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Vor'tok's Journey -- Chapters 3 and 4
For those of you who read chapters 1 and 2, I appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed them. It took some time to write chapters 3 and 4 because I had to collaborate with another who is a part of the story. Then, after writing to the approval of this other person, I had to edit chapter 4 to fit, as I had already written it. I hope you enjoy these next chapters as well!

The Last Stop

Vor'tok's feet carried him down a familiar path, a trail he had blazed over the past months that ran astray from the road. His mind, on the other hand, wandered a path that was becoming uncomfortably familiar. His thoughts were on the dream. He had never been a believer in signs. The abnormal behavioral patterns of animals and the way a crack ran down the blade of an axe did not mean the same things to him as they would his hunter and warrior brothers. In fact, all a cracked blade meant to him was the gold he would have to spend to repair it and he was not sure he had ever noticed abnormal behaviors in beasts or any type of behavioral pattern in animals at all. He was a shaman; he listened to the elements, respected the elements, and used the elements in battle. Perhaps an older and wiser shaman would know better, but Vor was young and naive and continued on ignoring the superstitions of his fellow orcs. However, for as young and naive as Vor may have been, he knew dreams were laced with mysticism, and this dream haunted him.

He had been walking all morning and afternoon. It was near evening, the hottest part of the day was over and he was grateful for it. He was even more grateful for the ointment he had gathered before he had left. Not only did it seem to work, but the fact that it had cured him of his chest pains gave him reassurance that the pains had nothing to do with the dream. No, he must have just injured himself falling over, or swinging an imaginary mace, or whatever he may have been doing while he had been sleep walking. Finally he came to the watch tower outside Razor Hill. It stood on a cliff high above the small town. Usually he would stop there and chat with the grunts while secretly using the tower to scout out what mesa he would like to conquer. There was no need for that now as he knew which one was going to be the challenge now, the tallest plateau in Durotar. Some said it was higher than Thunder Bluff, others, mostly tauren, scoffed at the thought. Of course all the mesas in Durotar were red, but the shear size of this one earned its name, "The" Red Mesa. Besides, it was growing later and later and he wanted to reach his destination before sundown. The last stop he would make before setting out to The Red Mesa, standing alone high above the rest.

He continued heading south of the tower and before too long he saw his destination; a small house just to the west of Razor Hill. He could also see the one he was coming to visit, working piously in what she liked to think of as a garden. He managed to approach undected.
"Throm'ka, Exa'day!" he shouted as he came as close as he thought he could and still remain unnoticed.
Startled, she responded, "Vor! I told you not to do that anymore!" Then, looking around, she continued, "No armor, no weapons, no wolf... you're out here climbing again?"
"Swo'bu." was his casual response, he would spare her the details of why he had felt the need to walk, as he usually did. "You seem distressed."
"I don't understand it!" she scowled, staring at the place she had been tilling, "I can heal any injury brought before me, but I can't get this silly garden to grow!"
Vor chuckled, "Well, Exa, you're a shaman, not a druid!" His good humor was cut short by her glare. "What I meant was..." he hesitated to think, for he really meant nothing more than what he had said, "well... this is the very nature of the land in Durotar. The earth is not wounded here. Therefore..." he thought some more, as she was still glaring at him, "... it's not an injury in the element you're trying to heal, but the very nature of the element itself that you're trying to change." He stopped, looking at her as she glared at him, wondering if that was satisfactory or if he was going to get clubbed by the hoe she had been tilling with and still held.
After a moment she shrugged, dropping the gardening tool, "Perhaps. Come on in, there's bread rising in the kiln for you right now."
"For me? You knew I was coming?" he smirked, knowingly. Not catching the humor, she merely sighed at him, "When do I not have a meal prepared and awaiting you?" Then, throwing back the rug used as a door, she welcomed him in.

Exa'day's bread, for not being meat, really was the best food Vor had ever tasted and he was always sure to let her know by eating several loaves of it each time he visited. Not that it was unusual for orc males to eat large portions, just unusual for them to have such a taste for anything but meat. "Give me your bag, Vor." Exa'day said as Vor'tok was finishing his third helping of stew and second loaf of bread, "I'll wrap this last loaf for you to take tomorrow." He grimaced as she stuffed some turnips in the bag with the bread, but quickly changed it to a smile and a nod for "thank you." He knew Exa'day was proud of her turnips, as they were the only things she had managed to grow in her garden thus far.

After dinner, they went outside and sat on the ground, backs against her house, heads tilted to the night sky. They sat together for most of the night with a little scattered conversation, all small talk, all small talk, just enjoying being in each others company.
"So when will you be back, Vor?" she asked as the sun began to rise.
"A week. Two weeks maybe. Not long. I'll stop by here again before returning to Orgrimmar." he assured her. He gathered his gear then, hugged her goodbye, and set off.
Peril on The Red Mesa

There it was, The Red Mesa, one of the few plateaus in Durotar left untamed to the orc. It had taken him a full day and a half to reach the mesa after departing Exa'day's farm, and upon arrival, he had spent another three days camped out below the mesa. It loomed over him, intimidating him, challenging him. Vor'tok took a deep breath. It was time to meet this new opponent. Strict meditation and communion with the elements awaited him at the peak; for this he would need a strong fire burning before him, the earth beneath him, and the wind about him. Fire was the element with which Vor'tok held the closest bond as a shaman. Water, on the other hand, he would not need. He had always considered it a weaker element, useful only to the weak and those who tended to them. He would have to leave his food and water behind. He buried his rations, turnips still untouched, to protect them from any scavengers or thieving quillboar that may come around.

Climbing had become a passion of the orc equivelant to his passion for fighting. The physical act of climbing cave very easy to him and often required little thought on his behalf, leaving his mind free to wander. Even though, like in battle, he was forced to test his physical prowess, cunning, and determination in the face of death; it was this that Vor loved about both climbing and fighting, for this was the only way he ever felt completely free: free from his worries, his fears, his responsibilities, and the politics of the Horde. More importantly, however, he was free from the turmoil raging across Azeroth, unlike while in battle, where he was an active hand in it.

The Red Mesa was proving itself to be the most difficult climb Vor'tok had ever attempted, demanding a strenuous display of his strength, stamina, and agility. He had never used a rope or any other tool to aid his climbing, and he never brought them along with him. He was starting to wish he had. There were no ledges on which he could stop and rest, and there were many places where a large area of the plateau wall was nothing more than flat rock bearing no grooves for grips. And he had approached what he hoped would be the worst part of the climb, a long overhang. He had purposely started his ascent at the other side of the mesa to avoid this problem, but the flat rock had left him with no choice but to tackle it. Luckily, there was a small crevice running along the bottom of the overhang, just large enough to, with a little force, wedge his knee into to serve as support. And that was how he went about it, with his back parallel to the ground, gripping the crevice that gripped his knee with one hand, and using the other to seek the next grip. His other leg he kept wedged between his chest and the rock above him.

It was slow moving. He thought of his dream. Why had it troubled him so? He felt for the next grip... found it. Death was a thing he did not fear, having lived a life full of it. He pulled himself forward, the jagged edge of the crevice finally breaking skin as he knew it would. The blackness then? Another hand grip, a deeper cut into his knee; the crevice was narrowing. No, that didn't make sense; perhaps it was because he did not know with whom he was fighting or who he was fighting against. That might be it. Another small movement. His knee was really beginning to bother him, but the end was near. "Must keep moving forward," he said allowed to himself. It did bother him that he had lost the fight without even harming his opponent, but of course that was not enough to shake him in the way the dream as a whole did. He had come upon the end of this overhanging ledge, only another shuffle or two. Despite the ointment's effectiveness, he could not shake the idea that the pains in his chest were directly related to the wound in hte dream. He tried to convince himself it was foolishness, there was no such blade that could be used against one in one's dreams. Finally, the end. He reached around, one hand at at time to a small crack and yanked his knee out of the crevice.

It felt good to just hang there. His muscles were getting a great stretch and the wind cooled his banged up knee. He watched a trickle of blood form, run down his leg, and fall, wondering how far it would fall before it disappeared from view. The drop of blood did not fall for long before the wind blew it back against the mesa. Strange, the direction of the wind had shifted in that split second... shifted and significantly picked up. Letting go with one hand, he twisted his body around so he could look back behind him. "Razor winds..." he said out loud, looking back at the dark red cloud racing towards him, forming from the ground up and stretching for the horizon on either side. These storms, common in Durotar, were known to leave entire caravans of kodo as nothing but dry bones half buried in red dirt. He began scrambling upwards, trying to out-elevate the winds. They would not be nearly as severe at this altitude as they would be nearer the ground, where the cloud of dirt and rocks was denser, but there would still be enough debris this high up to shred his flesh.

"Damn!" he yelled. Flat rock completely surrounded him now. A few feet away from him there was a ledge as wide as he was and seeming to stretch all across this side of the plateau, but there was flat rock between him and it. He leapt for it. Successfully he grabbed it, pulled himself on, and sprinted for the other end of the mesa hoping the ledge would lead him around the other side to take cover from the wind. He hadn't made it far when the wind hit with more force than he had been prepared for, smacking him against the wall. He sat down, back to the winds, with his head tucked into his chest and his arms covering over him. The dirt stung badly, tearing straight through his shirt and loding into his back. Then he heard a crack and felt the earth shift beneath him. The ledge was giving away under his weight. He cursed his bad luck under his breath, and the ledge collapsed.

He tried his damnedest to grip the cliff, but only succeeded in striping the skin off his fingertips and snapping his nails backwards. Finally he lodged his fingers in a small crack, the same one he had used to pull himself up over the overhang, off which he was once again suspended. Now his whole backside was exposed to the violent storm. His eyes were clinched tightly, partly due to pain, partly to keep the dirt out, but he could feel the last threads of his shirt shred completely and blow off of him. He imagined it disappearing into the dark red cloud, where it would be ripped down to nothingness. The excruciating pain he was feeling now made him wonder if it would not be better to let go now, join his shirt, and have it done with.

Then the winds dropped, as suddenly as they had developed. Vor'tok thought himself fortunate as razor winds usually lasted for several days. He knew death was upon him but he was glad his last few moments of life would not be spent in searing pain, even if every muscle was aching and his whole body burned as if it were on fire. It still beat the feeling of the dirt drilling further through him with each grain. He knew he was losing a lot of blood, he could feel it running steadily down his back and the back of his legs. His dream had foretold his impending doom, he thought to himself, and that's why it had bothered him so. But he would fight the odds until death overtook him, that was the orcish way. He was not sure how long he had been hanging there, preparing to pull himself up, but the dust had settled, returning the day to the calm, beautiful day it had been earlier. He attempted the pull, and then an all too familiar pain struck him in his chest, and he fell.

This is it, Vor thought to himself, this is the end. There were no flashbacks, nor was there fear. In fact, he had never felt calmer. After all, what could he do? He fell, back first, and noticed the blue sky, dotted with a few white puffs of cloud here and there. It really was quite a beautiful day for climbing. He then arched his back and faced the ground, arms spread out wide, free falling. If he was going to die, he could at least face death and welcome it. He realized he was falling near where he had buried his rations. A queer thought came to him then; contrary to his prior beliefs, he really would rather eat turnips than die. Vor'tok would have laughed for having such a thought at such a time, had he had the time to laugh before meeting the ground.

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