Blackscar: Ruin (Part 1)Edit
Junka the Bastard gazed out at the wall of thick, twisting trees before him. The trees of Terokkar Forest rose up from the ground like proud spears, and from their sprawling branches hung jewel-like acorns that shone with a calming, turquoise luminescence. The sound of the leaves murmuring in a light, southerly breeze was calmly complimented by the gentle lapping of a stream nearby, concealed by the protective depths of the forest. Junka clenched his bare feet, and felt the soft loamy soil between his toes and a nearby, fallen acorn winked at him in the moonlight.
There was a sudden change in the wind. It picked up speed and changed its course to the north east. Junka became aware of the coppery scent of spilled blood born on the wind. The crackle of burning wood reached his ears, along with the sound of raucous laughter. The branches atop the trees swayed more animatedly as if in distress and Junka began to feel a tingle of nagging irritation crawl up his spine. He turned and surveyed the scene behind him.
A huge bonfire had been erected and the timber spat and hissed at everything around it. Orcs, laughing and jeering in a depraved victory celebration, clambered around it, goading the flames by throwing more timber at it. Pale corpses were splayed around the bonfire. They sported horrific wounds, and by the manner of these Orcs, it looked as if many could have easily been inflicted after the poor souls had died. Junka watched on as one of the Orcs stooped over one of the bodies, and tore the heart from it’s open ribcage. He raised it above his head and bellowed a multitude of blasphemies and victory cries before tossing it onto the fire and watching it burn. Striding over to the celebration, Junka looked down at one of the corpses and a savage grin spread across his face. The expression etched across the Draenei’s face was pathetic. Frozen in his last moment of life, the horror in his eyes filled Junka with a sense of smug superiority. There was no doubt as to who was the strongest. Only strength, and the wit to utilise it with sheer, ruthless cunning mattered.
Junka was a large Orc. Orcs traditionally never wore forged, metal armour and so Junka wore only his old Talbuk hide cuirass and leggings. With the coming of the Blood Curse, Orcs began forging suits of cruel, black plate and Junka harboured a secret jealousy of such warriors who had access to the ringing, smoky forges. His green skin shone with sweat, and his muscles bulged unnaturally, his veins nearly standing on end as his vile, corrupt blood raced through them. His eyes shone with sheer, crimson hatred. Nothing more than orbs of scarlet fire, glowing balefully with their Fel luminance. His face was almost gaunt, as if his skin had been drawn back across his face. This skull-like visage was offset by the mane of tangled, jet black hair that was slicked back by blood and gore. From his chin sprouted a braided goatee which reached down to his chest and was cruelly decorated with the fingers of Draenei orphans. A sickening snap brought Junka back to reality, and he looked up to see one of his companions, drunk on victory, breaking the leg of a dead Draenei over his knee. A low growl escaped Junka’s throat, a bestial sound that was more wolf than Orc. He met the fellow’s gaze.
“Kul’din, you motherless maggot. I thought you said these boys knew what they were doing. “ Junka barked, gesturing to the gruesome spectacle around them.
Kul’din’s gleeful grin faded and he returned Junka’s glare with a look of undisguised malice. Letting the Draenei corpse fall to the ground, he squared up to Junka like a Talbuk readying itself for a territorial, head butting contest. Kul’din was fully a head taller than Junka, and his massive bulk nearly dwarfed him. But Junka wasn’t deterred. Kul’din was as stupid as they came.
“We’re celebrating a victory aren’t we? You saying my boys are weak, Junka?” Kul’din snarled, not bothering to wipe the drool that was dangling precariously from his bottom lip.
Junka smirked inwardly. The big oaf had acted tough, but he hadn’t directly ridiculed him. This meant that Kul’din was wary, thought Junka. He was going to pay for the lack of confidence. As quick as a leaping wolf, Junka cannoned forward and smashed his forehead upwards into Kul’din’s nose. His heart hammered in his chest and pounded in his ears as he felt the irresistible crunch of breaking bone and the spattering of blood on his face. With every ounce of will he possessed, he kept his mind focused and resisted the calling of the Blood Curse. With a strangled cry, Kul’din staggered backwards. Narrowly avoiding the fire, he caught his leg on the broken body of a slain Draenei and lost his balance. He landed with a crash and wisely decided not to get back up.
“Now you dogs better listen, and listen well!” Junka growled, fixing the other Orcs in a baleful glare. “We’ve chased these Draenei through the entire marsh and halfway through the damned forest! We’re right on their heels and you brainless worms are making this racket!”
Junka’s words seemed to knock them out of their drunken stupor. They peered at him with thinly veiled contempt, but it looked like they were getting the message. In fact, the tone in Junka’s voice surprised even himself. It demanded their full attention and made them straighten their backs. What Junka intended to be a simple humiliation was turning into something much more interesting.
“Look at the runt licking his wounds on the ground. Weak. Not fit to have that blood running through his veins. No better than the damned blueskins. You’d follow this wretch? You would stain your pride by following his orders?” Junka snapped accusingly.
No one replied. There was only the hissing of the bonfire and Kul’din’s groaning. They kept their faces straight, but Junka knew better. He could see the mutinous look creeping into their eyes as they gazed over at Kul’din.
“What’s it to be then, vermin? Stumble along after Kul’din, or march proudly at my back?” Junka said, bringing himself up to his full height.
The question was rhetorical. They’d follow Junka whether they liked it or not. One of the Orcs, Bleeding Hollow Junka noted, stood up and removed his axe from a piece of firewood. He was an older fellow with greying hair and vaguely wrinkled skin, like Clefthoof leather. His glowing, Fel eyes fixed him in an intense stare that made Junka’s hackles stand on end.
“You’ve won our allegiance, pup.” He growled. “But allow me to impart some advice. You may have taken out that oaf. But he’s almost as young as you, and twice as thick. You’re amongst elders now. Perhaps you can keep his loyalty with a sharp head butt. But I assure you, if you want to keep ours you’ll have to do a lot more.” He continued, pointing the axe at Junka.
Junka could think of no reply, and settled for bearing his teeth at the old swine. What annoyed him the most was that he was absolutely correct. These Orcs were older and far more experienced. Junka knew all too well that he held no real authority over them. The loose ranking of the small raiding party had all but fallen apart when the appointed squad leader had fallen to a Vindicator’s hammer. Kul’din, being the largest amongst them, had seized the opportunity and enforced his command over the group. Without an iron grip, these Orcs would fall apart and become even more of a disorganised rabble. Junka ran his eye across the group and counted nine heads, not including Kul’din. With the proper incentive, nine would be more than enough. Settling his gaze on Kul’din’s recovering bulk, Junka reached a decision.
“Your point is taken, Lo’gosh” Junka said, mockingly.
Lo’gosh, or “Ghost Wolf”, was a throwback to the outlawed shamans and how the wizened old wielders of the elements could take the form of ethereal wolves. It was intended as an insult to the aging Orc.
“You’ll follow me grudgingly, and that suits me just fine. But know this” Junka said, walking over to Kul’din, but still addressing the old Orc.
Removing his axe from the back of a slain Draenei, he raised it above his head, clutching the haft with both hands. He gazed fiercely into Kul’din’s eyes and felt a rush of savage joy as the Fel glow dimmed in his eyes. Kul’din’s features twisted and he raised his hands, wailing in dismay. The gesture forced any feelings of remorse or mercy from his mind. As if sensing the despair, hanging thick in the air, the Blood Curse immediately seized Junka’s mind in a ruthless, vice grip. The desire to end Kul’din’s life was overpowering. His heart pumped furiously, and the Fel-laden adrenaline coursing through his veins made his muscles bunch. This time, he gave himself wholly to the Blood Curse. He brought his axe down on Kul’din’s neck and severed his head in a single, clean swoop. Kul’din’s scream was cut short. But the Blood Curse was not content for a clean kill. As if possessed, Junka raised his axe high, once again, and brought it down on Kul’din’s chest. Again and again Junka did this until the Blood Curse released him, sated for the time being. Chest heaving, Junka looked from the remains of Kul’din’s body to the group of Orcs standing, watching. His eyes were like burning pits. Remorseless and uncaring, yet fuelled by the insatiable hunger of the Blood Curse.
“Cross me and I’ll visit a fate upon you that not even the Warlocks could imagine” Junka said, his voice quiet now, but nevertheless carrying across the clearing and settling on the Orcs like morning frost, obliterating any thoughts of mutiny that dared manifest in their minds.
Reaching down, Junka picked up a flask of stolen Draenic Vodka and took a hefty draught. It tasted disgusting, but Junka savoured it. The fact that it was taken by force made it more enjoyable than any fine vintage he could imagine. Tossing Kul’din’s head into the flames, Junka ordered the small force of nine to make camp and be ready for a long march in the morning. Tomorrow the Draenei that they were pursuing would meet their end. From there on, they would rejoin the main bulk of a vast, marching army. The thought brought a savage smile to his face. The final bastion of the Draenei race. The place at which a glorious slaughter would take place. The Horde would sack Shattrath.
Junka awoke to a misty morning. His mouth was dry and his muscles screamed with exhaustion, but with a curse and a snarl he forced himself to get up. He lay on a bed of dry bark and brittle leaves and clutched his axe at his side. The rest of the Orcs were asleep, save for “Lo’gosh” who sat by the remains of the fire, cooking Draenei-flesh on the remains of a Vindicator’s breastplate. Taking a swig of stolen vodka to stop his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth and to warm his cold limbs, Junka kicked the sleeping Orcs and barked at them to wake up. After looting what they could and having a small meal of dry bread and bitter ale, the Orcs began their march northeast. Favouring light, swift travel in place of being laden with bags of loot, they covered many miles. Without the smell of blood and battle to fill their nostrils, the Orcs travelled in silence for the most part, save for a few jokes.
“Here’s one my brother told me at Karabor. What is the difference between a Draenei and Talbuk venison?” One of the troops said, Nazgrin as Junka had learned.
The silence from the other Orcs invited him to continue.
“Talbuk venison doesn’t squeal when you throw it on the cooking fire.” Nazgrin continued, adjusting his axe sling and giving a wheezy laugh.
This provoked a hiss of laughter from the troops and a lopsided grin etched itself upon Junka’s face as he vaguely recalled Draenei survivors being put to the torch by Warlocks and blood crazed, victorious troops. It was then that the smell of smoke reached his nostrils and he abruptly held up his hand for a halt. Everyone froze, their hands automatically reaching for their weapons. Creeping forward, he began to hear voices. They were too faint to make out and so he crept further, cursing inwardly at the level of noise his feet made on the undergrowth. Gradually the voices became clearer and he knew that they spoke in a language he recognised, yet did not understand. Turning back to the group, a dark smile crept over his gaunt face. He mouthed the words silently.
Vindicator Sanaaran leaned heavily on his hammer. He had discarded much of his armour in the previous days, and prayed to the Light that the Orcs hadn’t used it to track them. He cast a weary eye over the tiny encampment. There were twenty survivors in all. Not one of them a fighter. He was the sole defender of this poor flock. Armed only with the tools of their trade, he saw the despair in their sorrowful eyes. Many of them, all of them, had lost loved ones when the Orcs turned. Huddled around a small campfire, they sat talking amongst themselves.
“How can we stop this?”
“What have we done to deserve this?”
“Is the Light punishing us?”
Their words dogged him. What was he? The Prophet? He could only answer with petty reassurances. The Light would save them. Give it time, he had said. He had trouble believing it himself. Willing his injured leg to move, Sanaaran limped across to the fire. These poor people had bags under their eyes. They were fishermen, tailors, brewers of fine ale. They didn’t possess the steely resolve of a Vindicator. And right now it was Sanaaran’s resolve that kept the group going. They wouldn’t have made it past the marshes if it wasn’t for him and his brother.
Sorrow clouded Sanaaran’s mind for a moment. His brother. The Orcs chasing them had caught up with the group not three days past. Nekhaarun was his name. Sanaaran never knew a finer Vindicator. He was always jealous of his brother. Jealous of his good looks and his way with women. And jealous of his patience and compassion. Nekhaarun took out three Orcs before he went down. A hero’s death. But a death nonetheless. He felt lost. His brother guided him, but now he was alone. He felt a sudden uprising of resentment towards these vagrants he was guiding. Why can’t they fight? Could they not at least try to take up arms? He scolded himself immediately. It is not their fault. They didn’t expect this. No one did. Sanaaran placed his hand on a woman’s shoulder. Zheli her name was. She was a pretty woman. Small with daintly little hands and beautiful eyes. Her left arm was rendered useless. Broken by a brutal punch from a berserk Orc.
“Zheli, we have tarried for far too long. We have to move now. We’ll be at Shattrath by the evening if we move at a reasonable pace.” He said gently.
Zheli smiled. The sight of it made him smile too. It was a beautiful sight. Sanaaran reckoned that he fell in love at that moment. His heart skipped a beat when her smile turned into a look of horror. He spun on his heel and scanned the edge of the clearing. Despair dragged all hope he dared harbour into oblivion. From the darkness of the unforgiving forest, red lights flickered. The sight of them almost brought him to his knees. The lights, no not lights. Pits. Pits of fiery hate, that only wished to consume and destroy all he held dear. He gazed into the eyes of the Orcs and though he only spoke poor Orcish at best, they conveyed the message better than any words could.
We’ve found you.
And then they attacked.
As soon as Junka locked eyes with that Draenei, he bellowed his command. His men had taken position around the clearing, in a circle. It was a gamble to spread them so thin, but these wretches were exhausted and unarmed. It would be like stepping on ants. The Orcs attacked from all sides. On reflection, Junka reckoned the manoeuvre was unnecessary. But the expressions on their faces were sublime. An Orc had once told him ’If you can empty their bladders before you empty their lives, then you’re doing a damn fine job’. He could’ve swore that more than a few of them had pissed themselves at that moment, and wild laughter escaped his throat as he charged into the fray. The Draenei scrambled around, tripping over each other in wild terror as they tried to organise themselves. By the time he had reached the first of them, they had formed a loose circle around a meagre fire. A large Draenei, carrying a Vindicator’s hammer, was bellowing what Junka supposed was morale raising cries and hasty orders. With his axe in a two handed grip, Junka swung it in a wide arc. The three he was nearest to didn’t even attempt to dodge or get out of the way. They threw their arms up to defend themselves. It baffled him. Flesh and bone was no defence against Orcish iron. They paid for it dearly. The first had his belly sliced open, the second lost both arms below the elbow, and the third caught the last of his stroke on her face. They fell to the ground, either dead or dying and Junka leapt through the opening. The smell of emptied bowels and coppery blood hung heavily in the air, and it drove Junka mad. In a berserk, mindless fury, he leapt at every Draenei he saw. In his rage, his maliciousness still found its way through. He did not always aim to kill. He always enjoyed the screams after a good battle. He cut down another two and saw that his men had fared as well as him. Draenei fell in droves, their blood staining the ground, and their green skin.
Looking around for the Vindicator, Junka saw the holy warrior bury his hammer into the side of Lo’gosh’s face. Lo’gosh crumpled like parchment, and so did his face. He hit the deck with a slam, and Junka darted forward with a snarl of feral joy. He noted that the Vindicator walked with a limp, and so he exploited the weakness ruthlessly. He barrelled into him from behind, causing him to lose balance and both tumbled to the ground. There was a brief competition to see which got up first. Junka won. He slammed his axe into the Vindicator’s hammer arm, and severed it completely. Slamming his boot into the Draenei’s inured leg, he relished the roar of fear and rage. He looked around to gauge the situation. It all had seemed so fast. The battle was over already.
There was a very brief celebration. Junka allowed the men to relish the victory, but he was eager to press on. He didn’t fancy turning up to the siege late. They had their fun, and after they had done so, the survivors swiftly had their throats cut. To Junka’s great amusement, Lo’gosh still lived. His face and jaw was ruined, but he could still stand. While Lo’gosh stalked the battlefield searching for his teeth, Junka made a little sport of the Vindicator who had an acceptable grasp of Orcish. He sat on a log, sharpening his axe, and made casual conversation, ignoring the Vindicator’s severed arm and broken legs.
“Aye, it’s a fine day for it.” Junka remarked. “It’s a little cloudy, though. I’d rather the sun was out.”
“You bastard.” Was all the Vindicator could muster.
Junka tutted and held his axe up to catch the light, seeing if it had any permanent damage. He set it down, and then leaned forward, talking in a low voice.
“Just between you and me, I think that some of my boys want to breed with your womenfolk. Can you imagine that? Don’t worry. I don’t allow that sort of thing. We’re not barbarians.” He said, with a smile that did not reach his eyes. The Vindicator had not the will to utter a response. His skin was pale from blood loss, and his breathing was ragged, but there was still a fire of defiance in his eyes. Junka couldn’t wait to destroy that little spark of resistance.
“There were a lot of womenfolk with you, weren’t there? One in particular caught my eye. The men wanted to have their way with her. She was a pretty little thing, for a Blueskin. Piercing eyes. Soft hands. Did you know her?” Junka asked, reaching behind him, trying to find something.
The Vindicator shuddered and his muscles spasmed painfully. He nodded his reluctant acknowledgement, his face a twisted mask of bitter defeat.
“I told the boys to back off, of course. Orcs are strong, warrior folk. We can’t be mixing with the likes of you. But she was a pretty little thing. I couldn’t let her go to waste entirely. So I kept a small token. A memento.” Junka said, almost kindly. He found what he was looking for, and dangled it in front of the Draenei’s face. It was a long, bloody strip of skin. “What do you think? A nice belt, perhaps?”
A single sob escaped the Draenei’s throat, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
“You’ve broken me Orc. You’ve taken everything I have, and now you taunt me with this. Why? You utter monster. You’ve the eyes of a demon, yet you are an Orc. Is there a difference anymore? I don’t care. Your kind can rot for all eternity for all I care. Mark my words though. You’ve brought a doom upon yourself. Your kind may favour death in a blaze of glory. Fine. Let them have it. But you. You are cruel, and vicious. You rub salt into the wound and spit on your foes while they are down. You are despicable. You will not have a ‘glorious’ end. You will die in a cold place. Cold, alone, and scared. You will not die with a battlecry echoing from your throat. You will die with a quiet whimper of fear.” The Vindicator said, his voice strong and with bitter conviction.
Junka tried in vain to mull the words over. He realised that he didn’t care. Tiring of the exchange, Junka ended the bastard’s life with a few swift stomps on the face.
“Up you get, maggots! A strip of your hides for every moment you waste! If you are not finished with our guests, then slit their throats and be done with it! We leave none alive! We’ve the back of an entire people to break, and we don’t have all day!” Junka roared. His lips curled into a smug grin as the troops leapt to obey. Even Lo’gosh, his jaw hanging in tatters, quickly finished sewing himself up and packed his meagre, essential supplies.
Junka took a swig of vodka. Vodka that the Draenei used to numb wounds. He boomed in wicked laughter as he drank it for no other reason that he could, and that it offended the memory of the dead. A rising sense of anticipation began gnawing at the fiery depths of his mind. His blood was up, and he knew that the others felt it too.
“We’re leaving, you mangy whoresons! Onward, to ruin!”
And so they marched.