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Guardians
#1
The orcs of Darkhaven had a fortress of hardened wood, atop a small plateau overlooking the Darkhaven forest. Bloodaxe Hold, as it was known, was the main bastion of the orcs of the region, their impenetrable holding. The woods were dangerous to outsiders as it was and posed an intimidating barrier to invaders, the fortress itself was a daunting structure to attempt to overcome. So much so that most simply chose to let the orcs be. Until recently, of course, when the southern invaders came, humans bearing fire and proclaiming the orcs as heretics. For some, the battles seemed distant. For others, it was clear, as soldiers trained within the fortress, occasionally being sent out to the lines. Outside of this fortress at this time, on the plateau overlooking the trees and the path out, were two shamans.

They watched as a troop passed down the path, going into the ocean of green trees that dominated the entire region. So many had left, but they stayed. One was an elder, white-haired and starting to thin with age. Kordag, as his name was, looked over at the younger shaman, "Most would be upset that they aren't going to help."

The younger shaman frowned. He was broad and strong, blue eyes, head shaved bald and a long, black, and braided goatee hanging from his chin as was the custom of his tribe. Everyone in the tribe knew what he was, though. The black tattoos that ran over his green skin made that apparent, as well as the traditional long kilt he wore and the charms that were tied to it and his arms, much like the elder orc he was beside. "I don't envy them."

Kordag nodded, his face expressionless. "Yet you have been wanting to leave this fortress for some time, Grakor. Why, then?"

"The power to take a life is an enormous responsibility. It is an act that forever changes the world, that cannot be undone. Do I have the wisdom to use that power? Do they?" Grakor shrugged his broad shoulders, frowning in thought, "No, I don't envy them. To enter a battlefield, to kill or be killed..."

"The wolf hunts. The wolf kills."

"The wolf is a symbol of brotherhood, of unity. The wolf doesn't take responsibility, the pack does, and the burden and the task falls to all equally."

"Is that not the purpose of leaving with your brother orcs?"

Grakor froze at the question, frowning again. He let that thought rest in his brain for a while, before finally coming up with an answer, "I suppose it is. Still, I do not envy them."

Kordag smiled, or at least Grakor thought he did. It was hard to tell sometimes with his teacher. "No. Neither do I."

* * *

Blood soaked the bandage as it was applied. Grakor kept his face frozen in a steady mask as he wrapped a second layer over, and then a third. His patient at least had the good sense to sit still during the procedure, which is more than could be said for the warrior that came before. This one hadn't been hit anywhere vital, though an arrow had been pulled. That was never a pleasant experience, for either the one having to pull it or the victim who had to endure the pain. He swore that every time he heard that roar of pain, however muffled, it shook Grakor down to his core, though he always hid that reaction as best he could. He eyed his handiwork, and then nodded. There was one more thing he had to do.

Grakor tied the bandage off, then laid a hand just an inch away from the wound. He closed his eyes, slowing his breathing. Darkness covered his eyes, and yet there was an outline, the blocky form of the orc in front of him. He concentrated, focusing that awareness on the injured arm. Yes, there it was, like the injury were leaking darkness into the rest of his vision, extending its foulness down the rest of the orc's body. He concentrated, extending himself to that darkness, or at least a part of himself. It was like threads of light to his closed gaze, weaving and tying, flowing into the blackness that was leaking out of the injured limb. The wounded one wouldn't see it, of course. At least, not as he did.

His eyes opened, and he could see the confused look of the dark-haired orc in front of him, who was watching apprehensively. Yet he still stayed perfectly still, as if afraid to do otherwise. Grakor finally broke the silence, "There was still some infection there. You should recover, but you probably won't be able to use the arm for a while."

There was a mixture of both relief and disappointment on the wounded one. Relief came from the knowledge that the arm would recover, while disappointment that he would essentially be out of commission for some time. Nonetheless, he nodded, standing up off of the chair. "Thank you, shaman." He bowed, and then quickly made his exit.

Grakor wasn't surprised. Most orcs didn't want to hang about a shaman's hut for too long. He never did get that orc's name. A scout, probably, judging from the dark leathers he wore and his build. Another victim of the humans to the south, he guessed.

The shaman went to a corner of his hut, washing the blood off of his hands in a basin water. He frowned as he watched, the once-clear liquid starting to turn red until he'd finally cleaned his hands off. He withdrew, watching. The water was his element, the one that had chosen him when he became a shaman. He heard his mentor's voice from the past when he'd found out, and now he was staring at the bloody liquid. "Be like the water," he finally uttered aloud, the irony almost so thick he could cut it.

* * *

"There is something on your mind."

Grakor shrugged at his mentor's comment. He didn't answer.

Kordag seemed unphased by the lack of response. They walked through the paths of the fortress, as they usually did. The elder enjoyed getting out still, the fresh air making him feel more young and alive. Though, Grakor had trouble imagining his mentor as anything but energetic. "Are you still brooding over the warriors leaving?"

"I am not brooding," Grakor commented back with another frown. He almost felt insulted, like it was an accusation. "Many of them won't ever come back. That, I think, is something that at least someone should be concerned over."

"And yet, you are here."

The words stung, perhaps more than intended. Grakor peered over at the older shaman, his heavy brow furrowed. "Would my presence truly change anything?"

"All it takes is one man's actions to change the world, even in a small way."

"Death would still happen. Our men or theirs, in the end it would still happen."

Kordag kept quiet for a moment after that, speaking only after a pause for thought, "You say it like it is a grand finality."

"I can already guess what you'd say," Grakor uttered while shaking his head, "The dead return to the earth, and from death comes new life. Yet, there is still something forever lost in that moment. Something unique. Individual. You can't just get that back when it is lost. Can I judge them? Say who should live and who should die?"

"You can't stop all death. All you can do is do the best with what time you have, to mitigate the damage as best you can. All things will pass and fade. It is up to us to help direct the hows and whens. And this war, would you call it unjust? Would you kill a man, if it meant saving two others?"

Grakor didn't answer.

* * *

He couldn't sleep.

The young shaman found himself walking the paths of the fortress again long after night had fallen, his aimless path twisting around the buildings as he went.

All you can do is do the best with what time you have.

His steps eventually brought him to the plateau from that morning, overlooking the trees. They'd started to turn colors due to the season, the leaves just now beginning to fall. He sat, listening to the relative silence, the rustle of the wind through the leaves and the occasional hoot of a nocturnal bird. It was peaceful.

He had so many things he still intended on doing with his life. He wanted to see things, to find love, to make a difference, even in a small and insignificant way. His mind wandered at these ideas, these goals. They seemed so distant and insurmountable now.

Jarring him from his thoughts, he felt something against his hand. As he looked down, he saw a single leaf, brown and brittle, one of the first to have fallen and died in the coming of the autumn. He took it in one hand, but with a little more force than intended, and with a tiny dry snap, the leaf had broken in two.

He winced.

All things pass and fade.

Grakor stared at the leaf for a few silent moments more, then looked down back to the landscape below him. He balled his hand, crushing the brittle thing in his green hand until it was mostly dust and small flakes. Then, he lifted it up in silent offering. The wind took it, and brought the remains back down to the sea of trees.

----------------------------------------------

Just a something I wrote not too long ago (in fact, much of it was just this morning.) Thought I'd throw it up here, too. Not Warcraft related, but this essentially does kind of convey the idea I was always kind of going for with the shaman version of Grakor nonetheless.

May write more in the future, we'll see.
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