Garrosh surveyed the Nagrand landscape carefully. No Warsong scouts had come into sight for days. Why would they? This hilltop was on the edge of the clan's territory, and in peacetime, there was little reason to patrol here. Raiding ogres would come from the west. Other orc clans would approach from the east. Even the hunting here was poor during this season, Garrosh remembered.
He had been very young the last time he had sat on this hilltop, and—
No. Garrosh had never sat on this hilltop or climbed these trees or run his fingers through these patches of grass as a child. This was a different world.
Kairozdormu had advised him to expect a few strange discoveries. I've spent my life studying the timeways. If you try to count and compare blades of grass, you'll drive yourself mad, he had said. My plans require a few… favorable conditions, and we'll find them here. This is the perfect timeway for us. Not a perfect mirror image, but perfect nonetheless.
That remained to be seen. Garrosh shaded his eyes and stared at the land just below the setting sun. At least he knew this hilltop was a safe place to rest. The open meadows, lush and green, would reveal any interlopers long before Garrosh would be spotted.
Behind him, Kairoz was at his ease, lying on his back near the smoldering campfire, holding a large, jagged shard of curved glass above his eyes. The fire's light and the setting sun played bronze shimmers across its surface. "Have you thought about what we discussed, Hellscream? You've already wasted enough time—"
Garrosh spun around, fixing him with a glare. "Do not call me that name again. Not here. Not ever."
Kairoz sat up clumsily. The bronze dragon could not yet move with grace in his new orc form. "No? Your family name would certainly grab the Warsongs' attention. Move things along."
"It might move Gorehowl through my neck. And yours," Garrosh said.
Kairoz smirked. The shape of his expression was distinctly quel'dorei, out of place on an orc face. "Your father and his weapon cannot touch me. Not unless he can fly."
Garrosh didn't respond. I hope you reveal your dragon form in front of Grommash Hellscream. I truly do.
Kairoz set the glass shard down in his lap. Even that simple movement looked wrong. "So. Have you made a decision?"
Garrosh kept his voice even. "It is time for us to part ways," he said.
"Is it?" Kairoz chuckled. "I don't remember offering that choice."
"You may look like an orc, but you don't act like one. They'll smell you out. I need to approach them alone," Garrosh said.
"I see. And how long until I can join you?" Kairoz's smirk deepened.
"Who can say? When the time is right—"
"Never, you mean." Kairoz shook his head. "Oh, Garrosh, Garrosh, Garrosh. Subtlety is not a strength of yours. Don't embarrass yourself."
Garrosh bit back a harsh reply. "Fine." His voice was controlled. "I'll be clear: my Horde does not need a dragon's aid."
"Mmm. Your Horde?" Kairoz stood up slowly, carefully balancing the glass shard in one hand. " Your Horde deposed you. Without me, you would still be rotting in a prison cell. You do not have the privilege of telling me to leave." The impostor orc tilted his head. "And if you refuse to behave, I can make you wish you were still awaiting the mercy of an executioner's axe."
Kairoz's other hand rested inside his sash, the only piece of clothing he had kept from his high elf garb. Garrosh heard rattling metal inside. A hidden weapon, perhaps?
An anticipation of violence fell upon Garrosh's mind. The world became clearer, sharper. He allowed no outward sign. "My people deserved better than what fate gave them. I will fix that. Without you," Garrosh said.
"You do not give me orders," Kairoz said. "I—"
Enough. Garrosh leapt forward without warning, his wordless battle cry filling the air. Three strides and he had vaulted the campfire and seized Kairoz around the throat, squeezing and lifting.
There was a flash of bronze light. The glass shard in Kairoz's hand shimmered.
Garrosh blinked. His hand squeezed nothing but air. The campfire was in front of him again, three strides away, as though he had never moved. Kairoz was gone. A moment of confusion passed, and then an arm snaked around Garrosh's throat and pulled him off his feet.
The world turned upside down. Cold metal—familiar metal—clicked shut around both of his wrists.
He struck the dirt hard, Kairoz's knee pinning him against the ground, his forearm firmly placed against Garrosh's neck.
"You think because I'm now mortal, I'm weak?" Kairoz hissed. "You are warchief no longer, Hellscream. You are free because I will it. You live because I will it. You will join your father and rally the old orc clans because I will it." Kairoz's disguise vanished from the neck up, his orc head suddenly shifting into something much larger and reptilian. The massive eyes of the bronze dragon lowered to mere inches from Garrosh's face. "You are a pawn. Nothing more. Remain useful, or you will be discarded."
Garrosh bared his teeth. His wrists had been chained together with the same restraints he had been wearing when he escaped from that absurd show of a trial. Now he understood why Kairoz had so carefully removed them instead of just breaking them.
Kairoz had wanted them hidden and ready. He had anticipated a confrontation. No, he had provoked a confrontation.
Slowly, bit by bit, Garrosh reined in his fury. He controlled his breathing. Steady breaths. Fool. He baited you. Do not make that mistake again. The red tinge faded from his vision. His voice was strained but composed when he finally spoke.
"And if you didn't need me, dragon, you would have left me in Pandaria," the orc said. "So don't bother with threats."
Kairoz's reptilian mouth twisted into a smile. "Just so long as we understand each other." He shifted back wholly into his orc form and stood up, stepping back from Garrosh.
"Oh, I do." Garrosh rolled over and used his bound hands to push himself to his feet. "Believe that."
A glimmer of light caught his eye as he rose. Nearby lay the glass shard, dropped into the dirt during the struggle. Kairoz pointed to it. "Pick it up."
Garrosh glanced at it. "Pick up your own toys."
"It's yours now." Kairoz spoke as though addressing an unruly child. "You will have need of it."
Garrosh eyed the shard but didn't move. The curved glass was pulsing, shimmering with a faint bronze light, the same light he had seen when the dragon had escaped his grip. The edges looked sharp. With restrained hands, it would be a trick to hold it without slicing up his palms. "I thought you said it had no more power."
"I said it did not have the power it once did. That does not mean it has no power, as you just witnessed," Kairoz said. His smirk was back.
Garrosh lifted his manacled wrists. "And these?"
"Those still seem to have plenty of power, yes? They will stay on until you convince me you understand your place." Kairoz returned to the campfire and began nudging dirt over the smoldering wood with his feet. "Pick. It. Up."
Steady breaths. Do not let him bait you again. Garrosh picked up the shard with care, balancing it on the palms of his hands. When it had been whole during Garrosh's trial, the Vision of Time had two sculptures of bronze dragons twined around the glass. This shard still had the head and neck of one of those figures melded with it. It was a convenient grip.
"I assume this holds no power for me," Garrosh said, his voice tight. Or you wouldn't have let me touch it. The thought made Garrosh's hidden anger burn white hot.
"Clearly. But do not lose it. That would make me upset," Kairoz said. He wandered away from the campfire, idly plucking a leaf off a low-hanging branch and crushing it between his fingers until it was green pulp. "You made a good point, Garrosh. You. Me. We're two strangers here. It might be best for us to approach the Warsongs separately. Months apart, even. It will lessen the chances of your people assuming you and I are… colluding." He dropped the crushed leaf to the ground and wiped his hand off on his thigh. A light green stain remained on his palm. "Show them the glass. Primitive as your kind was on this world, you had some awareness of the supernatural, yes? Your shaman will suffice. Any fool with a little talent can tap into what you're holding. It will be enough to catch a glimpse of our Azeroth and the spoils of other worlds. Once you have convinced them to join your ideal Horde and conquer all that they see, I will arrive. Just another orc following the new direction of his people." Kairoz spread his arms wide. "I will discover miraculous new uses for the shard. We will use it to travel to any world we please."
"I'm only interested in one," Garrosh said.
"Because you never see the big picture. You want one Horde, free of demonic taint. I want more. We can cultivate an infinite number of Hordes—"
Kairoz lowered his arms. His expression turned dangerous. "You doubt me?"
Garrosh met his gaze openly. "The hourglass was destroyed getting us here. I saw it broken on the floor of that pandaren temple." He raised the shard. "You might be able to perform a few tricks with this, but don't pretend this is still the Vision of Time."
"Think it through, Hellscream." Kairoz's voice was light. "Because most of the hourglass is still in our Azeroth, this piece resonates with our timeway. Call it a glimpse… a glint of time. With a little work on my part—"
"We can go back." Garrosh felt his heart race and his skin tingle. Plans began to unfold within his mind. "Not just back to our Azeroth. It could take us back to our time."
"And that is just the beginning," Kairoz said. He turned around, gesturing toward the sun dipping low on the Nagrand horizon. "First Azeroth. Then other worlds. All of them. As many as we need." The bronze dragon began to laugh. "We will be limited by nothing. Not even time. The possibilities are infinite. I will become infinite—"
Three strides and Garrosh slammed the shard into Kairoz's back.
Laughter turned to shrieks. The jagged glass tore through flesh easily, not breaking even as it sliced through muscle and glanced off bone. Garrosh kept a firm grip on the shard's bronze sculpture with his manacled hands.
Power surged into the glass. Bronze scales appeared and disappeared on Kairoz's skin. He was trying to use the shard, trying to shift back into his dragon form. It wasn't working.
Garrosh shoved him over and followed him to the ground, dragging the sharp edge around Kairoz's shoulder until it met the collarbone and had to be pulled free. The shrieks grew louder. Weak orcish hands struck out, trying to push Garrosh away. He lowered his face to mere inches from the bronze dragon's eyes and buried the shard in his throat. Shrieks turned into gurgling.
Garrosh held the shard firm, ignoring the torrents of energy racing in and out of the glass, focusing instead on the total surprise in Kairoz's eyes.
"No more," Garrosh said. "No more puppeteers hiding in the shadows. No more slavers offering corrupted power. No more of the likes of you. The orcs will be free of all masters."
Garrosh twisted the shard and dragged it down into Kairoz's chest, stabbing again and again. Blood spilled onto the hilltop. Not orcish blood, not the blood of any creature that had ever walked on this world, but the land would drink it all the same.
Finally, he pulled the shard free and stood.
Kairoz convulsed on the ground. Garrosh watched, curious. He had never killed a bronze dragon before. The shard trembled in his grip, beating in time with the dragon's final heartbeats. Bronze mist, each mote thick as a grain of sand, wafted away from Kairoz. It was not dispersing like smoke but rather pulling together into a thin, rope-like vortex, twisting away into nothing, as though being drawn away from this world.
When the bronze mist was gone, the shard was quiet. Kairoz's eyes were wide open, and he breathed no more. Garrosh waited. He wanted to be sure. Minutes passed before he grunted and nodded.
"An easier end than you deserved."
He left the body where it lay. Any who happened upon it would simply see an orc who had angered someone he shouldn't have.
And wasn't that close to the truth? Garrosh smiled.
He found a small creek nearby and washed the blood off of himself and the shard. His wrists were still manacled and had been rubbed raw. There was nothing to be done about it now. The key was worlds away.
How to proceed? Elaborate ideas rose and fell quickly. Kairoz had been right: subtlety was not Garrosh's strength. Approach too slyly, show too much manipulation, and his father would cut his head off. Grommash Hellscream was not a fool.
Fear trickled into Garrosh's belly. He had been so young. He barely remembered his father. What if he's not the orc I expect? Grommash Hellscream had been deceived, tricked into becoming a slave to demons. He had redeemed himself at the end, proving his strong heart, but he had not been infallible.
Garrosh had been chewing over the problem for days and still didn't know the answer. How do you convince one of the strongest orcs in existence that he is weak?
The last rays of sunlight disappeared. Garrosh sat quietly by the creek. Perhaps he should wait. It would take hours to reach the Warsong encampment on foot, and the manacles and the shard would mark him as someone who did not belong. Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, might prove safer than arriving in the middle of the night.
No, he decided. No more waiting. He wrapped the shard in Kairoz's sash and tucked it in his waistband. Grommash would recognize the strength in Garrosh's heart… or he would not.
Garrosh began walking. By sunrise he would learn whether he would live at his father's side or die at his hand.
" Lok-tar ogar," he whispered.