Though it was not quite dark, Geyah strictly enforced bedtime in Garadar. All the victims of red pox, adult and child alike, needed plenty of rest if they were to conquer the horrible disease. Only one other orc remained awake aside from Geyah: a small child who held Geyah’s hand as they checked the large pot of herbs, simmering quietly over a fire. The herbs, Geyah’s own concoction, helped when the red pox flared, but it wasn’t quite right yet to cure the disease. Geyah decided to let it steep for a much longer time, letting the water absorb all the herbs’ healing properties.
The little orc looked up. “I can fix the fire?” she asked seriously.
Geyah smiled. “Incineratus,” she said slowly.
“In-cin-er-a-tus,” the child repeated, her voice tinged with impatience. “I can say it.”
“Say it slowly and clearly so he can hear you.”
She huffed. “Yes, Greatmother. I always do.”
Releasing Geyah’s hand, the young orc turned toward the fire, holding out both arms and closing her eyes. “We ask you – we humbly ask you – In-cin-er-a-tus, Fury of Fire – to – to watch over this fire and – and – keep it alive. During the night.” After a moment she opened her eyes and looked at Geyah.
“Did I do good? He didn’t answer me.”
Geyah stroked the child’s red-brown hair. “He doesn’t speak to everyone, Aggra, and you are still young. But I think he will watch the fire for us. Come, now, you get the rest of the herbs in that basket by the rock, and I will put some more water into the pot.”
“Yes, Greatmother.” Aggra went for the herbs while Geyah moved to a large barrel that the older orcs were supposed to have filled with fresh water before going to bed. Geyah was pleased to see they had obeyed, and she dipped a bucket into the barrel, letting it fill. Before she could draw it out, she heard a brief yelp from Aggra. Geyah whirled around.
Standing in front of the child was a very tall orc whose green skin contrasted with Geyah and Aggra’s brown complexions. His eyes were red, and even in the gathering dark, Geyah could see the black tattoo on his jaw.
“Go away!” Aggra yelled at him. She pummeled the orc’s shin with her fists, but he only seemed amused. “I don’t like green orcs. Go away!”
“What a rude child,” he said calmly. “Do you teach all the children to be so disrespectful, Geyah?”
“What are you doing here, Grom?” Geyah held her voice in check but it took effort.
Aggra continued pounding his shin until the orc known as Grom reached down and shooed her away like an annoying fly.
“Come to me, Aggra. Leave Grom alone.”
The child backed up but glared at the green-skinned orc. She stood in front of Geyah as if protecting her from the male.
“I come to see my son, and this is the greeting I get?” Grom smiled.
“Why must you come at all? Garrosh needs rest if he is to recover, and all you do is stir up trouble.”
Grom raised one eyebrow. “Me? Trouble? And why would you even complain? This is the third time I have come to check on him, which makes that about… what? Three times more than anyone else?”
Not entirely accurate, but Geyah wouldn’t argue the point. Most of the orcs, once they had come down with the red pox, were abandoned to her care by their families and clans. No one wanted to be seen as weak and sickly; orcs were strong and hale and able to triumph over anything. No one wanted to risk catching the disease. And since so many who caught the pox died from it, Geyah knew it was easier for their families just to forget. To write them off as a lost cause.
But not Grom. “Where is my son?”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Aggra said.
“I’m not afraid of you, either, youngling.”
“I’m going to be a shaman. I can hit you with lightning and fire.”
Grom bent down to be on the child’s level. He smiled broadly. “And I’m a warrior. Do you know why they call me Hellscream?”
“Grom! Don’t – ,” Geyah began.
Too late. The orc split the night with an impossibly loud scream. Aggra clamped her hands over her ears and began to cry.
Geyah snatched the child up. “You didn’t have to do that.”
With a chuckle, he touched Aggra’s back. “Ah, you are afraid. See?”
Aggra sniffed once. “I don’t like you.” Then she buried her head against Geyah’s shoulder, her dark eyes peering out at the orc.
Meanwhile, Grom’s scream had awakened the other orcs, most of whom came out to see what was going on. Grom nodded.
“Now I will see Garrosh. You’ve kept me from him the last two times I was here. I don’t care if he’s dying, I am going to see him.”
“I’d rather you just leave,” Geyah said firmly. “We need rest and quiet here so the sick ones can recover. Too much excitement will make them ill again.”
Grom ignored her. He looked over the emerging orcs, his red eyes stopping on one male in particular. He was brown-skinned like the others, with some faded red splotches on his face, but he displayed the same stance and the same angle of the jaw as Grom. The green-skinned orc approached him.
Grom looked the younger orc over with a critical eye. “Well, you’ve grown.”
Garrosh stared, speechless.
“You seem to be eating well enough.”
“I – I – Father?” Garrosh stumbled over his words.
“Has the pox affected your speech?”
Garrosh snapped to attention. “No, Father. I was surprised to see you, that’s all. Greatmother Geyah says I’m doing very well. She thinks I will beat the red pox soon.”
“I’ve learned how to lessen the severity of the flares,” Geyah said. “With time, I should have the right combination of herbs to cure -.”
“Bah,” Grom broke in. “You are my son. Of course you will recover. It’s only because of your mother that you even caught the pox in the first place. I never got it.”
Garrosh squared his shoulders. “I practice my warrior training every day that I can,” he said, trying to sound proud but Geyah recognized the thinness in his voice. Grom’s presence was not helping.
Grom made a noise under his breath. “How much training can you get from these Frostwolves? When you are well, you will come back with me and get proper training from the Warsong.”
“We are Mag’har,” Geyah said staunchly. “There are no clans here. No Frostwolves, no Warsong, no Bleeding Hand. We are Mag’har.”
“I will come with you now,” Garrosh said.
Grom shook his head. “The disease is not yet gone. You still have pock marks on your face. Besides, the Warsong will not be here. We are leaving tomorrow.”
The younger orc’s mouth fell open. “Leaving? What do you mean?”
“We’re going through the portal into the world called Azeroth.”
Geyah gasped. “The portal is open?” Her son and daughter-in-law had gone through the portal four years ago and she’d had no word of them since. Could it be…?
“Let me go, too, Father! I can fight, and I’m as good as full grown.”
“No. When we get back, then I will see if you are well enough to come with us.”
“I can hunt, and I can mend your gear, and I can cut firewood, and I can -.”
Grom cut him off with a vicious backhand to his son’s face. Garrosh stumbled backward, dancing in a circle, nearly falling but managing at the last second to right himself.
Grom laughed. “So there is some Warsong still in you. You didn’t fall. Good.”
“You would hit a sick child?” Geyah challenged him.
“I would hit a disrespectful son,” Grom said. He turned on the greatmother. “I don’t like the way you raise these younglings. They are rude, disrespectful, and weak. You’ve even taught him to beg. I should never have left my son with a Frostwolf.”
“And you were going to tend to him? And to his mother?”
Grom looked at her coolly. “Gul’dan was right to exile the Frostwolves, but he should have exiled you all.”
“Exiled? What do you mean?”
“You don’t know that, either? You really are isolated out here, aren’t you? Your son and your whole clan were exiled after they got to Azeroth. They are no longer part of the Horde, and they will never be allowed to come back here.”
Grom gave her a level stare. “I never lie.”
Geyah paled, and Aggra wrapped her little arms tightly around the greatmother’s neck.
Grom turned back to his son. “Don’t pay any attention to the Frostwolves, Garrosh. You are a Warsong. You are strong and proud. You are better than they are.”
“Yes, Father.” Garrosh did his best to sound convincing.
Grom turned on his heel and walked away into the darkness, leaving the rudely-awakened orcs staring after him. It was Garrosh who spoke first.
“I will work twice as hard at my training,” he vowed. “I will be as strong a Warsong as ever lived. Maybe even better than my father.”
Geyah touched his arm. “Garrosh, we are Mag’har. We have no clans anymore, only the Horde and the Mag’har.”
Garrosh shook his head. “No. I am Warsong.”
“You are Mag’har now.” She stole once final glance into the darkness where Grom had disappeared. “You can be better than the Warsong.”
“No one is better than the Warsong.” Tossing his head, Garrosh marched back to his hut. He tried to hide it, but Geyah saw his chest shake and heard the echo of a cough.
Geyah sighed. Every time she thought the orcs were improving, something happened to make them worse.
Aggra patted her cheek. “Is the mean orc gone?”
“Yes, child, he’s gone.” Geyah managed a vague smile. “And now I think we should put some extra herbs in the pot. I have a feeling we will have to deal with some sick orcs in the morning.”