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A cry in the night
The deep blue netherdrake cut through the air over the rolling hills of Nagrand, followed by the tawny shape of a wyvern.  Zlinka and Oryx flew through the night, headed towards the Consortium camp for their monthly quota of gems.

Zlinka, dreaming of the balmy evenings of her native Echo Isles, tightened the scarf around her neck, wrapped her cloak snugly around her shoulders, and huddled down into the saddle.  Oryx, whose family lived in Winterspring, inhaled the cold night air deeply and happily.  Little Luna rode behind Oryx, snuggled between his shield and the warm fur of his back.

Sounds carried a long way in the chill autumn air.  Over the regular whooshing of her dragon’s wings, Zlinka heard the slow tromp and wheezing of the clefthoof herds below, and the buzzing and crackling of a wandering air elemental.  To the west, she could just hear the low hum of the Legion’s Forge camp machinery.

They swooped over Sunspring Post and Zlinka shuddered.  The cheerful orc fishing village, nestled on the shore of Sunspring Lake, had been sacked by the Murkblood tribe of the Broken.  The Broken had slaughtered every Mag’har orc they could find, and the shores of the lake were littered with the rotting bodies of the villagers, some of them still clutching rolling pins and fishing rods.  The survivors of the atrocity, many of them children, had straggled into Garadar over the ensuing days.

Zlinka peered down at the village.  She smelled the smoldering timbers and the decomposing bodies of the dead, and her stomach rose with revulsion.

The netherdrake startled beneath her.  From below, faint and plaintive, came a small cry.  Zlinka wheeled her mount around. Oryx was already stopped and hovering.  Surely not, Zlinka thought.  Surely nothing could have survived the massacre or the days that had followed.  And yet…

For such an enormous animal, Zlinka’s dragon could be very, very quiet.  He glided down with barely a swish of air, his claws sinking into the soft turf by the lake’s edge.  Oryx’s wyvern landed with feline grace, folded his leathery wings, and sat back to lick his paws clean of mud.

Oryx and Zlinka dismounted and stood together, listening. Oryx bounced gently up and down.  Luna was still asleep, strapped to his back, but when the forward motion stopped she stirred.  With gentle bouncing and rocking, Oryx lulled her back to sleep.

They stood for a long time, watching the Broken through the windows of their stolen huts, watching them move about in the firelight, making dinner, chatting, eating.

Zlinka looked down at the ground around her feet.  The water seeping up between her toes was dark and cold and greasy.  A few yards to one side, she saw a huddled mound, very still.  She saw a knee, tucked up, the fingers of a hand.  She looked away.  She saw another mound, and another, and another.

And then they heard it again.  A whimper.  Then silence.

It came from the bushes to their left, the ones growing on the slope near a small waterfall.  Motioning Oryx to stay back, Zlinka crouched stealthily. She crept forward, softly, softly, peering into the darkness.

Feet crunched on gravel.  Two Murkblood guards appeared on the slope above. Talking and laughing, they walked towards her.  Zlinka crouched lower, one hand on the hilt of her dagger.  They were close enough to touch.  She held her breath.  They passed by, heading down towards the lake.

Zlinka crept uphill.  Amid a tangle of branches and chunks of adobe wall lay the battered body of a female orc.  She was slumped sideways atop a great axe, one hand still curled around its handle.  Her dark hair was clotted, her features half crushed.  Her mail armor was pierced with the shafts of many arrows.

An arrow moved.  Zlinka stifled a cry.  

Covering her nose and mouth with one hand against the stench, Zlinka reached forward with the other and loosened the buckles of the orc’s armor.  She peeled the mail away, along with a protective under-covering of soft leather, stiff with dried blood.  The steam of decomposition rose from the body; beetles fled sluggishly as they were exposed to the cool night air.

Under the orc’s armor was a small, tight-wrapped bundle of netherweave cloth. A tiny hand clutched a corner of the cloth.  A tiny, brown hand.

Zlinka touched the hand.  It was warm.

All caution aside now, Zlinka ripped the armor open.  With blurred vision she tore at the stained cloth strips that held the baby to its mother’s bare skin.  The strips were too strong.  A dagger blade flashed, the cloth parted, the bundle was free.  Zlinka clutched the baby to her chest.  Its hand closed on one of her braids and held fast.

Holding the baby, Zlinka backed away from the body, then paused.  Wait, she thought, I may be the last one to see its mother.  She gently pushed aside a lock of the orc’s matted hair and felt around the neck.  Her fingers touched the leather string of a necklace. She pulled it free and tucked it into the bundle.

Someday, she thought, you will want to know, little one.

Zlinka forced herself to look into the orc’s face, to see beyond the injuries, to imagine how she might have looked, before.

I will see that your little one is taken care of, she whispered.

Then she vanished into the night.


"€œSo young!" The orc matron at Garadar grimaced.  "They require frequent feeding at this age, you know.  Round the clock.  And we are desperately understaffed.  We cannot take it.  You should have left it where you found it."

Zlinka said angrily,  "€œBut there are so few Mag'har left!  Surely every one of them should be saved."

The orc matron watched a group of young orc refugees run past.  "€œWe Mag'har like our offspring strong and sturdy, like those, not thin and weak like that infant you have there."

"€œThis one will be strong and sturdy once it grows a little older,"€ snapped Zlinka. "It just takes time."

"Time that we don't have,"€  The matron sighed and turned away.  "Try the orphanage at Shattrath."


Zlinka and Oryx pushed their way through the squalid Lower City of Shattrath.  Refugees of all races lay on blankets, some of them moaning in pain, all of them in rags.  A few scrawny chickens squawked and fluttered out of their way.  Ragged awnings flapped overhead, with great gashes torn in them from wyverns and griffons and dragons that got tangled in them while passing by.  A herd of emaciated sheep ambled past, tended by a wild-eyed shepherd.

"Here'€™s the orphanage,"€ said Oryx, pointing to an open door.  They peeked in.  The building was full of children.  Draenai children chased little blood elves.  Human children ate next to troll children.  Little tauren children warstomped tiny gnomes.  Dwarf children tumbled with little orcs.  The place was overrun with orphans.

A human matron came forward to greet them, a blood elf toddler hanging onto her skirt and a gnome baby on one arm.

Hesitantly, Zlinka held out the baby Mah'€™har orc.  "I found her in Sunspring Post.  She went many days without food and is very weak, but she has taken a little milk and cereal."

The matron sighed.  "We really don't have room for another.  We'€™re overflowing.  I suppose one more won't make much difference, though.  She is very small.  She probably won'€™t...  but we'll try.  Put her over there in the corner with the other babies.  We'll get to her when we can."  Then she picked up the blood elf with her free arm and disappeared within.

Zlinka looked at the row of cradles.  So many babies, so many orphans, so much need.  Who would care for this tiny, fragile infant?  She needed so much care.  Who would see that she got what she needed? Who would fight for her?  Zlinka thought of the mother orc, who had died fighting for her baby, for her family, for her village.

"We can't leave her here,"€ she said.


Zlinka and Oryx talked late into the night.  Their hearts were already decided: they would keep the baby and raise her themselves. But they needed to talk it through, examine the decision from every angle, and come to terms with the change to their lives that a new baby would bring.

It wouldn'€™t be the first time.  Zlinka glanced down at little Luna, asleep in Oryx's shield.  Over two years ago, riding through Stonetalon Mountains, they had found the baby tauren under the floorboards of a burned-out building at Camp Aparaje.  They had taken her to Mulgore, the safest place they knew.  But Greatmother Hawkwind was already overworked, and she charged them with the upbringing of the baby.  What had started out as a service to the Horde turned into a family, and Zlinka hugged her daughter close.

Luna stirred.  "I hungry," she said.  "€œBreakfast time!  Pancakes!"€


The four of them sat at a table in World'€™s End Tavern. Luna munched on a bowl of orange slices, stuffing entire slices into her mouth at once when Oryx wasn'€™t looking and then trying to talk.  "Luna chair!  Luna sit chair!  Baby cry...  Mama fix it!"

Zlinka fed the baby some milk from a bottle. She was a tiny little thing, with beautiful nut-brown skin and dark hair like her mother'€™s.  Her eyes were chestnut brown.

"She needs a name, you know,"€ said Zlinka.

"€œLet's call her Zora,"€ said Oryx.

Zlinka smiled at little Zora. Welcome home.
((just wanted to tell you this was a wonderful story. I’ll even admit it brought a tear to my eye))
Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Etsuko - Monk
Razzlixx Blingwell - Warlock
Cloudjumper Wildmane - Druid (Inactive)
You guys must be awesome parents. Maybe someday our respective broods of little hordelings can get together for a crazy baby romp. Smile
[Image: 2426811FELbm.png]
I love your stories so much, Zlinka. You put so much emotion into such simple, elegant form... this is just lovely. <3
Sreng -- Thank you! We'd love to meet you and get the Hordelings together sometimes. Maybe at the RL moots next summer!

Naruth -- Thank you very much! *delighted smile*
I love the little warstomping tauren kidlets!
"She is a soothsayer. She’s a mystic. She is a witch doctor, able to see into people’s hearts and minds. She’s also touched by the elements." -Naomie Harris

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