Enjoy the story you are reading now.  This is designed as the prologue to my book; most of the book is from an Alliance perspective except for this segement and a few others... I have the book mapped out but I don't want to give much away.  The timeframe is right as the Burning Crusade expansion is beginning, and at the end of the book you will get a glimpse of the events at the Black Temple.  All of the major story events coincide with the current World of Warcraft events of the time.  If you notice any major discrepancies, please email me:  it.awilliams@gmail.com


Thank you - A.J. Williams


HEART OF THE ABYSS


The last of the sun's bright orb slid over the yellowish orange horizon line, retreating before the deep midnight of a bright, starry night sky.  A slight breeze stirred across the arid badlands that was Durotar, signaling the imminent temperature drop that accompanied every sunset and alleviating the sweltering daytime inferno that had hardened generations of orcs and Horde warriors.  Just south of Orgrimmar, the great city of stone and wood that formed the capital of Horde supremacy on Kalimdor, the wind picked up speed, whistling through the canyons formed by steep plateaus.  The wind continued south along the main road that lead to Ogrimmar that orcs simply called "The Road," and whispered it's breath into the various warrens inside the network of fragmented plateaus and canyons.  Plateaus almost as tall as the towering stone walls of Ogrimmar rose up on each side of The Road, sparse and stunted trees growing out and up from the sheer rock face as though straining to grasp the sun.  Although the creation of these plateaus was lost in history, they had since become home to various feral orc tribes, and anyone that happened to be walking by would hear eerie hoots and howls as these less civilized orcs conducted lude and sometimes-vile ceremonies, and all sorts of other carrying on.  The strange noises they made, reverberating and echoing off the canyon walls to greet the moaning gusts of wind, would seem as though the Old Spirits were calling for someone... or something...

 

            It was a good thing Grunt Karg had done this patrol for many nights now and no longer allowed the strange noises to trouble him; orcs may not feel fear, but he no longer felt the wariness, almost to the point of being anxious, that had pestered him through is first patrol along The Road.  His mount, a larger variety of wolf that was born and raised in the Hinterlands by orcs from a pup to stand his ground in battle, loped along without so much as a growl and the strange noises.  Club’s shaggy gray fur meant he would heed the cold no more than his master, although Club had to be watered at least five times a day; Karg had any such weaknesses hammered out of him during his forging as a great orc warrior.  Karg glanced to the Grunt at his left – and sighed.

 

            Jen’shan was a troll, as tall and slender, as Karg was wide and muscular.  The long gray Mohawk he wore stirred slightly in the breeze, and a nostril twitched, moving his mouth and the 2 hand span-long tusk, one of a pair, on that side of his face.  Karg had never much liked trolls of any tribe, with their strange jewelry and paint markings and rituals.  Although the Darkspear tribe that Jen’shan belonged to was a member of the Horde and not one of the cannibalistic tribes, Karg had always thought them uncouth and vulgar creatures, even by orc standards.  And THAT was saying something.

 

            Jen’shan heard the noises as well, and to an untrained orc might have seemed unaffected.  But there were small signs that showed his fear for what it was: his eyes seemed to dart back and forth, trying to be everywhere at once, and his muscles seemed to almost… twitch was not quite the word, but perhaps he was merely flexing them to stay warm.  Perhaps.  The raptor he rode on seemed to notice is rider’s uneasiness, and took deep sniffs in the air for anything out of place.  No doubt the raptor is the smarter of the two, thought Karg.

 

            The two continued down the road in silence as the light continued to fade, then brighten slightly as the luminous moon began its ascent to its apex.  After a bit of riding in the dark, Jen’shan spoke up, shattering the peacefulness of the ride and nearly making Karg flinch.  Karg scolded himself inside as Jen’shan spoke.

 

“Dis liiht be too deem mahn.  We needdee tochez, me canno see a ting in dis!”

 

            With a sigh, Karg reined Club to a halt and reached into the side of his wolf’s saddle pack, pulling out a dung torch and a flint.  Jen’shan did the same, and soon the two were underway again, bathed in the flickering orange glow of torch fires.  They had not gone far before a faint rattle could be heard up ahead, accented by a slow and rhythmic Clop clop!  Clop clop!  Karg loosened the two hatchet-like throwing axes he wore on either side of his waste, and then reached over his hulking shoulders, carefully avoiding the black spikes on his pauldrons, to loosen the large double half-moon axe he wore strapped over his fully armored upper torso.  Jen’shan looked at him with a questioning glance and it was all Karg could do not to sigh again, but after a minute Jen’shan loosened the axes at his hip and the long intricately decorated pole arm on his back.  Even Karg envied him that fearsome weapon; the blade was three hand spans long, and moonlight gleamed off its razor-sharp edge.  Karg hoped the idiot troll knew how to use it; apparently he couldn’t even recognize the sound of a horse-drawn cart.  Although orcs are known to se the strong, well-equipped equestrians they captured as beasts of burden, a horse-drawn cart this plate after sunset should at least warrant some comment, and perhaps a search to be sure.  He would make sure that Sergeant Stonecrusher sent him someone much more capable to patrol with next time!

 

            It was a measure of his annoyance that Karg did not at first notice the growl in Club’s throat and the change in his stride.  In the distance he could just barely make out the cart, and the horse that was pulling it.  Karg thought he could see a shape on the horse, but there was no way to be sure with just the moonlight.  He held his free hand up to Jen’shan, two fingers down.  Dismount, the signal meant, and for a wonder the troll understood, halting his raptor and hopping down from the tall animal’s back.  Club continued to growl, a low guttural sound in his throat, but knew to hold his place as Karg dismounted from him.  The raptor lowered itself to the ground and curled p, resting a long head on hits haunches and closing its eyes.  Anyone who thought the raptor asleep was in for a terrible surprise.

 

            The two Grunts, torches still in hand, drew one of the throwing axes from their belts and advanced slowly and cautiously on the approaching carriage.  Even without the torchlight, it became clear that the rider was actually driving the horse from a bench on the cart; a dark robe with a hood pulled up made it difficult to identify the driver without the torch light, so the two waited a bit longer.  As the cart got closer, the robe seemed to hide wide shoulders and a muscular frame.  An orc, perhaps coming back with goods from the goblin-controlled port city of Ratchet, or perhaps fish from one of the fishing villages to the south.  Karg allowed himself to relax, and felt the tension and fear drain from Jen’shan.  The horse was entering the ring of light cast by the Grunts’ torches, and green hands holding the reins under those dark robes, though the driver’s face was still shrouded by the deep cowl of his hood.  As Karg holstered his axe to his waist, a strange thought occurred to him.  Why would Club have growled if the driver had given off orc scent?  Perhaps his instincts had told him something that Karg himself had missed.  Better to be safe than sorry.  In orcish he called out, “Halt!”  The cart came immediately to a halt, the horse letting out a snort and stamping lightly with a hoof.

 

            The two grunts advanced on the cart driver on either side of the horse, careful to stay out of range of any weapons the driver might have hidden on himself.  From a safe distance, and still in line of sight with Jen’shan, he called to the driver, “Take your hands off the reigns and disembark!  Now!”  The driver did not move.  The hooded face turned slowly toward him and regarded him with a silent stare; sound dimmed, and how Karg could hear a faint, rhythmic Thump Thump!  that seemed to grow louder by the second.  Karg tried again to tell the rider to get down immediately, and again the driver only looked at him.  The thumping grew in pace and volume until it was the only thing that Karg could hear.  On the other side of the cart, Karg could see Jen’shan; the troll was slowly advancing on the driver, throwing axe raised above his head and knees bent, ready to leap and strike.  Karg also advanced slowly, shouting now for the vagrant to let go of the reigns.  He was pulling out his battle-axe and shouting, “Last warning!  I won’t-” the words died on his tongue as a stiff breeze blew back the cowl of the rider, revealing a stout face with pale skin, a bulbous nose and a thick dark bead clinging to a wide head of unruly long hair.  Everything seemed to freeze except the thumping sound, pounding doubly as hard for a quick space.  Then everything seemed to happen all at once.

 

            A Thwang! sounded from somewhere in the darkness, and Jen’shan’s neck sprouted a geyser of blood; he went down clutching his throat around a broad head arrow that protruded through it.  Amidst the gurgling sounds Jen’shan made as he slid to the ground, desperately clinging to the horse’s harness, Karg heard a bellowing roar of “Dwaaaarf!” pierce the quietness of the night, an realized that the sound had come from him.  His trembling hands were gripping something, raising it over his head.  His axe?  When had he drawn it?  Why was he moving?  Running?  Karg felt like he was watching himself from inside his own mind, unable to control his own actions.  The constant Thump Thump doubled in speed, accelerating faster and faster.  Could that be his heart?  No matter, his axe was almost in range of the dwarf on the bench.  The fool had not moved!  Karg felt the axe start to descend, and a great shout was read to erupt within him.  But then he stopped moving.  His arms, his body, everything.  But he was so close!  He was running and then not.  Why?  NO you fool, get the dwarf!  He had only to bring the axe down and end the dwarf’s life!  Karg let out a blood-curdling scream of frustration… or tried to.

 

            The long dagger had pierced his back plate, flesh and bone alike; the serrated dagger had punctured a kidney, spleen, and a lung.  The scream came out as a wheezing cough, spilling a stream of blood from the orc’s mouth and turning his long braided gray beard red with saturation.  Karg watched his own death with dispassionate ambivalence.  Every orc knew this day would come and mentally prepared himself from the first day of training to die in battle.  His wife would not shed a single tear; to do so was dishonor to the memory of the warrior Karg had been.  His children, a boy and two girls, would all become fierce warriors and join the Horde’s ranks to honor his battle spirit.  Karg did not feel the blade twist and change angle, rupturing most of his other internal organs and piercing through the front of his breastplate.  Karg’s last thought was for Club as the blackness closed in on the edges of his vision; the rhythmic thumping that he had forgotten about seemed the only thing in the world to him now.  With a frightening suddenness, the thumping slowed, and after the last beat, blackness rolled over him, and then… nothingness.

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