The blacksmith wiped ichor off my sword, eyed the blade, and tossed it into the pile at his feet. "Too damaged. Get another," he grunted, pointing to the rack of weapons behind him. "Next!"
New blade in hand, I rechecked my armor. Scarred, but sound. More than enough for the coming battle.
I was looking over my wolf when the order came: "Gakarah ma!"
Eagerly we soldiers formed ranks for our commander, Saurfang the Younger. Behind him stretched the towering shadow of Angrathar the Wrath Gate. He didn't even seem to notice. I'd never met a braver orc. From what I'd seen so far, he was truly his father's son, brown skin or not.
"Some of you rode here with me from Azjol-Nerub, where we pitted our strength against the rotting spider-folk. For those of you who missed it, we smashed our way into their precious kingdom and blocked off their tunnels into the Dragonblight." He gave us a slow and savage grin. "Arthas won't be getting any reinforcements from them today."
We cheered, and the wind shifted, bringing with it the stench of decay. As if the Forsaken here weren't bad enough. I'd never understand why they'd been allowed to join the Horde. They might hate the Scourge, but they were still undead. Worse, they were traitors: they'd served the Alliance in life. If the Forsaken could change allegiance once, they could do it again.
"And the Alliance has held up its end of the agreement," Saurfang went on. "Our scouts have just confirmed that Naxxramas too has been cut off." He raised a gauntleted hand to silence our jeers. "Yes, Naxxramas was probably the smaller task. That was why I asked to take on Azjol-Nerub. It was only right for the Horde to claim the greater challenge and the honor that comes with it. Even so," and he chuckled, "clearly the pinkskins' pride was stung. They must have set their feet on fire, racing to beat us here."
A guttural war cry behind him drew his attention. Drawing his axe, he turned at last to watch the battle playing out below us. His vantage point was better than mine, but I heard a loud metallic clanking and then an unearthly roar.
He reacted immediately. "Rise up, sons of the Horde!" he shouted, and turned to face us again. "Blood and glory await us!"
Whatever he'd seen, it meant trouble for the reckless humans. We ran to our wolves and mounted up.
"Lok-tar ogar!" Saurfang cried as he led us down the hill.
"For the Horde!" we thundered back in answer.
He charged deep into the fray, heading for the humans' general. The rest of us spread out and aided the Alliance forces where necessary. They were fools to have started this fight without us. They'd seen little of war, and for the past six years we had been at "peace". They were soft, and they were smugly certain they could win the day. It hadn't occurred to them that they might lose. They didn't really understand loss, not as we orcs do.
I jumped off my wolf and launched myself at a ghoul. Severed its head, shrugged off the clutch of its rotting hands. Another undead reached for me, this one a skeleton in rags. Then there was another, and another after that. So many. The next one spotted my approach, and her expression changed to fear and anger. One of the Forsaken. I barely managed to halt my blade. "Out of the way!" I rasped, and thrust her aside impatiently.
After that, I let the familiar surge of bloodlust overcome me. My sword became my world: I couldn't see anything beyond it.
The elders say we were a peaceful race before we came to Azeroth. Our clans kept mostly to themselves. They hunted game, planted crops, raised families, and lived in harmony with the elements.
When I was a child, I wondered what Draenor must have been like. I tried to imagine these strange orcs who had a world of their own, a freedom I've never known. The few times I managed to picture such creatures, I despised them. They hadn't deserved their world, just as humans did not deserve Azeroth.
All too soon the Horde won the day, and Angrathar was ours. Yet the biggest task still lay ahead. The brash human general taunted Arthas and drew him out of Icecrown to confront us. Behind his spiked helm, the Lich King's eyes blazed a chilling blue. He threatened to teach us the true meaning of fear, and as he spoke, new undead clawed their way out of the ground.
But our bold leader had grown weary of fighting Arthas' minions. "Enough talk! Let it be finished!" He ran forward, axe raised.
The Lich King's glowing runeblade met Saurfang's axe, and the axe shattered like ice, pieces of metal flying outward. By the time Saurfang's back hit the ground, he was dead. Killed in one blow. Impossible. I stared in numb horror while Frostmourne devoured my commander's soul.
Again the human general blustered: "You will pay for all the lives you've stolen, traitor."
Arthas' reply was interrupted by an explosive crash and screams. I looked around. A cloud of yellow-green mist was rising in the middle of the battlefield, some distance away. Hard to see what was happening.
Malicious laughter drew my eyes upward. Silhouetted against the bright gray sky, a robed figure stood on the crags to one side of the Wrath Gate. "Did you think we had forgotten?" he called. "Did you think we had forgiven?" Catapults rolled into position on either side of him. "Behold now the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken! Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!"
They had betrayed us. Curse them and their monstrous queen.
Too late, Horde and Alliance forces tried to scatter. We were packed tightly together, and the catapults were already firing their payload: barrels that exploded on impact and released more of the noxious-looking mist. Anyone close enough to the blasts died instantly. Others doubled over, choking, retching, clawing at their eyes, crying out in vain for aid.
After the Third War, we could have defeated the humans once and for all. Instead, Thrall spoke of mercy. As if the humans had ever shown us mercy. I was born in their internment camps; they were pits of filth and despair. We were meant to die there. What would the warchief know of our suffering, the famous gladiator, the human pet? Nothing. He talked us into this. Allying with humans time and again. Bowing to their demands. Starving to death in nearly barren lands, surrounded by plenty. It was the internment camps all over again. Humans were too cowardly to exterminate us outright, but they intended to wipe us out all the same.
With this deadly mist, it seemed they might finally succeed. My eyes burned, and my throat was closing up. Suddenly my legs failed me, and I found myself on my knees. This was no heroic end, no glorious destiny. I'd known all along that humans, alive or undead, couldn't be trusted. I didn't deserve this.
I could taste my own blood. Then there was only darkness and the sound of my heart as it beat its last.