Orgrimmar. The first time he had seen it, the sight nearly stopped him dead in his tracks. They had not long since left Razorwind Canyon behind, emerging from between its tall sandstone walls into Durotar’s unforgiving sun. Before them the red plain stretched endlessly and the horizon vanished into shimmers of heat that distorted the distance. This was a far cry from the rolling green hills of Nagrand.
“There! Can you see it?” Thrall halted his mount and pointed toward the northern horizon. Garrosh pulled up next to him and squinted. Behind them their entourage slowed and milled about.
In the distance he saw a tall gate, a wall of sharpened wood pylons, towers roofed in red…. No, his eyes played tricks. He started in surprise. Orgrimmar could not possibly be that large. He glanced over to see Thrall watching him intently, the barest of smiles on his face. Clearly he waited eagerly for Garrosh’s reaction. Garrosh felt his cheeks burn. Garadar might not be particularly imposing, but he was the chieftain. He was his father’s son.
“Impressive,” he grunted. “If it’s as big as it looks.”
Thrall laughed. “Just wait,” he said, grinning.
The gates were not simply tall. They were enormous. The guards saluted elaborately as they passed, recognizing the warchief. Garrosh focused his eyes dead ahead and squared his shoulders. Suddenly his throat felt dry. It was the dust, of course.
Thrall had filled his head with imagery of the city during their weeks of travel. Garrosh had believed he knew reasonably well what to expect. He was wrong. Nothing, not all the talk in the world, could have prepared him for what he saw. Buildings rose in front of him two and three stories tall, their fronts disappearing into winding alleys shaded by trees and overhanging rock. If an orc settlement half as large had ever existed on Draenor, it had long since been razed or abandoned. Orgrimmar, however, hummed with life. In the square were dozens upon dozens of orcs. More orcs than he had seen in years, more than he had even known still lived. It was a sight for which he could never have prepared himself.
When Garrosh was barely a child, the clans had consolidated to form the Horde and spent months in a fervor preparing for what would become known as the First War. Years later, after the Second War, the Alliance had in turn invaded the orcs' homeland, and Garrosh had longed to join the Horde’s ranks and fight alongside his father. But his chance came and went, and instead he had remained confined to quarantine in Garadar on account of the red pox, barely able to walk, burning with both the fever of his illness and the shame of his weakness. His own father had gone to Azeroth without so much as a backward glance, never to return to Garadar or his son. And he, Garrosh Hellscream, heir to the Warsong clan, had not had the strength to aid his people. The Horde had rejected him. He may have been Mag’har—uncorrupted—but he was also unwanted.
The Horde had ultimately fallen. The humans had destroyed the Dark Portal and imprisoned the conquered orcs, and the immense wars had ended. The Mag’har were utterly alone. Some of the Horde orcs had remained, to be sure, but they had avoided Garadar, wary and disdainful of its sickened residents. The epidemic had run its course, but superstition and bitterness died hard. The orcs had become a dwindling people, fragmented and ever fighting on the edges for survival. Eventually it had become clear that the Horde was truly ravaged, and its enemies had pushed until hope had faded to ashes and survival had seemed an impossible folly.
Here in Orgrimmar the Horde not only survived; it thrived. The square was crammed full of orcs. Merchants barked their wares, hounding their potential customers with discounts. Children darted between the stalls, enacting mock battles against an unseen foe. Grunts patrolled the streets. Garrosh could barely believe the scene before him.
Next to him, Thrall chuckled. Garrosh glanced over.
“It’s a sight,” Thrall said.
Garrosh nodded, but did not speak.
“You’ll see it all, Garrosh,” Thrall continued. He grinned broadly. “Welcome to Orgrimmar!”