Tah’Mahok looked out over the broken, snow covered terrain of the Borean Tundra towards the Dragonblight. He knew the ground like he knew the haft of his axe – every pit – every gnarled acre, every rough edge. Standing atop the rammed earth embankments of Outpost Durak, Tah’ breathed deeply of the fresh cold air and then, with all of the ceremony and pent up rancor of a year in this miserable den, he spat.
Tah’Mahok was going home.
The Remnants of Tah’s company, the 4th Infantry (foot) were gathered below in loose circles. Some were tending the shaggy kodo used to pull their supply wagons while others were packing their own rucksacks or tending to any of the multitude of small tasks that make a soldiers life in the field possible.
A year ago the 4th Infantry had looked much different. Fresh off the zeppelin from Orgrimmar they had been excited, energized, ready to hew flesh and stone alike in order to build the Horde’s beachhead in this forbidding and icebound land. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
Veterans now and weary from the constant toil and intermittent battle they were, to an orc, ready to leave this place.
Their replacements, some light Infantry company from Durotar, looked much as the 4th had all those months ago; fierce and eager in equal measure. Already the new unit’s colors were snapping in the wind. Patrols were forming up while guards and messengers double-timed it around the outpost’s perimeter. Every movement was sharp, every action with purpose. The new pups were ready to bathe their axes in the blood of the enemy (any enemy) – if only these tired old dogs from the 4th would make way.
“Soon enough,” thought Tah’.
With a dip of the head and a quiet prayer, Tah reflected for a moment on those that had fallen over the past year. The two young warriors from the Crossroads came to mind most clearly. Both had been as eager and as raw as the new recruits below him. Some months ago, the Scourge had started to use explosives and rockets. The explosions, which were enough to make a goblin engineer blush in shame and envy, had rocked Outpost Durak for days on end. The 4th had weathered the bombardment much like anything else. Something to be endured – something to be repayed in kind if possible. But like the weather, the enemy often proved to be an elusive and unpredictable foe. With these new weapons, the Scourge could kill and then vanish with little more than the ripples of wind across a pool of blood. The two from the Crossroads had died instantly. A rocket, larger than the others, found the packed earth and timber of their shelter. The explosion had rattled Tah’s teeth and made his ears pop. As he and others fought their way through the smoke and debris, they found a new enemy to fight, that of their own fear and shocked disbelief as they tried to sort living from dead and to make sense of the ruin. Tah’ remembered trying to match the limbs of the still living with those that were not. While no magic could rejoin flesh that was sundered, it still seemed the right thing to do – and it was all he could do – for there was no enemy to fight.
There had been battles of course. None of it had been the grand force on force engagements they had trained for in Orgrimmar. It was more like fighting elves in truth. Unexpected, vicious attacks as they returned from patrols or escorted supply convoys. The pace and unpredictable nature of the attacks had ground on the 4th like a mill wheel until the strong and lucky alike felt more like chaff than fine and precious grain.
Tah’s head lifted at the sound of horns. Off in the distance he could see a small wagon train inching its way towards Durak. It was their ride home. Tah’Mahok grinned and started down the battlement, his axe held loose. The others saw his expression, the sudden light in his eyes. It was time to go.
As the 4th hurried to heft their gear or ready their beasts for travel, few stopped to look around at this small, dust filled place that they had lived in for the past year. None realized it yet, but it would be a part of them for the rest of their lives. The long days of nothing, the battle, the poor food and frequent sickness. The sweat and blood and the memories of both would mix with the dust and the stone like mortar, and in time it would make the Outpost something more than just a piece of ground on a battle master’s map. For a while, Durak had been home, the place where they had made a stand and maybe made a difference.
For now though, it was simply a place that every orc in the 4th Infantry (foot) wanted to leave. Life was short and hard and as Tah’ and his company moved toward the great log gates, their minds were invariably filled with visions of softness. For Tah’ that meant his little homestead near Mulgore, his few acres, the mud and thatch of the roof, the scent of sandlewood burning and fresh meat cooking over coals. His mate, Dal’Mayyen and his two pups. These were the things he lived for now, to make up for lost time, to wake, swaddled in furs and love, a fresh tusk mark on his cheek. To be home – his real home.
As one, the 4th raised their weapons and let go a fierce shout that snapped the tundra winds into a brief fury. They were part of the orcish Lok’vadnod now, the great song of heros and the sergeants began to chant the refrain as they marched. The replacements watched with a mixture of pride and envy as the veteran’s convoy wound out of sight, the strains of the 4th’s song and the ripple of fading sun off a hundred blades caressing the sky and leaving one last memory for them all to share.
Goodbye Afghanistan –
See you all down the road. Posts will be made as I travel by my trusty AFK-Writer-Bot. Be kind to him – he’s sensitive.