Between Orcs And Men

A/N: This is gonna be a long one. The Authors' note. Not the story. OK, the story too. If you don't like long A/Ns, skip down to CHAPTER 1. Firstly, I'd like to say that you'll recognise some of the characters' names from other stories of mine, etc., but that's because I have a lazy imagination. Secondly, WARCRAFT and all the games there off are © Vivendi, or Blizzard, or whatever. Bartuk is © me. Do not steal him, on pain of death. I don't give a toss what you do with the other characters. Thirdly, this isn't the first ever Between Orcs And Men I've ever written. Only one person besides me has ever read the seeds of the first one, and no, it wasn't you, and no, you can't read it. I got sick of that one, and decided to re-write it. This is it so far. I don't care if anyone likes it or not, as with my other works; I just feel the need to write. It's stress relieving.

Lastly, and most likely most importantly (to me), I'd like to thank my friends. To Queen Smithy, who encourages me by lying through her teeth, saying I have the ability to write! To Azrael, who was that one person who read and liked the first Between Orcs And Men, so I bunged him in it. To Schnitzel and to Tarquin, who were just . . . there. Thanks you guys!

Chapter 1

"Look up at the sky. What do you see?" the peaceful sounds of the forest, here in the dead of night, were finally broken by a soft voice that belonged there.

There was a long silence; the moonlit woods hummed with drowsy life. Eventually, a deeper, gruff, barbaric voice grunted its reply,

"Stars."

Two men where there, lying on the forest bed, hands behind their heads, staring up at the inky blue sky. The first was Dante, a rogue and a ranger. He wasn't human by birth - only by upbringing - but an elf. Not a normal wood elf, either, but a Night elf, found when he was less than a year old by a group of human noblemen, when they were out hunting. One of them, a man called Robert Manard, had decided to adopt the elfling as a child of his own and named him Dante. From then on, Lord Manard had to keep his new son covered up constantly, to hide his long elfish ears and indigo skin; the night elves weren't exactly favoured by the people of Lordaeron.

Dante had been brought up to be polite and courteous by his mother (Darla Manard had taken to Dante straight away. He was her dark angel, her pretty little wood sprite.). However, Robert had embraced Dante's unusual speed and strength and his eerie ability to blend into shadow - that came naturally to his kind – and taught him how to kill.

Now though, twenty-five years on from when Lord Manard had first found him, Dante had left his adopted parents and offered his services to the king.

Few people knew of Dante's true guise – he made sure to keep his hood up, to wear gloves and had passed off as just another reserved, shifty rogue – but those who did know thought nothing of it.

One of the men who did know of Dante's elfish origin was lying next to him in the woods that night, looking at the sky with lazy un-interest.

Dahel was Dante's opposite; while the elf was at ease with nature – conversing with the wolves, sleeping in the trees – Dahel was a barbarian. He was a good sight taller than anyone else Dante had ever met and at first sight, a most fearsome monster. However, to Dante, Dahel was just a rather dim but gentle giant.

Sure, the broad shoulders, massive muscles and plentiful supply of swords and axes weren't just for show, but Dante was pretty sure that his companion wouldn't ever use them against him.

Dahel was a human, but resembled something closer to a half-giant. Although he wasn't very bright, he was unbelievably strong and had admirably fast reflexes (though it was nothing close to Dante's speed). He knew how to use almost every weapon imaginable with some ounce of skill, and although he was a good shot with a bow, he always preferred to use a sword or axe.

Dante rolled his eyes,

"Yes, stars. But what do they mean to you?" the ranger was always trying to find a poetic side to his barbaric friend. So far, he'd failed.

There was another long, uncomfortable pause.

"Eh?" Dahel replied. The rogue on his right sighed.

"Nevermind."

The pair had been lying in the forest for a fair few hours now. They had arrived in the early afternoon, hoping that…Whoever it was they were supposed to collect would already be there, waiting for them. They weren't, however, so Dante and Dahel had already caught themselves a deer, made a fire (it was down to a few glowing embers now), eaten and taken a snooze. Still, now in the dark hours of the morning, they waited.
Neither of them were sure of what they were looking out for – Nathan had been a bit vague about that.

Since the previous ruler of Lordaeron – King Terenas – had been slain by his own son Arthas, Nathan had been selected as the new king. However, the freshly crowned King Nathan had become incredibly over-burdened, what with yet another threat of attack from the Orcish Horde. He had called for assistance from all the warlords and army generals he knew – Nathan was just a nobleman! What did he know of war? In the meetings that followed, the lords and generals of Lordaeron had offered a lot of suggestions. One of the best ideas, however – and all of the lords agreed – was posed by on Lord Azrael. In his intelligent way of thinking, he had asked, why not call for backup? A few generals were outraged. They thought it cowardly, calling in foreign troops to fight their battles for them. The majority of the assembled agreed, though, that it was an excellent plan, and it had passed off as 'A good way to strengthen alliances between races.'

The idea had then turned into an agreement that each man present would call in as many recruits as they could, to be sure to wipe out the Horde once and for all. Then, at the next meeting – in a months' time – they would discuss further, with the leaders of the new troops also present.

So the lords had gone their separate ways to send their proposals abroad.

King Nathan had made his own arrangements, to call in a warrior called 'Shaz'kin'. This was were Dante and Dahel came in; the warrior Shaz'kin as to meet them in the Coppen Forest, at the base of the Aerie Peak, so they could escort him to the Kings' Castle.
Neither the barbarian nor the rogue knew where Shaz'kin came from, what he looked like or even how he would find them in the woods. The king has just told them not to worry, just that they should go.

Dahel snorted,

"Wonder why he sent us," he mused. "We're good warriors, us. The Orcs could attack at any time, and he sends us to be errand boys. Back in Lordaeron, they could be tearing down the castle, and here we are, napping in the woods."

Dante sniffed; he thought the same thing. He sought a suitable reply, but eventually he simply answered,

"I'm sure he had his reasons."

Dahel snorted again, and fell asleep.



Nathan dragged his fingertip around the edge of his wineglass. Another banquet. Great. Nobles sitting all around him at the thick, decorated oak table, eating sparsely and talking far too much, he thought. There he was, the king, his chin slumped against one hand, staring idly into the dark red wine. He wondered, absently, how Dahel and . . . What was his name, the shady one . . . Dante. He wondered how they were doing. His thoughts, however, were shattered,

"Majesty?" a voice near his ear shouted in a slurred voice, "Don't you agree?" a surly general – drunk most likely, Nathan thought, by the smell of his breath – had nudged the king in the ribs, harder than necessary, causing him to spill half of his wine across the dark wood tabletop. Nathan sat up abruptly, to avoid the wine seeping into his clothes. He steadied his glass, and massaged his side. Arching a fair eyebrow at the general, he replied,

"I don't know. What is it I'm supposed to be agreeing to?"

This comment seemed to break the general into fits of hysterical laughter. Nathan glared at him for a moment, sighed, and mopped up the wine with his napkin. Leaning back in his large, throne of a chair, he tried to put a name to the officer. He'd seen him before, while he was walking about the grounds, drilling a group of fresh recruits, with over-enthusiastic cruelty.

"Krass!" a voice about five seats away yelled, "Pass down the mead, will ye?!" At this, the general next to Nathan slowly subsided from his ridiculous bout of the giggles, and slid a large copper jug along the table.

Ah, that's right, thought Nathan, Krass Brackjaw.

Krass was only slightly taller than Nathan, but whereas the king was fair-haired, with a skinny build, General Brackjaw had short, copper-brown hair and a full suit of iron plate-mail. Under the thick metal, Nathan was pretty certain there were horrifically scarred but well-built muscles. He had often heard Krass bragging of the wars he'd fought in, the monsters he'd killed; the king was never really impressed – he despised war – but he didn't doubt that most of the tales were true. The general, though still full of life, looked old enough to have been present in all the battles he spoke of – ones even before Nathan's time. If Nathan remembered correctly, Krass was also a Baron of. . .Well, somewhere. He figured that Krass had gotten his status through his deeds and not through his birthright. Not like Nathan had.

The young king sighed, and lulled back into the buzzing conversation.