Crimson condensation forms on crude chain and plate, red-brown stains on cracking, creaking steel. Three green men flow weary as winter rivers, across blue vegetation on a world well-known. They bring violence. One barks orders at the other two, a guttural, crude language. He stops every few moments to catch his breath, supporting his armoured bulk on a scarred tree trunk. The wood feels good under his hands, rough, knotty, resilient. The strength of the earth. One of his men growls out some curse, and hacks into one of the trees with a handaxe. The shouting becomes louder, and one phrase is repeated. "Bad luck, bad luck."
The three men whirl around. There's only blue, and green, and the grey of a sky saturated with the smoke of funeral pyres. The soft rustle of wind against vegetation.
There's a grinding of steel against stone. The high-pitched whistle of metal on air, and then a noise that the other two orcs have heard before, but never quite so close. Never quite so personal. The arrogant one will never hear the sound again.
The Orcs are not stupid. Their backs meet, a thump of steel against steel, the rattle of neckguards and axebelts. The sickening hiccup of blade on leather. They expect shouting, thundering of hooves on earth, the keening bird's death-wail of swords and axes. They expect a flurry of feathered shafts.
There's the soft whistle of wind against vegetation.
The thunder comes too late, from the wrong direction. They turn, but it's so excruciatingly slow, so very late, like they're swimming through tar... The leader turns his head, his arm, his axe hand... Only to have his companion crumple, thrown onto his back by the force of the blow. The Orc catches sight of the Draenei for the first time, and hears his voice. The words of a mouth without tusks trying to form sentences meant for a guttural roar, not an amused whisper.
The Orc roars his battle-cry, lifts his blade, steels his heart - pumping with demon's blood. He runs forth, head held high to look up at the foe. He snarls, he growls, he lifts his axe for the charge.
And the Draenei simply steps aside.
The Orc roars frustration, sliding on booted feet, grappling with the momentum of his blade. He turns again, and looks into the eyes of this man who defies him, who killed Kartol and Voshuk, who simply stepped aside. He expects the serene expression of a Paladin, the stern determination of a Warrior, perhaps even the frigid gaze of a Hunter. He gets a wry grin, a flash of tongue against fangs, a soft chuckle. The Draenei beckons with one hand, while the other hefts a simple axe. An Orc axe, the wooden grip worn smooth, the blade nicked with cuts into ribs and skulls.
The Orc roars again, his legs moving like those of a frenzied warg, his axe swinging around for the side-cut that cannot be stepped away from.
And the Draenei ducks down, and rolls. But this time, the blade comes down with a lazy whistle, grey metal and green flesh meeting, an explosion of blood. A jolt of friction moves up the Draenei's arm, moments before the flow of red. There's laughter, mocking and casual.
"Faster, faster, faster!"
The Orc cools the inferno in his veins, steps back on an injured leg, and holds his axe with both hands, wary. This isn't right. This isn't how it happens, not how it works. The pigs don't do this. Where's the honour? Where's the charge, the shout in strange tongues?
The Draenei raises an eyebrow instead, the laughter softer this time.
This time he charges. The grin on his face changes to a rictus of insane focus, a smile sharper than the axe in his hands. There's no battlecry, just echoing laughter that precedes a vicious, thundering down-swing. The Orc's axe splinters with the force of the blow, a broken hand holding a broken weapon for scant seconds before pain disarms him.
Stumbling backwards, the green-skinned raider falls over the corpse of his comrade, the tranquility of the forest interrupted by the crash of plate on rocky earth. The Orc gibbers a stream of curses, his good hand reaching out for the fallen mace of his brother, searching, stretching, edging ever nearer...
A hoof pushes down, and there's a gruesome crunch, a wail of pain from the Orc. The gibberings turn to begging, to terrified mouthings. The Draenei simply smiles. He kneels down, tilts his head slightly to the side, and then reaches out with one hand. The Orc's volume increases. The thumb applies pressure to the Orc's cheek, the fingers fastened around his jaw...
There's a crack. A scream. And the soft rustle of wind on vegetation. The Draenei stands up again, looking at himself – his arms soaked with red, up to the elbow, his hair matted and slick.
He laughs, and wipes the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand...