This story is based on characters from Warcraft which is Blizzard's and all that blah blah et cetera...I've been working through it in my head and on paper for a while, constantly re-working it to adhere to canon. At this point, I know that it will either never get finished or be eventually be unhinged by the game's story as it's revealed, so I feel I ought just go ahead and post it, and soldier on. This is only the prologue; the real story takes place years in the future, as you will find when I upload chapter 1. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

It felt as if the air itself were cooking her alive.

The hut was small, its close walls decorated with yellow wood, orange furs, and red tapestries that through her sweat-blurred eyes looked like fire burning around her. Pain seemed to boil out from her bulbous stomach, like an egg being cooked solid. She was dizzy with the feverish heat and pain, groaning and growling and clawing at the furs beneath her.

Hours it had been; hours of sickly-sweet encouraging words from her midwife and of straining the muscles from her stomach down, and of wave after wave of biting pain. The orcish woman at her side had tried to sooth her, taking a damp cloth to her forehead. The water had been cool at first; now it was lukewarm and stifling.

In the past months, the Dragonmaw's chieftain had flown between feeling awe and love for the thing in her belly, and feeling as if it were some terrible parasite planted in her and slowly eating her away. She remembered the moment where she at last admitted to herself that she was with child, sitting in her room with a small, surgical-sharp poniard clutched in her hand. She'd shaken with indecision, with doubt and rage and helplessness.

I cannot afford this, she remembered thinking, to grow round and soft and raise a child when I have my people to lead. And the questions...she feared not the ones asked to her with words. It was the ones asked with people's eyes that she feared most. The ones people would answer themselves in their minds without asking them aloud. She could not take the shame of waddling before her advisors, giving orders to her pure and noble warriors with a bastard in her belly.

Zaela had gotten as far as cutting a thin line of red just below her navel. Her hands shook. The pain had been far away. She'd tried to force away thoughts of the child's sire, banished and disgraced, no longer the orc she had given herself to body and soul. She saw his face, the face she wanted so much to hate, and she could not. She had stabbed the poniard into the thick furs of her bed and roared and wept and tore her room apart. Then she had stood, straitened, and lead.

She faced them all, even as it grew impossible to hide that she was with child; she ruled hard and fair. She served Warchief Baine with cunning and honor, and with her implacable countenance dared anyone to judge her unfit to be the Dragonmaw's chieftain. She carried the poniard at her hip, and would stroke its hilt any time she needed to remind herself of the choice she'd made.

Begrudgingly she had accepted a midwife, Yrokka, to care for her in the late months of her pregnancy. She remembered, when the orcess had first inspected her body to ensure both mother and child were healthy, that Yrokka had seen the pale, wormlike scar just underneath her navel. The midwife had asked Zaela no questions; at least, not out loud.

The time was coming. Yrokka was commanding her, telling her when to breath, when to push. The pain made Zaela obey. It was not like the pain of battle; bruises and cuts. It was a deep and ancient pain, primordial, eternal. The pain of life, the pain of a mother. Yrokka commanded her to push, a big push, and Zaela grasped the sweat-soaked furs in her claws and roared with the effort, as if she could frighten the thing from her loins. She wanted it gone. She wanted this fel thing out of her.

"I see the head!" the midwife announce with a glee that made Zaela want to strike her. Yrokka asked for one more, one more big push and it would be over, and even though the chieftain thought she would pass out from the pain, from the strain, from the boiling heat, she clenched her jaw and screeched, pushing with all her great might. She felt it slide out of her like a fish, and in the relief she found her exhaustion; now that the deed was done, she felt too weak to even lift her head. Far off and away, as she felt that she might drift into dreaming, she heard Yrokka squeal with joy. "It's a boy, Chieftain! A little boy! A good slap and he'll be breathi-"

The sound tore Zaela from her hazed journey to unconsciousness; it was an ear-splitting cacophony, a shocking stab into the brain. It sounded as a knife tearing into flesh felt; a hot poker of an agonizing wail. Yrokka nearly dropped the newborn to the floor from the sound, instead managing barely to set him down on the bed before falling to her knees, hands over her ears. The first cry of Zaela's child brought into life should have sounded sweet, not brought her such pain. But the thing howled on heedlessly, its lungs unfortunately healthy.

The dragonmaw chieftain had moments ago felt like she could hardly move, the wet fur of her bed clinging to her sweat-greased body. Now, she had to lift herself up on her elbows, an effort more straining than any battle, and lean forward to grasp her son. She saw on the floor before her Yrokka, crouched with her knees to her breast and her hands on her ears. Below the expression of pain on the orcess' face, Zala spied something else.

She knows.

Zaela lifted her weak, sinewy arm up and extended her razor claws, pinching the nipple of a heavy breast until the hard flesh gave and black blood bulged out from the twin holes. She lifted the shrieking child, wincing, and brought him to her. When his small, dark lips found the blood and milk, the wail faltered. The child gurgled, then suckled and was silent.

She sighed, not only with the feeling of strange, muffled, ringing silence that followed after the terrible sound of her child's first breaths, but with a sudden rush of maternal comfort. This was a right thing, to take her son to her breast; to nourish him and care for him. For her to protect him from all harm. Zaela heard the dulled sound of Yrokka getting to her feet and moving to her side. With her eyes the midwife asked Zaela the question, and with a stern look, the chieftain answered it. Yrokka's mouth opened; her lip quivered. Zaela's expression was unchanged.

"I will never speak of this to anyone, chieftain," said the midwife in a breathless, muffled voice, feeling the hard relief of the babe's silence as it suckled hungrily at Zaela's grey breast, her dark blood coloring the boy's lips black. She looked back down at her child with bittersweet affection.

" won't," she whispered, her voice a deadly calm.

Neither the midwife's flesh nor her voice gave any resistance as the poniard sank deep into her belly. She looked to her chieftain, forlorn and disbelieving, futilely grasping at Zaela's strong, sinewy fist as it gripped the blade hard and slid it up the orcess' middle to her ribcage. Zaela had kept the poniard by her side, thinking this moment, more than ever, she would need to reassure herself that her decision had been the right one. If only she had known that one look at her son's face would have steeled her resolve in a way deeper than any trinket could. Yrokka teetered, he eyes rolled back, her knees buckled, and she slumped onto the dirt floor of the small, sweltering hut. Zaela's eyes had never left her child.