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[[ The next, less dour, chapter following Grief. ]]

The zeppelin flight from Tirisfal to Orgrimmar had left Khorvis covered from head to toe in kodo vomit. Bes'thra, the orc's trusty mount for the many campaigns since the Horde landed upon Kalimdor's shores, was having none of the early spring turbulence patterns that gusted 'round the Maelstrom. Despite Khorvis's best efforts to placate the wailing beast, wave after wave of partially digested dehydrated dwarf meat (as was her favorite) splashed through the Thundercaller's hold.


Considering the unruly headwind and the extended trip, Khorvis emerged from the Skyway's lift in a mood foul enough to sour springwater. The Voidcaller which had lingered about the Harbinger since his return from the Shadowlands ghosted beside Edgar, who scampered by his master's side with Bes'thra in sickly tow, making pitiful soothing motions only to be swatted at by a meaty fist.

"Stop it! Just bloody stop!" the orc yelled, completely losing his temper. "I just do need a moment to think! Hands to yourselves!" Boneslave recoiled in fear, retreating to Bes'thra to check the kodo's harness and straps which secured the majority of his master's worldly possessions. Given the age and condition of the creature, it was unlikely that she was any longer suited for combat. A beast of burden and the caravan would be her retirement.


Khorvis watched the elevator ascend away and sniffed the air of Durotar. Chilly, and with the same sweaty musk that soaked the old timbers of the capital, albeit quieter now that the bulk of the war machine was engaged on the Broken Isles. A few peddlers wheeled their carts down the path into The Drag.  A rogue wind blew a whirlwind of dust along the same road, and Khorvis, giving in to what was either habit or instinct, followed.

The early morning sounds of Orgrimmar's less desirable quarter were familiar to the orc. The clanging of the scrapper's hammer, irregular in the haze of a hangover. A shouted quarrel between a domineering warrioress and her browbeaten mate. The leather hawker's barking, overselling what were clearly the under-tanned hides of sickly gazelles. All of these noises harangued over the constant creak of the shade sails which hung at the canyon's crest.

Ignoring the wastrels, Khorvis marched onward along the curving path. These cretins that holed up in Orgrimmar's cliffsides were to him nothing but cowards. The aged and the children were to be forgiven, for they would only be dead weight in the war against the Legion, but many of those still rotting in The Drag were orcs, trolls, and goblins in their prime. In his life before the Grim, Khorvis would have been counted among them, were it not for the wise urging of a wily troll. Their selfish stench now disgusted the veteran.


The caravan and the gust of wind came to a stop at a small pool near Nogg's machine shop. With the spreading of tiny waves and fleeing muddy crawfish, the dustdevil subsided, leaving the orc and his band without a guide. Edgar led Bes'thra to the water's edge with an uncanny gentleness to let the kodo drink her fill. Harumphing, Khorvis sat his own self down upon the dock to consider his next move.

The Voidcaller - Khorvis would need to designate a name for the minion if it refused to depart - caught up with the party, its arms overflowing with scrolls and inks. Clearly it had been to the Mighty Pen to patron the great scribe, Zilzibin Drumlore, to procure what the elemental assumed its old master would require. Khorvis only grunted and gestured towards Bes'thra. Drumlore would likely be sending a blighted invoice for the lot, but he had too little energy to scold the shadowling.

Instead, Khorvis gazed into the pool and thought back to the words he had exchanged recently with Elder Duskheron...


The Taureness sat at the Filthy Animal's bar, nursing some Vry'kul-brewed swill. She explained her understanding of her relationship with the elements.

"They are your guide. I let the waters mend our comrades, as that is what their blood is mostly made of." She seemed thoughtful. "Though I suppose there is a little bit of each element within us. The air of our breath, the earth in our bones. And the fire in our hearts."

Khorvis seemed skeptical. "You call them guides, these elementals. Why not command them properly as subordinates? Would this not be more efficient in battle?"

Elder Duskheron chided the orc, explaining, "Do you not trust your axe in battle, that your swing will be true thanks to training? Time. Practice. Patience. With these things, you will grow into your own power."

The truth of it dawned upon the orc in a flurry. "Ah, I do think I now see. The blademaster trusts in his sword when it do be cared for. When he knows that the smith worked his forge in earnest and tempered an honest blade." Khorvis went on to describe the leadership methods of Warchief Doomhammer during the Second War, and Duskheron cordially nodded along, her muzzle smiling behind her mug of ale.

The night drifted on, the two exchanging thoughts on the nature of command, until they were both summoned to the Nighthold, to serve the Mandate.

Khorvis's reverie was disturbed, as was the pool's stillness, by a great splashing. A quaking goblin was screaming with both hands outstretched. Her palms were ripped and bleeding, the culprit being immediately obvious having flounced into the small body of water after tearing the reins away from his handler.

A massive war wolf thrashed and shook in the weedy waters, spraying all of the onlookers with scummy waves. The Kor'kron of Garrosh Hellscream had been cruel masters, bedecking the proudest of wolves with armor that would break the backs of lesser creatures. A great many of the beasts had needed to be put down at the close of the Siege, so abused had they been by the traitor Warchief's dark shaman.

Not this specimen. Unruly and full of vigor, the wolf howled and stared a direct challenge at the soaking Bloodstar. Its grey coat glistened in the morning light of An'she, filtered through the massive tree at The Drag's center. Fully armored in the bone raiment of the Kor'kron, the alpha presented a fearsome visage.

Khorvis was no stranger to the training of these murderous mounts. An overzealous flog could whip itself to a nub against such a proud beast, while a timid hand would be torn from its owner's limb in a snapping second. This one required a firm hand to guide it. To direct its vicious nature into a strategic outlet. He approached, palm outstretched unyieldingly.

Willful Heart, or Mash'rogahn as Khorvis would take to calling the worg in the days that followed, inched forward to sniff the orc's flesh. It was in that instant, soaked in pond scum and rank with kodo vomit beneath the shade sails of The Drag, that a powerful connection was awoken between Bloodstar and the wolf. It stretched back in time, to the early days of the Horde, a commitment to principles of loyalty and honor, bound in blood and an indescribable lust for the wild reaches of one's nature.

In the present, the gobliness continued screaming at the vile-drenched orc who was stealing her prized worg. "BLAHHH!!! What do you think you're doing, you lout!" She tucked her lacerated palms beneath her armpits and hopped up and down in a fury. "If you wanna canoodle this blasted fleabag, you can dang well pay for him!" The handler had obviously had enough of caring for the war mount, given the state of her agitation. "But I won't part with Shmuggles for cheap...!"

Khorvis, his fingers already in 'Shmuggle's' mane, scratching the great worg's neck, considered the beast. Bes'thra was past her prime, the journey across the Great Sea had made quite clear. He would require a proper mount to continue his journey - whatever the fel The Commander had meant - and the coincidence of an encounter with such a wolf beggared belief.

"I will take him." Bloodstar responded succinctly. Edgar sent the goblin handler on her way with a pouch of gold coins that left the woman blessedly speechless. Shmuggles pawed cheerfully in the pool with his gigantic pads while Khorvis adjusted his harness. He paid careful attention to the worg's movements, accepting that the spirits had brought to him so obvious a furry guide.

"Water it do be, then... Shmuggles...hrmph." Khorvis growled under his breath as he mounted the worg. "We do need to amend this name of yours. It do be an embarrassment." Shmuggles only whined in response, his coat bristling. He had grown thoroughly bored with The Drag and was ready to explore other paths.

"Right you do be. If there do be one place that I know to find strange spirits, it do be the headwaters of the Southfury RivE-!" Without Khorvis finishing his sentence, the Kor'kron war wolf charged off towards the Western bridge. "Gah!" Bloodstar exclaimed as Edgar and the rest struggled to keep pace. "A willful heart you do have!"


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Chapter One - The Southfury

Part One

Khorvis slid down from the back of the war wolf, wincing and bending over a fist clutched to his stomach. The old wound given to him by that Sanctuary wench throbbed and ached after the tumultuous galloping across Orgrimmar's western bridge. Up the edgewaters of the Southfury the party had raced at a breakneck pace, chasing the slobbering jowls of their new lupine companion. Only after a mad league did Shmuggles relent, stopping to pant and gorge himself upon river water.

The aged orc glanced quizzically at the Blackrock dagger hanging from his belt, the same blade with which Shokkra had tickled his gut. He could have sworn to the ancestors that the woman had stolen it from him. One day he would need to interrogate Boneslave as to how the putrid knight came to repossess the dagger. For now, Khorvis was content to pat the wolf's mane and catch his breath.

"I do think we will call you Mash'rogahn, boy." Khorvis felt the shoulder muscles of his mount flex with pride. "Willful Heart, which you clearly do own." The warrior's right gauntlet clenched in a fistful of fur. The Hand of Ashran was a vise and before Mash'rogahn could react, Khorvis shoved the wolf's entire head beneath the river's current. Great thrashing and gurgled howls shook the embankment, but the orc was as immovable as an ancient knotty ironwood. Mai'kull's voidcaller darted to and fro in a dash of worry, uncertain of what this mad orc was trying to do, but Edgar only stood stupidly with his mouth agape, admiring the strength of his master.

"You must learn who do be the alpha of this pack," Khorvis growled as the scrambling of paws grew more frantic. The water was frothing with silt as Rogahn's snout dug into the riverbed. "If you do wish to be fed and rest your head within my den, you would do best to acknowledge your place, runt!" As the air ran out in the wolf's lungs, a realization came to the fore, along with a shiver and then the touching of a grey belly to the earth with bent legs. The Hand released.

Mash'rogahn wrenched his soaking head from the Southfury and laid down before Khorvis. Whimpering and heaving out no small amount of riverwater and mud, the war wolf kept his snout to the earth and looked up at the orc through his great big sapphire eyes. Khorvis did not fail to notice that the beast's tail continued to wag, belying any masquerade at hurt.

"There now," he said almost gently, as if he had not just nearly drowned the animal. "Did that be so bloody hard?" Khorvis stood up, letting the wolf's sweat and river's muck drip from his mechanical prosthetic. "What do you say we all enjoy a calm walk to the North... aye, Bes'thra‽" He shouted at the old kodo which was just now catching up. The burdened matriarch displayed a lack of enthusiasm for her new role and could only muster a decidedly annoyed grunt as she passed the party.


The Southfury River churned between the barrier cliffs of Orgrimmar and the Mor'shan Ramparts as it had since the Sundering. An'she's afternoon rays played along the spray of the rapids which misted the water-worn rocks. Lichen clung to the shaded areas, tinting the shadows green. Where the banks had withstood the pressure, rough granite provided purchase for gnarled cedars and spruces to thrive.

Khorvis let his gloveless left hand run over their furrowed bark, enjoying the familiarity of the terrain and the closeness to nature. The little spaces caught his attention, the small crevices where life took root and tiny rodents burrowed. For a moment, Khorvis had the odd sensation of seeing through his empty eye - not viewing the living world as it was, but as if time were quickly passing. The life cycles of the lizards sunning themselves upon the warm rocks, their skin curling away and leaving behind sun-bleached bones. Embankments fell away into the waters below, carrying with them pines which quickly shed yellowing, dead needles mid-plunge. An aged Tauren paddled down the river in a roughly hewn canoe, a young Brave standing at the craft's bow. As the Brave turned, the Elder had lain against the stern and ceased breathing. The Brave, now turning grey and frail, cast a white linen cloth over the bones of his ancestor. They both disappeared behind a rapid.

Fiercely blinking, Khorvis dispelled the image, and the world righted itself into the lazy afternoon through which the little caravan meandered. These visions were becoming more common ever since his return from the Shadowlands. Uncertain of their origin, though he suspected the infection of his eye wound, Bloodstar made a mental note to bring it to the attention of the next Elder with whom he spoke. For now, the river babbled  along mundanely.

Part Two

It occurred to Khorvis that his troop neared the ruins of the ill-fated brewery that he had abandoned some years ago. After crossing an aged stone bridge, likely of Kaldorei make, to the Azsharan side, they slowed their pace. Khorvis listened closely to the woodland sounds and scanned the bases of the pines. Edgar flanked to the right, wraithwalking between each elongated shadow. Above the warbling of the swallowlings and the swishing of the river, sarcastic laughter could be heard between what sounded like two orcs.


Entering the brewery site's main clearing, the party came to the wide dilapidated and overgrown foundation, once intended to support the sizable facility's main building. Between the weather-worn granite blocks quarried from the nearby cliffs crackled a small campfire. A gnarled orc hunched on a log, prodding the pitiful embers with a metal rod. Scarred across the face with a nasty burn that had failed to heal properly, Grik'nish spat into the weeds through a twisted snarl. Once a dark shaman loyal to the fallen Warchief Hellscream, the fugitive orc appeared to have fallen upon hard times, if the gauntness of his face and state of his armor were of any indication.

A clatter of logs punctuated the precarious mood of the clearing. Towering eight feet tall and helmetless, Oggok Ug’throk stared imposingly at Khorvis and his company, having dropped his armful of kindling. Grik'nish's head snapped up at the noise, his feral black eyes narrowing at the sight of strangers.

"Nish. Company," Ug'throk bellowed in his deep bass. The dark shaman was already getting to his feet, cursing and scrambling for his cudgel. "Who in the name of Thrall's hairless nads... did they track us from Ogrimma-!"

"Bloodstar?!" wailed Grik'nish. Khorvis had come to a halt, leading Mash'rogahn by the harness. Huffing and shaking her tusks, Bes'thra paused at the side, her shadow covering a skittish voidcaller. The Lasher curled the edge of his lip in a grunt that exposed both a tusk and a sickening sense of disgust for his find, as when one lifts a stone to reveal a colony of venomous centipedes. Beyond the guttural bark and a pair of crossed arms, Khorvis provided no other reply.

A sucking of mud resounded from Grik'nish's boot clomping forward in the residue of spring's melt before the orc halted with hesitation. He glanced at his oversized partner and made a hasty motion. "Well. Ain't this a fancy surprise." The screechy worm spat again, this time with unnecessary emphasis. "Last we did see your nasty arse, it was covered in rotter guts while you lost your damn mind!" Despite his brave words, the shaman's only remaining ear laid back against the thinning hair of his skull.

Oggok tried to mirror 'Nish's obscene smile but only managed to look like a fool as he flanked the Grim warrior. "Zug zug, boss. We thought you was gonna be a deader too." The giant kept his hands raised, purposefully showing that they were empty. It would matter little - those huge paws could crush a Halfhill melon as quick as an eggshell.

"Aye, I did be dead, gone, and returned. No thanks to the two of you fools," riddled Khorvis. "Seeing how you both do still be dirtgrubbing and drawing breath, you might count yourselves fortunate that I do not flay you both on the spot for your cowardice." The warrior patted the dagger at his belt. "I do think it would be best if you moved along..." His two boots were planted squarely apart.

Grik'nish had a brow covered in sweat as he waved his hands and tried to placate his surprise guest. "No! ...No reason to be so pussin' hasty, brother!" The wind began to pick up, whipping the tops of Azshara's pines. "We just ah - was thinkin' about that payment you promised! Remember the gold you said you set aside for the Tirisfal job?" The grin plastered on the orc's face was about as real as the palm tree in Everlook's tavern - the eyes were always a giveaway.

Oggok Ug’throk charged first. The huge orc would have crashed into Khorvis had Edgar not taken that moment to shadowstep above the melee and drop before Ug'throk's face with a gap-toothed grin that sent the pair cartwheeling past Bes'thra in a tumble of bones and muscle. Bloodstar's sidestep also avoided a windshear flung by Grik'nish that split a fir tree some few paces to the rear.

Khorvis huffed and drew his Blackrock dagger, set to gut the upstart shaman on the spot. "Stupid choice, you goatsucking peon. You forget your place - and the second chance I did give yoUR-!" His taunt was cut off as his chin clipped the earth. Ropey roots shot out of the ground and snaked their way around Khorvis's ankles, trapping him prostrate and defenseless. No matter how hard he struggled, the tendrils only constricted more tightly, wrapping upwards and threatening to cut off his windpipe.

A baleful cackle arose from the throat of his adversary. "Not so tough without your whip, are ya 'Griiiiiiimey'!" Grik'nish licked his lips and stalked towards a Khorvis that was gasping for breath. The mace smacked menacingly in the shaman's palm. "No, as much as I wish I could make ya suffer, you're just too fuckin' dangerous to let loose. Mad dog!" He giggled, raising the cudgel over his head, ready to bring it down in a crushing blow upon Bloodstar's cranium. "Mad dog! Put 'em down! Put 'em GAH-!"

Grik'nish's scream was silenced as Mash'rogahn's maw collapsed around his throat. A sickening crack resounded throughout the trees as the wolf tore out the orc's larynx, spraying gouts of piping hot lifesblood across the granite foundations of the brewery. Two great paws pinned Grik'nish's shoulders to the trampled weeds as the beast shredded what remained of the orc's neck, until a triumphant snout arose clenching a limp head tenuously attached to a broken spinal column.


The ropey roots dropped inanimately from Khorvis's body. He scrambled to his feet, regaining his footing while taking in the gory splendor that Rogahn was enjoying. Bloodstar had seen the most brutal of close combat between hated enemies, whether they were orcs or humans, but this primal evisceration presented a spectacle too gruesome to celebrate. Backing away, fully cognizant that the shaman was beyond anything resembling life, the Blackrock dagger and its owner sought out the grapple between Boneslave and the giant.

Edgar had tried to toy with the great oaf. Slipping between the tree-shadows, the deathknight managed only to infuriate Oggok - by the time Khorvis arrived, Boneslave's neck was pinned by a bulging bicep. Edgar's hacking laughter served only to disguise his Master's approach.

Khorvis dug the fingerpads of the Hand of Ashran into Oggok's eye sockets and yanked the orc's head backwards. "I do think you should have kept running, coward." Unceremoniously, the Lasher dragged his dagger across the Kor'kron's neck. The skin split and forth spilled a river of what Bloodstar should have undammed several years prior. Oggok Ug’throk's head slumped forwards, taking with it the vengeance of untold  innocent lives.

Wiping the gore upon his leathers, Khorvis let his gaze sweep over the unsteady ensemble of limbs called Boneslave before attending his new mount. Mash'rogahn was licking his chops gleefully. A stark contrast could be drawn between the spray of red ichor decorating the worg's silver mane, yet Khorvis could only feel a sense of relief at seeing the living health of his newly adopted brother. 

"Mash'rogahn, you do have a warrior's spirit within those foolish bones," Khorvis muttered as he scooped the sweetmeats from Grik'nish's shattered skull. Upon the wolf's panting snout and brow he painted the orcish runes of strength and alacrity. "This day we together we have charged into battle. Let this be your Om'riggor."

Were Khorvis a more sentimental orc, he might have embraced the wolf. Instead, Azsharan sunset would be content to sparkle in his wet eyes.

Edited by Khorvis
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