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Nightmare: The Fall

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Orgrimmar had fallen six months ago, Thunder Bluff three, but a sizeable contingent of the Horde held out. Pushed back into Feralas, they'd gained the advantage in cover of the lush woods, with the skies screened by thick branches. For now, they held Camp Mojache and the eastern pass. The Alliance encroached from the northern pass and the west coast, but had so far incurred heavy losses trying to root out the Horde from their new stronghold.

Still, in a war of attrition, the Alliance would eventually win. And they knew it.

Xara trudged back to the camp. She was exhausted from a long, tedious watch shift, and it showed in her sluggish movements and her drawn face. Gone was her flashy gold armor, replaced by utilitarian camouflage leather, and her bright red hair had been dyed a murky brown as well. She raised a hand to brush the dulled strands out of her eyes and sighed.

The camp was a low hum of tired anxiety. At the crude gates, the posted soldiers nodded to her in respect. She gave a weak smile and a vague wave in return as she passed by. Despite everything she'd contributed since the start of this, she didn't feel like she deserved the status she held. Not when she felt like this.

Fhenrir was in a conference with the other generals. She sank down at the bonfire to wait for him. Nearby, a couple of grunts were conversing in low tones. They didn't realize she could hear them, or just hadn't seen her approach.

"...cuttin' down to half rations," one of them was saying, a tauren. "How are we supposed to fight when we're starvin' to death?"

"What, do you think we should raise the white flag? Throw ourselves on their tender mercies?" The other, an orc, barked with bitter humor. "You heard what they did to Baine. Best grunts like us could hope for from them is..." He drew his finger across his throat. "Something quick."

The tauren shuddered. "Long as they don't feed me to her... Might be better than this."

His companion punched him in the center of the chest, suddenly angry. "Listen to you!" he said. "Whimpering and whining like a dog! Are you not Horde? Victory, or a glorious death you should welcome!"

"There's nothing glorious about being backed into a corner and starved out," the tauren grumbled. "If the Warchief told me to take up my axe and charge the enemy, I would... but I haven't gotten that order, have you?"

They walked away, still talking. Xara stared into the bonfire. Vol'jin was cautious, concerned with the preservation of the Horde, not glory. But most of those that had sought a glorious death had already found it by now. That left the rest of them, just trying to find a way to survive.

Xara knew a sinking ship when she was on one.

The murmur at the tent behind her increased as the meeting concluded and the generals started to come out. Xara pressed her lips together, then rose to her feet and turned to find Fhenrir.

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Baine is dead. He held out fighting for Thunder Bluff until the very last moment, and when all hope was lost he held them off while the rest of us managed to fall back. They carved him into a mantlepiece like the disgusting savages they are.

Sylvannas is gone. As soon as they caught wind of Orgrimmar falling to pieces, the Undercity was abandoned. We don't know where the Forsaken have gone, but the majority of them turned out to be as trustworthy allies as you could expect. We last saw the Forsaken marching toward the Caverns of Time; we can't find out why they went there, but we know they're gone and we know it's now being guarded by the Alliance.

Thrall is too busy pretending at hero to care about the Horde any more. The shaman who watches out for the world, except for us, apparently. He's taken a neutral position any time he's been petitioned for aid. He's about as good to us as Baine's stuffed corpse now.

Lor'themar has distanced himself and most of the Blood Elves from the Horde. Whispers indicate he's been petitioning the Alliance leaders for a truce. All signs point to the elves rejoining the rest of the Alliance and happily mowing us down to make room for the more 'dignified' races. I never did trust them.

Gallywix took off, no surprise there. He and the goblins mergered back into the wider range of goblins, who are all now mostly serving in an alliance of convenience with the Alliance. The Pandaren followed suit, wanting to be reunited with their families more than they wanted to be murdered by bloodthirsty humans.

What we're left with is a ragtag group of holdouts you'd expect to win in the children's stories and the legends. But the reality is no match for a legend, I'm afraid.

We are bleeding, wounded, and desperate. We limp backward day by day in a pathetic bid to ensure nothing more than our own continued survival. The Alliance butcher any settlement they come across - most of our children are dead, the rest living sheltered and pathetic excuses for a childhood while being trained to hold a spear as best they can.

The Horde is dying, and we are dying alone.

"We need to go on the offensive!" barked one of the other generals. I wasn't paying attention to who. "Morale is in the gutters. We need a victory!"

"We won' get a victory wit' an assault," Vol'jin responded in that calculating tone he always used. "We'll only see more death."

"We're starving out there," another voice pleaded. "At least bolster the hunting party's numbers. We need to eat - these half rations are doing more damage than swords or arrows ever could."

"An' guarantee an unprepared defense for da next assault? We can't do it."

"Time is running out. We need a choice, Vol'jin."

"What we need is a leader like Garrosh! There was an orc who knew how to get things done!"

"You're an idiot! Garrosh killed Cairne."

"If only Cairne OR Baine were still here."

"You're all wrong! I'll lead us to victory!"

"Be quiet," Vol'jin demanded, and the noise died down. "Ah'll have words for de camp tomorrow. It be time for a little action," he acquiesced to the group. "Dismissed."

I said nothing as the restless leaders remaining in the war council filtered out of the tent, leaving me standing across the table from Vol'jin. The troll watched me with a sad expression. I was one of the most battle-hardened survivors, and he always appreciated my input.

"You made the right call," I agreed after the group was gone. "Because inaction will kill us."

"You're right, Mon." Vol'jin crossed and placed a hand that felt sadly familiar on my shoulder. "Let's just hope de Alliance don't kill us first."

Vol'jin walked out and left me alone with the war table. I looked down at the giant swathes of blue territory, and the little bits of red were getting harder and harder to find. Even the formerly neutral holdouts in Booty Bay, Dalaran, Shattrath, were unreliable territory now. It felt like the centaurs encroaching all over again, but there wasn't going to be an army of orcs sailing in to save us this time.

I took a deep breath, and did my best to put on a hopeful face for Xara before I left the tent to go find her.

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