Felpik hummed to himself as he weaved his way up the bank dodging, several good sized fish dangling over his shoulder. Closer to the tree line, the goblin could see smoke trailing from his campsite.
“Hey big guy, should have enough now for some decent grub. How’s the fire coming along?”
“Well enough.” The orc rumbled, his chest heaving as he slouched back against a tree trunk. Taking advantage of the shade provided by the fronds, the orc took a sip from the waterskin stash Felpik had provided.
Felpik looked down at the fire. The orc had dug a shallow pit and built the fire with a trio of branches tied together above it, the perfect place to hang his catch from and plenty of light for the pair as the sun receeded from the sky.
The two greenskins sat in silence for a time, gutting and scaling fish. At length, the orc looked up at Felpik. “Do you own anything clothing that suits your environment?”
The arcanist looked down at his chest before his eyes shot back at the orc “What’s wrong with white linen and green twill in the desert? It’s comfortable and cooling! Just because it’s not aged and sweat stained leather like you inconceivably prefer in this heat!” Felpik replied with mock outrage. “It wouldn’t kill you orcs to bathe once in a while.”
The orc chuckled as they finished preparing the fish. With nimble fingers Felpik threaded the fish into the bracket over the firepit. His ears twitch as the orc let out a rough hacking cough. “Easy big guy, might want to get further from the smoke if it keeps causing that. Don’t want the boss to think I’m responsible if you die away from the camp. What made you want to come out here anyway?” Felpik turned around and cocked an eyebrow at the bandaged orc “Being holed up in camp that bad?”
The orc scowled at Felpik and for a moment the goblin thought he’d gone too far. But the anger faded in his companions eyes and Felpik let out the breath he didn’t realise he was holding. Easing into a sitting position he crossed his legs and looked at the orc, waiting. After several moment of silence, the orc began to speak.
“I dislike being seen as weak, goblin. Like many orcs, I have fought all my life. Only once before have I felt helpless. In the internment camps of the Alliance, I remember the lethargy and the inability to lift my hand of my own free will. The day Thrall freed us was the day fire returned to my veins. Goblin, you have no idea what that felt like. To recover from living death and feel the fury of your people surge like a tidal wave!” The orc gestured with his hands as he spoke. “That feeling of strength, I had not felt it since the Bleeding Hollow held Khaz Modan and I hunted dwarves through the snow.”
Felpik nodded as the orc continued on. Privately, the goblin giggled to himself. He knew all too well the feeling of fire flowing through his veins. “Nothing like it hey? Not even your first love? You orcs have a rite of passage hunt or something right? Doesn’t compare to that?” With that, it was as though the world went silent. The orc gazed at Felpik with something approaching shame before looking away into the evening darkness.
“The Om’riggor.” Spoken barely above a whisper, as though the orc couldn’t bring himself to say the words.
“I had no Om’riggor. Such an honour was not for the Horde warmachine. My first solo kill was a dwarven scout caught away from his troop. We never found out what they were out to accomplish. We came upon them breaking camp and slaughtered them all. I couldn’t have been more than six winters old.”
Felpik choked on the waterskin. A spurt of water escaped his mouth and drew and angry hiss from the fire. As if in retaliation, the smoke drifted over the goblin and stung his eyes. “Six?!” He looked incredulous as the orc nodded and continued. “Does that surprise you? The warlocks of the Horde discovered how to increase our strength. All of the clan children older than an infant were aged with magic to be as strong and hale as an orc in our prime. It seems to have had no ill effects on us, in all these years I have continued to age as though the magic never took place. Without that, the Horde would have never had the strength to take Stormwind.”
Felpik felt his innards turn to ice. He had heard stories of the old warlock magic of the Horde, but never anything like this. “Your entire generation volunteered to strengthen the Horde?”
“I was six goblin, you say that like there was a choice. No, the clans simply turned over their children to the warlocks. To do otherwise was a death sentence for all who stood in the Horde’s path. But what does it matter?”
The orc reached into the firepit and plucked out one of the freshly smoked fish. “We were made strong, and we won our place on this world with the strength of my generation!”
Reaching for a fish of his own, the goblin hoped it would settle his gut. The orc before him saw no problem with what had happened. Do all orcs feel this way? As though they had lost nothing by being turned into soldiers before they were even a decade old? Of course they wouldn’t, how could you miss something you never received?
The duo sat quietly for a time with only the sounds of the river and the crackling of their fire. Felpik frowned as the wheels of his mind spun. He thought back to his own family, the ones who cast him out when they discovered the bargains he had made for his powers. He didn’t blame them. Should he ever wish to return no doubt enough gold to smooth over old wounds. He’d walked away from a family, from loved ones, all for his own gain and would do so all over again. But throwing away all that had made him – the values that had shaped him in his youth – exchanging his soul for power was his choice. The orcs never even had that option.
Looking over at the orc, Felpik felt something he never thought he would for the greenskin and the rest of his people. Pity.