There are some lines in here that are taken directly from the game, and are the property of Blizzard. As are the characters, of course.
Rated for language and violence.
Fear was a fickle emotion. Orcs weren't supposed to be afraid; fearing neither death nor pain and especially not the dark. Nazgrim didn't fear death. Well, not directly. All children think of death and he was no different. For Nazgrim, death was a great abyss of the unknown, an insidious darkness that penetrated both body and soul. And it was that darkness that made his skin prickle; it blanketed both sound and sight, making him feel exposed and very vulnerable.
Darkness is a warrior's friend, many tried to tell him. It allows you to hide; it nurtures your wounds until you are ready to face what's coming. It didn't matter. When they had first arrived on this world, many were taken from the camps during the nights. Screaming and wailing they were grabbed by unknown hands never to be seen again. Nazgrim didn't remember this – he'd been much too young. Still, he knew that somewhere deep in his mind, the cries he couldn't remember still echoed.
His father was disappointed for raising such a weakling. His mother wouldn't let him hear the harsh words, but Nazgrim knew. Adults always underestimate children's abilities to understand subtleties, his parents were no exception.
He hadn't meant to wander off. Really. The other children had been cruel and told him to close his eyes and start counting until they stopped him. He'd reached over three hundred before losing track and when he'd opened his eyes to apologize the other children were gone. Dejected, he'd run off in the opposite direction of home.
As the trees grew larger and the foliage thickened, the sky no longer visible; he started to regret his childish fit. The darkness felt heavier deeper into the wild. More tangible. It was as though he could feel it caressing his bare arms, whispering soundlessly into his ears. He wasn't afraid, he told himself. Orcs do not fear anything.
He stepped on a twig and the snap startled a bird in a nearby bush and it took flight while screaming a warning to its kin. Nazgrim clutched his chest, mentally willing his heart to stop pounding. Okay, so maybe he was a little frightened. This particular part of the swamp was unknown to him and he was unarmed. His mother had given him a small blade and told him to keep it with him at all times. But once again, he'd failed her. A full-grown orc could hold his own against an enemy, but a child, small as he was, stood no such chance.
Another rustle in the foliage had him on edge, but he quickly admonished himself. Another bird, surely. No need to be so skittish. Despite this, he turned around, cautiously surveilling the undergrowth for signs of danger. If it hadn't been for the human's brilliant white cloak, Nazgrim never would have spotted him. As it were, the fabric caught his eye as its brightness didn't match anything else he'd seen in the swamp. Here, everything was dark and damp. He studied the abnormality, sweeping his eyes over it until he met the gaze of the human crouched behind the largest tree.
Their eyes met for the briefest of seconds, before the orc cub took off in a run. Desperate, he ran for his life. He had no sense of direction nor his surroundings, all he could hear was the pounding of his heart in his ears and all he could see was the human's eyes. Nazgrim knew what fate awaited him if the man caught him – during those short seconds he'd seen his own death in those dark, cruel eyes.
His foot caught on a root and he went down headfirst in the muddy water. He tried standing, but his ankle protested and he cried out from the pain as he put weight on it. He started crawling blindly on his hands and knees, frantically trying to get away, but was dragged back roughly. He screamed in pain, in fright, in panic but was cut off as his head went underwater. A vicious kick to his ribs flipped him over on his back and he came up coughing and spluttering. He couldn't breathe.
As the pressure in his chest subsided and Nazgrim was able to take shallow, shuddering gasps of air, he heard a strange croaking sound coming from the human. It took him a few moments to realize that he was laughing. Laughing at him – the weak, defenseless orc child sitting on his behind in the mud. The man said something. Nazgrim didn't understand the words, but his tone was mocking. He stroked the hilt of his sword slowly before grasping it in his hand and pulling it free from its scabbard.
Nazgrim watched, as in slow motion, as the large sword arched through the air before descending towards him. It is indescribable, the sound a blade makes as it pierces flesh. It is loud and muffled all at once. Fast and slow. Dry and wet. He would never forget that sound. But the pain he expected to accompany it never came.
Nazgrim forced open his eyes, eyes he didn't even remember closing. Patting down his chest, he realized the sword had never touched him. It was still clutched in the hand of the human standing prone over him. The human who had another's blade protruding from his chest, as if stabbed from the behind. He gurgled once, twice and then fell limply, landing face first in the shallow water. He didn't move again.
The large orc who had been standing behind him pulled out the blade from his ribcage before grabbing Nazgrim's upper arm and pulling him to his feet. The other orc was familiar, a guard who often patrolled the perimeters of the camp. Gormek had been a close friend of his brother's before he'd died and now usually watched over the younger children, keeping an especially close eye on his friend's younger brother. Nazgrim was suddenly grateful for his water soaked clothes, as he was almost certain he'd wetted himself sometime during the assault.
He mumbled his thanks to the warrior and together they started the trek back home. If Gormek noticed Nazgrim's limping, he didn't mention it and Nazgrim was grateful. He refused to be carried back to camp. Night had fallen by now, but the cub wasn't afraid. Not only did he have a large protector at his side but he felt a little more in tune with the darkness. As long as he allowed it, it would conceal him from enemies. The human had exploited it, and so had the orc warrior.
He clutched the dagger in his pocket, the dagger he'd stolen from the dead human – a man who tried to kill him, but now lay rotting in the swamp himself – and kept limping, head held high.
The others said that the forests of Ashenvale reminded them of Shadowmoon Valley. Few of the orcs had actually been, as most of them grew up on the lush plains of Nagrand. Nazgrim had never been to neither, but appreciated the colorful forest and soft lighting – it was a vast improvement over the aptly named Swamp of Sorrows. Hell, he even preferred the – also aptly named – Barrens over that swamp.
The Mor'shan Ramparts were the only lasting barrier, protecting the Barrens from forceful push of the Alliance. The night elves were only interested in saving their precious forest, but Nazgrim had seen the occasional human within their midst. And if there was one thing he'd learnt during his ascent in the military it was that humans were not to be trusted.
His current assignment for the day was to accompany his superior to the prisoners they had acquired during last night's raid. The sentinels preferred to attack in the dark; their inherent agility and ability to see in the dark making them far superior to the orcs during such conditions. Despite this, the Warsong Clan put up quite a fight. Though many night elves were able to return home, few of them were unharmed. Some – those who appeared important, such as their equivalent of generals – were taken as prisoners of war, but still, many bodies had littered the forest floor last night. Nazgrim did not envy those on cleaning duty which included dragging the bodies over to the large funeral pyre. Normally, they wouldn't grant the elves the honor of a proper funeral, but the corpses would attract animals and Nazgrim took a perverse pleasure in burning the bodies on wood from the forest they were fighting so hard to protect.
Gormek was standing outside the building that now served as a prison. When he noticed Nazgrim he turned to unlock the heavy door and pushed it open, indicating that Nazgrim would take the lead. Because of their shared history, Gormek tended to be less formal in his dealings with the younger orc, than what was expected of a superior officer.
The corridor was dark, but small cracks allowed the sunlight to filter in. Their footsteps disturbed the layers of dust and dirt, which swirled lazily through the air, giving the light an illusion of being pale and dirty. Fitting for a prison, Nazgrim thought. Even the sunlight became crippled and disfigured in this place. It was silent. No moans of pain or muffled sobs would wreck these proud elves. Despite himself, he felt the slightest wisps of admiration.
Stopping in front of the cell furthest in, the one he knew contained a sentinel of some weight – she had worn the fanciest armor and rode the biggest nightsaber Nazgrim had ever seen. He grimaced at the thought of what these elves referred to as 'armor'. Most of them only wore metal underwear and the druids and priests even less so. Sure, they were lithe and agile, but there were other, more pressing concerns in the heat of battle, than caring about how you look.
Gormek produced a key, inserted it inside the padlock, which opened with a click. The heavy chains rattled as the door was pushed open. Inside the cell, in the darkest corner, where the sun didn't reach, sat a filthy, disheveled figure. Her long purple hair was matted with dirt and blood and there were questionable stains on her armor. She growled in warning as the two orcs entered, but did not give any other indication to her discomfort.
Gormek started to question the prisoner, speaking in the Common tongue, which was the favored language by the Alliance. Nazgrim didn't understand more than a select few words – something he reprimanded himself for. How else would he be able to interrogate prisoners and decipher battle plans?
The elf made no attempt to answer the questions, instead preferring to sneer at them, hissing in her melodic language. Despite the pleasing cadence of it, the threat and anger were made obvious by the tone of her voice.
Gormek's words grew more and more heated and suddenly he grabbed the war axe hanging from his belt. The elf stood up then, wincing as she put weight on her obviously injured leg. She backed against the wall, but her defiant expression remained. Nazgrim knew Gormek didn't want to hurt or torture the prisoner – not because he was too soft-hearted, but rather because they had trained professionals to perform that sort of task. They were educated on the workings of the body; knowing exactly where to extract pain and suffering without killing the prisoner. Gormek and Nazgrim were soldiers – killing efficiently was what they had trained for.
Suddenly, an explosion shattered the air, followed by several cries. The ground shook and Nazgrim lost his balance for a few seconds, forcing him to go down on one knee to avoid falling completely. Then the world erupted and all he felt was pain as he was pushed away. He sluggishly came to, unaware that he had fallen. Black spots danced in front of him, hindering his vision and his ears were filled with a shrill sound, reminiscent of claws dragging against stone. He shook his head until it cleared and then was finally able to stand, though the world tilted in a peculiar angle.
A piece of the roof had fallen into their cell, dust and debris littering the air and making it even harder to see properly. Where was Gormek? He heard an agonized groan coming from the debris and went forward to investigate. Hadn't it been for that sound he never would have found his friend. Gormek was mostly concealed by a portion of the collapsed roof, and the rest was covered in dust; making it difficult to discern his features from the area around him.
Nazgrim kneeled next to his superior. The two orcs caught each other's eyes and time seemed frozen as they held it for several moments. Then, Gormek's eyes rolled back into his skull and his entire body relaxed, expelling the last breaths of air from his lungs.
Terror and grief gripped Nazgrim, but before he could move, something sharp nicked his throat and he felt a presence behind him. The elf – forgotten up until this moment – had appropriated a piece of metal from the debris and now pressed it against his throat.
"Oh-garr," she hissed at him. Despite the butchering of his native tongue, the orc understood the word with perfect clarity. Ogar. Kill.
Once again he found himself on the sharp end of a weapon, with a member of the Alliance at the other end. This time, Gormek would not come to the rescue. These fucking elves had killed him!
With a primal roar, Nazgrim grasped the delicate wrist of the night elf, snapped it like a twig and threw her into the nearest wall. She shrieked, but dropped the piece of metal and tumbled to the floor. Dazed, she tried to get up again, but Nazgrim was on top of her before she could bring her feet under her.
He grabbed her by the throat and bellowed into her face, unleashing all of his rage and grief on the elf. She looked terrified, but squirmed against his grip, attempting to free herself. He roared again and drove his fist into her face, again and again. It wasn't until a few minutes later that the bloodlust faded and sanity returned him to the present. The elf was long dead – his aggression making her face unrecognizable.
A tiny flicker of shame rolled through him; shame that he had let his rage get the best of him, but he quickly dismissed it. With a last, regretful look at the body of his friend, Nazgrim grasped his large axe in both hands and exited the cell. Judging from the sounds outside, the elves were still inside the camp and he would show them no mercy.
Nazgrim had been patrolling the area around Conquest Hold along with two other guards. Questing adventurers had reported several skirmishes along the river, with the infirmary in the hold filled to the brim as a result. Krenna believed that the Alliance had grown bold in the past few days and diverted their usual attacks on the logging camp further south. Nazgrim was unconvinced, however.
The attacks had occurred south of the hold, close to the Vrykul settlement, making the large warriors the likelier perpetrators. He had suggested as much to Krenna, who had dismissed the notion with a sneer and a few mocking words.
Conqueror Krenna was just that – a conqueror. Gaining the upper hand on the Alliance was her single goal and no other accomplishments or other daily assignments held her interest. He could understand how the orc was valued as a strong and able warrior, but as a leader, she was just abysmal. Needless to say, she and Nazgrim did not get along well.
In a fit of anger, Krenna had sent him along on an (unnecessary!) scouting patrol. Everything had seemed perfectly normal; they had only encountered one or two bears, which had ignored them in favor of the fish in the river. In fact, everything had been calm enough that the guards had suggested they split up to cover more ground. Nazgrim had volunteered to go south. As the others were convinced the Alliance were involved, they were more than happy to go north.
He found nothing. Either the adventurers were clumsy idiots or the Vrykul knew how to cover their tracks. He decided to head back to Conquest Hold, impatiently scratching his itchy forearm. It did nothing to soothe the itchy feeling and he rolled up his sleeve to take a look.
His entire left arm was covered in red welts, and it was spreading even as he looked at it. Worriedly, he looked around him. The most likely reason for the rash was the plethora of poisonous plants that littered this damned continent. Though, not being a herbalist, Nazgrim was unsure of which plant could have caused this. He'd better hurry back to the Hold before it could get any worse.
He didn't even reach half a mile before his head started spinning and he had to stop before the dizziness increased. Finding a tree trunk, he leaned against it and felt his legs give and he slid down the trunk until he was crouched on the ground. Had his breathing been this labored ten minutes ago? He doubted it. A quick look confirmed his suspicions – the rash had spread up towards the shoulder and even though he could not see, it was likely it had targeted his neck as well.
Orcs valued honor above all. To die in battle, defending your claim and protecting your kin was considered a worthy way to go. To die alone, the vicinity completely devoid of enemies while hiding in the underbrush however, was not. Frankly, Nazgrim felt embarrassed.
That was his last coherent thought before the hallucinations started. Faces blended in to each other, with garish colors and smells accentuating the scenes. After, he would not be able to describe his visions, but at the moment, they made perfect sense.
"Hey mon, ya' okay?"
Who said that?
He forced his eyes open, but it made no difference as all he could see was blue. He quickly shut them again. The smell was less unpleasant, though. Pine, leather and sweat assaulted his senses. It smelled like the outdoors, like Grizzly Hills. He chanced to look again, but a monster smiled at him, all teeth and yellow, predatory eyes.
He bellowed in fright, in challenge; anything to make the monster go away. Then there was only darkness.
He hadn't expected to awaken again, but when he did, he was indoors. The entirety of his upper body was covered in bandages carrying a very pungent smell. He lay for a while, staring at the ceiling. His mind was sluggish, and it took longer than he cared to admit for him to recognize the infirmary in Conquest Hold. He was alive.
The caretaker strode into the room, sounding irate and chastising him for his idiocy. He learnt that a passing troll shaman had found him, completely disoriented, in the wilderness and had brought him back to the hold just in the nick of time.
Nazgrim had bribed the troll not to leak any details to anyone, especially Krenna, or Ancestors' forbid, Hellscream. Of all the deaths available in the world of Azeroth, being poisoned by a fucking plant had to be one of the worst. At least he survived, being spared from further embarrassment. Hopefully the troll would keep his mouth shut.
Vashj'ir would be a powerful and strategic location to launch an attack on Stormwind. It made sense to why Hellscream would want to claim it. Warchief Hellscream. The name rang powerful and true in his mind. Thrall had been a just and mighty leader – plucking the remnants of the Horde from their miserable existence and lead them to a new land – where they could thrive yet again. But with Hellscream at the helm, the Horde would become more glorious than ever.
The first step would be to conquer this new mass of islands appearing out of the sea, following the Cataclysm. He hadn't been the first choice to go, he knew that, but with an increasing amount of ships and warriors disappearing, Nazgrim had been handed a promotion and a ticket to a mercenary vessel.
Some mercenaries they were. The crew was… diverse, if you would call it that. He knew they were the only ship available for the time being, but it didn't lessen the stench of human that reeked from the vessel.
After a long and rather uneventful journey, save for the idiot human that had jumped overboard, one of the crewmen cried out for her captain.
"Captain! Shipwreck off the starboard bow! There appear to be survivors!"
"What is the meaning of this?" Nazgrim shouted. True enough, people appeared to be standing on top of the upturned boat. They were frantically waving at the passing vessel.
Nazgrim took one step forward, debating whether or not they ought to save them. He hadn't even finished formulating the thought in his head before something huge burst from the surface below and enveloped itself around the ship.
As a seasoned warrior, Nazgrim unsheathed his axe and turned towards the others behind him. A mix of vanguards and adventurers – including, he saw, the troll that had saved his life in Northrend – greeted him. They had a battle to win.
"Stand your ground, brothers! Make it bleed!"
Despite their best efforts, they were helpless. More things shot out of the water and started grabbing the people on board, until they were less than half of what they started with. Suddenly, Nazgrim felt a tug and a crushing weight around his body. Looking down, he noticed that he, too, had been taken captive. He roared ferociously and started hacking at the appendage holding him, though to no avail. It dragged him down into the depths.
The water was cold. He was dragged deeper and deeper down, until virtually no light reached him. His lungs were protesting, desperate for air and he knew he could not control the breathing reflex for much longer. Soon as it would take over, he was dead.
He was ashamed of the panic that gripped him. Glimpses of a childhood memory – a damp swamp, a cruel human and the familiar pressure in his chest – flashed through his mind.
Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the creature let go.
Nazgrim gave a few feeble attempts to swim to the surface, but it was too far and his armor was weighing him down. The water enveloped him on all sides, the cold had numbed his pain and the darkness was getting less oppressive. It was actually quite comforting. He had always thought that drowning would be a horrible death, but this wasn't so bad.
He couldn't fight it anymore, and opened his mouth to take a water-logged, final breath.
When he came to and had shed the last vestiges of his near-death experience, Nazgrim felt useless. Once again, he had been saved by a passing adventurer. He glanced at the Earthen Ring shaman opposite him. He seemed powerful enough if he was able to drive away that monster and Nazgrim wasn't one to turn away potential allies.
The Horde would be victorious in this.
It was rather comical, when you thought about it. What had he possibly thought to achieve by going to war with an army of ape-men at his side? Though, the Alliance hadn't fared better and been forced to join sides with a group of overgrown murlocs. An image of Taylor surrounded by the small reptilian pests filled his mind and he chuckled, but regretted it immediately as the motion jarred his injured ribcage and the plethora of bruises that decorated his upper body.
"Something funny, orc?"
Speaking of Taylor… Nazgrim had been pleased to wake up still in Pandaria, realizing he had survived the battle. He had been less pleased when he found the Alliance commander recuperating in the same room, however.
"Yes, the thought of cleaving you in half, starting from your balls and up. Assuming you have any," he sneered at the human in the bed placed against the opposite wall.
The Alliance commander snorted in reply, shaking his head.
"Kun-Lai is where you're going to die, orc. I'm going to bury you." The effect of his statement was somewhat ruined as the human tried to sit, but fell back with a pitiful wince.
"I hope you have the courage to die bravely, human. I'm in the mood for a good fight."
Despite their hostile words, both warriors knew there would be no action whatsoever until both of them were able to stand and wield a weapon. Though, none could bury the hatchet for the time being and had resorted to throwing threats in the absence of violence. The insults had grown more and more interesting over time.
"You… you escaped me in Vashj'ir. You won't be so lucky here," the orc threatened.
Abstaining from the usual to and fro exchange of threats, Taylor was silent. Perhaps he had fallen asleep, as humans were weak and needed much rest to recover from even minor wounds. Nazgrim was close to drifting off too when he heard the human speak.
"Why did you push me out of the way when the statue fell?"
Fuck, did he really want to bring this up? He paused for a few moments, thinking how he'd phrase his answer.
"If you're going to die, it's going to be because of me, not some fucking statue," he replied in a gruff voice, indicating that there would be no further clarification on his part.
It wasn't quite a sound explanation, Nazgrim knew, but it would have to do. Honestly, he didn't know why he saved the commander. It had been unintentional. When he saw the great shadow descending upon them he had just reacted; pushing the human away from him and throwing himself to the other side. That Taylor was Alliance had little to do with it.
But of course, no one would ever hear of this. His reputation would be irreparably damaged and Garrosh would most likely accuse him of treason.
"Well, thanks. I guess."
Nazgrim turned on his side, with his back to the human. Normally, he wouldn't turn his back on the enemy, but now he felt that the expression on his face would be an even more apparent weakness.
"Don't mention it."
It wasn't an acknowledgement. It was a warning.
When two opposite sides fought, there was never no side that was inherent 'good' – just as there were no side that was inherent 'evil'. There were just that; sides. For the most part, you only saw the reasoning of your own, and deemed the others your enemies.
Though Nazgrim knew that this was wrong.
When the entirety of Azeroth turned against you – without any regard for race or alignment – you just knew you were in the wrong.
Yet, there was nothing he could do.
He had sworn he would obey the Warchief and he would, despite his own personal introspection. Nazgrim would rather die an honorable death – doing his duty – than enduring the burden of considering himself a traitor.
Though he regretted the clash of brother against brother. There were so many that he had once considered friend. People he wouldn't hesitate to give his life for; Thrall, Gamon, Saurfang and the ones he'd discovered the new worlds with.
Fuck, even Commander Taylor was present.
He knew himself as a tough opponent. The years had not been kind on him, but had hardened the once delicate cub into a formidable warrior. Nevertheless, he could not withstand the onslaught of twenty-five seasoned fighters.
As he fell, he pondered the implications of the rebellion. Who would succeed Garrosh and steer the Horde on a new path? He doubted Thrall would ever return, though admittedly, he was the best candidate. Saurfang? No, the old orc would not accept the mantle of Warchief.
His axe – his beloved weapon – was ripped from his hands and he stared up at the group before him, most disdainful and apprehensive. Some were pitying, even. He attempted to shrug, but failed. He didn't need their pity. He would die with honor, he knew that.
In the sea of faces – Horde and Alliance alike – he locked eyes with the most familiar one. The one who had stayed at his side these past years. The one who had saved his life several times, and Nazgrim had returned the favor more than once. He wanted to explain himself, wanted to be honorably remembered by at least one.
"In the end, I stood by the Warchief because it was my duty and I am glad it was you who put me down," he panted. "May your strength… lead the Horde… into a new era of prosperity…" he trailed off, too exhausted to continue.
Fear was a fickle emotion. He remembered the terror from his younger days, which made its absence now all the more monumental.
The cold was enveloping him and his breathing became more and more labored. Closing his eyes for the final time, he started drifting off.
Into the dark abyss.
A/N: Without wanting to spout spoilers at anyone who may not want to know, I just wanted to say that I started this before the reveal of Legion, and did therefore not take into account any actions that are slated to occur.