Obligatory disclaimer: I do not own World of Warcraft, or I would have gotten more of the details right.


She did not even see the attackers.

She was in the caravan, huddled between crates of trade goods and trying to pretend a sack of root vegetables made a decent pillow, dozing fitfully as the caravan creaked and ground through the hot sand. When she heard the sudden screams and clash of metal, she merely pulled her thin cloak more tightly around herself and sank as deeply as she could between the side of the wagon and the rough burlap sack. She did not even move when the far side of the wagon went up in a sudden roar of flames, just closed her eyes against the brightness and the smoke. She moved her lips in silent prayer and waited for it to be over.

Evidently, the goal of the mysterious brigands was not inside the wagon. After what seemed an age of roaring and crackling, smoke and heat, she realized there were no other sounds, and that no-one had discovered her. Though the caravan itself was mostly of wood, the vegetables did not burn well, and Litha decided the searing heat from the flames did not promise the quick death she'd prayed for.

Slowly at first, then more urgently as she felt her heavy slave collar blistering the soft skin of her throat, she dragged herself out of the flaming wreck. She burned herself badly, twice: once, thoughtlessly grasping the steel rim around the edge of a barrel (which resulted in a bitten-off cry of pain), and again when her cloak caught fire and she was forced to fling herself bodily out of the caravan and roll in the sand. Afterward, she lay trembling for a moment with her face pressed to the ground, listening for the inevitable shout of alarm that would signal she'd been revealed. She hoped they would kill her swiftly. Her throat, right hand, and the whole length of her left leg blazed in agony.

When no shout came, her survival instincts coaxed her to move once more. She lifted her face first to take in her surroundings. Goblin bodies and... parts of bodies were strewn about. One of the kodos lay dead, still in its harness, the others fled or stolen. She saw no movement but the flames licking over the burning wagon.

Litha felt no sadness at the death of the goblins - her slavers, tormentors, and rapists - but no pleasure either. Now she was alone, somewhere in Tanaris, badly injured and barefoot, wearing only a thin linen shift and magic-suppressing slave collar that rendered her helpless.

Her first instinct was to move away from the wreckage and corpses. Thick black smoke billowed from the caravan, and it was still only mid-afternoon. The smoke would be visible from a great distance, and Litha had no idea if a Horde camp or village might be just over the horizon. She managed to half crawl, half drag herself to a small outcrop of rocks, and huddled in the shade, hissing through her teeth at the renewed pain from her burns.

She waited.

The caravan burned through the evening and into the night. When it was dark, Litha lapsed into brief periods of dreamless sleep - or more accurately, drifted in and out of consciousness. She awoke slowly to a cacophony of buzzing, and was surprised to see the sun had risen above the horizon already. The fire had died, leaving only a skeleton of charred supports still raised at one end on two wheels. With the smoke dissipating, the corpse-flies had arrived.

Litha's throat was raw inside and out, and her tongue felt thick and dry in her mouth, like a piece of wood. The slight movement required to sit up made her cough, and the skin on her left thigh cracked open and bled. She scanned the horizon - saw nothing but rocks, sand, and the hazy outline of mountains in the distance - and turned to scan the wreckage site.

She would need to look for water.

After what seemed like hours of agonized crawling from corpse to corpse, flapping her good hand helplessly at the agitated flies to keep them off of her face and wounds, she had managed to make a small pile of water skins near the wagon. She sat in the dirt and alternately sipped and drizzled the water over the blistered, oozing skin of her leg. The outcrop she had spent the night under turned out to be some sort of immense skeleton, and besides, appeared impossibly far away now. Baking under midday sun, with a wall of flies and the stench of slowly bloating corpses surrounding her, Litha felt spent. She decided to rest in the shade of the raised end of the wagon before moving on.

On the second day, she spent most of her time sipping and drizzling the water on herself until it was nearly gone, before realizing the enormity of her extravagance. Parched as she was, she resolved to save the remainder for dripping onto her injured leg at intervals. She watched the progress of the sun in the sky impatiently, waiting until she felt it had been an hour, or until she could bear the pain no more, before allowing herself the cooling respite of a few drops of liquid on her charred flesh.

Partway through the third day, she ran out of water. She lay still most of the day in the dirt under the burnt wagon, too exhausted and dehydrated to weep, hoping the whole thing would collapse on her and end her suffering. When the hyenas arrived at dusk, though, she found herself once again unable to embrace the end fearlessly. Silently cursing her own weakness, she sank into the shadows behind one charred wheel, hidden in ash and soot. She listened to the wet sound of the goblins and kodo being eviscerated and eaten by the hyenas, and decided she was right to avoid this death, as well.

Near daybreak, the disgusting sound of feasting predators stopped abruptly. She thought she heard the rumbling growl of a larger predator approaching - and her stomach turned over as the sound resolved itself into the staccato cadence of Orcish. One of the hyenas dropped abruptly with the soft zip and thuck of a well-placed arrow. The rest scattered, yipping and snarling, tails tucked.

Litha, already crouched as small and deep in the shadows as she could manage with her injured leg, closed her eyes and concentrated on silent, shallow breaths. From the sounds of it, there were at least a dozen of them, stomping noisily around the wreckage or riding on snuffling beasts, kicking goblin bodies over, poking at the debris with their spears and axes, and grunting at each other. She had been exposed to Orcish during her time with the goblins, but she understood very little. She was sure only of the words "goblin," "caravan," and "Gadgetzan."

Maybe Gadgetzan is nearby, she thought to herself. Fat lot of good that does me.

After a mercifully brief inspection of the wreckage, she heard the Horde party starting to move on. Voices became more distant and their shuffling footsteps moved off in the same direction the caravan had been heading. Litha, realizing she had been holding her breath, allowed herself a small sigh of relief.