Orphaned.

To an Orc, orphaned means that you have lost both of your parents.

But unlike Orcs, Tauren live in large family tribes known as utankan. Although they generally have a special fondness for their parents, the calves are raised by the entire tribe. All of a Tauren's utankan are her family.

An orphaned Tauren has lost a whole lot more than most people could ever imagine.

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Gorrum sat at the top of the stairs and stared out across the darkened Drag. The burly Orc smoked a cigar in silence.

The cigars were precious. Although not outrageously expensive, they were the lone extravagance that he kept hidden away in the modest apartment; saved for the very best of the best days... and the very worst of the worst as well.

Agra came out in her bathrobe and took a seat beside her husband.

"Did you find them?" she asked. He did not answer, so she felt compelled to ask again. "Were you able to find Kaja's family?"

Gorrum nodded slowly and drew the smoke deep into his lungs. He blew it out in short little puffs, and didn't speak until it was all gone. "We spent a week burying them. I'm... really tired."

Agra put a hand on his shoulder. "Did any others escape?"

He nodded again and stretched out the fingers of a single hand.

"Five? Five Tauren?" she gasped quietly, worried she might wake the child from her bed.

"Five, including Kaja," he explained. "Two other calves, a yearling, and an elder."

Traditionally peaceful nomads, the Tauren once wandered Mulgore with the seasons. They bothered no one and no one bothered them. From time to time, different tribes would cross paths as they migrated, and for a short while the two utankan would merge. They would share what they had and hold a celebration known as a nokee zhi.

That was before the centaur wars, of course. The centaurs had chased the Tauren from their ancestral home, and pursued them with a genocidal hatred.

The warchief, Thrall, had observed both races closely when the Orcs first came to Azeroth. Although neither race would ever admit it, the half-man/half-horse centaurs and the half-man/half-cow Tauren actually had a lot in common.

Gorrum suspected that was why they fought one another so viciously.

While his men built Orgrimmar, Thrall considered allying with both races. He had hoped that a common enemy would unite the two, but it was pointless. The world could burn and neither the Tauren nor the centaur would notice, so long as they were at each others' throats.

In the end, Thrall decided to ally with the Tauren. Not, mind you, because he felt that the Tauren were right and that the centaur were wrong. Right and wrong would be decided by the historians, but the warchief was a practical man that very much lived in the "now". Thrall had nothing to offer the centaur, but he was certain that if his troops could liberate Mulgore, then the noble Tauren would forever stand beside the Orcs.

"What will..." Agra couldn't quite find the words. "Where will they take her? Will they merge up with another tribe?"

Gorrum rolled the stogy back and forth in his fingers a while before shaking his head. "It's impossible. No one knows if any other tribe has wandered all the way to Durotar. They'd have to walk all the way back to the Barrens. And then searching for other Tauren on foot? It could take months to find another tribe to take them in."

Gorrum chuckled and gestured with the smoldering cigar. "He's proud, that old man. That's exactly what he intended to do. But there's just no way he could manage it. He couldn't protect them by himself. He couldn't provide for them all by himself. Letting them go would be a death sentence."

"But your outriders..." she whispered.

"...have their own battles to fight," he finished for her. "As much as I'd like to see them safely on their way, we can't spend a month escorting them back to the Barrens."

"But it wouldn't have to take a month," she protested. "You've ridden all the way from here to Far Watch Post in three days..."

Gorrum put his arm around Agra's shoulders. "Aye... I could take Kaja on my mount. Two of my men could take the other calves as well... But have you ever seen a Tauren yearling?" He shook his head. "That boy is nearly as big as I am!"

Gorrum grinned as he thought back about the lighter moments of the preceding week. Jorrag, the yearling, reminded him so much of a lanky Orcish teen. He was so strong, so eager, and so clumsy. He was constantly tripping over his own hooves. "I could teach him, perhaps, how to ride a worg, but what of the old man? Do I toss him in the back of an ox cart?"

Agra wiped away a tear. They had been brimming below the surface, and were just now beginning to spill out. "So what will become of them?"

Another drag on the cigar. "Matron Battlewail will watch the orphans. Perhaps she can find someone to take them in. As for the boy and old man..." He shrugged. "I wish I knew."

Agra leaned her head against Gorrum's shoulder. She wanted to talk about Kaja, but couldn't form the words. They had never intended to adopt a child, but now that the Tauren calf was here, she couldn't bear the thought of losing Kaja any more than her own daughter, Grima.

The silence stretched.

Gorrum offered her a drag on the cigar. "So how are the kids?" he asked.

There was something in the way that he said "the kids". She could feel the way he grouped them together, as if they were both his own.

The dam burst open and the tears spilled out. Agra wiped her face with the sleeve of her gown.

"I think you should savor that cigar," Agra whispered and patted his arm.

Gorrum nodded and rolled the cheroot between his fingers. Keeping Grima in clothes that fit hadn't been nearly the challenge, that Kaja would be. And if her appetite was anything like the other calves...

"I don't suppose there's any supper left?"

"Nope," Agra said with a shake of her head. "Not a scrap."