The Dark Portal loomed before her, massive and shimmering with a brownish-green image. The swamp on the other side was dank, bugs flittering in the grass while large scaled beasts shimmied close to the ground. Kali stood tall, holding her younger sister in her arms, her blue eyes wide with wonder. Her skin was still brown, unlike most of those around her, her hair a dark black. She stood wearing very little clothing, her body tiny and bony from lack of food.

Her little sister was a mirrored image of her, though her skin was even less green than Kali’s, and her hair finer and a little lighter. She held her childishly in her arms, holding her to face the portal as well. Gul’dan spoke at the front, though Kali wasn’t listening. Even though her parents were devout followers of his, she got a bad vibe from him. She stared wide-eyed as the blue skinned draenei fell bleeding on Gul’dan’s blade and an invisible shiver ran up her spine. Her stomach growled as she returned her gaze to the shimmering image of what they called Azeroth.

Her parents stood behind her proudly, her father grasping both of her shoulders a little too tightly for comfort, though she was used to it. Her mother looked up at him, then back at Gul’dan. She did not bother to take the baby back from the arms of her child, too concerned with what would come on the other side of the portal. Humans, they were told, ruled the world, and would put up a strong fight. The warlocks of the Horde were needed, and her father and mother would proudly oblige, thirsting for the blood they had been denied for so long.

Draenor was dying a slow death, corrupted by the fel the orcs indulged in, but they were promised a new, clean land with riches beyond their imagining, and power beyond that. She knew her father would step through the portal and slaughter all in his sight, and her mother would silently follow in his footsteps.

She couldn’t say her home was an unhappy one, but there was something lingering there that her young mind couldn’t quite comprehend. The silences were more filled with meaning than Kali could ever comprehend. She knew that it wasn’t typical that she cared more for Lae than her mother, having taken up the role of motherhood as soon as Lae stopped breast feeding. Her mother had forced her to stop early, as well, having never quite taken to the child. Kali, on the other hand, adored her, often playing games with her and sneaking her food when her mother denied it, saying there was only enough for the three.

Kali knew that she was getting to an age where the warlocks had force grown others. She was grateful that whatever happened to those strange children forced to be in adult bodies did not happen to her. There was no need for soldiers after the Draenei were slaughtered, but she looked sadly back on her friends that seemed as though their bodies were too large and clunky for them. She feared that they would once again resort to such things through the Portal, though she knew better than to voice her concerns.

Her father had a temper that both she and her mother had learned to placate through silence and agreement. Even Lae, no more than a babe, had learned to silence her cries when he was in the area, becoming calm and choking back her cries of hunger. He was powerful and would often duel, winning the clan food, glory and acknowledgement within the Horde, but still things were scarce.

He clutched at her shoulders, massaging them roughly, pressing too hard into her spine and causing her to cringe, forcing her body to remain still as he leaned down and spoke roughly in her ear, “excited to bring glory to our Clan, to our people?”

She nodded, knowing better than to disagree. “Yes, Sir,” she spoke with confidence, hugging Lae closer to her chest.

She had been born during the fighting when the Horde needed soldiers, and she knew her father had hoped for a boy. Nonetheless, he trained her hard. By the time she knew to walk, she was familiar with wooden swords and shields, that the blue skinned people were her enemy, and that Gul’dan was the saviour of her people. It didn’t change her instincts to feel badly around Gul’dan and knew the electricity in the air didn’t carry a good feeling to her.

Grot was her salvation, however. His parents were clanless peons, doing odd jobs for the Horde, and they quickly took to one another behind her parent’s backs. By the time they were five, they would wrestle, she always winning, pinning him into the red dirt of Hellfire, grinning wickedly down at him. It was to him she confessed her fears, concerns and bad feelings of what was going on. He stood at the edge of the large gathering, she knew, and they had planned to stick together through the portal. Because of the changes within the Horde, the lack of a clan wasn’t as embarrassing as it would have been ten years earlier, but he was still looked at with a certain disdain from others, especially her father who still held on to their clan’s pride.

The Blackrock Clan was not large, but they supported Gul’dan unquestioningly. They quickly took to their new Citadel, practicing night and day for any possible skirmish, often sending out scouting parties to look for a fight, participating in the dueling, and loudly supporting the Legion. Her father had once been a proud shaman, but quickly got the taste of fel magic in his blood, eagerly taking to the aid of his tiny imp minion and conniving her mother to follow in his footsteps, even though she preferred the infernal beings constructed from rock and fel.

Their eyes were red by the time they stood at the portal entrance, having fed on the blood of demons willingly and enjoying the strength and power they felt they had. Kali had been spared the blood because of her age, as was her little sister, and Grot had been denied the blood. The group of orcs let out a large war cry at Gul’dan’s words of encouragement, of death, of destruction, and they stormed through the portal. Nervously, Kali followed, holding tightly to her sister. She tentatively stuck a foot through before being pushed by the shoulders through by her father. She winced as she walked through, feeling as though her body was being slowly torn apart and put back together, as though time had slowed substantially. She lost her footing on the other side, catching herself in time to spin herself around and fall on her back instead of on her face, clutching Lae to her chest.

She gasped at the warm and wet air of the Swamp, so unlike the dry air of Hellfire, clutching on to the wet dirt below her gratefully. She stayed sitting on her bottom as she watched the orc army pass through the portal, many of them quickly forming hunting parties and storming any prey they could see. Her eyes widened as she saw them take down large cats and some of those reptilian creatures quickly. Many of them cut hungrily into the beasts and ate the flesh raw, their fangs and faces quickly becoming covered in the blood and excrement of the beasts, and snarled at one another for another piece. Gul’dan held up his hands as he watched the hunger induced chaos, smiling a little at the lust in their eyes.

“These beasts are nothing compared to those of the humans! You take these beasts down easily, but the humans will give you a fight, so feed your fill, and we will prepare to take this land for the orcs!” he shouted, his own red eyes flashing hungrily. He had his own plans for this world, of course, but he would need his army well fed to succeed.

Kali slowly got up, walking around the area and watching the groups of orcs killing and eating, before looking around for her father. She found him not far from where she fell, standing there with a wide smile on his face. Sensing her there, he grabbed her shoulder roughly, jostling her too and fro before smiling back at the land before them. “We should get some food, Sir. Lae hasn’t eaten in days.” He grunted, looking around for his wife. Locating her, he grabbed her wrist and dragged her towards one of the cat like creatures while Kali started up a small bonfire using some of the twigs and stones around the area.

She laid Lae next to her, cooing down at her before rolling over to her side, rubbing her stomach, kissing her pudgy brown cheek. “It’s goin’ to be okay, Lae. Got a big ol’ world for us now, an’ plenty of food.” She smiled down on the child with motherly affection, smiling wider as Lae grabbed her finger in response, kicking her feet and cooing back happily as she always did when Kali seemed pleased.

~~

Looking around quickly, she spotted movement out behind one of the trees, a small orcish boy spying on her. Jumping up and running over to him, she slugged Grot in the arm, her eyes flashing happily at him. “You made it!”

He nodded sullenly, his eyes staying on Lae for a few minutes before looking back up at Kali. “Your parents getting food?”

She nodded, looking around for them. “I’ll save you some.”

He began to protest and she slugged him again, her lips curled into a smirk. “You ain’t eaten in days. I’m getting you some. Meet me back here when night falls… if night falls here,” she paused, thinking it over. “Just try ta stay out of sight if ya can, alright? They’re probably all too busy ta even notice a tiny scrub like you wonderin’ around, but be careful, ‘kay?” she smiled at him, speaking affectionately.

He nodded seriously, looking back to Lae, then turning on his heels to find a quiet spot to sit undisturbed.

Grimmik and Lektu Blackrock returned to the campfire, a large beast wrapped around Lektu’s slender neck. She cautiously placed it down before looking up at Grimmik. “I will find the others of our clan and let them know we will be eating,” she said in her soft voice, the end of her sentence turned up at the end as though it were a question.

He nodded, grunting gruffly at her, and plopped down in front of the fire. Kali moved over to the beast, taking out a tiny dagger and a large iron bucket from her satchel. Slicing the blade into the cat’s coat at the throat, she cut deeply, puncturing a vein. She quickly grabbed up the bucket and placed it under the beast, awkwardly trying to hold up the heavy beast’s torso as it bled. As the last of the blood spilled into the bucket, she set the blood aside and continued to cut down the belly, pulling the fur from the flesh while her father watched her critically.

Grunting, he grabbed the blade handle in her hand, squeezing his hand painfully tight around hers as he skinned and sliced the animal. Twisting her arm in awkward ways, he pulled the pelt off the animal. Reaching inside the beast, he grabbed the flesh, motioning for Kali to remove the fur. She nodded, grabbing the beast’s head, and with great effort sliced the areas where the fur still clung to the beast. With a loud groan, she stumbled backwards, holding the coat while her father held the flesh and bones in his hand. She draped the coat over her shoulder, quickly moving to find a branch large enough to hold the beast over the flames. She was grateful when the other members of her Clan returned with enough wood to cook the flesh, dry the coat, and keep the flames burning through the night.

Kali, covered in the blood of the beast, held Lae to her bosom as the beast cooked on the fire, the flames making loud sparking noises. She could still hear the sound of triumphant orc shouts as they downed another beast or as another of their friends passed through the portal, and before nightfall things had calmed and most sat at a fire, drinking the blood and eating the flesh of the local animals, celebrating one another and preparing for battle.

Even her father looked more kindly and relaxed than he ever had. He sat close to Lektu, still not touching her, and laughed heartily at the Clan’s plans of victory, of triumph, and of power.

Lektu was not an unattractive orc, by any means. Her skin was a bright green and her eyes a glowing red, her bone structure that of a strong orc woman, though her frame was smaller with lack of nutrition. Her cheekbones were high, and if she were to smile, Kali imagined it would be magical. Her eyes and lips, however, were creased with frown marks, and she seemed much older than she actually was. Her eyes always darted around, looking suspiciously for danger. She was of average size for an orc, and her muscles were faded with the years, though Kali was sure that her mother was once strong and beautiful and independent, possibly even with her eyes. She day dreamed a lot about what her parents used to be like, making up stories about their nobility and their love that seemed non-existent as they purposefully avoided touching their green flesh to one another’s.

Her father sat beside her, his body as well wilted with age and hunger, though he was still strong. His biceps were particularly firm, though he preferred magic over hand to hand combat. His beard was scraggly and long, the same colour as Kali’s hair, and the hair on his head receding in a V shape. His brow was strong and his face was stern, his mouth often turned down into a thoughtful frown. Grimmik had deep features. His eyes glowed the familiar red, wrinkles touched his eyes, forehead and cheeks, and various scars showed on his face and neck.

He feasted hungrily on the beast, staring intently at the fire, ignoring the excited murmurings of conversation around him. The grease of the panther slipped down his chin and caught in his beard, shimmering in the light.

Night set around the swamp. The birds in the trees called out to one another, and bugs and small rodents began to stir in the marsh and grass. The marsh felt warmed without the sun, as though a canopy of humidity protected them from the chill of the night. The air was acrid and smelled of excitement and roasting meat, and was filled with the calls of the animals and the celebrating orcs. Gul’dan had long disappeared into the night, followed by Blackhand and his pet ogre, and the celebratory mood grew quickly, lard wallops and shouts sounding around them.

Kali carefully watched the going-ons of the area before being shooed away from the campfire so the adults could talk without her young ears. She nodded obediently, having stuffed some meat in her pockets and in Lae’s shawl, her eyes seeking out Grot. Wandering through the twilit area, she walked between the other fires, catching snippets of the conversations of the other gatherings. All spoke of the land, and most praised Gul’dan for leading with such strength and providing them with a new land to conquer and make there’s. Kali admitted to herself, reluctantly, as she watched them feast, that this land was much more fertile and giving than what had come of Draenor.

She walked further from the crowd and the deep voices, the firelight growing further in the distance as she looked for a cave or a small clearing. As the fires behind her blinked into the night, she spotted another one, so small she had to look a few times to make sure she had even seen it. She picked up the pace, her legs quickly moving her towards the light, grunting softly with the effort, her stomach full of meat. She smiled widely as she saw the dark green skin of Grot, his eyes transfixed on the fire in the same manner of her father. She slowed herself as she caught sight of him, and stiffed to the side behind a tiny tree to watch him for a few moments.

He looked up from the fire for a second, scanning the unfamiliar lands, lightly rubbing a fist against his stomach. The smell of roasted flesh had infected the area for miles around, and he licked his tusk hungrily. She quickly jumped from behind the tree and shouted out loudly, enjoying the look of fright on his face as he grappled for the dagger that matched Kali’s. Grot held the knife in front of him childishly before seeing her face. He grunted unhappily, plopped down in front of the fire, and glared at her as she cheerfully hopped over to him, sitting down beside him so they touched. She rested her head on his shoulder as she reached into her pockets, and held out the meat cruelly in front of him, snatching it away as he grabbed for it.

“Say please!” she demanded, smiling wickedly at him.

He glared at her, speaking lowly. “Please.”

She smiled, kissing his forehead and placing the meat in his hand, then reached in the swaddling for the rest, filling his hands with the juicy meat. His eyes grew wide as she moved, digging the food out of every pocket and covering she had until his hands were almost overflowing, his mouth salivating uncontrollably.

“Have you ate already?” he questioned, looking over to her and then at Lae.

She nodded eagerly, groaning a little and leaning back on her left arm, her right hand rubbing her stomach under her top. “More than enough ta feed an ogre.” She leaned up and looked at Lae, whom she had rested in her lap, smiling and cooing down at her. “Her too. She’s goin’ to grow up big an’ strong.”

With this, Grot eagerly pressed the meat to his lips, the grease quickly coating his lips and chin. Kali watched with a bemused expression on her face, speaking softly. “You ain’t ate in a while, have you,” she frowned, leaning closer into him. He shook his head, not pausing his loud chewing and smacking. She nodded in response, reaching for her bag and pulling out a flask, holding it out to him. “This was harder ta get. Had to distract Grimmik fer a while.” she grinned wickedly, shaking the flask in her hand. “You owe me one.” He looked at the flask, then up to Kali’s teasing eyes, stuffing another large piece of meat into his mouth before grabbing the flask, undoing the top and taking a sip of the sweet blood, looking back at her gratefully.

“Thanks, Kali. I do,” he smiled, watching her carefully. She wore very little, though she was covered. Brown cheap material covered her torso and lower body, the pants ending at her knees. She wore cheap leather shoes that were much too small for her and originally had been many other children’s before hers. Her body was tiny and still childlike, and though she looked too big for the clothing, Kali didn’t seem to notice or care. Her body was thin, and though she was muscled, they were small and tight to her body. Her chest was still flat, and her stomach was firm and unhealthily concaved, like most orcs at the time.

Grot was in worse shape than her, however. His body was tiny and scrawny, hardly any muscle or fat at all on him. He didn’t have a clan to fight for him or win him food, and his parents had no claim to any food, so they were tossed the scraps, and he got the scraps after that. His eyes had dulled slightly with the lack of nutrition, though they flashed wildly as he devoured the meat. His skin was a similar brown to Kali’s, his eyes a cold steel colour, which she was grateful for. She could see the difference in those whose eyes glowed red and those whose eyes didn’t. The aggression of the red-eyed orcs frightened her and she often tried to avoid them the best she could.

She watched him eat, wiping his face on his bare arm, his clothing covering little more than hers, though he didn’t wear shoes on his feet, and whispered softly, “what do you think?”

He looked up at her, smiling widely and showing off his fangs, nodding. “It’s great, thanks!”

she smiled, nodding at him. “I meant ’bout… this.”

He frowned, looking back at the fire as they sat in silence, Kali hovering her finger over Lae’s hands, playing with her, both lost in their thoughts.

The silence was broken by a large squawk from the trees, jostling both of the young orcs out of their reverie, looking at one another’s face.

“I don’t know either,” spoke Kali, always the more confident and upfront of the two of them, as she leaned back and stared at the fire again.

They spent several hours like this, the three children sitting around their tiny fire, the air growing lighter as it grew later. Kali shivered slightly, goose bumps running up her arms as she moved closer to the fire, stroking the fine hair on Lae’s head as the infant slumbered. Looking up at the sky, she got up wearily. “Should get back. They’ll be wonderin’ where I went, even in the excitement.”

He nodded gruffly, standing with her.

“Will you be okay out here?” she whispered, looking around nervously, meeting his eyes as he nodded.

“Dabu. I have my blade, after all,” he smiled proudly.

She grinned again, taking out another large slab of meat from her bag, wrapped in cloth. “Fer the morning,” she said.

She grunted and walked past him, her chest puffed out as she grasped her knife, sticking to the path she had taken on her way out. The sky was darker now as she walked through the marsh, and though she tried to stay confident, her breath grew faster and more frantic, and her eyes darting around for the source of any sound until she heard loud footsteps behind her. She whimpered, letting out a gasp as she realized the footsteps were soft and moving quickly. She hugged Lae to her chest, quickly made a knot in the fabric to wrap the child around her neck, and strapped the rope across her midsection as she began to run frantically towards the orcish gathering.

The rodents and insects scuttled out of her way, her frightened whimpering growing louder. She squeaked as she felt her shoe slip under her foot, caught in the marshy mud. Not daring to stop or look back, she gasped loudly as the sound of running grew closer, and shouted behind her, “identify yourself!”

She heard a familiar loud grunting and panting behind her, and turning quickly, she brought her fist to Grot’s arm, knocking him off balance to the ground. “Jerk! Tryin’ to scare me?”

Grot grinned despite himself. “Trying?”

She laughed out of relief and anger, punching his arm again before helping him up and hugging him to her tightly, squishing Lae, who moaned unhappily in her sleep between them.

“I’m walking back with you. It’s not safe out there alone,” Grot stated.

Kali nodded seriously at him, quickly thinking.

“Around our camp, there’s a lot of trees, an’ we set up some fur to dry. If you stuck behind there, you won’t be seen ’til they wake. You’ll get a few hours sleep in, an’ I’ll be right next to you.”

She smiled reassuringly, squeezing his hand in hers, both of their skin rough and dry with lack of water and food. She looked up at him nervously before motioning in the direction she was heading, “I think it’s a li’l further this way.”

Grot grunting, walked at her side, his eyes darting around at the strange noises of the land as well.

They got back to the camp late. The moon was high in the sky, and the fires on most camps were dwindling a bit. Most of the adults were too full and exhausted to have kept up with their night watch duties.

They kept to the side, furthest away from the camps. She located her Clan on the outskirts of the gathering, motioning quietly to the trees. Kali squeezed Grot’s hand in hers, and leaned up against his body to whisper softly in his ear, “sleep well.”

He nodded and quickly moved behind the protection of the trees, curled up into the cold mud, and covered himself with his arms. Kali did the same, falling asleep without even realizing that Grimmik and Lektu weren’t among their numbers.

In fact, all over the camp, some of the more powerful warlocks were missing.

~~

The morning came more quickly than Kali expected. Her eyes flittered open and she looked curiously at the burnt out fire, feeling the cold ground beneath her and smelling the unfamiliar acidic spell in the air. For several minutes she lay confused, trying to gather her surroundings before it snapped into place, and she jumped up to find Grot. Grabbing Lae softly in her arms, she slowly made her way behind the drying skin, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She looked around the surrounding trees, finally finding a small indentation in the ground that would have been made by a small orc sleeping. She scanned the area, whispering hoarsely, “Grot?”

Quickly he appeared, his clothing and hair matted in mud the same as Kali’s, a tiny smile of relief on his face. “Just you.”

She nodded gruffly, moving closer to him. “You eat?”

He nodded in return, running a hand through his hair, working out a knot. “You?”

Kali shook her head. “No. I wanted to make sure you were outta here before the others woke,” she smiled, shooing him away, “so go on! I’ll meetchu at the same place as soon as I can. Get as much information as I can from the Clan.”

Grot nodded, hugging the two orcish girls in his arms. He kissed both on the cheek in a fatherly fashion, and quietly moved back towards his camp.

Kali softly walked back to her camp, finding the other orcs slowly waking, looking around with a similar confusion on their face. She once again started the small fire, throwing some more twigs and sticks on it as she looked around for her father and mother, softly rubbing their shoulders to wake them. Her mother looked up at her confused, a scowl on her face as she rose, not saying anything. Her father spat out the order to make a larger fire before he woke the others in the Clan to accompany him on the morning’s hunt.

Kali thought her parents looked a little older than usual this morning, and frowned slightly at the thought before returning dutifully to the fire.

~~

The day was filled with celebration and exploration, and throughout the day the orcs feasted on the bountiful animals and vegetation. The marsh air was thick with the acrid scent. The metallic smell of blood and the rich scent of meat wafted through the air. The dozen or two children that passed through the portal stayed close to the crowd, exploring the nooks and crannies in the rocks, looking for hiding areas and playing games. Though Grot kept a low profile around the adults, he did come out to meet Kali and Lae as they played in the lands.

She sat watching the others play, mostly, with Grot at her side, watching them play games and frolic. The three of them were young, far too young to be looking so seriously watching the others play, but Kali didn’t much feel like a child these days. More of a mother than a child, she took her duty of protecting and caring for her infant sister seriously, hardly daring to put her down for a moment most days, glancing suspiciously at anyone who looked at them with a questioning look in their eyes.

Lektu barely even noticed, Kali figured, she was so confused and obedient lately. The haze in her eyes hit her mind hard, and she acted without fully thinking things through. She walked around listlessly, with a confused look often on her face. The only time she seemed to react was to Grimmik’s shouting or rough hands, to which she would blink her eyes as though seeking for clarity. Kali figured the only reason Lektu was even allowed through the portal is because Grimmik held such a tight hand of control over her. The Horde wanted fighters… individual fighters who could react quickly to any situation, not mindless killers, but Lektu was skilled with her magics. Maybe that was why she was so muddled.

Grimmik, on the other hand, grew more violent still since the blood. Kali had a handful of good memories, short and blotchy in her mind. She remembered being happy once or twice growing up, but in the years since his eyes turned red, it had gotten worse. He would pick fights with others, including his family, his lips turned into a terrible sneer as he spat terrible words at them.

Kali had grown stronger through the years, though she was but a child. All the children of the Horde had grown quickly, some mentally, some physically, some naturally, most not. She feared that coming through the portal would mean the same fate for her, but she didn’t have a choice. Food was so scarce on Draenor that they would all starve after another few years of living there. She was also excited about the prospect of a new world, of something bountiful and exciting.

She sat on a flat rock a few yards from the other children, with Grot at her side, his hand holding hers, their bare legs touching one another. If it weren’t for their age, it would have been easily assumed that the child in Kali’s lap was there’s. They both stared at the children, playing a game of hide and seek, running and spinning around care free, their bellies full for the first time in years, feeling carefree for the first time in just as long. They were separated from the adults by a couple hundred yards, completely out of earshot, though Kali would sometimes take a quick glance over her shoulder as the group shouted, raising their weapons into the air, before turning her eyes back to the children, her finger lightly tickling Lae.

“What do you figure they’re talkin’ ’bout?” she pondered aloud, not looking at Grot.

“I guess strategies… where we’re going to move to,” he replied, his voice quiet and a little hoarse.

She nodded, grunting a little, looking back over her shoulder briefly. “Figure we’ll be comin’ with them?”

He shrugged, his shoulders brushing against hers. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess they’ll bring us to the next camp, keep us there while they take the lands.”

She nodded again, still watching the children. “You figure this is right?” she sighed, lowering her voice, finally looking sidelong at him, her bright blue eyes staring into his.

He shrugged again, his bony shoulders rising and falling. “I don’t know. Gul’dan seems sure.”

She glowered at the mention of his name, quickly trying to hide her expression of disdain. “How would we’a felt if the humans or whatever came to Draenor and tried to claim it?”

He smiled a little, meeting her eyes. “I’d say we would have fought as hard as we could to protect it.”

She turned her eyes from his, slightly confused at his smile, shaking her head and looking down lovingly at Lae. “S’what I’m afraid of.”

Another loud shout came from the crowd and they began to walk away from the spot, back to their camps. Kali tore her hand from Grot’s, punching his shoulder. “Get outta here before they see.”

He smiled again, rubbing his shoulder, looking at her and nodding, quickly bounding to his feet and taking off into the marsh.

Kali rose slowly, frowning at the playing children, then down at Lae, sighing deeply. “I’ll protect us Lae. Promise.”

She sighed again, slowly dusting off her bottom, and walking back towards the camp, looking for Grimmik and Lektu. She spotted them speaking to another orc couple, Grimmik gestating wildly as he spoke, with a wide grin on his face. Lektu slowly raised her eyes up to him, mimicking his wicked grin, nodding when she thought it best appropriate. Kali stayed out of earshot, standing back respectfully, waiting for their conversation to end.

With a triumphant shout, Grimmik turned on his heal and began moving swiftly to Kali, his long, strong legs carrying him quickly to her.

Kali asked, “anythin’ I can do, Sir?” She looked up at him, Lae resting in the carrier Kali constantly had around her neck.

He glared down at her, correcting her pronunciation, before nodding. “Go find your weapon and shield. You need to practice harder, not out playing with the children. You may not have a strong connection with magic, but I’ll be damned if you won’t be of help to the Horde.”

She nodded obediently, bowing low before him, her hands rising up to hold onto Lae as she did so, and walked back to the camp with him.

“We’re going to be moving out, and we’ll need every man, woman and child to know to defend themselves in case our traveling party comes under attack. Humans are the main threat in this region, but there are other things as well. Train hard, or embarrass your family at your own risk,” he spat out at her, moving quickly ahead of her, Kali’s brisk walking pace unable to keep up with his.

She jogged slightly to stay close to him, arriving at the camp fire quickly, and rummaged through their family’s belongings to pull out a large shield that was much too heavy for her arm to hold comfortably, along with a larger axe. The shield was spiked, made of black iron, thinner than an adult’s, and slightly smaller, though not by much. The axe was made of the same iron. The blade was long, sharp and serrated, and it curved inwards at the center. The handle was of a thick wood, which Kali had dyed a red with the red clay of Hellfire, and her name was engraved deep into that wood.

She hoisted them up, Lae still resting on her chest and stomach, the mere weight of the three nearly dropping her to the ground. She grunted loudly as she rested the head of the axe in the sand, resting her arm for a moment. The grunt caused Grimmik to turn from his conversation with the imp nipping his heals, and his cold eyes looked over at her, his large brow furrowed in anger.

“Let the baby down, you don’t need to have her on you every second. She’s just going to grow weak and reliant on you!” he shouted, foaming at his mouth.

Kali grimaced at his words, and slowly let the axe drop. She then placed the shield gingerly into the marshy ground and slowly reached to her neck and untied the knot, struggling for a moment.

Grimmik rose from the ground, anger in his eyes as he stomped behind his daughter. He grabbed the tiny dagger attached to his belt and moved it swiftly to cut the material, the end of the blade nicking Kali’s brown flesh. She grimaced, biting down on her tongue so as not to shout. Her eyes filled involuntarily with tears, and she blinked her eyes rapidly to get rid of them. She looked at Lektu, who had walked beside Grimmik back to the camp. She was staring obliviously at the imp, completely ignorant of her daughter’s pain.

Grimmik lowered his blade to the rope that tied Lae’s carrier to her stomach, again quickly cutting it as well as her shirt, and quickly put the dagger back before walking over to continue giving orders to his imp. Kali whimpered, hugging Lae tightly before softly laying her down on a rock, far enough from Grimmik and Lektu that she could feel comfortable, and walked back over to hoist the axe and shield into her arms. She held them there for several minutes, getting used to the weight.

She moved slowly to a tree near Lae, leaning down and tenderly kissing her head before grunting and lunging at the tree. She hoisted the axe, looking for a point of the tree to strike at, whapping her axe into it once. She groaned as she attempted to remove the deeply imbedded axe from the tree bark, blushing angrily as she failed. She put down her shield and put both her hands on the handle of the axe. She struggled for a few minutes, rocking the blade back and forth before finally loosening it, and fell backwards into the marsh, the axe falling into the mud before her.

Kali cried out in anger, trying to ignore the pain of the slit on her neck, and hopped to her feet, glaring at the mar on the tree. She took in a deep breath, wiping the mud from her bottom, and grasping the axe tightly in one hand, leaving the shield on the ground for a moment. Though Kali was trained with weapons since a child, her musculature had faded with hunger. Her arms were scrawny, her ribs easily showed through her top, her legs were frail and weak, but she was determined. If nothing else, she was determined.

She gripped the tiny handle in both her hands, breathing deeply as she stared at the broken bark, swung her arms back, aimed, and moved the blade forward. She lacked balance, however, and teetered, her axe missing the tree altogether as she spun. She fell back into the ground, face first, with her blade held tightly in her arms above her head. She stood angrily, staring at the wood, wiping the mud from her eyes and mouth, and once again took aim. This time she hit, though not the same mar. She grunted in disapproval, shaking her body out and staring at the axe.

For the rest of the day, while the other children feasted and frolicked, Kali glared at the elusive mark, her body covered in mud and detritus, her arms weak with effort, her chest heaving with heavy breaths, practicing over and over again to swing and hit the mark. After she struck the same mark ten times in a row, she picked up the shield, held the axe in one hand, and tried again.

Night fell quickly and suddenly at the same time, the young orc’s eyes slowly adjusting to the lack of light, squinting harder and harder at the tree before finally, unable to properly concentrate, her stomach growling with hunger, Lae crying quietly behind her, they returned to the camp fire, plopping down exhausted in front of it.

Eating her fill and making sure Lae ate hers, she once again horded away some additional meat, blood and water for Grot, and snuck out to meet him long after her parents and clan fell asleep.

Grot had been watching the young girl with envy and love in his young, grey eyes. She tried, failed, and tried again, though her muscles failed her, and still she persisted. His body was scrawny, his muscles non-existent, just like her, but here she was, fighting with everything she had. He admired her, surely, and there was nothing he wanted more in this life than to please her and grow into the man she deserved. Even at such a young age, he knew she was special.

~~

The army marched. Though only a few of the Horde clans had come to Azeroth, they made the ground shake with their steps, the few ogres that had accompanied them swinging their newly made maces wildly around, the crowd grunting as they moved, hauling all their belongings with them. The Blackrock Clan was up front, led by Blackhand and his most trusted, followed by the Bleeding Hollow Clan and Twilight Hammers. They moved as one through the marshy lands, then further north into the lush, bright forests.

Kali and Lae stuck to Grimmik and Lektu’s side, walking in silence. Kali was too deep in her own thoughts and fears, her shield strapped to her back, her axe in her left hand, her right holding up Lae, and her body slumping under the weight. She was grateful that Grimmik had agreed to carry the backpack for the past few hours, her young body tired from the strain. The sun was warm and bright on the group, and their green bodies glistened with sweat while they sipped at their flasks. They’d stop along the rivers and pools they passed, filling their flasks and washing the moisture from their faces, a buzz of excitement in the air.

There was something wrong with the orcs that the innocent among them could sense, but most of the adults seemed oblivious to the lying and deceit of their leaders, or perhaps they thought they were too far gone to fix things. They cheered and walloped at Blackhand’s speeches and short succinct encouragements of their lust for blood.

After marching for a few weeks, they spotted their first human face-to-face; a voluptuous young woman with long, brown hair (Kali later found out), who was sitting at the river’s bed, found by some of the orcish scouts who were sent out ahead. They retold the tail with a great regale, making sure to mention how her eyes had widened in fear, how she childishly stumbled back into the water, and how her blood had been a bright red when their blades met her smooth, pink skin.

Kali winced as they told the story, their eyes flashing with their lust, licking their lips excitedly. They laughed and cheered at the news of the first human that had fallen at the hands of the orcish Horde, proudly showing off the meager belonging she had on her at the time of her death. They held her clothing and satchel, filled with books and silver scraps, a few vials of herbs, and a tiny skinning dagger. The items were all quickly snatched by Blackhand, and after a quick journey to the river where she laid, her body white with lack of blood, they shouted in triumph, filling their flasks with the water, and carried on.

Grimmik smiled sadistically at the body, tossing Kali back the backpack to carry, pressing his hand onto her head roughly. Kali usually wondered if her father had done the right thing, teaching her as though she were a boy. However, at the moment she saw the lifeless female body, her hair wet and matted with mud, she knew she needed to know how to fend for herself and those she loved, or else she might end up helpless and dead by a riverbank.

~~

As the weeks passed, more and more humans were spotted and killed. They ran into several small towns, storming into the small farming communities, and destroyed them, burning all the buildings to the ground. Men, women, children and animals all fell to the horde, and the more they killed, the brighter their eyes glowed and the more fervently they battled. They were feeding off the fear and anguish and power of battle, and the air was thick with the metallic scent of blood, clean sweat and smoke.

The Horde grew more and more confident in their abilities, picking off guards and towns as they passed them, descending on them as a wave. And still they walked north, their bodies grown hard and strong again from the abundance of food and battle. With every town they crossed, the weight in their packs grew heavier, their bodies stronger, their minds more focused on defeat. They set up camp in an area called Redridge, fortifying it and setting up guards around the area.

“This is where we ready ourself for battle!” Blackhand shouted as the clan’s set up their tents and fires. “The humans have fallen easily! They have proven themselves weak and frightened, and it’s time we made sure they knew that this land will soon be ours!” he shouted loudly, his voice strong, unwavering and proud.

Axes and swords and maces and bows were raised into the air by the men, hollering loudly in excitement. “We will march into their city! We will take what belongs to us and burn it to the ground!” He smiled sadistically, baring his large tusks, his face strong, its lines deep.

The group around Kali cried out a deafening shout, causing her to instinctively cover Lae’s ears and cast a quick look around the crowd for Grot. They had gone far enough from the portal that he wasn’t so concerned for keeping a low profile, but he still held back from the crowd, watching everything with those grey eyes.

Often times, Kali had wished that he had been born into her family, or at least clan, so they wouldn’t have to hide so hard. She missed his support at times when she was lost or concerned, and she knew Lae did as well. He was wonderful to the infant, often caring for her while Kali wasn’t able to, playing little games with her. Kali would sometimes watch the two playing, happy with the love and adoration he showed. She knew he would be a wonderful mate and father to someone one day, and she loved him for his tenderness.

She, on the other hand, had no plans for taking a mate. Staring up into her mother’s lifeless red eyes, seeing the welts on her face, staring up at her father’s angry face, the glare she often caught him giving all the women, she knew she couldn’t resign herself to such a possible life. She would care for Lae, teach her to be strong, and focus on her training. She sometimes heard the older women in her clan talking about how things used to be for the females, speaking of times where they were seen as just as strong and valuable as a male. Looking around at the males now, however, their eyes stained red, she knew it wasn’t like that now. There was something in their eyes when they looked at women that they didn’t get when looking at the males: contempt. Kali knew her father wished she was born male, and treated her as such, but she would always be a failure in his eyes.

They settled in for the night, the birds singing cheerfully as the sun curved lower to the ground, a beautiful reddish orange staining the sky. She watched it carefully as it curved lower and lower, the sky getting redder and redder. “Looks like blood…” she mused, lightly caressing Lae’s soft hair, twirling it between her index finger and thumb.

Grimmik looked at her, taking her face in for a moment before gruffly nodding and looking at the sky himself. Standing and dusting himself off, he grunted, “I’m going to get some more wood. We might be here for a while.”

She watched his back as he walked away, looking up to her mother, slowly scanning her profile, her strong jawline, her pointed green ears, her nose, her green skin, her slender neck. She had a few tiny marrs that looked like burn marks on her ear lobe and the side of her throat, her ears pierced several times over.

She then looked carefully at her nose ring, the circular piece of black metal through the center of her nose. “Will I ever get my nose pierced,” Kali asked, her voice quiet and low, not having been alone with her mother for a very long time.

“When you become a woman,” Lektu replied, her voice cold and empty of emotion, watching Kali from the corner of her eye for a moment, not moving her head, then looking back at the sky.

Kali looked back down at Lae, lightly running her finger from her forehead down her turned up nose, over her tiny little lips. “When am I a woman?”

“When you can bare a child,” she replied again, the same cold voice, not bothering to even look at Kali this time.

Kali let out a loud sigh, nodding, knowing that to push the point would be fruitless. She grabbed her axe and shield, standing. “I’m going to train,” Kali spoke, desperate for a response and not even getting a curserary glance. She stomped away, her beautiful blue eyes filled with annoyance and anger, quickly scanning for an area far enough from the group to train in peace.

Some say that children can sense when something is wrong, that they’re not used to the lies that adults tell one another, so they can more easily tell the truth from lies, and Kali was no different. She knew there was something wrong with why they were there, fighting and killing the weak and defenseless, and that there was something terribly wrong with the orcs. It was all the more apparent since the Frostwolves, the only clan that lacked the red glowing eyes, were exiled from the group as soon as they started their trek. Though Kali wasn’t close to anyone in the clan, or even knew many, she had heard stories of them and of the way their Chieftain had rejected the blood that the others drank from.

She was curious of them, more so than any other clan, but knew it was not her place to question the demands of Blackhand, the leader of the orcs, even if his right hand didn’t look fully supportive of the exile. The Frostwolf clan had marched ahead, escourted by some of Blackhand’s orcs, further north. No one was sure what had happened to them since they left, weeks ago. Kali fretted on it as she trained, thinking of her family and the land and what could possibly be so wrong with the orcs.

~~

The first attack on Stormwind was a disaster. Kali had stayed at the camp with some of the elderly and children, training and trying not to think about the battle that was happening. It wasn’t until several days after that they heard from one of the orcish scouts about the slaughter, his eyes wide and red, his face scared and bloodied, bruises about his head and neck. He told quickly of the defeat, of the human force being more powerful than they had expected, and of the deep fog that fell as they retreated. He hadn’t heard of the whereabouts of any of the leaders or orcs that escaped, though he had assumed the survivors would lay low for a few days until they were sure they weren’t being followed.

Those that remained in the camp quickly moved to action, packing up the camp, putting out the fires, trying to make it look as though this weren’t the resting place of a large army. They moved by night, scouts remaining in the surrounding trees to watch for the returning force to send them to the rest.

As the wounded soldiers began returning and telling of the terrible force of the humans, of how they were quickly pushed back, of the missing Gul’dan, Blackhand, Doomhammer, and the Bleeding Hollow’s own chieftain, fear quickly grew among those that remained.

Kali didn’t sleep for days, spending most of the time curled up in a tent, watched over by Grot. He held Lae as he coaxed Kali, looking every few hours for word of Grimmik or Lektu. She was far too young to be on her own, and though she sometimes wished of times without them, the fear of losing them overwhelmed her.

Finally, word reached the camp of what had happened, through the lips of Orgrimm Doomhammer. He rode a large steed into the camp, letting out a loud war cry and holding the head of Blackhand in his hand. A large gasp went through the crowd and Grot quickly ran to see what the excitement was about, holding Lae in his arms. His eyes widened as he took in the scene, quickly returning to rouse Kali from her reverie. The two young orcs stood side by side, their jaws dropped at the sight of the mighty Doomhammer holding their leader’s head. “Blackhand was corrupt!” he shouted to the crowd, gasps rippling through the group, their ability to speak hindered.

The orcs were now united under Orgrim Doomhammer.

~~

Lektu and Grimmik returned back to the camp a week or two later, their bodies wounded, some of the wounds already beginning to heal, scarring their green bodies. They didn’t speak for days, though Kali stayed close to their side as much as she could, sitting closer than usual to them, respecting their need for silence. Even Lae was quieter than usual, cooing quieter and less often than usual, not daring to cry out. She didn’t see Grot for days on end, though she missed him greatly. She needed to be near her parents, though. As poorly as they may treat her, she was still a child, and she needed them.

The news of Gul’dan’s coma hit them all differently. Kali widened her eyes in excitement when she heard the news, quickly trying to wipe the look from her face as she saw a solemn look cross her parents, both looking around suspiciously at others. It was a few weeks after their defeat at Stormwind that they heard of the discovery of an organization called the Shadow Council, and they only heard of it as Doomhammer proudly stated that they were no more. It was a powerful organization, he had found, that was controlling and manipulating not only Blackhand, but all orcs, and was controlled by Gul’dan.

He promised the crowd that the Horde would no longer fall prey to corruption and manipulation at the hands of such an organization again, raising his hands emphatically as he spoke, a cautious rumble of voices murmuring through the gathering. Lektu and Grimmik looked at one another, their eyes connecting in a way Kali was sure that there was some message being passed, though she had no idea what. Her young eyes looked back to Doomhammer, filled with pride and admiration, amazed at his strength, willpower and honour. She knew that this man would guide the orcs rightly, a man she could really envy.

He led the orcs back into Stormwind, and this time it fell. The Horde was freed from their manipulative peers, but the blood lust still swam in their veins. Kali stayed up late the night of the clan’s return, their bodies glistening with sweat, their voices excited and happy. They were to gather the clans, ready themselves for a full out war and move onwards, to the lands of the Dwarves, and with their newfound strength and unity, there was an electric excitement in the cool, otherwise calm air.

Kali, upon this news, finally sought out Grot who had become slightly more comfortable with the larger gathering of orcs, more and more arriving on foot every day. Other clans slowly started moving through the portal and north to Redridge upon news of Doomhammer’s acknowledgement of what exactly was going on within the Horde, and that they would need more forces to continue to triumph over the new land.

She smiled at him when she saw him sitting quietly by a small campfire, near to others, but alone. Strutting over to him, she plunked herself down close to him, holding his hand as a child would, looking at him. “He’s a good orc,” she smiled, watching Grot’s expression change from happiness at seeing her to confusion.

“Who?”

Kali smiled dreamily. “Doomhammer.”

Grot narrowed his eyes, watching her back. “I don’t know.”

Kali chuckled, shaking her head. “To single-handedly free us from Gul’dan’s reign? And to take out that stupid Blackhand?”

“I didn’t think Blackhand was so bad,” he countered, not sure if he believed it or if he just hated the idea of Kali liking another man.

She laughed, tearing her hand from his and punching him in the shoulder, “Shut up he wasn’t. Anyways, ya comin’ on the trek to the Dwarfs, right?”

“Of course, what else would I do? Stick it out here?” he replied, his voice low and serious, causing her to laugh again.

“Yer so serious all the time. I gotta go with Grimmik, but try to find me every couple days, ‘kay? Hate when I can’t talk ta you whenever I want.”

She grinned at her friend, her eyes wide and happy, her posture relaxed and at ease. Her clothing wasn’t so ratty as when they had first arrived, pillaging the human’s cloth and clothing, and she now wore a nice black top with matching pants, and shoes that covered her entire feet, though they looked a little too large and awkward for her. Grot was still in most of the same clothing, though Kali had swiped him an oversized shirt that went midway down his thighs.

He grunted, nodding, “dabu.”

She laughed, punching him again, standing and looking down at him. “An’ promise me you’ll try ta smile once every few days. Yer face is goin’ to stick like that soon,” she teased as she trotted away from him, back to her parents.

~~

For months the Horde gathered their forces within the southern lands of the Eastern Kingdoms, all the orcs training, researching, learning of the land and its inhabitants. Some of the more intelligent orcs studied the books that were retrieved from the library in Stormwind, reading the maps and making plans for battle, drawing out complicated routes and plans.

Kali trained hard, working to build her muscles in support of Doomhammer and those loyal to him, training herself in not only an axe, but swords, daggers and maces as well, always preferring to keep her black iron shield. She didn’t like maces so much as the sharp weapons, but she knew that one day, she may need to know to defend herself with nothing but a mace. Before, she trained for her parents and fear of their disapproval, but now she trained with vigor and excitement. While there was doubt in what they were doing under Blackhand, it disappeared with the introduction of their new leader. She listened intently to his speeches, the same childish look of delight and admiration on her face.

Her parents, however, were quickly becoming more and more disgruntled with Gul’dan still remaining in his coma and the young Chieftain heading the massive organization. However, Gul’dan’s slumber wouldn’t last for ever, much to Kali’s dismay. She didn’t know why Doomhammer hadn’t killed him, though she tried to push the thoughts from her mind. When Doomhammer made it clear that Gul’dan was to follow him and help the Horde, Kali was furious. Her recently built trust in him faltering, and her cheeks puffed up in anger when she saw the traitor walking around the crowd.

It was announced that the remaining warlocks would be allowed to follow Gul’dan under the banner of the Stormreavers, which Kali regrettably saw replace the banner of the Bleeding Hollow Clan on her parents. Her stomach lurched when they donned the new colours, sending one another one more silent message through their eyes as they changed, fervently returning to their study of the fel magics.

Still, with her new foundations of trust and hope once again shattered, she trained, her will power growing. The young orc female was growing more and more determined not to be like these adults. Their ways were confusing to her, their lies and deceit and actions against, what Kali saw, were honourable. Though she still admired Doomhammer, she resented him for, as she saw it, trusting Gul’dan again. The Horde around her grew strong, their bodies hard, their minds focused, their footsteps sure, their hunts successful, their raids even more so. They were a powerful, ever growing force, and they were ready to move.

The way to Khaz Modan was mapped, though not well, and as they walked, they got lost several times, following the still unfamiliar sky as best they could, toting with them as many maps and books as the strong force could muster. They had to leave very little behind as they walked for the Dwarven lands, their bodies sculpted and readied for the oncoming war.

~~

Kali curled into Grot, Lae between the two shivering children, and a ragged blanket of scrap clothing thrown over them. The moon was high in the sky, and the night animals squawked and growled, the sound of cracking sticks cutting into the crisp air. They shivered, Grot’s scrawny arms wrapped around the two orc girls.

They lay in the forests of Dun Moragh, days walk from the rest of the orc gathering, alone. They had left, escaping in the night, a small bag on each of their backs filled to the brim with everything they could carry ““ food, waterskins, a little bit of extra clothing, threads and needles and small knives. The three of them needed to escape, Kali figured.

They had conquered the dwarves, pushed them back and begun construction of boats, planning on moving across the world to the human capital. There was something strange, however. There was a familiar crackle of magic in the air that Kali thought she would never feel again. Her parents didn’t need to hide their demonic pets, or their fel magics. It wasn’t until Kali noticed Grimmik and Lektu looking a little more at Lae, becoming closer to her, physically, a little bit of black magic swirling around their fingers, that Kali decided they need to get away from her parents. She was convinced that they were losing their minds, their fights becoming more often and more violent, and that they were planning on corrupting her little sister.

Her infant sister. Kali could bare with the idea that her parents would try to taint her with their magic, but not Lae. She was barely old enough to walk, and the corruption… Kali hated to even think on what would happen to one so young touched by magic so foul. For the days after her realization, she planned, packing and squirreling away all she could, keeping Lae at her side as much as possible. Grot was adamant in his decision to come with her ““ after all, she was all he had on this world. And so, in the middle of the night, they took off running.

Kali was strong enough now to carry her backpack as well as a shield and a sword, and she maintained that it would be best to bring it. They didn’t know what they would run into in the unexplored Dwarven lands, and they might need to protect themselves. The sentimental value was much more to her. It was the one symbol she could bring with her of strength and honour, of something powerful, of something that could be obtained through hard work and dedication, of physical strength. She needed, more than anything, to feel like she had the power to protect Lae, and Grot, and herself.

The woods were hard to navigate, the trees high and green, the forest floor coated in leaves and detris, full of wildlife. Rabbits, wolves, and small birds were plentiful, and soon the both of them were hunting the local wildlife, to little avail. Kali took up fishing, though all she could catch were tiny, armoured fish that were tough to eat and cut their tongues.

For weeks they lived, rummaging from the land, eating everything they could find. Neither of them was very skilled at hunting the faster or larger, more fearsome beasts, but the small animals of the forest were cunningly caught, skinned and roasted over a small fire that consisted mostly of smoke. Slowly, Kali began to piece together the dried animal skins into a make-shift tent, but it grew too slowly. At first it was only big enough to cover Lae, but over time it grew bigger and bigger, until finally it was large enough to uncomfortably fit the three of them if tied to sticks.

~~

It was a bright and sunny morning, the birds chirping loudly in the trees. The rain from the night before left the air smelling fresh and clean, with a natural, earthy rich smell of soil. Kali rolled over in her tiny bit of dry land, protected by the tent, her rough backpack under her head. She smiled over at Lae as she saw that she was crawling around, her tiny legs growing more powerful each day.

She got up and crouched under the opening of the tent, coaxing her sister to crawl outside. A wide smile formed on Lae’s face as she proudly pounded the earth under her hands and knees, a tiny amount of drool bubbling through her lips as she murmured happy baby noises. Kali returned the smile and lifter her sister into her arms, making a tiny “ooph” sound. “Yer gettin’ heavy, li’l Lae,” she smiled. Both Grot and she had sacrificed more than their share of food and water for the youngest of them, always making sure that she was properly gaining weight and developing mass. If they didn’t take care of her, this was all for naught, after all.

Grot was an immeasurable help, able to make their tiny prey last for days, cutting it in such ways as to get the most meat possible, using every bit of the animal’s bodies besides the skeletons, which were buried in careful, tiny graves. Kali often mused to herself how Grot was so able to live off the land, as she saw him next to a small pool of water, baiting a hook. She smiled proudly at him as she watched him, his grey eyes narrowed in serious concentration.

“Mornin’!” she smiled, speaking cheerfully, even though her stomach ached and growled with hunger. Her body had been growing weaker, she knew, from lack of food. She spent most of her time training, trying to become more adept at throwing weapons or making traps, often failing at both. Her shield was growing slightly rusty from disuse, her arms once again only able to hold her weapon, though she was able to catch some of the slower animals in the area if she was cunning.

Her hunger, however, was making her cunning a little slower, her brain not so quick as it was when they were with the others and her body filled with rich food. “What’re ya doin’?” She sighed at his lack of response, plopping down into the soft soil next to him, forcing him to look at her.

“Tryin’ to catch some fish,” he sighed, his failure made known in his slumping shoulders.

“Here,” she offered, putting Lae on the ground next to her and holding her hand out for the makeshift pole, urging her on with her groping fingers.

He grunted, handing her the pole and sitting back on his haunches, looking across the pool of dirty water, the bright sun glittering on the surface. She busied herself with the wiggling beetle, hooking it through the metal and trying to press it further on, concentrating on it with a similar serious gaze as him.

“Where do ya think they are?” she whispered softly, not looking up from her bait.

He shrugged his tiny shoulders, looking at her for a moment before back across the water. “Maybe on to the capital city they were looking for,” he mumbled and she shook her head.

“Hasn’t been that long, has it?” she spoke, suddenly unsure of her words as she tried to count how many times the sun has set and rose since they left.

Looking up at her, he frowned, thinking himself, “I think… at least ninety…”

Her eyes widened, looking up from her bait, up at him. “Really?!” she exclaimed, not sure if she thought it should be longer or shorter than that. She looked back down at Lae, who was clapping, watching the shimmering water, then back at Grot. “What are we goin’ to do?”

They didn’t often talk any more, their days mostly quiet, trying not to draw attention to themselves. As well, both of them knew, very rarely would conversation be light and merry. He sighed at her words, not knowing any better than she what they could possibly do for the long term. “I don’t know, Kali. Just have to take it one day at a time, I suppose…” He frowned, looking at the still wiggling beetle on the hook, licking his lips slightly at the thought of food. Watching his eyes, she nodded, casting the line into the water, lowering her eyes to concentrate on if she felt a bite.

Lowering her voice again, nearly whispering, she asked cautiously, “think they’re lookin’ for us?”

Grot shook he head from side to side, his eyes still on her. “I think if they did at first, they stopped. Been too long.”

She nodded in cautious agreement, looking around the land. “We should probably move on again, just in case. Plus, might be better fishing in a bigger pool,” she grumbled, grunting as she tries to haul in a tiny fish on the hook, losing both the fish and the beetle in the process. She sighed dejectedly at him before grinning widely, “least I got it baited.”

~~

It was nightfall, and Grot could see the tiny oil lamps burning in some of the houses. He stalked in the bushes near the tiny Dwarven settlement, nothing on his feet at all, his legs bare and scratched from the bushes. He breathed quietly, moving around in the shadows, waiting for every last oil lamp in the town to go out.

As they dimmed, he moved into the town, his breathing getting a little more irregular, though he still managed to keep quiet as the thin orc stalked through the middle of the square, moving towards the larger house. Trying the door softly, he slowly pushed it open, the door squeaking only slightly. Quickly he moved in, shutting the door softly behind him, looking around and trying to get his bearings.

Luckily, most dwarven buildings were the same, and he took an instinctive right, groping for the wall to find where the stairs led down into the cellar. The floor above him creaked and he stood perfectly still, holding his breath as he waited, his sharp eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the dark. Once assured there was no one there, he gave another glance around, searching the darkness. Finding the stairs quickly, he descended, opening his pack as he did so. His hands were quick and quiet as he grabbed the bottles of preserved goods, the flasks of water and mead, the flour and sugar and oil.

Just as quickly as he came he was gone, his heart pounding in his chest as he made his way back to the forest. Another few hours to run before he got back to their current camp, he pushed himself on, his body barely able to keep him moving.

Kali greeted him with wide eyes and smiles, the sun rising on the horizon as he came back, dropping his pack to the ground and falling onto the rugged leather blanket they had made, cushioned with dry leaves. He panted loudly, his blood like fire pumping through his veins. Sweat poured from his body and Kali quickly ran to grab some water, pouring it over his face and into his lips, all the while hugging him affectionately.

Both of their stomachs growled in unison. The fish were disappearing quickly, and food was even scarcer in the last few months, the bitter winter cold still lingering in the air. Their stomachs were once more concaved, their bodies scrawny and sickly looking, their faces sunken. The only one who looked even the slightest bit healthy was Lae. She sat up proudly, watching the two, licking her lower lip in anticipation of the coming meal. She was quickly growing into a girl; her height had shot up several inches since they left and she was walking, able to easily get around. She didn’t speak much, but Kali and Grot both knew of her affections of them, and her clear understanding of their situation. She was quiet and obedient, just as she had been as a baby, and had quickly taken to fishing, though she rarely caught anything.

Lae was the light and joy of their otherwise bleak existence. The three huddled for warmth at night, three children keeping one another warm. As time went on, they became quieter, their youthful questions and dreams not seeming to need voicing any longer. They lived to continue living.

~~

“The orcs are comin’ back!” Kali screeched, frightened as she frantically started packing her stuff. They were weeks walk away from where the orcs path took them last time, but it wasn’t enough for Kali. Grot looked up from the water, confusion on his face as he watched her pack. Lae sat next to him quietly, her hand lost in his, looking much older than the child she was. All of them did. Their hair was all long and tangled, their bodies scrawny and malnourished, their clothes barely tatters.

Kali looked at them urgently, shouting the order for them to move, tossing all the things she could find into her bag and panting loudly. Grot stood slowly, off balance in the soft earth, and walked over to her on his bare feet, putting his hands on either one of her arms, forcing her to look at him. “Kali, what did you hear?”

Tears formed in her eyes for the first time in months, looking at him and trembling. “They’re comin’ back. Comin’ back through the Modan. Comin’ back, back, back!” She spoke as she bobbed, trying to emphasize her point.

He looked at her sternly, pulling her into a hug, holding his hand on her head. “It’s alright, Kali. They won’t find us.”

She sobbed in his arms as Lae came to her side, hugging onto one of her legs.

The three of them huddled, Kali shaking violently against the two of them until they coaxed her into sitting down, building a small fire, Kali’s face stained with tears. Grot looked over at Lae, who looked concerned, hugging her knees to her chest. He leaned over, whispering in her ear which elicited a small look of protest before she stood up, leaning down and kissing Kali’s forehead, then wandering off towards the water out of ear shot. Grot moved over, sitting next to Kali and holding her hand in his, looking at her, speaking low, “who’d you hear from?”

She frowned, looking back at him, “a Dragonmaw…”

He sighed loudly, looking at her. “I told you not to go near them. That’s going to get us caught, not the army,”

She nodded, frowning deeper, knowing he was right but still unable to stop visiting them. Her curiousity about the orc’s movements and conquests were too deep for her to forget. She had heard of the great battles of the Hinterlands and of Quel’thas, listening with excitement of the trolls, of Blackrock’s leadership, and shivering in terror as she heard of the Death Knights, of Gul’dan, of the capture of the red dragonflight. She retold the stories to Lae and Grot late at night around the fire on the nights that their growling stomachs kept them up, embellishing certain parts.

But the moment she heard of the movement of the orcs, back to Blackrock, and of the defeat at Capital City, she fled… leaving before the Dragonmaw could even get to the part of Gul’dan’s treachery and death.

The terror in her eyes was evident as she ranted on about the enemies they would face in Blackrock. The dwarves, the humans, the elves… all would try to trap them in their mountain, picking them off one by one. Then, the alliance’s search would broaden, looking to kill every last orc on Azeroth. Shivering against him, she once again urged him to leave and come with her, take Lae further into hiding.

“Kali… we’re starving here. We need the dwarven food to eat. We can’t get through a winter without it. If we go further from civilization, we’ll die a slow and agonizing death instead of a glorious one in battle.” He smiled at her softly, proud of the look of determination on her face, considering his words.

She nodded after a few moments, looking back at him. “You’re right. So we go to warn them… and if we fail, we go to fight,” she said determinedly.

He chuckled weakly, putting his arm around her and squeezing him to her. “What are three kids going to do… three starving kids, against an army?” he looked at her, clearly expecting an answer.

She sighed, her shoulders slumping, looking into the fire. “What are we goin’ to do?”

It had been a long time, months, since she last asked the question. The first time in as many months that she honestly didn’t know what to do. Grot, luckily, knew how to deal with an upset Kali and smiled at her weakly, pushing his fingers into his shoulder, grinning at her wickedly as he stood. “Come on, Kali. Bet I can take you down.”

Lae looked over from her spot at the lake at the raised voices, giggling girlishly to herself as Kali stood to the challenge, slightly taller than Grot, pushing his left shoulder with her fingers.

“Go!” he shouted, ducking his body and moving towards her stomach, arms outstretched. She laughed loudly as she jumped out of his way, holding her foot out in front of him. He laughed back, stumbling but not falling on her foot, turning back to face her as she repeated his move. However, he was laughing too hard to dodge her tackle and she landed roughly on top of him with a loud “ooph!” coming from both of them. Lae clapped loudly behind them, running over and jumping onto Kali’s back, hugging her tightly.

Grot smiled up at the two smiling orc females on top of him, unable to laugh, all his air gone from his lungs, throwing back his head in happiness.

They’d stay where they were, but Kali was determined to train in case she was needed.

~~

It was spring and food was bountiful. Berries and fresh meat were available for the catching. A small pig roasted over the spit as Kali watched it intently, patting the small animal next to her. She wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it was tiny and furry and cute, and Lae seemed to like it well enough. They all had to admit it was nice to have something else to visit them. They called the little critter Oshu, hoping that it would keep them connected to the orcs… to their history.

Spring wasn’t always as bountiful as it was this year, and the three orcs grew, their bodies becoming firm and healthy, their skin losing some of its sallow hue as they ate, living the best they could on what they could find. Kali and Grot were becoming adults, their bodies changing and growing, their tattered wardrobe no longer fitting them properly. Kali began to teach Lae to sew, and though the leather was difficult to work with and of poor quality, they were able to do all they needed.

Life wasn’t perfect, though. Though the three of them lived in relative comfort out in the wilds, living off the land, their brethren weren’t so fortunate. The Dragonmaw had all but disappeared from the area, small camps emerging here and there, and then gone the next week: moved or caught. The battle at Blackrock was long lost, the orcs pushed back into its walls, or worse.

Kali had overheard about the camps from the Dragonmaw months earlier. Kali, Grot and Lae picked up and moved often, again, every few weeks moving further along the lake, trying to keep their distance between them and the alliance, fearful of being caught or seen.

~~

Lae’s short legs pumped as she ran, her heart pounding against her chest. She, too, was growing and was now the same age as Kali when they first left the orcs, and certainly no child. Kali trained her hard with her axe, testing her strength, endurance and reflexes, and the very same had just paid off.

She nearly collapsed as she came to their camp, looking around desperately for Grot and Kali. She spotted them in the distance, and, throwing a few things into her knapsack, ran to them, hissing loudly in their ears, “they’re coming!”, her lower lip quivering as she spoke. Kali immediately jumped up, running and grabbing what she could, putting out the fire and tearing down the tent.

Grot looked down at Lae, trying to make his face not register his panic. “Are you sure, Lae?” he spoke, his voice now low and deep, no longer that of a child. She nodded eagerly, sprinting back to help Kali finish packing.

The three of them moved out quickly, their detris still on the ground near their camp, moving north as fast as they could. Oshu was squeezed tightly in Lae’s arms, his long brown ears hitting her chin as she ran, his nose sniffing at the unfamiliar smells.

For weeks they moved, terrified to stop, even as they passed through darker and danker forests, staying close to the rocky hills. They slept for three hours at a time, moving the best they could through the darkness of night, until they could no longer run. The dwarves, if they had ever found their settlement, had probably long given up the chase, but it was the only thing they could do in order to keep their minds at ease.

~~

Something was stirring in the human lands. Though the three had stopped running, they never stopped moving after their close call, always moving north. The trolls were north, Kali reasoned, and they might be able to lend them some aid in exchange for their own. They were far less venturous with their thievery, but their food and means of living were scarce. Grot, though taller and more noticeable, still moved quietly, able to slip in an out of the small human towns if he stuck to the outskirts, taking only the most vital things, trying to make sure not to leave a trail or, hopefully, even be noticed.

They were armed with a ragged map and compass, trying to follow their intuitions about where to best find these trolls. For months they journeyed before feeling the stir in the air. There was something there that they were not used to smelling in human lands ““ fear. None of them could understand any more than a few words of common, but the smell spoke to them strongly.

It wasn’t until weeks later they found out what was causing the stir. The orcs were freeing themselves. They could see the green flesh moving through the forests, far in the distance, but fear kept them at bay. The land around them was getting greener, fresher, the soil richer, the animals more plentiful, and with it came new hope.

~~

Kali, Grot and Lae sat together around a large bonfire, shared with them by other older orcs who all stared at them judgmentally, their red eyes dulled but with the same penetrating stare as they listened to their tale from the words of Grot.

“We had to leave,” he was saying, “so as to protect Lae here, to protect the future of our race.” He smiled proudly at the two of them, unflinching at the cold gazes of the Blackrock Clan. “And Kali, she wanted to go fight when she heard about Blackrock, but we were starved by then and didn’t know where to meet the orcs or even if we’d be welcomed. Then we heard about the camps, and were almost captured ourselves! So we kept moving, looking for the trolls, and heard that the orcs were being freed!” He smiled as he spoke, speaking excitedly, only touching on the most important points of his story.

They slowly nodded, one of the orcs at the side speaking in a low, gruff voice. “You heard right. The orcs are being freed, from both internal and external prisons. We have Thrall to thank for that.”

Kali looked up at him, confused, tilting her head to the side, “whossat?”

~~

The news of the death of Doomhammer hit Kali hard. She had just found out that the man she idolized had lived for all these years, and before she even got to see him raise his hammer in triumph once more, he had fallen, the young Thrall stepping into his place. She grieved deeply with Grot and Lae on either side of her, both having heard the love and admiration in her voice as she spoke of the orc that freed their people. Now, however, they had a new orc to once again free them, this time in a more literal way, and this time Kali was dedicated to helping. She was older, and though she was weak with hunger, she was stronger, harder, and able to be of great use to this new Horde, led under the mighty Thrall.

She listened in awe as the others told her of Thrall’s ability to once again call upon the elements. As children, Grot and she had only heard the quiet whispers of such things, as it had quickly been deemed treacherous to prefer the shamanistic means over the fel.

“Drek’thar taught him, I heard,” one orc named Rakshak spoke, his voice low. They sat around a small bonfire once more, the three of them old enough now to speak with the adults long after night had fallen. The air was sweet and warm in Arathi Highlands, still a buzz of excitement and happiness in the air. It was only a few weeks ago that Thrall had freed those in Durnehold, calling for peace between the humans. Though there had been very little fighting, Kali could sense from the other orc’s voices that they weren’t pleased with the idea and knew war would not soon be leaving the orc’s lives.

Kali raised her eyebrows slightly, looking to Grot, then back at Rakshak. “Drek’thar?”

He nodded gruffly, looking around the fire at the half a dozen sitting there, leaning in close and lowering his voice even more. “They say that he always regretted believing Gul’dan, and when Durotan died, I guess he must have started looking for another way.”

Kali leaned in closer, lowering her voice as well. “Durotan died? When?”

He shrugged his heavy shoulders, pulling back slightly and narrowing her eyes at her. “I didn’t bother asking.”

She nodded politely, not pushing the point. She squeezed Grot’s hand a little, exchanging a look with him. They weren’t children any more, long past the age that they could have been naturally fighting; they were adults in every right. Over the years their friendship had deepened and they held an important bond, able to read one another’s looks easily. He nodded to her, turning the corner of his lips up in a small, gentle smile, revealing his tusks.

She smiled back, her blue eyes flickering in the fire. Lae looked up at the both of them, leaning against Kali’s side. Kali grinned down at her, resting her arm over her shoulder and hugging her tight. The three men across from them spoke long into the night of fabulous tales of bravery in the last few months, though they rarely spoke of the last ten years. They could only assume that their prisons were worse than being alone in the strange wilderness, and the guilt they felt at their inability to fight back wouldn’t make things better.

The three curled up, smiling happily as they listened to the stories, falling into eventful dreams.

~~

They weren’t the only one with vibrant dreams that night, however. Thrall sat bolt up in his bed, panting heavily, large beads of sweat rolling down over his forehead. Turning to place his feet on the ground, he brought his powerful hands up to his head, struggling to catch his breath.

He walked slowly out of his tent, moving quietly into his closest friend, Grom Hellscream’s. Even the slightest disruption of the quiet caused Grom to open his glowing eyes, anticipation of a battle on the Warsong Chieftain’s face.

“Thrall, why are you here at such an hour. The sun has not yet risen,” he spoke quietly, his voice deep with sleep.

Thrall stood before him, pacing back and forth and retelling the vision he had of armies, fire, and the terrible warning of things to come.

“The voice was a prophet, I know it. He said he wasn’t what he seemed, but that he wants to help the orcs, that our only option was to move to a place called Kalimdor, across the Great Sea,” Thrall spoke reasonably, his voice steady and sure.

Grom looked at him, stunned, as he listened, running his hand through his dark, thick hair. “You’re sure it was a vision?” he asked, his throat cleared slightly of the heavy sleep feeling.

Thrall just nodded in response, watching the older orc carefully.

“Then we move the orcs to… wherever your vision means to send you,” he nodded, standing up and already preparing to move, his voice indicating that conversation was over.

~~

Grot moved slightly in his sleep, opening his bleary eyes and looking around. The sun had risen recently and the chirping of birds could be heard. The clusters of fires were nothing but ashes, small amounts of smoke still rising from some of them. He sat up and gently moved Kali off his side, resting a bag beneath her head and smiling as she clutched her fingers into it, mumbling softly in her sleep. He lightly rested his hand on her hair, rubbing it softly, watching the sisters as they instinctively moved to be closer to one another for the heat. It had been so long since they had been around other orcs, over a dozen years since they left, and in that time they had grown so much.

He loved the two girls, wanting nothing more than to protect them and keep them from harm. Moving his head down, he kissed each of their cheeks softly, standing and dusting himself off, looking around. Figuring he’d surprise them with a bit of food, he grabbed his skinning knife and fishing pole, and set out in the fresh morning air, humming softly to himself.

Sitting down next to a small pond, he expertly baited his pole, remembering the way Kali had taught him to put the beetle on without it squirming too much, dipping it into the water and relaxing as he waited for one of the tiny, bright fish to bite. Since he had heard of the elements returning to the orcs… or rather, a couple of orcs, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking of it. His dreams had been filled that night with swirling colours of the elements, caressing him and giving him the power to heal and protect his two friends, to take care of them as they journeyed. They were both destined for great things, he knew, and he would protect them on their way. He, too, would work to regain the trust of the elements.

Kali looked at him with wide eyes as he spoke, holding Lae’s hand softly in hers. The two females sat on the ground, looking up to their pacing friend, matching smiles on their faces. Were Lae a few years older, her hair a bit darker, they could be twins. Their blue eyes watched Grot’s pacing carefully, twinkling slightly.

“So it only makes sense. If the elements are, in fact, returning to the orcs, then it leaves me only one choice. Obviously, I’m no match for either of you in hand to hand combat,” he grinned, first at Kali, then at Lae, “so I should be able to help in my own way…” He trailed off as the two girls leapt up, tossing their arms around him.

Kali grinned as she pulled away, punching his shoulder playfully. “Damn right, Grot!” She smiled proudly at him, kissing his cheek.

Lae smiled, watching the two, the slightest hint of jealousy on her face as Kali kissed him. She pulled away, nodding. “It’s a good choice,” Lae spoke, her voice soft and sweet, looking up at the two admiringly, before turning and walking away.

Kali sat down, pulling Grot with her, looking at him sideways. “I think Lae’s lonely.”

Grot looked back at her, seeming a little confused at first, then looking away he nodded, thinking, “I noticed.” He sighed, holding Kali’s hand in his. “She feels left out… she’s so young.”

“Well, if it’s worth somethin’, hopefully she’ll find someone… now that we’re back with other orcs an’ stuff. Grot…” she trailed off, squeezing his hand a little.

“Hm?”

“Ya think we did right, takin’ her away?”

Again, Grot paused in thought, not looking at her. “Well… we felt your parents would use their power against her. With Gul’dan’s betrayal… I believe they may have.” His voice was deep and steady, even paced and calm.

Kali nodded slightly, leaning back on her free hand. “S’been so long. I can barely remember that day any more. All these years just seem ta have been so long, but ta have flown by an’ blurred together at the same time.” She looked over at him, scanning his face, “Maybe you’ll find someone here too, hey?” she spoke with a teasing grin on his face.

He returned her smile, shaking her head, looking slightly sad. “No…” he spoke simply, trailing off and looking back at the direction Lae had left in.

“So when will you start trainin’?” she spoke again after a long pause.

He shrugged his shoulders, thinking. “Well… I’ll start trying to open my mind, I guess, on my own. Just try to get rid of anything I might need to get rid of… I suppose once we finish what we need here, they will try to train more of us for battle.”

She smiled, looking a little nervous for a change. “Think they’ll train me?” The corner of her lips turned up in a small, hopeful smile.

It was his turn to punch her shoulder, grinning at her. “How could they not?”

Kali grinned wider, flexing the bicep of her free arm, watching it slightly. She had begun training on her own immediately after running into the orcs. Again her strength returned quickly to her with nourishment, and she was quickly becoming a strong, toned woman, her skin a healthy brown-green mix. Grot, though he ate just as much, remained thin, his body not built to be a warrior.

“I’m excited fer you, Grot. I think this’ll be a great thing fer you… fer us.” She squeezed his hand again, lowering her voice, “I’m here if ya need help.”

He chuckled, throwing his head back as he did so, nodding. “Dabu, Kali.”

~~

“Kalimdor?” Grot questioned, his eyebrow raised. Thrall was giving a talk about his vision and plan for the orcs. Kali and Grot stood to the back of the crowd, Lae between the two of them, her young face confused. Kali looked at Grot and shrugged, turning her attention back to Thrall, smiling proudly at the young orc that was leading them. He was a bright green, his body that of a warrior’s, not a shamans. His eyes were bright and penetrating, his expression usually serious.

“The Prophet spoke to me, and we will obey! It will bring us peace, and allow our destiny to unfold!” he exclaimed, his voice deep, with the same calm and thought out demeanor as Grot.

Kali remained undecided on Thrall’s call for non-violence against the humans. Though she had often wondered if what the orcs were doing when they first arrived was the right thing, they were desperate. To keep the orcs, chained and caged, to use them as slaves, to deny them food,” she couldn’t help but scoff at the idea of ever passing one and being peaceful to them. However, despite her difference in opinion, Thrall was the orc who had freed them. That earned her devotion, as well as Grot and Lae.

“You are our leader!” an older orc shouted in the middle of the crowd, his eyes a dull red, his hair almost completely grey. He raised his voice, causing others in the crowd to clap and holler. “Where you lead, we will loyally follow!”

Thrall smiled down at the gathering and nodded. “Then we move for Kalimdor in a fortnight. Prepare for the journey.”

Grot smiled at Kali, who returned his look, both of them looking as eager as children to begin their respective trainings.

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