Once a year, I make it a point to stop and see Matron Battlewail in Orgrimmar, and make arrangements to take one of the orphans on an adventure. See, I was orphaned myself, years ago, and I know some of what they are going through. And, despite my fearsome appearance and bloodthirst on the battlefield, I have a soft spot for kids.
My father, Tharktin, was killed when I was very young, I barely remember him. He died fighting alongside Orgrim Doomhammer back when the Orcs were still new to this world.
My mother was a beautiful Orcish woman with long black hair that she usually wore in a braid over her shoulder. We lived in the Barrens when I was a youngster, where she did tailoring and we raised pigs on a small farm. She taught me to fish in the Southfury River. She taught me how to skin animals and prepare their hides. She taught me how to survive in this alien world, and she gave her life one day so that I could escape.
When I was still only about waist-high to her, she took me to Crossroads so that we could sell some of the garments she had sewn, and to buy some bread and vegetables to supplement the pork that was always on our table. While we walked, she told me stories her mother had told her about Draenor, our home world. She said the hot sun and the red soil reminded her of home. She always told great stories, and I looked forward to our trips together.
On our return journey, we were surprised by a band of Razormanes. I managed to escape and run back to Crossroads for help, and a group of Orcs rode out to slaughter the Quillboars, but mother was mortally wounded, and died on that dusty ground amidst the bodies of her enemies.
After her funeral, I was taken to Orgrimmar, and placed in the care of the Matron of the Orphanage there, Battlewail. I abided there until I was finally old enough to join Thrall's army and train in the ways of battle. But I never forgot what my father and mother endured and sacrificed so that I might live.
Matron Battlewail was glad to see me as usual. I always feel a little guilty when I visit, because I know the trouble I caused her when I was little, and that I don't visit enough. But she threatened to beat me with that long mixing spoon of hers if I didn't straighten up, so I laugh and things are okay again.
She introduced me to little Grom, whom I promised to take very good care of. He seemed a little frightened of me at first, but we bade Battlewail farewell, and made our way into town.
Now, having grown into my teen years in the orphanage, I know the food that they serve all too well. So the first thing we did was to make our way to the inn, where Gryshka, my old friend greeted us warmly. She served us a steaming platter of freshly roasted pork, with all the trimmings, and Grom fell to with gusto. I told him that we would eat well all week, and that if he ever got hungry, just to let me know. He smiled with all of his teeth.
While he ate, I told him a story about his namesake, Grommash Hellscream, and his desperate battle to lead the Orcs to escape into Azeroth through the Dark Portal, while Draenor crumbled behind them. He listened intently, but never stopped eating. When we were finished, we set out to see the world.
Now, I believe that every young Orc should travel and see the beauty and splendor of Azeroth. But I'm not stupid enough to take a child into Blackrock Mountain, either. I though we would first start with a zeppelin ride, so we made our way, bellies full, to the zeppelin tower. Grom said excitedly, that he had never ridden on a zeppelin before, and he could barely stand still as we waited for it to arrive. Of course he had seen the massive flying machines before, cruising around near Orgrimmar, but his eyes were huge as it got closer and closer.
I was worried that he would fall over the side, but he ran around excitedly, shouting and pointing as we made our way to the coast. Once we were out over the ocean, he settled down, first riding in the bow, letting the sea breeze hit his face, then he curled up belowdecks and slept.
I woke him up in plenty of time to make landfall. I don't think he had ever seen trees and grass before, so during the short flight over Tirisfal Glades, he kept rubbing his eyes. We finally docked and departed the zeppelin and made our way toward the massive gates of the Undercity.
Now, in case you don't know, it wasn't always called Undercity. It used to be a mighty fort city of the Humans, called Lordaeron. The city fell to the Scourge back when the Death Knight Arthas took up the sword Frostmourne, and led the Scourge armies against it, eventually killing King Terenas, his own father. The city lay in ruins until Lady Sylvanas made it her capital and from there she led the Forsaken from there against Arthas and the Lich King.
If you've never been to Undercity, nothing I can tell you will prepare you for the smell. The Forsaken are our allies, and I have fought with many brave and stalwart undead in too many battles to count. But they smell. I know that an Orc can work up a sweat, but the undead have an odor that can't be washed off with water. Combine that with that green sludge that is constantly flowing out from the Apothecarium, and it is something you just never get used to.
After young Grom had finished throwing up, I took him on a tour of the ruins above ground. We stood in the Throne room of King Terenas, and he marveled at the construction of the massive walls of the ancient fortress. Behind the throne lies the tomb and remains of the King.
>From there I took him to the entrances. I guess after a while you forget about the hulking patchwork guardians of the Undercity. They rarely speak, and allow the members of Thrall's Horde to pass unmolested. However, Grom caught one look at the bloated, stinking abominations, and ran screaming from the castle.
He was nearly to Brill before I caught up with him. Who knew those little legs could carry him so quickly? I made a mental note to speak with Ormok, the Rogue trainer in Orgrimmar about this one. He was definitely light on his feet, and hard to catch.
Once I had him calmed down, and I explained that the Undercity Guardians weren’t going to eat him, we made our way back to the elevator and down into the heart of the Forsaken. If you think the smell outside the city is bad, then you probably can't even imagine what it is like underground. Young Grom held up bravely, though I think it was mostly because his stomach was already empty.
I took him to see the laboratories and the stange creatures in the Apothecarium, and finally into the throne room, where we knelt before the awful beauty of Lady Sylvanas Windrunner herself. Before we left, I introduced Grom to the Emmisary of the Frostwolf clan of Orcs, which gave us Warchief Thrall's father, Durotan.
By then, we needed some fresh air. Grom slept well on the zeppelin ride back to Orgrimmar, and I think the stiff sea breeze did us both some good. From the Zeppelin tower, we headed west toward the Barrens, my old neighborhood of sorts. I wanted Grom to see the Goblin port of Ratchet and the docks there, and he wanted me to take him to the frontier. I think maybe my stories of the old battles may have lighted a fire in him. So, we came to a compromise. We did both.
We travelled north in the Barrens to the Mor'shan Rampart to visit Kadrak, my old squad Commander. I served under him for a time, during our campaign against the Night Elves in Ashenvale. The Rampart is quieter now than it once was, though there are still frequent skirmishes in the nearby Warsong Gulch. Kadrak seems ageless, though his body shows more scars every time I see him.
The detachment at Mor'shan greeted us warmly, and the soldiers there took Grom on a grand tour, bringing him to the top of the lookout tower and even letting him fire an arrow off into the trees of Ashenvale to "scare off any Night Elf spies". Kadrak told him the story of how he once saved me from two Night Elves and a Gnome while we were on a mission to deliver some documents from the outpost out on Zoram Strand to one of Thrall's advisors who was waiting for us at Crossroads. Every time he tells that story, that Gnome gets taller and taller.
We spent the night with the detachment there before heading out to Ratchet the next morning. Most people think Ratchet is a backwater little port with few redeeming qualities. But watching the ships come into the dock is majestic, and the Inn there serves the best smoked summer bass any Orc could ask for. And of course, if you are looking to buy anything 'outside normal channels', Ratchet has more black-marketeer Goblins than Booty Bay ever dreamed of.
There are still several wrecked ships visible from the coast near Ratchet, leftovers from the battles with Admiral Proudmoore's fleet. We Orcs are fortunate that we were able to beat back their incursions, or we never would have been able to colonize Durotar or the Barrens. Someday, when I am retired from the Army, I am going to go diving on those wrecks for treasure and artifacts from the war.
We made our way back to Crossroads, and hopped on a Wyvern for a quick ride to Thunder Bluff. Normally I would walk, just hoping for an excuse to kill some Razormanes. But I certainly didn't intend to expose Grom to any of that unpleasantness. He seems to have a strong spirit, but he is still very young, and in these times, the realities of war will visit him soon enough.
Thunder Bluff is always an assault on all of your senses. First of all, everything is built just a little bigger than you might be used to, so things like doorways and stairs and ceilings take a little getting used to. The Taurens like their fires, too, so there is always a mix of smells around there. Everything from cookfires to bonfires to ceremonial fires, and those big pipes they smoke; there is always a haze in the air.
Which is a little odd considering the wind up there. There is always a breeze blowing at that height, and that brings me to the strangest thing. The bluffs actually move. You wouldn't think so by looking at them, but if you stand still, you can actually feel them swaying in the wind. Which I find oddly disturbing - it takes some getting used to, like being on a ship.
I showed Grom around the bluffs for most of the day. If you ever visit Thunder Bluff, be sure to visit the Mistrunners. Kaga sells the most tender and spicy Roasted Quail in the world. I think Grom ate three of them by himself. Kaga’s sister Fyr makes the best Homemade Cherry Pie I've ever tasted, and her Mulgore Spice Bread is always warm and fresh from the oven. The Mistrunner clan has always been known for their culinary skills, and their ancestors must be very proud.
I was also pleased to see that the Chief's tent was not too crowded. Cairne Bloodhoof is a very kind soul, and always tries to make time for the children, but he is usually very busy, and surrounded by the daily business of the Tauren. But Grom was able to approach and speak with him for a moment, and the Great Chieftan even gave him his hoof print, with the message "Heed the spirits, young Grom. It is there that true heroes hear their calling. -- Cairne Bloodhoof". I don't think he will ever part with that, nor forget these 'adventures' of the past week.
We took the Wyverns back to Orgrimmar, and I bought Grom some ice cream from the goblin vendor. Knowing that his time with me was almost over, he looked a little sad as we walked slowly through the Drag, eating our ice cream. But I had one more surprise in store for him.
Throughout my adult life, I have always been in service to Thrall. Although I am not an officer in the ranks, the Warchief knows my face and name. So instead of taking Grom straight back to the Orphanage, I took him instead to the Valley of Wisdom, and into the very heart of Orgrimmar. Grom's eyes were wide as we walked quietly past Thralls many advisors, powerful Shaman and Warriors, Officers and noble Orcs from all the clans.
When we entered Thrall's Chamber, he greeted us warmly. I introduced young Grom, and the Warchief raised his eyebrows at the name. Many people forget that Thrall also grew up as an orphan, and he takes a special interest in the children of the Horde. He led us to his throne, where he recounted the story of Grom Hellscream's last battle, against the demon Mannoroth. Grom destroyed the demon with a mighty blow of his axe, freeing the Orcs from the control of the Burning Legion.
But Grom was mortally wounded by the explosion resulting from the destruction of Mannoroth, and died in Thralls arms shortly afterward. Thrall told young Grom that there is a memorial shrine erected on the spot where Grom died, and that he should visit there when he a little bigger. Grom promised that he would.
We said our farwells, and set out at last to return Grom to the care of Matron Battlewail. She thanked me and tried to get me to stay for a meal (like she does every time I visit), but I had to leave. I hear that they are offering a bounty for killing the Dwarves in the Depths of Blackrock Mountain.
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