In addition to the usual copyright notice that Blizzard owns (World of) Warcraft, I'd like to specify a few matters regarding the setting, as I'm writing this during BfA. This story takes place Year 28 (Cataclysm), shortly after Deathwing's return and the Shattering has already occurred. Garrosh Hellscream is the current Warchief of the Horde, and the Alliance is still led by Varian Wrynn.

The cover image is "Make Love, not Warcraft" by Anamaris on DeviantArt!


Zami crouched down next to his firepit, extending his blue hand towards the flames. He nudged the small bowl of possibly-boiling water by the fireside, feeling the heat against his skin. Hissing quietly, he noted that it was, in fact, boiling and opened the pack at his side. Pulling out a wrapped stack of meat he'd cut from the tigers he'd dealt with earlier that day, he brought it to his nose and took a whiff. The heat and time were neither friends of his dinner but he figured it was probably still fresh enough to eat, and tossed it into the boiling pot. Across on the other side of the fire, his large turquoise raptor gurgled at the scent of the meat.

"Yeah yeah, don'tcha worry, Aka," Zami muttered, pulling the leftover tiger bones from his bag and tossing them to the raptor, "I saved you da bones, I know dey be ya favorite, girl."

As the raptor happily set about chewing on the gristle, Zami leaned back on his haunches and looked up at the dusky blue sky above. His vision of the stars was framed by the thick green foliage of the Stranglethorn jungle. As Zami looked up at the sky, he could only think about how dark blue Stranglethorn's sky was, just like the crystal clear ocean below it. He missed the red sands and red skies of Durotar. It'd been too long since he'd been home. He wondered how things had changed since the cataclysm, and if Zuka still made those boar steaks with the cactus apple glaze.

A sudden rustling in the bushes made Zami's ears twitch and his hand ghosted to the dagger at his hip. Even his raptor lifted her head curiously, her razor sharp teeth still clutching a tiger bone. Zami held his breath and strained to hear the faint growl of a jungle cat. He only had a moment to clutch the hilt of his dagger before the cat pounced at him from the bushes.

He was ready for the pather's strike, but his crouched position left him off-balance and he fell back into the grass. He heard Aka's panicked hiss in the background, but all he could do was stare into the panther's paw as it swept down across his face. Then the vision in his right eye faltered and at once turned to darkness. The panther roared into his face, almost mockingly, and its yellowed fangs were nearly upon him when Zami pushed his dagger up through the panther's jaw, snapping its mouth shut with the force of the blow.

With a weak roar, the panther's body went limp and its eyes went dull. Sitting up and pushing the panther aside, Zami brought a hand quickly to his eye, wincing from the deep cuts on his cheek. As he grimly realized his eyeball had been raked open with the panther's claws, he felt Aka's head nudge his shoulder anxiously. She looked up at him with concern in her intelligent eyes, clearly worried for her master. Zami brought his hands away from his face and clutched the raptor's jaw, rubbing his thumb across her nose.

"Dere dere, girl. Dis? Dis just a scratch. Dat cat ain't gonna be da one ta take me down," He said reassuringly, "But I am a little bit worried about dis eye. It'll regenerate, but...well, Grom'gol should be pretty near here. Let's pack up and pay dem a visit, huh?"

After quickly packing up his camp, which was a little difficult to do with only one eye working, Zami mounted his raptor and headed a short ways east. Sure enough, the orc camp was there. He'd been in Stranglethorn long enough to recognize his surroundings, Zami realized bitterly as he entered the camp.

"Ey, Zami, mon," Nimboya blinked as Zami dismounted his raptor, "What happened to ya eye dere?"

"It'll regenerate," Zami shrugged, approaching the other troll.

"I dunno, mon," Nimboya stared directly towards his unworking eye socket, "Shouldn't it have healed by now?"

Zami hesitated for a moment before shrugging dismissively, "Maybe I just need to sleep it off."

Thulbek didn't ask about Zami's eye as he entered the inn. He and the orc had developed an unspoken agreement about such things over the years, and Zami liked it that way. As he settled down in an empty bed, he removed the waterskin from his pack and pulled out one of the linen cloths he'd picked off of the bodies of the Bloodscalps he'd had a run in with earlier. Carefully, he began to clean the wound. He gave a satisfied hum as he felt the wound was more closed than last time. Nimboya was right that it was taking its time, which was a bit odd, but it did seem to be regenerating.

It wasn't usual for a wound to heal so slowly, but Zami mused that it was just a part of getting old. He was already over thirty years old, and that was middle-aged for a troll. He probably wouldn't make it to a ripe old age of seventy, but few trolls did. In fact, he was lucky to have even made it this far. He supposed his upbringing had something to do with it.

Zami's was the eldest son of a skilled hunter named Jumi, who was renowned for his sway over the beasts of the land. He remembered being told that his father could tame any creature he set his mind to, and he remembered being told that he was expected to be just the same. It was true, he supposed, that he had a way with animals. Perhaps he could've made a good hunter, if his skill with the bow wasn't so poor. He couldn't even hit a stationary target, let alone a moving opponent. His attempts with the bow were so embarrassing that none of the hunter trainers around the village wanted anything to do with him, and so he'd had to watch his four younger brothers become master hunters. Meanwhile, he was stuck working as a skinner and trapper, sewing leather armor from the skins. Women's work, Zami thought grumpily.

Though he was a poor marksman, Zami was a skilled at hunting in other ways. He was quick and clever, agile and stealthy. As a young man, he'd attracted the attention of the more unsavory sorts of the village. They brought him under their wing, playing on his sense of isolation. They taught him the ways of the shadow and how to strike with precision. It was much easier to hit the mark up close with a dagger than with a bow and arrow, he thought.

Having little use for such cloak and dagger activities in little old Sen'jin Village, Zami had ended up falling in with the Steamwheedle Cartel to help with their debt collection. He worked as a legbreaker for the goblins for a few years, but it was unsatisfying work. He finally retired from working for the Cartel after a particularly nasty job in Booty Bay. As a parting gift, the goblins had left him with a rumor. A rumor that had kept him stuck in this jungle for so long. A rumor about his father.

When he was young, his father had left Dutotar for the allure of taming the beasts of the Stranglethorn jungles. He had wanted nothing more than to tame the native raptors. So one day he just up and left his wife and their six children, and then never returned. Maybe he'd died, gotten eaten by the beasts he tried to control. Zami wouldn't have minded if he had. But the rumors had said otherwise, and so long as Jumi was alive, then Zami wanted nothing more than to do the raptors' job for them.