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I wrote this back in 2011 for the annual contest Blizzard holds, but I never submitted it. Maybe next time I'll actually turn in something and try my hand. Until then, enjoy! (note, this was not recently edited, I simply took what I had)
Tawa'po looks past Malar to another Tauren on his right as he cuts through another of the foul Quillboar that encroaches on his homeland. Compared to his lighter, tan companion, Tawa'po's muscles brim with strength through his dark coat of thick fur. His horns are shined and free of blood, despite its presence over the rest of his body.
"Does your battle go well over there, Brightmane?" he calls across the field. He can see her battling with ferocity almost equal to his own. The squeal of another pig as it begins an incantation to his left rises over her response, but the geomancer's spell is interrupted when the mighty warrior stomps over and backhands it with enough force to spray blood from its snout. He grabs the spellcaster by the throat and slams it to the ground, bringing his axe down to end the wretched creature's time among the living.
"You waste your time, Tawa'po," says his comrade as he kicks another of the Quillboar from his own weapon. "She will not find your arrogance as flattering as the others."
With a smirk, Tawa'po turns from his friend and begins walking toward the warrior, Aponi. When he reaches her, he stops for a moment and admires the powerful woman before him. "I couldn't hear your answer over the din."
His beautiful ally lifts her large mace over an otherwise delicate shoulder and looks up to meet his eye, "I said it goes as well as your own, Ragetotem. Now, let's get back to this, I want to be home before sundown. Besides, aren't you leaving for Orgrimmar in the morning?"
She points over his shoulder and Tawa'po turns to slam his deep black fist into an incoming Quillboar's flank. The creature's charge is halted as the air is knocked out of it, and it falls to the ground clutching its belly.
Ignoring the beast again, he faces her with another strong smile, "Yes, there is talk that the Scourge continue to bolster their forces. If there is truth in the rumors, the strongest warriors from all of the Horde will likely be called upon to stop them once and for all. I, we, could be needed to travel away from here.”
He watches her for a reaction to this news, but she gives away nothing of her thoughts on the prospect, so he continues, “Speaking of Orgrimmar, I could use some company during the trip, Aponi. The Orcs' Warchief has a new advisor. I hear he is one of the strongest of their kind. If I'm lucky, he will give me an opportunity to prove my worth to him. You would look good there at my side."
She gives him a confusing look, something resembling a cross between frustration and pity, "No, I don't think I will go, if only to avoid looking good at your side. I will stand for myself, thank you."
His smile falters, and he reaches to hold her in his gentle but firm grasp for a moment, "That is disappointing to hear, Aponi. There are others who would wish for such an opportunity."
She pulls away, "Then let them join you. My place is where the Earthmother sends me, protecting our people. For now, that place is here."
He turns from her, hurt and angry, though he wishes not to show the woman how he feels about her reaction, "Fine, then I will prove myself to you as well. I will be stronger. So strong that you will want to be with me."
To lend credence to his point, Tawa'po slams his hoof down upon the Quillboar he incapacitated moments before. The blow crushes its skull with a sickening, wet crack. Sated, the warrior stalks off back toward where Malar continues to battle the swine.
Orgrimmar is large, Tawa'po realizes. Larger even than Thunderbluff. The Orcs have done much with the wasteland of Durotar. Their Warchief, Thrall, is a proud shaman, and for good reason according to others Tawa’po has spoken to. The Orc leader's new advisor is a brown skinned warrior by the name of Garrosh. Tawa'po didn’t know the race as any color other than green, so this Orc's skin comes as a surprise at first. Asking around, the Tauren learns that Garrosh Hellscream is a true-blooded Orc from beyond the Dark Portal, free of the bloodlust that ruled the horde before Thrall took over.
“Surely the Orcs, and the Horde as a whole, would do well to have a strong, pure leader, then,” Tawa’po comments to another onlooker as the Warchief, Hellscream, and Lady Sylvanas Windrunner of the Forsaken discuss the Horde’s plans to travel into Northrend. The Orc pays his comment no mind, as the conversation before them begins to heat up.
Edited by Edlarel on 2/28/2013 12:02 PM PST
When negotiations break down between Thrall and his second, Garrosh challenges the Warchief to a duel. While everybody in the Valley of Honor makes their way into the Ring of Valor, Tawa'po quickly pushes past the smaller members of the horde to get a front row seat. As he takes his place with the crowd, he thinks about how sorry Aponi will be for not coming here to see this with him.
When the battle begins, the Tauren cheers on Garrosh. Some who sit by him whisper of this Orc's arrogance in challenging Thrall, but Tawa'po shuts them up with a glare. They should be facing the Scourge in Northrend, after all, not standing by and waiting while some advance scouting unit is massacred by the Lich King before they react.
At one point, it looks as though the proud Hellscream will indeed best his leader, but, unfortunately, the battle is forgotten when one of the Lich King's minions suddenly attacks Orgrimmar.
Hurrying out of the arena beside the Orcs' Kor'kron Guard, Tawa'po draws his axe and faces off against an oversized, four-armed undead others have named an abomination. As the battle wares on, Tawa'po takes a couple of minor wounds to his arms and chest. He cares not and continues to push against the putrid, bloated thing. He reflects on how his victory this day may even be recognized by Thrall, or better still, Garrosh. Aponi and Malar will both be proud of them, to be sure. She will finally stand at his side, proud to be his.
At last, his weapon bites into the abomination's already gaping stomach and lodges itself into its spine. Still holding onto a semblance of animated life but unable to hold itself up, the monster falls onto him. The strong Tauren gives all of his effort to push the thing off of himself, and grabs his axe to finish cutting his way out when another skeletal beast falls from the sky, crushing his arm beneath one of the bones in its ribcage.
An unwanted scream pulls itself from his lips and gets the attention of a nearby ghoul that was feasting on the remains of one of its own. The thing looks up and moves toward him, slavering over a fresh opportunity.
Unable to stop the monster as it bites into his shoulder and begins to devour him, Tawa'po lets his mind go on to ignore it. He thinks of Aponi and offers her a silent apology for his arrogance. He then thanks the Earthmother for giving the Tauren woman foresight enough to avoid this day, lest she to come to such an inglorious end as he.
When unlife is breathed back into him, the warrior remembers nothing but his strength and skills in battle. Powerful he was then, but moreso now that he is blessed with the might of the Lich King. No longer does the frailty of life hinder him and hold back his true strength. He is arrogant still, but now he can prove that it is well deserved.
In no time, the Death Knight demonstrates how quickly he has mastered the runes he himself carved into his axe when he defeats several other would-be warriors on his way to becoming the greatest of his new lord's soldiers. His talents at the runeforge are unparalleled, and with the gifts of the Scourge at his command he is able to best even the Scarlet Onslaught.
Now, his final test is upon him. He shines his horns and checks that they are sharp enough to gore his enemies, then he goes to the appointed location. The once-human Commander who leads him and encourages his pride has given him the honor of slaying one of the prisoner's they captured. He agrees these failed warriors deserve no honorable death and strides into the one room holding cell.
Inside, he looks upon those who were bested by the Scourge. All are weak, broken. They have earned nothing more than death at the hands of his kind. Looking over the heads of the Forsaken, Dwarves, and Orcs in the room, he finds his victim.
The Tauren is easy to spot amongst the lesser condemned in the building. With a smirk, the Death Knight walks over to him and speaks with the chill of the grave still fresh upon his vocal cords, "I condemn you to death in the name of the Lich King, Tauren. You have failed your people, and now you will be made to serve."
To the Tauren's right, a Night Elf woman cringes in anticipation of the blow that would be dealt any moment now. The bull of a man doesn't shy away, though. He lifts his head to look into the Death Knight's cold, lifeless eyes, "Come to finish the job, have you? You'll look me in the eyes when..."
Something flashes in his eyes then, bringing pause to the killing strike, "Tawa'po?"
The word means something, he knows, but what that may be is a mystery to the undead warrior, "What did you call me, prisoner?"
"Tawa'po, I'd recognize those horns anywhere... What have they done to you, my friend?"
He laughs at this outburst, "Done to me? I am stronger, more powerful than ever before. Who are you to question to might of the Lich King? I am not this... Tawa'po, as you claim." But even as the word passes over his dark lips, he feels something stir within him. He lowers his axe and listens more closely to the soldier for a moment.
"You don't remember me, do you? It is I, Malar. Blasted Scourge... They've tried to drain you of everything that made you a righteous force of reckoning. Every last ounce of good... Everything that made you a tauren!"
The slander irritates him, and the Death Knight raises his axe again, repeating himself, "The Scourge has made me stronger than ever. With the gifts of the Lich King, I am stronger even than you, fallen tauren."
Undaunted by the blade looming over his head, the warrior continues, "Think, Tawa'po. Think back. Try and remember the rolling plains of Mulgore, where you were born. Remember the splendor of life, brother. You were a champion of the tauren once! This isn't you."
Something is clawing at the back of his mind. A warrior, this warrior, beside him, and another... Aponi. That name forces him to take a step back.
"Listen to me. Forget your arrogance. You must fight against the Lich King's control. He is a monster that wants to see this world - our world - in ruin. Don't let him use you to accomplish his goals. You were once a hero and you can be again. Fight, damn you! Fight his control!"
Memories of the life he lost flood's the Death Knight's head and he hesitates once more in lifting his axe. Looking on his comrade with true recognition for the first time, he realizes now what his pride has truly earned him.
Thinking quickly, he shoves his friend over onto his face and cuts the bonds that held him. He then stands him up and gives him a strong, powerful hug even as his voice echoes with the ring of death, "I remember."
Several others in the room begin to beg him to do the same for them. Their voices are too loud, drawing attention to him and Malar.
From outside, the cursed voice of his commander yells, "What's going on in there? What's taking so long?"
Malar's eyes brim with pride more than tears, and he kneels down again, "There... There's no more time for me. I'm done for. Finish me off, Tawa'po. Do it or they'll kill us both. Brother... Remember Mulgore. This world is worth saving."
"No, I will not. Not now that I have been reminded of who I truly am," the fallen warrior says setting his axe on the ground. "I'll not be the Lich King's weapon any longer. We must get away, quickly."
Another woman, a blood elf this time, yells that she must be freed as well, to return to her family and friends back in Quel'thalas. The sound of boots outside begin their trek toward the doorway.
Malar grabs the axe from the ground and forces it into his hands again, "Do it, Tawa'po! Put me out of my misery!"
Looking to the door, then back to his friend, the once arrogant Tawa'po raises his axe in grim supplication and brings it down upon the warrior who, in his own way, returned him from the grave.
With the Lich King's demise imminent, the Tauren battles fiercely beside the other Death Knights of the Ebon Blade. They have come far since their inception back at Light's Hope Chapel. He has been to see Thrall, in person, and was accepted back as a member of the Horde. Though his own race still sees him as a cold, merciless monster, he continues his grim fight against the Scourge in hopes that he will prove his worth to them again.
To this day, none of the warriors who pass through the entrance of the Shadow Vault have recognized him. He prefers it this way and refuses to use the name he held in life. This existence, if any could call it that, is lonely and filled with pained memories that he can never be rid of.
As he slays one of the Scourge's abominations with ease, he surveys the field of battle for another target. Strewn about him are the fallen, members of the Alliance and Horde both, Scourge creatures, all are dead around him. The only three beings left here for the moment are he, a dangerous looking flesh giant, and the warrior who battles him. The monster's back is to him, hiding its foe from his vision. He takes the opportunity to charge the giant, calling upon his runes to cut through it with a powerful strike that gives the warrior a boost in his own morale even as the magic closes some of his wounds.
The flesh giant falls to the side and the warrior it faces rests with her hand upon the cold ground of the Broken Front. She is beautiful, despite damaged armor and a severe wound to her arm. She looks up at him and smiles, "Thanks."
"Aponi?" The word escapes him before he realizes it and he stands there, staring at the injured woman. Her roan fur is matted with sweat and the blood of her enemies, but still she gives off a light against which all else pales in comparison.
She manages to stand and with her good arm places her mace at her back, "You have heard of me, Death Knight?"
He frowns, realizing now that even she does not recognize him. Has he changed so much? No, he wouldn't let this opportunity pass. This was his chance, at last, to make things right.
"Yes. I have heard you are a great warrior; greater than many who would think themselves strong enough to deserve you by their side."
She tilts her head in confusion, "Thank you for that. What is your name, soldier?"
He smiles at the thought, "I call myself Arrogance, now. To remind myself of the follies of my previous life so that I may never forget the pain such thinking has brought me."
She nods, "You are wise in such thinking, Arrogance. I would be honored if you would please help me get back to the Argent Vanguard where they can decide if I need to be treated there or back in Thunderbluff."
He helps her walk to the soldiers guarding the pass. Along the way, they speak of Thunderbluff and of the Horde's Hellscream pushing into Icecrown Citadel. When at last they reach somebody who would take her to a healer, she stops and turns to him. Laying her hand upon his face, Aponi smiles. For his part, the Death Knight realizes he cannot actually feel her touch, and tries his best not to weep the ichor that would come from him should he begin to.
"Thank you for your help, Arrogance. I must rest now. With this wound as bad as it looks, I'll probably have plenty of time to contemplate the things we have spoken of. Ishnu'porah Tawaporah."
As she says those last words, recognition crosses Aponi's features. She begins to stammer, but he only smiles and turns to walk away. Behind him, he hears her call out, "Tawa'po," but he continues on without looking back.
As Arrogance feels the last vestiges of the Lich King's will leave him, he knows the man the Human's called Arthas is dead. He is free at last. Still, his stigma as a Death Knight haunts him wherever he goes. The other races, even his own, only accept him because they are told to.
Rather than suffer the looks of others he stays in the Shadow Vault until the Cataclysm changes the face of Azeroth and he is called upon once more to protect those who will never accept him.
With this fact on his mind, the Tauren still leaves with several other members of the Ebon Blade to help contest the minions of Deathwing and the Twilight's Hammer. He finds himself back in Kalimdor, just north of his once proud home of Thunderbluff. The new chieftain, Baine, son of Cairne has personally requested him and a few other fallen members of their race to represent them in the Stonetalon Mountains.
Landing his mount and handing it off to the stablemaster, he sees how much has changed since last he visited Sunrock Retreat what felt like ages ago. It was here that he first met Aponi and Malar. How naive they all were back then.
Looking around he sees several Sunwalkers and priests of An'she gathered to welcome his kind. At first, the Death Knight expected trouble when he heard that the holy warriors of the Tauren would be working alongside him. Now, though, he feels a kinship with the men and women who surround him. They are all soldiers with their own talents; his, the unholy blight and cold of the former Lich King's power. The Sunwalkers' power was antithesis to his own; the warmth of the sun and the light of the eye of the Earthmother.
"Arrogance, I am glad to have you join us in these dark times," comes a familiar, feminine voice from among the throng of Tauren." Aponi steps into his view. She has healed well, and carries her weapon of choice over her shoulder as always. She smiles at him in her Sunwalker's raiment.
The Death Knight looks at the woman with some incredulity, "You are... A Sunwalker now?"
She nods, "After I returned to Thunderbluff, I was restored to health and shown a new way for our people. I live for the day now, much as you live for the night."
She is truly his opposite in every way now. It amazes him how far this great warrior has come by following her own path. He has to know, "You asked Baine to bring me and my kind here?"
Again, she nods and walks up to offer a solute and her hand, "In this way, as warriors, we can stand together. And I will be proud to stand by your side as we face this new threat to our people, Tawa'po."
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