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Author Topic: Old Friends  (Read 207 times)

Groshnok

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Old Friends
« on: April 28, 2020, 06:00:05 PM »
Chapter 1


Southern Nagrand, one day after the Autumn Kosh’harg

The sun was beginning to set on the green fields of a once lush land, now falling apart. It had been a long, arduous day of scouting but finally before the night fell Groshnok had found his price. Perched atop his half-garn on a hill, he spied it. A ferocious looking jet-black worg had burst from the forest below, chasing a wounded Talbuk. Its prey quickly seized around the throat by its terrible maws, brought crashing down to the soft ground. Now came the hard part.

Turning that predator into his prey.

Throatrender had given him the task days prior, and Groshnok was eager to proceed with it, to further his place down the Path of Cunning, and become closer to the spirit known as Sharguul the Unborn.  Now, killing a worg, that wouldn’t be too much difficulty. His gun could easily blast a bullet between its eyes, and if that did not fell the beast, his axes certainly would. No, this needed to be a clean kill. The pelt could not be sullied, for this was to be his new ritual armour as a Gul’thauk.

Clambering down from his half-garn, he gave the beast a steely gaze, instructing it not to go for the talbuk now struggling to cling to life. The half-garn snorted, slinking back into the shadows off the other side of the hill. Looking down to the commotion below, the Talbuk was still bucking somewhat, Groshnok noted, its last gasps of fight. He noted the wolf below becoming cautious, careful with its movements so as not to be wounded itself. Good, this would give him some time, and a distraction.

Circling behind the wolf, he slipped into the undergrowth of the trees before the clearing. Between two sturdy, twisting trunks he found his opening. A direct line to the beast, its back turned as the bleets of its meal faded. Slowly, Groshnok removed the trap he had planned from a large pouch at his side, cupping the steely spikes in his palms. Caltrops.

He had become well acquainted with a wooden version of these in his days in Stranglethorn Vale. The trolls would plant these into the earth, covering them with leaves and grass. Any person, or animal, unfortunate to step on them would not only be immobilised, but the scream from the pain of the many nerves of the foot being pierced would alert nearby hunters to their exact location. Steel plates had been inserted to the bottom of their leather boots for a reason, and although a young Groshnok had once thought it preposterous, he was thankful the first time he had felt bamboo snap against the metal. This worg would not have that luxury.

He had seven in total, enough to spread evenly of the distance of the worg’s stride. If even one paw could be pierced, the wolf would be his for the taking. Cautiously he placed them into the dirt, sinking them into enough place that they would stay, but should be ripped out upon contact. Creeping around then, he tiptoed to the clearing, the sun’s light shining against his bare chest. Save for his thick leather legguards and boots, he was armourless. The worg needed to think of him as least a threat as possible. Besides, if anything went wrong, he still had his gun and axes, of which one was now clasped in his right hand.

He could not risk whistling or yelling at the beast, lest his half-garn come running and ruin the plan. Instead, his right arm arced across his chest, before slashing sideways, hitting the oak next to him with a loud thunk. The worg, happily beginning his snack, reared its neck, its eyes focused, its mouth in a blood-soaked snarl. He had its attention. Lifting his wolf-mask, Groshnok met the worg’s glare with his own. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Silence upon the clearing, with two foes ready to see who would blink first. And Groshnok did, descending back into the shadows of the clearing, over the trap he had laid, backed up against a trunk of a tree. From the light shining between the two trees in front of him, he saw the black mass bounding forth, jaws hungry to take down that which would interrupt his meal, eyes fixed on his target.

In a flash, the eyes turned from anger to agony, its jaw opening wider to let out a pained yelp. Its front two paws had landed directly into the second set of caltrops, causing its hind legs to buck, and the worg came crashing down, its speed somersaulting it across the grass, directly towards Groshnok’s path. The orc leapt up as the wolf slammed with a sickening crunch into the trunk he had been backed against, yelping weakly in pain. Cautiously, Groshnok readied his axe, analysing the damage. The wolf’s landing had been as unfortunate as its paw placement. The side of its neck had bore the brunt of the slam, and Groshnok could see the body was weakly spasming. It had broken its neck.

Slowly, he approached the downed beast, putting his foot on the other side of the neck. The wolf stared at him, helpless, its eyes almost bleeding. Groshnok grunted, putting his full weight down on his foot, and with a crack and a last yelp, it was done. He couldn’t help but smile, admiring his work. This would indeed make a fine pelt. It was as intact as could get! He leant down to pick his prize up, when a large, fierce howl froze him in place. The half-garn.

He had never given it a name, as that was another lesson he had taken from Stranglethorn. Worgs never tended to last long there, either running off or being killed in scouting missions, often bearing the brunt of slow-acting poison darts. This one though, had been different. It had been with Groshnok since the clan had tamed its pack in Frostfire Ridge, after the Iron Horde had re-opened the Dark Portal. The worg was fiere, well able to hold its own. If it howled like that, something was very, very wrong. He rose to his feet, sheething his right axe and unholstering his gun. Leaving the corpse, he ventured out to the clearing, unsheathing his left axe as he looked towards the hill, where a large wagon stood. “Raiders?” he thought. No, that wagon did not look orcish by design. More Goblin-like.

Oh fuck.

Scrambling to the top of the hill, commotion began to grow louder. Pressing up against the wagon, he peered around to see his half-garn, covered with nets and unable to move, trying to gnaw away at its bondage. Next to it was a bloodied human, lying unmoving in the grass. Suddenly, darts were flying, landing in the wolf’s neck, as it swayed before crashing to the ground. Groshnok peered around for the assailants, and saw two goblins and an orc with their rifles poised, inching towards it from either side. In front of him, strolling towards the captured half-garn with hands clasped behind his back, was a rather plump goblin, outfitted in a fine purple velvet suit and top hat. Their leader, Groshnok assumed. And with all attention now drawn to his unconcious worg, Groshnok saw his opportunity to strike. Slinking forward he pressed the cold steel of the gun against the back of the goblin’s head. On instinct, the goblin froze, raising his hands in the air. Groshnok snarled, glaring up towards the three still moving towards his worg. “Get away from t’wolf or t’goblin gets i’!” he roared.

The three turned on their heel, pointing their rifles at him. “Easy now,” the goblin below him started. “Let’s not be hasty here. Just take that gun down from my head.”

“Tha’s no’ ‘appenin’ ‘till ye’ ge’ yer boys ‘way from me wolf,” Groshnok retorted with a snort.

“Well my boy, that’s not happenin’ either,” the Goblin replied, surprisingly calm. “That’s quite a wolf you have. Don’t see many like that. See, somethin’ like that could go on the markets for a hefty price, wouldn’t ya say?”

“Would do,” said Groshnok. “Bu’ ‘e ain’ for sale.”

“Shame,” said the Goblin with a shrug. “I suppose we’ll have to just take him then. See right now you’ses got three fine shots aimin’ some VERY potent night-night juice at ya neck.”

Groshnok looked up, eyeing the three. “Aye, an’ if yer boys ‘ad sense, they’d realise if ‘em shoots tha’ nigh’-nigh’ juice, ‘em’s coin-purse’s brains end up on the floor.”

“Lower the gun from my head, and we’ll leave ya depart unharmed,” the Goblin pressed. “I’m offerin’ more than generous terms here my boy. Be thankful that I never forget a voice.” Groshnok’s eyebrow arched, peering down at the back of the goblin’s head. The more he thought, the more this goblin’s voice was sounding hauntingly familiar too. The goblin snickered. “Ah, finally ya’s relaxed ya grip I see,” he said. “Ya know, of all the places I thought I may see you’se again,” he continued as he turned to face Groshnok. “This was surely the last place I’d expect!” Groshnok’s gun lowered as he stared into the beady eyes of a goblin he had not seen since his last time in Booty Bay.

“F-Fax?” stammered Groshnok, recoiling in shock. The goblin flashed a gold-toothed smile back at him. His years away from the clan, soul-searching had often led him to that Goblin’s employment. And now, on some hilltop in the middle of South Nagrand, their paths crossed once more.

“Glad to see ya remember me, Rabid Wolf! I sure remember you…” Fax said, his smile growing wider. Fax’s smile had always been his greatest weapon. You could never tell if it meant he was happy with you, or was planning on stabbing you in the back. Groshnok found this question answered quickly this time, as something stung his neck. He looked up to see the orc of Fax’s party with his gun aimed, directly where he had been stung. Shit.

Groshnok threw his axe aside, lifting his arm to rip the dart out of his neck. As he did, his legs went from under him, landing hard on his tailbone, and slumping back against the wheel of the wagon. It had been too late, the drugged dart had set in. He tried to reach out to grab Fax, but found his arms would not work. HIs vision began to blur, as the figure of the goblin came closer to him.

“It’s so nice to run into old friends, isn’t it?” it said, before Groshnok’s world went black.



Groshnok

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Re: Old Friends
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2020, 02:59:43 PM »
Chapter 2


“He’s gone too damn far this time!” Gra’tagesh roared, slamming his fist into the table. The squad leader rose to his feet, eyes bulging, chest breathing heavily through his light armour. Groshnok cast his gaze downward, idly sipping from his mug of ale. Sneaking a glance, he found Gre’lak to be doing the same with his own ale, awkwardly trying to avoid the argument between Gra’tagesh and Reg’nosh that was occurring.

“Urgarok didn’t DO any harm, Gra’tagesh,” Reg’nosh snarled. “I’m sure it was a misunderstand--”

“Misunderstanding?!” Gra’tagesh interrupted. “How in t’name o’ Hellscream can wha’ he did be considered a misunderstandin’?! He was caught red handed in t’bushes while some she-orcs was bathin’!”

“He didn’t touch ‘em though!” Reg’nosh argued. “It’s not like, him out in th--”

“An’ how close was it to him being like he is out in the raids?!” challenged Gra’tagesh. “Do ye’ even realise, if he had laid one had on them we’d all be--”

“Well, he didn’t!” growled Reg’nosh. “He was caught, he fled. We’ll find him and fix this.”

“We canno’ fix this, Reg’nosh!” bellowed Gra’tagesh, slamming his fists into the table once more, the wood cracking under the force.





Snapping awake, Groshnok lurched forward, though a powerful rattle brought his advance to a painful halt. He groaned, wiping his eyes to clear away the bleariness, when he felt something cold touch his cheek. He looked down. Though all he could see was blackness, the biting in his wrists told him all he needed to know. Chains. Grunting, he slumped back against the cool wall behind him, trying to clear his mind. He was back in the tent in Stranlgethron. Reg’nosh and Gra’tagesh… A dream. No, a memory. His dreams often turned to them, and that was certainly one he’d rather not relive.

Shaking his head, Groshnok looked around to find a light source. Nothing but pitch blackness. With his eyes still groggy, he could not even make out any shapes around. He could hear waves though, and the ground  under him seemed to sway gently. A ship? Wherever this place was, he needed to get out, and the first step but to be rid of these damn cuffs chaining him to the wall. Straining his arms forward and pushing with his chest, he gave an almighty tug, and yet again he fell back against the wall in defeat. Grunting in annoyance, he lifted his arms to try again, but before he could a nearby voice halted his attempt.

“Will you shut the fuck up?” it growled. “I’m tryin’ to get some sleep here!” It was gruff, female. Orcish? Groshnok grunted, sitting upwards.

“Who’s ye’?” he asked to the void.

“Your cellmate,” the void responded. “An’ one tha’s been tryin’ to get some damn sleep the past few days with your snorin’!” Groshnok heard chains rattle a few metres away, as his newfound cellmate shifted in position. “Now that you’re finally awake, stay that way for a few hours so I can get some shut-eye.”

Groshnok grunted, peering about, still trying to get his bearings. “Where… where are we?” he asked.

“Did you not hear what the fuck I just said?!” the voice yelled in response. “NO questions. NO talking. Let. Me. Sleep.” Before Groshnok could respond, a door to his right slammed open, the light burning his eye, causing him to shield away. “Oh, what now?!” the voice roared, before Groshnok felt a tight grip around his neck, hoisting him upwards, the chains tugging against the wall before the pressure relaxed as a key unlocked the wall link. Still blinded, he kept his eye squeezed shut as the force around his neck marched him forward, out of the room. Behind, he could hear what sounded like a goblin arguing with his cellmate over the interruption.

Slowly, he began to let light into his eye once more, looking down to see his arms and legs were still chained together, but now, a collar was tightly around his neck, pushing him forward. A Grom’damn catchpole, like they’d use on wolf-pups caught escaped. He was a prisoner, sure, but did they really need to do this? A door was approaching, but there was no one there to open it.

Roughly, the force behind him pushed him into the door like a battering ram, causing him to spill into the room, falling flat on his face. He moaned in pain, looking straight ahead from his new resting place to see a wall brimming with fine tapestry. Above him, a familiar voice snapped him back to his senses.

“You idiot, Gruk! What’ve I told you’se about doors?! You’re gonna kill one of ‘em one day doing this!” the voice chided.

“Sorry boss…” a bassy voice whined. He stood over Groshnok, hoisting him to his feet by the armpits. A hobgoblin. Of course it was a stupid Hobgoblin. The oaf stepped aside, grabbing the catchpole again from behind Groshnok’s neck, holding the orc tightly in place. Groshnok grunted, the collar digging somewhat into his throat, as he came eye-to-eye with his old employer, lounging on a leather seat puffing a cigar, his stubby legs propped up on a fine oak table.

“Well well, good to see you’re back with us, sleepin’ beauty!” Fax said with a chuckle, looking up and down at the angry, confused orc before him. “Ah, don’t look so pissed off kid! We’re all friends here!” Groshnok tried to speak, but found his throat caught by the catchpole around him, a choking noise emitting from his mouth. Fax shook his head, sighing. “Gruk, take that off him. Let our guest have a seat.” The Hobgoblin nodded, removing the collar from Groshnok’s neck, and once again hoisting him by the armpits, plopping him down in a wooden seat in front of Fax’s desk.

Groshnok spluttered, regaining his breath again before looking up at the Goblin. “Wh-wha’ t’fuck, Fax?!” he snarled.

“Temper, temper, Rabid Wolf,” said Fax with a grin, wagging his finger at Groshnok, before he rubbed his chin. “Although, as we are SUCH good friends, I feel that’s a bit impolite to call you, wouldn’t you say…? Groshnok?” Groshnok, grunted, staring ahead into Fax, still waiting for an answer to his first question. The goblin’s eyebrows furrowed in annoyance. “Hmm? Nothin’? This is the part where you’se is meant to be shocked an’ all like…” Fax threw his hands in the air, his eyes going wide in faux-terror. “Wh-wh-wha’?! ‘Ow did ye’ know me name, F-F-Fax?!” Fax took another puff of his cigar, his expression sinking to disappointment.

“Fax,” Groshnok said bluntly. “Ye’ know nearly every name in Booty Bay. Why would I be surprised t’figure out ye’ found out mine?”

Fax shrugged, blowing a blume of cigar smoke into the air. “Fair, I’ll take that ego stroke, Blackrend,” he said, before grinning, only to fall disappointed once more at Groshnok’s unimpressed expression. “Oh come on, I even got the last name too!” he grumbled. “Don’t ya at least wanna know how I found out?”

“Ye’ ‘ad Rex for a couple days. Tha’ gobbo could barely keep ‘is trap shut wit’ drink in ‘im, never mind wha’ yer boys could do.” Groshnok responded. Fax’s eyes lit up a bit at this, his smile returning.

“That’s a bingo! You’re smarter than I thought you’se was, kid!” exclaimed Fax, grinning. “An’ how’s Shul’narok doing these days?”

“Dead,” Groshnok replied.

“Interestin’”, said Fax, stroking his chin. “Lotta your friends just seem to LOVE goin’ missin’ or dyin’, don’t they Groshnok?”

“Would seem so, aye.”

“Hmm…” pondered Fax. “I wonder, would it have anything to do with that nice tattoo on your left shoulder?” Groshnok glanced his eyes briefly to it. Twinned bloodied axes crossed under the sigil of the Red Blade tribe, a mark given to him in a dingy tavern in Gadgetzan by Rrosh’tul Grogona Wolfheart, many years ago when he was a Nag’Ogar. Grunting, he glared at Fax once more as the Goblin continued. “Mmhm, the Red Blade Clan, yes? I heard they put on quite the party for the Kosh’harg. Was that why you were down in ol’ Nagrand?”

Groshnok grunted, nodding. “Might’ve been, aye.”

“Interestin’, interestin’,” said Fax, stroking his chin.

“Look, jus’ wha’ d’ye’ wan’ Fax?” growled Groshnok. “An’ why t’fuck is I in chains?”

Fax blinked, chuckling in response. “Perhaps you got a little too much night-night juice Groshnok, but let me jog your memory..” Fax rose, hopping up onto the desk, and pointed a fat finger at Groshnok. “YOU’SE decided it would be a good idea to put a fuckin’ GUN to my head!”

“I didn’ know it was ye’!” snarled Groshnok. “An’ besides, ye’ ‘ad me worg, wha’ t’fuck did ye’ expect?!”

“Oh I expected nothing less when I realised it was you’se, Groshnok,” said Fax with a smile, taking another puff of his cigar. “An’ when ya realised it was me, you’se should’ve known how much trouble you’d be in.” Fax leant forward, blowing a plume of smoke into Groshnok’s face, making the orc splutter. “No one fucks Fax. An’ you my boy, oh you didn’t think I’d forget what you did, did you?”

“Stranglethorn was a misunderstandin’,” said Groshnok fearfully. He’d watched the after effects of those four words before. “No one fuck’s Fax” was often followed by a slow, painful death. The goblin’s eyes leered as he stepped closer across the table, his cigar raising, slowly towards Groshnok’s one working eye. “We didn’ know tha’ caravan was yers Fax, I swear. Ye’ know I wouldn’ cross ye’!” The cigar moved closer. “Whae’ever ye’ lost, I’ll pay it off! I’ll work it off, I swear! Ye’ know me jus’--” He could feel the heat coming towards his eyeball, the Hobgoblin now prying it open with his large hands. “Fax, don’t! Please don’! I’M BEGGIN’ YE’!” he roared, trying to shut his eye against the force of the Hobgoblin’s fingers. With that, the Hobgoblin’s hands relaxed and his eye closed tight. His ears thumped with the sound of his heartbeat, mixed with the shrill cackles of the goblin in front of him.

“Oh you should’ve seen your face Groshnok!” roared Fax with laughter. “Priceless!” Groshnok breathed a sigh of relief, opening his eye again, his breathing heavy. “Did you really think I’d do something so awful to one of my GOOD friends?” He grinned, sitting down on the desk, one knee raised to prop his elbow on. “Don’t be worrying yourself Groshnok. I’ve a job for you’se alright,” he said, grinning. Groshnok didn’t like that grin. It was malevolent.

“Ye’ n-need me goin’ on a raid? Extortion? Ye’ name it, ye’ got it Fax,” Groshnok bargained.

“Oh no, no, no, nothin’ like that,” dismissed Fax, wafting his hand. “No, I ain’t sure I could trust you’se out in the fields again, what with your mind goin’ all crazy half the time, not to mention, I wouldn’t want you to get homesick for your little clan,” Fax said, pointing at his Tattoo. “No, something greater for an orc of your talents, Groshnok.” Fax leaned in, his grin lifting his fat cheeks like a monster’s jowls. “The arena.” Groshnok’s eye widened, realising now what the chains were for.

“Wha’?” he responded. “No, no, Fax I can do--”

“The winter games of Gadgetzan!” boomed Fax proudly, turning away from Groshnok. “An’ think of it, the hot sun beatin’ down on the Thunderdrome, the crowd roarin’, an’ the Rabid Wolf of Stranglethorn Vale…” Fax turned, pointing a fat finger at Groshnok, cigar raised high in his grinning mouth. “Devourin’ every chump that faces him. Maybe we’ll even get some mounted battles, let ya ride that beast of a wolf around! You’ll make me a rich goblin indeed, my boy.” Fax hopped down to his chair once more, raising his legs to rest against the oak. “I can’t thank ya enough for offerin’ your services.”


With that, he wafted his hand, and the catchpole returned to his neck, ripping him out of the chair and the room itself. There was no point in resisting here. If this was Fax’s ship, it had left port at Booty Bay. Slaves were likely not the only thing on board, but trade goods from the Eastern Kingdoms too. Any attempt at resistance would likely be met by a horde of mercenaries appearing to beat him bloody. His cell door opened and Groshnok grunted painfully as the Catchpole was released throwing him in. Goblins quickly worked to lock his chains back to the wall. He let them do their work, he knew that hitting one would result in a blow much worse. The cell door clanged shut, but at least this time the peephole was left open, light shining in between the bars. Groshnok turned his attention to his left, to get a first look at his cellmate.

A she-orc stared back at him, her blue eyes sunken and black underneath from the lack of sleep she had complained of before, with long, greasy black hair draping down to her shoulders, a small ponytail lazing at the very back. Her green, muscled skin was mottled with light brown, dirt sunken in from over time held captive. One leg laid out straight, the other propped up, her right forearm resting on it as she eyed him up and down. She grunted, nodding at him. “I take it by that shouting match you’ve received the news then?”

Groshnok nodded solemnly back at her. “Aye. Gadgetzan then,” he answered.

“Ghrn-hrm,” she replied, her eyes flicking over his body in analysis.

“‘Ow lon’ was I out for?” Groshnok asked.

“About a week,” his cellmate replied. “They’ve been keepin’ you drugged up since they threw you and your wolf in the wagon. The goblin had a mage take us back to Booty Bay,” she explained. “Wouldn’t let either of ye been seen, for some reason. We left port yesterday… at least I think,” she said with a shrug. Groshnok shook his head.

“Fuckin’ Fax…” he grumbled. “So ‘ow’d ye’ end up ‘ere?”
“Last thing I remember was some shots of whiskey in Garadar,” she replied, leaning her head back against the wooden board behind her. “Took a wander, I think. Next thing I’m waking up in chains in their wagon.” She gave him a quizzical look. “You talk like you’re half a jungle-troll.”

“An’ ye’ smell like yer half a jungle troll, bu’ ye’ don’ see me complainin’.” Silence descended the cell for a few seconds, before both orcs let out a brief chuckle.

“Watchin’ your worg tear that pigskin apart was a terrifyin’ sight though,” she said with a smile. “The fel is that thing anyway?”

“A half-garn,” Groshnok replied. The she-orc’s eye’s widened in interest. “Me ol’ clan… we tamed a pack o’ ‘em in Frostfire.”

“Interestin’,” she replied. “What happened to them then?”

“Don’ know,” he shrugged. “Far away from Nagrand ‘em’s be then, if it’s been a week.” He flashed a grin at the she-orc. “Let’s ‘ope their next stop be Gadgetzan, eh?” The she-orc snickered in response, nodding.

“Aye, let’s hope,” she replied, before shuffling to lie down on the blanket she sat on.

“I’ll let ye’ ge’ yer rest then,” said Groshnok, nodding as she settled down.

“Do,” she yawned. “I’m Azuka, by the way.”

Groshnok nodded, leaning back against the board behind him. “Nice t’meet ye’. I’s Groshnok.”
« Last Edit: April 29, 2020, 03:04:20 PM by Groshnok »

Groshnok

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Re: Old Friends
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2020, 09:32:53 PM »
A/N: The dream sequences in this story are based on loose ends that have not been told yet of Groshnok's life in Stranglethorn Vale prior to joining the Red Blades. I'd heavily recommend reading my previous stories that feature flashbacks to Stranglethorn to fully understand this story's one's context, in particular the following:

Rabid Wolf https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=4258.msg37053#msg37053
This story features a timeline of Groshnok's life in Stranglethorn and how it changed him, going from his arrival from when he's drafted from Borean Tundra during the creation of Warsong Hold pre-War against the Lich King, up to his time during the Cataclysm. This story gives an overview of the characters that make up the Rabid Wolves, that being Groshnok, Gra'tagesh, Gre'lak, Reg'nosh and Urgarok "The Raper". It also features Groshnok's first mate Kra'lena, who will be appearing in a future dream sequence.

No Weakness https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=4860.msg45875
This story features a flashback to an event discussed in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, which is a pivotal role in kickstarting the Fate of Urgarok discussed in this story.

Loose Ends https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=3981.msg32478
Groshnok meets Gra'tagesh 3 years after leaving Stranglethorn.

Additional Groshnok stories that don't need to be read to understand the flashbacks of this one:
The Last of the Rabid Wolves https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=4787.msg45664
Groshnok returns to the Red Blades after a period of absence, though not before confronting his demons. Featuring a flashback to Groshnok's last day with the Rabid Wolves, and his departure for the Red Blades.

The Long Road Home https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=4587.msg43772
Groshnok hears the call of the Red Blade's resurgence as a clan, and heads home. Features some Gra'tagesh.

Groshnok

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Re: Old Friends
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2020, 09:33:20 PM »
Chapter 3


“We can, we just need to get a hold of the Sergeant,” pleaded Reg’nosh.

“There’s nothing he can do,” growled Gra’tagesh. “He was caught by t’fuckin’ Kor’kron Reg’nosh, there’s no talkin’ to ‘em.”

“But surely, with all we’ve done for them…”

“All we’s done?” quizzed Gra’tagesh. “We’s village clearers Reg’nosh. We protec’ their packages when ‘em come by land, sure. Bu’ as far as ‘em’s concerned, we’re nothing. They’d replace us wit’ their own if they didn’t value ‘em so much.” Gra’tagesh sighed, peering downwards, unhitching his whiskey flask from his belt and taking a sip. “An’ besides,” he continued. “The Kor’kron ‘ave already labeled him a fugitive. He’s wanted for public indecency, an’ since he ran off, fuckin’ desertion.”

An eerie silence fell over the tent. Both Gre’lak and Groshnok perked up at these words, staring at their squad leader. Gre’lak was the first to break it. “Desertion?” he exclaimed in shock.

“Aye,” replied Gra’tagesh. “T’Kor’kron don’t take no shit. Slightest step out o’ place, ‘em’ll have yer head on a pike as an example t’others.”

“We ‘ave to find him then,” started Reg’nosh. “We can’t leave him to those hounds. He’s just a boy, Gra’tagesh…”

Gra’tagesh snarled, turning to face the old orc. “Thrall’s balls Reg’nosh, he’s 27 years old! I know tha’ may be a lifetime ago to you ye’ old fuck, bu’ I think ye’ migh’ remember no’ bein’ a gromn damn raper back then!”

Reg’nosh sighed. “We did... many terrible things from tha’ demon’s blo--”

“Oh don’t start!” snarled Gra’tagesh. “Ye’ know wha’ I’m fuckin’ sayin’! The point is, tha’ orc’s been out o’ control for too long. He’s sick in the head Reg’nosh, fel, tha’ burnin’ a few weeks back Blackrend spotted ‘im eyein’ corpses!” Reg’nosh turned to Groshnok, who took another gulp of ale, giving a stifled nod of agreement.

“I ‘ad t’stop ‘im pickin’ up a dead she-troll,” Groshnok mumbled.

“An’ speakin’ of that burnin’,” Gra’tagesh continued. “I found out they’s still lookin’ into us wit’ suspicion wonderin’ what really happened to that buckethead they sent wit’ us!”

“Dro’mag,” grunted Reg’nosh. “His name was Dro’mag, Gra’tagesh.”

“Wha’ever,” dismissed Gra’tagesh, wafting a hand. “Regardless, they’ve given us the contract. Urgarok’s return, dead or alive.”

“Then we find him, get him bound on a ship somewhere safe, an’ tell ‘em we did the job!” growled Reg’nosh.

“His RETURN, Reg’nosh,” Gra’tagesh reiterated. “D’you not think I already thought o’ that?! ‘Em made it clear b’fore I left their barracks. If we come back wit’ou’ a body, they’re putting us on trial for t’murder o’ tha’ Dro’mag.”

“They can’t do that. They’ve got no proof!” argued Reg’nosh.

“They’re the fuckin’ Kor’kron Reg’nosh, they don’t need any!” roared Gra’tagesh. Silence again descended the tent.

“So what are you suggesting?” Reg’nosh asked coldly.

“We… we don’t have a choice,” answered Gra’tagesh, a quiver of sorrow in his voice. “He’ll understand. Brother, if we ‘ad to kill you so this pack would survive, wha’ would you do?”

“I’d kneel for the axe agains’ me neck,” replied Reg’nosh solemnly. “For the good o’ the pack.”

“For the good o’ the pack,” repeated Gra’tagesh. “Now up, all o’ ye’. We don’t have any time t’lose.” Gre’lak rose to his feet, his greataxe readied.

“Where we headed?” he asked.

“He fled sout’,” answered Reg’nosh. “Most likely to the Bay. We’ll check his haunts there, ‘tis where ‘im’s bound to be.” Gre’lak nodded, moving towards the opening flap of the tent to the left of Groshnok, exiting through, followed by Reg’nosh, who looked to be fighting back tears. Groshnok however, just stared into his ale, continuing to take sips from it. Urgarok was a sick soul, that much was true. Groshnok had always been disgusted by his actions after raids. They hadn’t named him The Raper for nothing. His twisted grin splitting across his boil-filled face when he had picked a victim was truly a horrific site.

Yet, he was also his blood-brother. They had shared many a night in the tent, or around a campfire outside. Drinking, playing cards, sharing stories and laughing. And throughout the years, Urgarok’s expert marksmanship had saved Groshnok’s hide on many occasions. As wild as the orc seemed, the targets of his deadly bolts were usually those about to harm his blood-brothers. Groshnok had thought there may be a day where they would have to put him down, yet even hearing the news of his misdeeds earlier he didn’t expect it to be today. A hand shook his shoulder violently.

“Blackrend, c’mon, didn’t ye’ hear me?” growled Gra’tagesh. “Get up, we’s movin’.” Yet Groshnok’s eyes remained glued to his ale. “Quit zonin’ out an’ get up,” continued Gra’tagesh. “Groshnok?”

“Groshnok!”





“GROSHNOK!”

Groshnok snapped awake with a grunt. Wiping his eye, he looked over to see a scowling Azuka staring back at him.

“Fel, I thought you’d never wake up!” she declared, grumbling. “Been calling your name the past five minutes!”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, shifting into a seated position, crossing his legs. “Haven’t slep’ well t’pas’ few days wit’ t’big waves. Guess I was more tired than I though’.” Azuka grunted, laying her head back against the board behind her.

“It’s fine, just wanted to give you a bit of pre-warnin’ before ‘em come stormin’ in.” She took a gulp from a waterskin, corking it and sliding it across the floor to him. Groshnok nodded thankfully, picking up the waterskin and taking a few gulps, his mouth parched from sleeping in the humid cabin.

“Why’s ‘em comin’ stormin’?” he asked, wiping away water from his beard.

“Heard the call above before I tried wakin’ you,” she answered. “We’re here.” Groshnok peered out towards the bars of their cell in the middle of the door, noticing that there was much more of a din around the place than usual. A horn blasted above, as he felt the boat begin to slow, taking its final approach. Groshnok grunted, rising to his feet, Azuka doing the same as the boat ground to a halt.

If Azuka’s timekeeping was correct, it had been two weeks since they had departed from Booty Bay. They had made some short stops on islands during the voyage, for more trade goods, or possibly some further prisoners, Groshnok presumed. The door before the two orcs creaked open, and two goblins strode in, a hobgoblin guarding the doorway. Groshnok watched as the two worked at releasing the orcs’ chains from the wall, attaching their ankle chains together by a link. His hands were loose now, though it mattered not. He knew the procedure. He knelt down, presenting his manacled wrists outward. One of the goblins walked in front of him, grabbing the loose links and attaching them together so his hands were bound tightly. Once finished his handiwork, he cocked his head towards the door. Groshnok nodded, glancing back at Azuka to see if she was ready, who gave him a nod in return to lead the way.

The Tanaris sun burned bright on his neck as they descended the plank to the dock. Although it was nearing winter, that never mattered much in the desert. The war had made the goblin city busier than ever, with both those wishing to escape the biting cold of more northern territories, and those with spoils from battle, ready to sell. Caravans and kodos lined the dockside before them, with goods from the ship being hauled to them. A small line of scrawny, starved slaves were also being led to a wagon. Groshnok shuddered. Although it was likely the arenas would kill him, that line was bound for something much worse, he knew. Azuka noticed his expression from behind, and turned her head to the same direction.

“Do you know where they’re headed?” she asked.

“Aye,” answered Groshnok, turning his head forward as he walked on. “The auctions.” He had seen similar ones in Booty Bay, and the rich goblins they attracted were truly more monstrous than any beast he had come across in his lifetime. He heard Azuka grunt behind him in response, and looked up, his eye meeting those of a troll.

“Come… wit’... me,” the troll said slowly, reading from a card below him. He stuck his hand forward, gesturing a long, bony finger to follow. Groshnok grunted in response, nodding.

“I take it ye’ don’ speak Orcish then?” Groshnok asked. The troll remained silent, wordlessly guiding them forward to the gates of Gadgetzan. Groshnok’s eye scanned up and down the trolls back as it walked before him. Blue skin, red hair, and markings Groshnok knew well. He was no sand troll from the nearby Zul’farrak.

“Bloodscalp, eh?” Groshnok asked in Zandali, as the troll led them into the city, quickly veering down a dark alley to the right.

“I be,” the troll replied, as they took another turn in the twisting backstreets. “Strange ta see a greenskin know dat.”

“Full o’ sahrprises,” Groshnok said with a snort. “Ya be lon’ way from ‘ome.”

“Aren’ we all, no?” replied the troll, giving a dark chuckle. Another turn down the maze of alleys led them to a metal door. The troll rapped on it in a rhythm, causing a peephole to slide open, two eyes appearing from its shadows. The door unlocked, the steel creaking against the sandy ground as it opened. The troll walked forward, gesturing again to follow.

“The fel were you sayin’ to him?” Azuka quizzed as they neared the door.

“Nothin’ importan’,” Groshnok replied, his lips speaking Orcish once more. The pair slowly descended a case of stone steps, the flames of torches guiding the way as the steps wound in a circle. “Guess this be our new ‘ome,” said Groshnok.

“Guess so,” huffed Azuka. “Underground again. Bah, I thought we’d get some damn sunlight for once.” The stairs ended, the troll leading them through the final path, pushing open a metal door. Groshnok stepped through, looking around. The central chasm stretched out around in a circle, almost like a small arena itself, with mined caverns spilling out intermittently. The troll walked towards one on their left, with Groshnok following. The rock walls became steel bars a few metres in, with each divided room holding a prisoner or two. Tauren, humans, night elves, orcs and even goblins. The slavers didn’t discriminate on who they captured as much as who they employed. His mind drifted somewhat, as he wondered how a goblin would fare. Perhaps they pitted them against gnomes? Now that would be a fight he’d pay to see.

Keys rattled, a door opened, and with it the orcs were led into their cell. Furs aligned each side, and a few dumbbells were scattered towards the back facing rock wall. The walls too were made of the stone of the cavern, with a central gap of iron bars showing them their neighbouring cell to the left and right. “Least it’s bigger than t’ship,” Groshnok said with a shrug, Azuka huffing in response. Again, two goblins appeared, unfastening their wrist and ankle manacles, leaving the cell as quickly as they arrived. Groshnok shook his hands and feet, letting the blood flow properly come back. At least they’d have a little more freedom in this cage.

“Enjoy,” came a voice in Zandali from behind, dripping with sarcasm. Groshnok turned, boring his one eye into the troll’s two.

“Fuck off, bug-eatah,” he snarled in Zandali. The troll laughed, slapping himself on the knee.

“Ya a funny one, greenskin.” he said. “I like ya.” The troll slinked off, and a shadow loomed in the opposite direction, coming slowly towards the cell. Its boots clonking off the ground, getting louder and louder, until the large shadow descended into a small, portly goblin.

“Heh, I just knew you’se an’ Mun’do would get along swimmingly, Groshnok!” said Fax with a grin, standing in front of the cell. Azuka perked up, peering at the goblin as Orcish returned to her ears again. “So you’se is both probably wonderin’, Fax, why are we in the same cell?”

“I wasn’t, but I think you’re going to tell us anyway,” said Azuka with a grunt. Fax chuckled in response.

“Damn right I am!” he declared. “You know what’s better than watching two gladiators duke it out?” he continued, walking along in front of the cell, arms behind his back, before stopping. “More gladiators!” he yelled, pointing two fat fingers at the orcs in front of him. “So congratulations! You’ll be a team in the upcomin’ games!” Groshnok grunted, glancing over at Azuka.

“I don’ think tha’s a good idea, Fax,” Groshnok started. The goblin raised an eyebrow, and Azuka shot him a scowl. “Ain’ tha’ I think ‘er’s no’ capeable or nothin’, far from it! It’s jus’... Fax, these things ‘ave teams tha’ ‘ave been together for years righ’?”

“Yep,” answered Fax.

“Been through years o’ tournaments, trained daily,” Groshnok continued.

“That’s right!” answered Fax, his grin widening.

“... Ye’ don’ seem to be gettin’ my poin’,” said Groshnok, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Oh I share your concerns Groshnok, don’t you’se be worrying!” replied Fax, wafting his hand. “I mean, I ain’t gonna send you out there all fresh and green.” Fax chuckled. “No pun intended.”

“Then what are you gonna do?” asked Azuka.

“Oh, just a simple test!” replied Fax. “See, there’s this other guy… hey, you remember Wazik, don’t you’se Groshnok?”

“I do,” said Groshnok, nodding. Wazik had been a rival of Fax in the Bay, Groshnok remembered. The two’s backshops that were used for their underground games were in the same neighbourhood, which had caused quite a bit of tension between the two goblins. Groshnok could never figure why they could not come to an alliance, sharing the profits, but that was goblins for you. Caravans to the Bay had occasionally been raided and sabotaged by both sides, with Groshnok appearing in a number of them.

“Well let’s just say we’ve agreed to somethin’,” Fax continued. Groshnok snorted humourously.

“Ye’ an Wazik agreed to somethin’?” he repeated.

“Oh don’t give me that,” Fax chided, wagging a finger. “Business is business. He’s down here too, would ya believe. An’ swingin’ his weight around like the asshole he is. So, he was boastin’ about this team he has, that’s gonna wipe the floor out there. Some pair of big-ass taurens. An’ I said, oh yeah? I bet any of my runts could beat ‘em bloody!”

“Fax, ye’...” Groshnok started, his eye widening in realisation.

“Well, you’se are the newest two,” shrugged Fax. “Hey, you win, you’ll be fine up there. You lose, well…” Fax’s smile darkened, as he let out a light chuckle. “Well, at least ya might wound ‘em a little for my prizefighters to take down later.” Groshnok snarled, but before he could launch into a tirade Fax raised his right hand. “Fifteen minutes, you’se’ll be led to the central chamber an’ armoured up. Shut your big orcish mouth, an’ get a fuckin’ game-plan together if you want to live.” With that, Fax strolled off, leaving the two orcs stunned, gaping at each other.

“So…” Azuka started, breaking the silence. “You said before that you’re good with axes, right?”




The central chamber stood mostly silent, save for the chatter of some goblins and their crews who had been loading their own gladiators into the halls, and had decided to watch the fight. Groshnok pulled tightly on the strap of his left shoulderguard, fastening the thick leather armour into place. He had decided to forego armour to his torso, figuring speed would need to be on his side should he be facing two hulking tauren. His legguards and boots had not been taken from him since he had been captured, and they still remained. The hooks on the sides of his belt once again contained his twin-axes, given back to him by a goblin lackey a few minutes prior. It seemed Fax had the sense that he would be better off with weapons he was well accustomed to.

Azuka stood to his left, armoured from shoulders to toe in mail, leaving her head bare. If they were going against tauren, any blow to the head would likely be deadly, regardless of armour, she had figured. Her left arm held a wooden shield, an axe gripped firmly in her right hand. The two gazed across the hall to their opponents. Even for tauren, they were impossibly large. Plate legguards and gauntlets adorned each, with mail chestplates and headguards. Each held the same weapon in their hands, a large, spiked steel mace. They had the reach and power advantage. Groshnok and Azuka knew they would have to use speed to bring the fight to a close distance if they wanted to survive.

Fax stood talking in the center with another goblin, Groshnok recognised as Wazik. He was about the same age as Fax, though much thinner. In fact, for a goblin, he was quite muscular. The two seemed to be exchanging some harsh words, before shaking hands and strolling back to their fighters. Fax approached the pair, a grin upon his face. “Ready then?” he asked.

“Ready as we’re gonna be,” Azuka responded with a snort.

“Oh I’m sure you’se’ll be fine,” Fax replied. “Oh, and Groshnok!” he continued. “A gift! You’se might want it out there.” From a sheathe next to him, Fax produced a small, shiny knife. The adamantite dagger of Krogon Devilstep, left to Groshnok in his will. Fax toddled over, planting the knife in Groshnok’s boot-sheathe. “An’ one las thing, that can’t be forgotten,” he said. “Kneel.” Groshnok grunted, doing as he was told. Slowly, he felt warm fur against the top of his head. His wolf mask. Opening his eyes, he stared into the beady ones of Fax. “You’re welcome!” he declared, before strolling off.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” a goblin boomed from the center of the chamber. “Welcome one and all! For your entertainment today, a little change to the card that you may have been told before!” Murmurs came from the crews gathered against the entranceway to the chasm. “This fight is no longer an exhibition match, and will take place under full, THUNDERDROME rules!” A cheer erupted from the small crowd.

“What does that mean?” asked Azuka, peering at Groshnok.

“TO MY RIGHT!” the goblin bellowed. “THE MALLETS OF MULGORE, TAHO AND WACHU!”

“Submission or knockout be thrown out t’window,” said Groshnok with a grunt. He glanced over at Azuka. “This be fully t’the deat’ now.” Azuka’s eyes widened. “Stay focused,” continued Groshnok.

“AND TO MY LEFT, THE NEWCOMERS TO THE ARENA. THE WARSONG WIDOWMAKER, AND THE RABID WOLF, OF STRANGLE! THORN! VALE!”

“Go wit’ the plan, an’ we’ll be a’righ’.”

“WEAPONS!” the goblin roared.

“Lok’tar,” whispered Groshnok.

“READY!”

“Ogar,” replied Azuka.

“FIGHT!”

The orcs rushed forward with a bellow, sprinting towards their opponents. The tauren, lumbering forward, stopped in their tracks, waiting for them. Groshnok and Azuka widened the gap between them with each step, preparing their pincer movement. Groshnok’s eye focused on the tauren on the right’s knee, his twin axes readied to strike. 10 metres between them, he glanced up, noticing the shoulders of the tauren moving downward. He’d seen it. “BREAK!” roared Groshnok, and the pair slid outwards of each bruiser, avoiding the downswing of the spiked mallets. Groshnok’s right axe raised and swung at the back of the tauren’s left knee, grazing the plate, causing a small tear in it. It was something for later, at least.

Azuka had slid too wide, unable to get a reach on her opponent. They backed off in unison, each to the side of the Tauren. Though this would separate them, so too would it separate their opponents. The Tauren stood back to back, waiting in the standoff, yet the orcs gave no indication of advancement. The one facing Groshnok let out a snort.

“Really?” he asked. “This was your plan? Pah.” He strode forward and swung his mace upwards. The reach was greater than Groshnok expected, and the orc narrowly avoided the spikes cracking his jaw as he dodged to the right. Snarling, he pressed forward, trying to get inside the tauren’s reach, only to be met by a plated boot coming up. The facebreaker narrowly missed, and his left axe struck well, biting into the mail armour encasing the tauren’s right inside elbow. The tauren roared as blood spurted from the wound, his right hand coming up and swatting Groshnok hard in the chest, sending him spiralling away. Groshnok tumbled across the floor with a painful grunt, glancing over to Azuka to see how she was faring against her foe.

The she-orc had tried to advance, but the mace had caught her by the right shoulderguard, ripping it off, the bottom spikes tearing a painful gash over the exposed skin, her hand letting go of the axe. The tauren grinned, but did not expect the she-orc to continue her advance as she leapt, smashing her wooden shield into the tauren’s snout, exploding it in a flurry of blood. The crowd cheered as the tauren stumbled back, clutching his nose with his free hand, Azuka taking the opportunity to retreat for her sword.

The tauren facing Groshnok called out to his wounded partner behind him, the other tauren yelling something back as he clutched his nose. Though Groshnok only knew a handful of words in Taurahe, he did make out “brother”. How in sync they were did make a lot of sense from this. Rising to his feet, Groshnok snarled, backing against the cave wall behind him. It was rugged, the eroded and mined stones spiky. The tauren would be more alert now, knowing the skill of their foes. Most likely, they had merely been toying with them up to this point. Direct attacks were not going to work against their full power, but the environment might. Groshnok grunted, letting his knees buckle, as he fell to one. The wind was knocked out of him a bit, and he could feel his chest swelling and bleeding from the powerful backhand of the tauren. But looks could be deceiving. He let his pained expression grow worse, raising his chest to show the blood and bruising clearly.

He let his eye look out from under the mask, seeing the tauren taking the bait. The hulking mass advanced towards him, The mace raised behind his shoulder, readied for the deathswing. 5 metres, the arc completed behind his shoulders. At two metres, he swung, and Groshnok darted forward, throwing himself through the tauren’s wide stance as the mace crashed into the rock, sticking. Groshnok rose to a squat, coming up powerfully and smashing his left axe into the back of the tauren’s left knee, breaking through the tear in the plate to the exposed skin. The tauren, trying to tug the mace from the wall, howled in pain, trying to swat Groshnok away again, but his gauntlet aimed too high, and Groshnok swung again at the open wound, tearing through the tendons, bringing the tauren’s leg buckling down. Groshnok threw down his left axe and grabbed the right horn protruding from the headguard. Though this armour protected the back and side of the head, the front was still exposed, and Groshnok’s right axe came hurtling round, smashing the tauren between the eyes. The headguard caused the axe to bounce back but the damage was done. The tauren collapsed, a gaping wound across both eyes, blinded.

The tauren reared his head, screaming in agony as he clutched his bleeding eyes, his throat now fully exposed. Grunting, Groshnok leaned down and unsheathed the adamantite dagger of Krogon Devilstep, slamming it down into the tauren’s throat, causing the screams to turn to gurgles, and then to nothing. A cheer rang up from the small crowd, as Groshnok sheathed his dagger and grabbed his axes, turning to the remaining opponent.

Azuka was handling him as best she could. It was clear that her tauren’s vision was worsening from the broken nose, causing his eyes to swell, though his swings were as deadly as ever, not giving her an opening. She herself had thrown the shield aside, now with only the sword in her left hand, her right arm dangling and soaked with blood. Grosh watched as she swung for the tauren’s left shoulder after a near miss of a downswing, but she did not expect the hand coming from her left. The tauren’s right hand smashed into her left shoulder, causing her swing to miss and her body to go careening off to the right. The tauren limped after her, mallet raised above his head.

Groshnok broke into a sprint, launching himself into the air and smashing his right axe down on the back of the tauren’s headguard, causing it to stumble. Yet he was no better, as he fell down to the ground, gasping for breath. He looked down. The bruising had worsened across his chest, a sickening black mass spreading out over his pectoral muscles, with streaks of blood leaking down. He tried to get up, yet he found himself falling to his knees again, though this time it was no act. He coughed, trying to catch his breath, the shadow of the tauren looming over him, plated foot raised to crush his skull. Before it could come down though, he heard a roar. Azuka was on the tauren’s shoulders, hands grasped around each horn, knees locked into the back of its neck as she pulled backwards. The tauren crashed with a mighty clang of metal, Azuka’s knee and right hand keeping his left arm in place. Her left fist curled high, pummelling the tauren in the snout again, causing another explosion of blood. The tauren howled, his right, plated fist curled but before it could raise, he felt a mighty weight crash down on the arm. Groshnok had thrown himself, holding the tauren’s wrist with all his might. Azuka’s sword was beneath the tauren’s left armpit. She picked it up, raising it high, her rage-filled eyes meeting the pleading, swollen ones of the tauren. The sword came down hard, piercing through the tauren’s exposed forehead, and he went limp.

The small crowd cheered and whooped at the bloodied mess before them. Groshnok wheezed, looking over at Azuka, still hanging onto the sword hilt. Their eyes met, and they smiled. Then laughed. Whether it was shock, or pure happiness to have survived, it didn’t matter. They had won. Groshnok glanced over to see Fax arguing with another goblin, before storming off, his expression becoming more gloating as he advanced towards Wazik. Mun’do appeared from the sea of spectators, strolling up to Groshnok.

“No’ bad, boy,” he said in Zandali. “Ya gon’ make Fax real ‘appy up dere, ya keep dat up.” Groshnok chuckled, waving his hand as he lay back over the dead tauren’s arm, the movement straining his chest, causing his chuckle to turn to a cough.  He glanced over to Azuka, wincing.

“Y’a’righ’?” he asked.

“Been better,” she responded with a grin, holding her bloodied shoulder. “Nothin’ their healers can’t fix, I’m sure.” Some goblins appeared by her side, helping her to her feet, and ushering her off. One remained, looking over at Groshnok.

“Can ya stand?” he asked.

“Think so,” replied Groshnok with a grunt.

“Good. Boss wants a word. C’mon.” Slowly Groshnok rose to his feet, hunched over from the bruising. The cavern he followed the goblin through this time was much more luxurious than the one housing him, the floors lined with fine wood, and gold finishings on the walls. The goblin opened a door to his left, and gestured him to a leather seat, Groshnok happily collapsing in it. Soon, a human stood in front of him, salves at the ready. Groshnok growled, but he supposed he would have to take it, there would hardly be any shamans in these depths. He tilted his head back as the gel washed over his chest, easing the pain. The door opened once more, a familiar voice coming from below him.

“Well I’ll be! Hell of a job out there, kid!” cheered Fax, hopping into a plush seat across from Groshnok, another fine oak desk separating them. “You two are gonna do just fine in the ‘Drome, I’d say.”

“Seems tha’ way, Groshnok said with a grunt, the healer pressing his hands deeply into the bruised skin. Fax leaned forward, speaking something in Common, and the healer stopped, standing up with a nod.

“Anyways, there’s just one problem…” Fax started. “See, heh… one of the others, he ain’t so happy with the name I gave you. Turns out, he has a fighter he calls The Rabid Wolf.”

“So?” asked Groshnok.

“So, I ain’t gettin’ my ass done for bein’ seen as rippin’ off another fight-master. You understand?”

“Sure,” replied Groshnok, taking off the mask. “Eyepatch works just as well, don’t it?” he said with a grin.

“Ehh…” Fax began. “Not really. Just an eyepatch is forgettable. Lots of fighters got ‘em. No, we need somethin’... special for you. They like gimmicks down here, ya get me?”

“Sure…” replied Groshnok. “Then wha’ d’ye’ want?”

“Well, the mohawk you’se got looks good, y’know?” Fax continued, as a goblin in robes walked into the room, followed by three hobgoblins. “So… look, I’m really sorry about this kid, but it just works. The crowd will love it, y’know?”

“Sorry abo--” Before Groshnok could finish, a hobgoblin had seized his right wrist, the other taking his left. The meaty hands of the third held his hand in place. “Fax, wha’ the…”

“Just be glad ya got a beard, Groshnok. Leaves less canvas,” said Fax, hopping out of his chair and onto the desk, leaning over, a bony finger outstretched. “Don’t struggle. It’ll be less painful.” Groshnok grunted painfully as Fax’s nail dug into his cheekbone under his blind eye, against the bridge of his nose. The nail moved, drawing a bloody line across the cheekbone, up the ear and down the back of his skull.

“Fax, wh--” stammered Groshnok.

“A seared face looks terrifyin’, y’know,” continued Fax, hopping up on the desk again. “Makes people wonder. How’d he get it? What happened to him? How’d he end in the arena? Makes it look even more terrifyin’ to your opponents when that blind eye stares him down, enveloped in those smoulders.” And there it was. The terrible, psychotic grin of Fax. “You’ll thank me later, trust me ya will.” And with that, he snapped his fingers. The robed goblin hopped onto the desk next to him, producing a flame in his palm. Groshnok’s eye widened in terror. “Don’t go outside the lines,” Fax instructed. “This has to be perfect.”

“Please,” Groshnok begged. “There has t’be somethin’! Somethin’ else, c’mon Fax!” Fax looked on wordlessly, his malevolent expression darkening, as the flamed hand of the mage drew closer. “P-please! Don’ d-don’ do this. Fax!”

“You want the ear too boss?” asked the mage. Fax shook his head. “Just the tip. Don’t want to fuck up his balance.”

The mage nodded, advancing his hand. The heat licked against Groshnok’s cheek, as the mage aimed his hand with pinpoint precision. “Fax, please! DON’T! DON’T DO THIS YOU BASTA--”




“All done!” the goblin said with a smile, rubbing in the last of the gel to Azuka’s shoulder. She sighed in relief, the burning pain now soothed. She nodded her thanks to him as he scurried out of the cell, the troll that Fax had called Mun’do closing the door behind him. He put the key in the lock, but before he turned in, footsteps approached. The troll’s eyes went wide, Azuka noticed, and he shouted something down the cavern in Goblin. Fax’s voice responded, as the shadows grew larger. Azulka could make out Fax’s, followed by a larger one, most likely a hobgoblin, carrying something over his shoulder. The figures appeared, her assumptions correct, only what was thrown over the goblin’s shoulder made her eyes widen in horror. Groshnok.

The cell door creaked open and the hobgoblin entered, dumping Groshnok down on the furs across the cell from her. His head lolled to the left, showing only his good eye, now closed. Unconscious, but breathing. Azuka snarled, looking up towards Fax as the hobgoblin left the cell. “What the fel did you do to him?!” she accused.

“Oh, nothin’, nothin’ much,” answered Fax with a smile. “Just a bit of… remodellin’. Warsong Widowmaker, meet your new partner. The Seared Scourge of Stranglethorn Vale!” Azuka blinked, confused at the goblin. “Has a nice ring to it, don’tcha think?” he continued. “I do like the alliteration! Anyway, congrats again on today. You’se did well, both of ya. Rest up now, the games await!” With that, Fax doffed his top hat to Azuka, before pottering off, the hobgoblin in toe behind him. Mun’do stood still at the bars, his eyes staring at Groshnok with a mix of pity and fear, before snapping to at the call of Fax, skittering off. A pair of curious human eyes looked through the iron bars from the cell behind Groshnok, before Azuka shot them a glance, causing the human to duck down to their own furs. And with that, silence descended the cavern.

Azuka crawled cautiously over to Groshnok’s crumpled body. They had removed his shoulderguards it seemed, but had left his legguards and boots. The bruising on his chest had gone down quite a bit too, it seems the healers had attended to him. Perhaps he had passed out from the pain? Then why did Fax call him--

Her questions were answered as she moved Groshnok’s head, the light of the torches showing his face fully, and the damages that had been caused. Azuka recoiled from the shock, landing on her ass. His face… it was seared alright. The left side of his face had been burned horrifically from the cheekbone up, all the way to the back of his head, aligning the bridge of his nose and mohawk. This was no accident, nor punishment. This was deliberate. This was surgical in nature. She touched it, and the orc groaned, his good eye weakly opening. He reached out for her, and on instinct she grabbed his hand, cradling his head in her lap. “Az… wh-wha’..” he croaked..

“Shhh,” she soothed, stroking his remaining green cheek. “You’re safe. I’ve got you.” Groshnok stared bleary-eyed up at her for a few more moments, before succumbing to the darkness.



Groshnok

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Re: Old Friends
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2020, 06:27:22 PM »
Quick A/N: The dream sequence in this chapter serves as a finale to the flashbacks in Rabid Wolf https://orcsoftheredblade.com/forum/index.php?topic=4258.msg37053#msg37053

Chapter 4


“I still think ye’ need to reconsider,” grumbled Gre’lak, digging a shovel into the earth.

“I still think ye’ need t’shut the fuck up,” snarled Groshnok, hauling dirt over his shoulder with his own shovel.

“Grosh, she thought ye’ was dead,” explained Gre’lak. “We hadn’ heard anythin’ f--”

“Two months, Gre’lak!” yelled Groshnok, piercing his shovel into the earth, standing to face the other orc. “Two months! Barely ‘nough time to grieve, an’ ‘er sleepin’ around!” Groshnok wobbled backwards, stumbling to grab a tree for support, the effects of the ale hitting him hard. This was supposed to be a night of some celebration, his return from the bloody fields of the Southern Barrens. He could take the news that they thought the crew that had shipped out had all been lost, sure. But Kra’lena said she’d wait. Promised him. And yet, two months from last contact, she slept in other orcs’ furs. There had been many a night he had stayed in the squads hut, many a night they had been out scouting, or raiding. Had she done the same then? His mind was already frayed from the jungle, frayed from the Battlescar of the Southern Barrens, but this? He felt it had broken it. His one rope to the outside world, the world outside the Rabid Wolves was a lie.

He had heard their words in the tent. Gre’lak and Reg’nosh had to restrain him from not marching into Grom’gol Base Camp and painting the wooden stakes red. Only when they promised to show him proof did he relent. And so they had taken him to a perch overlooking the camp, spyglass in hand, giving it to him. He had seen then with his own eyes, his mate laughing, dancing in the arms of some grunt. Groshnok could not watch any longer when he saw her lean in for the kiss, tongue outstretched.

And so, here he was. A dark, dingy clearing, digging a hole. Her hole. She had broken him. And he would break her in return, for if he could not have her, no one could. Gre’lak had offered assistance, but was proving more a nuisance as the night went on, trying to get him to not go through with the plan. Finally he relented to his blood-brother, leaning against the tree.

“‘Ow about this…” he started. “I’ll sleep on i’, wait till the mornin’.” Gre’lak nodded, shovelling the last piece of dirt over his shoulder.

“Do tha’, lad,” he said, planting the shovel into the mound of dirt. “Ye’ve had a lon’ day. Let’s get back to camp.”




It was morning. His head beat a light marching tune, but Groshnok’s thoughts had not shifted. He rose without a word, fixing his twin axes to their hooks on either side. The morning sun was low, still rising, casting an orange hue over the glimmering sea before him as he strode out of the tent. His eyes focused, he walked towards the beach, where he knew she would be. Despite not seeing her in four months, old habits were old habits. And there she was, washing her auburn hair in the sea. His heart caught in his throat, as he stumbled, a twig below him cracking, causing her to look up. For a few seconds, neither made a sound, before she darted towards him, her eyes brimming with tears, calling his name over and over again.

Like a cat, she leapt into his arms, clinging to him for dear life. Groshnok grunted, returning the hug, restraining himself from crushing her neck here and now. He looked down at her, trying his best to put on a genuine smile. “Hey, Kra,” he said. She stuttered in response, trying to find her words through the happy tears that slid down her cheeks.

“I thought… y-y-you…” she stuttered.

“Nay,” he said, giving her forehead a quick peck. “C’mon.” He placed her down, gesturing for her to follow him.

“Wh-wha’? Where are yo--”

“Just follow. I’ve go’ somethin’ for you,” he said, trying to reassure her with a smile.

“At… least let me get some gear on!” she exclaimed, gesturing to the tabard and light cloth she had been wearing.

“Don’t worry,” Groshnok replied. “We ain’t goin’ nowhere that you’ll need it.” He turned to walk forward, his smile curling down until his face was stone. Words of rage screamed from his throat, and he had to grit his teeth just to suppress them. They’d be out, soon enough.




“Just through here,” Groshnok gestured, his axe cutting away some brambles to show the clearing. Kra’lena stepped through first, looking around. The morning light shone through the canopy, as birds of all colours were awakening and cawing.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, her eyes following the sights all around. Even the ground seemed greener here, with bushes, plants of every hue of green and yellow, and in the middle of it all, like an altar, was a hole with a shovel pitched next to it.

A hole with a shovel pitched next to it?

“I knew ye’d like it,” Groshnok’s voice quivered from behind her. Kra’lena turned, her eyes widening at the sight. Groshnok stood, axes clenched by his sides, his expression dark and tears lightly descending his cheeks.

“Grosh, wha--”

“Whore!” he bellowed, pointing an axe towards her. “I barely gone an’ ye’ can’t help yerself, was it?!”

“Groshnok it wasn’t like that!” Kra’lena exclaimed, tears brimming in her own eyes. “You were… I thought… I cried over ye’, I did but… there were some grunts, they were nice an’... an’ it was lonely Gr--”

“And were the nights lonely when I was still ‘ere, gone out on patrols, gone out on raids?!” Groshnok challenged.

“No!” Kra’lena screamed. “Never! I love you Groshnok, I wouldn’t ever do that! It’s just… I thought ye’ were dead, for… fuck Groshnok, can’t you understand?”

“Oh I understan’ a’righ’,” sneered Groshnok, stepping forward, dropping his left axe. “Gra’tagesh was righ’ about ye’. Two an’ a half years Kra’lena. All those times ye’ ‘ad me stay the nigh’, begged me to stay, was it jus’ for someone to warm your furs?”

“No!” she cried, tears streaming down her face as she walked to him. “They’re… what have they done to you Groshnok? They’re monsters! You’re not!” Groshnok roared, cracking the back of his left palm across Kra’lena’s cheek, causing her to crumple to the ground.

“Monsters?!” he screamed. “They’re my brothers, ye’ bitch!” He stormed over, grabbing her by the hair and craning her neck so her eyes would meet his. “When I came back, there was an empty seat an’ a mug o’ ale on tha’ table. Every nigh’, I bet there was! And ye’!” Kra’lena groaned in pain as he hoisted her neck further back, clutching his wrist. “Ye’ couldn’ even keep an empty place in t’furs!”

“Please, just listen!” she pleaded, looking up at him. Groshnok loosened his grip, staring at her, as he choked back sobs. “This jungle Grosh, it’s this jungle! I don’t wanna be here no more, you don’t wanna be here no more!” She climbed up slowly, cupping his face with her hands. “Remember what I said before ye’ left? The world’s greatest mating hunt? Let’s do it. Both of us.” She smiled through sobs as she stroked his cheek. “We’ll get away from here. We’ll heal. Get a farm in Durotar, start a family. Like we always talked about, remember?”

Groshnok choked out a sob. “You broke my heart, Kra’lena,” he whimpered.

“And I’ll mend it back, better than it ever was, better than before this land poisoned it,” she replied. “We should’ve left a long time ago. I’m so sorry, Groshnok…”

“I know,” he responded, cranking her neck back once more, as the axe in his right hand hurtled towards her throat.   





Groshnok awoke with a jump, pain etching down the left side of his face. She had haunted him again. A memory he had once considered so just, now his greatest regret. He closed his eye, leaning back against the softness that enveloped him. If only he could turn back time. Spirits, she was right. It wasn’t her fault, he was dead as far as they were all concerned, after all. He would have likely done the same had she been declared fallen in battle. What could have been if he had listened? If he had just taken her offer?

Sure, they may have died in Durotar during the constant wars that had ended in that land, but at least they would have been happy. She was his saviour from the madness of Stranglethorn Vale, and he had cut her down. The next three years in the Vale had turned him into a husk of an orc, and it was only in the last year he had realised such. There would have been no Red Blades had he made the right choice, but there would have been her. And now, all he could remember of her was her distraught eyes, the life fading from them with the axe in her throat. He grunted, shuffling further into the soft mass that his head pressed against.

“You alright?” came a voice from above. Groshnok opened his eye, peering up into the face of Azuka. He could feel her right hand cupping his right cheek, and quickly realised that he was in her lap.

“Aye,” he grunted back.

“You’re sweating,” she replied.

“Jus’ a nightmare,” he said, peering into her eyes. “Did… did Fax--”

“Yes,” she responded, growling. “He… fel, what did he use?”

“A mage,” snarled Groshnok, sitting up in Azuka’s lap. She pressed a waterskin against his lips, his hands reaching out for it, gulping back the cool liquid greedily. “Is it bad?”

“Aye,” she answered, gesturing to pool of water in the corner of the cell, a stalactite above dripping into it. “You might want to see for yourself.” Groshnok grunted, handing the waterskin back to Azuka, crawling over to the pool, peering into his reflection. Well, Fax had certainly got what he wanted. The left side of his face, from his cheekbone up, was mottled, leathery-looking and black-and-brown in colour. He tilted his head downwards, to see it rise along the left side of his mohawk, its side singed a litte. His ear too, the entire tip had been scalded. But most horrific, was his eye.

Once milk white, from a shrapnel wound sustained at the Battle for the Dark Portal against the Iron Horde, now a yellow-brownish charred mess, with some blood seeping around from burst vessels. The pain lingered, though it was not as bad as he thought it would be. The healers must have worked on it, not to mention the amount of nerve endings that must have been scorched, never to feel again.

“Ya be finally wakin’, ah see,” a voice in Zandali came from the cell’s entrance. Groshnok growled, standing up to face Mun’do. The troll cringed in response. “‘e really did a numbah on ya.”

“Ghrn. Wha’ ya wan’?” asked Groshnok, walking towards the bars of the cell.

“Jus’ checkin’ ta make sure ya still livin’,” answered Mun’do. “‘Ere, ah brought ya sometin’.” Mun’do reached through the bars, a leg of boar meat in his hand. “It’s fresh off da fire.” Groshnok snatched it, taking a large bite from it, before handing it down to Azuka.

“Wha’s da real ting ya be wantin’, bug-eatah?” growled Groshnok with suspicion. “Boss no’ go’ ya nothin’ bettah ta do?” Mun’do chuckled, leaning up against the bars.

“Boss? No, no, no, friend. Ya got tings wrong,” sneered Mun’do. “Allow me ta fully introduce mahself,” he continued, stretching his back. “I be Mun’do, leadah o’ da Valespidah’s.” Groshnok cocked his head, his interest peaking.

“I’s worked wit’ ya bredren ‘fore,” Groshnok said, Mun’do giving a knowing nod in response. “Dey be good ‘ands. Still, back den ye was some sellswords, no?”

“We was,” answered Mun’do before shrugging. “Heh, we still is, s’pose. Bu’ tings ‘ave… changed. We don’ work for ol’ Faxxy no more. We work wit’ ‘im.” Groshnok grunted, nodding.

“Fifty-fifty?” asked Groshnok.

“Sixty-forty,” grunted Mun’do. “In ‘is favah. Bu’ ya know goblins… dey be a greedy type, don’ dey be?” Groshnok raised his eyebrow.

“Where are ya goin’ wit’ dis? Spit it ou’ a’ready,” growled Groshnok.

“Let’s jus’ say da terms ‘ave been strained as recen’... bu’ I don’ intend ta go separate ways. No, dis ting we doin’ now, be quite profitable…” Groshnok sat down, the boar leg thrust in front of him by Azuka. He took it with a nod, chomping a hunk of it off.

“Why are ya tellin’ me dis?” Groshnok asked. Mun’do chuckled, pushing off the cell bars and eyeing the orc.

“Like ah said ‘fore… ah like ya, greenskin. Bu’ ye’ will know, as will ‘er… when da time’s righ’.” With that, he turned on his heel, slinking off into the shadows. “Be seein’ ye’.” Groshnok sat there for a few moments, pondering the conversation, before a voice snapped him back to reality.

“You gonna tell me what you two were talkin’ about then?” snorted Azuka. Groshnok shook his head.

“I… I really don’ know,” said Groshnok. “Somethin’ ‘bout, ‘im an’ Fax no’ seein’ eye-to-eye. Ye’ ever ‘eard o’ the Valespiders?” Azuka shook her head in response. “Well, ‘em’s no’ a band t’be fucked wit’... an’ it seems ‘em’s grown stronger since las’ I ‘eard o’ ‘em.” Azuka took a sip from the waterskin.

“Think it could be a way out?” she asked.

“We’ll see,” he responded.




Two and a half months later
Winter’s Veil Eve


The crowd around the Thunderdome roared and hollered at the bloodshed commencing before them. The Winter Games had provided much entertainment to travellers and locals alike, and they were closing in glorious style. The finals of the individual gladiator tournament were to go on last, but before them was the team tournament final, always a crowd favourite. 5 teams of 2 enter, 1 team leaves, often, with only one member barely left standing.

Groshnok and Azuka had held their own quite well throughout the tournament. There had many many a close call, and a few bad injuries, yet here they stood, clad in their tabards against the northside bars of the Thunderdome. Both orcs had opted for light leather jerkins, with hardened boarhide pauldrons. Groshnok had Fax have a copy of his own legguards and boots ordered for Azuka to match his, and they had suited well to increase her mobility. In fact, the only difference between them was Azuka’s axe and wooden shield, while Groshnok opted for his twin axes.

The last remaining member of the yellow team approached them, a human clad in mail, brandishing a long, two-handed sword. Groshnok recognised his eyes as the ones from the cell next to them. Although his stance looked determined, those eyes betrayed the true fear he was feeling. And no wonder, the only reason he had gotten this far was due to the daggers of his high-elf partner, though she now lay dead in the sand between them. Azuka snarled, shouting something in Common to him. The human’s eyes bulged with rage as he roared, leaping over the corpse of his partner, sword raised over his head. Azuka dodged to the left, Raising her shield to bash it against the sword, sending the human crashing into the bars of the Thunderdome. His head whipped up as he tried to regain his senses, only for Groshnok’s boot to crush it against the steel bar. The crowd erupted in a cheer, as Groshnok turned to Azuka.
“YELLOW TEAM HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED!” cried a voice over the tannoy.

“Guess we won’ ‘ave no peepin’ Tom anymore!” he grinned. Azuka grinned back, before turning her attention to the rest of the field.

“Too right, now what we got left?” The two orcs watched the ensuing chaos in the center. The yellow team’s corpses lay strewn before them. The blue team’s last member, a she-orc, had just received a spear through the neck from the giant of a human from the green team. The pink team’s dwarf was in the fight of his life against the troll of the green team, both slashing back and forth with their swords. The last combatant, the night elf of the pink team, stood up from the dusty ground under the corpse of the blue team’s pandaren, her crossbow at the ready, aimed right for Groshnok and Azuka.

Groshnok grabbed the corpse of the human who’s brains now coloured the steel of the Thunderdrome, and threw it towards the high-elf’s corpse, diving after it. Azuka threw herself next to him, taking cover just in time as the crossbow bolt pierced their corpse shield. “Can’ yer shield take a bolt?” Groshnok growled out.

“Only arrows,” snarled Azuka as she leapt over the mound. Groshnok stumbled up, watching as she sprinted towards the night elf, throwing her shield aside. His heart leapt. The elf was nearly done reloading the crossbow. Azuka wasn’t going to make it in time. His eye widened in shock as the she-orc took the axe in both her hands. The crossbow bolt was reloaded. The night elf stood, ready to bring the deadly weapon upwards, only to find a hurtling axe embedded in her head. Groshnok whooped along with the crowd as the night-elf stumbled back, before crumpling in a heap. She had thrown the axe, and it had landed precisely when the elf stood to fire. Groshnok couldn’t be more proud.

His momentary lapse in concentration on the bigger picture, however, was almost his undoing. A piercing pain quickly filled his leg, as it buckled him. He cried out, looking down. A spear. Glancing up, he saw the smirk of the giant human of the green team. The hulking brute was the only one left in the center, and his spear had just disabled Groshnok. Though, just as Groshnok’s concentration was nearly his undoing, it was the final undoing for the unfortunate human. He had stood still admiring his handiwork for too long, and a crossbow bolt piercing through his skull quickly lopsided his smirk. Groshnok looked owner to see Azuka had taken the crossbow from the night-elf, firing the winning blow of the tournament. It was over.

The crowd erupted in cheers, as Azuka ran to Groshnok. “Are you okay?!” she yelled, concern filling her eyes.

“I’ll be a’righ’ m’wolf,” Groshnok grunted out painfully, though the look was soon replaced by a smirk. “Nice shot. Didn’ know ye’ was a long-ear.”

“Oh shut up you dolt,” laughed Azuka, leaning down to give him a long, passionate kiss, much to the oohs, awws and wolf-whistles of the crowd.

“‘Em really love this shi’, don’ they?” chuckled Groshnok, pulling away slightly.

“I told you to shut up,” she grinned, bringing his lips back to hers.

“YOUR WINNERS!” roared the voice from the tannoy. “THE SEARED SCOURGE OF STRANGLETHORN, AND THE WAR! SONG! WIDOWMAKER!!”




“One, two, three!” yelled the medic, ripping the spear out of Groshnok’s leg. Groshnok bit down on the rag in his mouth as hard as he could, letting out a muffled groan of agony. The human and his team quickly got to work with their salves, before letting a pandaren take over, the healing techniques of the monks washing over his leg. Groshnok let the rag drop from his mouth, leaning back.

“I need t’stop watchin’ yer arse when I’s out there,” he said with a grin to Azulka, who herself was getting some bruised ribs looked at. She flashed a grin back at him.

“You should, but you won’t,” she replied, sticking her tongue out at him. Groshnok chuckled, shrugging his shoulders in response, as Fax arrived in the door.

“Helluva show! Hell. Of. A. Show!” he beamed, looking between Groshnok and Azuka. “I couldn’t be more proud o’ you’se two! Champions!” He grinned, toddling over to Azuka, handing her a bottle, before doing the same to Groshnok. “Firewater, on the house!”

“Thanks Fax,” Groshnok said with a nod, removing the cork and taking a sip of the burning liquid. It was only the real good times when Fax would let them drink. And this was a really good time. He felt on cloud nine, almost forgetting that this goblin had captured him, and burned half his face off. Almost.

“What’s next?” asked Azuka, coughing after taking a gulp too large of the firewater.

“Ha, well I’m glad you asked!” cheered Fax. “We’re stayin’ put! There’s some weird goin’s on in Uldum, so I’m thinkin’ here’s gonna be good business! What with adventurers comin’ in and usin’ ol’ Gadgetzan as a pit-stop, the coin’s gonna flow. An’ what better than to have you’se two on show. Probably even get a few thinkin’ ‘em can take ya! Oh, it’s gonna be smooth sailin’ for us all now.” He raised his own, smaller bottle of firewater. “Cheers to you’se!” The orcs raised their bottles to the goblin, taking a gulp.

“Heh, anyway,” continued Fax. “I’d best tell Mun’do about the change to this old arrangement. We was meant to ship back to Booty Bay but… ah, he’ll get it!” Fax wafted his hand, walking out the door. From a room across the hall, talking in Goblin could be heard between the troll and Fax. The talking seemed to be getting louder, until descending into a full blown shouting match.

“Sounds like he didn’t get it,” snickered Azuka.

“Mmhm,” chuckled Groshnok. The pandaren finished wrapping the bandages around his leg.

“All done,” she smiled. “Just give self… week resting of, yes?” Her orcish may have been broken, but Groshnok nodded his thanks, as she left the room, leaving the two alone together.

“Well, we did it,” Azuka said with a happy sigh, taking a sip of firewater.

“Aye. Greatfather Winter’s been good t’us,” replied Groshnok, causing the two to descend into laughter.

“Heh. Happy Winter’s Veil, Grosh,” said Azuka, walking over to where he lay propped up, offering out her bottle in a toast.

“Happy Winter’s Veil, Az,” replied Groshnok with a smile, clinking his bottle against hers, as both slaves took a hearty gulp.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2020, 07:27:26 PM by Groshnok »

Groshnok

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Re: Old Friends
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2020, 11:54:30 PM »
Chapter 5


Fax hadn’t been wrong, the passing of the new year had been much easier for the orcs in the Thunderdrome. The tournaments were over, and with it, the gladiators of the goblins rarely fought against each other. It wasn’t worth the risk to lose fighters for little reward. There was no shortage of boastful adventurers though, one too many ales in the inn had led those arrogant parties to their doom. Groshnok had even been allowed out, albeit in chains, to watch some of Azulka’s individual bouts, mostly against humans or night elves who sneered at the name Warsong Widowmaker. His mate was a force to be reckoned with, and her deadly axe and shield had made her live up to the name given to her.

He’d been brought out for his own bouts too throughout the months. Fax loved to advertise the Scourge of Stranglethorn to trolls, and the ones that had taken his offer had met their fate. Thunderdrome rules, no limit on your entry bet. Fax was a good advertiser, and had a keen eye for how much would catch his victim’s eye, even sometimes promising up to 5 times a combatant’s wager as a reward for slaying his fighter. One or two had come close, he had to admit, but aside from the odd cuts and bruises it was easy pickings.

The spring heat was growing fiercer as summer approached, causing the humidity to rise in the caverns. The sweat dripped from Groshnok as he finished his set of push-ups. He looked over to Azuka, curled up in the corner. “Y’sure yer a’righ’?” he called out. Azuka grunted, lifting herself to her knees.

“F-fine,” she responded. Suddenly, she lurched forward, grabbing a bucket beside the furs, spilling the contents of her stomach into it. Groshnok rolled his eye.

“Sure look fine,” he drawled sarcastically.

“It’s n-nothin’,” gasped Azuka, wiping her chin. “Could’ve been the meat l-last night. D-didn’t taste too good.”

“It never tastes good,” snorted Groshnok. “Fuckin’ slop from t’qiraji nests, y’ask me.” He sighed, getting to his feet. He picked a rock up from the ground as he rose, strolling over to bang it on the bars so to get a guard’s attention. Before he could though, A large shadow appeared, its footsteps getting louder with each step. Groshnok recognised it instantly.

“Hey, Mun’do!” he called out. “Ge’ o’er ‘ere, will ya?” he continued, in Zandali. The footsteps quickened, and before long, Mun’do stood at the other side of the bars.

“Just da orc I was comin’ ta see anyway,” he said with a grin. Groshnok leaned against the bars, cocking his head.

“Need a mendah or someting fo’ Azuka,” explained Groshnok. Mun’do peered around Groshnok, eyeing the she-orc. She was clutching the bucket to her chest, retching every so often.

“You… no well, no Azuka?” spoke Mun’do, in his best attempt at Orcish.

“I’ll be fine!” she growled, before descending into dry-heaving.

“Ha, no look fine,” replied Mun’do, looking again to Groshnok. “Don’ worry, I’ll send fo’ someone ta take care o’ dat one. Bu’ ya ta come wit’ me,” said Mun’do, switching back to Zandali as he unlocked the cell door. “Fax got a sahprise fo’ ya.” Groshnok grunted, walking out of the cell, as the door was shut and locked behind him.

“Back soon,” he called to Azuka, who nodded weakly in return. The troll led the way through the cavern, towards the central chamber. “Ghrn, wha’ does Fax wan’? Don’ like da sound o’ a sahprise, knowin’ ‘im.” Mun’do chuckled.

“No, it usually no’ be a good ting, do it?” he replied, flashing a grin to Groshnok. “No no, dis be a good one, fo’ once. Ya’ll see.” As they stepped through the light to the central chamber, Groshnok looked up to see a grinning Fax standing next to a very large crate. The two goblins on either side of it, holding ropes to keep the crate’s shutter closed looked incredibly nervous, however.

“Mornin’, Groshnok!” hollered Fax, giving a wave as he puffed his cigar. “How you doin’?”

“Well enough,” replied Groshnok. “Though Azuka’s been throwin’ up.” Fax frowned.

“That so? I’ll have someone over to her as soon as,” he said, gesturing to the crate. “You’re up again today, but things are a lil’... different, so to speak!” Groshnok peered curiously at the crate. A low growl emitted from it, and its prisoner lashed against the metal shutter, almost causing the two goblin’s holding it to go flying.

“I’m fightin’ a beast?” Groshnok asked. Fax shook his head, grinning.

“Not fightin’ it! Fightin’ WITH it!” he declared. “Or on top of it, if you’se wanna be precise.” Fax shrugged, walking off. “Now, let’s hope this works!” Let ‘er rip!”

The two goblins let go of the ropes they had been straining to hold, skittering off fearfully in different directions. Groshnok grunted as the shutter slowly slid open. Peering around briefly, he realised he was the only one left in the central chamber. A low growl turned his attention back to the crate, as his eye was met with two red ones. A black, terrible maw emerged, saliva dripping from its fangs that seemed impossibly large for a creature of that size. Slowly, its full, black shaggy head emerged, and Groshnok recognised the creature instantly. His half-garn.

The worg was nearly fully out of the crate now, jaw snapping. Groshnok blinked, realising the beast would not recognise him by sight. His face spent much of its time shrouded under a wolf mask, and when not… well, the well leathered burn scars would make him near unrecognisable. “Heel!” he commanded, sticking a finger down. The half-garn paused in confusion momentarily, its ears twitching. It shook its head, continuing its advance.

“Hey! Heel, boy!” Groshnok snarled. Again the ears twitched, the half-garn’s eyes becoming curious. Groshnok got to one knee, stretching out his hand for the worg to sense. It sniffed his knuckles quizzically, over and over again. Its eyes glancing somewhat suspiciously to Groshnok, before going back to sniffing. “C’mon boy, ye’ didn’ forge’ me, did ye’?” asked Groshnok. The half-garn’s ears perked up once again, and it froze for a few moments. Suddenly, a booming, excited bark filled the chasm, as the half-garn bounded around Groshnok, its tail wagging frantically. Groshnok chuckled, trying to reach out to pet the worg, but the worg ducked away, too excited to care, running around the central chamber, continuing its joyful barks. It was no wonder, Groshnok supposed. The bastards probably had the poor thing cooped up in a cell like his for most of this time.

“Ah, I do love a happy reunion!” chuckled Fax, strolling towards the entrance. “I’ll see ya up there, champ!” Groshnok grunted, not paying the goblin any heed. All he could do was smile, and watch his companion that he had thought was lost enjoy a taste of freedom. The half-garn finished his circles, grinding to a halt, facing Groshnok with a dopey, happy look. He took off, bounding towards him. Fel, Groshnok had forgotten how fast that worg could run. He had nearly crossed to the center of the chamber in three bounds. Groshnok’s smile dimmed a bit, as the worg crossed the center, still at full pelt, his eyes focused on Groshnok.

He wasn’t stopping.

Oh shit.

Groshnok braced himself to catch the worg as it bowled him over, wrestling him to the floor and licking his face repeatedly. Groshnok gagged, hauling the worg off of him, wiping the slobber off his face. A booming laugh came from above, and he looked up to find Mun’do, slapping his knee.

“‘Im missed ya big time, greenskin!” he guffawed. Groshnok snorted. Quickly his expression turned to worry. “Wai’, Mun’do the wol--”

“Don’cha be worryin’,” said Mun’do, wafting a hand. Groshnok looked on as his half-garn padded up to Mun’do, nuzzling against his leg. “Ah makes sure ‘im’s fed. Gave ‘im a big cage too, didn’ ah boy?” The half-garn barked happily in response. Mun’do gave him a ruffle, looking up to Groshnok with a grimace. “Be t’ankful. If it was up ta Fax ‘im’d be stuck in dat crate da whole time.”

“Don’ gi’ me dat,” Groshnok replied, snorting. “Some’ow I doubt ya did dis outta da goodness o’ ya own heart.”

“O’ course ah didn’,” said Mun’do with a chuckle. “Bu’ animals be easier ta control when dem be ya friend, no? Ha, imagine Fax try’na wrangle dis beast t’a market somewhe’.” Mun’do let out a guffaw, and even Groshnok couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought.

“Well, still… Ya kept ‘im ‘appy. S’pose ya ‘ave mah t’anks fo’ dat,” said Groshnok with a shrug. “So why’s ‘im been lef’ out?”

“Ya challengah,” answered Mun’do. “Some pigskin. Rode in wit’ ‘is maid in toe. Says ‘im’s an orcslayer.”

“Oh ya?”

“Ya. Some washed up war ‘ero. Ya know da type.”

Groshnok nodded, “Hea’ ta show da fair maiden wha’ ‘im did on t’fron’lines.”

“Ya. ‘im wants it ta be a mounted battle,” Mun’do explained.

“An’ does ‘im know wha’ ‘im’s facin’?” grinned Groshnok, gesturing to the half-garn, now sitting down on his haunches, his eyes darting between Mun’do and Groshnok.

“No,” smirked Mun’do. “Bu’ ‘im put up a hundred gold coins. Bahgained Fax t’give ‘im a t’ousand if ‘e wins.”

“Ah, dat explains why ye’ brought da worg. Tha’ll tear ‘im an’ ‘im’s ‘orse apart jus’ by itself.” Groshnok chuckled, gesturing for his half-garn to follow as he made his way to the gladiator’s entrance. “Dis’ll be quick. Won’ even need mah armour.” He was quickly stopped in his tracks as Mun’do’s arm tugged him back. Turning to face the troll, he was met with a stern look.

“Ya know da rules, greenskin,” chided Mun’do, pointing to Groshnok’s left arm. He looked down, grunting at the tattoo of the Red Blade Clan’s sigil.

“A’righ’, I’ll get da pauldrons,” Groshnok sighed.




Groshnok peered up at the sun as he and the worg, both clad in leather armour, strolled out through the sands of the Thunderdrome. It was arcing towards the center of the sky. He’d have this done, be stripped off and back to the cell before midday, he figured. Grunting, he hauled himself up into the saddle, steadying himself. It had been a while. A goblin approached him, one of Fax’s lackeys, wobbling with a long polearm in his hands. He dumped it next to the half-garn, panting with exhaustion. Groshnok peered down, his eyebrow raised.

“Wha’s tha’ for?” he asked the goblin.

“R-rules…” the goblin gasped. “The hu-human wants a joust… Give me y-your axes.”

“Tha’ ain’ happenin’,” Groshnok snarled.

“Groshnok!” came a yell from outside the cage. He looked to his right, Fax was there, leaning through the bars.

“Do as he says an’ drop the damn axes so we can get this over with!” he shouted.

“I ain’ ever used a polearm b’fore!” Groshnok yelled back.

“Well figure it out!” shouted Fax with a snort. “I got an extra hundred out of him for this, damnit!” Groshnok snorted, unfastening his axes and throwing them down next to the goblin to his right. The goblin nodded, hoisting the polearm above his head with all his might. Groshnok studied it briefly. The handle at the end seemed to have a small shield grip on it, and Groshnok grabbed it there from the goblin, who collapsed down to the ground, gasping from the exertion. He quickly got to his feet, picking up Groshnok’s axes and scurrying away.

The weight of the polearm was heavier than expected, and Groshnok soon found himself struggling to maintain it, as his half-garn gnashed at it, clearly unhappy at the pointy blade protruding in front of it. The gate opened, and a booming cry echoed from the other side. Groshnok looked up, to watch the armoured warhorse stride in, a human in full chain-link mail pompously carrying his polearm atop it. He pointed it leftward, and Groshnok followed to see Fax standing there, arms folded, puffing his cigar. Next to him though, was a clapping young human woman, her blonde hair tied up in a bun, wearing a red dress clapping and whooping happily. Groshnok groaned, shaking his head. Humans. He would never understand them.

“Orc!” his opponent roared, pointing his polearm at Groshnok, striding around the far end of the Thunderdome. “I speak few words of your language, but perhaps you shall understand this old orcish saying! Prepare to meet! Your! Maker!” The woman cheered louder, and Groshnok hung his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“It’s meet yer ancestors, ye’ fuckin’ moron,” he muttered under his breath. A goblin came to the center of the arena, dragging a red flag behind him. Groshnok grunted, cantering his half-garn around his edge of the arena, testing how to hold the polearm. No matter which way he tried, he couldn’t get it upright enough to stop the worg from trying to snap at it, some of its attempts even nearly throwing him off his saddle. Glancing around, the sides of the arena were dotted sparsely with locals and some travellers, to watch the spectacle. The crowds had truly died in recent weeks. As the threats in Uldum grew, so the crowds faded, with most adventurers and warbands passing through not paying the Thunderdrome much heed, their mind set on one thing. Groshnok sighed. No need to put on a show.

“READY YOUR MOUNTS!” came the cry from the goblin in the center. Groshnok slowed, coming to a line with his opponent on the far side, pulling the polearm up to align with his shoulder, so the worg would stop gnashing at it. He growled, as the human again pointed his own lance arrogantly at him.


“READY YOUR WEAPONS!”

Groshnok held the lance still, snorting. The flag was about to drop, until the human cried out to the goblin, pointing an accusing finger at Groshnok while barking in Common. The goblin turned to Groshnok, glaring at him.

“COMBATANT! READY YOUR WEAPON!” he bellowed.

“IT IS READY!” Groshnok roared back.

“PUT THE FUCKING LANCE IN POSITION!” the goblin screamed. Groshnok snarled, lowering the lance to face horizontally once again. Even though he held it above the half-garn’s head, the beast sensed it, gnashing out. “Leave it, boy!” Groshnok growled, but the beast wouldn’t listen. He couldn’t blame the half-garn, neither he nor Groshnok had trained with polearms before. He looked up to see the flag was now raised fully.

“WELCOME TO THE THUNDERDROME!”

“Y’know wha’...” growled Groshnok lowly.

“FIGHT!”

“Fuck this.”

With a roar, he cast his lance aside, bringing his right arm back to slap the half-garn in the side, sending it into a full charge. The worg snarled, bounding across the arena towards its prey. The small crowd let out a gasp of surprise, and Groshnok could see even the human had a brief look of shock on his face, before his features returned to a cocky smirk, thrusting his lance forward, sending his own horse into a gallop.

60 meters.

Groshnok snarled, readying himself. He let his feet loosen from the stirrups as he perched them on top of the saddle, holding the reins tight.

40 meters.

He raised himself into a low squat, grabbing the worg’s fur in preparation.

20 meters.

He was steadied, ready to pounce. The lance was pointed in perfect position for his heart, the human still wearing a cocky grin. He didn’t suspect a thing.

5 meters.

Groshnok sprung from his half-garn with a roar, kicking hard down on the saddle so the worg would avoid the polearm’s blade. The human’s cocky demeanor had barely turned to shock before Groshnok crashed into him, claws digging into his mail armour, tacking him straight off the horse. He heard the animal whinney in pain as they fell. The half-garn had caught him.

The ground came up hard and fast, and Groshnok braced, wrestling the human into position to cushion the blow. They slammed down, the human letting out a cry of agony as Groshnok’s knees tore through his abdominals. Chainmail could not protect this force. Groshnok lost his grip with the speed of the slam, bracing himself shoulder first as he tumbled across the sands, the harsh stones skinning his right arm. He coughed, winded, checking the damages as he rose. The arm was bleeding, but nothing broken. His opponent had taken the brunt for him. Groshnok looked over to see his half-garn snacking on the horse’s neck as it twitched in its death throes. Its left foreleg had been completely sheared through from the half-garn’s initial bite.

The light sound of cheers from the sparse crowd filled up around the arena. “Finish it!” he heard some scream. Though one scream rang louder than most. That bloody woman, shrieking hysterically at the top of her lungs. Groshnok grimaced. Fine. If she wanted to make a show of herself, he’d give her a show. He limped over towards the human, now crawling on his hands and knees, dazed and coughing up blood. Groshnok caught him by the scruff of his neck with his left hand, looking around at the crowd and raising his hand in a grandiose gesture pointing it towards where Fax and the woman stood. He dragged the human towards them, now desperately trying to kick and get away with the last of his strength.

“Orc… I… I y-yield! I yield!” he croaked. Groshnok chuckled, as the bars of the Thunderdrome approached. Where was his cockiness now? He had spent two hundred gold to throw his life away. Groshnok couldn’t even feel pity for such an arrogant idiot. He placed the human’s jaw over the bar, as the shrieking woman fell to her knees, grabbing her lover’s cheeks in her hands as he coughed, blood spilling from his mouth to the sands. The crowd had all filled around Fax and the woman, cheering and laughing. Groshnok grinned. It felt much more lively now, even with only forty or so of them. Fax looked up, sharing Groshnok’s enthusiasm.

“The lady is requestin’ you’se show mercy,” he said with a snicker. Groshnok let out a guffaw.

“Did ye’ no’ fill ‘er in on the rules?” he sneered. Fax was about to respond, but a hand struck him across the cheek, sending him crashing to the ground. The woman was upon him now, a fist raised to pummel him, though it was quickly grabbed by a Valespider, as another caught her free hand, hauling her off. The crowd laughed, waving after her.

“Hey!” roared Groshnok, snapping the crowd’s attention back to him, his face furious. “Ye’ wanna see this end or wha’?!” The crowd cheered in approval as Groshnok approached the human. The man had turned himself over, his neck against the bars now. His eyes met Groshnok’s, with his hand held out towards the orc weakly.

“Ye’ know, it’s more a ‘uman saying ye’ spoke of, at t’start,” he began, his boot raised high.

“Prepare t’meet yer Maker.”




“All done!” declared the Pandaren, finishing her chi work on Groshnok’s right arm. “Now should feel… brand new!” Groshnok rubbed the arm, nodding.

“Thank ye’, Liang”, he said, as the Pandaren turned to Fax, sitting on the medical bed across from Groshnok smoking his cigar, his cheek swollen lightly, as he held an ice pack against it. “10 more minutes, should be good, Mr Fax,” she said with a smile, leaving the room.

“That human sure could throw one,” Fax said with a small grin, peering over at Groshnok.

“Aye,” replied Groshnok with a snicker. “Where’d t’Valespiders take her?”

“Oh, let’s just say there was a lil’... last minute sale to put up for the auction,” Fax answered, his expression turning to a dark grin. “She’s gonna make some rich fella VERY happy.” He chuckled, tossing his cigar to the floor and jumping from the bed, stubbing it out. “Anyways, kid. It’s been a good run down here but it’s time we move to much greener pastures.” Groshnok cocked an eyebrow, his head turning slightly.

“Greener… pastures? We’s goin’ back t’the Bay then?” asked Groshnok, climbing down from his own bed to stand.

“Oh no, not the Bay,” answered Fax, his grin widening against the icepack.”Some backwater fights, y’kiddin’ me? No Groshnok, you an’ Az, you’se destined for much, much great…” he continued, his eyes widening with his grin. “The Undermine.” Groshnok grunted, blinking a few times, trying to process the goblin’s words.

“The… T-the Undermine?” he repeated.

“Oh yeah, baby!” said Fax, nodding enthusiastically. “This hole is dryin’ up, an’ besides, you’se two is ready for some better competition than this desert could ever offer.” Fax extended a plump finger, prodding Groshnok lightly in the abdomen. “We’re gonna make some real fuckin’ money together, kid.” Fax strolled towards the door, cackling to himself. “Some REAL fuckin’ money, I tell ya!” Groshnok watched wordlessly as he walked out of the room, unable to believe what he had just heard.

He had hoped that he and Azuka would be let go at some stage, for all the money they’d made for Fax. Fel, even as they gained more freedom around the grounds, there was even a chance they might have been able to escape Gadgetzan. But now, their fate was destined for a far off island, a place the orc had only heard stories about, and seldom good ones at that. He sighed, going towards the door himself. One of the Valespiders stood in the corridor, his hand against the fur of the half-garn, who was happily tucking away at a chunk of the horse’s remains.

“‘Em said ya could bring ‘im back ta ya cell fo’ da night,” the Valespider said with a nod, holding up a set of keys in his free hand. Groshnok nodded, moving forward to hold the worg by the scruff of his neck.




The cell door closed behind them, Groshnok looking up to find Azuka looking much healthier, a leg of meat in her right hand, and a quizzical look on her face.

“Is that…?” she started.

“Ghrn-hrn,” Groshnok answered with a nod, letting go of the half-garn to allow it to pad its way over to the she-orc. The half-garn gave her a few sniffs, before laying down next to Azuka, exhausted.

“Well, he seems friendly enough,” she snickered. “Tiring day for you two?”

“Aye,” said Groshnok with a grunt, moving to sit down in front of her. “Joustin’, so we were.”

“Jousting?” she guffawed. “You?!”

“‘Course no’,” Groshnok grinned with a snort, wafting his hand. “Bu’ ‘im still go’ ‘im’s dinner o’ the ‘orse on the other side, at least.” His expression darkened, as he let out a sigh.

“What’s wrong, m’wolf?” asked Asuka, looking concerned.

“We’s leavin’, ‘pparently,” answered Groshnok. “Undermine-bound.”

“Undermine?” Azuka blinked, her mouth somewhat agape.

“Mmhm. Tha’s wha’ Fax said, anyway,” grunted Groshnok.

“What about Mun’do?” she asked.

“Don’ know,” shrugged Groshnok. “Can’ imagine ‘im’s too pleased, though.” As if on cue, footsteps echoed through the cavern, Groshnok turning to see the shadow of a troll approaching. “Guess we’s ‘bou’ t’find out,” murmured Groshnok, standing up, turning to face the bars, as Mun’do appeared. The troll stood at his full height, muscles and eyes bulging in fury. He approached the bars, leaning against them, his glare piercing through Groshnok.

“I take it ya ‘eard da news then?” Groshnok asked.

“I ‘ave,” said Mun’do coldly. “Fax go’ it inta ‘im’s ‘ead dat you an’ ‘er be ready ta fight in da Undermine, eh? Ya ever seen dose fights before?” Groshnok shook his head with a grunt. The troll’s furious eyes seemed to mix with pity at this. “ I seen ‘em. Full o’ monsters, dose who’s spent ‘em’s entire lives in a deat’-ring. Da one’s ya faced in da tournament, dem be like children compared ta ‘em. Ya two no’ gon’ last five seconds out dere, greenskin.”

Groshnok snorted, strolling forward. “Well Mun’do,” he started. “Unfortunately, ain’ go’ a fuckin’ choice in da matter.” Mundo let out a small smile, as Groshnok stood in front of the bars.

“Oh now, dat’s where ya wrong, greenskin. Dere is always… a choice,” he sneered, leaning back from the bars to pace along the length of the cell slowly. “Jus’ like ol’ Faxxy’s made a choice. ‘Im’s made a choice dat we be goin’ ta Kezan, wit’ou’ even discussin’ wit’ me first. ‘Im’s made a choice, dat we be ta stop in Everlook, ta sell off some goods, ‘fore we even get sailin’ there.” The troll's eyes widened in anger, as he cocked his head at Groshnok. “It’s almost like, I’s workin’ for ‘im again, isn’ it?”

“Would seem dat way,” Groshnok responded with a nod. “Winterspring though? Ya boys no’ gon’ be ‘appy wit’ da cold up dere, ‘is ‘em?”

“No,” hissed Mun’do. “My boys no’ be ‘appy abou’ ‘avin’ ta stop at some frozen wastelan’. My boys no’ be ‘appy dat we be goin’ ta some goblin-infested shithole, instead o’ ‘ome ta da Vale, as promised. My spidahs, dey not be a happy bunch, dese days.”

“Den why no’ leave?” snorted Groshnok. Mun’do let out a quiet snicker in response.

“Like I told ya before, greenskin. Dis lil’ partnership be big money,” he explained, returning to his pacing. “An’ while my spidahs grow stronger wit’ every one dat joins, dat also means ol’ Mun’do needs a lil’ more Gold ta keep ‘em all ‘appy.”

“So ya’ve trapped yaself,” said Groshnok, letting out an amused snort. “Can’t go on wit’ou’ da coin, but dey don’ wan’ ta go on bein’ some gobbo’s caravan guard.” Groshnok let out a small chuckle, shaking his head. “Dey gon’ desert ya in Kezan, Mun’do.”

“If I let tings go da way dey is, per’aps,” said Mun’do, leaning against the bars again, leering at Groshnok. “Bu’ like I said. Dere’s always a choice. Fax ‘as made ‘is, an’ I will make mine. Ya’ll ‘ave ta make one too, when da time comes.”

“An’ wha’ choice be dat?” asked Groshnok, glaring back at the troll.

“Do ya wants ya two’s freedom, or do ya wants ya two ta die in a goblin deat’ring?” grinned Mun’do. Groshnok perked up at this, strolling towards the bars, letting his left forearm rest against them.

“Wha’ do we ‘ave ta do?” he asked. Mun’do pulled away, turning to walk towards the central chamber.

“Ya’ll find out when da time comes. An’ it’s comin’ very soon, greenskin.” Groshnok snarled, pressing up against the bars, craning his neck towards the troll.

“Jus’ tell me a’ready ya fuckin’ bug-eater!” he roared. Yet Mun’do continued down the cavern without so much as a reaction, his footsteps getting quieter and quieter as his shadow faded. Groshnok stared after him, until a voice calling his name snapped him back. He turned around to face Azuka, her eyebrows furrowed, the half-garns head now resting on her lap as it snoozed.

“Just what was that all about?” she snapped.

“I don’...” he snarled, before composing himself. He couldn’t take this out on her. “I don’ know,” he sighed, walking towards Azuka. “‘Em’s no’ happy.”

“I can see that,” snorted Azuka, rolling her eyes as she stroked the fur of the worg’s head below. “So what did he want with you?”

“There’s… there’s somethin’ comin’,” sighed Groshnok, pinching the bridge of his nose. “‘Im was talkin’ all cryptic mumbo-jumbo. Bu’ ‘im mentioned our freedom. I think… ‘im’s plan might involve us gettin’ a way out.” Azuka’s eyes widened at this, as she leaned forward.

“Do you trust him?” she asked.

“Not one bit,” snorted Groshnok. “‘Im’s a troll. ‘Im’s a sellsword commander who’s ‘bout to ‘ave everythin’ ‘im built crumble. An’ yet, we ‘ave t’do as ‘e says if we wan’ to get out o’ ‘ere.”

“You don’t think we’ll be good enough for Kezan?” she asked, seemingly hurt. Groshnok sighed, cupping her cheek in his hand.

“No’ wit’ the way ‘im was talkin’ abou’ it, m’wolf. B’sides, ye’ know once we get there, there’ll be no way out.” Azuka closed her eyes, leaning forward, Groshnok doing the same, until their foreheads touched against one another. “Wha’ever ‘appens, we’s gettin’ out together.”

“And then what?” she asked. “Where the fel would we even go? Last I heard a few months back, Durotar is a warzone. And anywhere else, the Goblins can hunt us.”

“We’ll find my clan,” he answered. “I’ll figure out where the Red Blades be, an’ we’ll reach ‘em. Once we do, we’ll be safe.” He pulled away, offering her a smile. “Ye’ll like it there, trust me.” She returned the smile, peering down at the sleeping half-garn.

“What’s his name anyway?” she asked. Groshnok shrugged in response.

“Doesn’t have one,” he said. “It’s a worg, no’ an orc. Doesn’t need a name.”

“All wolves need names!” she huffed, before grinning up at him. “Hmm… without the light, you can barely see him with all that black fur.” She twirled a piece between her finger and her thumb, pondering. “What about Shadow?”

Groshnok grunted, shaking his head with a grin. “Like I said, ‘im doesn’--”

“His name is Shadow now,” she interrupted. Groshnok blinked.

“Bu’--”

“No buts,” she affirmed. “His name is Shadow.” Groshnok snickered, laying down to rest his head on the furry torso of his newly named half-garn.

“Fine,” he responded, giving in. “His name is Shadow.”

“Good!” she grinned, laying down next to him. “Can I ask you something?" Groshnok peered over, meeting her eyes and giving a nod. “You never talked much about them before… what’s your clan like?”