My father was a great Tauren.   He stood tall as the mesas on which Thunder Bluff rests, and his smile was bright while his frown was storm and thunder.  His name was Houl Stormhoof, and he died on the Broken Shore, fighting the Legion, and ensuring that I and many others came home.  

Often he would speak of the world – of the many dangers within and without.  He would talk of the Light, and of how it is of all, in all, but not all.  He spoke of the compassion that must lead before the hammer falls, the turns of the sky, and the way of wind – but most often, he spoke of love.  He was a Tauren of great deeds, but he never spoke of them.  Before I trained with him, I knew none of his stories; even after I learned to carry a hammer of my own, his stories came to me from his friends, his warband-mates, those he saved, and from the letters he kept.  

He was great enough to wear the family’s totem, but he never did – he allowed my Uncle to have that right, who is great in his own right, but who has never faced demons or stood against the armies of the Alliance.  At first, I thought this a great injustice, but I have learned now that it is not so.  We are our choices, for good or ill.  Those choices define us.  Shape us.  What others see as great, we may see as regret.  Our proudest moments are not often in moments of conflict, but in moments of peace.

I find myself thinking of these things because of a wolf.

It begins with a tree.  A vast and wide tree, so large that its branches changed the sky and its leaves filled the air.  This tree, Teldrassil in the tongue of those who lived there, was home to a city – Darnassus.  The call for war came, and I among many answered as a function of duty and pride.  The Horde was strong, and the elves of Darnassus had long been at war with the Horde, killing miners and lumberers and those who ventured into the forests to the north.  Now, there was to be war.  The tree was to be taken, the Elves brought into the horde by force and forced to stop their constant attacks from the shadows.  

Long our enemy, the Alliance would lose a harbor.  The people of the Horde would be safer.  Perhaps there could even be peace, if the blue-and-silver ships had farther to go, and less safe ports to call home.  In time, perhaps the elves would come to see we did not have to be at war.  

I had much hope.   The Silver Hand had proved that the Sunwalkers and the human Paladins could stand together against great evil.  I have many friends – human, Draenei – where we learned to see past horns and hooves, hands and hearts.  We laughed and drank and ate together, and when we went to war it was with unlikely allies at our backs.  There is hope that the world can be at peace, but we came to understand it was mistrust that drove us apart.  A long legacy of betrayals and dishonor cover both peoples of the Horde and the Alliance; this leads to constant wariness.  Hatred.  War that comes with the slightest provocations.

And yet.  This war against the tree was to be different.  The Horde would gain breathing room.  Enemies would no longer be at our gates.  The elves could be shown that words, not weapons, could bring an end to conflict.  

On the verge of victory, all changed.  The tree burned – and the orders came from the Warchief.  The tree burned, and very few escaped.  What was to be a war to end in hope became one that ended in the destruction of thousands by fire.  There was no honor in this act, no glory, no good to be gained.  I can believe only that the Warchief knows what she intends, but I feel the fire and the blood keenly, and I cannot understand.

In the end… now there is little hope.  What was distrust now becomes hate, fueled by our own hand.  We must band together or the humans, elves, dwarves, and draenei will kill us all.  We would do the same, I think.  How could we not?

Undercity has already fallen in desperate battle – many were heartsick to fight, and more heartsick to see the destruction wrought and the tactics used.  But to survive?  We must be as fierce as the hatred we have built, whether we have heart for it or no.  It is proof now that there is no path to peace.

Or so I believed.  Then?  There was the wolf.

The Sunwalkers were watched, spread throughout the armies of the Horde.  It is perhaps because we can heal, we are strong – we can anchor the line, and counter those of the Alliance who bring with them the Light, at least in part.  I think it was something more – like the druids of the Circle, I think perhaps we are not trusted in the war because our ties are philosophical, rather than ties of conflict or training. 

The orders were to attack the village on the north coast of the cold island of Kul Tiras, to establish a place for Horde troops to land, to bring war to the kingdom before it could become part of the Alliance.  The armies attacked from suprise, with an assault by both air and ground, with goblin sappers planting bombs to level the city while aeronauts worked to ensure ground forces were too disrupted to resist.  Local defenders were pushed to a bridge on the south, and battle raged – what should have been quick, simple, decisive was not.  

The battle has dragged on for weeks, with no real victor.  The smoke rises constantly, the army commits more and more.  Orders were given to purge the streets, to ensure that alliance irregulars had no reason to defend the buildings.

I had thought this meant capture.   It did not.  The first family we found was hiding in the upper floor of a stable.  The orcs dragged them down to the stable floor, and cut them to pieces.  I could not stop them – I was laughed at for caring.  They asked, “would they not do this to us?”   And.. perhaps it would be so.  I do not know.  But I know that it is not the way of the Sun, and not the way of the Light.  I know that the earthmother cries out for death without reason.  

“Where would we keep them?  Would you rather see them in the mines?”   No.  I had.. given no thought to prisoners.  No thought to those who would fill our holds.  Slaves within Orgrimmar are not unknown, but when I saw those faces, I knew that it was no more just than when our people are taken by the Alliance.  War is unkind, but – should there not be a way to not kill, if it is possible?

When the next group was found, I did not allow them to kill – I stood against my commander.  This was not the first time.  I had found others, sent them back – a Pandaren found me then, we fought together, we ensured they were safe.  But this time?  This time I could not go alone to find them.  I saw a father and a mother and a girl, and though they were human I saw my father in him.

And I said no.

They hurt me, as the humans ran.  The goblins with us found me a pleasing target for their explosives; the orcs found me challenging.  I fell, and the humans were being run down when the wolf came.  She saved them.  Where I stood against my commander, she saved me from death.  And, knowing I could fight no more, I surrendered to her on the field.  I did not wish to die.

The humans bound me, when they came.  They told me of prisons beneath the earth, of stone – of cages without windows, and work-camps in lands I did not know.  They said I would be taken on a ship far away, and perhaps one day, in many years, I could return home.  I was afraid.  Perhaps death would have been better – at least in the Horde you are given the chance to prove your honor, to fight and earn your freedom.    Or so I believed then.

The wolf did not go.  She did not take her reward, she did not shove or spit as the humans did.  She spoke to me of her time in Orgrimmar, and showed me the marks of her captivity.  I thought she showed me these things so that she would speak then of revenge, of justice, as would be her right – but she did not.  She spoke instead words of peace.  She spoke of kindness, and honor.  She healed my wounds with a potion.

And then?  She set me free.  She said to go far from there.  Away from the battle – in her honor, I have done so.  She said that peace must begin somewhere.  She has taken much risk for me, whose people have harmed her very much.

It brings me hope.  It brings purpose.  Perhaps there is an ending to this war.  Perhaps one day I will speak to other wolves, to humans, to draeni, to dwarves, to gnomes, not as an enemy, not with words of anger, but words of curiosity.  Words of friendship.   I am certain, however, of this – the Sun led me to her, so that I might learn.  It has shown me that another path exists, one that must be found.  Perhaps I will not be the one to find it, but perhaps others seek as well – and perhaps it will be her, or another like her, that finds the way.  

It is enough to know that it can be found.  The search will be worth the searching.

Author Aunne
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