This is set before the third war, a couple years before Thrall breaks out and pretty much destroys every internment camp in sight. Maybe like two or three.
Also, I'm not entirely sure when goblins starting selling their stuff to other races, but it was probably early on. Their shops are freaking everywhere in Warcraft 3, lol. If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me. I'm just estimating.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think.
See No Evil
1: To Speak
"Make sure she doesn't leave your sight," the rather stern-looking priest said. "This one tends to wander."
"Yes, Father William," the paladin replied mechanically. The old priest regarded him with subtle annoyance, and the child that clung to his robes looked up at him with timid curiosity.
Joseph Wetmore was beginning to regret volunteering for this. The Church of Holy Light had started a program meant to educate children of the church's orphanage about the light. For a couple days, a paladin or priest of the church would take a child around with them, performing various duties or teaching them the basic idea of what the Holy Light was. At first, the paladin thought this a good idea- he believed the light would give something to have faith in when the world was already so cruel to them. Unfortunately, when he signed up for said program, he did not foresee the events that took place just afterwards.
A friend of his- a soldier employed to guard the internment camp nearby- had fallen terribly ill. It was not so terrible that he wouldn't survive (he was already getting better), but without him, the camp would be too short of guards. Apparently whatever had gotten him was going around. (It wasn't surprising with how filthy the camps were.) So Joseph, out of the goodness of his heart, volunteered to take his place, forgetting completely what he had volunteered to do for the church, until that morning, when Father William showed up at his quarters in the abbey with the child in tow.
Said child was not blinking. (Her gaze was starting to drift elsewhere, at that space one stares at when one isn't staring at anything at all.)
He liked children, really, but this was… inconvenient.
"I assume you have something planned for your outing?" the priest cut into his thoughts.
"Ah- yes, yes. I have something all planned out for today," he lied through his teeth. He hoped William wouldn't notice. He was an awful liar. Father William quirked an eyebrow in suspicion, but otherwise said nothing.
"Very well, then," the priest stated stoically. "Take care."
"Light be with you, Father," Joseph called after him as he walked away. (Father William rolled his eyes at this.) The child looked after him nervously, then put her eyes back on the paladin.
She was small, but lithe, appearing more like the child of a fairy or nymph rather than a human. Her eyes were a bright, nervous yellow, and her skin was pale and had an almost otherworldly glow to it. She still, however, had all the rosiness of a newborn; her cheeks, lips, ears, and hands were all tinted a soft, glowing pink. Her hair was short and messy, but not dirty, appearing to be a dark, rusted blonde. Her bangs frequently fell in front of her face, and she fixed them just as frequently with her tiny, slender hands. Her clothes appeared very worn but clean; a simple cotton shirt and pant with little green shoes was all she wore. The shoes were probably new and in relatively good shape; the girl probably cared for them religiously (as religiously as a six-year-old was capable of, anyway).
The paladin knelt down on one knee, and looked her in the eye to show that he meant no harm. The girl looked as easily startled as a rabbit.
"Hello, little one," he tried to say gently.
"…h…hello," she replied softly. She tried not to make direct eye contact.
"Do you have a name, little one?" he asked.
"…Elpis," she said. He almost quirked an eyebrow at this. How appropriate it was for her to be named after a holy virtue, and after 'hope' at that.
"Do you have a last name, Elpis?" She cocked her head to the side for a moment, puzzled, and then understood what he had asked and shook her head. "Do you mind if I call you 'Ellie?'" She shook her head again. "How do you feel about getting some ice cream?" Her eyes lit up, and he smiled. Wonderful creatures, goblins- cheap and greedy they may be, but they came up with some pretty amazing stuff.
About an hour later, he and the child were heading towards the stables of Lordaeron city, ice cream in hand. Joseph had spent the morning attempting to teach his ward about the principles of loyalty and kindness, but felt as if none of his words were getting through to the child. He would say something to her, but she would always be looking in the other direction, or she'd be looking at him but he got the feeling that she wasn't really looking at him. Perhaps she was shy- after all, so far she only talked to answer his questions, and even then it was only one or two words. Perhaps if he tried a bit harder…
"Where are you from, little one?" he asked gently. She turned and looked at him curiously as she licked her ice cream cone. She shrugged her shoulders.
"Well, where did you live before you came to Lordaeron?" She shrugged her shoulders again, and he felt a little bad about bringing it up. He tried to change the subject.
"Do you know where we are headed?" She shook her head. "We are going to an internment camp. Do you know what that is?" She nodded, and ended up getting a bit of ice cream on her chin. She didn't seem to mind, though. "Good. Just think of it as a field trip." Her eyes lit up at those words. "But don't tell Father William or anyone else, alright?"
"Why?" she asked.
"Because we don't want the other children to get jealous, do we?" he lied. "Not everybody gets to see an orc in person, you know." She nodded vigorously at this, trying to appear serious but grinning excitedly each and every time she did. (The paladin realized that he was probably going straight to hell for this.)
They eventually reached the stables, and Joseph retrieved his horse, a chestnut brown mare. Elpis looked up at the creature as she finished off her ice cream, but her eyes weren't particularly focused on anything. (Perhaps they were focused on something he couldn't see, but he didn't really want to think about that.)
"Ellie, have you ever ridden on a horse before?"
A couple hours later, Joseph and the child arrived at the Lordaeron internment camp. Almost immediately upon nearing it, he noticed the mud that had formed was seeping through the front gate and cringed. He really shouldn't have been surprised; it rained all of yesterday and the day before. But still. The guards waved him in, and the front gate opened. He rode in and tried to keep a good distance between himself and the fences keeping in the orcs. (He also tried not to cringe at the screeching sound the gate made as it closed.) Elpis looked at the orcs inquisitively. A few looked back, but most tried not to.
"Why are they so sad?" she asked, pointing at them for emphasis.
"It isn't polite to point, sweetheart," he said without really thinking. Then he went over what she'd said in his head. "That's very kind of you to ask, Ellie, but you need not waste your compassion on the likes of them." He made sure they heard him.
"Because they're orcs, little one. They're barbarians." The paladin remembered too well the First and Second wars to think of them as much else, but the child wasn't convinced.
"…what's 'compassion' mean?"
"It means being kind to those less fortunate than you; something those monsters don't deserve." (The child thought vaguely of earlier, how he had said everyone should be kind to one another, but kept her mouth closed.)
He dismounted and led his horse to one of the stable stalls, then carefully picked up Elpis off the horse and placed her on his hip, choosing to carry her rather than let her touch the filthy floor of the stables. She didn't seem to have a problem with it.
"Joseph, you're here," someone said amiably. He turned, recognizing said voice.
"Louis. How are you?"
"Great. Poor John, though, huh?"
"How is he?"
"Should be well enough by tomorrow. Is she yours, by the way?"
"Ah, no. She's from the orphanage." He explained the situation, and the soldier showed him where he could safely keep the child until they could leave.
It was a small, sparse room close to where some of the soldiers slept. It was probably used as a dining hall at some point, but it appeared to have been neglected for several years. There was a wooden table and a few wooden chairs, but that's all it had. There was also a window that looked directly onto the prisoners' quarters (which would explain why it wasn't used that often).
He placed Elpis at the table, along with some scraps of paper and some pens and ink.
"Elpis," he began, directly addressing her. "I need you to stay here for a little while. I'll come back for you later, alright?"
"Alright," she replied softly.
She stayed there about two hours after he left.
She'd managed to keep herself occupied by scribbling on the scraps of paper she'd been given, but eventually (after doodling thoroughly on both sides of every piece and getting spots of ink all over her fingers) she grew bored. Boredom wasn't particularly agonizing for her, but it did lead to some rather strange situations. Like when she made Father William mad when she'd wandered into his quarters at around three in the morning because a dream had woken her up half an hour before. Or when she wandered into the woods at around noon, and didn't come back until nearly dusk with a stray dog in tow (Matron wouldn't let her out of her sight for weeks after that). Or another time when she went into the woods, and she found a person with green skin and dark hair setting up a campfire (but she wasn't supposed to tell anyone that- mister greenskin said they'd get in trouble and bad people would take him away if she did, so didn't tell anyone, not even her favorite toys, her shoes).
She stared out at the window, but there weren't any clouds (the whole sky was a drab grey) to watch or people to watch, so she grew even more bored. She looked back to the scraps of paper hopefully, trying to find any more room to scribble. She couldn't, and made a small, displeased grunt. She looked out the window again, and saw that a small child (bigger than her, but still small) had moved into her line of sight.
The child's skin was a faded lime green, much different from her pale but rosy peach. He had a tuft of dark hair near the crown of his head, but that was all the hair he had. Perhaps the rest was cut off- shaved off, even. She didn't know for sure, he was too far away. Perhaps she should take a closer look?
She thought about what Joseph had said, and gave the drab, dull room one last look.
Well, she wouldn't be gone long, anyway.
She started to head for the door, but thought better and headed towards the open window instead. (The room was ground level, so it couldn't be that hard.) After grabbing a chair and dragging it to the window, she climbed on top of it and used it as leverage to climb out the window. Her feet hit the ground with a relatively dull 'plop.' Upon seeing how muddy said ground was, she decided that her shoes would be better off on the windowsill, where they wouldn't get any dirtier. (The process of removing the mud that had gotten on there would begin later when it dried and was easier to scrape off.)
She turned, and saw that the boy was still sitting in the mud. She quietly made her way over to him, trudging through the mud, her pale feet and rosy toes slowly getting darker and darker from the soaked earth. The sensation was rather pleasant, really- feeling the dirt squish between her toes. She started to watch her feet and the footsteps she made rather than what was in front of her and very nearly ran into him. She stopped just short of him, however.
"What'cha doing?" she asked finally. He whipped around to face her (as if he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't have), but did not make to get up from his spot.
He had a small piercing, she noticed. It was a tiny clay peg in the lobe of his right ear, and she thought it intriguing. This little green boy had dark, but warm orange eyes (they were too bright to be brown) and a large (to her standards anyway- still tiny by orc standards) canine on the right side of his mouth. The left appeared to be missing. (She disregarded his filthy clothes. Hers weren't much better.)
He mumbled something, looking away.
"What?" she asked again, curious.
"I'm making a house." She blinked, curious piqued.
"…can I help?"
He turned to face her, completely dumbstruck. Then he nodded, jerking his head suddenly (probably thinking that he'd be punished if he didn't).
Elpis was overjoyed.
"Kali, look at what your son is doing."
The orc turned to face her mate but otherwise didn't move.
"Yes?" she replied in her soft alto. "What is it?" The child on her lap looked over her mother's shoulder inquisitively (toddler was more accurate; the child wasn't much older than three).
"Come look," he persisted, beckoning her with a wave of his massive hand. Kali sighed, but put the child on her hip as she got up and moved towards the entrance of the building (she couldn't bring herself to call it her home even though she knew that that's exactly what it was, because there was nothing for her to go back to). She peered out cautiously, not sure what to expect- it could've been a guard scolding her child, or even worse, hurting him. (She suspected it was the first one- the guards knew better than to mess with any child of hers.)
Her son, Ourruk, was playing with a human child. More specifically, he was instructing her on the finer points of building a house of mud, from what she could hear. And from the look of it, the human child was listening very intently to what he had to say. The toddler on her hip, Caleb, found this very intriguing; she had started to grope the air in the general direction of her brother. She struggled to say "Ourruk" and said "Ruke" instead. Apparently her mate found this rather funny, because his other hand was being used to cover a very wry smile.
"If only all humans were like this," he said mock-wistfully, very nearly laughing into his palm. Kali cracked a smile.
"Poor child probably got lost," she said. The orcs that weren't entirely lethargic glared at them sleepily and she remembered what the child was. What she, herself, was. "The guards will come looking for her, I'd imagine." She moved towards the doorway, but her mate stopped her.
"Let them play a little longer," he advised. "Perhaps they will learn something from it."