A/N: Long time, I know, I know, but I haven't given up!
The sturdily erected base of the Alliance encampment burned in a fiery inferno as the humans of Lorderan made their final defense at their base camp. Stalwart timbers of the garrison and healers infirmary made from the thick trees at the base of Hyjal smoldered dull red and cracked and twisted into nothingness sending plumes flaky fire into the acrid air.
Hotly glowing embers swirled along the breezes catching oiled tent sides afire and any dry straw of practice dummies or linen for bandages. The air was rife with thick, oily gray smoke that belched into the canopy of the towering trees and wafted close down to the hearty souls below in a stinking, dangerous miasma of black choking fumes.
Undead and slavering demons, giddy for carnage rushed over the white walls fastidiously built up to repel their invasion. Creatures of nightmare sprang from the thick adumbrated forest in waves of destruction to obliterate the encampment. For three weeks their attacks were in vain, but now, the stones were crumbling, the strength of the fighters flagging with every desperate swing. They would take the encampment and another part of the forest for their cruel master.
Sharp serrated claws thrust through solid stone and thick forest timber as ghoul and fiend clambered up the white walls and boiled over the precipices like crazed ants from over the rim of their hill. Many landed on their clawed or rotted feet whilst others crumpled to broken piles of bones and taunt rotting flesh from the leap.
Others that survived the fall over the ramparted wall met arrows and blades and magic of the last defense. Humans and a spattering of frothing orcs along with the odd druid of the claw given in aid from the night elves battled the nightmarish legion with desperation of the utterly hopeless.
Blades glinted through the air and came back flecked with hot, black blood. Elves in their bear forms swiped their thick, shaggy paws through whole bodies and orcs ripped out throats of their former demon masters. Shrieks from humans and devils alike roared through the air in ear shattering cries. Rotted chunks sprayed through the air, sending gagging globs of putrid, maggot ridden flesh unto the defenders ranks.
Large, lumbering meat wagons loaded with stones and the bodies of the fallen assaulted the walls. Cracks formed on the fortifications and stones erupted inwardly showering demon and human alike with rubble.
But still they kept fighting. What else were they to do?
"Retreat, retreat!" Jaina ordered over the cries and yells of battling peasants and footmen alike. Ice bolts and fire spouts halted the oncoming charge of the legion in little burst of puissant magic, allowing the terrified soldiers to tactfully retreat from the rabid enemy.
None denied the order for the retreat was long in coming they all knew and there was no shame in backing away from a nearly undefeated force. Shields went up to deflect the jagged claws and healing rains swept down to renew the odd cuts. The method was effective but for a long term retreats not ideal.
Abruptly, a savage roar cut from the forest like a war horn calling them to rally. Racing through the dense undergrowth like a marshy teal wave, the Horde hit the undead like a tide, giving more of the warriors more time to retreat. Green skin and black demon flesh mingled in a whirlpool, driving the offending demons back enough for a full retreat of wounded.
A feral snarl and paw beats rushed beside Jaina in a bloody gust rife with worg hair and the stench of battle. A smile stole upon her dry lips, knowing Thrall would be right on time as always.
Reining his worg beside her, the Warchief scanned the battle whilst offering healing to his people in chains of magic. "What's the situation, Lady Proudmoore?" He asked through gritted teeth, focusing his mind on his powers.
"There's too many, we're making a direct route to your base, Warcheif." She replied with a grim nod. They had all known the day was coming. Theirs was a fate to only slow the advancement not crush the legion by their lonesome.
Thrall nodded, lighting coming down to strike a few enterprising demons that had jumped in front of the rest. Flame erupted again their flesh with the force of such elements. Power crackled through their horrendous bodies, turning their skin into flaky onyx ash. Pawing and clawing at their forms their shrieks rose into the air before dying away on the acrid breeze.
"And the traps are in place?" He asked in a growl as he wiped vicious streaks of slimy black sludge off his tarnished breastplate.
She smiled evilly nodding her head. The traps had been both their ideas when the time came to retreat there first line of defense. "By the time we reach the pass, we should be able to hear the boom." She confirmed with a terse nod, her golden locks flying through smoke filled air.
The Warchief allowed a grim smile to break upon his lips. "Right, lets cover the rear, looks like we've evacuated all we could."
They couldn't save everyone but those they could not reach had no chance of living. Theirs was a fate unwanted by any, but one they chose to allow.
The injured and stragglers moved as fast as possible up the pass. The narrow passage was the only true route connecting the Horde and Alliance bases. Cutting right through the forest, the trail could be seal up making more of a stumbling block for the legion. Their meat wagons wouldn't be able to go through the clogged passage and if they played their hands right, they could catch a fair portion of them under rubble.
Defenders not injured battled with the Warcheif and the sorceress as the injured were hauled out of the given territory. A bitter sweet relief filled their bursting hearts knowing they were alive mostly, but sourness coated their souls in that the legion was a little closer to their goal.
All gave a ragged cheer as the pass to freedom came in sight. Many cocked there ears in hopes of the explosion that would turn the encampment to nothing but a smoldering crater. With their last act of genius for the base all the demons and undead who stood in the encampment would be demolished by magic and goblin sapper equipment set to blow.
Footsteps lagged to a halt in eagerness. Drivers in carts halted their beasts of burden to hear the sound of demons squealing in agony.
A minuet more.
Wariness contorted the faces of the fighters with an anxious glare. Nervous looks flickered from orc and human alike in a troubled stare. The leaders and captains looked at one another in worry, their bottom lips worked by nibbling in anxiousness; what had gone wrong? The explosion should have been heard through all the forest at the base of Hyjal.
"I have to find out what's wrong." Thrall turned back down the pass.
"No." Jaina declared stoically, putting a firm hand on his shoulder. Her spell clever fingers squeezed against his armor, whishing there was no metal to stop the touch of her skin upon his.
A grisly frown etched darkly upon his tusked lips. Head down, un-mounted his worg and fixed the saddle. He refused to see what danced in her eyes that only he could know. The worry for him, the fear she had for his well being. He refused to let her gaze weaken his resolve with fear of never seeing her again. "You know I am the only one who can go check on them." He replied gruffly relying on his will to see him through.
She brooked no more argument, as Thralls body faded in and out and a wolf stood by her feet. His faithful dire worg by his side.
Turning to his people, his voice barked out of the wolf's muzzle. "You will take orders from Lady Proudmoore till my return." He commanded fiercely, his indigo eyes daring challenge even in ghost wolf.
Satisfied of their silence, the shaman turned back down the path. Running down the pass at a loping gait, dust curled under is paws and flung in tiny spurts into the air. His faithful worg followed beside him at a steady pace, willing to never leave her master.
"Orders, Lady Proudmoore?" Darren and Dan'ruk asked in unison, their eyes focused on Thrall.
Her lips twisted grimly determined. She would not simply move on whilst he went down alone against an encampment filled with the living dead and demons. "We wait here till Thrall returns."
"And if he doesn't?" Dan'ruk rumbled anxiously, his eyes pinioned to the faded blue blot of the warchief loping along the trampled grassy pathway. The words were hard but they had to be spoken. There was a chance their indomitable Warchief would not make it back alive.
Jaina sighed, pushing her hair back from her face in agitation. "Then we move on, to your base. In the meantime, tend to the wounded that require the quickest attention."
Both lieutenants nodding going to their allotted tasks.
Dan'ruk walked into the makeshift orcish encampment set in the gullied pass. The stench of blood and death nearly made him heave with every tenacious step over the trampled earth. Forcing calm, he settled his stomach and strode briskly to where the healers had laid pallets and tents.
Screams echoed from under the dirt and blood strewn lean-to's, making Thralls apprentice cringe. Gory images came unbidden to his mind like flashes of nightmare he still sometimes had about internment camps. Still, he had to help.
Before he could enter the tents bodies blocked his way to the healers. The orcish chieftains, stood in his way, some looking uneasy, the others violent staring at him for answers. They knew he would have been there, knowing he would do all in his extensive power to aid those who fought so bravely.
Dan'ruk sighed tiredly, rubbing a kink in his neck. He should have seen the corner coming, he knew depressingly. Thrall had united the clans under his rule, but the separate clans had been governed by there respective chieftains, those chieftains being under Thralls command. The orcish way was a very competitive one. Thrall wasn't even gone for a day and they were already vying for claim to Warcheif.
"Dan'ruk." Graul, of the Redmist clan, spoke. Graul was nearly as tall as Thrall and doubly as brutal. His corded muscles looked like they would burst out of his massive frame at the slightest move, and his skill with the axe was bar none. He was also, Thralls biggest competition and problem.
"Yes, Graul." Dan'ruk greeted as pleasantly as possible.
Graul crossed his bulging arms, his chin high and haughty. "What is happening, where is the Warcheif?" Of course he knew, but the words were better heard from Thrall's apprentice himself to aid his vie for chieftain.
"Something has gone amiss with the traps; he went to see what went wrong." The apprentice replied sagely, showing not a hint of turmoil.
The rival arched a hairless brow. "So what are we to do?"
"Jaina says we wait for his return." Dan'ruk explained with every inch of calmness he could muster. Just as the words fled his mouth, instinctively he winced at the soothing reply. With emotions running high, he knew he had made a devastating error. By the look on the chieftain's faces they knew his erroneous error too.
Features contorting into a snarl, Graul allowed a growl to escape his throat. "So we are taking orders from Thrall's pet human like good little slave orcs now? If I recall she is Thrall's prisoner not second in command."
"Her judgment is sound." Dan'ruk dodged defensively. Graul was manipulating the look of things, but some wouldn't call him wrong for showing the issue. Perhaps, he himself would have seen the problem like such before as well.
The hulking orc scoffed derisively, his eyes rolling. "And yours wouldn't be? You are Thrall's apprentice are you not?"
"No… that's…I …mean." Dan'ruk stumbled lamely, his voice faltering without argument.
"As second in command you shouldn't doubt your self." Graul proclaimed loudly with a scolding stare to the small orc.
Unaware to Dan'ruk he had drawn a crowd by his challenging gestures and boisterous words. Those who gathered looked at Thrall's scrawny lieutenant in doubt or at the very least a hint of uncertainty.
Inwardly, Dan'ruk knew this was just the beginning for Graul to claw his way to Warcheif.
"You doubt our Warcheif's apprentice?" Drek'thar rasped hollowly in the midst of the crowd.
The elderly seer hobbled out the healer's tent, watching the spectacle with blind eyes in silence. His gnarled rough fingers curled over a walking stick he leaned upon heavily. Peace smoothed his features though he was blind and the oldest of them all. He was still powerful in the elements though he looked frail and wane like a limpid stalk of grass.
Graul eyes slit into black dots as he glared at the far seer. He mumbled something, leaving to attend to those of his clan. The crowd departed, leaving only Drek'thar and Dan'ruk standing outside the healer's tents.
"It seems you have stumbled on to quite a problem, boy," Drek'thar stated calmly, his blind eyes peering to the forest edge.
The apprentice ran a hand over his smooth head. "What do I do?" Out of everything, the first thing he needed was advice to control the people and keep them from Graul's ideals of the Horde.
"It is not for me to say. You are not a child, but a wise man, even though you may not think such. I trust you will make a wise decision." Drek'thar admitted in a cough. Patting the young orcs shoulder to boost his hope, the aged orc limped back into the healing tent to aid the groaning orcs.
A curse fell darkly from the apprentices lips as he watched the old man go. He knew all too well he was no leader; he wasn't a brawny warrior or a powerful worg rider. He was just Dan'ruk. With eyes toward the sky, he prayed to the spirits, wondering what to do.
In that moment, though neither knew, Jaina wondered the same.
Jaina stood in a makeshift command quarters along the pass. A low yellow lantern hung over a large map of the territory hastily cobbled together by scout reports and storm crow elves over the trees. Inside, with the sorceress: Darren Silvercrest her lieutenant, Malach Sunwhisper leader of the elven priest, Gahron Guro master paladin of the Silverhand, and Selfer Ironhide, leader of the dwarven company of riflemen stood with her in council of their next course of action.
"How long are we going to wait for that barbarian?" Gahron asked sullenly, his armor clanking as he shifted from foot to foot in impatience. Leaning over the map, his eyes scanned the territory with a sharp glare dictating prime points on the parchment.
Jaina moved a blue and red peg on the map to the orcish huts. "Three days, no more, we can easily defend the pass should we need to move earlier. And if not we can take the secret path."
"That is more than enough time." The priestly elf piped up softly. "We all know if he is not back tonight, he is more than likely dead or captured."
Jaina was silent, knowing the fact was true. Thrall voluntarily walked into a mass of demons by his lonesome. Regret burned like fire through her with the thought. She should have gone with him to aid or at least get them out quickly.
The silence was broken by Jaina's faithful servant, Sara Brightguard. "Tea." The dutiful maid announced cheerily. Sliding through he full tent she placed the wooden tray on the edge of the table.
The sorceress gave a weary smile at Sara, no matter what she never seemed to be pessimistic. "Thank you Sara, we'll take five."
"Four." Gahron grumbled letting himself out the tent. Surly, he stomped back to the paladins at his command to gripe and grouse of waiting for an orc.
"Who put bee's in his armor?" Sara asked in a huff, her cheery tone not changing in the slightest.
Jaina laughed tiredly, as Sara poured, wanting to lose all composure and hug the loyal servant. The sorceress smiled knowing she always had one firm supporter even when the entire army of Horde and Alliance seemed to be fraying apart by the already patched seams.
The second day dragged on under the shadowed tree in the pass, and things had gone to hell in the orcish camp. In the dead of night Icehowl lumbered back into camp, her bright red tongue dry and lolled out and her limbs trembling like the shattered bonds of composure over the orc.
Seemingly overnight, the Horde had divided into Dan'ruk or Graul supporters with firm conviction in both.
Away from the main encampment, Graul was making a heated speech to supporters and those who were more and more coming over to his way of thinking than their Warcheif's apprentice.
Standing aloof and hedging the crowds by the shadowing trees, Dan'ruk listened to the rant helplessly. Arms crossed he leaned against the massive trunk of a beech tree and worried. How could he combat Graul's words when some he believed himself? Would he have been on Graul's side had Thrall been gone long enough; if the Warchief had not inspired him?
In full rage, Graul paced back and forth on the dais hastily erected for him. His words rang across the forest as he spoke with the fervor of a true orc. "The legion lurking among the trampled, puny Alliance base behind us is vast. Their swords are like the seas and their number are uncountable. We all know we can not halt their advance and drive them away. Our only being here was to slow them down for the crafty dark elves to complete there chancy plan of success! We orcs are no cowards, but we know when we are overwhelmed and we will not be fodder to demon masters or elven ones! The humans may dash themselves upon the claws of darkness, but I'll do my fighting at my choosing!"
The crowd murmured there agreement with the eccentric warrior. For many there was no arguing those facts.
"So what you say we do?" A warrior in the crowed piped up.
Graul's lips formed into a satirical snarl. "Our honored Warcheif, Thrall, put up a grand fight, in the cause he thought was just. Most of you saw his worg come back into camp; we all know a wolf would never leave their master lest he was dead, and sometimes not even then." He snapped a fist to his chest. "Now I ask you to claim me as your Warcheif, and we will leave this place to fight our way in this new land."
"What new land?" Dan'ruk finally spoke; outraged that Graul would use Icehowl as the point of why leadership should fall to his mantle. Jostling his way through the crowd, he came to look at Graul face to face; his eyes alit with battle lust. "If the legion succeeds to reaching the world tree this world will be washed from existence!" He roared, his lips flecked with foam.
"And how do you know this?" Graul sneered challengingly. "Every true warrior knows that there is no satisfaction in simply demolishing a conquered land. We will not be wiped from existence, we will do what we orcs have done for centuries, fight for our freedom to survive, not become a meat blockade for a plan destined to fail!"
The crowed was silent; Graul's words made sense, what would Thralls apprentice bring to the table?
"And if we decide to stay." Graul quickly added on. "It is you who would lead us, apprentice Dan'ruk? You who has not been fully bloodied a warrior by right of passage and death?"
Dan'ruk turned to the faces of the crowd leaning in to hear the opposing side. They needed a leader, a true leader not some power hungry orcs and they didn't need him either.
Asking for guidance he opened his mouth hoping something would spring forth. The spirits whispered through him, sending a tingling sensation rippling down his spine. With one whispered word, they gave him an answer that shocked even him. But there was no denying what the spirits suggested.
Dan'ruk turned back to Graul, a half smile on his ugly face to betray the doubt he felt brewing within his soul. "You are right, Graul, we do need a Warcheif. Someone fearless as a wolf in the heat of battle and tactical and wise as a serpent on the plains."
"So you finally coming around, to my thinking." Graul puffed out his scarred, muscled chest proudly, his tusked lips formed into a smirk of victory.
Dan'ruk tossed his head. "No, I am talking of Jaina."
Sargeras himself could have skipped right up into the orc camp wearing bunny ears and a pink dress, singing to the top of his voice and no one would have noticed. Shock stamped every crude orcish face in the milling crowd. They all stared at Dan'ruk, in amazed silence at such a proposal. A human for an orcish Warchief?
"Has war taken what little mind you had, boy?" Graul sputtered after finding his voice again from the shock.
Dan'ruk ignored him, turning to the crowd once again. He raised his sinewy arms to the heavens as the spirits spoke through him with their boundless wisdom. "You have all seen her prowess in battle, how she defend not just her own, but us all with her cunning and magic. Though they were but games in a tourney she defeated Thrall in honorable combat, solidifying a right to rule."
Graul set up yelling in protest but Dan'ruk was not to be silenced. Pointing to the human encampment, he screamed to be heard. Thunder rolled in his voice commanding the upstart orc Graul to startle to silence from the power of the elements roiling through Dan'ruk. "They have lost their kingdom, their families, and now their keep. They have all followed her, and I would swear to the spirits not one has deserted. To face down a suicide war campaign with out blinking, under her rule, now that is leadership! Her rule makes us look like milksops debating to abandon a fight! Are we less then they?"
Cheers of agreement rang form the crowd in a startling turn of events. One orc amidst the crowd raised the sorceress name in a bloodthirsty chant, swept by the novel idea of a human Warchief.
Dan'ruk shot a victorious look to the defeated Graul. The muscled orc knew he had no chance of becoming Warchief with such a tidal swing over to a human. He relished in this moment, for the hard part would come soon enough.
Now, he pondered amidst the cheers, how was he to get Jaina to accept the job of Warcheif of the Horde?
The prominent Horde and Alliance commanders stood together in a loose ring about the Alliance encampment. Dan'ruk had called the emergency meeting right after he had made his choice for the next Warcheif.
The sun stood in the middle of the sky, looking down at the meeting of disgruntled races and distrusting eyes. Tempers flared high, but none dared show their full ire.
"Late last night." Dan'ruk began solemnly, his voice laced with sadness. "Icehowl walked into camp, alone."
The face of the sorceress fell as she fought back a gasp of painful dread, all knew what that meant. A wolf was loyal till the end. "So what are your people going to do, Dan'ruk?" She asked quietly, holding back her sadness for Thrall.
"Well." The young orc drawled awkwardly, rubbing the back of his thick neck. "Thrall left no heir or right to ruler so we must choose."
Melancholy danced in her eyes as she forced her words out. "And who have your people chosen?"
"You, Lady Proudmoore." He announced, holding nothing back from her with skirting phrases or innuendoes.
Complete and utter silence fell upon the meeting with all save Drek'thar looking at Dan'ruk in shock.
"Lady Proudmoore, you have to accept, or dire actions will be set in motion." Dan'ruk tacked on before another word cold be spoken positively or otherwise.
"Is that a threat?" Darren growled at Dan'ruk, he moved a hand moved on his sword.
The apprentice shook his bald head. "No it is an ultimatum. You know of Graul of the Redmist clan."
"Yes," Jaina finally managed to say through her surprise. "I have heard of him causing trouble for Thrall but he dared not challenge him to leadership."
Jerking his head back to the fires of orcish encampment, the shaman in training scowled. "I don't like this either, but if you do not accept, Graul will assume mantle of Warcheif and lead our people away from the defenses. He does not believe in this cause, he has argued to abandon this suicide and swath a path of survival for ourselves under the elves strange woodlands."
The sorceress shook her head, mumbling a curse under her breath. They couldn't lose the orcs strength and warriors, but she did not like the fact of filling in Thrall's shoes, especially when the seat was not even cooled. "Then I guess my choice is no choice at all. If the Horde abandons us we are doomed definitely. I accept."
"You are talking of becoming the leader of our enemy those filthy savages. You are a noble woman. You should not be rooting about with these Horde dogs. Take time to think about this, my lady!" Guro yelled in opposition.
The sorceress swiveled her head to the paladin. Blistering scolding danced in her abject cold orbs. "Time, Gahron." She retorted icily, her words brimming with anger. "Is something, we don't have."
"What will the men say, Jaina Proudmoore, leader of the survivors and Warcheif of the Horde?" He protested insipidly, turning his eyes away from her wrath.
She nodded her head determinedly, denying the wariness in her heart. "I have faith my men will see reason. Besides if we survive this I shall post haste give up my title to who deserves the mantle of Warchief."
Darren grimaced, taking a deep breath to gather his emotion. He liked the fact no more than anyone else, but he could see the logic and see her hands bound with little choice in the matter. "Very well, my lady, I will inform our men of the situation." He put severe emphasis on the word "our", but bowed and departed as did Gahron.
Watching them walk away, Jaina turned back to Dan'ruk, uncertainty smeared across her face. Things were never just simple as the passing of leadership, she knew very well. Things would get complicated in a short amount of time, she knew imperatively.
Breathing in deep, she managed a grim smile to the apprentice. "Tell me what needs to be done, Dan'ruk."
Bonfires burned brightly around the orc encampment lodged deep in the pass. Glowering embers danced over the slick green flesh of a myriad of orcs who came to witness the spectacle of their new Warcheif. Bright war paint and blood etched their faces in tribal patterns of ages past, each representing their own clan.
The chieftains of different tribes encircled Jaina, all silent and grim at the solemn occasion. Ceremonial war regalia and blades sat heaped upon their bodies and on their sides to show loyalty.
Alliance knights and footmen shifted warily on the outer side of the ring, ready to come to their lady's aid should she need be.
In the midst of the orcish circle stood the sorceress. Orc blood dabbed her right cheek in swirling patterns whilst her left cheek was donned with her own crimson essence. The smooth, glossy blood glimmered in the light turning her features into a savage visage. Her mage robes were replaced by cloth of orcish make, but her staff remained as he weapon of choice. Hair pulled down, her wild honey tresses wafted through the night breezes.
Standing tall in the sea of muscled orcs who were hand spans taller than she faced Drek'thar and Dan'ruk. Her face was a courtly neutral giving no hint of what went on in her heads behind the barbaric war paint.
Bronze bowl in his grip, the elder Drek'thar mumbled ancient incantations over the incense in the brazier. Holding up his shaking hands the elder shaman Drek'thar let the smoke in the bronzed bowl trail up to the dark firmament. After a moment of strange words in a tongue of time gone by, he vapidly brought the brazier down to chest level.
Rocking back and forth, the white of his blind eyes showing, he gave an absent nod to Dan'ruk. The spirits had to truly be in approval for chief of chiefs before the ceremony could get underway.
"The spirits approve the choice." Dan'ruk's strong voice rolled out over the darkness in a peal of thunder. Turning to the crowd he raised his hands high. "Who challenges Jaina, daughter of Daelin, leader of the survivors of Lorderan the right to lead the Horde? Who challenges Jaina who defeated Thrall, son of Durotan in honorable combat as Warcheif of the proud orcs?"
Graul grumbled slightly, but brooked no challenge. Silence ensued for several seconds, listing, waiting for someone to speak up.
As the last moment ticked by, the apprentice allowed a faint, sad smile to trace his lips. "Then as spirits as our witness hail Jaina Proudmoore, daughter of Daelin, leader of the survivors of Lorderan, Warcheif of the Horde, and Lady of the clans!"
Per tradition, Drek'thar raised her hand in victory.
Any negative comments where drowned out by the loud roars of cheers, rolling down the ranks of savage orcs. Caught by the cheering even the humans were infected by the wild cries. Weapons pounded on shields and cries of her name roared into the night with the dull swirling embers of the fires.
Looking around at her people and the orcs, all together, fighting, dying, and cheering as one Jaina could not help but feel pride steal into her heart. This was how it should be, she thought - together.
Dawn was just hinting the tree tops as Jaina slogged tiredly back to her tent. The tradition for Warchief was a ritual that went all through the night. She was obliged to hold contests for the orcs who wanted to measure her strength in magic and receive war gifts from her new people and accept warriors from clans who offered their service to her protection.
By the end of the night exhaustion nearly overcame her limbs. Trembling in abject fatigue from the lengthy trial, she barely pushed open the tent flaps and padded into her private quarters.
Sara as always waited for her, tea warm an at the ready.
"Have you been up all night, Sara?" She asked tiredly in a yawn and collapsed on her makeshift cot all in one motion.
"I didn't know what time you'd be back missus." Sara stifled a yawn of her own, her eyes drooping.
The quiet snoring of the exhausted sorceress reached the servants ears even as the words left her lips. She was even to tired to stay awake another second. Smiling fondly at the sleeping young woman, Sara pulled the thin gray blanket over her and departed herself to her own tent allowing the leader of both armies to sleep.
For Jaina it felt like all of two seconds she had fallen on the cold hard cot before wakefulness pulled at her senses. Late in the morning, the sun filtered into to the crumpled tent with thin shafts of light dancing over the trampled grasses. Raised voices echoed from outside; rough orc voices mingled with angry human.
"We need to speak with our Warcheif." Dan'ruk snarled savagely, his voice muffled by the tent fabric.
"The Lady Proudmoore is resting, because you orcs had to have your foolish ritual at the crack of midnight!" Darren yelled back contritely, his words peevishly brutal.
Jaina walked out of the tent just as it seemed a brawl was about incur. Work was never done, she reminded herself sleepily. Eyeing the interaction she held up a hand.
Her lieutenant's actions were noble but useless in a war. "Be silent, Darren." She rebuked curtly glaring at him with a disapproving eye.
All who noticed her presence straitened up, a few marines, and grunts saluting their leader.
"What is the situation, Dan'ruk?" She asked turning her attention to the heavily breathing orc.
"We need to discuss the funeral traditions for Thrall." He explained lowly and reverently.
The spy master scoffed callously. "Huh, all this racket for a cry fest to a rotting carcass. He's dead. One less orc to worry about."
Dan'ruk snarled, unsheathing his mace in reply to the insult. He would have struck the human had there been a human there. A puff of magic burst through the air like a popping bubble.
Blinking rapidly, the orc looked down to see Darren wandering around aimlessly and baaing in indignation. Marines held back there smiles and laughs. Obviously Darren had forgotten Jaina did not ask twice.
"Let us go somewhere more private for this talk." Jaina replied, completely ignoring the lieutenant bumping against her leg pleadingly.
Before leaving with the orc, the sorceress renewed the spell staring crossly at the Darren sheep. Her words were cold addressing the newly restored spy master. "Brush off my orders again, Darren, and I will turn you into a sheep, permanently." She warned without a hint of joking.
The marine entourage followed behind, talking to themselves as she discussed plans with Dan'ruk; could she do something like that?
The sun was slowly sinking into the west when Jaina finally returned to her tent again for the second time that day. She and Dan'ruk had spent a good three hours talking of the funeral arrangements for Thrall and other situations had occurred to drag her from her peaceful repose awaiting in her cot.
The sorceress sighed rubbing her temples, she had not known orc culture would be so, complicated with the dead. Obviously they were revered, but so intricately sent her head spinning.
The rest of the time had been spent making details for the defenses when they arrived at the orc encampment. Wagons had been loaded, packs had been stuffed in carts, and the next dawn they would be on there way.
For the second time that day, she sank wearily onto the cot. But sleep was hard in coming. She had never wanted this, to lead, or be a warrior, not even for the Alliance. All she had ever wanted to do was study.
At last, truly alone for a few precious hours she allowed the tears to well in her eyes. Curled up in her cot like a small, afraid child the tears fell in torrent down her cheeks. Sleep and mourning both vied for dominance of her body. Thrall, the compassionate orc, the one who understood, was gone. Thrall the orc who drew strength from her and she him laid dead by the demons.
She would miss him. By the light she would miss her tender Thrall.
But, determination welled within, she had to continue for him. They both wanted to save their world and if she allowed her emotions to overrule her senses she would fail utterly and entirely. Now more than ever she needed strength.
Forcing the tears away, the sorceress closed her wet indigo eyes and allowed sleep to wash over her. She could cry when all was said and done. She could remember him and the taste of his lips when the world was not burning.
Sleep finally winning she fell into a light doze with Thrall on her mind.
Then the screaming began.