- "It is with a pitying eye that I gaze upon a walking corpse; its eyes shallow, its gaping maw forever frozen in a state of emptiness and pain. This ... thing was my work. And Light willing, I will do my damnedest to undo it."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 317
The silver hair atop her head is done up in a tell-tale "Can I speak to the Magister"-style bob that almost covers one of her eyes. Said eyes contiain a slate blue iris in each, almost matching perfectly the color of her hair. One of these pierces through eyelids with dark circles underneath a gilded monocle. The pallor of her face and hair meet a sharp contrast with the dark purple of her lips.
Up close and personal (perhaps moreso than she'd like), faint lines, veins, and et cetera could be made out. Covering her neck is a wispy, silken scarf, done up in a similar manner to a cravat. Her slate grey, decorated peacoat is that of a merchant class, complete with trimmed shoulderpads. It hangs off the sides of her child-bearing hips, giving way to plump, stocking-covered legs. Short, black, heeled boots support a sizable frame with a firm strut upon movement.
As a general rule, Compton is an eloquent and motherly individual who tries to atone for her past by following the Holy Light. Her major drive is to utilize her knowledge and experiences to help the younger generations combat the spread of Scourge wherever she may reside. Morbidly curious in nature, and decidedly unafraid of undead or Forsaken; may be the first to reach out to a Death Knight in duress, for example. She prefers to avoid violence when possible, only retaining a Paladin's courage and (possibly) power when backed into a corner and forced to defend herself. Younger individuals - namely, children - will find a much less wary disposition from this somewhat-recently-emptied nest.
- "I wanted what any Capital City girl wanted at the time. Cute, how I thought that would be the extent of my happiness."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 6
The First War
The Hawthorne family is of Kul Tirasian origin, and as a civilization of mercenaries and travelers to the other Human kingdoms, the Hawthornes were one such family that would begin to inhabit other cities, as well. Thus, Joanna Hawthorne was born before the First War, and throughout her childhood, she was regaled with stories of the doomed armed conflict - the heroism of Humans, the viciousness of the 'Horde', and eventually, the circumstances of the Second War. Though it certainly was not the absolute prevailing mindset of the time, raising female children to be supportive rather than fighters was a popular mindset among certain families, and Joanna herself took to learning the ropes of which well enough. Her hobbies and interests in mainstream Professions were mostly neglected in favor of more 'proper' pursuits and etiquette. In layman's terms, she wished to be a nurturing spouse to a heroic soldier. When Joanna became of age, she would obtain this opportunity. At her parents' behest, she was set up with a man called Thelonius Compton, a farmhand of Raven Hill. Though he was of humble origins, Thelonius was no slouch; he'd already seen a year in the service of the Stormwind Army. The pairing seemed quite slated from the eyes of both families, and sure enough, the two would eventually marry.
The Second War
The first major turn of events in the life of Joanna occurred when her new husband took her to his family farmstead in Raven Hill - it was a drastic change in scenery, for sure - even if Thelonius claimed that it was a much more beautiful land in his childhood. Nonetheless, it took getting used to, especially when Thelonius was out for military training. The young housewife would inevitably seek out interaction to fill the void she was not expecting, and it was through these new acquaintances that she would discover the Raven Hill Mortuary Academy. Though she was not quite as devoted to the Holy Light as her fore-bearers, Joanna still had reason for hesitation in dealing with the shady school, but she would find herself quite compatible with the skill of First Aid. Able to craft wrappings from a wide variety of materials, whether it be to preserve food, a wound, or anything else, would certainly give her a new niche about town, and attract the eye of the faculty of the Academy.
The circumstances that would sway the young woman's path toward the doors of the institution were various, but money and boredom were certainly among them; the 'supportive' wife found herself aloof more often than she'd like, and perhaps Thelonius' Gold did not stretch quite as far as she'd hoped upon expecting children. Thus, Joanna would surprise even herself at how quickly she could apply her acquired skills to those of the Academy.
- "That is why I began, the roots of the gnarled and unforgiving tree that I had to plant myself. I never got to enjoy his company, got to see his smile, intertwine my soul with his. The disgraced dead left me with nothing, not even a body. If that was all The Light would grant me, perhaps it was all I was meant to have... And I decided I would just ... Make do with what I had."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 74
About half a year after Joanna had bore a son, Jeran, Thelonius was off to fight the Third War in Lordaeron. Whereas she would at least see the man she'd grown to love during some portion of every day, the total absence of he who she gave up everything to be with only amplified her negative feelings, which were almost violently stifled in the pursuit of parenthood. Jeran was truly all she had left, and her work at the Academy only intensified thereafter.
Thelonius Compton would eventually be counted among the nigh-countless casualties of the war against the Lich King. Joanna would find herself with a paltry insurance and a child to raise alone in unfamiliar territory. Even then, perhaps those were not the only reasons the widow would lose herself to her work.
The Third War
- "I could never look at a corpse the same, after that. There was once a time that it was an unholy thing to me, but ... What I saw now was a person that once was. Each body that was presented before me, was a story with a tragic ending. All fathers, wives, sometimes children ... All taken unfairly in a violent conflict. And it fell upon my shoulders to restore what dignity I could to them. These were not just - bodies, with gashes, axes, arrows thrown about them. They were people, once. I wanted them to *look like* people again ... And each time I look at my next project there upon the table, I picture my husband, my Thelonius, and I remember how badly I just wish I could at least have done the same for him."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 62
It is unknown just how high Joanna had climbed in the Raven Hill Mortuary Academy following her husband's death, but it was claimed that she had eventually earned herself a PhD in Thanatology, graduating among the likes of Dextren Ward and Abercrombie. This accomplishment was met not very long before the school was shut down for good, the cause of which well-written in the annals of Alliance history as the destruction of Raven Hill by the walking dead. The attack was rumored to have taken place in the span of a fortnight; at first, inhabitants supposedly tried to at first combat the Undead, but their numbers were too strong, and those that survived fled to Darkshire. Such was Joanna's fate as well; the Compton farmstead was within the deepest and most infested part of the town, but the mother and child nonetheless survived the night.
The Rise of the Qir'aji
- "I could not believe I'd forgotten him! My poor child, running across the kitchen floor - a voice I'll never forget. I never wanted to feel that shame again, that fear. The gangly thing, it - came out of nowhere, it gripped my boy by the leg, slung him face-down, onto the linoleum. And that's when I suddenly stopped feeling fear, when I stopped feeling alone, scared, ashamed. I still cannot recall well how I was so compelled to pick up that rusty shovel, and throw myself at the monster. And it just ... continued. I swear they were biting me, clawing at me. I was bleeding, but I just ... Didn't stop. I stood alone, child by my side, against a hundred walking corpses, and just fought my way out. Fought my way out. I still don't understand to this day how I managed. No one I talked to believed it, either. Yet, for all intents and purposes, there I was, bloodied metal-on-a-stick in one hand, before the Night Watchmen, and their faces were of anything but suspicion..."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 81
The first year that Joanna and Jeran lived in Darkshire was thought to be grueling and full of hardship. Thanks in no small apart to the Undead infestation that now plagued Duskwood, the demand for Joanna's skills and talents were nonexistent, and young, wary mother was heavily reliant on the kindness of strangers to get by. Some of the few sympathetic ears to her cause were those of a married couple known as the Lancasters - the woman, a cobbler named Tara, and her husband, the Night Watchman Ronald. They had allowed Compton their home and hearth until she had become situated, but it was much easier said than done.
Time would pass, and Joanna's desperation would grow. She would hear daily of the hostile environment around her - the deaths by the Undead, the rise of the feral Worgen, and she could only hope for an answer that was apparently absent. Said emotions reached an all time high during one of the more vicious attacks on Darkshire, which resulted in the Lancasters losing their only child to the horrors of the night. With the unpopularity of her past career lingering, her personal failure of poverty, and the newfound fear of the safety of herself and her child, Joanna swiftly became ripe for manipulation.
When a dark, hooded figure approached the lone woman wandering the streets at the dead of night after her umpteenth failed attempt at begging, Joanna had steeled herself for the worst, but hoped that perhaps, an opportunity stood before her. She'd thought, far back in her mind, when the disarming voice pierced her mind and reduced her resistance, that the ensuing encounter would set her on the path of a courtesan. Fate would, however, have a different one in mind, and that night, it was not her own body that the man was seeking to buy ... Instead, he'd asked her to make one, using the skills he and all of Darkshire knew she had.
That was the year the woman had vanished from the sleepy hollow, Jeran and the Lancasters left behind with only a letter in the mail weeks later, assuring them of not only her safety, but a stern promise - that she would finally be able to feed, clothe, and care for her beloved child like she had wanted to all along, that she was not afraid anymore. And that she would return in the summertime ... when school was out.
The Northrend Campaign
Rumors had circulated about Darkshire for at least a decade about this woman, and her mysterious means of keeping her family afloat even if she only resided in town a small portion of the year. The Lancasters and Jeran were seemingly well-supported, and moreover, well-protected; a mercenary seemed to accompany the family outside of the town at all times during Joanna's absence. As for the mother herself, she was a totally different person, according to everyone who knew her. She was much more secretive, and any talk with her about her newfound work was swiftly shut down.
- "The quote runs forever true, that 'I did what I had to do'. I'd lost everything, everything except my boy. What was I to do - hang, beg, die in the streets? Not while I still had a reason to go on. It was grisly work. It always was. Sometimes, it still keeps me up at night - wondering, just how many horrors I personally helped rise up from he ground to wreak havoc on the living. How many lives I must have taken due to my work. How many lives I must have sacrificed, that my child's may continue. And I wonder still: were my hands the ones that rose the ghoul, the one that murdered poor Geoff, the child of my only friends?...I shudder to imagine the answer...But I also shudder, that I whisper to myself the cruelties of this world, the world that took my one love away, and I realize the horrible truth, that I'd have done it again, and again, if it meant Jeran would live to see another day."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 306
Sometime after the Sundering, a ragtag band of unnamed mercenaries banded together to strike through the Western Plaguelands, striking under the banner of not the Alliance or Horde, but the Argent Crusade, an honorable Faction as any, dedicated to the merciful and just opposition, to the hostile Undead that ravaged the Eastern Kingdoms and beyond. The ensuing Battle for Andorhal revealed the dreaded Darkmaster Gandling, and in foiling his plans to retake the Plaguelands, fled and unwittingly led his would-be captors to the fabled Scholomance.
The most recent raid of the treacherous dungeon was lead by the spirit of Lord Alexei Barov, and the four famed adventurers tore through the institution with meager resistance. Whether it was the control of the Scourge, the fear of the Darkmaster, or the bravado of the faulty, the vast majority of the residents of the cursed Academy fought back the invasion to no avail. Normally, cowardice in as dire a time as this would have been swiftly punished by the Darkmaster himself, who would gleefully ready Krastinov for a fresh experiment in the making. However, the Headmaster's Study was not the final room in the Schololance to be cleared, and his deathrattle easily echoed throughout the halls. Most of the remaining students and faculty charged upward, hoping to face those 'heroes' in combat, more than ready to give their lives to the Scourge.
... There were, inevitably, some who did not. The Professor was assigned her own room, and was teaching her offered course at the time: Embalming and Corpse Preservation 101. She'd grabbed the nearby surgical tools and pointed outward when she'd heard the pained roar of Gandling. And yet, as she was running amongst her pupils like sheep to the slaughter, something had suddenly removed the glazed look in the woman's eyes, the deadpan, remorseless expression on her face. Her pace slowed. The footsteps grew ever more faint. She began to dig, deeper and deeper, into the breast of her outfit, until she could finally pull out a small locket.
She had something still to live for.
The Professor turned around. She rehearsed in her mind the location of the exit. She'd meet numerous, equally cowardly faces, babbling, cursing their unworthiness to the Scourge, not ready to die for their school. She took their hands, first literally, then metaphorically. One by one, they exited the burning academy when the coast was clear, a small funeral procession of inhuman beings who deserved not the continued gift of life, but chose to keep it in spite. Many of those who fled decided to turn east, to not give up their path of Necromancy. Smaller pockets still chased freedom. One member of faculty looked at the reflection in the lake - the dark purples of the Damned facepaint, and dilated, mindless eyes of a controlled, forsaken soul - and began to run. The others were still deciding their fates - they were not quick enough to stop her. The running simply continued, until the silhouette was all but gone, with nothing in its wake.
The boy was in his teens when he received his most recent letter. He was concerned at first, for he'd not heard from his mother in half a year. But as his eyes went down the parchment, he could breathe a sigh of a relief. She was alive. But apparently, she was also 'coming home to stay'. He thought the reunion would be wondrous, grandiose. He would thought he'd come running up to his beloved parent in a warm embrace as he'd always had, like in the stories of war. He thought it would be even greater now, that she'd stay with him ... He didn't expect to see a cloaked, staggering figure, hobbling to town in the dead of night, amidst the fog, with a carriage a couple feet away. He did not expect the figure to shrink down immediately, and begin to cry. He could not understand the meaning of the dark streaks of violet, running down her face, washing away at least alongside tears and rain. He wanted to be held, but there was nothing to hold him. Perhaps, it was his turn to hold. Perhaps, he could have his mother back.
The Draenor Campaign
- "I asked again in vain protest, even if I feared I knew the answer all too well: 'How can I communicate with you, if you are a continent away, fighting who-knows-what, risking life-and-limb?' His answer stung. It should not. I deserved his reply, but it was not given in spite. No, my boy was too good-hearted to bear a grudge. It was with a hopeful and calming smile - his father's smile - that he would tell me he would 'finally be able to feed himself, clothe himself, and live the life he had wanted to all along. That he was safe. That he was unafraid ... That he would come visit me during the summertime ... When his deployment was over."
- —Unkempt Journal, page 274
The Joanna Compton that Darkshire grew to know was a sharp-witted and sharper-tongued woman of decent wealth, not letting her age catch up to her stride, nor her vigilance. Her hands were always extended to the outcast and the weary when they were available. It was those hands that raised a weapon countless times in the name of the Night Watch Militia. In fact, the townsfolk praised her almost unparalleled ability to track and deal with the walking dead. She knew how to keep them from getting back up, and more importantly, to stop the freshly-dead from joining them. This was the Joanna that was left behind in Duskwood when her now fully-grown son, Jeran, enlisted in the Stormwind military in search of his own story, and it would be the one that came to grow attached to the motley folk of Darkshire for the next several years.
Interestingly, Joanna was a quite fervent follower of the Holy Light on the surface, a precarious position to take in a town where citizens struggled to see the Light - both literally and in terms of Faith - on a daily basis. She would periodically make pilgrimages to Elwynn to visit the Cathedral of Stormwind and Nothshire Abbey, bringing back tomes for anyone who was willing to read them. Despite all of her contributions to Darkshire, its people, and the Watch, old rumors would still linger, and Joanna would find herself few friends save the loyal Lancasters of her past.
The Legion Invasion
The news of the Demonic Invasions spread like wildfire across the shady town of Darkshire, and citizens immediately became suspicious of one another. The usual modus operandi of taking care of one's own vanished almost overnight. Not only that, but Joanna could swear that people were ... disappearing. They must be, yet no one was acknowledging the fact. The Emblamer withdrew further inward, keeping only to her 'family', even withdrawing her aid to the Watch, for their eyes were also piercing and odd. She tried to think nothing of it, but she'd always feel a presence following her every move when she walked the streets at night, as if the cloaked figure from her early adulthood had returned. Her 'pilgrimages' would come to a screeching halt at the shire's gates, and she felt trapped once again, afraid to leave, for there seemed to be stronger shadows outside than ever before.
The shadows would grow in number, but they'd not taken her, yet. Surely, she was deserving, were they the fates that sought her for her wickedness. But in the dead of night, when she finally heard the scream, it was not her own. When she woke up from the nightmare, she was still in her home, but on the floor downstairs, Tara lie unconscious. Ron and his son Dalton were gone.
She'd run about town like never before, asking anyone, everyone, to no avail. The eyes grew more perceptive, the glares became more powerful, but she did not care; she could not let yet another family suffer for something that may have been her fault. Eventually, the figures would come, and they would drag her away, even as she shouted implorations to the Holy Light, and in the hustle and bustle of a crowded city, there were no witnesses.
Thus ended the tale of Professor Joanna Compton, the Embalmer, linked at last to the dreaded Scholomance half a continent away, this
defenseless widow was among the first of countless victims of the bloody rise of the Veiled Hand Cult horrid infiltrator of the Scourge was hastily put down by the honorable Night Watch Militia. No one is fool enough to interrogate anyone in the tight-knit community of Darkshire. Some of the locals of Raven Hill claim that perhaps there was a woman by that name who fled to them, panic-stricken, once upon a fortnight, but they claim that once the Veiled Fanatics began to show up in the nearby buildings, she was nowhere to be found.
"I'd not seen this circle of wood before in my life, this clearing. Somehow, it seemed darker than any place I'd ever seen in Duskwood, and through my bloodied eyesight, I could tell that the flames to illuminate the area were on torches of a taint I'd hoped to have forgotten long ago. Green, violently flickering, just enough to reveal the small pile of bodies, bloodied and mangled, that had begun to pile up. They had begun to arrange them in an acre-long circle, twisted mangled, a display I'd not seen since Krastinov himself. It was a memory I'd hoped to have forgotten. But was this not the place where I belonged? I slumped against the post I was tied to, hung my head, like the dog I was, as I simply listened to the chaos in the background.
First, I heard a female's scream, a gunshot to the head. The cheering of the people who slew her, the sound thump of a now-lifeless body, thrown about the circle, no dignity to be had. I almost eagerly awaited my turn. I was almost glad my son was not here to see my end like this. He'd never understand why. I turn up my head again, notice what I hadn't before. There was a literal procession of bodies to be processed for the slaughter. I don't know why it bothers me now, that I've seen much worse. I think it is because I recognize all of these faces. The fresh-faced miscreant over there, he would always speak politely to me as I went about my business with my baby in my arms. The maddening grin over his face now is something that does little to dull my mind. It fazes me not how he pulls another helpless human being toward his face, as he shouts expletives - or was it a different language? No matter. The sound noise of fire and flesh again, the almost maniacal whooping of several men and women again. This is almost a sport to them, isn't it?
But somehow, even though I bleed and suffer some sort of trauma to the head, my remaining senses pick up on something I hadn't before: one of the lambs is smaller than the others. He's sobbing. Scared. I finally start to feel. I'm of course still restrained, sitting with two equally deadened faces. My breathing quickens. Did I just hear a name I recognized? No. It wasn't. But I look into the circle of poorly-processed dead, already beginning to char from the green flames one of the robed men set them on, and I see a face I wish I hadn't. It was Ron. The man who took me in, crying child in my arms, against the protest of his wife. He protected my child when he couldn't protect his firstborn. I'd spent weeks looking for him. Guess I finally found him. Then I hear words I wish I hadn't.
The Lancaster boy.
The smaller body begins to cry even louder. The sound, I can't. I can't let it keep going, I can't let them shut it up. I'm starting to make noise now, they can hear me. One of the men strides up to me. It was Watcher Craigg, I thought he and Ron were friends. He proves me wrong with a sound blow to the face, but ... It didn't hurt. I stopped hurting. I ... rose up?
I do not even remember what I shouted to those men. I looked at that boy, the Light of that man's life once, and I just ... I decided I didn't want him to die because of me. I should have died in his place. I wanted to die in his place. I was going to make them kill me. I did not want to live to see that child die.
Dalton told me that he saw me glow that night, that the ropes tying my hands somehow just - melted off of my wrists as if my body were akin to hot coals. He said he saw me take a blunderbuss to the chest and keep fighting. I was told that the men threw balls of green fire in my direction, pelted me in the face with them. I remember none of it. What I do remember, was that they had begun to dig ditches to hide the evidence. I grabbed the tool they used to do the deed, and I started swinging...And by the time I'd come back to, it was I who was patting the ground, clearing the field of the horrors that were wrought there that night."
| —Unkempt Journal, unnumbered page|