(In which Taramek the Renegade meets a mysterious friend.)
“She ain’t got none hair! Ain’t nuthin’ ta’old!”
“Ouw! She bit me!”
“Grab ‘er fucking ears, idiot!”
“Look what we have here … courtesy of the fucking Horde.”
“Gonna go wrathgate on you, gonna make you squeal.”
“Let’s just slit her fucking throat and get on with it.”
“You shut your mouth! Ain’t ne’er turn’ do’n some warm pussy … ”
Then. A voice:
“Oh. Hello, boys.”
There was a blinding light. Tara felt one of them almost rip her ears off, but his grip was far too late. There were screams – plenty of them. Most of all there was a singing noise. When they grabbed her they had put a sack over her head before a heavy kick in her lower back had sent her sprawling. All she could see through the burlap was the light.
Someone shrieked. A male voice, moments away from absolute terror. Then a crushing thud cut the noise short. The singing noise … like crystal, followed by a heavy thud. Every single time. The sound made her cringe.
The silence was almost as shocking as the screams. For a few minutes, Tara couldn’t hear anything but the silent crackle of the campfire. She still wasn’t sure how they had managed to catch her but caught she had been.
She heard footsteps, heavy boots against the sand and gravel. She should have run away, she knew she should have, but the campsite had appeared to be abanoned. Tufts of green grass surrounded by the worn down earth from many feet. An old army camp, perhaps. Or a loggers rest. She should have run … but she had been hungry. She still was, in fact.
She heard leather and metal jingle. A glove? Must be. Then someone put a hand on her neck, lifting her head up from the ground and pulling the sack off. Orange light from the campfire almost blinded her at first. She blinked, tried to break out of the ropes but couldn’t. Every time she twitched and moved, the noose around her neck pulled tighter.
Something twinkled in the glaring light of fire, far too bright against the black backdrop of a Duskwood night. She recognized the sound even before she saw the blade; metal scraping on wood and leather. An unsheathed dagger.
She felt the blade against her skin, then the ropes broke. She couldn’t help herself, rolling to her side she covered up in a “don’t hurt me!”-position, gasping for air. She felt tears on her cheeks.Peeking through her fingers she saw her club not far away… Then a golden boot, a jacket of metal around a black hoof, stopped her. It thumped down right in front of her eyes.
“Throm-Ka … ” a female voice, on guard but not quite threatening. The dialect was off, the words rolled sluggish and rough. The draenei accent made it almost unintelligible. “Move and you won’t move again. Orc!”
Tara slowly unfolded herself, looking up. At first, the strange woman was nothing but a shadow against the glaring light from the campfire. Then she took a few steps back, raising her mace in a guardian position. A faint veil of golden light surrounded her, pulsing as if in sync with her hearbeat. She lowered the heavy hammer, slowly, gold and steel shining in the light. Blood was still dripping from the hammerhead. Thick wads of brain matter was stuck to the metal.
“Mok-rah, stranger … ” Tara said as she coughed. She moved slowly, carefully, as she sat up, her eyes not leaving the bloodied hammer. She didn’t have to look around to know what had happened. The stench of urine and feces was enough. Six dead bodies. Four of them still in mail armor, two of them probably naked from the waist down.
“You move and I’ll crush your skull too.” The draenei didn’t move, it was all in her eyes.
“I won’t,” Tara said. She raised her hands, very slowly, and looked up at the woman. “Thank you for helping me.”
“You’re not going for that mallet over there, right? Because if you do … Please do try. I dare you.”
“I won’t.” Tara very carefully stood up. She wanted to cover herself up but she didn’t dare. Instead she pushed back her shame, and guilt, and spread her arms out wide. “I am your prisoner.”
“No you’re not.”
“Eh?” She flinched. “Wh–”
“I’m not about to take anyone prisoner today.”
“Oh … ”
The draenei relaxed enough to take the edge off any immediate threat and said: “I know you value honor above all, orc. I’m going to sit down now, have a smoke. Rest asssured, though. I am faster than you. You move in a way I don’t like and you’re dead. I don’t care about you. You’re meat, right now. We clear!?”
“Sorry … ”
“Yeah bet you are … “the draenei scoffed, lighting a clay pipe, dragging deep. “I’ve killed just about anything that walks, crawls or slithers. You’ll die if you try any funny business. Alright?”
“Now … What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for my father.”
“Your father?” The draenei raised her eyebrows, puffing her pipe. “Halfbreed, eh?”
Tara shrugged. The words angered her but she was in no position to act out on it.
“Your momma sure picked the wrong place to get banged up, girl. This is Duskwood … “the draenei shuddered. “Nothing but the dead and spiders here, orc. And the living, well. Let’s say most of them are short a few marbles.”
“I noticed … ”
“So what’s you name, then?”
“Taramek … uhm. And you are?”
The draenei smiled. Winking, she said:
“Orgrimmar knows me as the Crusader.”
“Y- … You … “Tara swallowed, hard. “Blood and thunder!” She didn’t dare to move, so she stood there with her arms out, almost naked, still covered in dirt and sweat. “I … I don’t want to die. Not here … ”
The draenei stood up.
“You’re a miserable piece of orc, aren’t you?” She pulled a blanket from the ground and took a few steps forward, her pipe in the corner of the mouth trailing smoke behind her. Then she put the blanket around Tarameks shoulders and stepped away. “Such a fucking waste, you are …”
Taramek clutched the blanket close to her. She couldn’t help herself, she sank to her knees, thinking she would be dead in an insant.
“Be quick,” she whispered as she lowered her head, exposing her neck. “No’ku kil zil’nok ha tar …”
“Oh fuck off!”
“What?” Tara looked up, confused.
“What!?” The Crusader sighed. “You’re a weird one, you know that?”
“Mother used to tell me that … ”
“Well at least we need to clean you up and feed you. Don’t mind me saying this either, but, honestly?”
“You fight like shit, orc.” The Crusader looked around, quick glances at the dead around them. “A lone orc, bested by the scrapings of the Alliance. Oh dear.”
“Look at the sorry fucks! You don’t know shit about fighting.”
“I do know how!” Tara scoffed. “I am an orc! Lokta–”
“Yeah fucking useless that’s what you are.”
“Hey!” Tara sighed. “Look … I used to be a baker, alright?”
“Uh-huh.” The Crusader smirked. “I bet you can bake but you don’t fight for shit. Fucking noob.”
“Right!” Tara stamped the ground and spit. “You and me! One on one! Right now! Mak’gora!”
Then came the light …
Several hours later, when Tara could see again, she was alone next to half a dozen freshly dug graves, a brazier of shining, cozy, warm light and a wicker basket full of skinned rabbits. There was a note attached to the basket:
‘There was this orc in the dark of Duskwood,
How to swing a mace the orc ne’er un’stood.
So I hit her inna face
and left without a trace,
Before the orc ever understood.
Come see me in Lunarfall. If you get that far. Lanny will teach how to fight like a Warsong. Ogar, motherfucker!
/Shu, the “Crusader”‘.
“Fucking draenei poets,” Tara said, but halfway through the motion of crumbling up the note she stopped. “And who the hell is ‘Shu’!?”
Tara folded the note carefully – and put it in her pocket …