Will of the Darkspear (Story)

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Will of the Darkspear (Story)

Post  Quixoticus on Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:25 pm

When you find something you’re good at, you stick with it. I believe that’s how the human saying goes. Humans have a lot of sayings. It tends to water down real wisdom. For example, humans also say you should work doing what you love, and you will be happy. Different words, same meaning.

The Darkspear have one saying. So weh o lok’manley, a dehwha o lok’manley. When you find great power, become it.

Lok’manley is great power. Humans say “happiness.” They are the same in concept. Humans do not speak in real terms; they use language to describe things that are...otherworldly. Metaphysical. Human language is very metaphysical. Humans are very concerned with the unknowable. Arrogant. Yewatamek. Arrogance is good in troll culture. But humans direct their arrogance in the wrong way. They look upward, but not to the sky. They look beyond the sky. Always looking beyond, for something. Foolish. Zutodim.

Trolls look to the earth, the sky. Trolls are not concerned with the beyond, the unknowable. We are concerned with the immediate. The tangible. We seek to know what can be touched, smelled, tasted, seen, heard. Omek dehwha. We seek to become it. To master it. Our language mirrors this. Troll language is visceral.

We master the world by finding what gives us great power. My father found great power in tanning and crafting, making wild beasts of the world serve us after death. My mother found great power in the world itself, communing with its elemental spirits. Humans believe great power is passed on from elders. Trolls do not believe this. Trolls believe knowledge is passed down, but great power is realized. I understand tanning and crafting, and I trust in the wisdom of the spirits and those who speak with them, but this is only knowledge.

My name is Guro'jintal. I am Darkspear. My great power is bloodletting.

Humans say warfare. Trolls say mac’yakar. Survival. Trolls have been fighting since the world was young, untamed. Before the younger races existed. Before they spoke of an end to fighting. Peace. Trolls say yazion. Calm. It is fleeting. War inevitably follows. The world is built on conflict. My great power is mastering the conflict. Since I can remember, I believed I could master it. I believed I could become the conflict, that I could become a part of the world itself.

Northrend was, by no means, the bloodiest conflict I have been in. But, somehow, it was very different. Perhaps it was the cold. Perhaps it was our enemy. Whatever it was exactly does not matter. Northrend had an effect on me. Northrend changed my understanding of survival.

Northrend changed everything. I will not pretend to know how, or why. But I will tell you what happened.
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Re: Will of the Darkspear (Story)

Post  Quixoticus on Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:52 pm

I – The Method

I had been fighting for fourteen winters when Thrall came to the Isles. Losing Sen’jin had been like losing my father a second time. Senjin’s death was the end of an era for the Darkspear. But though we lost, we also gained. The orcs were as good as brothers to the Darkspear; nothing is as powerful a bond as spilling blood together in battle. I became a member of Thrall’s Horde and helped him carve the orcs’ new home in wild Durotar. Spending so much time with the orcs, away from the Darkspear, was a time of great learning for me. So as one era came to an end, another began.

I earned my keep as a soldier for the Horde. Under Rokhan’s tutelage, I studied the mysticisms of the shadow hunters, but to no useful end; the shadow hunters’ ability to combine voodoo and combat requires a certain grace that I lacked. I grasp the utility of stealth and agility, but I never had the magic affinity that mother did. Each must find their way to great power. After so many winters, I understood it not as the “art” of war, but as jin’jukal. Method.

I was too young to understand jin’jukal when my youth mentor, Lithira, had tried explaining it to me. During my second spring in Durotar, with the help of an orc, I came to clear and bloody understanding.

---

Olgrim was a spirited, good-natured orc. He revered the orc elders and the legends of battle and honor that is inherent in orc culture. He was a capable warrior. He was kalnek. Humble.

Our mission was to scout and map Durotar’s western territories. We, nor any other member of the Horde at the time, knew about the quillboars’ presence. We were ambushed in a hunting ground near one of their brambles. There were six of the boarmen in total. Our only warning of their presence was the whistle of an arrow passing dangerously close by my head.

In the time that I had called out for Olgrim to duck and dropped to the floor, our attackers had emerged from a nearby crag and were nearly upon us. In the moment, it seemed as if the two of us were surrounded. Among the thoughts flashing through my mind at the time was the realization that, if we were to die there and then, no one would notice. We were completely alone. The thought of dying in such a way—unfulfilled and unacknowledged—drove me to the realization that, no matter how many enemies we now faced, they would all have to die.

The boarmen fought like reckless skirmishers. It reminded me of how early Troll tribes fought: savage and reckless. Each warrior was more eager than the next to dominate their brethren as well as their enemy. The boarmen were not concerned with the well-being of their battle-brothers; they were only concerned with how they could use each other to make the kill. Similarly, Olgrim’s main concern was drawing first blood and killing as many foes as he could. As soon as the quillboar made themselves known, Olgrim was off the ground and running full-tilt at their line, leaving me to cover our exposed flank.

As I engaged with my first adversary, I could see another quillboar shadowing us, readying his spear to sneak a fatal blow into the melee while I was distracted by my target. And the quillboar did thrust his spear, but I was ready for it, and pushed my foe into the attack.

The boarmen’s backs are covered in barbs and are more resilient than some armor. I noted this on encountering the first foarman, and I understood that even a perfect thrust by a spear would not guarantee a lethal blow. Before pressing the assault against the spear-wielding quillboar, I made sure my first opponent did not take a second wind after absorbing the spear attack. I drew my sword across the exposed flesh of his throat before engaging the next boarman.

The quillboars’ skirmish battle techniques are extremely effective in great numbers and during ambushes. But when they have lost the element of surprise, they have no effective coordination amongst themselves. The spear-bearing boarman did not expect his first strike to fail. As he tried to pull his weapon from the back of his dying brethren, I closed for the kill. A popular Darkspear technique is rokash, “the mulch.” I could have stabbed the boarman’s exposed flank and been done with it, but many have walked away from such wounds before. By twisting my blade, I had ensured internal damage. In the case of the boarman, whom I had stabbed below the ribcage, shredded intestines.

My next opponent had a distinct advantage on me. The quillboar was armed with a bow and arrow,and far enough away to land more than one shot before I could get in striking range. Darkspear are taught to assume that all bowmen are skilled enough to kill you with one shot. One of many legacies of the elves.

I was not going to test the boarman’s skill, so I used my recent kill as a shield against his arrows. The boarman had time to shoot twice before I was close enough to engage, at which point I pushed the corpse forward to buy me an extra yard. The quillboar had dropped his bow in favor of a sword by this time, but his swing was sloppy. I arrested his weapon arm by the wrist and stepped past his guard, allowing me the time and position to deliver two swift stabs to his exposed midsection. Though the quillboar was no longer a threat, I stayed close to the corpse, prepared to use him as protection from another opponent.

As I searched for my next target, I saw that the fight was over. I was the only one still standing. The sound of my breathing was alarmingly loud in the silence of the aftermath. I continued to hold the corpse up for another minute as I searched for any other attackers that could have been lying in wait.

I found Olgrim lying on his back, between the corpses of the other quillboar. His axe was still lodged in the chest of one of them. The orc was covered in his own blood. One of the boarmen’s barbs had pierced his throat. I had never seen one person bleed so much before. I thought he was dead, until I saw his chest rise slightly.

He was looking at me. He grinned, and I saw that his teeth were covered in blood. I went to his side and tried to elevate him, to somehow stop the bleeding.

“No,” he rasped. I could hear blood bubbling in his throat. “I die gloriously. In battle.”

It sounded better in the warrior halls, where the orcs bellowed vigorously from the depths of their chest. Hearing it then, as Olgrim’s lungs filled with blood, was something else. I could only nod silently. He coughed wetly, then said one more thing.

“It has been an honor to fight at your side, brother.”

Then Olgrim’s eyes rolled back. In those last, brief seconds, it sounded like he was drowning.

I removed the heads from the corpses of the boarmen and put them on the spears for the others to find. Then I prepared Olgrim’s body for the return trip.

Olgrim respected honor and glory as any true orc does. But in his last moments, I did not see honor or glory. Only blood.

Trolls are driven by survival. A Darkspear's greatest honor is to be among the living when the dust has settled.
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Re: Will of the Darkspear (Story)

Post  Quixoticus on Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:14 pm

---

Olgrim’s death served more to remind me of my mortality than much else. Carrying his body back to Orgrimmar reinforced the burden that the living must bear. Many cultures honor the dead and the sacrifices they’ve made. It is the duty of the living to ensure that those sacrifices are not in vein. My father told me this was the result of living in a constant state of conflict. When you defend yourself and your people, you also defend the memory of your ancestors.

My mother understood it differently. She believed this tradition was the cause of such conflict. She believed that in defending the memory of our ancestors, we inevitably return to conflict. Memories are not the only things we bury with our dead. We bury the wars with them, too. Blood of the earth.

When I was younger, I believed every conflict was worthwhile and necessary. Wherever there was an enemy, I was there to oppose it. And each time, I fought purposefully. I believed that by my actions, and the actions of my battle-brothers, the world changed. I believed we were shadehma. Pivotal.

After claiming Durotar, I spent several seasons abroad on warfronts against Alliance forces. My longest tour was in Ashenvale

---

To say that I was unfamiliar with the elves would have been a gross understatement. What little I knew about them was from stories passed down from family, friends, and instructors. I knew the old history and bad blood that the trolls shared with the elves, but I had never seen one before Ashenvale.

My first encounter was very brief. She’d seemingly come out of nowhere, rising out of the groundcover and narrowly tearing my throat out with a dagger. In the brief struggle that followed, the elf succeeded in forcing me to the ground, and would have killed me if not for the intervention of Hijawath, another Darkspear in the warband. I hadn’t realized the elf was female until she’d screamed as Hijawath buried his blade in her side and forced her off of me.

The elves had ambushed us in a clearing. Most of them had burst from the groundcover in the same way my would-be assailant had, but in the calm of the pocket, I saw that a few elves were perched with bows in the forest around us. I exited the melee and made toward the nearest of the rangers, intent on eliminating them before they began picking us off from afar.

The rangers spotted me before I got my crossbow out. I could hear the arrows whizzing by as I ducked behind a tree and loaded my first bolt. The stories of the elves had turned out to be accurate, if not modest. I was not used to their mental acuity and physical agility. As opponents, they were more than worthy.

I made my way from tree to tree, firing bolts to cover my advance. I felt their arrows graze me twice, and I knew it would not work the next time. Instead of making for the next tree, I turned and dropped prone. A trio of arrows shot overhead where I would have been. One of the elves had stepped out of cover for a better shot. He was my target. I fired, but not before the elf could move back to cover. The elf stumbled, but did not fall. I scrambled off the ground and loaded another bolt. The furthest elf was nocking another arrow as I rounded the next tree. The closest elf, no more than eight feet in front of me, was aiming right at me.

Most battle instructors suggest an evasive maneuver in that situation. However, no matter if one crouches, rolls, ducks, or sidesteps, an arrow at such close range has very little chance of missing. In the second I had before the elf fired, I had decided that my forward progress was more vital than counting on pure luck. I turned to face the elf with my right shoulder and advanced with my head tucked, angling toward the elf’s release hand in the hope that the angle would interfere with his depth perception.

The shot was clean and precise, and were it not for the bulk of my leather armor, the arrow might have pierced flesh. Nevertheless, it felt like I had been punched, and if not for the timing of my exhalation, the shot would have knocked the wind out of me. The elf tried to lash me with his bow as I closed in, but I was already swinging. I smashed the side of his head with my crossbow, stunning him and leaving him open to an incapacitating strike to the throat.

The ranger I wounded earlier had rallied and was trying to pull the bolt out of his armor. When he saw me advancing, he dropped his right hand to a dagger on his belt. My crossbow was still armed. He tried to rush me as I took aim, but squeezing a trigger is always faster than a nock-and-release. The bolt aimed true and struck just above the elf’s right eye. As the elf’s body tumbled forward, an arrow from the third and final ranger flew by. The shot had been wide, either because of the death of his comrade or as an effort to avoid hitting him.

The elf was twenty feet away with no cover in between. I knew she could nock and fire another arrow before I reloaded my crossbow.

Elves are master archers. None are quicker with a nock-and-release. Trolls knew this from years of bloody conflict with the elves. Though we were never faster, we understood that we had to contend.

Trolls are taught to hunt and kill when their hands are large enough to carry a weapon. Every troll warrior, without exception, masters the throwing-axe. It was the way during the wars with the elves, and it remained so. If you did not master the throwing-axe, you did not survive.

The elf nocked and readied another arrow in less than a heartbeat. Simultaneously, I had reached over my head, closed my hand around the axe handle, and thrown the weapon in an overhead swing. The axe struck her forehead as she brought her bow up to take aim. She released the bowstring reflexively, but her arms had already begun to drop, and the arrow bounced harmlessly off the ground.

Despite my better judgment and combat training, I stood and watched the elf’s corpse crumple to the ground for several seconds. I knew the battle was still going on around me, but I could not hear the voices and the sound of weapons and armor and clashing. The rush of blood was loud in my ears and my heart was kicking against my ribcage.

No amount of training could have prepared me for that moment. The fact that I had managed to hit the elf was purely good fortune. I had survived on a whim.

The Darkspear teach you to mask moments of weakness with pride. At the time, I believed myself invincible. Looking back, I sense vasul’rokh. Fate. I survived, but not by my own determination. The notion strikes me such that I feel utterly helpless.
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Re: Will of the Darkspear (Story)

Post  Quixoticus on Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:23 pm

---

My tour in Ashenvale was the bloodiest conflict I’d been in since becoming a Horde soldier. The elves were keen on making our presence in Ashenvale as unpleasant as possible. We’d come under attack at all hours of the day and night. There were times that I barely got one night’s rest in a week’s time. We slept whenever we had a chance, usually between fights, which could be days at a time or a handful of hours.

The Horde generals believed Ashenvale’s resources were valuable enough to devote, at one point, over half of the standing army. But eventually the generals saw the conflict for what it was; like the shift of tides, or a pendulum swing, ground was lost as quickly as it was gained. In some places, there were so many bodies that both sides had given up on trying to bury the dead. If the Horde generals had seen it, we might have ended the incursion sooner.

One of Thrall’s generals did eventually arrive at the Ashenvale front, on request by most of the Horde officers, including myself. The conflict was not going well, for either side. We urged for a reassessment of the Ashenvale offensive, in the hopes that we could save Horde lives and salvage the mission. General Markol answered our pleas.

---

General Markol was more infamously known as Kol’dagor. The Death. Markol was one of the minds behind the reinvigoration of the Shattered Hand in Thrall’s Horde. We understood that his presence in Ashenvale meant our hopes for a swift end to the conflict would not be fulfilled.

It came as a surprise to me when Markol called for a peaceful summit with the elves to compromise the Ashenvale ordeal. It did not speak to the general’s history, which I knew well from written record and word of mouth.

It was so out of character that even as I stood not ten feet away from General Markol, I did not believe he wished to reach a peaceful end with the elves. Markol was a giant of an orc, muscled and weathered from years of combat, but not built with the bulk of an orc front liner. That was my first inclination that his nickname was not a reflection of his combat technique, but his tactical mind.

I waited with the general and two other Horde officers in a small clearing. When the elven emissaries arrived, I watched the general. He did not so much as flinch. His expression remained the same.

“General Whitevine,” said Markol, in Common. “Thank you for meeting.”

Whitevine was a Sentinel, the elves’ warrior elite. It had come as a surprise to me to find out that the night elves’ strongest warriors were women. The idea is laughable in troll culture. But few trolls had seen a Sentinel, let alone cross blades and survived. The Sentinels are strong and formidable, much like troll women, who are relatively unacknowledged in troll culture.

Whitevine apparently lacked Markol’s silver-tongued manner, as I could see her unease, which she later confirmed with a silent nod. “We meet to end the conflict. Let us do so.”

I had yet to master the Common language at this time, so my understanding of the conversation that followed was very limited. Markol would bargain a share of Ashenvale, and each time, Whitevine denied. Ashenvale was the elves’ land, and the Horde had never attempted peaceful negotiations with sharing its resources. That meeting might have been the first time that a bloodless compromise had ever been considered by the Horde.

Markol eventually made offers of compensation for the elves’ losses, but nothing substantial. I began to sense that Markol was not interested in reaching a compromise. So when Whitevine reached her limit and demanded the recall of all Horde presence from Ashenvale, and Markol agreed, I was surprised, to say the least. I looked to the other horde officers, and they seemed to have reacted similarly.

When the summit ended, I watched Markol long and hard when he turned around. His face was unreadable. He said nothing as we returned to the camp, but I knew, certainly, that something was beginning.

---

Later that evening, I was summoned to the command tent. General Markol was there, along with five Horde officers I had come to know well over the months in Ashenvale. Two of them, Hijawath and Rakim, were fellow Darkspear trolls. The other three, Garrim, Dalok, and Parmona, were orcs. We were all veterans of several tours. That meant we were lucky enough to have survived so long, but Markol wasn’t concerned with dissecting the sources of our success.

“You have the experience necessary to carry out this mission,” Markol had said. “Your success may end the Ashenvale conflict entirely.”

Markol was a master tactician, and his political mind could best much of the Court of Stormwind.

“You will be doing the Horde a great honor.”

I believed everything he told us in the command tent.

“You will save thousands of Horde lives.”

But I did not trust him.

“Did Thrall order this?” I asked the general.

When I made eye contact with him, I saw the orc that everyone feared. His gaze was impossibly steady, like a dark voodoo had come upon him. No one else but Markol had spoken until then. My Darkspear blood drowned out the fear that struck me suddenly, and though I did not break eye contact, I had desperately wanted to. I saw evil in the orc’s eyes. I saw the Death. When Markol spoke, his voice was level and cold, almost as if he was speaking without acknowledging my presence.

“The Warchief gives his blessings to the Horde. We are his soldiers. We follow his orders.”

He only broke eye contact after saying this. He looked at each of the other officers.

“You are among the Warchief’s greatest warriors because you continue to follow orders.”

I wanted to believe what he was saying to be true, even if I did not trust him.

---

That night we travelled several miles into elf-controlled territory. In the early hours of the morning, we met with Horde scouts who General Markol had ordered to shadow General Whitevine. She and several senior officers of the elves’ forces were staying at a small encampment. Our mission was to eliminate them.

It did not seem like a military encampment. Many of the structures looked permanent, and showed signs of wear and tear from years of establishment. It looked more like a settlement than a military outpost. But we were all committed to carrying out the orders. More than that, we were committed to protecting each other, as is the bond with all Horde soldiers. It was this bond that General Markol understood very well, and used to manipulate us.

Everyone besides patrols was asleep at this hour. The patrols themselves were scarce, which I also found odd. There were very few tents outside, so I had assumed that most of the soldiers were sleeping in the buildings. There were two large structures and two farmhouses. We decided to divide in two teams of three. Rakim, Garrok, and Dalok took one of the buildings. Hijawath, Parmona, and I took the other.

The building was two stories tall, and had two points of entry. A guard was stationed at each. We dispatched them quickly and quietly. Hijawath and I entered from the front while Parmona entered from the rear.

I was prepared to find a dozen or more soldiers sleeping quietly, but the first floor was barely occupied. Two of the three rooms were empty. Two Sentinels were sleeping on the floor of the third. We slit their throats and made our way to the second floor.

The rooms were decorated in a civilian manner. Even in the room where the two Sentinels slept, it seemed as if they were intruding. I did not get the sense that the rooms had been refitted for military use.

The second floor had three more rooms. We split up and each took a room. I went to the door furthest on the left. I nudged the door in, and as it opened a crack, the hinge groaned loudly. I froze and listened intently. Somewhere inside the room, I heard a noise. I pushed the door in with my knee and had my sword at the ready.

There was a movement on my right, too fast for me to react. I was struck across the head hard enough to throw off my balance and disorient me. My attacker barreled into me and pushed me against the wall, attempting to arrest my weapon hand. When I resettled, I saw that my attacker was General Whitevine. I saw that she was unarmed and unarmored.

In the long war with the elves, the trolls developed many war tactics to counter the elven discipline. One tactic was to continuously alter combat techniques. The more you knew about your opponent, the better chance you had of defeating them. We knew the elves studied our tactics and combat techniques as closely as we studied theirs. We focused on new offensive techniques as much as we focused on countering elven tactics. Troll combat has evolved to include a level of unpredictability. It is one aspect of The Method. Mofon’tha. Improvisation.

General Whitevine had me by the wrist of my weapon hand, and the forearm of her other arm was pressed against my chest. She likely believed I would focus on freeing my weapon hand. That is one of three ways we are trained to respond to the situation I was in. In the first few seconds of entering the room, I could see that there was no one else. Because she was my only opponent, I chose to drop my weapon.

The elf’s eyes glance up as I dropped the sword. I slammed my head into hers. I felt a spike of pain as my forehead connected with her nose, likely breaking it. She still held my right arm by the wrist, but my other limb was free. I was slightly blinded by the blow, but I knew she was as well. I put my free hand on her face and pushed hard right. I kept pushing until her back was to the wall. Then I moved my hand down to her neck and squeezed.

The elves disarm chokes by reaching across with their arm and moving the shoulder in the way to make it impossible for you to maintain the choke. Whitevine released her grip on my right wrist and reached across with her left arm. However, the disarm leaves their arm exposed briefly. I anticipated this.

I reversed her disarm into an arm lock and pushed against her elbow joint. Whitevine cried out as I broke her arm. I slammed her head against the wall to ensure she was stunned, then forced her to the ground and began to choke her again. Now both of my hands were free, and she only had one arm to defend herself with. I pressed my knee against her chest to force the breath out of her, turning away and craning my neck as she tried to claw at my face.

I continued to squeeze until she stopped moving. I checked her breath, then looked around for my sword.

Whitevine and I had not been the only ones in the room. In the far corner, a night elf boy was watching me. When I saw him, I did not move. I just stared back.

The buildings, the scarce patrols; I began to understand.

The boy suddenly darted from his corner and out of the doorway. I reached for my weapon, finally, and stood up, still catching my breath. I was not going to follow the boy. I stayed in the room until I heard a muffled cry, and then the sound of a something heavy hitting the floor.

Parmona was standing over the body, her bloody axe in one hand. She turned and looked at me. She smiled. Hijawath entered the hall from the other room.

I didn’t look at the boy. I looked at Hijawath. His face was unreadable, but I saw remorse in his eyes. When I looked at Parmona, I saw nek’mamwe. Madness.
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Re: Will of the Darkspear (Story)

Post  Quixoticus on Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:27 pm

---

Murdering children is not often discussed in troll culture. It is the elephant in the room. It begs for attention, but we ignore it. In troll culture, we do what must be done to ensure the safety and survival of our people. That says nothing of killing children, but we pretend it does.

From what I have learned of orc culture after spending years living among them, I am under the impression that they share a similar sentiment. I do not believe that Parmona’s actions that night are a reflection of the orcs’ ways. I know what I saw when I looked in her eyes. I had seen it before, and I have seen it many times after. Parmona was a remorseless, bloodthirsty creature, and she was most certainly not under the effects of the Rage. She simply enjoyed killing.

I suppose that made her a good soldier. It certainly made her a valuable tool for someone like Markol. Markol is a sociopath. A soldier’s job is to follow orders. Markol’s job is to use people. He used me in Ashenvale. I did not like that.

---

I told General Markol when we returned to the Horde camp. He glanced away briefly and then looked back at me, as if what I said had meant nothing to him.

“Your job is not to like something. Your job is to follow orders,” the orc answered.

“Our Warchief does not order us to murder civilians,” I said. My Darkspear pride drowned out the fear that was building in my stomach and moving up to my throat. “Why weren’t we told there would be children?”

Markol was still bent over a map of Ashenvale, but he had gone rigid and was watching my intently now. “We didn’t know there would be children. Or civilians.”

“Our scouts were shadowing Whitevine days before the meeting. How did they not notice civilians?”

Markol straightened. I had expected him to be angry. But the orc seemed, more than anything, curious. He watched me now like one would a specimen, as if what I was saying was amusing or interesting. “You ask a lot of questions, Guro’jintal.”

“I am just trying to understand why this information wasn’t relayed,” I answered. “Perhaps our scouts were not paying attention. Had it been the reverse, and the five of us walked into an army, we might have suffered unnecessary casualties. Incompetence should be punished.”

Markol just smiled thinly. “Our scouts performed well. And so did you. I understand that the decision is not a popular one, but that is the duty of the general, to make unpopular decisions.”

“And it is the duty of a Horde generals to ensure the safety of the people under their command,” I added. I steeled myself for the words that were brimming in my throat. I felt my stomach tense. “Does one override the other, general? Would you sacrifice the safety of the warriors who entrust their lives to you, for the sake of an unpopular decision?”

Markol remained silent. He watched me intently, and I could tell that he already knew what he was going to say, and was taking the time to peer into my soul. “You’re an officer, Guro’jintal. Are you telling me you’ve never put the soldiers under your command in danger?”

My response came quickly. I remember how strange it felt as the fear and intensity that I had felt since entering the command tent melted away as the thought came to me. A calming warmth had suddenly come over me. I felt completely relaxed. “Not without their permission.”

Markol nodded. He nodded as if he’d found what I said to be clever or witty. “Admirable. You’d make an inspiring general, Guro’jintal.” The thin smile returned. “But if you want to be general, you have to play the game.”

“I am a soldier. I am not a politician,” I answered. “War is not a game.”

“Maybe not for you.”

I was surprised I hadn’t noticed sooner how much of a psychopath and how little of an orc that Markol was. But it became clear to me when he said that. I did not respond because I did not believe it deserved one. But I knew there was one more thing I wanted to do before I left that command tent.

“Is that all, Guro’jintal?”

“No. General Markol, I respectfully ask that you relieve me of my duties in Ashenvale and let me return to Orgrimmar.”

I can’t say whether I outsmarted Markol. But I knew from the way his eyes flashed that I had not acted how he thought I would. In that moment, I had matched wits with a sociopath. But he read me quickly, and in seconds his forehead softened, and his eyes became steady again. “You’re going to leave with or without my sanction.”

“Yes,” I answered. “I cannot stay under your command. My continued presence will endanger the lives of my fellow soldiers and compromise the Horde’s mission in Ashenvale.”

Markol nodded with practiced sympathy. “I will write you a letter relieving you of your duties in Ashenvale. I’ll have it delivered to you within the hour.”

“Thank you, general,” I answered. I saluted crisply. I consciously studied his eyes before leaving the command tent. I wanted to remember what they were like, so the next time I encountered a sociopath, I would know what I was dealing with. Next time, I might be able to prevent what happened that night in Ashenvale.

---

An orc delivered the letter to me half an hour after I left the command tent. I was already at the barracks, preparing for the journey back to Orgrimmar. I didn’t have much to pack; besides weapons and rations, soldiers were not allowed to carry personal effects of great size or weight. My sword is a family weapon of three generations. Besides that, my only other personal belonging was a spirit band given to me by my mother.

The band is a common Darkspear tradition. It is made from the bones of the dead and serves to ward off bad spirits, attract good spirits, or a combination of both. My mother crafted the bones from troll ancestors, whose remains were often preserved for a number of Darkspear practices. I always wear the spirit band in battle. I am not concerned whether the spirits of the Darkspear ancestors are watching over me, or not; the band gives me confidence, and reminds me of my mother.

Both of my parents died in a murloc night raid on the Isles, during the conflict with the Sea Witch. It was a shock for me, but life on the Isles was short, and the Darkspear knew that. We learned to live without family early in life.

I understood that, as a soldier and a warrior, I would lose many of the people around me. It is hard to get close to anyone; not because I am afraid of losing them, but because I will lose them. The curse of the veteran soldier is solitude.

But I did not leave Ashenvale alone. Hijawath and Rakim, the other Darkspear officers, joined me on the journey back to Orgrimmar. It seemed as if the events of that dark night in Ashenvale had bound us together. We returned to Orgrimmar in hopes of better serving the Warchief, rather than the twisted souls that lurked in the ranks of his Horde.
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