Horde: Chapter 15
The sound of pick axes hitting the ore down below was heard even this far from the bottom. A few weeks ago when a patrol explored and secured the lower caverns, some of the older Dragonmaw remembered how a human wizard, a high elven ranger and a dwarven warrior once snuck in via these routes which led to the capture of the clan by the Alliance, where they found a large amount of saronite ore.
“Saronite is very rare outside of Northrend.” Thorgal said to Mulkor the Taunka over a game of Hearthstone.” Very powerful to.”
“I know.” Mulkor placed a card down.” I saw Icecrown Citadel and how several Death Knights were armoured in that. You lost your Murloc there by the way.”
Thorgal chuckled and removed his card.” I got several more don’t worry.”
“You are the only orc I know who still uses that type of deck.” Mulkor shook his head before he drank water from his mug.” You know after a few turns they are all but useless. Your move.”
“Depends how you use them.” Thorgal chuckled as he placed down a few more Murloc cards.” As I was saying, Saronite is very rare outside of Northrend. Also very dangerous.”
“The whispers?” Mulkor asked.
“Zug zug.” The orc placed down another card which made the taunka grumble as he had to take away his defenses.” That is why we are working in four hour shifts. And I win.”
“Lucky draw…” Mulkor grumbled some more as he shuffled his deck as did his orcish friend.” And those shifts were your idea I seem to recall. How did you make that suggestion to Halthar?”
“Diplomatically.” Thorgal shuffled his deck, keeping his eyes on it.
“Oh?” Mulkor smirked.” So the fact you both seem to be walking around with bruises and a black eye has nothing to do with it.”
“Cut the chatter and cut my deck.” Thorgal placed his deck down.
“I rest my case.” Mulkor did as he was told.” I heard we lost a lot of troll slaves in the Zandalari pits.”
Thorgal sighed.” I heard. I pass there to get to my quarters at night. The screams…” he placed his deck down. “How can we work with people who treat their servants like this? Even our peons get more respect than those poor creatures.”
Mulkor shrugged.” Truth be told I don’t know, Tor. I heard the Alliance is attacking the Zandalar isles hard and they need every advantage they can get. Especially since their attack on Orgrimmar failed as hard as it did.”
“By sacrificing more of their men?” Thorgal growled softly.” That is the reason why half ran to there in the first place!”
The taunka held out his finger in front of his mouth and made a shhhh sound. The peons around them looked at them briefly before they continued with their work. “Don’t say that out loud, you are in trouble already with the higher ups.”
“I left the Horde because a Frostmane bullied my workers and their peers got away from killing my father, Mulkor. I don’t want to change serving one monster for another.” Thorgal sighed as he placed his hands on the table. Mulkor placed his deck away as well.
“Is this because of Rexxar?” the taunka asked.
He sat up straight.” The first time I saw him was when Admiral Proudmoore invaded Durotar. I was only a child back then but I remember it clearly. He had the banner of the horde strapped to his back and had that same mammoth bear with him. I saw this tide of men in plate green painted armour swarm towards Orgrimmar. Several of the peons ran and there was fear in the air. But that man stood his ground. He rallied not just orcs but trolls, tauren, ogres and beasts of the wild and charged at them. He led the Horde to victory, fighting from Orgrimmar till the human base and drove them back to their ships where Thrall finished them with the elements.”
“I get it, I get it. He Is your hero.” Mulkor folded his arms.
“No just mine. He was the hero for everyone. We hold a Champion of the Horde in our dungeons, someone whom we should beg for forgiveness…and we keep him next to Alliance we caught. Doesn’t that make you question anything?”
“It doesn’t.” Mulkor stated as a matter-of-factly.” He was on the wrong side.”
The wrong side. A few hours later after his shift, he left the True Horde pits and walked past the Zandalari ones. He anticipated the screams and cries but you were never ready for it. When the scent of death reached his nostrils he almost gagged. He wanted to look away from the giant pit but his eyes were drawn to the dark abyss below where hundreds upon hundreds of troll slaves were picking at the rock and carrying raw saronite upward. They were digging to deeply, Thorgal realized. They had the manpower yes but the shocking state of the scaffolding and harsh overseers made this dangerous endeavor into one of poor suicide. He heard a female troll scream loudly as she fell into the abyss, followed by another…and another. The overseers quickly tried to establish order as two rows fell down into the dark.
A troll, a Zandalar one, glared with her glowing eyes at him. The orc held up his hands and moved onward towards the lift.
When he reached the large lift, or a large platform pulled up by chains by a group of Ettin, he noticed his shift would be accompanied by several wounded. One of the night elven wardens was arguing with a Blackrock orc as their wounded were carried on the lift.
A dark tattooed orc grunt stopped Thorgal in his tracks.” I’m sorry but you will have to wait for the next one, Tor.” She said.
“I got a inkling why, Hurka...” he turned to the black haired female.” What was it, ambush?”
“Skardyn.” She nodded and looked with him at the wounded being carried in.” I don’t know the details myself but the buggers jumped this patrol. These were the lucky ones who got back.” She smirked.” At least the Skardyn now know how night elf tastes like.”
Tor raised his brow.” I didn’t know you had Bonechewer blood in you.”
“Mother’ side, she was always a bit insane.” She shrugged.” I say something without thinking sometimes.”
“And that is why we like you.” Thorgal smiled.” You mind if I wait here for the next one?”
“What, won’t your taunka boyfriend get jealous?” a night elf gave a signal to Hurka who waved. She pulled out a horn from her belt and blew hard. The sound went up the shaft as the platform came to a start and was pulled up.
“No he went up earlier.” Thorgal said after he cleared out his ears.” Can you give me a warning next time, please?”
“Nooo….” She giggled, almost childlike. Thorgal rolled his eyes and leaned on the fence.” So what is the word up top, they found that blood elf yet?”
Thorgal shook his head.” No, Zaela still has her men out for him. A patrol went out after him. Didn’t come back.”
“Means they are dead.” Hurka leaned back as she took out a clay pipe. She placed some herbs in there and lit it. She closed her eyes as she exhaled. Hurka was part of the earlier patrols before she was given elevator duty, got caught eating one of the Skardyn Mulkor said. The clay pipe she had was a souvenir from those times although thankfully she used better herbs to use than what the damned monsters used. Despite her monstrous look, Hurka was a nice enough person once you got to know her Thorgal thought.
A moment later she opened her eyes again and offered the pipe to Thorgal who politely refused.” Artesh…barely knew her. Always had a bad taste in men.”
“Got her killed, I suppose…” Thorgal shrugged. He knew Halmadir Dawnsong. He, along with Mulkor, helped him get used to Grim Batol. He didn’t see a killer in him but he had to tag along. He was part of the True Horde now.
“No.” she took to the pipe again.” The woman used Flame Dust. It was a matter of time before she croaked.”
He frowned.” Flame Dust?”
“A drug that is sold a lot in Alterac and there abouts. Some human named Serinox used it to create it, build himself a little empire.” Thorgal did not ask if she used to take it but guessing by the pipe she had on her at all times….
“Serinox?” Thorgal frowned.” Wasn’t that a black dragon?”
“Zug zug.” She nodded as the elevator began to descent again.” He had one for his banner. Lord Grim…tide, strand…or something.” She took the pipe.” Doesn’t matter”
“So how did she get this Flame Dust then?” Thorgal rubbed his hands.
“She opened up portals to Booty Bay, probably got it from there. Point is though that blood elf had nothing to do with it. Zaela needed a scapegoat, couldn’t lose face in front of Shadowsong or Vilnak’dor. And at the end of the day, what’s a non-orc to us True Horde right?”
Thorgal turned to her as the platform nearly stopped.” The Horde is not just orcs. Taunka, goblins and blood elves died for Warchief Hellscream.”
“We’re all pawns, Thorgal. The faster you see that and accept that, the better.”
The elevator stopped as Orcs and a few trolls got on. Thorgal nodded his thanks to Hurka and got on. She blew the horn again and the platform went up. The Ettin stopped pulling when the overseer gave the signal and pulled the platform on the side so the passengers could leave. They were at Khardros' Anvil, where the largest anvil and blacksmithing were located. There were as many people up here as the miners down below but still many blacksmiths forged the saronite into weapons and armour.
He rubbed his face and longed to be in his bunk to get some rest. Those hopes were dashed when a few grunts asked him to come with them. The grunts were Warsong, Mag’har both and dressed in full saronite armour so it was clear that Zaela wanted to see him. He was brought to her private room where they left him at the door. One of the guards opened the door and ushered him in. Thorgal nodded his thanks and entered.
The room wasn’t much, it was very spartan and bare save for the pup’s corner which was filled with toys where both occupants were. Zaela was laughing, a rare sight if Thorgal ever saw one, and playing a mock fight with a orc doll and a human as the small Hellscream laughed. “Lok tar ogar! For the Horde!” laughed and smashed the human doll with the orc one as the pup laughed with merriment.
Thorgal closed the door behind him. Before he speak Zaela already stood up as she held her child.
“Throm ka, Thorgal. You came quickly.”
“I just finished my shift.” Thorgal replied.
“And you need your rest, I understand. You need some grog.”
“I wasn’t asking.” She picked up a bottle with her free hand and poured in some beverage in one of the mugs on the table. Zaela motioned him to have it and he accepted, as if there was a choice. The beverage tasted quite sweet actually.
“This is really good.” He said honestly.
“This was part of Nekros Skullcrusher’ stash. Elwynn wine, must’ve taken it with him when Stormwind fell.” She explained and poured herself a drink.” This won’t take long so savour it.”
“Savouring.” He had another sip.
She took a moment to speak, she smiled ever briefly at her son as he nodded off to sleep.” I fear this True Horde will not last, Thorgal.”
He had to fight every impulse to spit the wine out.” Come again?”
“This coalition is falling apart. Maeiv Shadowsong wants us to move out, no sellsword company wants to work with us after what happened to Booty Bay and the Zandalari….” She growled.
“What of them?” he asked.
She snarled. “They are leaving. You noticed there are less of them around now? They are pulling their aid and they are going to attack Khaz Modan now the dwarves are to busy bombing their sinking islands.”
Thorgal looked shocked.” What? But the Alliance is to powerful to attack by themselves.”
“Not to the Zanchuli Council. They are a dying empire and this is their last lunge. They think the dwarves are easier prey now since Stormwind is to weak to defend itself. Bloody fools.” She spat to her side.” It’s over for them and for us. For the moment.” She walked over.” I need to ask you something, Thorgal.”
“Dabu, of course.” He nodded.” But why me? I am just a miner.”
“You are more than that. You are a male of integrity, principle. You stood up to my lieutenants more than once because you stuck up for your principles and your workers. You will do what is right and you can be relied upon.”
He placed the mug down.” I am at your command, Warlord Zaela. I swear on my blood and honour I will be your man.”
She nodded, her face stern.” Dabu. Keep this to yourself for what I am about to tell you.”
“The Zandalari thing as well?”
“Especially that. There is a Horde fleet headed our way from Pandaria. My dragonriders say that they are filled with Yaungol warriors.”
“Yaungol?” he asked.
“Your friend Mulkor, he is a Taunka yes? From Northrend? He is a cousin to the Tauren. These Yaungol are the angry cousins from Pandaria. The Zandalari fought them during their expedition there. There is another reason why they are fleeing to the dwarves.”
“Blessed ancestors…how many?” He felt his world shake.
“To many.” She said as the child began to whine. Was she shaking?” It doesn’t help the Wildhammers and SI7 are on their way here as well. We are all dead men, Thorgal. And soon.”
The orc leaned on the wall, breathing deeply.
“Snap yourself out of this, we don’t have much time!” the child cried as she held it out…to him.
Thorgal blinked confused at her but held the little orcling as she handed him over. The world was shaking more heavily now. Zaela moved to her weapons cache and took her axe. The alarm went off as the sound of men going to battle sounded through Grim Batol.
“There is a secret passage on the east side of Khardros’ Anvil, if you follow that passage it will lead outside. Once you are out-PAY ATTENTION!” she slapped him which snapped him to attention.” Once you get outside you will follow the coastline for three days. On the third day head south-east towards a vale. There you will find Narkrall Rakeclaw and those who I send there earlier. You will stop at nothing, not for anyone. You will guard my son until then so he can claim his rightful throne. Do you understand?”
The ground shook as dust came down from the ceiling, the child was screaming loudly now.
“Now get out of here!” Zaela opened her door. The sight outside was different from when he left it a mere ten minutes ago, if even that. True Horde grunts rushed passed them as he saw proto-and black dragons fly upward. Troll battlecries rang as he saw several night elves skulk on the walls. Thorgal, holding the child, ran with Zeala as they looked downward.
The gates down below buckled and burst open as the enemy came through. Zaela was right, they were like Tauren but worse. Blood thirsty bulled creatures who wielded maces as large as them and had terrible fire magicks. He spotted several others with them, orcs and pandaren and blood elves and goblins as they charged under a banner. Halmadir was among them, Thorgal noticed, as well as a human child. He wore a blue sash with a lion’s sigil on it. Was that who he thought it was? The orc’s leader held out his bloodied axes.” FOR THE HORDE, MY BEASTMAW! LEAVE NO ENEMY ALIVE!”
“General Bloodrain and the Beastmaw warband…” she snarled.” I knew they would be the death of me…” She turned and held her child’s cheek one last time before her one eye seemed to stare into Thorgal’ soul.” Do your duty, Thorgal son of Thazz’ril. Or I swear I will come back and rip your spine from-“
The ceiling cracked open as a flock of gryphons mounted by hammer wielding dwarves and blue coated humans, gnomes and one goblin vaulted down from the crack by wires and began to combat the True Horde on the upper arcs. The pup cried even louder.
“GO!” Zaela pushed him away and rallied the Dragonmaw and Warsong around her.” FOR THE TRUE HORDE! FOR HELLSCREAM!”
Thorgal saw her lead the charge against the Yaungol tide down below in everything was lost in a sea of blood and metal. He remembered his duty and ran. Everywhere he ran he saw chaos. Yaungol fought Orc, human fought night elf, troll fought…blood elf?
As if out of nowhere, blood elves began to appear and looked every bit confused when they entered the fray.
“Don’t attack the red elves! They are allies!” he heard one of the Horde cry out. More appeared and sliced away with their arcane blades and magicks. Thorgal held the child close to him as he dodged each skirmish. He dodged a Yaungol mace, stepped over a Amani Trol as he was lain dying and had to tackle another bovine foe aside to keep going.
The chaos was complete when more portals opened and suddenly vines seemed to erupt from the floor and specifically began to attack the night elven wardens.
The forge was nearly there! He felt his lungs burning and the sound of the fighting and the child nearly turned him deaf. But he kept focused and kept running. He reached Khardros' Anvil where the piles of Saronite were still stockpiled as the blacksmiths were now to busy fighting for their lives.
He stopped near the elevator where he saw Hurka, Mulkor and several others pulling the chains for the elevators. Hurka turned around.” Thorgal!” she waved. He saw the platform down below was filled with peons and troll slaves who were screaming for help. The secret passage was open and it seemed to call to him.
“Thorgal!” Hurka cried out. “ Help!”
He turned to run for the passage but stopped. We’re all just pawns, he recalled her saying. He was about to turn the child into another one. Be another pawn in someone’s game. He frowned and ran to the chains. He gave the orcling, briefly, to a bewildered troll slave and helped pull up the platform.
“What took you so long, Tor?!”Mulkor asked.
“Cut chatting and more pulling! ” he replied and kept pulling. ”ON MY MARK! AND PULL!” The elevator made it to the side as dozens of peons and slaves thanked them in a hundred confused tongues. Thorgal quickly took the child and a saronite axe he found off the floor.” GRAB A WEAPON AND FOLLOW ME!” he shouted to them.” TODAY WE MAKE OUR OWN DESTINY!”
“We follow you, orc!” a troll slave shouted.” Lead the way!”
Thorgal, with a orcling in one arm, led the small exodus away from the battle. Away from the game of thrones none wanted to play in and forward to their destiny.