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A Peon's Honor

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:19 pm    Post subject: A Peon's Honor Reply with quote

((Here's the story I entered for the writing contest. I took it down earlier because I thought you weren't allowed to post them. Happily, I was wrong about that, so I'm putting it back up again.))

The windrider died with a scream that sounded across the quarry, his wyvern plummeting from the gray sky to crash on the stones below. Everyone looked as it fell, the younger peons shrinking back in fear. Krug forced himself to stand tall, knowing he had to set an example. Guided by instinct his hand found the hammer tied to his belt; scant reassurance, but better than nothing.

Icy winds tore at the shaman’s wolf skin cape, white like the frozen fields of the north. The shaman, flanked by veteran warriors, raised a green fist into the air.

“Go forth and do the labors demanded by our Warchief! The ancestors watch and judge; do not shame them!”

“For the Horde!” bellowed the warriors.

“For the Horde!” shouted Krug, some of the other peons joining him.

The shaman stepped aside, clearing the way to the sheer-edged path leading into the quarry. The foreman roared in defiance and Krug joined him, trying not to look at the swarm of membrane-winged horrors flapping overhead.

Mightstone Quarry spread all around them, a blackened wound in the earth. Thousands worked themselves to the bone in the quarry’s cold depths, all to support the stone and iron monolith of Warsong Hold. Here, decreed the Warchief, the Horde would stand against the Scourge, to fight on until one or the other was utterly destroyed.

The stamping of booted feet filled Krug’s ears. The peons moved as fast as the narrow ledge allowed. Panicked breaths and whimpers caught Krug’s attention and he looked to the orc at his side, a stripling from Durotar’s red plains named Hurd. Too young and weak for this place, thought Krug, like so many of the peons in Warsong Hold.

They reached the depths of the quarry’s Eastern Pits, black walls of stone looming over them on both sides as they marched. Arachnid bodies lay in piles on the quarry floor, the results of recent Horde victories. Krug paid no attention to them, striding towards the scaffolds that crawled up the quarry face.

The last quarry team did well in separating a massive fragment from the stone wall, and tying it in place for disassembly. It served as a fitting memorial for them.

Krug marched up the shaky wooden ramps, stained black with orcish blood. The harsh percussion of iron picks on stone soon filled the quarry, accompanying the howling wind. Krug gritted his teeth as the frigid cold lanced through his coat, and applied his hammer to his iron pick and began working at an even faster pace. Blood rushed through his veins, warming him.

The gray morning turned into a dark noon. Dust clouds choked the quarry, particles of grit adhering to sweaty skin. Krug kept working, ignoring the foul taste in his mouth and blinking when sweat dripped into his eyes. He chipped away at the stone without complaint, just as he had once cut wood in Ashenvale, and mined ore in Durotar before that. Block after block was cut free, and carted down to the porters waiting with wagons on the ground.

Krug first thought the shout was the foreman declaring a rest period. He stopped, taking a deep breath and finally noticing the hunger in his belly. Then the shout came again, from ground level, and there was no mistaking the fear in the voice.

The platform jerked beneath Krug’s feet and he lost his balance, landing face-first on the rough surface only an inch away from the edge. More screams came up from the ground along with a hideous noise like clicking bones. All sounds of work stopped. Hardly daring to breath, Krug pulled himself forward and looked down at the base.

A swarm of bladed limbs jabbed at the screaming peons on the ground level. No warriors were in sight, and Krug realized he was facing his death.

“Go up! Go up!” yelled the foreman.

Krug got to his feet. He discarded his tools, seeing a hammer a few feet from him. Picking it up, he felt comforted by its weight, and hoped it would serve as a good weapon.

Peons ran up to the upper levels, fleeing the arachnids. Krug stood where he was, not sure what to do. He suddenly remembered the whoosh of elven arrows killing his friends in Ashenvale.

The arachnids continued their advance. The entire structure suddenly leaned to the side, the snap of beams audible over the slaughter. Thinking fast, Krug dropped the hammer and grabbed the nearest pole, steadying himself as the platform tilted. Tools slid off from the side as the platform continued to bend.

Krug noticed Hurd clinging in desperation to a support strut, his eyes wide with fear. Whimpers escaped from the peon’s throat. The entire scaffold assembly began to lean; collapse was inevitable.

“Hurd, jump down when I do!” ordered Krug.

Hurd looked at the senior peon with an uncomprehending face. Krug had seen that look too many times in Warsong Hold, a look more befitting of frightened children.

“Hurd, I am going to jump, do as I do!”

Bracing himself, Krug tested the platform and let go of the beam. Roaring to dispel the fear he ran down the platform and jumped. For one awful moment he looked down, the ground terribly far. Then he fell.

The force of the impact ran through Krug, jarring every bone in his body. Without pausing he rolled to the side. A wooden platform crashed into the spot where he had landed, followed by another. Krug looked up to see the entire structure falling to pieces. Hurd still held on, too panicked to follow Krug’s lead.

Then it fell with a resounding crash. Dust exploded out, sharp arachnid bodies just visible in the murk. Krug fell behind the main swarm, the only reason he still lived.

He growled to stem the rising panic in his heart. He’d fought before, but never alone. Krug lowered himself to the icy ground, hearing only his labored breathing. He cast his eyes around for a means of defense, finally settling on a twisted metal pole half his length.

Grabbing it he began to retreat. What happened to the warriors? Did the arachnids kill them? Were they called away to battle? He was just a worker, not a fighter.

Krug saw a mob of peons fleeing the chaos, blood streaming down their ashen, dust-coated bodies. Krug ran towards them, keeping his head low. Some vague stirring of anger, the old orc battle-lust, made itself felt in his heart. Yet he knew the odds were hopeless, that he was more useful elsewhere.

“They see us!” someone yelled.

Krug looked back, and almost stopped in his tracks. Four Nerubian skitterers rushed towards the peons, their clawed legs clicking on the black stone. Only four. A quick glance revealed no other arachnids around the collapsed scaffold. How many peons were working on the ground level? At least fifteen, Krug thought. Not a single one raised his tools in defense. Everything fell into place; the arachnids must have attacked the far edge of the scaffold, causing it to collapse. It was no great army that attacked them, but a mere patrol.

“Wait,” said Krug, “there are only four! We can kill them!”

Krug counted nine peons in his group other than himself. No one listened to his words. All the while the skitterers got closer, mandibles clicking in anticipation. Monstrous legs pulled hideous bodies forward, rapidly closing the gap between them and the peons.

“We can’t outrun them, stand and fight!” yelled Krug.

Gripping the impromptu metal staff with both hands Krug turned, eager to fight and ready to die. He let loose a lifetime of frustration in a single chilling roar. Krug jabbed the staff at the lead skitterer, denting the carapace and throwing it off balance. It reoriented itself in a flash, hopping back and eyeing its newly defiant foe.

Krug launched another attack as the skitterer reared up on its hind legs, the serrated forward limbs twitching in the air. Then the arachnid hopped to Krug’s right and rushed him. Krug gasped as a hooked limb slashed the air just above his head, and tumbled to get out of the way, making wild and reckless stabs at his attacker. The peon’s efforts were rewarded with a spray of ichor as his staff punctured a gap in its exoskeleton.

In the corner of his eye he saw the skitterer’s fellows barreling into the other peons, who still ran for safety. Unreasoning rage bloomed in Krug’s heart as he jumped to his feet and pressed the attack, scraping and breaking the skitterer’s red plates. The skitterer scuttled backwards, using its front legs to ward off the maddened peon’s blows. Krug grinned, a terrible sight, all his senses devoted to the arachnid’s destruction.

Then a green blur smashed into the skitterer, hewing through its plates with a mighty war ax. Krug stopped his attack just in time to avoid hitting the newcomer. Confused, he looked around as a pack of orc grunts entered the fray. Swift blows cracked arachnid bodies, rendering the ground slick with green blood. Four peons from the group still lived, scrambling towards Warsong Hold like men possessed.

Only then did Krug notice the deep pain in his left side, just below the ribcage. Blood gushed from a tear in his skin. More bemused than anything else, he started to remove his tunic for use as a tourniquet when he fell, unconscious.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A day passed in the darkened infirmary, it’s warm air laden with the aroma of Kalimdor spices. Krug’s wound was ugly but not severe, the skitterer having only dealt a glancing blow. The healer on duty, a grandfatherly tauren shaman, called the spirits to close the wound and then let him rest.

Krug returned to the peon barracks in the evening. The peons occupied the vast but low-ceilinged hallway between the ground floor and the firmament. Sooty flames burned in massive fireplaces throughout the day, heating the cold stone until it practically roasted the place. Poorly designed chimneys caused some of the smoke to linger in the stale air, mingling with the overpowering stench of sweat and dirt. The deafening roar of countless shouted conversations further bludgeoned the senses.

To Krug, it was home. Definitely worse than the comparatively roomy accommodations he enjoyed in Ashenvale, but acceptable for one of his station. He stayed in the shadows as he walked through the barracks. It was as if he never left. No one mourned for the fallen or showed fear. Then again, Krug thought, neither had he when hearing about lost work teams in the past. The realization depressed him.

He knocked on a small door in the corner.

“Enter!” came the voice from the other side.

Opening it, Krug stepped into the coffin-like office of Overseer Brugan. A tallow candle flickered on a desk covered with parchments.

“Master,” acknowledged Krug.

“Close the door, I can’t hear a damn thing you’re saying.”

Krug obeyed, and turned expectantly to face Brugan. The Overseer looked older than ever, rheumy eyes staring mournfully out from a wrinkled face. His scraggly gray beard served to age him even further.

“Master,” said Krug again, in case Brugan hadn’t heard the first time.

“You did well out there, Krug. Only seven others besides you made it to safety.”

“Did any of the others fight?”

“No. They told me you did; you certainly tested the arachnid’s strength, even if you passed out at the end.”

“I can’t understand why they didn’t fight! Master, we outnumbered the arachnids.”

“They’re afraid, Krug. Look at them: these aren’t the tough frontier peons you knew in Ashenvale. These are swineherds and porters, weak in mind and body.”

“I was weak too, once. But the overseers trained us to be strong. Why do you not do the same here?”

“Garrosh, Son of Grom, does not want us to forget our place. We are to work as he sees fit; not pretend to be warriors.”

“None of us are pretending to be warriors. But we are orcs, and when battle comes to us we can’t just stand there and die.”

“This is a strange land, Krug. Remember: our Warchief chose Garrosh to lead Warsong Hold. The Warchief hears the spirits, and he has never been wrong. If we are to honor him, the liberator of our race, we must honor Garrosh’s decisions.”

Krug looked down, suddenly abashed.

“I know! I don’t mean to doubt my betters. Yet a dead peon can’t help the war effort. Could you speak to Garrosh?”

“Garrosh does not speak with Overseers like me,” chortled Brugan. “He’s an amazing warrior, almost like his father. I’ll mention it to one of the senior warriors, and he’ll relay it to Garrosh. Don’t expect anything to change. Fighting an arachnid doesn’t make you a warrior.”

Doesn’t it? wondered Krug. He shook his head and dispelled the thought.

“Of course. Thank you.”

“I’m also putting you on leave for two weeks. Take the time to recover.”

Krug bowed and left Brugan’s office. He returned to the barracks to find it in an uproar as two peons did their best to punch each other into submission. The brawlers fought at the end of a table, eyes swollen and noses bleeding as their comrades cheered. Cowards on the field, peons loved to fight other peons.

Krug never found such fights—invariably over something petty—interesting. Yet seeing the combatants, so utterly absorbed in their useless quarrel, made Krug think. Some shamans said that every orc had a bit of the warrior spirit, and the two peons seemed to prove it.

The smaller fighter pulled back his fist and drove it into the face of his opponent, who tumbled and fell onto the table. Snarling, he struggled to his feet only to lose his balance and collapse on the floor. The cheers grew louder as the victor raised his arms in triumph.

Why only against other peons?
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dreams provided no escape.

Nerubian swarms filled every horizon, a limitless swarm overwhelming Warsong Hold and its pitiful defenders. Krug would awake in a start, his heart pounding as he felt their claws jab into him.

One sleepless night followed another. During the day he wandered the halls of Warsong Hold, his fists clenched as he tried to ignore the rage building in his heart. He considered fighting another peon, but dismissed the thought: it would accomplish nothing.

Krug’s leave offered him no relief. He jumped at odd noises, his bloodshot eyes fixed on shadows. After a week, he was a ruin. He appealed to the shamans, hoping they could offer succor. Most had their hands full with other duties but he finally found one willing to help. Named Tagra’da Bloodclaw, she reserved a spot for him in the spirit lodge.

Krug breathed deep when he emerged from the smoke-filled lodge, the weight lifted from his shoulders. Tagra’da’s rhythmic voice returned his soul to the dream-world of the ancestors, letting him put his own situation into perspective. The fear was not gone, but he could control it. That night he dreamt of red deserts and hot summer nights.

He awoke the next morning in a thoughtful mood, his mind taking him back to his time in Ashenvale’s forests. Danger lurked there too, elven partisans and their allies stalking through the green. He remembered once stumbling across dead peons at the edge of the lumber camp, their bodies peppered with arrows. Frightening and fearful times, but the camaraderie of the work crew made it easier. Back then, Krug knew he could rely on his friends. He would fight for them and they would fight for him. They only fought one actual battle, but it proved their loyalty to each other.

Warsong Hold was a world apart. After nearly a year, Krug barely knew any of the other peons. He certainly did not count any of them as friends. A bewildering array of faces passed through the peon barracks each day, workers haplessly shuttled to different teams. Not even the barracks gave much of an opportunity for socializing since few stayed there for long. Many ended up spending time in the semi-permanent work camps at the quarry’s edge, or seeding the half-frozen earth in the newly liberated Nassim Fields to the south. They died in droves, and no one except the overseers knew their names.

Krug enjoyed problems that he could solve with his hands. Never trained to really think, he found it hard to even examine his quandary, much less come up with a solution. Everything went back to the massacre at the quarry, he reasoned, so he needed to start with the anger he felt towards peon cowardice.

Tracking down the seven other survivors from the attack was simple. Like Krug, they were all given time to rest. None of them bothered to visit the shamans, and were in a sorry state when Krug gathered them together in a cramped supply room. Standing before them, Krug wondered if his plan was really any good.

“What do you want, Krug?” demanded Gorth, a hulking peon with a fearsome reputation among his fellows. Krug was not impressed; though big, Gorth showed no courage when the stakes were serious.

“I already have what I want,” growled Krug, staring at Gorth’s reddened eyes. “The question is, do you? You all ran away when the arachnids attacked, and you call yourselves orcs? You’re runts at the butcher’s block.”

“Are you calling me a coward?” roared Gorth.

“I don’t need to call you one! You ran, while I acted like an orc and fought!”

“Oh, so you’re a warrior now?” sneered another orc named Trull.

“We’re not warriors and only you’d be stupid enough to think I claimed to be one. I said I acted like an orc. When there’s a battle, orcs fight. Peon or warrior, young or old. We peons work, for that is our lot in life. We work in the quarries, in the mines, in the mills, in the farms, and everywhere else. We do this for the Horde, for the Warchief, and for our ancestors. And what should happen when some sniveling Alliance cur or undead monstrosity gets in our way? Should we run from that? No! We smash the interloper to the ground and get back to work!”

“Who are you-,” began Trull.

“Shut up. I worked the mills in Ashenvale. The peons there are true orcs. Here? I see swine. I see humans with green skin. Not orcs.”

“No one calls me a human!”

A giant green fist shot towards Krug and he jumped back in the nick of time as Gorth roared, spittle flying his open mouth. The others shuffled back, knowing that only a fool stood close to Gorth when he fought. Krug took a fighter’s stance, waiting for the oaf to make the next move.

He didn’t have to wait long.

Gorth grabbed the front of Krug’s shirt, too fast for him to evade. Realizing his position, Krug went limp and just avoided a punch to the head. Gorth’s strike broke a hole in a wooden crate.

Krug grabbed a nearby plank and brought it up, swinging into the side of Gorth’s head. The force of the impact was less than Krug hoped, but enough to shock Gorth into dropping him. Krug pushed himself back up while Gorth blinked in a confused daze, and then darted forward, planting a fist in the bigger orc’s belly.

Gorth dropped like a rock, gasping for air. Krug stepped on his chest and leaned over until he was looking into Gorth’s panicked face.

“Now who’s a human?”

The other peons looked at each other, then at Gorth, and then at Krug. Krug stood tall.

“So far, you’ve behaved like weaklings. But that can change. You’re all peons in a warzone, so fight back. I did, against the Nerubians and against Gorth here. This is how my father would expect me to act, and I think your fathers would think the same way. If you have any pride in what you do, show it. An orc would rather die than live in fear.”
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

His frustration satisfied, Krug was content to go back to work. He didn't give much thought to his decree, at least not at first. Then word of his victory against Gorth spread, making him a hero among the junior peons who lived in fear of the brute's temper. Gorth himself came to Krug, suddenly wide-eyed and supplicant, seeking to learn from him. Krug wasn't sure what to make of it.

The overseers assigned Krug to the dank pumping station built into the rocks east of Warsong Hold. Among the cold and rusty pipes he labored with others, doing what he could to prevent rainwater from flooding the quarry. A week passed in the freezing darkness, and he began to forget the sun. Reassignment came as a relief; the stinking peon barracks never seemed so much like home. Some of his peers hailed him when he returned, asking about his work in the pumping station. True to form, Krug said he'd done everything in his power to finish the job, as a peon must.

The next assignment took Krug to the raging furnaces inside the Hold. Scorching heat replaced the bitter cold of the pumping station, and Krug almost longed for his last station’s icy dampness. The actual crafting of weapons was a task reserved for retired warriors, so Krug scrambled to remove slag, stoke the flames, and perform other menial tasks. The clang of metal resounded in Krug's skull as he worked, and particles of ash fouled his lungs.

One day, an ocean of sweat dripping from his pores as he manned the bellows, he caught sight of the peon working next to him. He'd never seen the orc before, though his uncertain movements suggested a newcomer. The peon gave a fierce grin.

"We work, as peons should!" he yelled over the roar of the furnace.

Krug smiled at the comment, returning to his task with renewed vigor.
The furnace stint lasted for two weeks before Krug was granted a short reprieve. It was then that Krug realized he'd started something, and had no idea where to take it. Why should he take it anywhere? he thought. His only goal was to motivate peons to defend themselves. Krug never expected his words to become a rallying cry.

He eavesdropped on Overseer Brugan as he spoke to a captain early one morning, hearing Brugan explain his befuddlement at the sudden increase in work output. Krug smiled when he heard it. Perhaps by better serving the warriors, Krug reasoned, he and the other peons would be more like them. He could almost see his tools as weapons, and the materials he worked as enemy soldiers.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A work team of thirty peons assembled at the gates of Warsong Hold, the stone paths lined with blackened slush. The harsh north wind blew flakes of snow, already grayed from the pall of smoke, onto the backs of the huddled orcs. Shamans recited prayers to the ancestors, the peons bowing their heads or scanning the horizon for threats. The Nerubians had been quiet, making only sporadic attacks at the southern edge of the quarry, though no one seriously believed that the arachnids were finished with Warsong Hold.

It was to the south that the Horde needed workers. Krug stood at the edge of the crowd, feeling a strange calm. No Nerubian flyers plagued the skies, and he could see packs of Horde warriors patrolling the quarry. The memory of the attack still stood fresh in his mind, the arachnid screeches near and vivid. The nightmares returned to him the previous night. Yet when cold dawn greeted Warsong Hold, he no longer felt fear. Perhaps he even felt a bit of anticipation.

The peons were marched through the bleak landscape, the quick pace dispelling the cold. One of the peons clapped Krug on the back when they reached the worksite.

"We work, as peons must!"

"As we must," responded Krug. The words were becoming a mantra.

Another team had already done much of the work; the rock slabs lying on the ground waiting to be cut. Taking his pick and hammer, Krug soon went to work. Dust and noise filled the air, the latter amplified by the quarry walls. Nine warriors stood guard at the edge of the site, ready to fight the Nerubians. The work took place in a sort of box canyon, the perfect spot for the Nerubians to trap them.

Some of the peons worked with careless haste, wanting to get out before the arachnids returned. One luckless orc paid for his fear when he buried his pick in his own shin. Howling in pain, the porters carted him back to Warsong Hold along with the rock.

So absorbed was Krug in his work, he almost didn't notice the tremors beneath his feet. He paused mid-swing, lowering the hammer. Was it just the chipping of the stone? No, he realized. The shaking came from far below. As he felt it, so did the others. The warriors noticed the cessation of work. Recognizing fear when they saw it, they realized something terrible was on its way.

"Get to the sides!" shouted one grunt, brandishing his ax.

Everyone heard the crack as the ground split beneath the warrior, the force of impact carried through the stone and up his legs, turning bones to dust. A mass of legs and mandibles shrugged its way out of the ground. Then individual shapes became visible, the skitterers leaping off from the body to attack, revealing a vast black carapace beneath them that continued to rise. Arms ending in serrated hooks emerged from the bulk, and a multitude of legs further split the rock. Finally the head, initially tucked under the shell, looked out onto the world with eight lightless eyes.

"A crypt lord!"

Krug's thoughts threatened to desert him, replaced by a primal terror. Crypt lords were the Scourge’s engines of destruction, the bane of the mortal races in Northrend. The monstrosity stood in front of the one exit, fulfilling the peons’ worst fears.

The warriors held out against the skitterer onslaught, killing many though two orcs already lay dead. A loud click punctuated the sound of battle as the crypt lord's shell moved, unleashing a cloud of living vermin on the struggling warriors. Flying worms burrowed into orc skin, though the warriors fought even as they bled to death.

Krug opened his mouth, forcing his scream of terror to become a barbaric yell.

"We work, as peons must!" someone cried. Krug realized, as he charged the arachnid swarm, that it was he.

Raising his hammer high, Krug slammed it down on an unsuspecting skitterer, the impact crushing its segmented body. Not stopping to think, Krug lifted his hammer a second time and struck another. He hit its side, knocking it off balance long enough for a blood-drenched warrior to cleave its head. The grunt looked at Krug in shock, but only for a moment as a monstrous leg whipped into his side and sent him flying into the quarry wall. Krug swung again, blindly, and lost his footing. He fell back and smacked his head on the ground, bright lights flashing in his eyes. A squirming weight pressed down on his chest, and he saw a skitterer's face staring down at him. Then he was free, his assailant suddenly gone. Krug looked to his side where he saw another peon, his shovel stained with arachnid blood.

"Here, let's get back to work!"

Krug's savior helped him back to his feet. He could scarcely believe what he saw. A mob of peons descended onto the swarm. Some of the workers watched in dumb fascination from the periphery, but most charged into the fray, seized by a mob’s unthinking invincibility. They were fighting!

The crypt lord stood in the center of the melee, swinging its arms like scythes. Two peons attacked it from the rear, but it struck them lightning-fast with a segmented leg, killing both in a single blow. Most of the skitterers lay dead, along with the warriors.

"Keep away from it!" Krug shouted.

Some of the peon attackers, blinded by fear and rage, continued their headlong assault. The more aware among them stepped back, throwing rocks at the crypt lord. Many of the projectiles bounced off, but others scored cracks on the ancient carapace, ichor oozing out from the impact sites. Krug cast aside his hammer and picked up a stone, hurling it at the beast. Heedless of the exhaustion in his arms, Krug continued the assault.

Confused by the barrage, the crypt lord flailed about with its clawed limbs. Turning completely around in the blink of an eye, it charged. The ground shook, its spiny legs flinging dust into the air as it barreled into a trio of peons, killing them all in seconds. Unfazed, Krug picked up another massive stone, bracing himself as the crypt lord scuttled towards him, breaking the orcs in its path. Krug forgot himself, forgot the years of work and the idea of fear, hearing only the ancestral war cry in his soul. He moved his arms to the right for momentum and hurled the stone, the way he'd seen warriors do in their training sessions. The missile bounced off the Nerubian's chest plate, not slowing it at all.

Suddenly the crypt lord was right in front of Krug, and the orc truly realized its horrifying size. Razor-tipped legs churned the stone floor of the quarry as it moved closer. Thinking quickly, Krug grabbed a pick and dove under the monster’s body in an attempt to avoid its limbs. He tumbled painfully across the rock, the world spinning around him, dust blinding his eyes and choking his breath. Screaming he slammed the pick into the crypt lord's underbelly and felt its entire body flinch in pain, the movement throwing Krug up and down as he held his grip. The arachnid stopped, and Krug wondered if he should let go. Then it started again, screeching in its alien tongue as it ran.

Krug closed his eyes, shards of rock slashing his face and tearing his coat, each step rattling his entire body. Something cracked in his chest, yet still he held. The promise of death and glory filled his mind, making the pain a thing of beauty. He would win as a peon, not as a warrior. There was a sickening crunch as the crypt lord's flesh gave way, the fragile undershell pried open by Krug’s tenacity. Cold ichor spewed out from the wound onto Krug, the charnel stench a blessing.

The crypt lord twisted, the sudden movement wrenching the pick from Krug’s hands and leaving him in the dust. Rampaging forward, screaming and clicking, the Nerubian entered its death throes. Lifting his bloodied head, Krug saw it flail about as the ragged wound spilled arachnid organs onto the ground. The peons continued throwing rocks, their cries echoing through the quarry.

"For the Horde," Krug wheezed, spitting blood with each word.

The peons kept up the attack even after the crypt lord stopped moving. They ran up to its corpse and began prying off segments of shell and hewing into its flesh with hammer, pick, and shovel.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"There is great honor in killing a crypt lord."

Such were the words of Captain Grot'kar, the leader of the reinforcements who’d come so very late. The peons survived by virtue of unexpected ferocity, the proof visible in the dead crypt lord. Perhaps Grot’kar felt consternation in seeing its horribly savaged form, barely recognizable even as a Nerubian. The captain's piercing eyes settled on Krug. The peon opened his mouth to speak, but fell short as his chest clenched in pain. Keeping his voice low, he tried again.

"Thank you."

"Who killed it?"

"Krug did!" shouted one of the peons standing around Krug. The group formed a sort of impromptu honor guard.



They began to chant his name in unison, pointing him out to the captain.

"A fine job, Krug! Some healers are on their way. If they don't get here soon enough, you'll go to the ancestors as a true hero. If you live, we'll make you a warrior. Not many peons get that honor."

"I did not kill it," said Krug.

"What? Everyone says you did."

"I hurt it. Hurt it badly. But we all killed it. Every peon who fought here today killed it."

"Who delivered the final blow?"

"Who can say? They threw so many rocks at it; maybe they all did."

"We can't promote all of you."

"Then don't. We're peons. We work, and we do not let anything get in the way."

A look of unease passed over Grot'kar's face.

"Are you refusing this ultimate honor? Choose your words carefully, Krug."

"I deserve no special honor. The ancestors would not approve of making me a warrior, for I am not. I am a peon. So are they. As peons, we are proud to serve the Horde."

Grot'kar nodded.

"And the Horde is lucky to have you," the warrior said, his voice tinged with worry.
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Joined: 06 Sep 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love it. Great yarn. It really gets me excited about the travelogue in Northrend. My first foray into Northrend was in fact from Warsong Hold in the B.T. so it was a little nostalgic in a way to read about the quarry.
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