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The Blue Hunt

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“ gray it’s almost blue, so they call it the blue wolf.”

Vilmah blinked once and shook her head, lost in her own thoughts. “Sorry, can you repeat that?”

The Frostwolf grinned at her with a mouth full of white teeth, her bottom canines impressively large. They pressed into her cheeks to create dimples, far deeper than Vilmah’s but no less similar. Tiny designs engraved in her tusks reminded Vilmah of the troll totems she’d seen on Azeroth, and it distracted her for a moment as she considered how different their cultures were, yet how many similarities they shared.

Most of the other clan members did a double-take when she entered Wor’gol, though a few remembered her from less-than recent battles on Draenor, when many adventurers came and went. This one, “guura kad dok mara” the “one-armed green runt”, came to Wor’gol covered in scars that went deeper than her flesh. She remained longer than the others, helping the Frostwolves as they healed her with the culture her late mother could not share on Azeroth. She fought with the ferocity of an injured wolf, something the clan understood. It was not often that the Azerothian orcs made their way back to Draenor these days, so her presence was news. Tuyya was more than happy to greet her, having been aided by Vilmah the first time she stepped into their village. The ‘Warboss’ seemed better now, well muscled and clean, her eyes clear and bright in spite of the horrors witnessed throughout the years. It was no wonder she came to Draenor to clear her mind. “Welcome back, guura kad dok mara!” she said with a grin, as if this were an honorable title. These days, Vilmah didn’t take offense.

“You’ve got a head full of thoughts,” Tuyya noted playfully, nudging the smaller greener orcess’ shoulder with one hand. Noticeably, the Frostwolf made it a point only to touch her right shoulder, far away from the metal monstrosity on Vilmah’s left side. “What brings you here to hunt, anyway?”

It was a good question, but one that the Warboss wasn’t keen on answering in detail. “A friend of mine is injured. I was feeling a little restless, now that the Legion has been defeated. I thought maybe a hunt could clear my head, and he’d appreciate a new fur.”

“To keep him warm on cold nights I imagine,” the Frostwolf said knowingly, smirking. Tuyya was nothing if not forward and her frank nature made it easy to talk too much. Just inside of Wor’gol, she and Vilmah stood near a large fire that illuminated the bright hazel eyes that the smaller orcess looked to for guidance. They were the same age, and yet this was exactly how she remembered her mother. Tuyya stood a half head taller than she did, with a broad frame and thick black braids. She even remembered her tusks, though those memories were clouded with fear and hunger.

Except this Tuyya was most certainly not her mother. This Tuyya was well-fed, bold, eager for adventure, and had no qualms about discussing her own courtships with the new one-armed member of their clan.

“Well, he’s bedridden right now,” Vilmah said awkwardly, rubbing the back of her neck as it prickled from the cold. Mentally she kicked herself for being so stubborn about her Blademaster attire, the bare skin of her shoulders and torso visibly reddened by the cold weather of Frostfire Ridge. “I just wanted something to cheer him up when he wakes, and I figured a fur from Frostfire would do the trick.”

“A generous endeavor,” Tuyya noted dramatically. “Furs like this aren’t usually given to subordinates, ‘Warboss’.”

“He’s my shaman,” Vilmah specified.

Tuyya paused in her teasing and pursed her lips. “..ah. Well, this will be an appropriate gift, then.”

“You said he was grayish-blue?” Vilmah asked, hurriedly returning to the subject of the hunt. Both hands clutched her sides eagerly, though her mechanical one noticeably had a looser grip.

“Yes, it seems some of your less than lucky adventurers from Azeroth left their wolves here when they perished. They’re not from our world, but they bred with our worgs and created some ugly monstrosities,” she chuckled. “Mixed breeds. You need to watch out for those ones the most.”

Vilmah’s lip twitched.

“It’s grayish-blue, this one,” Tuyya continued. “A big she-wolf, she’s been wreaking havoc with the others. I think her pups might have been killed by the last blizzard and it’s driven her mad. None of us has had the time or the desire to go out and track her down yet, especially after the winter we’ve had. Too busy tending to what needs to be done, here. So if you can nab the bitch, we’d be grateful.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Vilmah said hopefully, smiling a little at the endeavor. She wasn’t as much of a hunter as her predecessors, but the art of the hunt was something that went deep in her blood and she could full the pull and excitement tugging at her heartstrings.

“Ah, just one thing,” Tuyya said quickly, lowering her voice. “About your toy. I would suggest leaving it.”

“My..? Oh...” Glancing down at her mechanical arm, the Warboss smiled at the thought of just how offended Gunheya would be if he heard someone refer to it as a ‘toy’.

“The rest of the village sees that sort of thing as a.. a crutch. Weakness, you know? Maybe you don’t care, but—“

“I don’t,” Vilmah agreed, reaching for the attachment on her left bicep. With a twist and a click, it disengaged from the stump of her left arm, the scar tissue dark and wrinkled. It was ugly, but uglier still to the Frostwolves was the idea that she might hide the scars that made her. The metal itself was enough of a Blackrock looking monstrosity, perhaps a strange callback to Vilmah’s own mixed blood, whether she admitted to it or not. Handing the arm toward Tuyya with her one hand, Vilmah appeared even smaller. “Hold on to it for me? I’ll be back for it soon enough.”

Tuyya took the arm without protest, holding it like a precious artifact in both hands. While it may have bothered the rest of her kin, to Tuyya it was a marvel of mechanical genius, and a perfect representation of the wonders that awaited outside of Wor’gol. “Good luck, guura kad dok mara,” she said with a grin. “I still say you should dress a little warmer.”

Smirking at the idea, good as it was, Vilmah shrugged it off and whistled for her own mixed breed wolf dog. “Nobody ever feared the Blademasters because they were sane,” she argued.

“Yeah but they had fire swords to keep them warm!” Tuyya laughed, holding up the arm to wave it limply as Vilmah and Edmund bounded off into the snow.

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“I really should have dressed warmer..”

It was only a few miles into the snow covered mountainrange and Vilmah had already begun talking to herself. Far away from Wor’gol’s fires, the Blademaster’s green skin was chapped from cold, a sacrifice she made to honor the Blademasters that had come before her. Typically, wearing little armor was supposed to strike fear into her enemies, or at least lead them to believe that she was completely insane. Realizing that a wolf wouldn’t care either way, she eventually brought Edmund to a halt and dug around in her saddle bags for a sweater.

It was dyed purple wool with a gold trim, something she knit specifically for emergencies, and she thanked whatever spirits existed that she didn’t forget to bring it. In a purple sweater she might not have looked like a Blademaster, but the sword on her back said differently. First she removed her sword, then gauntlet, then slid on the sweater over the simple white fabric she used to bind her chest. After replacing her sword, gauntlet, and knotting the empty left sleeve, she re-mounted Edmund and continued on through the snow.

Tracking was not one of Vilmah’s greatest skills. It had been years since she last hunted a wolf there, in Frostfire Ridge, to solidify her standing with the clan. Back then it felt more like a hunt for her own survival, battered as she was during the Cataclysm, when assassins tracked her in a similar way. She couldn’t help but feel for the wolf in question, a heart broken mother lost in her grief, her mixed blood having created an ugly animal that nobody wanted.  It saddened her to think that an animal like this were better off dead, and the act of killing it seemed almost barbaric. A wolf like this, however, could not be tamed no matter how much she would want to. Putting her own selfish desires aside, Vilmah pet Edmund’s fur and spoke to the wolf dog soothingly.

“Do you smell her?” She asked, as if he could understand her perfectly. “Do you smell the lady? She smells like you maybe, Ed.”

The runt of his mixed breed litter, Edmund wasn’t earned by the Warboss as most Frostwolves make their connections. He was sold in Orgrimmar, a joke to the breeders who saw Vilmah as a worthless runt, deserving of an equally worthless mutt with small teeth and a desire to cuddle rather than kill. She gave him a human name, something that sounded sweet on the tongue, and since then he was just as sweet to her.

Growling affirmatively, Edmund put his nose to the snow. The way he could “see” things with his nose was a marvel to Vilmah, something that always fascinated her about animals. He’d been following a trail for the past few miles, and it led them deeper into a heavily wooded area. She could see now why none of the other Frostwolves bothered to track the blue wolf now, considering how deep she’d gone. The most recent blizzard had not just wreaked havoc on the wildlife, but it also done irreparable damage to Wor’gol. Most of the orcs there were too busy rebuilding their own homes to have the time to venture into the snow for a hunt, tempted as they might be.

It was startlingly quiet the deeper she went, and in spite of the clear sky, the leafless canopy blocked enough of the light that even mid-day it appeared to be dusk. Every so often, the crunch of snow could be heard somewhere nearby. A squirrel or a white rabbit might have seen them, only to hide. Vilmah didn’t see any wolves yet, but she understood that they avoided orcs if they could. As the already dim light grew dimmer, however, Vilmah began to notice signs of their prey.

“Good boy,” she whispered, sliding off of Edmund’s back to walk beside him. Though the mixed breed wolf dog was small, it suited her. He was able to slip through trees that larger worgs couldn’t, and his speed, like Vilmah’s, was surprisingly helpful. Even on the hunt, he was quiet and light on his feet, leaving lighter footprints than the giant ones that they suddenly came across. “Oh..” Vilmah murmured. “..she’s a big one, alright.”

Edmund gave a quiet growl. It was different from his usual growl, the affirmative sound he made when answering Vilmah. This was a warning.

“That was quick,” Vilmah said to herself, unsheathing the sword at her back. It slid out smooth, making no sound at all but shining brightly in the slowly darkening woods.

The only thing shinier, Vilmah surmised as it happened, were the eyes of the wolf who suddenly burst forth from a dark crevice in the snow with open jaws.

“Edmund!!” The orcess shouted, rushing forward to intercept the massive blue animal that had set her mount in his sights.

She was larger than Vilmah anticipated, larger even than Greywind and shaggier. True to her reputation, the she-wolf was a strange gray color that appeared blue in the dimming light, but her eyes were actually blue, a strange trait inherited from her mixed blood. There was already blood in her maw, possibly from a more recent kill, and it dripped from the she-wolf’s foaming mouth as she went after the smaller wolf.

Luckily for them both, Edmund was faster than his full-blooded brethren and managed to dodge the attack. He rolled in the snow and leaped forward, maneuvering his body away from the enormous jaws of the she-wolf. Not to be outdone by the pup, she rushed for him, splashing snow every which way, her blue eyes bloodshot and furious. Vilmah used the opportunity to rush the bitch from behind, stabbing her from behind with a single clean incision at the she-wolf’s hindquarters. Blood shot into the snow, spraying forward like a geyser, but it did little to slow the blue creature’s attack or soften her rage. A loud howl of fury followed the freeing of Vilmah’s blade, and before she could bring it up to block the wolf lunged forward and snapped her jaws around the Warboss’ leg.

“Oh you bitch,” Vilmah said through grit teeth, the armor strong enough to keep the wolf jaws from puncturing her skin, but not strong enough to keep her from squeezing and denting the armor into her bone. Seeing no blood, the wolf instantly recoiled, taking a moment to assess the lack of blood before lunging forward again.

This time, Vilmah was ready. As the wolf’s jaws came for her unprotected torso, she stabbed her sword into its chest, burying the blade to the hilt before pulling it back out. Large as she was, the deep wound bled heavily, but still the bitch fought. Before Vilmah had the chance to attack again, the blue wolf bit down on her arm, her only arm, and while protected by the gauntlet it managed to get a tooth right into the Warboss’ forearm.

This might have been big trouble. If she hit a jugular with her tooth, it would have taken Vilmah out of the hunt immediately. It might have taken her out of her life too, but she didn’t think about that right away. Rather, she slammed an armored knee into the wolf’s face, stunning her enough that she let go of her prey and stumbled back. With both of them bleeding, Vilmah and the wolf assessed themselves. It impressed Vilmah that the animal, in spite of her madness, had enough of a mind to want to live. Growling through the orc’s blood in her mouth, the bitch winced and bounded off into the woods. Edmund whined and bounded for Vilmah, whose arm was bleeding but thankfully wasn’t broken.

“Times like this I really wish I had two hands,” she muttered to the wolf dog, watching the she-wolf run off, leaving a trail of blood behind. She would be weak, now, and easy to track, but Vilmah’s leg was sore from the bite and she had to wrap her arm first. “This is gonna be a long night, Ed,” she said while using the wolf to slide her sweater sleeve, the purple discolored with blood, and examine the wound.

It was deep enough to be troublesome if not seen to, so Vilmah plunged it into the snow to clean it before grabbing a bandage from her saddlebags. With teeth and determination, she managed to wrap it haphazardly, tight enough to stop it from bleeding all over her. It would need attention later, but for now she had a wolf to kill.

“Alright Edmund,” she sighed, hopping back on her friend’s back. “Follow her. She won’t last long out there, and I’m not about to become food for whatever friends she has left.”

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It was dusk by the time Vilmah reached the she-wolf’s den, and the Warboss was hungry. She brought a few rations for the trip, some dried meat and and water, but the fight had already taken a lot out of her and in the back of her mind she dreamed of a full meal back in Razor Hill.

“We’re gonna make the biggest sandwich,” she said quietly to Edmund, examining the trail of wolf blood as it led into a narrow cave once camouflaged with snow. “Maybe... wild boar with lettuce and tomatoes and that thick toasted bread... I wonder if the goblins in Dalaran made any of that good wheat bread? I hope they didn’t burn down our kitchen... I must be out of my mind…”

Edmund shook his shaggy head and snorted. Whether this was in agreement or not was up for debate.

Inside of the cave, Vilmah felt more than a little exposed. The walls were narrow and taking the lead, if the she-wolf decided to attack, there would be no room to maneuver. She let out a sigh of relief as the cave opened up, the deeper they went. Rounding a corner, Vilmah was slow and silent enough to be able to catch a glimpse of their prey in the middle of her den, attempting to lick the wounds that she herself inflicted.

The blue wolf had created a nest from leaves and bark, which she lay in now, her wounds still bleeding slowly on to the ground. A few feet away, the bones of her kills lie in another pile. Beside her, their fur matted and dull, the dead bodies of her pups had been bundled together, huddled as if they were sleeping and not dead. The she wolf gave them a brief nuzzle, whining sadly. Vilmah’s heart ached for the mother she had to put down, knowing that in spite of the tender moment it was not in its right mind, and would only continue to damage an already damaged ecosystem if left to her own devices.

Unsheathing her blade, Vilmah pat Edmund’s head and whispered “stay”. Her arm and leg still ached, something she would address later.

The she-wolf knew they would come for her. Her nose was superior to Vilmah’s, and it was obvious she had been waiting. Perhaps she just wanted to die here, with her children. Perhaps she wanted Vilmah to die with her. Either way, the wolf stood from her place on the ground and growled, jaws bared, warning Vilmah that any wrong move would result in a death with no burial or funeral pyre.

“Easy girl,” Vilmah said quietly, walking slowly now toward her prey. The Warboss voice was quiet and soothing, a tactic that didn’t work as well on people as it did with animals. How it would do on a crazed wolf, she couldn’t know. “I know you’re in pain… I know. Believe me, I know…”

The she wolf lowered herself to the ground, as if preparing to spring forward. Still, Vilmah approached her.

“I’ve been there,” she continued, her sword tilted to one side in a defensive position. “I know what it’s like to lose family… people you wanted to protect… young ones, even. I know. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry it hurt you. You’ll be with them, soon.”

The she wolf sprung forward, her jaws open wide to snap Vilmah in two. In a flash of fur and metal, the Warboss knelt down and pushed her sword up, right through the wolf’s throat. There wasn’t time for a whine or a growl, just the quick death of a sad animal as her blade pierced its spine. It was a faster kill than she anticipated, one moment swift action, and the next a heavy weight as the wolf’s dead body fell directly on top of her.

Sliding the sword from the severed brainstem, Vilmah rolled out from under her kill and regarded the body. The she wolf was big, too big to carry out on Edmund’s back, and would require some real muscle to even get out of the cave. Understanding that the Frostwolves would appreciate her meat, however, Vilmah made the decision to take her out of there. With the meat quickly souring the longer it remained dead and unbutchered, she sighed and nodded to Edmund.

“Wait here where it’s warm, Ed. I’ll go build a sled.”

The wolf dog nodded and sat down next to Vilmah’s kill. Though she had attempted to kill him earlier, he sniffed at her, his eyebrows tilted down sadly at the sight of a mutt like him, dead to his master’s sword. A sad howl fell from his small mouth, a call to the ancestors of their blood, both on Draenor and Azeroth.

Edited by Vilmah

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By the time Vilmah returned to Wor’gol, it was past midnight. Most of the village was already asleep, and the moon cast a bright blue sheen over the snow covered ground that crunched as Edmund bounded through the snow. Attached to his back was a rudimentary sled slapped together with wood and rope, something Vilmah constructed to carry the corpse of her kill. She had strapped down the large she-wolf with yet more rope, but in the moonlight its fur appeared eerily blue, like a brightly colored creature from the jungles of Azeroth rather than a wolf on Draenor.

As she approached the village, a few of their still awake warriors waved to her. She waved back and was soon met with Tuyya, who rode out to meet her with sleepy eyes on the back of her black wolf. “That was fast!” She said sarcastically. “I was hoping you wouldn’t need to spend all night out there. Did she hurt you?”

Holding up her right arm, Vilmah let Tuyya see the hastily wrapped wound of her right arm. The purple sweater had been stashed in her saddle bag just a mile before reaching the village. “I hope one of your shaman is awake,” she said with a weary smile. “I got her worse than she got me, though. I don’t think she was very interested in living.”

“Grief does that to people,” Tuyya agreed, turning her wolf to walk back beside Vilmah. “And animals too, strangely. You brought back the body, though? I would have thought you only needed the fur.”

“Can’t let good meat go to waste,” Vilmah reasoned, shrugging. “Even if it’s just dog meat.”

Tuyya grinned. “You’re learning quickly. When you first came to us you would have eaten the meat raw on your own, like some crazed animal.”

Vilmah’s lip twitched as she lowered her eyes to the snow. “When you first met me I was still very much a crazed animal,” the smaller orc explained, embarrassed. “I’m not exactly proud of that.”

“There aren’t many of us who are proud of ourselves at our lowest point. It brought you to us, though, didn’t it?”

“War brought me to you,” Vilmah argued gently. “..but I think my grief is what made me stay. And the fact that you all didn’t just kick me out. I’m sure I didn’t make for an impressive prospective new clan member.”

“You think we love everyone in the clan?” Tuyya laughed. “Your blood ties you to us, regardless of whatever it is that took you away to begin with. You told me that your mother was one of us. That’s enough for us to give you a chance, and you earned your place.”

An uncomfortable silence followed Tuyya’s words, as if Vilmah wanted to agree but couldn’t bring herself to. In truth, she was having trouble not telling Tuyya that she was Vilmah’s mother, and if the portal to Azeroth hadn’t been opened, if Tuyya’s thirst for adventure hadn’t brought her to the arms of a Blackrock orc, Vilmah never would have existed to begin with.

“Thanks Tuyya,” she said gratefully, smiling a little in spite of the conversation. “Thanks for being my friend.”

“Don’t get all dramatic,” Tuyya chuckled. “I just hate seeing the little guy get stepped on. Or in your case, the little girl. And you looked so sad, like a kicked puppy. Who would kick a puppy? Don’t worry, guura kad dok mara. You’re one of us, now. That means you’ll never really be alone again,” she said reassuringly, punching Vilmah in the left shoulder. “..for better or worse.”

"Sounds like quite the commitment," Vilmah said sarcastically, smirking.

Tuyya rolled her eyes. "Believe me, it can be a pain in the ass. Any time I even suggest leaving for a long hunt, my family comes up with some reason to make me stay. Commitments, the need to find a mate, it's like they've forgotten what it's like to explore past the forest sometimes. Makes me want to get my hands dirty somewhere new."

Vilmah bit the inside of her cheek. It was that wanderlust that caused the Tuyya that she knew to leave through the portal in the first place, and die starving in a cage. "They have a point. I mean.. you have everything you need here, don't you? People love you, here."

"I don't disagree with that, but there's more to life than being loved," the orcess argued. "There's adventure, and you can't get that here. Not anymore, anyway. I treasure my clan, but there's more out there than this place. I want to see it."

A feeling of dread overcame Vilmah's stomach, like she'd swallowed a mouthful of bees. Tuyya wasn't the type to let anyone hold her back, and she would eventually leave, even if it meant leaving everything behind. The idea of losing her for a second time, this person who, in another lifetime, gave her life for Vilmah's, made the Warboss pale with fear. " could come with me," she found herself saying. "Come to Azeroth, help me with Sanctuary. There's a few Frostwolves in Razor Hill, I'm sure you'll feel right at home. Even if it's in a desert.."

Tuyya's eyes widened. "Really? You want me to come with you?"

In truth, Vilmah would have preferred that this version of her mother stayed in Draenor, pure in her own way, and untouched by Azeroth's brutality. Knowing that it wasn't in her nature to stay in one place, however, the Warboss nodded quickly. "Yeah, of course. It'd be nice having you there. Plus, plenty of orcs in Azeroth," she joked, smiling a little more. "If your family is worried about you finding a mate."

"Can you imagine if I were to bring home one of your green friends??" The orcess laughed, bouncing on her wolf. "Oh they would have an absolute fit! Yes, let's do it! I'll go with you to Azeroth and help your Sanctuary! Right after we clean your blue wolf, of course. You can bring home a wolf pelt and a Frostwolf!"

Smiling at her excitement, Vilmah nodded in agreement. Whether or not this was for the best, she couldn't say, but at the very least she'd be able to keep an eye on Tuyya. 

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