“WAKE UP, HUMAN!”

The low gravelly voice belonging to a tauren rolled through the bars of a cage, accompanied by the butt end of a spear shoved into the prisoner’s gut. The prisoner groaned loudly and rolled onto his stomach, holding his midsection. The staff came in down through the slats and hit him solidly on his lower back, causing him to collapse on the hard dirt floor.

“Wake up, human trash. Our allies have heard of you and want to see you.” The gruff speaker trudged away, as the prisoner attempted to push himself off the ground.

———

The tauren unlocked his cage, gesturing for him to vacate it. When he did not move quick enough, his guard roughly grabbed an arm and yanked him out. Kicking the prisoner brutally in the ribs who doubled over coughing, offered no resistance as the guard set shackles on his feet and arms. A heavy pelting rain began to fall, causing the prisoner to shiver under the tattered clothing he wore. Shuffling behind his escort in chains, the man slowly looked to his left and right. The settlement he was in would have not been out of place in … somewhere. It looked familiar but he just couldn’t place it in his mind. Frowning, he shook his head as if to clear it. Low hissing sounds came from the tauren’s body as the rain came in contact with the green fire emanating from his horns.

As they approached the main building, his guard moved to the side and gestured for him to enter. The prisoner hesitated, feeling *something* was inside. Something that was the antihesis of his existence. The guard noted his reluctance, and encouraged him with another sharp blow to the lower back sending him inside. Dropping the heavy hide over the doorway, the guard departed.

Inside was blackness and silence. The prisoner struggled to stand on his own, and froze as clawed hands grasped his arms and gently pulled him upright.

Releasing him, the hands retreated into the gloom. A silky-smooth voice emanated from nearby. “The Feltotem are such barbarians. They believe that their way is the only way, and all others are to be treated with contempt and made into slaves or worse. Violence is their currency, much like how the Orcs were. Or are, as the case may be. No, we trade in a much more civilized manner. We recognize individuality, and encourage it. There have been …. some who have joined us with a unique viewpoint, and risen to the highest ranks one could achieve. Others have not.”

The prisoner’s eyes narrowed and leaned forward in an attempt to pierce the darkness. “What,” he broke off coughing violently. Turning his head to the side, he spat blood on the dirt. “What is it you want?”

The voice replied. “Oh come now. It is not what *I* want, but what is it *you* want?” A flash of fangs shown in a grin, pupiless eyes glowing green in the darkness before fading into obscurity. “You tell me what you desire, and I give it to you. Then you give me what I desire.” A massive clawed hand gestures in the shadows. “A fair trade. That is how this world works, does it not?” An unseen hand gestured, and a chair materialized behind the prisoner. The chains binding his arms and legs fell off of their own accord as well. “Sit. Eat. I will not force you to stand, like a slave.” A table also came into being, with food still steaming upon it.

The man glanced behind him, and slowly seated himself. Eyeing the shadows warily, “What do you want?” he asked again. Smelling the food, he unconsciously licked his lips but made no move to take any.

“I like a man who knows how to bargain.” A moment of silence, then rustling of clothing. “Very well. I will go first. Then you will tell me what you want. And we will barter. Such a civilized way of doing things, hmm? It just so happens that I am in need of someone like yourself. A commander of sorts. One who knows how this world works. To get the people motivated to join his banner. I want you, Grand Marshal, to join us; of your own free will. To command the Legion and bring them to victory over this world.” More rustling sounds in the darkness. “Now tell me what you want, Acele.”

Author Acele
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