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Long Gone
#1
Quote:Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died.
Do not weep.
War is kind.

-Stephen Crane, War is Kind

A few months after the Orcish invasion of Azeroth. Harald is roughly 23 years of age. He's one of the new recruits, a member of the swarm that joined the Stormwind military after the first, failed siege of the Horde, desperate to protect their homeland. His own home, a lumber mill in the south of Elwynn Forest, had since been destroyed, and he'd seen a way to survive in joining the Guard. The people of Stormwind had prepared themselves for a second attempt by the Orcs, and everyone anxiously awaited the fated signal that told them that the Horde had once again come.

That signal had come, and Harald had anxiously dressed in the chainmail that had been allowed to him. The metal helmet clouded his vision, and moved about on his head, swinging to and fro. He had a standard shield, as well as a spear, and a short-sword for backup. It all felt heavy on his frame, and yet light enough so that the adrenaline did not allow it to bother him. Overall, he felt confident. The Orcs had been beaten back once already, and he felt confident that they would do the same this time. Overall, the feeling was one of anxious, yet cocky, confidence. It would not last for long.

--

"Maximus!" The man, dressed in full plate armor, straightened his back and stared at the grizzled veteran before him. Behind him, Harald stood with a handful of recruits, all fully dressed in what armor they had. They formed into a line, adjusting their ill-fitting helmets and staring straight ahead. "Maximus, a fire has broken out in the northeast part of town, next to the Palace. It is you and your crew's job to go and quench the fire, before returning here. Are we clear?"

The plated warrior nodded, the veteran giving his own nod in response before stalking out of the room. Maximus didn't bother repeating the instructions, instead immediately setting to a short jog, his plate armor clinking lightly as he moved. Harald and the others moved behind him, forming into a line. The sky above was dark, dark enough for even the Cathedral to seem cold, and promised rain. Yet, it had fallen back on those promises, leaving the city parched and lonely. They were led through the maze of streets that constituted Stormwind at the time, Maximus keeping a brisk pace. A man before Harald muttered through heavy breaths. "Sign up to fight 'n'... I'm stuck with puttin'... out fires." He let out what could either be a sigh or another breath. Harald grunted in response.

In short time, the canal stood before them. Already, peasants rushed back and forth, dipping whatever they had that could hold water into the canal, before rushing to where an amber tint stained the sky. It was easy for the soldiers to find their own bowls or buckets, and they quickly began following the peasants. The house was a complete loss, wood crackling under the stress brought unto it by the fire. Harald's ears dimly recognized the sound of crying. It could have been the sound of anything; the helmet was thick enough to muffle his hearing, unless it was an absolute shout.

The heat blistered all around it as peasants rushed back and forth. The din of fighting was evident, even over the fire, the helmet, the peasants. Then, a sound of thunder that shook the entire valley issued forth. Finally, Harald thought, Rain. He looked up towards the sky hopefully, helmet shifting upon his head. Alas, nothing came down, until Maximus shouted. "Retreat to the Harbor! Now!" The urgency in his voice immediately grabbed Harald's attention, who swiveled to look. The peasants around him were screaming something about the Harbor, and a hand grabbed the young man's forearm, pulling him through the crowd.

The streets were absolute chaos, a mesh of the dull colors of the peasant's clothing, and were it not for the hand that guided him, Harald would not have been able to navigate them. Finally, he was free of the peasants, behind a line of soldiers. They peered ahead grimly, shields held up to protect their chest, eyes just above the top. Spears were pointed out towards the crowd, which funneled between them, towards the sea behind. The harbor, as always, was full of ships -- many now indiscriminately took civilians on board, while others, those that were full, pulled away and began to set sail north. Harald turned around, eyes widened. "Wait, why are we fleeing?" Maximus turned to him. "The wall's been broken. Lord Lothar is calling for everyone that can to retreat. He seems to be going to the northern Kingdoms. We have to hold the line."

The short and succinct description was enough to send Harald's head reeling, but only for a brief second. He turned back towards the now-burning Stormwind, the ashes burning at his eyes. That was when he saw his first Orc. It was like a monster out of a fairy tale. Eight feet tall, body wrought with bulging muscles. It had a leather harness over it's chest, kilt that hung to it's knees and a long, curved axe held in a hand. With a roar, it turned to the armored Humans before it. Harald felt the red eyes of the Orc bare into his own for a second, before the Orc began charging. The Humans flew away from it like a kid kicking rocks. The Orc charged straight into Harald, catching him in the chest with a shoulder and sending him barrelling back into a wall. Everything went black.

--

When he awoke, it was to the room he was sleeping in. Absolute darkness. He jolted up, leaning against the bedrest, trying desperately to fill his empty lungs. His back rubbed against the unsanded wooden stand, leaving a mark of red across his skin. It took a few seconds for his adrenaline-fueled eyes to adjust to the shadow of the room, before realising that he was safe. He spoke aloud, not bothering if anyone heard him. "Light damn those dreams." It took a few more seconds of deep, rhythmic breaths to calm his heart, which pumped against his ribcage like a deer in a cage. It wasn't going to happen naturally. He swung the quilt that covered his legs away, grabbing a cigarette from his case before heading outside.

The bottom of the tavern was bathed in the light from the lantern that eternally hung in the corner. Harald stumbled towards it, swinging open the hatch and pushing his cigarette in, to light it, before closing the hatch. He then opened the door, leaving the tavern with nothing on but a pair of old pants. The lady who watched the front knew that this was a near daily occurance, and didn't bother to respond to the old veteran. More than once, she'd received complaints of him screaming in his sleep, and had to wake him up to stop his nightmares. The light presented by the moon was just enough for him to fumble towards the canal, before lighting his cigarette. He sat down on the edge of the canal, letting out a heavy sigh as the smoke of the cigarette filled his lungs with warm. His feet swirled about in the water of the canal, freezing his toes to the bone. His beard bristled in the light wind, the thin layer of hair enough to cover the rest of his body from the cold outside. "Light damn those dreams." He whispered the words, more of an assurance to himself other than an actual curse. After all, if the Light had cursed them, why had they kept happening?
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