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A Roach Joins the Clan - by Rhoach

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2004-08-28 17:07:27

Part 1

Stranglethorn Vale

10 years Before Present

Rhoach peered out of the thick foliage into the clearing. The 11-year old troll had developed keen survival instincts during his childhood. One of these instincts was staying hidden, and that instinct dictated that open, bright spaces were to be avoided as a rule. This ingrained behavior had served him well during his flight from the human city of Stormwind. A thieves’ guild was not an organization to be left lightly in the best of times. With a master like Kzar the Knife, desertion meant certain death for the deserter unwary enough to be caught ((but that is a story for another time, dear reader)). Rhoach’s ruminations were interrupted by the sound of rustling branches.

Slowly turning his ears toward the source of the noise, he shrank further back into the shadows, dropping on all fours into a feral, alert crouch. Only the faint yellow gleam of his eyes betrayed his presence in the wall of greenery. Two tall humans and a dwarf walked into the clearing. One of the humans, a female, was clearly a mage, using a staff with a glowing gem on top as a walking stick. The other human walked with a noble bearing. He was clad in chainmail and wore a shield over a large warhammer strapped across his back. The dwarf seemed typical of his race, holding a two-handed battleaxe against his shoulder and wearing a dour expression.

“I think we’re off course, Chorich,” the dwarf spoke grumpily, addressing the human with the sword. “No tellin’ what lies in these woods,” he added gloomily, fingering his axe and throwing suspicious glances at their surroundings. Rhoach crouched a little lower and stilled his breathing.

“Patience, Kerlack,” the mage spoke softly, fingering the gem on the top of her staff. “Kivian will lead us aright. He has never failed us before.”

“Where is that damned ranger anyway….” the dwarf grumbled.

Too late, Rhoach heard the slight sound of a dry autumn leaf crunching less than a foot behind him. Muscular, purple hands grabbed Rhoach underneath his armpits and hoisted him into the air from his prone position. A night elf, apparently Kivian, held the squirming Rhoach aloft as he walked into the clearing.

Chorich merely raised his eyebrow when he saw the ranger’s prize. “Find yourself some vermin, Kivian?”

“It would appear so, paladin,” the night elf spoke, disdain in his voice. Whether the disdain was directed at his wiggling captive or the human, Rhoach couldn’t tell.

The small troll (he was about a foot shy of the paladin’s height) was dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the clearing and immediately surrounded by the company of Alliance members.

Part 2

Rhoach scrambled to his feet and found a hammer spike pointed at his throat. He reflexively stumbled back and fell into a sitting position. He cut a rather pathetic figure, his scrawny form betraying the fact that he hadn’t eaten a substantial meal in weeks. His clothes, being little more than rags at the outset of his journey, had hardly benefited from the long days of slogging through t###### vegetation. He was equipped with nothing but his clothing, save for a hidden dagger he kept strapped to the underside of his forearm. His darting eyes and lean appearance gave the impression of a hunted animal.

“What’ll we do with the little monster?” Chorich asked coldly, looking down the point of his hammer at the cringing ball of misery on the other end. He obviously assumed that their catch didn’t understand what he was saying.

“What do you mean, ‘what’ll we do with it,’ Chorich?” Kerlack spoke growlingly. “Kill it, of course. Its kind has been responsible for the deaths of many of my people. If it is set free this day, the blood of my kin will be on my hands.”

“Kerlack!” the mage cried. “Look at it, it’s just a child!”

The words of Rhoach’s old master feverishly flashed through his mind; ‘There is a reason the wolf goes to the effort to dress himself in sheep’s clothing,’ his old master used to say. That was one of Rhoach’s first lessons. He reminded himself to keep his teachings foremost in his mind, as they had saved his life more than once in the past. Rhoach put on his most pathetic face and puppy dog eyes, hoping to glean some more sympathy from the mage, as she appeared to be the only one who stood between him and a slit throat. It worked.

“Chorich,” the mage spoke scoldingly, “it’s scared! Just put down your weapon and let’s ask it what it’s doing out here.”

“Ask it what it’s…?” the paladin sputtered. “Marianne, you speak as if it’s more than a beast! I know how trolls conduct their ‘business,’ living mostly naked in the jungles, tundras, and forests where no sane race would even dream of living. My apologies, Kivian,” he added quickly as the elf bristled a bit at the forest comment. “Why, I’ve even heard they eviscerate live captives for the sport of it!” he continued, eyeing Rhoach balefully.

“You put too much stock in rumors, paladin,” Kivian stated softly. “Trolls are worthy opponents, and are more similar to my own people than any Alliance race. I doubt they would commit such heinous acts, outside of their witch doctory.”

“Ha! Any race that condones such heathenistic practices deserves everything the heavens can throw at them,” Chorich spoke, sneering. “Besides, trolls cannot speak any of God’s languages. We couldn’t communicate with it even if we wanted to,” he said, waving the matter aside.

Rhoach’s mind had raced during the conversation. Should he betray the fact that he was, for all cultural intents and purposes, a non-troll? What would he gain by revealing this? What would he lose? “Lesson nine: when the darkness fails you, words must be your cloak of shadows,” Rhoach muttered quietly to himself, remembering. Also, during the small company’s debate, Rhoach’s ears had caught the faint sound of what sounded like… chanting? When the wind shifted, it seemed to fade. It had gone unnoticed by the arguing Alliance members, however.

Part 3

“…don’t know that it’s evil just because it’s a troll,” Marianne was saying, gesticulating with her staff. Chorich had obviously lost some of his holy conviction under the onslaught of the mage’s words. He now held his hammer at Rhoach as if he had forgotten why he had done so in the first place. Watching the two, Rhoach surmised that they were probably very close, a mated pair perhaps.

While the paladin and mage were trading words, the dwarf, Kerlack, had grown more and more impatient. His face had grown redder and redder, until finally he hoisted his axe and shouted, “By my beard! You humans are hopeless! I’m disposing of this little rat right now!”

The dwarf took a step toward Rhoach, who, desperately looking for something to buy time, shouted back in the common Alliance language, “I’m no rat, you gnomelicking midget!” He had learned some creative insults as a master thief’s apprentice.

The entire company widened their eyes in amazement and stared at him. The dwarf’s jaw nearly hit the ground as he held his axe aloft in midstrike. “It… speaks the Alliance language?” he asked nobody in particular.

At that moment, the chanting in the woods that Rhoach had heard earlier returned suddenly with a vengeance. This time it was loud enough to make a small flock of crows take flight from some nearby trees, cawing raucously.

Time seemed to freeze as a confused, then angry expression crossed Kerlack’s face. Before he could say whatever was on his mind, however, a bolt of electricity streaked down from the strangely clear sky and ripped through the dwarf’s axe, which acted as a lightning rod. A blinding light and a boom of thunder knocked captive and captor alike to the ground.

Part 4

Kivian was the first to recover his wits. “Chorich?” he called.

“I’m here,” a groggy voice responded.

“Marianne?”

“I’m alright,” a voice near Chorich’s shakily reported.

“Kerlack?” Silence. Angry with himself for not being more alert, Kivian stood up warily in the tall prairie grass to peer over at the large scorch mark that used to be Kerlack. “A trap,” he snarled. “Where’s that little demon?”

Rhoach, during all this time, had lain prone after the explosion. He hadn’t seen a blast like that since Sharky had botched the job on the alchemist’s lab((again, a story for another time)). Upon hearing the elf’s snarling accusation, Rhoach had decided that it was time to disappear. He had the feeling that he’d be spitted on the nasty looking spear the infuriated elf now brandished before he got a chance to plead his innocence.

Before he could do anything, however, he heard a loud crashing of branches as an orc came hurtling out into the clearing, seeming to destroy a small part of the forest in the process. This was the first time Rhoach had ever seen an orc, and this one certainly seemed to live up to the fearsome rumors Rhoach had always heard about them. This one had many trappings about it, bearing numerous trophies and medals on its scant armor. It had an insignia on its right breast depicting a broken skull. The only thing more terrifying than its growling, gaping-mouthed countenance was the huge claymore that the rapidly approaching creature wielded in one hand as if it were a short sword.

Rhoach heard a rough voice with a strange accent calling from the forest, “Grulg! Waid ub!”

The heedless Grulg (for Grulg it was) did not stop his charge until he had reached Kivian, who had risen to meet the orc’s charge, gripping his spear and quickly assuming a defensive stance. His bow hung uselessly on his back; the orc’s mad dash had been too quick for him to even nock an arrow.

“It’s the Horde!” the night elf screamed as he raised his spear to parry Grulg’s incoming blade. When the blow landed, however, the elf’s spear did no good. Grulg brought the weapon crashing down with such viciousness and brute strength that it snapped the steel haft of the weapon without stopping, continuing its deadly arc until it had ripped the elf from shoulder to groin. Kivian fell with a slight sighing sound and lay still.

Part 5

The paladin had struggled to his feet just in time to see the ranger cut down. His face contorted with righteous fury and lit with a strange inner glow as he raised his warhammer to the heavens. The very air around the human seemed to ripple with power. Even Grulg looked a little unsure of his chances. Letting out a battle cry that seemed to come straight from the gods themselves, the paladin fairly flew across the battlefield to meet his enemy in glorious combat…. and promptly tripped over the cowering Rhoach, who had been trying to crawl his way back into the woods unnoticed.

Grulg grinned at the prone form in front of him and reversed his enormous sword in his right hand, preparing to deliver the killing blow. A cry sounded from the ground nearby.

“Chorich!” Marianne, the mage, had regained her feet and was pointing her finger at the orc standing over the paladin. She quickly spoke an arcane word and a small ball of fire shot from her index finger and hit the orc in the chest. He stumbled backward and beat his chest with his free hand, attempting to snuff out the flames without success.

“UGLUUUUUUUUUUUUUTZ!” the burning orc howled as he continued to stumble back towards the forest’s edge.

“Wud lat wunt?” another orc, also wearing the emblem of a broken skull, spoke crankily as it hobbled out of the woods.

Grulg gestured at his flaming chest frantically.

“Me blah lat, waid ub!” Uglutz muttered moodily. He glanced over at the humans. The paladin was up again, and the mage was chanting. Still muttering, Uglutz raised his hands and made a few gestures. A small raincloud appeared above Grulg’s head, dousing the flames quickly. Then the icestorm hit. As Marianne finished her chanting, daggers of ice came shooting down, embedding themselves in trees, the ground, and whatever else they happened to come into contact with. One struck a horned helmet worn by Uglutz, shattering one of the horns with its kinetic force.

Uglutz gained an even crankier look(if that’s possible) and waved his hand once more. A wave of intense heat radiated outward from the orcish shaman, melting the incoming shards of ice fifteen feet before they ever reached the ground.

Grulg looked around in wonderment and exclaimed, “Dis nu vudu bubhosh, Uglutz!”

His companion merely grunted and pointed back at the battlefield, where the paladin seemed to be running around the clearing in random patterns. Grulg shrugged at the spectacle and rushed back into the clearing, leaving Uglutz to chant. Or whatever it was that shamans did when they were left alone, the orc thought to himself.

Part 6

Rhoach had taken off as soon as he had recovered from Ulrich’s boot in his ribs. It was well, as the paladin had gotten up soon after and chased Rhoach with surprising speed for one who was wearing chain armor and heavy boots. As the incensed Chorich gained on him, Rhoach feinted left and doubled back around the surprised human. Rhoach darted past his pursuer… straight into the raging Grulg who was running the other way. The startled troll had enough wits about him to tuck himself into a ball and roll in between the orc’s legs, who appeared to see only his foe in the deepening twilight of the forest clearing.

Rhoach came out of his roll and hit the ground running. Free! He thought to himself. As he neared the clearing’s edge, he heard the mage speak a sharp command and a crackle sounded behind him. Before Rhoach had time to wonder what it was, electricity suddenly surged through his body, causing him to hit the ground and twitch convulsively, little arcs of light dancing through his teeth.

The paladin immediately gave up chasing the wretched troll and steeled himself to meet his opponent’s charge, this time slinging his shield from his back and holding it close to his body. Now the orc would flail uselessly at the wall of metal, allowing Choric to choose his blows as he pleased. Or so the paladin thought. His look of smug satisfaction turned to one of surprise as Grulg planted his feet and hurled a throwing axe from his belt faster than Chorich could blink. It whistled by the startled paladin’s face by mere inches. The human’s surprise turned to relief… and then he heard a groan behind him. A horrible feeling growing in his gut, he turned around slowly, his worry making him heedless to his foe.

Marianne lay on the ground, the axe embedded in her sternum. Her life’s blood was quickly spilling itself into the rich soil of the clearing.

“Mari!” Chorich cried out tearfully, hurrying to her side and kneeling. He laid his hands on her, crying out to his god to heal her. Her bleeding slowed to a trickle. He felt life flow from his limbs into her body, and urged himself to give more. As he desperately worked his craft, he heard the heavy, clomping steps of his hated foe closing in quickly. Cursing, he gave up healing Marianne for the moment and hastily readied his shield and hammer. Grulg came at him with a bloodthirsty yell, and soon the two were locked in combat.

Part 7

Meanwhile, Uglutz had lackadaisically ambled his way over to where Rhoach lay, still twitching slightly. Grulg knelt down next to the wounded troll and stared at him for a bit.

“Don’ wanna go ta lockpickin’ practice…” the juvenile troll was muttering feverishly in his comatose state.

“Hmm…” Uglutz pondered to himself. “Dis olog blah oomie blah…” Nodding to himself, Uglutz called upon his shamanistic powers to heal the jagged scar of charred flesh running down the length of Rhoach’s back. Gradually, Rhoach stopped muttering as the magic did its work. The shaman’s powers restored the blackened skin and scrambled muscle the way Rhoach’s natural powers of regeneration could not. Rhoach’s eyes fluttered a bit, then opened fully. When he saw Uglutz crouched over him, he sprang backward and would have sprinted into the forest in a blink had the shaman not called out to him.

“Ug! Lat der!” the orc called after the starved, but still spry, troll. “’less lat stup, me vudu lat!” Rhoach froze upon hearing the word voodoo, if he understood nothing else. He had witnessed the power of Uglutz’s magic. He did not wish to be hit by lightning twice in one day. He turned back slowly to Uglutz. The shaman grinned and tapped his fingernails together, out of which sprang large dragonflies. Rhoach stood, not daring to move.

“Olog. Lat hep Grulg. Dat Grulg.” The shaman pointed at the field of battle. Rhoach assumed that this strange being was referring to the other orc, now in the action of parrying a strike from the human’s warhammer. “Clomp da oomie.” Uglutz pulled his lips down to cover his jutting teeth in an impression of a human, then mimed hitting himself with a large axe he unstrapped from his back, wearing an exaggerated expression of fear and speaking in a high falsetto: “No! Dun’ clomp me, me jus’ liddul panzee!” The shaman looked over to Rhoach, who wore a befuddled expression on his face. He was trying to figure out if the orc before him was playing some kind of trick on him, wanted him to do something, was mentally unbalanced, or perhaps all of the above. Uglutz interpreted the befuddled look as complete understanding. “Gud. Go. Clomp. Or me vudu lat.”

Rhoach cocked his head to the side. He understood what the shaman wanted of him (after a little pondering), but he didn’t know what he would get out of it. The privilege of being allowed to remain in the world of the living? A particularly loud clash sounded from the center of the clearing. Uglutz poked him and pointed sharply towards the duelists, his patience at an end. Rhoach shrugged and slinked off in the direction of the combatants, keeping low to the ground and fingering the dagger strapped underneath his forearm. His smart aleck attitude had been the cause of several scars from Kzar. He wasn’t fond of making himself appear meek, much to his former mentor’s chagrin.

Part 8

As Rhoach neared the battle, he took stock of the situation. Both combatants had slowed down considerably from their initial fervor. They were circling each other guardedly, each not daring to take his eyes off the other for a second. Their movements were slow and halting. It was clear they were both at the point of exhaustion. The mage lay on the ground twenty paces or so away from the fight. Rhoach could not tell if she was dead or just unconscious. He decided to find out. Skirting the fighters, he made his way over to the still form. Unnoticed by either of the meleers, Rhoach knelt down beside the mage. After poking her a few times with no response, he decided to check her heartbeat. He started to put his head to her chest, then realized something was in his way. It was an axe, embedded in the mage’s sternum. “That’ll have to go,” Rhoach muttered to himself. He tugged on it. Nothing. He pulled harder. It didn’t budge. Frowning, Rhoach hopped up onto the mage’s chest, locked both hands around the axe handle, put his feet against her stomach, and heaved with all his strength. After a second of straining, the axe ripped free of the mage, and Rhoach found out the messy way that the axe had been keeping the mage’s blood inside her. A spray of crimson hit Rhoach in the face, startling him and causing him to lose his grip on the axe as he was falling back. The axe sailed behind Rhoach and flew in between the nearby duelists, making both fighters jump back and peer warily around them. Rhoach looked down to discover that if the mage hadn’t been dead before, she was now, judging by the gaping hole in her chest.

Chorich looked and saw that little scab of a troll crouched over Marianne, her chest a bouquet of blood and splintered ribs. The paladin’s face turned a deathly white as he stood, eyes transfixed upon the sight. It felt like the bottom had dropped out of his soul as he unconsciously stretched out his arm to his beloved. Then the world seemed to turn upside down, everything was black, and he knew no more.

Rhoach watched the human fall, a blank expression on the young troll’s face. Once more, his mentor’s words tumbled through his mind like sand through an hourglass; ‘Lesson six: a turned back is no defense against an assassin’s blade.’

Part 9

Grulg wiped his blade on the corpse of the now-headless human, grinning. “Pushdug oomie no see zult. Gud muv, olog!” he yelled to Rhoach. The wary troll waved back at him cautiously, having no idea what had just been said. Now what? Rhoach wondered to himself

Uglutz came stumping up to Grulg and whispered a few things in the other orc’s ear. Grulg raised an eyebrow, nodded back to Uglutz, and the pair approached the flighty troll still perched upon the mage’s ruined breast. On the way, Uglutz knelt and severed the paladin’s leg just below the knee, placing it in a filthy boarskin bag he unhooked from around his waist.

“Wer lat frum, olog?” Uglutz asked Rhoach, tossing the bag near the troll’s feet. Rhoach shrugged, not understanding the question.

“Hmph. Lat blah oomie blah.” Pointing to himself, Uglutz said, “Me Uglutz, Vuduboss Clan Skullcrusher. Dis Grulg, Warboss Clan Skullcrusher.” Grulg grinned down at Rhoach. “Lat?” Uglutz asked, pointing at Rhoach. After a couple seconds of silence, Rhoach realized that he was expected to introduce himself.

“Oh, uh… me Rhoach.”

The shaman nodded, leaned down close to Rhoach’s ear and spoke conspiratorially. “Skullcrusherz prob’ gunna’ be on own sun. Cud uze gud olog. ‘specially ash whu blah oomie…” Uglutz looked down at the troll to see how his audience was listening. Rhoach was picking his nose, looking bored. Uglutz sighed, then noticed the young troll’s hand lingering on one of the dead mage’s baubles, a gold necklace.

“Hmmm…” Uglutz wondered aloud. “Dis ash sneek’r…” He snapped his fingers and reached into a pouch at his side, withdrawing a handful of silver and gold pieces he had looted from a merchant’s stall during the last Horde plunder. “See dis?” He smiled in satisfaction as he saw Rhoach’s eyes widen slightly and gain a covetous look. “Menny shineez wid uz. Lat go tu ORGRIMMAR. Ax fer SKULLCRUSHER CLAN. Be wid uz, git SHINEEZ.” Uglutz practically shouted these last words, as he figured those would be what the troll understood.

The troll was covering his ears and squinting back at the eccentric shaman, but repeated, “Orgrimmar. Skullcrushers… shinies?” Rhoach pondered the orc’s words, looking down and screwing up his face in concentration. He nodded to himself and locked his gaze with Uglutz’s. “You saved my life. I’ll be there.”

Uglutz nodded in satisfaction, not totally understanding the little troll’s language, but taking the response as a positive one, nonetheless. Gesturing at the bag he had tossed at the troll’s feet, he said, “Take. Eet. Oomie meat gud. Lat luk lyk skinee elbzie. Go.”

The sound of more orcish voices came from the east side of the clearing. After one last questioning glance, Rhoach picked up the bag and swiftly skittered into the dense vegetation of Stranglethorn Vale.

Part 10 (final chapter)

Orgrimmar

1 year Before Present

A lanky troll walked into the gates of Orgimmar with smooth, fluid motion. He looked like any other troll save for the gleam in his eye when he eyed a passing tauren merchant’s bulging pouch. He accosted the tauren. The bull man snorted in irritation, but stopped, wondering what the troll had to say.

“Skullcrushers?” the troll asked with a strange accent. The tauren had no idea what the troll was talking about. It shook its head and began to walk away. The troll quickly stepped in front of him and repeated, “Skullcrushers?”

The tauren growled and attempted to walk around this irritating troll. Once more, the troll blocked the tauren’s path and repeated once more, “Skullcrushers?”

The tauren had had enough. It picked the troll up by the neck with one massive arm and tossed him to the dirt against a nearby stone wall. Harumphing to itself in indignation, the tauren continued on its way.

Rhoach stood up and dusted himself off. “Thank you for your help, kind sir,” he chuckled as he emptied the tauren’s purse into his own, tossing the emptied pouch to the dusty streets of Orgrimmar…

It took him the rest of the day to find an individual who could point him in the right direction. That was fine by him, however. More time in the city meant more time to enrich himself. Ah, how good it was to be back in a populated area, with all the interesting inhabitants and their equally interesting accumulated wealth. Finally, he ran into a fellow troll who gave him the directions to the nearby Skullcrusher encampment. Rhoach nodded his thanks and set off.

A couple hours later, he walked into the camp. After asking around for Uglutz, he was pointed in the direction of a tent with, oddly enough, purple smoke billowing out the front.

And who emerged from that smoking abode but that strange figure from ten long years ago, back when he was just a whelp: the odd orcish shaman. He was even wearing that helmet that had had one of its horns shattered on that fateful day.

As Rhoach approached the grizzled orc, a voice spoke up in his head. ‘Lesson fifteen: always honor your word. It is all our people have.”

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