Hours were spent pouring over volumes of information about potion creation. Ignorance fled but the more he learned, the more he knew he needed to learn. He would not find himself in a position of weakness or ignorance again. Never.
As he stood to leave the hunched Forsaken gestured him over. In a quiet conversation, the Head Hunter learned of a plan being carried out by the brewer in Brill. Apparently, there was an experiment that could transform a warm-body into a Scourge before your very eyes. Vengeance and malice swelled in his dark heart and the death eater left the dark chamber at a run.
Cursing his slow feet, Kopfjagger made his way to Brill and found himself standing before the local brewer. The sweet and sharp herbal smells from the herbalist pulled at his mind, but he remained focused on the task at hand.
Bowing low, he rose to look the brewer in the eye. Master, I have heard that you could use assistance in a task that interests me. If you would have me, my blades are yours. He finally mastered wielding two swords at once and he was eager to try them both out. Kopfjagger was becoming used to hearing a hollow, deep voice come from his throat. It seemed more and more fitting. Hollow.
Looking up from a book propped open on one hand, the other absently swirling a beaker, the brewer looked deep into the Forsakens eyes. A single nod and the book closed around the tattered ribbon keeping the page. Pumpkins, came his hollow voice. Bring to me pumpkins from the human farms near here and I will show you how to brew the concoction you seek. We have some captured warm-bloods that you can study. A grin wove its way across the brewers blue and torn face. We have found some that are not destined to pass over yet. It is interesting to see their reaction after each death. When they come back whole again it is most wonderful to witness. The cackle was echoed by the apprentice as he began his jog to the farms.
He thought his life was over when his barn burned down. Only three cows remained and the freight would probably dry them up for weeks if not longer. When everyone he knew, and many he did not, showed up to rebuild his barn he could not hold the tears back. What would have taken him months to rebuild was finished in weeks. His neighbor even gave him a bull to help him rebuild his stock. GAVE. All he kept hearing from everyone that was there to help was, Youre a good man. My pleasure. It was a good life.
Cloaking himself in stealth, forcing the light to bend around him by sheer force of will, his jog became a quick walk. His back was hunched, his blades out and swaying with his stride. There, before him, was a human outpost in this land of the never-dying. There, in the fields, lay pumpkins ripe for the picking. His eyes counted and evaluated the farmers guarding their fields. And their women. Thankfully he did not see any children. For some reason he did not think he had the heart to kill a child. He looked over the men and women once again, sizing them up. Yes. Today, everyone would die. The pumpkins could wait just a few moments longer.
Circling his first target he summed up his opponent. Pitchfork and muscles hard from long labors were not enough to deter him. Once the idiot wandered far enough away from his fellow betrayers, the Head Hunter struck. The first blow stunned the human while swords spun and danced in sinister strikes, one after the other.
How dare you abandon your kind in their darkest hour! he spat.
The Forsaken knew that he was exhausting his energy too quickly, but he also knew that it would come back. Pitchfork shot at his ribs but he evaded, lashing the human across the leg, forcing him to lower his arm to protect it.
You traitorous bastards! You have no idea what hell befell us while you fled! His rage was building as his blades demolished the tender meat of his enemy.
Slash across the humans side to force the other arm inwards. Thrust into the stomach to force his enemy to lower his head. Now. In a motion smooth with practice, the humans lowered head was severed in a stroke.
The Forsakens screams of rage brought others to him and he fought on. Screaming his agony in their faces as he felled them, one after the other, the dance of death continued. Men and women began to pile around him. During the lulls in combat he would feast upon them to regain his strength before seeking more to destroy.
The impromptu festival that took place once the barn had been fully raised was impressive. Nearly thirty people had turned out to help and now it was his turn to provide the thanks. Two lambs were offered up on the table and even after all of their hard work, each person brought something of their own to the table. The drink was flowing freely and hugs were given with abandon. Triumph after tragedy is the sweetest feeling in the world.
Standing over the carnage, swords dripping with gore, the Head Hunter stood as erect as his twisted spine would allow. Slowly he walked into the fields and began to gather the pumpkins. His stride was arrogant. His swords were his family now. The gore he left on his face and armor and swords. They were his prize and he relished it
The jog back to Brill was a long and slow. His mind wandered as he thought about what he was and what he was becoming. The contrast could not be more complete yet the reason was simple. Although a simple creature, his passions ruled him. Love and hate are edges of the same sword. Hope and despair the arrow and shaft. He did not realize that he was running with both of his blades drawn. They were a part of him now and he was a part of them.
The wooden ox cart wobbled and swayed as he drove the load to town for sale. It was his duty as the eldest to sell what he could while the rest of the family toiled relentlessly back on the farm. He enjoyed the weekly break from the monotony and looked forward to sneaking some wine at the inn before heading back home. It was on one of these trips, he could never remember the day, that he first saw her. She was standing by a tradesmiths cart buying thread. She was wearing a simple woolen dress but he was hers that very instant. It took everything he had to walk over and introduce himself to her. His ears rang with adrenaline and his voice shook with hope and nerves. And then she smiled at him. He could still feel that tingle days later as he walked the miles to her parents house, crudely picked peacebloom wilting in his sweaty grip.
I have brought you the pumpkins you need, brewer, his hollow voice echoed. Now, show me the poison you have derived. The gore was as dry as his voice and expression.
Rubbing his hands together gleefully, the brewer got to work immediately. The Forsaken rogue had to look over the others shoulder to see what he was mixing, how and in what quantities. It was difficult to decipher and his brother in un-life was offering no clues. Finally, the brewer turned and offered a pumpkin treat. Take this to the captured zealot in the basement of the inn, the hollow voice of the brewer trailed off in a soft cackle that should have disturbed the rogue.
I did not see your steps, brewer. I was promised this knowledge, came the determined reply. The pastry in his open hand, Kopfjagger was not content with his recompense.
In good time, brother, came the soft hissing voice of the brewer. You are not ready yet, young one. There is much here that you would not understand and I do not have the patience to teach you from the beginning. A grin spread wide and dry on the brewers face. Now go. And enjoy. The Head Hunter nodded, his disapproval clear on his face. Beware the living, was offered to him as he turned and walked to the inn.
Their first outing together was awkward at first. She enjoyed the peacebloom, even though it was obviously tortured and mishandled by the time her delicate fingers graced them. Her father was imposing as well, but her mother offered sweet pie and a warm smile. They quickly retreated to the nearby inn where he (painfully) bought dinner with watered wine. Once they started their meal, they both had relaxed enough to enjoy each others company. By the end of the evening they were both holding their aching bellies, full of laughter and good food. The walk back to her parents house was entirely too short and they said their good byes with an innocent longing in both their eyes.
He walked into the inn with murder on his face. Betrayed by his own kind (okay, just one person but close enough) and the traitorous once-born in the basement waiting to die. The odd, nearly painful music in the tavern fit his mood perfectly. Patrons, seasoned veterans and anonymous staff removed themselves from his presence as he growled his way to the back and down the stairs.
He shoved the pastry at the human captive. The idiot took it with rapture and devoured it with glee. The Head Hunter waited. He did not like waiting. The human grabbed his stomach and a small smile split the Forsakens face. Curling up, the human fell to his knees, spots breaking out all over his face and hands. Purple, angry spots; exactly like what consumed his wife and children. A gurgling noise. Then the flesh began to fall off of his bones in huge, meaty chunks. The smile grew into a malicious, teeth baring grin. Steps. Reaching. Pleading. Rotting. The Forsaken laughed a great, booming laugh that echoed inside his chest and rang throughout the stone basement. At his feet lie a twisted, rotted corpse that only moments earlier was a perfectly pink human.
After feasting upon the rotted yet still warm corpse, the Head Hunter walked casually up the stairs and through the tavern. He had already performed tasks for many of the more permanent residents and he was sure that they heard the commotion downstairs. The look in their eyes was gratifying. Apparently, and he did not understand why, there were Forsaken who had remnants of human morality. His were consumed in the fire of his hatred and pain. It was a warm fire that tucked him in at night and greeted him with a lovers embrace each morning.
The local magistrate of Brill nodded as the gore covered rogue entered his chambers. Diligence proven, the magistrate advised Kopfjagger to seek out Thrall in Orgrimmar. The bitter face that the magistrate received made him smile while the rogue protested verbally. Why should I seek the employ of that pig-man, came the hollow and empty voice. I have no allegiance to the swine of this world. He turned and spat black phlegm on the weathered wooden floor.
Ah, new the magistrate cut himself off. Good rogue, it is not for you or even for Thrall that we send you there. It is so the swine, as you so eloquently put it, have the illusion of our support maintained. If we lose the swine the humans and elves will have one fewer enemy to face. Thus the balance is tipped, he gestured as if he had scales in his hands, and thus our struggle made the harder. If the swine believe our support behind them complete, their endless numbers will remain at the forefront of our battles against the living and the Scourge.
Kopfjagger was a simple creature, but he could see the big picture when it was outlined. In service to the Darkness and its Queen, I will go and see the pig-king. He bowed and made a squealing sound deep in his throat. With his hollow, passionless voice echoing in his lifeless chest the sound was more akin to the wailing of a tormented spirit than a stuck pig. Either way, it was sufficient.
He had tried to explain to the town magistrate that he had the money to buy the land. During the argument it was pointed out, repeatedly, that commoners were only allowed a certain sized parcel and that technically, what was already his exceeded that limit as it was. Any more land would tip the balance between noble born and commoner. It simply wasnt allowed. No, money wasnt the issue. Yes, the land was for sale. No, he could not have it. No, his family could not be made noble. There is a balance that must be maintained and a commoner simply was unable to see it clearly. Oh, he saw it, and quite clearly.
It was a strange trip to Orgrimmar. He had always been raised with a fear of Orcs. They were stories told by mothers to freighten or battle-scarred men to impress. Now, there were allies to be manipulated. Waiting at the zeppelin tower was a nuisance. The small platform quickly filled with creatures of all ages and race. Tauren, Orc, Forsaken and Troll all stood around idly as they waited for the balloon construct to appear.
Thankfully, no one said anything to anyone while they waited. They boarded the zeppelin silently, waited silently as it slowly picked up speed and continued in silence the entire time over the vast ocean. It was pleasing and soothing to be surrounded by the warriors and wiggly fingered magic masters and yet not feel compelled to yield the silence for nervous conversation. This craft was full of those that dealt in death. Words did not become them. He was proud to be of their number, if not of their stature yet.
The feast after the barn raising lasted all night. People came and went and eventually more went then came. The food and drink flowed well into the night, a large bonfire giving off heat and light. He and nearly everyone left as the embers glowed had talked themselves hoarse. It was a great evening of feast and fest. Once the last guest finally left, he and his bride made their way into their new barn arm and arm. It was time to christen the hayloft. As he led her into the barn, he knew that she could feel his grin just as he felt hers.
The land was useless. There was nothing there but rock and sand and a few nasty cacti. Horrible land. As he walked past the scrub and dust, he noticed a sickly pig farm with runty little pigs penned crudely. Disgusting. These Orcs are a pathetic lot, he realized. Pigs raising pigs.
Walking through the twisting main gate tunnel, the rogue was prepared to be very unimpressed with Orgrimmar. When he rounded the final corner and stared down into the open crater that is the citys center his mind went blank with shock.
It was huge. Truly massive and yet contained inside a craterous opening. Stone cliffs surrounded the basin of activity with tunnels shooting under great rock outcroppings. A tower spiked through the air with rope bridges leading off in several directions. Houses and shops lined the stone faced cliffs to near bursting, sometimes stacked one on top of the other.
His feet stood very still while his eyes, ears and nose took in the city. It hummed with activity. Well, more like buzzed. In fact, as he stood at the gate, the clamor was rising in intensity. Traders and shopkeepers, adventurers and guards all seemed to be competing for attention.
Finally his feet began to move down into the bowels of the capital. The noise rising as he descended. There was no particular place he needed to go, other than to see Thrall, so he took the time to familiarize himself with Orgrimmar. It was, the deeper he descended, a chaotic place at best. The smells assaulted him every few paces while nearly everyone that moved ran at full tilt or rode by on mounts of every description. It was mind boggling.
Sprawled out on a thick blanket he and his bride lounged upon one another. The air held a chill but steam rose from their now completely relaxed bodies. His fingers played absently at her locks upon his chest as the dust from the hay swirled with their breath. The feast celebrating the barn raising was grand, but the private festivities had been truly remarkable. Now, they both relaxed and listened to the sounds of nature in the still quiet hours of pre-dawn. There was very little to listen too, but it was a sound he would never forget.
He passed by the bank and the auction house as he strolled through Orgrimmar. A guard pointed him in the direction of Thrall and he found his feet taking him through a dark tunnel. The smell of roasted meat was replaced by the distinct smell of a tanner as he strolled through the cave known simply as the Drag. Turning into a tunnel, he descended still deeper, curious where it might lead.
Deeper still he descended until he found himself in a nearly circular cave. A few short conversations with the various pigs let him know that the rogue trainer was at the top of the next ramp. He made note of it but decided it was time to get about his business. He had dawdled long enough.
Locating Thralls chamber took some doing and a fair bit of walking, but soon enough, he was walking up the ramp and into a large building with a dome of sorts over head. All the architecture in Orgrimmar reminded him of the dilapidated pig pen he saw before entering. Huge spikes, wobbly walls and crude well, crude everything. It was a far cry from the precise masonry of the Undercity.
It took him weeks to build the corral for their few cows. He measured the area several times, strung up twine between stakes to make sure that everything was nice and even before digging his first post hole. If something was going to be done, it should be done right. Mistakes were one thing, but sloppy just wasnt his style. At least, not if it was going to last a while. Some things were just worth the extra effort. That reminded him After digging the last post hole of the evening, a lone man was seen wandering an empty field looking for flowers to pick for his bride. He still had time before dinner.
Finally he found himself standing before Thrall. He had passed under the scrutiny of countless guards, henchmen, ambassadors and various clerks to get to the pig king and once he stood before Thrall, he knew why he was the leader of the Orcs. Thrall was simply impressive. There was no other way to express it. His chest was nearly round it was so massive. Arms like tree trunks, legs like boulders, Thrall towered over the forsaken a few steps below. Flanked by guards that looked equally inspiring, Thrall looked down at the rogue.
Have you come to serve the Horde? came a deep, rich voice. Thralls smile was contagious. This was no pig. This was a war chief, and a very good one. Kopfjagger re-assessed his initial observation of the Orcs.
In a manner of speaking, yes, great war chief. The words echoed inside the Forsakens hollow chest. I have been sent here by my masters to assist you and yours. The Head Hunter made a low bow and stood with his back arched and eyes on the ground. This was someone he needed to placate, not irritate. To be enemies with this Orc was to be a dead man walking. He chuckled quietly to himself at the irony of that thought.
Excellent, bellowed Thrall. I have just the task for one new to this war yet so eager to assist! Thralls voice boomed throughout the room but was not overly loud. It was the voice of command and from one used to using it.
It was then that the rogue learned of the Burning Legion or Burning Blade or whatever they called themselves. It was difficult to translate the orc squealing language on the fly. The best that the Forsaken could make out, there were many factions of orcs. One of which was thriving in the deepest caves that he was so very near earlier. Their name didnt matter so much as Thrall wanted them dead and was willing to pay.
Times were hard. Money was scarce, his bride was pregnant with their second child and the winter was brutal. Their food was nearly exhausted, the cows were dry and he could not afford to kill their last chicken and rooster. He was forced to take up the job of thief catcher in Stormwind, so very far away. It was a miserable winter without his heart nearby. Letters did little to soothe the ache in his soul but the money that he sent ensured that she was warm and fed. He hated being poor. Money did not matter as long as he could provide for his family. When he could not, money was nearly the only thing that mattered. Money meant food, warmth and survival. He would never be poor again. Never.
Kopfjagger set off at a run into the caverns known as Ragefire. His twin swords swayed in his hands as he ran. His mission was simple, kill everything inside and bring back proof. That, he was good at.
Once he entered the chasm, he was struck with how hot it was. Usually the air became cool and damp the deeper one descended, but not here. The air was thick and hot. A rotten smell hung heavy on the air and it nearly made him gag as he walked deeper in.
A snake began to slither up to him, looking small and feeble. Easy prey, he thought to himself as he attacked the small creature. His blades spun with fury and glee as he performed his dance of death. His glee quickly turned to concern, and then fear. No matter his skill, his blades seemed to slide off of the creature. Although he could see that he was indeed inflicting damage, it was no where near enough when compared to the bites and cuts he was receiving in kind. The battle was over quickly and his spirit was torn from his rotted flesh.
Thief catching was really just a whole lot of walking around looking mean. It was an easy silver per day, paid at the morning bell for a night of wandering the streets with a green lantern. It was when he noticed a gang of thugs beating another man that he knew he would have to earn his pay. The last time he held a sword was in his childhood chasing around his neighbor in the innocent play of youth. This was much different and he was terrified. His cry for them to cease drew their attention but they did not cease. It was over in moments and he was left in an expanding pool of his own blood. A whispered prayer to his bride bubbled on his lips. He did not awake for several days. He was saved by a tailor in the shop next to where he was assaulted. He never did get the chance to thank her but as soon as he could stand, he was back at work after a letter was sent to his bride. She must be worried about him having not heard from him He could not leave until spring, no matter how dangerous it was. He had to feed his family.
He needed allies. It took time and patience was not something he was very comfortable with. Many hands made light work and soon there was a formidable force of Horde ready to venture back into the Ragefire. A warrior, a priest, a shaman and hunter and himself rallied at the entrance. Surely with this band they could cut a swath through the enemies of the orc warchief.
She awoke in a cold sweat. Something had happened. Something horrible. She clenched her stomach as a tinge of pain from the baby stirring reminded her that she was due soon. The rest of that night was hell for her. She could not sleep. Her minds eye saw untold horrors befalling her love and she could do nothing to help. Praying to the Light was little solace but she prayed until her voice was numb and her spirit drained. Tears were gone by the morning but her heart was broken. Surely he was dead. She could feel herself slipping into a morass of despair.
Forming a FistEdit
The party of Horde walked confidently but cautiously into the Ragefire. The snake that had ripped the flesh from the Head Hunter was still in place, apparently unscratched. That fel blasted snake had cost him a trip to the spirit healer witch and the rogue was going to do everything in his powers to keep that from happening again. Oh, he was perfectly civil to the witch, he just hated being reminded that there was no escape. He chose to ignore that fact as best he could.
He awoke in late afternoon, prepared to break fast and then take up his nightly rounds. He was barracked with the rest of the regular watchmen (not many lasted past their first beating) but today he was told he had a visitor. Quickly he scrambled into his clothes and flew through the door. He nearly knocked his pregnant bride over as he plowed into her. His arms flew around her before his feet had stopped. They hugged and danced, barely managing to stay upright. After a few moments of their tearful reunion, she pulled back and grimaced at the stitches that would obviously scar badly. His face was still a swollen mass and he was grateful that the rest of his wounds were concealed beneath his tabard and leggings. She silently traced the path of each cut and kissed each bruise. He could barely utter that he would be home soon. With a final kiss, she turned from him to make her way back home. He would *never* be poor again.
Setting in with a full party was definitely the way to go. He had relied on his own blades and ability, but that can take one only so far. He realized the value of a solid group of people as they cut a swath through the Ragefire Chasm. The people around him were better then he himself alone. A great deal better.
In short order, they had the proof that Thrall demanded. Others had tasks to complete in the Chasm as well. Soon, each member of their small team had signed the contracts of the others. Now, it was a band of brothers, hellbent on the destruction of the enemy. They were not pigs or cows or mutants. These were brothers with whom blood had been shed. Friends was too extreme for the Head Hunter still did not trust the living, but these few would help him go farther, faster, then he could ever have hoped to alone.
Resting on the corpses of the last enemy to fall inside the Chasm, an agreement was made. They would form a mercenary group together. Names for this band of assassins were bandied about. Steel Rain, the Horde Artillery Brigade, Blood Rain and many others were brought up and mutually shunned. And then it was struck. Blood Fist. Nods were exchanged and it was done. They entered that cavern an assembly of strangers and left a team.
The wicked smile that split the face of the Head Hunter was shared by all those present, the gore still fresh on their meager equipment and faces.
For the Horde and Fist! was their battle cry. Their sustenance would be the blood of their enemies; their treasures the spoils of war. In this short afternoon of work, Kopfjagger had gathered more wealth than he had seen his entire life. He nodded silently. No, he would never be poor again.
The warrior in their new found band was elected leader. That was fine with the Head Hunter. He had other ambitions and leading their coalition was not high on that list. He had to raise his pathetic knowledge in a variety of areas. And that was exactly what he did.
He had to have his father explain why a different field was left fallow every year. The apprentice farmer was having a hard time figuring out the reasons but once it became clear, he would not forget. His father bent down and ruffled his hair. In a serious voice and a concerned look on his face, the father told his son that daddy had to go away. There was a war on and they needed daddy. It did not matter, it seemed, that his son needed him too. The young boy never forgot that daddy left to fight nor did he ever forget to rotate the crops. Maybe, if he was diligent, daddy would come back. Maybe.
Kopfjaggers training was intense. Often he went alone to explore new areas. When necessary, he brought assistance from the newly formed Blood Fist. He also helped his brothers and sisters in the Fist, as they called themselves. If he was to receive their assistance, he had to give his.
Gradually, and he could not tell you when exactly, those under the banner of Blood Fist became a second family. They became more than tools to use on his rise to power. They became almost sacred unto themselves. The Head Hunter did not really want to view them in this way, but he was given no choice. They were his and he was theirs; to the end, whatever that may be.
Raising his siblings with his mother, running the family farm and trying very hard to keep up with his classwork made growing up difficult for the young man. His mother tried her best to help but she was wracked with grief and at best managed to cook up a dinner every now and then. War was a disgusting thing and the boy turned man swore that he would see peace in his days. He hitched up the ox to the wagon and made off for town looking for peace. Little did he know he was about to find love.
Settled around a large, open fire in Orgrimmar, the leadership of Blood Fist met. It was not a secret meeting, but it was not public either. There were issues to discuss and apparently, leadership was about to change hands. In a unanimous vote of those assembled, Kopfjagger was given command of the Fist.
Stunned and humbled he stood in their company. His training was far from complete but he felt the power, through them, to accomplish anything. We will see greatness, he said in the hollow voice in his chest. We will see the mighty fall to the might of our bloody fists. To do that, we must grow.
Solemn nods were exchanged. Blood Fist was never the same after that. Neither was the Head Hunter. He would protect his family with every fiber of his being, even it meant destroying it to rebuild. He was prepared, but he was not prepared for what was about to beset him.