Chapter 3: Vengance and Honor
Leppedner rode past the many faces in Orgrimmar without looking at them, her mind set on her next task. Usually the sights and sounds of the city were refreshing with their promise of good food, and a warm fire, but at that moment such things were luxuries that would distract her. Her blood was still racing from her encounters in Dun Morogh, and all she wanted was to keep that feeling alive. Without that feeling to push her on, she knew her mind would wander into a place she fought every day to avoid, especially now that she was returning to Elwynn.
She blew past the guards that flanked the gates of the city, and headed for the zeppelin platform. She dismounted and Thantast appeared next to her. "With how insane this plan of yours is, I'm amazed you didn't cut through the mountains to get to Elwynn."
Leppender smiled at Thantast. "I told you I'm not stupid. I'm still very young, and weak by most standards. If I'm attacked in Stranglethorn Vale today I won't be able to defend myself, though I'm better off there than in the Burning Steeps."
A loud horn sounded, followed by the Goblin's usual cry of "The zeppelin to Grom'Gol has arrived, all aboard for Stranglethorn Vale!" Leppender walked calmly onto the zeppelin, followed by Thantast.
She climbed down the stairs to the lower deck, put a few silver coins into the Snack-O-Matic, and hovered her hand over the buttons, her eyes fixed on Tigule and Foror's strawberry ice cream. She clenched her fist and hit the button for Mulgore spice bread instead, and flopped down in a corner. Thantast snorted at her. "You won't even let yourself have any luxuries on this journey?"
Leppender shook her head. "I have to keep my mind focused on the task at hand... Do you even realize where we're going Thantast? What this part of the quest means for me?" Thantast shrugged his shoulders. Leppender looked down at her bread angrily. "This is the first time I've returned to Elwynn since I escaped from Stormwind two years ago."
She bit into the bread viciously, and chewed it with a look of rage on her face. The Voidwalker blinked at her. "I only came into your services recently, so I didn't know about that. What happened?" Leppender turned away from Thantast angrily, and continued eating her meal. "It's a long journey across the ocean, so you may as well tell me... Though I do enjoy seeing you brood over pointless things."
She swallowed her food and sighed. "Fine, I'll tell you how I wound up in Stormwind. It happened when I was five. A group of Human Warlocks came to my parent's hut, killed them, then took my brother and I with them. They wanted test subjects to try out new spells on... test subjects that couldn't fight back. They had heard of Gul'Dan's power, and wanted to perfect his way of performing the fel arts. The foolish Humans revered him like a God."
Thantast hovered a little closer to her, listening intently. "I wanted to be a Warrior before my parents died, but when I was taken I decided to learn their craft so I could overpower them, and escape."
Thantast grinned evilly. "And you did."
Leppender turned to him with an angry glare. "No, I didn't." Thantast looked surprised, and she sighed. "Five years ago, when I was fifteen, my brother attempted to escape. They killed him and tossed his body into a portal. I was mad... I lost control... I tried to use the powers that I'd been secretly developing over the past ten years of my imprisonment. I don't know what I hoped to accomplish that day..." She shuddered as she remembered that traumatizing day. "They were far more powerful than a fifteen year old she-Orc. They restrained me, and with the help of a few mages and priests they transformed me."
Thantast leaned close looking eager. "How?"
She looked at her hands, turning them over and clenching them. "It wasn't enough that they robbed me of my family, my youth, and my freedom... they robbed me of all that I was... they transformed my body into that of a Troll... then sealed my powers in a cocoon of holy energy... priest energy." She shut her eyes, a pained expression on her face. "Can you imagine how that felt? My bones growing, my innards shifting... ah but that pain was nothing compared to the pain of my powers being perverted. My body had grown accustomed to fel energy after ten years of being subjected to it every day... that wash of light magic tore at my very soul... it burned... I felt like a thousand tiny people had lit torches in my brain, and the fire spread all through me."
Leppender fell silent, while Thantast scowled at the thought. After several moments he spoke up again. "If they turned you into a Troll priest, how come you're an Orc Warlock now?"
Leppender shot him a spiteful look. "Because three years later I escaped! The pain of that holy magic in my body... it burned me constantly. I could feel the fel energy trying to break free inside it. My body was constantly fighting with itself. The torture from the Humans made it even worse... I was forced to accept my fate for the time, and even though the pain nearly drove me mad, I learned to harness that energy just enough to cast a shield over myself. The Humans were celebrating one night, drinking and carrying on. While they were distracted I cast my shield and ran."
Thantast's glowing eyes shifted as though he were raising an eyebrow. "You ran? Just ran?"
"I remembered what had happened the last time I fought them, and the pain that was constantly eating at me would have been too much for me to bare if I had attacked them, so yes, I ran. My shield was perfect, they couldn't touch me. I made it out of their underground coven, tasting the first breath of fresh air on my lips in thirteen years, and continued running. I could hear the guards calling to one another, but I suppose they were too stunned to pursue me. I ran past the gates, turned south, and just kept going. I swam across the river, my shield still up as I ran through Duskwood. I was exhausted, my body was weakening, but I pressed on. Finally I entered Stranglethorn Vale... just as I passed a Human encampment my strength left me."
She looked down at her hands again, speaking so softly that Thantast had to move right next to her, just so he could hear her. "I thought I was going to die... the pain was so great... I was so weary... But then I woke up at the Salty Sailor in Booty Bay with a red haired Blood Elf Paladin standing over me, wiping my face with a wet cloth." She smiled warmly at the memory. "Pegasus Firestorm, he said he was trying to chart all of Azeroth. He had found me and carried me into the town. For several weeks I lay there, barely able to move. I told him my story, and once he felt I could survive the trip he booked us passage on a ship to Ratchet, tied me to his horse, and led me to Orgrimmar. He left me in the care of a few Shamans and Priests there. It took them even longer to undo the damage the Warlocks caused, but eventually I was returned to my true form, and my fel energy was released from it's prison."
Thantast nodded silently as she finished her tale. "So now you return to the land you were trapped in for thirteen years."
Leppender nodded and stood up. "Yes now I return, and this time I intend to make as many Humans as I can suffer while I'm there." A loud horn echoed above deck, and Leppender walked upstairs. She grinned wickedly as they pulled in over Grom'Gol. "It's time my pet." She summoned her Felsteed and climbed onto it's back. "Today I will not only recover a Kobold digging shovel as a trophy to prove I went to Elwynn, but I will cause mayhem in the homeland of the Humans. They will feel the pain they made me suffer."
"You know you're almost beginning to scare me." Thantast muttered as he faded back into the shadows. Leppender ignored him and rode straight off the side of the landing platform. She ignored the heads that turned curiously in her direction, and urged the felsteed forward, through the gates of Grom'gol, and up a winding dirt track to the main road.
A screech suddenly rent the air and she looked over her shoulder. A raptor had spotted her, possibly thinking she was easy prey, and had begun giving chase. She leaned forward on the demonic horse, trying to urge it to move faster. She turned sharply onto the main road and heard a second raptor screaming behind her, joining in on the chase. "Come on... faster..." She whispered fiercely to her mount. She looked back a second time and saw that they were nearly upon her. The nearest raptor suddenly leaped forward, it's talons extended, but fortunately a demonic horse is a lot smarter than a living one. Sensing the threat, it paused for just a moment and kicked out it's hind legs, hitting the reptile in the chest and sending it flying back into it's companion. The young woman nudged the horse in the sides to urge it forward again and looked back. The raptors had begun clawing at one another, and were too busy fighting to pursue her.
The remainder of her journey through the jungle was fairly uneventful until she reached the boarder. She jumped off the horse, patting it's back gratefully as it faded back into the nether, and Thantast appeared in it's place. She walked forward slowly, examining the foliage, and the dark trees on the other side of the ravine. "It looks so different from when I last came through here... Then again I wasn't really paying attention to the trees." Thantast remained oddly silent, perhaps unsure of what to say to his mistress. She noticed his change in attitude and raised an eyebrow at him. "No smart ass comments? No insults? You're certainly not acting like yourself today."
"I wish I could say the same for you, but foolish and headstrong actions seem to be very commonplace on this quest." He muttered. It almost sounded as though he were just making conversation to keep Leppender happy. Either she didn't notice, or didn't care as she nodded and walked toward the bridge that spanned the small ravine which marked the boarder of Duskwood.
"When I last came through here there weren't that many Humans living in the area. In fact I didn't see any when I came through before. There will be a lot of blood to shed in Elwynn. Lets keep moving." Leppender said calling forth her Felsteed once more.
It seemed Leppender was correct, there was nobody to challenge her as she traveled up the road through Duskwood. She turned left when the road forked, and followed the trail until she reached a river. There she turned north, riding along the shore, Westfall clearly visible on the opposite side of the river. At long last the river forked, and Elwynn forest came into view. She glared at the green grass and trees across the river, an almost sickening feeling of dejavous curling in her stomach. She sat on her mount, almost afraid to cross over into the lands where she had been held prisoner for thirteen years, but then she spotted something that turned her feelings of unease into a sense of frenzy.
Only a few yards away in the water were two Humans, a male and a female, embracing passionately. She dismissed her horse and licked her teeth with a snarl. "Fools..." She growled. Thantast melted out of the shadows, watching her closely. "Pathetic, weak, heartless fools. They care for no one outside their own species. For so long I was a faceless, nameless creature to them. Weak and helpless to defend myself... But I'm not going to lower myself to their level, I'm not going to torture the innocent of their race..." She drew her wand and cried out. "I'll just slay them all instead!"
The two Humans in the water turned at her cry, the woman clutching her partner fearfully as they looked upon the enraged Warlock in terror. Leppender channeled her energy into the wand and let lose a volley of energy, each bolt hitting the man in the head, shattering the bones in his skull, his brains spilling out into the water.
The woman screamed and tried to swim away, but Leppender focused her energy into both hands and unleashed a powerful ball of shadow energy. It hit the female in the back, tearing through her flesh and knocking her unconscious. She landed face down in the water and floated there, her long blond hair spreading out around her, turning crimson as her blood seeped into it. Leppender swam into the water and grabbed the girl's hair, pulling her head up to look at her face. The woman awoke and looked into Leppender's eyes pleadingly, but the young Warlock's gaze was filled with malice and a mad glint of blood lust. She pulled out her dagger and slowly slit the Human's throat, watching with satisfaction as she gurgled her last few breaths, bloody foam forming at her lips before she fell silent forever.
Leppender swam to the shore, Thantast at her side. He gave her an evil smile. "I didn't know you could be so ruthless."
A wicked grin crossed the young Orc's lips, and she licked her teeth once more. "Humans are ruthless. To combat them I must be as well." She said. A sudden squeal rent the air and Leppender looked sharply to the left. A large creature similar to a Quillboar was lying about a hundred yards away with several arrows bristling from it's neck. There were three Humans standing over it, two were obviously very weak, their arms barely showing any hint of muscles as they applauded the third. That Human seemed to be much stronger, his mail armor glittering in the sunlight as he bowed before his comrades before slinging his bow over his shoulder, and scratching the head of a Nightsaber sitting next to him.
Leppender let out a soft growl and sprinted forward, keeping hidden behind the trees until she was close enough to attack. Peering out from behind a bush she raised her arms to the sky, and brought them down in a vicious swipe. The sky turned red above the Humans as balls of fire rained down upon them. The two weaklings were struck down instantaneously, the miniature meteors crushing their skulls and setting their flesh ablaze, but the hunter seemed unaffected by the barrage. Indeed Leppender's rain of fire just bounced off his armor. He stood staring at his fallen comrades in stunned horror for a few moments, then turned around and glared at Leppender.
Her battle rage subsided long enough for her to realize just how much trouble she was in. She knew that none of her spells would be able to penetrate the hunter's armor. Thantast snarled at her. "Not that I care if he kills you, but you can't get a trophy if you're dead."
The Human let out a cry of fury and pulled out his bow, notching three arrows into it at once, preparing to open fire. "Point taken Thantast, lets get out of here!" She said, deciding that it was time to advance in the other direction. She began running, and heard the twang of the bowstring as the hunter let his arrows fly. A split second later Leppender fell to the ground with a sharp cry of pain, an arrow sticking out of her upper left leg, her lower back, and her left shoulder. She clawed at the ground desperately as she tried to get back to her feet. "Thantast, protect me!" She cried.
The area in front of her began to shimmer, and as she rolled over she saw another arrow falling right toward her head, but it grazed off the shield, sticking into the ground in front of her. With a supreme effort of will Leppender jumped back up, and continued running. She passed a farm and saw a hill leading down to a mine with several Kobalds walking around outside. She heard the Human yell. "Just you wait Orc! You're going to pay for that!" For a moment she thought the Human had spoken Orcish because she could understand him, but then she realized that he was speaking in his Common tongue, and she had only understood him because she had learned their language while she was a prisoner of the Humans.
Leppender scowled at the realization and gritted her teeth against the pain of her wounds. She looked up toward where the Human was standing at the top of the hill, but he whistled for his horse and rode away. She let out a soft growl. "I think he's gone to alert the Humans in Stormwind. We don't have much time Thantast."
The Voidwalker growled. "If you had been smart about this from the start then they wouldn't know we were here."
Leppender turned to Thantast with a snarl. "Oh shut up, this time I'm going to let you kill them with me but only because we don't have time to do this in a more ritualistic fashion."
Thantast smiled wickedly, eager to cause death and destruction. Wordlessly they headed into the mine. Leppender began launching balls of energy from her wand, hitting every Kobald she saw, and Thantast charged forward, pummeling them and ripping off their heads in a frenzy. The air around them grew hot from the constant volley of energy, and the ground soon resembled a river of blood as one by one the creatures fell. Leppender briefly examined each corpse as they traveled through the mine, digging through the tattered clothes the fallen miners wore, and ripping their weapons out of their hands. None of them were carrying a shovel.
Leppender began cursing each one she came across with illness and disease, corrupting their flesh until they lay writhing on the ground in agony, a sense of panic beginning to wash over her. It was taking too long. At last she spotted a Kobald ahead of her using a shovel to unearth some copper ore. With a cry of mingled rage and relief she ran toward him, brandishing her dagger. As she charged the creature a sound reached her ears that made her blood run cold. "She went in the mine, probably looking for more new recruits to slaughter!"
She sped up and jumped on the Kobald, flattening it against the ground as she dug her dagger deep into it's throat. The creature let go of the shovel, and clawed at her arm franticly for a few seconds before it's arms fell to it's sides, and it lay dead on the ground under her. Quickly Leppender picked up the shovel, and pulled a runed stone out of her bag, but before she could begin channeling her energy into it she heard a loud crack, and a sickening pain flooded through the side of her head. She fell over, her vision becoming hazy as she looked up at the Human standing over her, his hammer resting over his shoulder casually as he examined her. She barely registered Thantast hovering over to her looking delighted, obviously sensing that his mistress was about to die.
Despite her hatred of the Human race she couldn't help but feel slightly impressed by the appearance of this one. He wore a set of pure gold armor that had a wing on the right shoulder pad. The hammer resting upon it had a large flattened head on each side in pure silver, with a spike on top. The Alliance emblem glowed blue and gold from the center of the hammerhead where it met the handle, which was also blue and gold. His golden helmet had wings on either side of it, and must have been enchanted, for it made his eyes glow blue until he removed it, tucking it under his arm. "This is your kinslayer? A weak Orc-lock? She's hardly even worth my time." The Human said.
"I would have taken her out myself, and I did weaken her, but I didn't want to risk coming in here without backup. For all we know she's got a few friends hiding in here preparing to ambush Goldshire!" Leppender lifted her head slightly, looking at the Hunter who had wounded her before.
She let out a soft growl of rage and pain. "Orcs aren't cowardly enough to hide in a cave just to ambush a village, not like Humans. If you're going to kill me, hurry up and get it over with!"
The two Humans looked at her in surprise and she bit her tongue furiously, realizing she had spoken in Common. The Human with the golden armor knelt down next to her and gave her a curious look. "How do you know our language Orc?" Leppender remained silent, glaring at the Human. She wasn't about to debase herself by speaking with that foul creature. The Human frowned at her. "If you don't want to tell me that's fine, but if you wish to live you might consider answering my questions. Now, were you planning an ambush of our town?" Leppender glared at the man angrily, but after several moments she shook her head painfully. The action made her even more dizzy and she closed her eyes, beginning to lose consciousness.
She saw a soft golden light and her pain faded. This is it, I'm dead. She thought bitterly. The light suddenly disappeared and all she saw was darkness. She took a deep breath and waited. After a few seconds her eyes snapped back open in shock as the Human spoke again. "Since I've healed you perhaps you'll be a bit more willing to answer me." She looked at him with her mouth agape as the truth began to register in her mind. The light she had seen wasn't the light of death approaching, it was the holy light of a paladin shining as he healed her wounds! "If you weren't here to ambush our people, then why did you come to Elwynn Forest?"
She sat up slowly and reached for the Kobald Mining Shovel. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the hunter fit another arrow into the bow and aim it at her. She stared at him defiantly and held the shovel against her chest, cradling it almost lovingly. The paladin observed Leppender's actions curiously for a few moments. "You came to get a shovel? That's it?"
Leppender looked at the paladin and nodded slowly, still clenching her hearthstone in her fist as she held the shovel. "She's lying, why would anyone travel all the way across Azeroth just to get a shovel?" The hunter said.
The paladin ignored him and grabbed her wrist gently, turning it to look at the stone. His mouth set into a grim line. "I think she's telling the truth, she was preparing to leave when I hit her."
"Then why doesn't she explain herself? We know she can talk." The hunter spat. Leppender glared at him hatefully.
The paladin stood up and walked over to the hunter, setting down his enormous hammer and placing his helmet on the haft so he could cross his arms over his chest as he looked the man in the eye. "Our races have never trusted one another, ever since the Orcs first invaded Azeroth. She obviously doesn't trust us any more than you trust her. Unless one of us decides to make the first show of kindness there will never be peace between our races, and if you're not going to be the one to do it, then I will!"
The hunter snorted but lowered his bow. Leppender watched the two, looking highly confused. This wasn't what she had come to expect from Humans. She had always known them to be cruel and heartless creatures, but this paladin had not only healed her, he was defending her from one of his own! He turned back to Leppender and nodded. "I believe that Humans have done you a personal wrong in the past, and so you decided to take it out on those you encountered here in Elwynn while you were on your way to acquire that shovel. That's the only reason I can think of that you would know our language, yet hold such a deep hatred for my people. Whatever happened before I hope that by sparing your life I have helped to make amends for it. Go now, and perhaps the next time we meet you will be willing to speak with me on more friendly terms."
Leppender stood up and began channeling her energy into the stone. She looked at the paladin, her expression blank. "I will not forget this." She said in Common. Before she disappeared Leppender caught a glimpse of the Human smiling warmly at her, but the next second she was back at the inn in Shattrath.
Thantast hovered over to her, having traveled through the nether to reappear at her side. "Well that was disappointing. I thought he was going to kill you, but instead you became friends!"
Leppender raised her eyebrow at Thantast. "Friends with a Human? Don't make me sick. I'll admit that my perspective of them has changed slightly, that I now think some of them are capable of kindness, but I stand by my beliefs. Humans in general are evil cold hearted creatures, and Azeroth would be better off without them. Someday I will return to that land and wipe them all out..." She looked at the shovel in her hands and smiled. "But until then I have another task to complete."
Leppender looked up as the innkeeper approached her hesitantly. "Um do you want a... oh never mind, I'm not even going to bother asking you this time."
Leppender smirked at the innkeeper and put the shovel safely in her bag. "Good call, because I don't need a room. I still have a long way to go." She said. With that she walked outside, summoned her steed and rode toward the lift. Once she reached the main level of Shattrath she headed for the portals and leaped into the one set for Orgrimmar. "FOR HONOR!" She yelled as she entered the portal, heading off to begin the most dangerous part of her quest for a name.