Amidst the dust and crowded venues stood a giant man of 6”4, balding at the top, but dark hair covering the sides of his head with a thick mustache connected to his sideburns. A stony face gazed over the crowds, expressionless, seeming as if scanning for anything or anyone. The man’s bright blue eyes never once flinched from another being’s stare or glare, and nodded to those who nodded back, and so forth.
The man was covered in a Stormwind soldier’s traditional equipment, and his large claymore lay plainly on his back, razor sharp and well-tended. His armor, while traditional, showed much wear and tear despite the polish and shine, worn and weathered by years past. The armor was so old that the man had to replace his gauntlets, boots, and belt to substitute as his “traditional” Stormwind equipment, which in truth made the armor not so traditional at all.
The giant man was standing under a tarp that was situated beside the curtain-covered entrance of the Gadgetzan inn. To further cool him down was an ornate blue cloak that covered his shoulders and armor. Even so, several members of the crowd noticed the man’s equipment, gazing in awe as to how he kept so cool despite the hot sun up above. The man showed no reaction to the heat, only standing and waiting.
As he waited, he realized that the crowds of people were beginning to move away from the inn, pressing towards the gladiatorial cage that acted as the centerpiece of the town. A ruffian group with masks and leather armor began making their way towards the inn, sizing up the giant man, seemingly prepared for trouble. However, the man simply continued to scan the crowd, paying no attention to the ruffians.
“Look at that blade!” one ruffian barked. “He’s a military soldier, ain’t he?” The ruffians began mocking the man, jostling salutes and straightening their backs up insultingly. One ruffian moved his hand to the man and swept the cloak away, revealing the scathed, but polished, armor.
“Look at that!” the ruffian let out, gesturing to the armor. “This one’s got crap armor!” The group began to laugh, still mocking the man, who continued to pay no attention to the ruffians. When the ruffians realized this, they went silent and began sending silent messages to each other.
“He’s a real soldier alright,” said another ruffian, nodding to the man. “Let’s see how tough he is when he’s facing down into the ground!”
Without skipping a beat, the ruffians unsheathed their weapons, still goading on for a fight, hooting and hollering and taunting. The man continued to stand still, but now his focus went directly to the ruffians. A crowed formed over the combatants, many of who were watching, some even making a game out of the fight. The ruffians began to slowly disperse, spreading apart to cover all exits that the man could take.
The man’s attention twisted to the curtain-door of the inn, to which a young little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes stepped out with a basket of apples. One ruffian took notice of this and slowly churned into a laugh with the others joining in.
“Oh lookie here!” said a ruffian, now facing towards the little girl, who stood in terror at the gang. She hugged her basket of apples, lips quivering, and quickly walked behind the tall man for protection. He made room and the little girl was safely behind him, and he made sure of that by glancing down to her and making a face which softened her terror. A glare spread over his face, to which he sent towards the ruffians.
“Gonna cut you up old timer,” another gang member shouted. Their knives twirled in their hands as they all took part in insulting the man and the little girl.
“Gonna cut up you up old man!”
“Gonna sell that nice little one to slavery!”
“We’re gonna make your life a living hell!”
“Ain’t no turning back now, soldier boy!”
Despite the harsh insults, the man simply continued his glaring. He tensed his hands into a fist, the bones cracking slightly beyond the plated gauntlets. Before the ruffians could make a move, a gunshot resonated throughout the town. Goblins over on the roof began to take positions near the edge, aimed towards the ruffians. A congregation of bruisers began to take action. It wasn’t lives that were being threatened, but business.
The bruisers began to make quick work of the ruffians, and a violent array of acts took place that sent the ruffians out of the town, or into the dirt. No goblin casualties occurred, but there weren’t just ruffian casualties that were counted. Several ruffians managed to escape, with one that threatened the man with a death later on in life. The gang’s pride had been a casualty as well, but it was nothing of notable importance. Life goes on.
The man sighed with relief as the last gang members treaded out of the town. Any remaining living ruffian was taken into custody, probably for execution later on in the day, when it wasn’t so hot. The dead bodies of some other stray ruffians were taken to the graveyard and buried promptly. As for the rest, they would probably be back to stir up more trouble. Several townsfolk lost a lot of money, and some gained a lot because of the betting. The crowd began spreading back towards the inn, making more leeway for travelers.
The man looked behind him, then knelt down to the little girl and swept away some loose strands of hair from her face. She timidly looked up to him and smiled, who smiled back, and then she held out the basket of apples to him. The man patted the girl on the head, then hoisted her up onto his shoulders and placed the apples into a satchel.
After a moment, and an exchange of an apple to the little girl, a goblin with a maroon cap came out of the inn. He peered about, then noticed the man and called him out.
“Orlom!” he shouted, even though the man was right beside him. “There you are. Sorry ‘bout that, Dirge was bein’ an-“ The goblin quickly noticed the child, then cleared his throat. “Uh, he was bein’ a jerk. Anyways, here’s the job.”
The two spoke for several minutes. The giant man, Orlom, had been given a job to explore the deserts of Tanaris and find a missing person. The goblin was named Witzer, who was a good friend of this missing person, and would give a good bundle of gold for that person’s safe return.
“Do you have a name for this person?” questioned Orlom, a tone of seriousness and tact. Witzer nodded.
“Cham Baergs. Don’t chicken out when you see him, he ain’t a threat of any sort unless you really do somethin’ stupid, y’hear? You’ve got ‘til next day. If you don’t show up I’ll try my hand at finding you guys and you won’t get any pay.”
Orlom nodded. The payment was important, but so was staying alive. He never traveled without his daughter, and he was afraid of her health. The man looked over the sandy ground, brows furrowing in thought. After a moment, he gazed up to Witzer, who had his arms crossed and was staring back with a beady yellow eye.
“Can I trust you?” he asked, bluntly. Witzer stopped tapping a boot and blinked.
“If it’s money don’t count on me to keep track of it,” the goblin responded. He began brushing his chin, curious. Orlom nodded, looked to the side for a moment and then glanced to the little girl on his shoulders. He tapped her arm, gently, and began to whisper something into her ear. Without warning, the little girl leaned over and wrapped her arms over Orlom’s head.
Orlom uttered reassurances to the little girl, then lifted her off from his shoulders. He gently placed her down in front of Witzer, and he tossed a weird look to Orlom.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” he let out, shaking his hands. “I’m a fan of collateral, but this might be a bit too much.” Orlom shook his head and carefully urged the little girl to move towards the goblin.
“I want her safe,” Orlom replied. He looked to the little girl and smiled reassuringly to her. However, she whimpered a bit, ran towards him and hugged him tightly. “Go with Witzer, Emily. I’m sure he will keep you safe.” After a last pat on the head and another deep hug, Emily walked towards Witzer. The goblin smiled to her and nodded.
“Guess it can’t be helped.” The goblin sighed, flicking his cap up a bit. “Don’t say anythin’ gruesome. Come back in one piece, yeah?” He looked to Orlom and he nodded, then finally set out. Witzer and Emily made their way into the inn once again.
“Will daddy come back?” Emily asked, watching as Orlom disappeared behind the town walls.
“He’s a good guy,” Witzer assured. “Yeah, he’ll come back. Yer a good kid, too. Y’like books?”
Emily looked to the goblin and nodded. Witzer took out a book from his pocket and held it out to Emily, who quickly opened it and began reading. It was titled, “The Philosophies of Faith, Hope, and Death – To What We Persevere With.”
Orlom steadily made his way across the sandy dunes, careful to avoid the beasts and vicious cutthroats that were harbored throughout the torn ruins and water wells that were found across the area. Bits of sweat trickled down his face, evidence of the heat getting to him, but he did not falter. His face remained neutral and he continued his trek.
An hour later - or, at least, it felt like that - he finally came across a land mark. Bleached bones of a large, insidious animal jutted out of the sands while rocs hovered over the bones, cawing and waiting for something, their paths moving in circles. Orlom looked up to the birds, then down at the bones. He noticed that there was something else jutting out in the sand that emanated a bright and vibrant green glow. His curiosity got the best of him and he began moving towards the light.
Amidst the heap of giant bones was a sword, which was thrust into the ground and standing up. The blade was covered in a natural array of small vines, decorated with thorns and naturally serrated edges. The blade itself was a smooth cut, and glowed a bright, vibrant green. Runes were etched onto it, green as well, but the handle was a dark red color. Orlom took note of the blade, awed by its creation. He moved a hand to grasp the handle, and then something happened.
He felt himself get pushed a few feet away. A green light spewed from the sword, and Orlom fell to his back with a grunt. Quickly, he unsheathed his claymore and braced, eyes narrowed at the blade. A being of some sort began to manifest over the hilt of the sword, a slender figure noticeably female in gender. It glared at Orlom, but then arched its ethereal brows.
“Please,” the image pleaded, its ghostly voice combined with a soft note of pure mercy. Orlom didn’t falter and continued to hold his claymore up. “Please, help me.”
Orlom stood frozen in his place. The two stared for the longest time until he finally gave way and sheathed his claymore. Cautiously, he moved towards the ghostly image, looked it over, and nodded. “What do you want?”
“I know the one you seek,” it said, or rather, she said. “We’ve been separated, and I’m afraid he’s been killed. Please, take me to him.”
Orlom’s eyes were still narrowed in suspicion. It took him a moment to response, for he was still looking over the image itself. “What must I do?”
The image nodded. She clasped her hands together and bowed her head in earnest. “Thank you. Please, take me to him….” The voice faded out, then ultimately disappeared into the blade. The glowing softened, a gentle humming emanating from it. Orlom looked over it, hesitant, but finally grasped the handle of the sword and tore it out from the sand.
Immediately, flashes of images swept through his mind. There were ogres attacking a human dressed in dark plate with bright, glowing light blue eyes. The human fended off many of the ogres with the same blade Orlom clasped, but then was struck in the back by a blunt weapon. Another image flashed, and the human is last seen on top of the same dune Orlom was standing upon, upon the bleached bones of the giant animal.
The human struck the sword down into the sand, looked about, then ran away. The voices of ogres could be heard, combined with the shouts from the being in the blade. Another flash and Orlom finally came back to his senses, panting and quickly scanning his surroundings.
“Ogres attacked us,” The image in the sword said. “He hid me here, for safekeeping, because he was injured. I know he’s strong, but the ogres were too fierce and too many. Please, find him. I will help you.”
Orlom looked down to the blade in his hand. “How?”
“You will see if the time comes. Please, find him….” The voice trailed off once more and disappeared again. Orlom looked around, and above, noticing the absence of rocs flying overhead. He let out a sigh, buckled the blade to his back, and continued his search.
Time felt incredibly slow as he journeyed over the sands. From time to time he met other fellow journeymen as well, asking for directions if there were any, any ogre encampments, and any other information that would help his search. At a certain point, he met a troll with vibrant red hair and faintly glowing red eyes, but their meeting was short-lived, as Orlom believed that time was running out. The sun was beginning to fade.
Orlom took a sip of water from a canteen when the blade’s image finally reemerged.
“I can sense him,” she said, enthusiastically. “I can sense him! He’s around here!”
Orlom looked about, gulping down one last drink of water. He tucked the canteen into a pouch as he moved about, glancing at the rocky formations, scanning over the cacti jutting out from the sands. His eye caught one special rock formation that was spewing a thin stream of smoke. He quickly made his way over to the sight and noticed it was coming out of a cave.
“There!” the image said once more, just as enthusiastic. “There, I can feel him. Hurry!”
Orlom wasted no time, sprinting over the sands as fast as he could. His breathing kept a steady pace and sweat continued to run down his face. When he finally reached the outskirts of the cave, he unsheathed the vine-covered blade instead of his claymore. Cautiously, he began to make his way inside, ready for anything.
A flow of lukewarm air emanated from the cave. Smoke was softly curling up above, making its way out. Water sounded throughout the caverns, drips and drops, and a low, never-ending howl. Every step echoed, and Orlom treaded lightly to minimize his presence. He wasn’t even deep into the cave before the blade began to yell again.
“Cham!” The blade shouted, her voice echoing endlessly through the cave. “Cham! Where are you!?”
Orlom looked down to the blade, brows furrowed in irritation. He gazed back up, then stopped as another sound began to approach the two. He braced himself, but the image of what came out of the darkness made him falter.
The man was of 5”4, charcoal-colored hair and beard with bright glowing blue eyes that came out from the inner shadows of the cave, an arm clutched to a forearm, bleeding and bandaged, limping. He looked to the blade, arched his brows with surprise, then formed a smile over his dirt-covered face. He tried to accelerate his movement, but stumbled and fell to the ground with an enormous sound of moving plate pieces. A grunt of rather anti-climatic proportions came out from his mouth as he hit the ground.
Orlom moved towards the figure, addressing his wounds, laying the sword to the man’s side. The injured one was panting, seemingly tired, dark rings over his eyes, but he quickly clutched at his sword’s handle with slight straining. He muttered a word, smiling, then broke into soft, hoarse laugh.
“Reichel,” the injured man said. He lifted the sword up to his chest and rested it there. It began to strongly glow once more, and the vines shifted and unsettled. Orlom looked between the two beings, then helped the injured man up. The man continued to laugh quietly to himself, sounding relieved.
“Reichel,” he said once more, hugging the blade. The image began to form out from the blade and started to caress the man’s face, both of them petting at each other’s head somehow. The image called Reichel laughed along with the man’s hoarse laughter and the two rested their heads on each other’s forehead.
“You meanie, Cham,” Reichel retorted, chuckling. Cham grinned slyly, but winced and grunted, the bandages slightly sliding off of his body. Reichel looked over the young man’s body, gasping as she realized the extent of damage.
“You’re bleeding everywhere!” She quickly disappeared back into the sword and began to brightly glow. The darkness of the cave retreated, cowering in sight of the natural green glow. Cham leaned onto Orlom, holding the blade steady. The wounds all over Cham began to glow as well, the same healthy green glow emanating from Reichel.
Cham let out a sigh of relief as he watched his wounds disappear. The bright glowing continued for several minutes, and Orlom watched the amazing spectacle of healing powers. Once the healing was completed, Reichel’s glow faded, turning dim and barely noticeable.
Cham looked to the blade, petting the hilt. He lifted himself up and sheathed it, tearing off the bloodied bandages from underneath his armor. Orlom looked over the young man, who looked back and nodded with thanks.
Orlom nodded back. “Your companion is worried about you. Let’s depart.”
“Righto,” Cham responded, smiling. “I think I’ve had enough of this place for one day.” Cham took the lead, sheathing Reichel, and Orlom followed.
“What are you, exactly?” Orlom asked as they walked. Cham looked back to him and chuckled slightly, turning back towards the entrance.
“Death knight. It’s a long, painful story. I’m surprised that you’re not afraid, though.”
“Your companion told me you weren’t a threat unless I did something extremely hazardous.” Orlom kept his eye on Cham at all times. The heat of the sands was nowhere to be felt as the two came out of the cave. The moon was just evident over the mountains and a cold chill came out over the desert.
“Where did you find that blade?” Orlom was now looking at Reichel. Cham glanced down to the blade, fingering the grip.
“It was an old heirloom, but magic restored it.” Cham lifted the blade up and inspected it. “My wife’s soul is imbued in it. She saved me from the Lich King.”
Orlom looked back to Cham. “The Lich King is preparing an invasion in the Eastern Plaguelands. You may find yourself lost again.” Cham glanced back to Orlom, shaking his head.
“He’s a powerful guy,” Cham admitted, nodding. “But he won’t, because Reichel saved me. She gave me sight when I was blind, gave me air when I was choking… gave me sanity when I was lost.” Cham nodded at his poetic speak and let out a small laugh. “She saved me.”
Orlom stared hard at the death knight, taking in all this surprising information without changing his neutral face. The two continued the trek back to Gadgetzan without too much conversing, as the day was long and the journey tiring. When the two finally made it back to the inn, much rejoicing was had.
Emily leaped to Orlom, shouting and giggling. He lifted her to his shoulders, and Cham looked at the display with a hearty grin. Witzer bonked him on the head and began shouting at him.
“What the heck did I say!?” Witzer scolded. Cham was rubbing the back of his head, mumbling. “We don’t do business with pirates! The Cartel’s different!”
“Yeah yeah,” Cham responded dully. Orlom and Emily were playing with each other, not paying attention to the scolding. The death knight smiled again at the display of happiness, then sighed.
“Orlom. It’s Orlom, right?” Orlom looked to Cham and nodded. Cham waved to him and nodded back. “Thanks for saving me. You got your pay?” Again, Orlom nodded. Emily looked to Cham, and tried to hide behind Orlom’s head out of shyness. The young man chuckled, waving to her with that grin plastered on his face.
“You’ve got a nice daughter,” Cham complimented. Emily peeked over Orlom’s head, giggling, then shied away as her gaze locked with the young man’s.
Orlom said a thank you. “And thank you Witzer, for keeping my daughter safe.” The goblin gave a thumb up to him.
“S’all good,” he said. “She’s a bright kid, good reader too. I even gave her a quiz and she answered everythin’ without missin’ a beat!”
Orlom smiled at the fact. The three said their last goodbyes and thanks, and departed to their separate ways.
“That man is nice,” Emily said, resting her head on top of Orlom’s. He nodded at the fact, glancing behind him to see Gadgetzan disappear behind the mountainous formations that separated Tanaris and Thousand Needles from each other.“Yes, he is.” The two walked away, somewhere else where Orlom would find work. He didn’t make a scene of it, but he knew that he just made another friend. In his world of fear and separation anxiety with his daughter, finding a friend was always a rare occasion. But, he knew, and Cham knew, and so did Witzer and Reichel knew, that they had just made another friend in a hostile world of enemies.