The hut in Nagrand wasn’t large by any means. A small bed stood in one corner, covered in a black down blanket, a small pillow at its head. A table large enough for one person was inches away, a plate and canteen atop it, tiny droplets of grease from the morning meal still adorning it. Clothes were strewn on the lone dresser, ratty rags of robes and tank tops and shorts tossed carelessly atop one another, a delicately crafted chest sitting buried beneath all the debris. Tiny animals moved about on the earthen floor, munching slowly on their seeds and meats, lapping at the bowls of rain water.

The most impressive pieces, by far, were the two suits of armour, standing proud, albeit cramped. Draeka stood in the middle of this chaos, staring at the two sets, one brown, one blue-black, lost in her thoughts. Slowly she moved forward, reaching out her fingertips, softened from retirement, feeling the cold of the metal touch her skin, a deep shiver traveling up her spine. Lowering her eyes she looked at the large mace, still tinged with crimson blood, brief memories flooding back into her mind, unwelcome. Beside it a polished axe, hardly used, rested against a shield and again memories filled her.

Closing her eyes, she inhaled, breathing in deeply and holding it, trying desperately not to shy away from the memories and instead savour them.

She was in front of the Burning Tusks. A new recruit, basically, but respected by the Chieftain for her military history. She was pacing back and forth, looking critically at the people that were to be her fighters, annoyed at their lack of respect. The Chieftain–for he was merely her Chieftain then–sat and watched her as she pounded her fists and shot heated glares to his best men. Jindal was a smartass to her that day, she mused. But the Chieftain, he respected her.

In retrospect, she knew people thought she had slept her way to the top. Maybe even before Zij had confirmed their relationship, they had thought it. A trifling lay in order to earn power, but it wasn’t like that.

Draeka missed a swing of her sword, then her mace, a rockflayer bashing at her armour mercilessly as she watched Zij dance about, making faces at her and causing her to lose herself in a fit of laughter. She closed her eyes and held her breath, trying to stop her laughter as she thrust the sword into the beast’s chest, causing it to crumble to the ground.

Staring at the mocking Zij, she ran over and punched him, grinning madly, “Yer gunna get me killed like that!” He grinned back at her boyishly, shaking his head, “I’d save ju.”

Jindal stood before her, strong and imposing, though his eyes gentle and kind. No orc had ever been a Stormfist, he said. But he wanted them to be a family of sorts. Siblings.

For a soft moment, the pain of Zij’s coma subsided, replaced by a strong feeling of warmth, easing her weary body for a moment.

Zij hugged her tightly, spooning into her as they closed their eyes for rest, their bodies aching with pleasure and pain. “Ju did amazin’ in d’ere tonight, Drae,” he mumbled softly, reminiscing of their evening in the Steamvaults. He kissed her shoulder tenderly, smiling, “ju’ve come a long way… strong an’ independent, like I knew ju would be.”

She smiled into the night, hugging his arms around her tighter, letting out a contented sigh. “I was so weak when I met you…” she mumbled sleepily, their bodies clinging to each other in the summer heat, “I’ll never forget all you did for me.”

He shook his head modestly, and in a serious tone, spoke “ju did it all jourself. Da path was set for ju… was set for us. D’ere are plans for us.”

Draeka smiled at the comforting thought, hugging him once more and fading into a dream.

Everything was so bright, it hurt her eyes. Months after the fact and the dream was still engraved in her memories.

The sky was a brighter green than possible, the colour of demon blood, glistening and swirling upon itself, towering over the blackened ground. She and Zij stood together, fighting translucent images that were impossible to hit but kept burning at their skin. Slowly their armour chipped away, bitten at by the demon claws.

Suddenly, it all changed. The sky folded in upon itself once more, but blue replaced the green and it lit the earth around them. Grass and flowers sprung immediately as if they had been waiting for this chance and were already ready. Zij and Draeka sat at a large fire, dressed in ceremonial leathers. A nameless witch doctor stood before them, chanting as the fire licked at the sky, the smoke swirling and changing in both shape and colour.

The witch doctor was speaking, but she couldn’t understand. Zij was listening and nodding, a serious, yet at the same time serene, look at his face. The witch doctor disappeared suddenly and Draeka turned to Zij. He slowly took her hands and squeezed them, smiling at her sadly.

Draeka had woke with a start, the silken sheets clinging to her sweaty body. Zij still lay next to her in a quiet slumber, his breathing calm and steady. She feared what was to come.

Opening her eyes, she stared at the armour with determination and lifted the blue-black helm from the shoulders with an ‘oomph’. Her arms quivered with the weight and she continued to hold it, willing her arms to be strong. It had been too long, and she had been too lazy, the helm moving closer to the ground before she let it go with a thud.

She couldn’t return to the Tribe like this.

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