him Whiznik dropped a chair down on the tarp and began untangling what looked like restraining straps. Eventually Tetzel saw that there was no winning in this standoff with Ruinwen’s diminutive minions, and turned his attention to the table of waiting jaws. “Is this going to hurt?” he asked.

“Does it matter?” replied Whiznik as he began pulling gloves over his hands.

Tetzel sighed in resignation, then began sifting through the mountain of mandibles. “I suppose not,” he said at last.


Ruinwen stood on the deck of the zeppelin tower with her steamer trunks and retinue of goblin porters. “Tetzel!” she exclaimed, glancing over her shoulder at the sound of advancing footsteps. Her expression shifted from pleasant surprise at the sight of his new jaw to undisguised disappointment at the sight of the rest of him. “Is that what you’re wearing?” she asked.

Tetzel-15

Tetzel, tired and sore from his operation and in little mood for Ruinwen’s overbearing demeanor so early in the day, could scant hide his annoyance. “My attire offends, m’Lady?”

“You look like you just crawled out of the sepulcher,” said Ruinwen, “You realize we’re going up against Arthas, right?”

“What?!”

Ruinwen exhaled with exaggerated relief. “By the Sunwell, it’s so much easier talking to you now with the jaw,” she said.

“I thought you were just going to deal with those night elves,” Tetzel protested. “I didn’t sign on for war.”

“We are going to deal with the night elves,” Ruinwen corrected. “As for war, you’re a brain-eating zombie in the contested kingdom of Lordaeron. You’re at war whether you want to be or not. The sooner you wake up to that, the better it’ll be for you.”

She nodded at one of her goblin porters then, who opened a trunk and pulled out a splendid blue and grey robe sporting the blindfolded, classically sculpted face of Lady Justice on each shoulderpad. “Besides, I made this specifically for you,” she said. “Lightweight, weather-repellent and impact-resistant netherweave canvas, detachable hood, hidden pockets, and shoulderpads that say ‘You have been judged condemned to eternal Shadow.’”

“Look,” said Tetzel wearily, “It wasn’t so long ago that I was alive and human and fighting against your kind. I accept that I’m undead now — there’s nothing I can do about that — but I’m not going to fight for the undead.

Ruinwen looked flummoxed. “So you’re going to pass on this robe — which looks fabulous, by the way — and walk around Northrend in this death shroud like you’re still in mourning for yourself?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Fine,” Ruinwen sighed as she dug in the steamer trunk herself and pulled out a familiar-looking book. “But take this. It’ll help you when you finally talk to Lómion.”

Tetzel was genuinely surprised to see his father’s journal concerning Isilyë, Yarralomë, and Lómion again after it had been delivered to Yarralomë at Light’s Hope Chapel. “How did you...?”

The zeppelin to Orgrimmar began pulling up to the dock then, and Ruinwen’s porters scurried to move her trunks onboard. “Don’t screw this up, priest” she said darkly, then strode onto the waiting airship.

Light preserve me, thought Tetzel. He tucked the journal into his robe, then hurried after the blood elf.


By the time Tetzel finally caught up with Lómion, she was hardly the first death knight he had seen. Nevertheless, the sight of her striding into the K3 base camp in the Storm Peaks affected him in a way he didn’t anticipate.

Tetzel-18

Part of it, perhaps, was the surprise of seeing someone he knew only as a toddler now grown up. Part of it was the still visible youthfulness of her face, buried though it was behind a mask of livor mortis. Part of it was the drama he saw in her eyes, so desperate both in their inherent compassion and in their learned cruelty. But mostly it was the crudely sewn gash across her neck, an awkward reminder to Tetzel of his own complicity in this woman’s murder and monstrous transformation.

“Lómion,” Tetzel finally called to her.

The pale, putrid elf stopped and turned sharply in his direction, her hand reaching back for her improbably massive runeblade. “Do I know you?”, she asked, the unnatural reverberation of her voice reminding Tetzel that the toddler he once knew might now kill him if he wasn’t careful.

Tetzel quickly introduced himself as Gustaf Tetzel’s son and part of the reason for her husband’s death and her own undeath. He explained that what he had to tell her she would not believe until she had read his father’s journal, which he then pulled from his cloak and handed to her. He asked if she was still in contact with Isilyë. She answered that she wasn’t in contact with anyone from her former life. He asked then if she could get a message to Isilyë to meet him here in the base camp one week from now; he had urgent information for her and a warning. Lómion hesitantly agreed, and they parted ways.

A week later, Tetzel paced about outside the K3 base camp inn when he spotted a large crow circling overhead. He waved at it, and the crow alighted on the archway of the inn’s entrance.

“Tetzel you?” croaked the crow.

“Tetzel me.”

“Then what first name?” the crow asked.

“Johann.”

“And father name?”

“Gustaf.”

The crow leapt from the archway and, as it descended to the ground in front of Tetzel, transformed into the ageless, green-skinned night elf Tetzel remembered from his youth. “Brother tell to me this happen you,” she said, referring to his undeath. “Me sympathy.”

Tetzel-16

“Keep your sympathies,” said Tetzel. “I brought this on myself. And I’ve wronged your family horribly.”

“Oh?”

Tetzel briefly outlined his encounter with Yarralomë in Tyr’s Hand and his assistance in Yarralomë’s assassination.

Isilyë looked puzzled. “You tell to me brother spare you live, and you give him back by kill? Why me no now you kill?”

Tetzel beckoned Isilyë to lean down, then whispered, “Because as your brother once spared me, I’m about to spare you. Even now, we’re being watched. When I plant my staff in the snow here, Ruinwen, Nasike, and two others will simultaneously strike you down with fire.”

“Who?”

“They say you know them,” Tetzel said. “From before your misadventure in Darkshore.”

“Have no remember anything from way then,” said Isilyë, her gaze momentarily going far away.

“They say they met you again in the Black Temple.”

Isilyë’s brows shot up with surprise. “That crazy blood elf?” she asked. “And troll?”

“Probably,” said Tetzel. “I wasn’t there.”

He grabbed his staff and held it over the snow. “We’re even now, Isilyë,” he said. “As your brother told me in Tyr’s Hand, you’re the monster now. The next time we meet, it will be as enemies.” He plunged his staff into the snow then; Isilyë disappeared into the air as a crow just as bolts of fire from several directions incinerated the spot where the elf had stood.

A moment passed, followed by curses in several languages coming from positions along the rooftops and walls. Ruinwen and Nasike leapt down, their faces dark with suspicion and accusation. “How did she escape that?” Ruinwen asked incredulously.

“She was mistrustful from the start,” Tetzel offered. “But we’ll get her the next time.”

“We?”

“Yes, we,” Tetzel affirmed, then added, “And I’ll take that robe now. I’ll need it if we’re going against Isilyë and Arthas.”

“Really?” asked Ruinwen, still skeptical.

“Really,” said Tetzel.

“Welcome to the Horde, then,” Ruinwen said flatly. Nasike continued to glare at him.

“Thank you,” said Tetzel.

It was going to be a long war, Tetzel knew, but at least now he knew which side he was on.

Tetzel-17

Tetzel back in the saddle


For all their efforts, Tetzel and company never did manage to kill Isilyë in Northrend. But they did successfully participate in the fall of the Lich King, for which they were richly rewarded and returned to their homes as conquering heroes.

Tetzel, having distinguished himself in the field on behalf of the Forsaken, became a trusted champion of Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, and was even present at her death and resurrection in Silverpine Forest. He also became a prominent and vocal figure in the Cult of Forgotten Shadow, and there was speculation that he just might be the charismatic leader the cult needed to finally give it the cohesion it so desperately needed.

Then one day, there was a knock at Tetzel’s door. It was Ruinwen; she needed startup money to launch her new line of adventure wear and accessories, and knew that Tetzel would be just the man to raise it for her.

Tetzel agreed to help. Whatever his feelings about Ruinwen, this sort of thing was, after all, his forte, and he welcomed the opportunity to ply his gift for salesmanship, which he felt he had neglected for too long. He began by selling goose feathers as val’kyr feathers that would serve as protection against languishing in Shadow for eternity should a Forsaken ever meet “true death”, then added runeblades of fallen death knights, locks of Lady Sylvanas’ hair, and other questionable artifacts to his offerings. At a time when there was widespread consternation concerning the future of the Forsaken, Tetzel found himself wading in gold very quickly, and Ruinwen’s “R. Lachenn” label was off and running.

Later there was another knock at his door. This time, a pair of death guards was there to greet him. One of them carried a toolbox, the other a large sword — the kind they used for executions.

“Can I help you?” Tetzel asked, trying hard to keep his eyes from the sword.

“You’re Johann Tetzel, yes?” asked one of the death guards.

The sound of his first name spoken by a death guard stunned Tetzel. Who had ratted him out? Was it ... Mr. Grubbs? Could Ruinwen have arranged this as revenge for spoiling her assassination of Isilyë the previous year?

“I’m Bob Crowly, this is Rob Crowley,” said one death guard while gesturing at the other with his head.

“No relation,” interjected Rob.

“And don’t worry, Mr. Tetzel,” said Bob cheerfully. “We know who you are — you must’ve known we’d find out eventually — but if we went around arresting every ex-Scarlet Crusader in Undercity, we’d never get anything else done.”

“Though some of us would sure like to try,” added Rob.

“May we?” Bob asked, and, not waiting for a reply, stepped past Tetzel into the house, followed by Rob.

Tetzel finally recovered himself. “I must ask you what you’re doing in my house,” he said.

“The Lady sent us,” said Bob.

“Which ‘Lady’?” Tetzel asked.

“The only one that matters,” said Rob.

While Tetzel puzzled over this, Rob laid out a set of sinister tools on a table while Bob laid the giant sword on another.

“Why are you laying out these —”

“Pick one,” Bob invited, still cheerily. “The surgical tools or the sword.”

Tetzel was puzzled and increasingly nervous. “I don’t understand,” he said.

“Our instructions are to take either your mouth or your head,” Rob explained. “Your choice.”

Only the bolts on the side of his head kept Tetzel’s jaw from dropping. “I’ll have you know that I’m a personal friend of Lady Sylvanas,” he protested. “I’ve been her most trusted champion for —“

“It’s because of your distinguished service to our Lady that she’s giving you a choice at all, Mr. Tetzel,” said Bob, his cheerfulness now seeming more sinister.

“But speak quickly,” said Rob. “You’re not our only stop today.”

Tetzel stared back at them in disbelief. “What happens to me afterward if I pick the tools?” he finally asked.

“Nothing,” assured Bob, “Assuming you cease and desist from any further fraudulent practices here in Lordaeron.”

“Free to pursue a life of religious fulfillment,” added Rob wryly.

Tetzel’s shoulders slumped as his will to fight sighed out of him. “Is this going to hurt?” he asked.

“Does it matter?” replied Bob as he began pulling gloves over his hands.

Tetzel bid a silent farewell to the good life he had so briefly revisited. Perhaps he was destined never again to enjoy the luxuries of earlier days. But revenge — against whatever remained of the Scarlet Crusade that had turned its back on him, against Ruinwen or Mr. Grubbs or whoever turned him in to the authorities — offered its own kind of wealth. He was a corpse now, anyway; did he really need earthly comforts anymore?

“I suppose not,” Tetzel said at last.

Tetzel-19

Tetzel un-mouthed again

Gear

References

  1. Attributed to the historical Johann Tetzel
  2. Adapted from the Catholic rite of anathema

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