For @WarlordGrom who tweeted one night that he could not sleep and asked if someone would tell him a bedtime story.
Once upon a time, there was an orc named Nelkul. Nelkul was born and raised in an internment camp. His mother was gone, no one knew where. The human guards had dragged her off one day and he never saw her again. His father, Tul’sok, was naught but a shell, content to sit in the dirt all day and stare at nothing.
Nelkul didn’t play much. There were a few other younglings in the camp, but they didn’t have much to be happy about. They made up a few games, like ‘hide the rock’ or ‘chase each other around camp until the guards beat them to make them stop’, but neither was much fun. As a young child, Nelkul mostly sat in his father’s lap, tried to get his father to eat, and waited. For what, he didn’t know. The older orcs told stories of the glory days and the great heroes and said one day they would be free again, but to Nelkul they were nothing but fairy tales.
One day a strange blue-eyed shaman showed up and said they would soon be free, but few believed him, either. Nelkul was a big boy by then, much too old to believe in fairy tales. The air smelled of rain and he had all he could do, just trying to convince his father to move into shelter for the night.
Finally Nelkul got his father inside the barracks. He curled up beside Tul’sok and went to sleep. But his dreams were not good. Humans beating him. His mother being dragged off, screaming. His father doing nothing to save her. Her screams getting louder and louder until…
Nelkul sat straight up. That wasn’t a dream. That scream was real. Several of the orcs in the barracks crowded to the door. What was going on outside? There were so many orcs. And they had weapons. Nelkul caught a glimpse of a big orc in black armor. The orc next to him pointed and shrieked.
“That’s Doomhammer! He’s come to rescue us! The Horde is here!” The orc shoved his way out the door.
Nelkul stood rooted to the rough wooden floor while the other orcs pushed past him and ran outside, joining the melee. He couldn’t believe what he saw. Human guards were falling everywhere, and orcs were running wild, yelling in triumph. Was it true? Were the fairy stories real? Were they really free?
Nelkul ran back to his father, who lay on the cot. Tul’sok’s eyes were open but his face had no expression.
“Father! Get up!” Nelkul shook the older orc but Tul’sok wouldn’t move. “Father! The Horde has come for us! We’re free now! Get up!”
But Tul’sok only sighed and rolled over. Nelkul looked around. Kivul, another of the older orcs, had sat up on his bunk but he stared blankly. Nelkul ran to him and grabbed his shoulders.
“Kivul, help me! Get up! We have to go now!”
Kivul gave half a smile. “What a nice dream, Nelkul. Don’t wake me up, I don’t want it to end.”
Nelkul stomped his foot. He ran to the door and saw others fleeing in glee. He wanted to go, too, but he couldn’t leave his father. He couldn’t leave Kivul. Nelkul had heard their stories. He couldn’t leave these fine old warriors behind. They deserved freedom.
Suddenly a tall orc appeared in the doorway. He carried a glorious big axe, the curve of its blade gleaming in the darkness. “Come on, boy! Let’s go!”
Nelkul stomped his foot again. “They won’t move, and I can’t leave them here!”
The tall orc crossed the floor in two steps and yanked Kivul to his feet. “Go, orc! You’re free!”
Kivul’s eyes grew large. “Hellscream? You’re alive?”
“Go!” the tall orc said again. He gave Kivul a push and the old orc staggered toward the door.
By now Nelkul was pulling at his father’s arm. “Get up, Father!” The tall orc came and helped Nelkul haul Tul’sok to his feet. The older orc stared at Hellscream as if he’d seen a ghost.
“What is this?”
“We’re free, Father! The Horde has come for us!” Nelkul pulled at Tul’sok’s hand.
Kivul was there then, reaching for Tul’sok’s arm and pulling it over his own shoulder. “We were warriors together in the old days. I will take him to safety.”
“I can’t leave him!” Nelkul cried.
“Find Remult,” Kivul said. “Get him out of here.”
Nelkul remembered then another old warrior who was as sad as his father. Remult would need help.
“Go to the front gate, the Horde is there,” Hellscream told Kivul. Then he turned to Nelkul. “Where is Remult?”
Nelkul didn’t even have to think. “In the next barracks. Sem’ya’s parents will be there, too.”
Hellscream gave a nod. “Let’s get them. We won’t leave a single orc behind.”
Together in thunder and rain Nelkul and Hellscream made their way through the camp, seeking out the orcs too sick and too sad to move. Hellscream and his axe kept the humans from hurting them while Nelkul dragged them toward the front gate. Some helped each other, like Kivul and Tul’sok, while others Nelkul had to drag to the gate himself. But Hellscream stayed near, his glorious axe keeping them all safe while they cleared the camp.
Finally the camp was empty of orcs, and the evil human guards lay dead. Never again would they beat Nelkul or his kin. Nelkul ran with Hellscream outside the camp, outside the front gate, into the night where the Horde had gathered. Dozens upon dozens of orcs were there. Nelkul found his father, standing on his own two feet, a huge grin across his wrinkled face. Tul’sok grabbed his son in a tight hug.
Doomhammer, his black armor gleaming with human blood, raised his hammer high. “Success! You are free, my brethren! You are free!”
Hellscream raised his own glorious axe into the night and gave another scream. Nelkul raised his own voice in triumph, and beside him, Tul’sok roared with glee.
“Lok’tar!” Tul’sok bellowed. “Victory!”
Nelkul looked around at Doomhammer and Hellscream and the blue-eyed shaman, and at Tul’sok and Kivul and the others standing tall and proud, and almost burst into tears of joy. “Lok’tar!” he yelled into the night.
Hellscream heard Nelkul and he nodded. “Lok’tar!”