When Volugg woke up that morning, he never gave a thought on how his day might change him. A storm had swept in during the night, but that rarely bothered the old orc. Storms damaged his small hut now and then, but Volugg was a shaman and understood the balance of nature. One of his sparse trees might fall over and crash into his bedroom, but if that happened Volugg accepted that. He was old. Dying is a natural part of life. Volugg did not fear death, and he did not fear any storm. It was merely wind, water, and occasionally fire in the form of lightning.
But every time a storm came in, he would ask the elements to protect him. Not for himself, but for his equally aged wolf. Mudfur had always been a loyal companion. As the years went by, Mudfur lost teeth and agility. Every time Mudfur stood up, Volugg could hear all of her joints protest. She could no longer hunt like she used to. Without Volugg, Mudfur would probably starve to death, and that was not how Volugg wanted her to die. Normally orcs would take their aging wolves hunting or in war so the wolf could die fighting honorably. Volugg preferred Mudfur to die peacefully in her sleep. Her soul was gentle, even if in her youth she could rip an ogre's throat out with ease. Neither she nor Volugg were fighters.
So Volugg prayed that the elements would take pity on Mudfur and keep Volugg safe. But lately, the elements had been acting erratically. Volugg could not get them to answer him, and the few times they did, they seemed agitated. Friends visited Volugg sometimes, and recently they had been telling him of natural disasters and unrest. Earthquakes, fires, floods, and of course storms. Volugg lived to the north of Ratchet, right on the coast and he experienced it first hand how the storms were increasing in severity.
The morning after the worst storm he had experienced, he could tell it had been truly fierce as he limped outside. His hut remained intact thankfully. A tree had fallen near his pig pen, but it had missed the fencing. The pigs themselves enjoyed the mud caused by the heavy rain. The door of the smokehouse lay several yards away from the building, ripped from its hinges.
Volugg sighed, then called out for his companion. She had gotten up early, leaving Volugg alone in the hug.
"Mudfur! Breakfast time!"
Several minutes past before Mudfur slowly shambled over the hill from the north.
The orc smiled. "Good morning! Don't rush yourself now."
Mudfur slowly went over to the smokehouse and picked up the broken door to drag it closer to the smokehouse. She dropped the door once it was close enough, then rushed toward her old friend in an enthusiastic burst of energy. Volugg took the time to rub the wolf's head affectionately, then returned inside the hut. Mudfur followed him.
To save time and effort, Volugg ate the same as Mudfur. Thick porridge with finely shredded pork mixed in was the staple of their diet. Two scraggly banana trees provided a sweet treat now and then. If Volugg ever desired anything different, he would take a trip down to Ratchet to drink and sell anything that washed up on his beach. The waves would bring all sorts of things, especially after a storm. Driftwood, old netting, and sometimes odd things like boxes of silk or barrels of salt pork. It was a simple life, but Volugg was thankful for it.
After Volugg set down a bowl for Mudfur, he scooped up food for himself and sat on the hides that covered his floor. Mudfur gulped down her food greedily while Volugg took his time.
"Did you find anything else useful on the beach, old girl?" Volugg asked through spoonfuls of breakfast. Mudfur grunted at him, shoving her face into her bowl. She took a second to look up at Volugg and whined.
Volugg gave her an offended look. "More salt? Lick the ocean then. You can cook from now on, then."
The wolf stared at him, then returned to her food, licking up clumps of oats and pork. After she was done, she plodded over to the fireplace and laid down in front of the fire. Volugg finished up his food, silently agreeing with his wolf that the porridge had needed more salt.
The orc rose to his feet, willfully ignoring the sounds of his joints popping. Before heading out, Volugg grabbed his driftwood staff as well as a knapsack. Mudfur growled as he departed but did not get up.
Volugg casually hiked down to his private stretch of beach. The beach was mostly peaceful, so Volugg never felt the need to bring any other weapon but his staff. No murlocs or makrura wandering about and only occasionally a shark showed up out in the deeper waters. Volugg could see a lot of broken bits of wood as well as rope, sailcloth, and what looked like some barrels. A ship had succumbed to the elements just off the coast. Volugg would pray to the ancestors for the poor sailors.
Nothing had washed ashore to identify what kind of ship it was. The barrels were unmarked. Any sails or flags had not washed up with this part of the vessel. It could have been Horde, Alliance, or even a pirate ship.
As Volugg carefully moved a barrel out of the surf, he heard a noise. After a moment of silence, the noise repeated. It was the moan of something living. Volugg frantically moved in the direction of the sound and as he pulled up a piece of a mast and found the survivor.
It was a human. Volugg believed it was a female, though he had never seen female humans up close. She looked small. Either it was a child or a very young adult, though strangely it had bleached white hair. A ruined fur cloak covered most of her body. Volugg gently moved her onto her back to see if she was injured. The dark robes she wore showed no evidence of blood. Volugg hoped her skin was usually that pale.
Luckily she weighed little. The old orc managed to pick her up without hurting his back. He would come back for the salvage later. The second Mudfur caught the scent of the human; she would be furious at Volugg. Worse still, Riverdream would be coming by that night for dinner. What will she say? Humans were the enemy.
As he shuffled back toward his hut, he considered why he was doing such a stupid thing. He had not even hesitated to help this enemy. Gentle is what many orcs had called him before. Soft. Spineless. He should have left the child die.
But he was gentle and soft perhaps, but spineless he was not. It took spine to help an enemy, especially a harmless one like this girl. She couldn't harm a wolf pup in her state.
There was no sign of Mudfur anywhere. That saved a confrontation between the wolf and him. The orc slowly stepped up to his hut, thinking along the way. He had only one cot in his tiny hut. He placed the girl on his bed temporarily and went off to pull down some fur pelts. Close to the fire pit would be a safe place to keep the girl. He started a small fire before returning to the human. The girl did not wake up. He hoped she would remain unconscious for a while longer. He did not wish to hear her screaming in fear of the big scary orc.
As he transferred her from the cot to the makeshift fur bed, Mudfur returned. She entered the hut growling.
Volugg stood up slowly; hands held up. "I know what you are going to say. I'm an idiot. But this human could have died out there."
Mudfur snapped her remaining teeth at him and approached the girl. Volugg did nothing to stop her. The wolf sniffed the girl for several minutes, then glanced over at Volugg. She made a frustrated huffing sound. Then the wolf laid down next to the girl and licked her pale face.
Volugg let out a sigh of relief. "I thought you would act a lot worse! You've grown as soft as I am."
The shaman then knelt down to tend to the human child. He quickly took off the wet clothes and examined her body quickly for wounds. There were bruises all over her body, no doubt from being hit with debris from the ship. On her chest near her heart was a horrific looking scar but it seemed healed, so Volugg did not worry about it. He placed a hand on the girl's forehead to check for a fever. Unfortunately, Volugg was not sure if humans had a different body temperature than orcs. He rose up, bones creaking. Mudfur watched silently as he collected his herbal remedies, only again to realize he didn't know which herbs would be beneficial to a human. What if basic herbs to orc health was poisonous to humans?
Volugg agonized over a decision but did not want to risk killing the child. He would wait for his friend Riverdream to come by his house that night. She was more knowledgeable about herbs than even him.
If the girl died before then, Volugg would blame himself, but he would blame himself if he accidentally poisoned her. He would wait and ask the spirits to watch over the girl.
She lay under the cloak of darkness. There was nothing and no one around to help her. He was dead. Everyone she knew was dead. Gone. The sense of loss and ultimate loneliness threatened to overwhelm her. It was too much to handle. Her whole life consisted of darkness, suffering, and death. Alone with nothing around her, she wanted to die as well.
But Death would not come. It was close, but it had retreated from her. She did not seem likely to die any time soon. Did she deserve to live? When stowed away on that merchant's ship, the deadly storm had seemed like mercy. The water had rushed into the dark hold beneath where she had been hiding. Instinctively, her body had tried to survive, but in her mind, she had resigned herself to death.
Death would not come. She remembered holding onto a piece of wood and washing up onto land. After that, someone had come and carried her away from death. That someone placed her in a warm, dry place. Death could not claim her now, though it would not surrender easily.
Come back. The Voice seemed familiar but strange at the same time. It was not the same person.
Deep inside of her chest, something twisted agonizingly. Even as her body warmed, her heart grew colder. It was if ice was encrusting it and slowly killing her. But it could not kill her.
Come back to me. The Voice turned angry. She would not answer the Voice, and it did not like that. The pain around her heart worsened. The heartbeats stopped momentarily from the pain but persisted. If she were conscious, she would have screamed in agony. She instead answered.
Go away! Leave me alone.
The Voice went silent. The pain continued for what seemed like days, but eventually the ice around her heart melted with just a sliver of pain lingering. She was alone again in the darkness.