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Draggka of the Darkspear

Chapter Text

“What’s dis?” Draggka asked, handling the strange square box with a lens in it.

“It’s a S.E.L.F.I.E camera!” Tinkerspring grinned at her friend. “It stands for Self-Enabling Low Focus Image Extractor! You’re an engineer, you should know this!”

“Well excuse me fer being busy wit da garrison and not being able to check everyting dat be coming out of da Engineering Works.” The troll drawled, giving the goblin a flat look. The priest giggled, undaunted.

“Oh, lighten up! You could be letting the Archmage turn you into a pincushion.”

“Hm. I not be convinced dat dis ring be worth de pain yet.” Draggka grumbled, eyeing the golden jewellery on her left hand. “But dat not be what I wanted to know about dis.”

“Sure.” Tinkerspring nodded. “You know what a camera is, right?”

“A ting dat takes an image of what its pointed at and puts it on a bit of paper, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Now, you know that if you want to get a picture of yourself, you’ve either got to be really rich and have lots of time to go and find a painter to paint a portrait of you, or you’ve gotta find someone with a camera and pay them to take a picture of you, right?”

“Yeah...” The troll glanced down at the S.E.L.F.I.E camera. “Dis changes dat, I imagine.”

“You’re getting it!” The goblin nodded rapidly, her large ears flapping with the motion. “This camera is designed to be used by anyone, to take pictures of themselves! That’s why it’s low focus.”

“Oh, dat’s why it be ‘self-enabling’!”

“Exactly! And it prints out the picture straight after you take it too! Instant portraits!” The priest almost bounced up and down in her excitement, and the hunter could almost see the gold pieces flashing in her friend’s eyes.

Draggka’s eyes brightened with equal excitement, and she looked the box over in a new light.

“Now I see why ya be so interested in dese tings.” She grinned.

“Well, yeah! But I know you’re a giant tech nerd and you’d like to know about it.” Tinkerspring shrugged. “Also,” she pulled a piece of paper from her robe pocket. “Here’s a portrait of me using that thing. Don’t you wanna try?”

The picture was pretty good, clearer than Draggka had expected. Tinkerspring was grinning wide in the shot, purple eyes gleaming brightly, her ears almost too big to fit into the shot. It almost perfectly summed up the goblin’s character (minus the lack of gold money bags).

“So?” The priest asked, leaning close.

“Alright.” Draggka grinned, pushing her back with an arm. “I’ll bite. How does it work?”

“Oh, it’s easy!” The golbin turned the S.E.L.F.I.E in the troll’s hands. “Point the lens at your face, and you see that box through there? That’s the frame. Move it so you’re looking right down it - yeah, like that! Then press the button at the top!”

Draggka suddenly felt self-conscious, staring down the barrel of the camera. Spirits, what if she actually looked hideous? She only managed a slight, shy smile before she took the picture. There was a click, and the box whirred for a moment, before a slip of paper emerged from the slit at the bottom.

“Let’s see, let’s see!” Tinkerspring urged, jumping on her tiptoes until Draggka knelt down to her level.

It took a moment for the picture to appear, but Draggka recognised herself. Orange eyes, a mohawk of bright red hair with two braids hanging down either side of her head, long pointed ears both pierced with a pair of gold earrings. Her nervous smile baring her short tusks.

The hunter didn’t consider herself particularly beautiful, but she had to admit that she really liked herself in this picture. She looked...pretty.

“There you are!” Tinkerspring cried. “You’ve now got a portrait of yourself, with not a gold spent, and in the same hour! And it’s a perfect likeness!”

"Yeah.” Draggka smiled. “It is.”

Draggkaselfeimage

Chapter Text

Defeating Garrosh did not feel like a victory. And although it had raised her heart, the election of Vol’jin to Warchief of the Horde didn’t feel like a victory either.

Draggka sat on a tall outcropping of the cliffs of Orgrimmar, looking down at the destruction and wreckage that had been caused by the Siege with Spike by her side. Her home was in just as much tatters as her heart, although the former could be repaired.

The troll was sure that she wouldn’t be able to sleep this night. Every time she closed her eyes she saw death and horror. The prisoners in the Valley of Strength, begging desperately for release; Ji Firepaw, battered and bruised and laid down for execution; the bodies in the Cleft of Shadows, strung up as a gruesome warning; the way the Sha had twisted the orcs, especially Malkorok.

It all seemed to cap off everything she and the Horde had done in Pandaria. The constant provoking of the Alliance. The shock of seeing Anduin Wrynn in chains, the panic that set in in knowing whose ire they were raising. The jade statue of Yu’lon falling to the ground and shattering, the Sha of Doubt erupting from the ground as the Alliance and Horde were locked in combat. The flash of the blade that was drawn across her chieftain’s neck. The corruption of the Valley of Eternal Blossoms.

Watching firsthand as the Divine Bell crushed the young Prince of Stormwind, hearing his bones crunch and his screams of agony and being unable to help him due to Garrosh’s presence.

Theramore.

The very thought sent dread and shame down through her body. She thanked her loa that she’d not had a hand in that atrocity, but it had stained the Horde’s name irreversibly, and thus hers too.

Tears burned at her eyes, and Spike whined softly, gently resting his muzzle against her face. She cupped his jaw, grateful for his comforting presence, even as she felt her emotions begin to drown her.

The Horde had been everything she had. Her brother stolen away by Zalazane and her father believed dead when he went after him, Draggka had been raised alone by her mother, constantly wandering the Barrens and Durotar, stopping only briefly in civilization. And then the wasting disease took her mother, with only her last words guiding the young hunter to seek her trials with the Horde.

She was Darkspear, of course, but being raised apart for so long, it was the Horde that became her banner first as she re-integrated. The troll had believed in Go’el’s Horde - they had been savages in the past, pillaging and destroying under the Legion’s thrall, but now they were making up for their mistakes. They were outcasts, sure, but outcasts that were going to forge a new life, upholding honour in all they did!

Those were the ideals she’d fought for, lived for. They’d been her compass even when her brother Dranka was rediscovered alive.

That was not what Garrosh’s Horde was for. Or maybe it was, in the beginning, but his lust for war and glory overtook it all. The Horde Draggka knew and fought for had become something monstrous, that destroyed cities with a incredible power that had left no chance of survivors, that had turned their strongest defender in the Alliance into a woman bent on their entire destruction.

And she’d helped it. She’d drawn Alliance blood at his order. Her arrows and Spike’s jaws had taken their lives, she’d snuck into Darnassus to help steal the Divine Bell. The same Divine Bell that warped orc into sha-beasts, the same bell that collapsed on top of Anduin Wrynn and smashed his bones, and Draggka could only watch him in utter agony, because she knew that she if moved, if the slightest thing that came out of her mouth that could be seen as dissent? She was dead.

Vol’jin had stood up to Garrosh and he had been assassinated. The agony of leaving her chieftain to his wounds had torn her in two, and it had been quite clear from then that the trolls were not part of the Horde. Not the True Horde, anyway. Dissent for troll was small. Easy. Too easy.

The scars around her wrists ached, a reminder of her capture. She’d managed to be defiant then, with the Rebellion under way and Vol’jin spearheading it. The hunter could raise her head and tell Garrosh to his face that he was not her Warchief.

At the price of spiked manacles and a public execution that next dawn, of course.

It didn’t matter that Garrosh had praised her back then for helping fell Deathwing. She’d been a troll that was resisting him, so her fate was death. No more, no less.

The hunter could have resisted him sooner. She could have spoken out, done something differently. Yet she just followed orders, and played a role in the pain created.

Draggka was just as blame for the dishonour the Horde had brought up itself just as anyone else was, for letting it happen. For doing nothing.

She’d worked with the Prince of Stormwind in Krasarang Wilds, defeating the sha infesting the Celestial Chi-Ji’s temple. He’d been curious about her, and she’d taught him a little of tracking, had found herself warming to the boy’s dream for peace.

And then she’d betrayed him. She’d left him under that Bell. He’d needed her aid, and she’d done nothing. The ultimate betrayal.

The Horde Draggka loved and had fought for so dearly was gone, its ashes amongst Theramore’s.

She had her tribe, the Darkspear. Vol’jin was still here, and he led the whole Horde now. She still had Spike, and she had her brother.

But where there was her heart, there was now only ruins.

Draggka bowed her head into Spike’s, took a deep, rattling breath, and wept.

Chapter Text

Draggka crouched low to the ground, the slight chill wind tousling her hair. Spike followed close behind her, skulking as low as his body would let him.

The brown bear continued to snuffle through the undergrowth, unaware of its hunters sneaking up on it. It could only smell whatever the wind carried from the lower foothills of Highmountain.

Draggka lifted herself up just to check where the bear was in relation to her. It was several good paces away, enough for the troll to anticipate a charge and avoid it, yet close enough so her companion could quickly get in close to attack.

She met the raptor’s eyes, and murmured softly to him.

“Take the bear, left flank.”

Spike bowed his head and puffed an affirmative out of his nose, moving to take up his position.

The troll continued to watch the bear, blissfully unaware of what was taking place just behind it. It was a powerful beast, if its large size and numerous scars were anything to go by. No wonder the forest trolls worshipped the bear loa Nalorakk, and her brother Dranka took his form to defend others.

Thinking of the loa, Draggka closed her eyes, and began a prayer to her patron, the Great Hunter Gonk. She called out to the raptor loa in her mind’s eye, opening herself to his voice and power, should he deign to use them.

“Great Hunter, I beseech you for your blessing upon this hunt. Grant me your wisdom to outsmart my prey. Bless me with quick feet so it cannot escape. Guide my arrows to land true. May you run with this pack and grant us victory.”

Draggka did not feel a response, but she wasn’t expecting one. Whatever Gonk did was his own business, and she was just keeping up her prayers to him to keep him happy. After all, without his blessing she would not possess her ability to regenerate.

The hunter opened her eyes again, taking in the scene. The bear had moved away in its continued hunt for things in the undergrowth, but not far, and it still showed no signs of knowing they were there. Spike had moved around to behind trees on the bear’s flank, his horn just visible from where he was crouched. It was time.

Moving slowly, Draggka took an arrow from her quiver, nocking it to her bow. She lifted it, drawing it back to her ear, making the last few calculations. Then loosed it.

The arrow flew with barely a hiss of noise, hitting the bear square in the neck, right where a major artery ran. The creature roared with pain, swinging around to where the projectile had come from. But before it could lurch in Draggka’s direction, Spike’s roar split the air, and the raptor launched himself at the bear, sinking teeth and talons into its hide. Draggka fired more arrows into the beast, hitting all the vulnerable points as the bear tried in vain to swat Spike away from it.

Eventually the great bear succumbed to its wounds and collapsed with a loud, mournful groan. The light in its eyes dimmed, and then went out completely, laying still.

The troll laid a hand over the bear’s head, bowing her head.

“Thank you for your sacrifice,” she said. “You fought well. Rest now.”

It was something one of her teachers, a tauren hunter, had done when he’d been teaching her about traps. She knew it was part of their culture to honour the life a hunted animal had given to its hunter, and Draggka had taken it into her own. To honour her prey, and her loa.

She lifted her head then, speaking to the wilderness around her. “And thank you for this hunt, Gonk.”

For a moment, Draggka felt a strange feeling come over her. She felt as if someone, somewhere, was pleased by what she’d done.

Chapter Text

“What are they doing?” Draggka asked, gesturing to the group of Darkspear gathered by the shore, boards in hand.

“They’re doing he’ethraze.” Dranka explained, glancing to his sister. “Didn’t you know?”

“I was too young to know before...” The hunter swallowed, unable to finish her sentence. “You know. Then I spent most of my time wandering away from the sea, so never really saw it or had time to ask anyone about it.” She searched her brother’s face. “You knew about it before we came here, to the Isles?”

“Saw it, but not much. I only really knew what it was when I was here, hiding from Zalazane. I saw people doing it on the shores by Sen’jin Village, but they made sure never to get too close to here.” His brown eyes shone with pain.

“Yeah.” Draggka’s ears drooped. She couldn’t imagine what it had been like for him, not only having to hide from Zalazane, but seeing others free, just across the waters. Wondering if his family was among them. She pushed the thought aside. “You ever tried it?”

“Me? No!” Dranka chuckled. “No, he’ethraze is not for me. I’m a druid, not a shaman! If I have to get involved with water, I prefer to be under it in Gral’s form, not on top of it, balanced on a plank of wood.”

“Really?” Draggka raised an eyebrow, glancing back to the gathering. “You seem to be much more interested and knowledgeable about it me...” She suddenly grinned. “Ohhh, I see! You’re just watching the show, aren’t you! All those toned bodies, glistening with water...”

“Hey, that’s not true!” The druid cried, shoving her hard, despite the hunter’s laughter. Spike, who lay nearby, grunted with annoyance. “He’ethraze is a venerable tradition from the times of the Zandalari Empire! I enjoy watching such displays of our culture!”

“Uh huh.” Draggka folded her arms, her grin unwavering. “Just that?”

Dranka narrowed his eyes at his younger sibling for a long moment, before he sighed explosively, throwing up his hands.

“Okay fine! I do like looking at the guys who come to do it as well!”

“I thought so!” Draggka laughed. “You just can’t resist anyone with their shirts off.”

“Have you been looking at them?” He exclaimed. “It’s like you said; fine bodies, wet hair plastered to their neck...” He sighed. “Ah, I could sit and watch them all day...” His sister snorted with amusement, earning her a glare.

They sat quietly watching the other surfers for a moment, before Dranka spoke again.

“Hey, you ever thought about giving it a go?”

“He’ethraze?” Draggka frowned thoughtfully. “It does look fun, but I don’t think it’s for me.”

“Are you sure?” Dranka asked. “You seem to like the sea more than I do.”

“Yeah, but like you, I prefer to be under it. To see what’s like down there, you know?” The hunter reached out to pet Spike’s head, the raptor rumbling softly. “I liked seeing Vashj’ir, because of everything there, regardless of everything else that was going on.”

“That’d put you in the minority.” Dranka muttered, dodging her swat.

“Says the guy with the shark form! I’d love to be able to explore the depths like that. Minus the giant krakens though.”

“Yeah, exactly.” Dranka gave a little sigh. “I still think you’d be good at it. You’ve definitely got better balance than I do.”

“May be, but...” Draggka shook her head. “I’ve got other stuff to think about.”

“What, like Khadgar?” The druid raised an eyebrow, a grin growing across his lips. “Ohh, that’s a thought! I bet Khadgar would love to see you doing he’ethraze!”

“Yeah, he’d totally like to watch me make a fool of myself, falling off those boards!” She swatted at him again.

“Pfft! I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Last time you were working at the forge, I saw him watching you.” Dranka’s grin was now ear to ear. “The Legion could have taken Dalaran from right under his nose and he wouldn’t have noticed! I think he was even drooling a little bit...”

“Oh, stop it!” The druid ducked her swipe.

“It’s true! Ask him! I bet he won’t deny it! Not convincingly, anyway.”

Draggka shook her head, chuckling. A brief silence settled as they watch the he’ethraze take place.

“I might consider it, I think,” she said then. “May be in the future. After things have settled down a bit.”

“Sounds the perfect idea.” Dranka nodded. “Maybe I’ll take it up too.” he smiled. “Then we can both fall off together.”

Draggka giggled, leaning into her brother.

“I like the sound of that.”

Chapter Text

“Hold still you big baby, or I can’t get it out.” Draggka grumbled in Zandali.

Spike made a whining-shriek, trying to pull his foot out of the troll’s grip, but she held firm, even as his tail lashed against her. His hunting talon swung back and forth in a pantomime of its usual killing action, one that Draggka knew would rip armour, cloth and flesh with contemptible ease should he wish.

Instead, he was complaining loudly about the enormous thorn lodged in his foot.

Draggka gently massaged a salve into Spike’s wounded foot, hoping to somewhat numb his pain. She washed her fingers in a bowl of water, before she took hold of the thorn embedded in his flesh. Spike’s shriek became more high-pitched and urgent, and Draggka winced.

“I’m sorry, I know it hurts. Please hold on, I’ll try to be as quick as I can.” She murmured, before she pulled hard, feeling it come away with her motion. Despite the raptor’s loud protests, he stayed still as the hunter pulled it out, falling quiet as it was gone. He uttered a soft, relieved whine as she dropped the offending object into the bowl, picking up her canteen to wash the wound out.

“There we go, that’s a bit better, isn’t it? Let’s clean it up.” She cooed, scraping out any dirt or detritus she saw, her brows furrowing when Spike flinched with pain. Once satisfied, she pushed the sides of the wound together, and focused upon the tiny amount of nature magic she wielded; that of the bond she and Spike shared. With it, she willed his wound to close as if it were her own, the tissue beginning to knit together where they touched. It would take time for the scales to regrow around the scar, but it was healed enough for Spike to walk and and fight with again.

“There you go, all done.” Draggka said, releasing the foot back to its owner again and rubbing his side. Spike immediately sat up, sniffing his foot curiously and experimentally flexing it.

Satisfied, he looked up at her gratefully, offering a soft bark-huff and a deep rumble from his throat.

“You’re welcome. Feel better now?” Draggka asked, petting his head. Spike’s rumble grew louder, eyes closing at his touch. “Good, I’m glad.”

The hunter settled down against a tree, feeding the fire nearby, and Spike lay down next to her, resting his head in her lap. His rumbling ‘purrs’ vibrated through her legs as she stroked his head, running her fingers over his scars and blue stripe markings.

The scene reminded her of the very first time Spike had rested his head in her lap, many years ago.

They’d first met when Draggka, newly orphaned, had been travelling Durotar to reach the Valley of Trials, in hopes of being allowed into the Horde her mother had spoken of. He followed her with what the troll had quickly worked out as curiosity, rather than to hunt her down.

Draggka had used her knowledge from befriending animals from her childhood to get close to Spike, and eventually, she managed to ‘tame’ him, binding their souls together. They’d taken the trials together, growing closer as partners as they did, developing signals and learning to read one another. She’d given him his name, which the raptor seemed to take with grace (she always wondered what he would have called himself), and when they left the Valley, they were Draggka and Spike. Hunter and companion.

It had been one night like this one, under the shade of a tree halfway between Sen’jin Village and Razor Hill, sitting by a fire under the stars. Draggka had been sitting close to Spike, but they’d not touched; he was still a wild animal, and the hunter had respected that, never laying a hand on him unless it was necessary.

Then, in an apropos of nothing, the raptor had uttered a soft rumbling grunt, and he’d shifted over to her, resting his head on her lap. Their eyes had met, his blue to her orange, and something had passed between them. The look in Spike’s eyes had been one of respect, of trust, of love. From then on, they’d become pack-siblings, something that not even death would sever. Unbreakable and true.

The troll wondered if it had been luck or fate that they’d met in Durotar all those years ago. She had never been more lonely in that moment, with all her family lost, and only this nebulous idea of a ‘Horde’ to serve, if she could find it. But when Spike had bonded with her, she’d never been alone again.

The raptor snorted, lifting his head up to nuzzle hers tenderly. Draggka giggled.

“Hey! No, I’m not sleeping, not yet. I’m just thinking.” She smiled.

Spike regarded her with intelligent eyes, and she had an inkling that he knew exactly what she was thinking about, even if he couldn’t exactly express it. He made a soft snort, before laying his head back down, and the two pack-mates went back to watching the stars.

Chapter Text

Draggka had seen Bwonsamdi once before, rising out of the shadows to address Vol’jin when her chieftain had rallied the Darkspear and the Horde to retake the Echo Isles from Zalazane. He’d been a sobering sight, but it had been at a distance, and the loa’s attention was not on her.

It was an altogether different kettle of fish to talk to him face to face.

The Death Loa looked down at her with unearthly glowing eyes that bored right through her into her soul. His skin was black and held together by stitching, although it had peeled away to reveal bony hands, yet the magic that shimmered over his body hinted at the rest of the skeleton beneath. Draggka couldn’t work out if the upper portion of his face was a mask or actual bone as well, and the thought sent anxious chills through her body.

It was one thing to anger the other loa; they could strip their gift of regeneration, or curse, or harm. That was of course something be feared, but nothing was acutely frightening as the thought of angering the Loa of Death. It made the troll feel exquisitely small and vulnerable. Even Spike cowered behind her legs.

“Hello, little hunter.” Bwonsamdi spoke, his deep voice making her fur stand on end. “And what you be enterin’ my kingdom for?”

Draggka swallowed hard.

“Greetings, Bwonsamdi.” She began, her voice shaking. “I come to bargain.”

The glowing eyes brightened and the loa moved closer, making the hunter’s heart hammer frantically against her chest.

“Have ya now?” He grinned unpleasantly, and if not for their eyes locking, Draggka would have had to resist the urge to bolt right out of his temple. “And what ya be wantin’ of old Bwonsamdi?”

“I...I...” Draggka hesitated. I don’t know if this is such a good idea any more.

“Aw, ya raptor got ya tongue, little hunter?” The loa asked, before his tone hardened. “I don’t be havin’ time for games.”

“N-No, of course not. S-Sorry.” She swallowed hard. “Vol’jin. I would like to bargain for you to return Vol’jin to us.”

“Vol’jin?” The stare the loa gave her made Draggka want to curl up into a ball. “It be takin’ me a long time to finally claim him, an’ now ya be wishin’ to separate him from me?”

“If there is no bargain to be made, then I-I am sorry for wasting your time!” The hunter said hurriedly, instinctively reaching for Spike to comfort her. “I-I only said I would like, I-I will not press the issue if you don’t wish it.”

“Not so fast.” Bwonsamdi grasped her chin suddenly, forcing Draggka to look him deep into his blazing, empty eyes. Sheer terror swamped her, but she couldn’t move, save for her heart apparently trying to beat right out of her chest out of sheer terror. “Ya wish to bring your Warchief back from the grave.”

“I-If you are willing,” she said. “If I can s-stomach the price you will ask.”

“What would ya give me?” He asked.

The loa did nothing explicitly, but Draggka immediately sensed what he was getting at. She was suddenly acutely aware of the life growing within her womb, and her heart almost made its bid for freedom out of her throat. No. I can’t put my child in his service. I can’t sell their life away before they’ve even began to live.

“I...” She swallowed. “Mine and my mate’s souls guaranteed to your side after death.”

Bwonsamdi’s eyes narrowed.

“You be giving away ya mate’s soul very easily.” Was that a warning...or something else?

“I don’t wish to be parted from him after our deaths.” Draggka said. “If we are both sworn to you, then at least I know we are guaranteed to see one another again.”

The loa said nothing for a moment, before he released her.

“An interestin’ proposal, young Draggka,” he said. “I be considerin’ it. But first, I be needin’ ya to prove yourself to me.”

The hunter nodded.

“Of course. What would you have me do?”

Chapter Text

Draggka knew Orgrimmar was big, but she’d never realized just how big until she was having to navigate it alone. It didn’t help that the city throbbed with hundreds of people, like the heart of a giant animal made of timber and stone, making it hard for the hunter to get her bearings.

Luckily, the guards were friendly and used to young trolls getting lost, and they pointed her in the right direction to Grommash Hold in the Valley of Wisdom. She had hurried towards the building, clutching the correspondence from Razor Hill tightly in her hands, but she couldn’t help but stop and gawk at the bones of Mannoroth on the tree outside.

Her mother had told her the tale of how Grommash Hellscream had given his life to slay the demon, but she hadn’t realized how big it had been until now, seeing its skeleton arranged on the dead tree. How brave Grom must have been, to stand his ground against such a beast. Even her companion Spike looked impressed - as much as a raptor could be, anyway.

The Kor’kron let her pass into the hold with wary eyes after she informed them she had a message for Vol’jin, and she tentatively made her way inside.

It did not take Draggka long to spot him; he was one of the few trolls there, and the only one wearing fetishes that marked him out as a shadow hunter. The hunter immediately froze with star-struck anxiety at seeing him. He was the Chieftain of her tribe, a celebrated shadow hunter, and she was just a lowly youngblood, fresh from her trial. Who was she to approach him?

The troll didn’t have time to second-guess herself, however, as Vol’jin noticed her standing there, and he beckoned her over. At first her feet wouldn’t move, but a friendly nudge from Spike helped get her moving, and she hurried over to him, hoping her delay didn’t displease him.

“Well met, young one.” Vol’jin spoke in their native tongue, gentle and deep. “You looked like you were waiting for me. How can old Vol’jin help?”

“Well met, Chieftain.” Draggka replied, bowing her head respectfully. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I bring this missive from Gar’Thok of Razor Hill.” She held the bundle of papers out to him. “It’s about Tiragarde Keep.”

Vol’jin’s expression immediately darkened at the name, which sent a cold chill down her back, but he took the missive, glancing over its contents.

“Orders from Admiral Proudmoore,” he said bitterly, the venom enough to make Draggka’s stomach quail, even if it wasn’t directed at her. “Even from beyond death he remains a thorn in our side.” He scowled, before sighing. “I must let Thrall know about this.” His frown eased, and a smile pulled at his lips. “You have served the Horde honourably, youngblood.”

“Thank you, sir.” The words came out in a rush along with the breath Draggka didn’t realize that she'd been holding.

With a nod, she was dismissed, and young hunter scurried out, her heart pattering faster than her feet. Draggka had met and spoke with her Chieftain! The shadow hunter who had led her tribe into the Horde and had helped defeat the humans that constantly seemed to want to chase them out of their homes. She felt so excited she felt she could clear one of the zeppelin towers in a single bound.

Regardless of how unimpressed her raptor companion looked.

Chapter Text

Another night in Zuldazar. Draggka sat on the bed, shedding her armour and checking it for dents and scratches. She’d need to visit the armourer again before she headed back out into the jungle. With how vicious the wildlife was, and the added threat of blood trolls, she couldn’t afford for it to fail her.

As she reached her tunic, the two necklaces she wore around her neck thumped against her chest, glinting the low light. One was the Heart of Azeroth. The other was a golden ring with a red jewel.

Draggka laid the Heart of Azeroth aside, its warm power leaving her, and instead took hold of the ring. Although it did not fill her with warmth and power as the Heart did, it was warm in a different way.

It had been forged and empowered on the Alternate Draenor by her efforts to find the numerous reagents for the Archmage Khadgar to imbue it with, as well as the blessing of the elements there. Its power had been much diminished when she returned to Azeroth, but its power was not what made it so precious to her.

As the two had worked to make it stronger, they’d become closer, as partners, friends, and then...then they’d fallen in love with one another. It had not been an easy road, and both had had extremely close brushes with death during its forging, but when the Iron Horde was broken and Archimonde crashed to the ground, their bond was just as strong as the power inside the ring.

Draggka had kept it as a memento of their time on Draenor, and also of their love and how it had been born, wearing it around her neck when she found stronger rings of power.

Not that it was just a memento any more. As they were preparing to go to face the Legion on their ‘homeworld’ of Argus, Khadgar had given the ring its last enchantment. He bound it to her lifeforce and then to his collar, which he done the same to; it would allow them to sense if the other was in critical danger, and if they needed the other’s aid. It wasn’t much, and he didn’t want to add more in case it was discovered by malevolent forces, but it was to soothe their minds, and keep each other safe.

They might have been separated by thousands of miles now, but Draggka wore it still, just in case. She ran her fingers over it, the golden metal becoming dull and worn from her constant touching. She longed to see the mage again, to hold him close, to listen as he talked about his latest discovery, or rant about the latest problem he’d become fixated on.

The hunter sighed softly. Spike rumbled lowly in response, resting his head on her feet in comfort. She had a feeling he missed Khadgar too.

This damn war. Curse Sylvanas. Azeroth bleeds and you condemn the night elves to death because they upset you. May Bwonsamdi claim your miserable soul.

She 'reached’ out through the ring, inquiring on her love’s state. His warmth blossomed in her, steady and as constant as ever, if not a little weary. Ohh, you’re staying up late again, aren’t you? I thought Medivh would stop you from doing that.

Khadgar’s warmth seemed to ‘turn’ inside her, and she felt a tender brush against her soul. As a mage, Khadgar had more of a control through such an enchantment, and he was responding to her inquiry with his own.

“I miss ya,” she said to the ring, although she knew he wouldn’t hear it. The troll could call his...wisdomball into being for a chat if she needed to, but she worried that if she used it too often, they would get caught. And she didn’t want to think about what the punishments would be.

Draggka pressed a kiss to the ring, imagining that she was placing it to his cheek, and hoped that that they would see each other again, sometime soon.

Chapter Text

Draggka didn’t remember what the party was for, but for whatever reason, the hunters of Trueshot Lodge were celebrating something, and with her being the Huntmaster, it seemed rude not to join in.

The drinks flowed freely, and the food was fresh, most probably taken from the foothills below, and there was enough people with instruments to get some music going.

Most of it was familiar tavern songs that crossed both Alliance and Horde boundaries, but each of the races represented at the Lodge took turns with their own music in an unspoken pact between them all. Not that there wasn’t teasing and yelling that dwarven music sounded good only to drunk ears, or that Forsaken had lost all sense of rhythm, but it was good natured and anyone that did want to start a fight got set away from the bonfire to cool off.

Some hunters had been encouraging their Huntmaster to get up and dance, as every else had been doing when their respective music took stage, and Draggka had been politely declining...until it was the trolls’ turn, and she really couldn’t refuse any more.

Draggka didn’t think of herself as a particularly good dancer; she wasn’t terrible, and could follow a beat, but there was no way she could turn heads. The nature of the dance probably could, as whilst most jungle troll women saw as merely emulating the movements of snakes and voodoo rituals, other races found it alluring and some titillating. It was part of the reason Draggka only liked dancing in large crowds or with friends; no one really paid attention to you if you were merely one of many.

That and a raptor came in handy for warding off unwanted suitors.

But tonight was just fun and silliness, with the more acrobatic trolls showing off, whilst the more reserved, like Draggka, stuck to the more simple moves. They were joined by some orcs who particularly enjoyed the music, and tried valiantly to follow along, to equal laughter and whoops of encouragement.

As she danced, however, she felt that familiar prickle of fur on the back of her neck; someone was watching her intently, and from above... Showing no signs that she’d noticed her observer’s gaze, Draggka looked up into the conifer trees stretching up to the darkening sky around them.

She didn’t see it at first, but when the bonfire spat loudly on a lump of wood, its orange glow lit the shape of a large raven perched on a branch. And whilst ravens weren’t unusual in Highmountain, especially near its border with Stormheim, they steered well clear of the higher peaks, where the eagles made their homes.

The hunter tried not to grin. I see you, Archmage.

It wasn’t long before the song finished up, and after the applause, Draggka excused herself, making way around to the back of the Lodge, where the shrines were. Spike followed a little way, but stopped to stand guard, to make sure they weren’t being followed.

The soft sound of wing-beats followed her, descending until she heard the hiss of magic and the sound of boots against snow. Draggka smirked.

“Enjoy da show?” She asked. A deep chuckle rumbled out, footsteps getting closer.

“It wasn’t what I was expecting to see when I took a detour here, but I can hardly complain.” Khadgar said, curling his arms around her waist.

“Ya be bold.” She commented. “Doing dis where anyone can be seeing us.”

“One, Spike will let us know if someone comes along, and two,” Khadgar turned his head, lips brushing against her ear, “I’m feeling a little...inspired, thanks to your performance out there.”

Draggka rolled her eyes. Humans.

“Dat wasn’t fer you, ya know. Dat just be how we usually dance.”

“It is?” She could almost hear his eyebrows rise. “Well, no wonder I couldn’t stay away from your voodoo...”

“Are ya here for a reason, or jus’ to be a nuisance?” The troll asked, turning in his embrace to give him a withering look. Khadgar’s grin remained, unabashed.

“I was here for a casual visit, but as I said earlier, your performance has given me other...ideas...” His grin widened, and she could see his pupils dilate, even in the darkness.

“Uh huh? And what ideas be dey?”

“Well, if you would like to come with me, I could show you an altogether different way to dance...” He purred, arcane twirling around his fingers.

Draggka sighed, shaking her head.

“One of dese days, you’ll seduce me witout using a terrible joke.”

“But tonight is not one of those nights, I hope?” The troll was still surprised how the mage flipped from ‘seductive’ to ‘childishly eager’ in the blink of an eye. He was like a whirlwind sometimes, yet one she had the honour of being in the eye of.

“No, it isn’t.” She smiled. “I don’t know how ya do it.”

“Magic, dear one.” Khadgar pressed a kiss to her lips. “Magic.” He gestured, a portal opening wide next to them. “You first, my lady. I hope I can remember my moves.” He winked at her.

Draggka rolled her eyes again, chuckling, and stepped through the portal.

Chapter Text

The sandy dunes of Uldum felt like they went on forever. Draggka sighed as she thumped down under the shade of a statue, taking a swig from her water canteen. Spike sat down next to her, seemingly unfazed by the desert heat.

The troll envied him. She had spent most of her life growing up on the sands Durotar and the plains of the Barrens, and she would have thought it would have prepared her for all future deserts.

Apparently not.

“Whose idea was it to come back here and look for relics of the tol’vir?” She asked. The raptor gave her a long-suffering look. “Oh, right. Me.”

She’d been fascinated by the tol’vir and their origins ever since she’d first stepped into Ramkahen. She’d loved the beauty of their architecture, the way their settlements nestled against the banks of the river Vir’naal, in the few spots of life the region had.

And she’d been deeply intrigued by the larger pyramids and tombs in the area, with gigantic statues standing guard over them. Not to mention that they apparently had been one of the races affected by the Curse of Flesh, as the Neferset had been returned to their earthen roots via a deal with Deathwing and the Elemental Lord Al’Akir.

That all pointed to the Titans, the enigmatic creators of many wonders on Azeroth.

If Draggka had to be honest, the Titans were merely a cursory interest; she much preferred the history and culture of the races who lived and breathed right now. That said, she wasn’t about to pass up on the knowledge the ancient temples could share, a sentiment shared by Brann Bronzebeard and Harrison Jones, who she’d also met out in the dunes.

She was happy to help them; Brann seemed a little reticent at her aid at first, which was understandable, considering she was a troll and he a dwarf. But when he’d quickly clicked that she wasn’t a threat and was just as eager as him to go sniffing for knowledge, they’d made a good team. Spike was very bemused by the dwarf, and had kept looking at Draggka as if to say ‘really? Is he serious?’. She’d just grinned at him, and gone along with it.

But right now, she was on her own, with Spike, in the middle of the boiling day, huddling in a statue’s shade for a sliver of coolness. Even the thoughts of discovering the tol’vir’s more ancient roots was not enough to convince her that she’d made a very sound decision.

No wonder the Farraki had been bald. Draggka was seriously considering whether to ask someone to shave her fur off, as all it seemed to do was trap heat and become damp with sweat, even when it was flat against her skin. And it held the sand against her, helping it sneak into the crack between her armour and making it very uncomfortable.

The hunter gave a short grunt.

“As much as I’d like to, I don’t think we can stay here. I remember them saying that a sandstorm is inbound soon, and with the elements whipped up, this statue’ll be no protection.” Draggka said, taking another drink before reattaching the canteen to her belt. “Come on Spike, let’s make a move.”

The raptor gave a soft noise of assent, rising effortlessly to join her, whilst she grimaced as her feet touched hot sand again.

“Knew I should have brought Fang along.” She grumbled.

Chapter Text

“I never realized your hair was so long when it’s down.”

Draggka lifted her head from the water to look at her friend Harnaka, the orc washing off the dirt from her muscled arms.

“It not be like I bathe wit others very often.” The hunter replied, brushing her hair from her face. “Ya be one of da few I trust.”

“Really?” Harnaka grinned. “Never expected I’d share such an honour with Spike!”

The raptor snorted, glaring at the orc from where he was sitting guard over the two women.

“He not be da best partner to bathe wit.” Draggka replied mildly. “Dose talons an’ all.”

“I suppose that’s true.” The orc conceded. She thought for a moment or two, before saying: “Do you think Liz washes at all?”

“Not in running water she don’t.” The troll growled. “Quickest way to poison all life down-stream. ‘Sides, da water probably be makin’ her rot quicker. I tink she be washing clothes for our benefit. Not like she be able to smell anyting any more.”

“Yeah. I know a few who smell like they’ve been standing in Tanaris ever since they were raised.” Harnaka made a retching sound.

“Probably why dey keep getting guard duty.” Draggka commented. “‘You go over dere where we can’t be smellin’ ya! An’ stay downwind!’“

“Good defence against the Alliance as well, I suppose. Especially worgen. Congrats, you can now smell everything! Including every single Forsaken in a mile radius.”

“No wonder dey hate dem so much. Worse den kicking ya out and blighting ya city, but if all ya can smell be dead flesh, you be going mad too.” Draggka said, climbing out of the pool of water and picking up her towel to dry herself. Fully down, her hair was an unruly mane of red, cascading down to the midpoint between her shoulderblades. Not that she would let it stay there, considering the supreme hazard it would be in combat and hunting.

As the troll rummaged through her pack for the items she needed, she heard the sound of the shaman wading over to her.

“Ah, I finally get to see how you do your hair!” She grinned, crossing her large arms on the shore nearby. Draggka raised an eyebrow at her.

“What be so interesting ‘bout how I be doing my hair?”

“Of me, Tink and you, you’re the one with the best mohawk.” Harnaka pointed to the crest of purple on her mostly bald head. “And you’ve got braids too. I wanted to see how you did it. If it was the same way I did mine, to see if I can get something as good looking as yours.”

“If ya being using gel, den yeah, dat’s how I be doing it.” Draggka showed the bottle to the orc. “Sadly, dis not be natural.”

“In a way, I’m kind of glad.” Harnaka replied. “I’d be so mad if I found out that trolls have natural mohawks. You’re already too cool for your own good.”

“Dat be exactly what I tink about orcs an’ muscles.” Draggka replied, setting the bottle aside and gathering her hair together. “I swear, Draenor be testing me. Tink I be gawking at Draka one time. Be glad she didn’t notice me starin’!”

“And here I thought you liked guys more.” The shaman grinned ever widely. “Good to know we’re really your type.”

“Looking don’t mean anyting.” Draggka retorted, beginning to braid her hair. “‘Sides, I not be looking for a mate. I be quite fine jus’ me and Spike. And you guys.”

“Not at all?” Harnaka asked, serious now. The troll hesitated a moment, before returning to her braiding.

“No. Don’t tink I be gonna meet anyone who strikes me fancy in da Horde. No-one who be seeing da tings I have, or understands what I understand.” She shrugged. “It not be a big deal.”

The orc just watched her for a bit.

“So, what’ll be your plan, when you get too old to fight?” She asked.

“Ya assume I be getting old, first.” Draggka flashed her friend a grin. “If I be getting too old to fight...I guess I be getting too old to go exploring or relic hunting. Guess I’ll have to be settlin’ down and tinkering wit engineering tings for da rest of my days. Maybe dere be a farm going in Pandaria I could be settlin’ on.”

Harnaka snorted.

“I can’t imagine you becoming a farmer. You’d get bored and go on adventures in the Dread Wastes.”

“Maybe when I be old an’ cranky, I be appreciating da peace and quiet!” The troll grinned, moving onto her second braid. “What were you tinking?”

“Oh, I’d like to find the woman of my dreams, we settle down in Orgrimmar or somewhere where I can have my own forge, and we adopt some orphans in need of a home.” Harnaka said, lifting a shoulder. “I’m old-school.”

“Nothing wrong wit dat.” The hunter said. She smiled. “You want what ya mothers have.”

“Yeah, I do.” The shaman smiled back. “Even if I’m blessed to be a shaman, I love that life they have. Peaceful. Still serving the Horde, but much safer. Not on the frontlines.”

“You tink dey worry about ya?” Draggka asked softly, now on her third.

“They pretend not to, but yeah. I’m sure they do. I can see in their letters. They could have birthed me themselves, the amount they worry.”

“Yeah.” A silence settled over the two women.

“You still miss your family?” Harnaka asked tentatively. Draggka sighed.

“Deep down, yeah. Kinda feel jealous when ya talk ‘bout ya mothers, or Aiya her parents. But it be just an ache now. Lived wit it fer so long it don’t hurt much any more.” She managed a small smile. “I got Spike. I got Dranka. I got you and de others. I be fine.”

“I hope so.” Harnaka said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring the mood down.”

“It be fine.” The troll replied. “We be friends. Friends can ask da difficult questions.” The orc smiled at that.

A comfortable silence remained for Draggka’s fourth and final braid. But when it was done, she turned her attention back to the bottle. Harnaka brightened up as soon as the hunter picked it up.

“Ah, now the good stuff!” She said, grinning. Draggka poured a generous amount onto her palm. “Let’s see how you do it.”

“I bet it be da same as you. I just do dis...” The hunter painstakingly sculpted her hair up into its crest of red with the help of the gel, aided by the shorter fur on either side, letting Draggka know where the boundaries were by touch alone. She continued this for the rest of her hair, except for the bit that hung down below the back of her head. It stood up of its own accord, with no assistance required.

“See? Be dat be how ya do it,” she said.

“Hmm.” The orc hummed, peering at the gel bottle. “Yeah, it is, and this is the same gel I use. Damn.”

“Sorry.” Draggka grinned. “Ya’ll just have to be growing it longer to be getting it as good as mine.”

“My hair only goes this high!” The shaman gestured grumbling. “Not even being in Gorgrond as long as we have hasn’t helped.” She blew a snort out of her button nose. “Oh well. Thanks for your insight anyway, Draggka.”

“No problem.” Draggka smiled. “Dat be what friends are for. Tank you for ya company.”

“Anytime.”

Chapter Text

Draggka’s heart could have danced for joy when she finally stepped outside of the city of Dazar’alor and into its thick jungles. Not that the city wasn’t gorgeous in its own right, but Draggka was a hunter in her heart. Her blood craved the trees that towered above her; blotting out the sun, the cool, damp soil beneath her feet, the smell of wet foliage and wildness. She heard the birds singing and screeching at each other in the canopy above, the sound of insects buzzing past her ears or gathering around the large, bright flowers that clung to the lianas twisting around the fat tree trunks around her.

Everything was green and brown and lush, with splashes of colour from animals and plants, alive and untouched and untamed.

It was paradise.

Draggka gladly forgot her troubles for the moment, letting the here and now take control of her. This was where she belonged. Not on the frontlines, not under Sylvanas’s yoke, but here. Hunting among the trees with Spike, like her ancestors thousands of years before.

Even though he was from the sands of Durotar, Spike too seemed at home within the trees. Perhaps he was reflecting the troll’s happiness and content right back at her, or perhaps he too had always longed for the jungles. She would never know.

A loud thump and cracking sticks sounded out to their left, and Draggka quickly took cover behind a tree, Spike huddling close.

The loud thumps got closer and louder, until a wild brutosaur pushed its way through the thick undergrowth, head sweeping around as it looked for predators and or food. Draggka had gawped at the ones travelling through Zuldazar, but to see one naturally roaming the jungle had her staring as if it was her first sighting of one. For such a gigantic creature, the brutosaur was surprisingly elegant, moving with a grace to avoid clipping trees with its long tail, even as it uttered a deep groan that thrummed through the jungle.

It reminded her of Un’Goro Crater, of huge beasts striding through the thick trees, dwarfing everything that scuttled away from their scaled feet. She wondered if Zandalar was similar; a testing ground for the Titans, to mould great and terrible creatures that many would admire, fear and try to befriend. It made her wonder if the Zandalari were creations of the Titans too. Not like the keepers and earthen, directly forged from metal and stone for a strict purpose, but like the devilsaurs she could hear bellowing in the distance; matured from the environment the Titans had created. There was certainly marks of the Titans in the city. Was she descended from the creations of the Titans too?

Even though she had seen the Titans in the ‘flesh’, the thought still sent a frisson of excitement through her. Almighty gods or no, they were still immensely powerful, and the thought they’d had some hand in her bloodline, even indirectly, made the troll giddy with childish excitement.

Draggka ducked as the brutosaur’s tail swooped over her head, the creature letting out another deep, rumbling groan as it continued on its sojourn. Perhaps it hadn’t seen the hunter and her companion, or maybe it didn’t care. It would certainly be a challenge for a single troll and her raptor to take it down.

I wish Khadgar could see this, she thought suddenly. He may not be as attached and attuned to the wilds as she was, but she was sure he’d appreciate them as she did.

And she wanted to see the look on his face as he clapped eyes on a brutosaur for the first time.

Spike gave a soft grunt, nudging her side gently.

“Hey! I was just thinking!” Draggka swatted him playfully. “Come on then. let’s see what other surprises this place has...”

Chapter Text

“If I asked you nicely, would you teach me some voodoo?” Khadgar asked, gazing up at her with sparkling blue eyes.

“One, I be a hunter. I don’t be knowing any voodoo.” Draggka said, raising an eyebrow. “An’ second, even if I did, I wouldn’t be telling ya anyway.”

“Why not? Is it a case of your culture, or because it is a darker magic?”

Draggka rolled her eyes.

“Why ya ask all da deep questions afta we just mated?” She asked, propping herself up on her arm. Khadgar chuckled, his grin without a shred of guilt.

“You’ve only just noticed my philosophical pillow talk?” He said. “Also, you didn’t answer my question.”

The troll sighed, ruffling his already messy hair.

“Alright. It be a bit of both,” she said. “Yes, it be deeply linked to our culture, an’ ya know how we be about sharing it. But it also be deeply linked to da Loa too. And da Loa...Ya consider dem as Wild Gods, but dey be more den dat. Dey be more powerful, more...primal?” Draggka frowned. “If ya ask Lo’Gosh or Ursoc for a favour or a bargain, ya might have to be doin’ someting for dere help, but you be safe. Mostly.”

“Da Loa not be like dat. Dey either be very dangerous to bargain wit, like Bwonsamdi, or Shadra. If ya don’t be making ya terms an’ conditions clear, it can be going very badly wrong. Others not be so bad, but dere wrath be a danger in and of demselves. Ya should never be crossin’ Shirvallah, for example. He not be known for forgiveness.”

Khadgar looked thoughtful, and she could almost see the gears turning in his mind.

“Is it similar to how warlocks use their control over the Shadow and the Fel?” He asked.

“I tink so?” The troll frowned. “Like I said, I just be a hunter, wit no special powers. Either way, it be best if ya don’t be gettin’ involved wit dem. Dey be dangerous to us trolls, so I can’t imagine what dey could be like to you...”

“You’re worried for me.” Khadgar said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I am. I don’t trust ya not to be hurt by dem.” She gently took his hand in hers. “Dey can be stripping my regeneration from me if dey wanted to, ya know.”

“What?” The mage blinked widely, sitting up with a start. “They could take that from you?”

“Why do ya tink da elves can’t regenerate, even if we be of da same bloodline?” The hunter asked, tilting her head. “Da Loa bless us wit de ability to heal. Dose closest to dem can be healing from almost death. But dose dat anger da Loa find dat dere wounds be slow to heal, or dey never be healing at all.” She wrapped an arm around herself, her skin crawling at the thought.

Khadgar sank back down into the bed as if he was realizing something for the first time.

“I...I didn’t know that. I assumed it was something you were born with, that, that the elves lost when they were affected by the energies of the Well of Eternity.” He paused. “Now I understand.” His silver brows knotted. “There must be a good reason you still follow them, even if they are so dangerous.”

“We be needing exact other, I tink.” Draggka said. “We be needin’ dere strength to protect us, but dey need us to be powerful, to not just be beasts dat stalk da Emerald Dream. I tink. When I be in Zul’Drak, da Drakkari Loa be angered dat dere followers be turning on dem, but...dey be sad too. I don’t know why, and I don’t tink any Loa be honest if ya ask dem, but I tink...” A slight smile pulled at her lips. “I tink dey care for us. We be close to dem da same way da night elves be close to dere Wild Gods.”

“I suppose so.” Khadgar agreed, rearranging himself on the bed. A pause. “You know what I don’t understand, though?”

“What would dat be?” Draggka asking, smiling at the tone of his voice. Here we go.

“Sometimes other trolls, like you, tell me to stay away from the voodoo, which is fair enough. But then there are others who tell me to come get the voodoo!” He said, giving her a look. “If it’s as dangerous as you say, why would they be giving such mixed signals?”

“We be warning everyone dat not be trolls to stay away from da voodoo.” Draggka explained. “Da trolls dat want ya to come get da voodoo be da merchants. It be sales patter for dose who tink ‘oh, troll voodoo dey want to sell! I be interested!’. Even if it just be axes or someting.”

“Ohh, I see.” The mage flashed her a grin. “Now, what about your voodoo?”

“Khadgar! I don’t be having any voodoo!”

“No?” His eyebrow raised, his grin widening. “Then what do you call last night, when you completely, utterly entranced me and-”

“Dat not be voodoo, you-! C’mere!” Draggka pounced on the wizard, hands grabbing his exposed sides and she began to tickle her mate mercilessly into submission.

He didn’t speak of it for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Zangarra Tower, this must be the place. Draggka looked up at the tall building ahead of her. She knew that Dalaran University was an odd place, what with calling its members the ‘Kirin Tor’, but she’d not imagined one of its buildings would have a fungi theme to it. They were chalked in blue against the brickwork, or painted on the inside of the windows, and rather tastefully too.

That said, she probably would have fitted right in, with her dark brown skin, orange eyes, large mohawk of blazing red and leather jacket with hiking ensemble. And if that wasn’t enough, she had her trusty Rottweiler Spike by her side, who was sitting watchfully beside her, sniffing eagerly at his new surroundings.

“Hey, Draggka!” She turned her head to see a tall, athletic tanned woman running over to her, dressed in her red and gold yoga pants and tank top. Spike perked up immediately, wagging his tail. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask the same about you, Cayeli.” Draggka grinned back, looking her friend up and down as she fussed Spike. “I thought your yoga classes were further out from here?”

“Yeah, but Harnie asked me if I could fetch some things for her. She’s doing a smithing course in the uni as well.” Cayeli blushed, her golden eyes belying her evasiveness. “But you didn’t answer my question.”

“Oh, I saw they were offering an entry-level engineering course.” Draggka offered Cayeli the course information she had. “I’ve always been interested in it. That and I need something to do whilst I’m taking time off from the reserve.”

“So for your holiday, you’re studying?” Cayeli raised an eyebrow as she skimmed the piece of paper. “God, you are so weird.” She frowned then. “Hey, it didn’t say anything about them letting Spike in.”

“It’s fine, I got permission from the tutor. He said so long as Spike doesn’t disrupt things, he’s fine.” She scratched behind the dog’s ear, his tongue lolling out.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Cayeli grinned.

“Hey! Spike is perfectly well-behaved unless he senses trouble!” Draggka retorted. “Without him, I couldn’t have done the things I have. And no-one complains when he alerts us to danger...”

“That’s true.” Cayeli nodded, before glancing at her watch. “Oh shoot, I better go! See you later!”

Draggka waved her friend goodbye, before she and Spike made their way into the Zangarra building, navigating their way to their assigned classroom. It was still early, with the door locked and the room empty and dark, so Draggka settled against the wall to wait, Spike sniffing around his new environment.

She hadn’t settled there for anything longer than a minute before a deep voice called to her, making her jump.

“Ah! You must be Draggka!” She looked up with a start, Spike making an aborted ‘boof’ bark in surprise.

The approaching man was tall, with a long blue overcoat over casual clothes from about a decade ago, a large satchel slung over his shoulder and holding a cane which had an imposing bird carved into the top of it, although he didn’t seem to need it to walk. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, with thick grey hair and bright blue eyes. But what was most eye-changing were his facial scars - normal wrinkles around his eyes and mouth had been exacerbated by angry acid burns, warping him like a tree and making him look more elderly than he really was.

Despite his arresting facial features, he smiled warmly at her.

“And this is your companion Spike, I presume.” He glanced to her, eyes bright. “Is it alright if I pet him?”

It took Draggka a couple of seconds to get her words together and to stop staring at his scars.

“Oh, yeah! Yeah, you can pet him, if he wants you to.” She nodded, letting the dog pad over to sniff the man’s outstretched fingertips. Draggka smiled as Spike licked them, which the man took (correctly) as permission to fuss him. “I’m sure I’ve seen you before. Are you Professor Khadgar?”

“Yes, that’s me.” Khadgar flashed her a wan smile, scratching Spike behind the ear. Draggka blinked.

“Wha...No offence, but you closed down the Dark Portal corporation three times! You’re one of the foremost experts on forensic chemistry. What are you doing teaching a beginner’s engineering course?”

Khadgar chuckled ruefully.

“The same could be said about you, Miss Draggka.” His eyes roved over her face thoughtfully. “Did you not catch serial arsonist Deathwing and helped disband his Twilight’s Hammer thugs? I remember hearing Go’el singing your praises in the media.”

Draggka blushed.

“It wasn’t just me. My friends helped me track him down too,” she said shyly.

“Ah, but you are the one seen grappling him to the floor in the reserve, after the police chased him from Wyrmrest Cathedral.” He smiled. “Much like I was front page after identifying the link between the Orcish Horde drug and the Dark Portal. It was Turalyon, Alleria, Kurdran and Danath who did all the groundwork to shut it down.”

“What happened to Medivh?” Draggka asked quietly. “I remember that he was your mentor, but also that he was their top scientist."

Khadgar sighed, his age suddenly appearing full force on his features.

“He was, but not by choice. He was being blackmailed into helping develop Orcish Horde by Sargeras, a notorious criminal in every sense of the word, who founded the Dark Portal, but fled before he could be arrested,” he explained. “We didn’t realize the whole story about Medivh’s involvement until he was in custody. He was merely a scapegoat, so browbeaten and manipulated that he turned on his own trusted friends.”

Khadgar waved a hand over his face.

“Including me. I tried to help him, tried to convince him to stop, become an informant, but in his desperation, he threw one of the experimental chemicals at me. It was a miracle it didn’t strike my eyes, but as you can see, it burnt me badly, and my hair has turned permanently grey. I looked sixty at the tender age of twenty-two.” His smile was sad. “At least I think I have grown into it.”

Draggka frowned sadly, even Spike looking equally forlorn.

“I remember when Medivh was let out on parole. It was...pretty ugly.”

“I was overseas at the time, giving lectures.” Khadgar frowned. “But I can imagine the residents did not take it well that a convicted drugs manufacturer was essentially walking free, after so many people were sickened or killed.”

“No. But he disappeared soon after. Whether they had to change his name, or he moved elsewhere, I don’t know.” She shrugged.

“I don’t know if he’d want to talk to me even if I knew where he was, but...” Khadgar sighed. “I knew him before all of this. He was a good man, a wonderful tutor. Forced to do terrible things.” He shook his head. “Anyway. Enough morbid talk of the past.” He fished a key out of his satchel, unlocking the door. “After you and your companion, ma’am.”

“It is alright to bring Spike in, isn’t it?” Draggka asked. “I mean, I asked and they-”

“Of course it’s fine!” Khadgar smiled brightly. “I said as much in the letter, didn’t I? Though you probably didn’t realize; I use a pseudonym after all. The others were a bit po-faced, but I know you from the Cataclysm investigation.” His smile widened into a grin. “And I really love dogs too.”

Spike barked excitedly, Draggka rolling her eyes, unable to stop a smile of her own sneaking on her lips.

“The others will get pissed if you show favouritism, you know,” she said, opening the door and holding it for the professor.

“You have a dog, they’ll totally understand.” Khadgar said, setting his satchel down on the main desk and pulling his laptop out.

“I suppose so.” She nodded, leading Spike to a table he could lay under and not disturb others, the Rottweiler thumping his body down heavily, his eyes on the door.

“Also, because you took down Deathwing, I’m expecting high standards of your work.” Khadgar said, his grin mischievous.

“Oh, is that so?” Draggka raised an eyebrow at him, grinning back at him. “Challenge accepted.”

Chapter Text

Draggka could understand why Trueshot Lodge was perched upon one of the many peaks of Highmountain. It gave spectacular views of the foothills on clear days, and it was still mostly wild and uninhibited, surrounded by the conifer trees that stubbornly grew at altitude.

It was a shame then, that is was so blinking cold.

The troll pulled her cloak more tightly around her as the chill wind nipped against her. After the time she’d spent in Frostfire Ridge on the Alternate Draenor, she’d hoping for some warmth. Getting command of a hunting lodge at the top of the mountain had not been on her radar.

Not that she would complain too loudly, however. Highmountain was a prime hunting location, with the thick pine forests and rugged hills, not to mention the Highmountain tauren who made the place home. Their traditions were as strong as their Mulgore counterparts, and Draggka found herself warming to them immediately.

The conifer forests weren’t her ideal hunting hunting ground, however. The hunter preferred the thick brush of jungles, their canopies casting dark over the floor and the humid heat they elicited. Although thick conifer forests could be dark, the dark always felt to her more foreboding than the more ‘gentle’ darkness of jungles. They also always felt too sparse and open, and pine needles never felt that nice underfoot. That and they were usually indicators of cold climates and most of the pine forests that she knew about were rotten with the Plague.

She still preferred them to the boring expanses of desert in Uldum or Tanaris, though.

Spike uttered a soft growl, and Draggka crouched low, moving carefully to the edge of the ridge, covered by a bush. With Highmountain being such a fine spot for hunting, it was no surprise that it had attracted Hemet Nesingwary and his band of followers to it. The troll’s lip curled. Nothing rubbed her fur the wrong way more knowing that Hemet was considered a hunter along with her; to her, he was nothing more than a trophy hunter.

She killed animals for food, protection, or necessity, but she made sure their deaths were not in vain. Their spirits were respected, with pelts, meat, bones and other useful reagents being taken from the body before the rest was left to feed the carrion eaters.

Hemet killed solely for the thrill of it and recognition. Draggka could understand hunting for the thrill; there were times she’d pitted herself against dangerous creatures to prove she could come out on top, but she honoured their deaths by using their bodies, sending their souls to Gonk. Hemet took a trophy and left the rest to rot. The fact Emmarel Shadewarden had insisted that they induct him into the Unseen Path to help tackle the Legion left a sour taste in her mouth.

As Huntmaster, she had been able to tell the dwarf that she expected him to adhere to the Lodge’s traditions, to respect the kills he made, to which he agreed. To his credit, Draggka had had no complaints of his behaviour so far, despite some hunters being as unsettled as she about his inclusion.

His followers, however, were starting to cause trouble (with the exception of Addie Fizzlebog, who Draggka had tutored in hunting and found an excellent student), and the tauren had asked her to deal with them. Asking politely hadn’t really worked, threatening had only marginal success, and those that had left had not been doing as much damage as the bull-headed ones that remained. Draggka didn’t want to do it, but it was time to put the fear of the Loa into them.

A male human walked close, under the ridge Draggka and Spike were crouched on top of. He was an arrogant hunter the troll had seen before with his oversized rifle and an attitude that ‘a savage like her didn’t know how to hunt properly’. Yet he was walking upwind, advertising his position to every creature in the land, as if he was expecting them to just leap into his sights. His clothing was still pristine too, so clearly he’d not fired at anything, nor done anything to disguise his scent.

Draggka grinned, slowly pulling an arrow from her quiver and touching some wyvern venom to its tip. It would be enough to slow a person down, but not fully sedate them.

We’ll see who can’t hunt properly, she thought to herself, nocking the arrow to the string. Spike bared his teeth in a hungry grin.

“No killing.” She whispered to him. “Disarm only.” Scaring the obstinate hunters would only work if they could spread the word of her wrath, and not mistake her as a, angry tauren. The raptor huffed with annoyance, but she knew he understood.

The man stopped a moment, looking around. He seemed annoyed that his incompetence had caused his prey to flee, or, more likely, he was blaming everything else but himself for his failures.

The troll pulled her bowstring back to her ear, aiming for his right shoulder. And fired.

Said man left Highmountain alive, with a wounded arm, a ruined pride (and trousers), and an insistence to his fellows not to cross the Huntmaster.

Chapter Text

“So. Princess Talanji.”

Draggka groaned, and wished the stone floor would open up and swallow her whole.

“Yeah? What about her?” She asked, not even trying for blasé. Elizabone’s lower face might have been covered, but the troll knew the Forsaken well enough to know she was grinning.

“Oh, I don’t know...Something to do with the fact you’ve been looking at her with stars in your eyes since we got here.” The warlock said. “Though I can guess that you’ve been starry eyed from the very moment you met her!”

The hunter felt her face flare with heat.

“D-Dat be none of ya concern!” She stuttered out. “She be a very beautiful troll, an’ I be appreciatin’ dat beauty.”

“You appreciate it so much that moss is starting to grow on your ankles.” Elizabone, as always, was completely unrepentant.

“I be Speaker for da Horde now.” Draggka threatened lightly. “I could get ya kicked out.”

“And lose my healthstones and my winning personality? I don’t think so.”

Draggka scowled at her.

“I hate it when you be right.” She muttered.

“Most people do.” The Forsaken replied.

There was a brief silence between the two friends, broken only by the soft sounds of Spike’s and the warlock’s felhunter‘s snoring from their feet.

“You know,” Elizabone began, “I thought that when you married someone, or became life mates, permanent bedbuddies of whatever, that looking at other people might not be a thing that you do?” She stroked her chin over her veil. “Or is that a troll thing? I mean, I was a priest of the Light, so my world view was pretty dim before I was raised.” She squinted at her friend. “Does Khadgar know about this?”

“‘Course he does.” Draggka replied. “He knew from da moment I be talkin’ about her.”

“And he’s okay with it?”

“Oh yeah. He caught me staring at Draka at when we were on Draenor. He be understanding.” The hunter grinned. “Did ya hear him talkin’ about Ariok?”

“Yeah, he called him ‘strapping’.” The warlock replied. It took a moment for the copper piece to drop. “Strapping?!” She exclaimed. “Oy vey, that wizard. Of all the magi you had to fall for, you fell for him?” She shook her head, tutting.

“Hey, I married him, ya know!”

“Yeah! You married Archmage Khadgar!” Elizabone said, before she tilted her head slightly, looking...melancholy. “Still, are you sure he’s okay with it?”

“Yeah, he is.” Draggka nodded. “I asked him. He said he knows dat whatever my eyes be doing, my heart be staying wit him.” She smiled, gently resting her hand over her stomach. “Dat, an’ a few other tings, too.”

Elizabone nodded slowly.

“That’s good to know,” she said, softly. “I’d hate for you to lose what you have because of jealousy. Especially with all the things going on now.”

“Me too. No. Talanji be beautiful, and I be admiring her, but Khadgar has my heart. Now, an’ for forever. We be lifemates.” Draggka said, gently touching the wedding ring pierced into her nose.

“I’m glad.” The warlock paused, before gently patting the troll’s hand. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be so sentimental. Shall I go back to sassing you about your crush?”

“Sure, why not?” Draggka grinned. “Not like I can be doin’ similar. Unless you be liking Nathanos-”

“No! Shadow’s breath, no!” Elizabone scowled. “He’s too busy panting after the Dark Lady to look at anyone else. And I deserve better than that...that...” She waved a hand, clearly fumbling for an insult.

“Good to know you be havin’ taste, Liz. Even if you be dead.”

Chapter Text

Draggka pushed the door open into a room filled with an orgy of evidence that this was a place where an alchemist was at work. She could smell all kinds of weird and wonderful things being boiled, fermented or dried, and the troll knew enough not to touch any of it.

“Tink, you here?” She called.

Movement to her right caught her eye, and the hunter noticed the goblin hop down from her stool, making her way over to the hunter.

“Hey there, Drak,” she said. “Didja get the things I needed?”

“Yeah, dey all be here.” Draggka offered a large bag of various herbs to the priest. “Well, it be Aiya who most of dem, but she got called away on a mission.”

“Oh really? What sort?” Tinkerspring asked, placing the bag aside, hopping up on another stool.

“Someting ‘bout da Felborne tryn’a summon another pit lord in Suramar. Highlord sent her herself.”

“They’re trying to summon one again?” The priest snorted. “Because that worked so well last time.”

“It probably be a distraction. I told my scouts to be letting me know if dey see anyting fishy goin’ on dere.” Draggka said, casting an eye over the goblin’s equipment. “How da brewing going?”

“Well, considering I’m only one goblin.” Tinkerspring gave her a look. “Don’t worry, the potions’ll be ready by assault time.”

“Ya sure?” Draggka asked. “It be a lot to deal wit on ya own.”

“If ya could find me a decent alchemist who’ll work for free, I’d jump on them.” Tinkerspring said, sorting the herbs out into piles. “But I can do it. Just don’t go throwing stones at the Nighthold gates or anything.”

“Like we’d be able to get enough to da gates witout gettin’ stuck in da time warp.” Draggka replied sharply. Spike looked up at her tone with wide blue eyes, and the priest glanced up from her work.

“It’s bothering you, isn’t it?” She asked, kindly.

“Yeah.” Draggka sighed, gently petting Spike as he nuzzled against her. “It’s just...Elisande be able to stop time on all dose people. Wit da Nightwell, who knows what she be capable of? And Gul’dan...I be worried dat he might be able to be gettin’ away again.”

“I know.” Tinkerspring nodded. “A crazy powerful warlock and a big pool of magic are not a good combination.” She stepped down from her stool, walking back over to the troll. “But we’re ready for him this time. We’ve got the Alliance by our side, sort of. And we’ve got these weapons.” She reached out, clasping Draggka’s hand between her own. “We’ll do it. As High Priest of the Conclave, I swear we will do it.”

That raised the hunter’s eyebrows.

“You...really mean dat?” She asked softly. “You don’t be swearing on tings dis lightly.”

“I only swear on the things I know I can do, and what really matter.” The goblin grinned brightly. “And this? This we can do. ‘Sides, your old man has a score to settle with that ugly creep, doesn’t he?”

“Dat he does.” Draggka nodded, smiling. “Tank you, Tink. Ya always be knowing what to say.”

“Comes with practise and having the bits of a Naaru riding around with me.” Tinkerspring gestured to her staff, which seemed to utter a gentle tinkling noise in response. “Now shoo! I’ve got potions to be getting on with, and I can’t have trolls hanging around here tripping over me!”

Chapter Text

Draggka gave a relieved sigh as she closed the door. For a time, she could push away all thoughts of war, the Void and Azeroth’s fading from her head. The troll could be thinking of much more mundane, happier things, things that didn’t require a title, or-

Ma’da!” An excited little voice cried, and a little half-troll dashed in, running full-pelt towards the hunter, arms outstretched. “Ma’da! You’re here!”

“Hello Zufli!” Draggka beamed, crouching down to wrap her daughter up in a big hug, lifting her off the ground. Zal’ria squealed with excitement, throwing her arms around her mother’s neck. Spike uttered a deep ‘baroo’ noise as he also shared his delight at seeing the youngster again.

“How has my little girl been?” Draggka cooed, leaning back to look the little one in her eyes.

“Good! I’ve been good!” Zal’ria nodded, smiling with the brilliance of the sun. “Daddy’s been teaching me how to make ar...ar...shiny throwy things!”

“Has he now? You must show me sometime, then.” The troll glanced to the side to see her mate enter the room, smiling fondly as he made his way over to his family.

Good evening, my darling.” Khadgar said in soft, practised Zandali. He leaned forwards to tenderly kiss Draggka, making their daughter giggle. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too.” The hunter smiled between him and the young one in her arms. “Be glad to be spending time wit da both of ya.”

“How long do we have you for?” Khadgar asked, absently petting Spike as he nuzzled the mage’s legs.

“A week.” Draggka smiled. “Talanji and de others manage to be convincin’ de higher ups to be letting me have time wit ya all.”

“Yayyy!” Zal’ria cried, hugging her mother tight.

“Careful, little one. Don’t want to strangle your Mom when she’s only just come home.” Khadgar said, gently pulling at the half-troll’s arms to loosen their grip.

“Sorry Ma’da,” she said.

“It’s fine, Zufli.” Draggka replied. “You’re just excited to see me.” She pressed a kiss to her nose, making her giggle and scrunch it up. “Have you said hello to Spike, yet? He’s been waiting to say hi to you.”

“Oh! Hi Spike!” The little girl cried, reaching her arms out to the raptor, who nuzzled her face with great care, uttering deep rumbling noises of affection.

“Why don’t you and Spike go off to play together for a little while, hmm?” Khadgar said. “Your Mum will be along in a minute.”

“Yay!” Zal’ria bounced off almost before her feet touched the ground, and Spike followed her at a quick trot, pretending to chase her.

Audience gone, Khadgar curled his arm around Draggka, pulling her close.

“She misses you, you know,” he said softly.

“I know.” Draggka sighed. “I be missing da both of ya. Wish I could be here more often.”

“Me too.” The archmage nuzzled her, pressing a tender kiss to her lips. “I’m so glad you got maternity leave, at least.”

“I tink Talanji be having a fit if I not be gettin’ it.” Draggka smiled. “One good ting ‘bout being Speaker of da Horde.”

“Indeed.” Khadgar nodded, before he too smiled warmly. “You’re here now, though. And for a week.”

“Mmhmm. Wish it were longer, for ‘Ria’s sake.”

“I know. But a week is a good start.” The sound of magic and an excited toddler’s squeal-laugh broke through their thoughts. “Oh dear.”

Draggka giggled.

“Let’s go be seeing what ya daughter be doin’ dis time!” She grinned, giggling again when Khadgar huffed.

“She’s every bit your daughter as mine, dear.”

“Yeah, but you be da one who be givin’ her dat magic.”

“Touche.”

Chapter Text

Draggka hadn’t realized why the Lich King ruled in such a hostile, cold location until now.

Cold was cloying and insidious, sinking into your muscles and bones and sapping your strength, slowing you down so the chill could suck more life from you. Snow clung to clothing as actual weights, pulling you down, getting in the way of walking and making it take even more precious energy. It soaked into you, sucking the life and will out of you so eventually you begged for release. Ready for the Lord of the Scourge to pluck the weakened soul like ripe fruit from a tree.

Lucky then, that she wasn’t in his domain.

The winds howled fiercely against the troll’s body, and she stumbled in the thick snow, only just managing to stay upright. She’d already fallen before, and she knew that falling again would drain her terribly. She might not get up after a second time. Spike still stuck to her side, but he was suffering too, if not more so. Raptors did not stalk the icy wastes for a very good reason. It was only their bond that kept them going, but they were flagging, their strength waning.

The hunter cursed her luck for a storm to have rolled in on top of her in what felt like an instant. She’d been warned that conditions could change in a matter of seconds out here, and she had believed them...or she thought she did, until it had swallowed her like a great beast devouring its prey.

Everything was white or greyish white, and it was only her compass that helped her keep going, in what Draggka presumed to be the right direction. She doubted that anyone would be able to see her from the air, making rescue difficult if not impossible. Her trek right now was to find shelter, or to endure the storm long enough to come out the other side. But it felt like she’d walked hours through drifts of sand-snow with no cover anywhere, and the storm was either too large to escape, or it was intent on ending her life.

Draggka felt so tired. She was exhausted, battling these conditions for Loa knows how long. She felt like giving up and just going to sleep, but the troll knew that would her death. Out here, no-one would find her body, nor Spike’s. Her heart panged. I don’t want to leave Dranka behind, she thought.

It was something she clung to in order to keep her going, and hunter kept trudging, her raptor sluggishly following alongside.

Suddenly, Spike gave a cry, and he collapsed into the snow. He made moves to get up, but it was a struggle, and he whined loudly when he didn’t succeed.

“Come on Spike, you can do it.” Draggka gripped his hide, cringing as the ice sloughed off his scales, and pulled him back onto his feet, but she could feel his balance was unstable. He was running out of time. “Oh brother, please, please try. I can’t carry you.”

The raptor did manage a few shaky steps, but he crumpled eventually, uttering a cry that Draggka had never heard before. It was so heart-rending, tears would have welled up in her eyes if it wasn’t so bitterly cold.

“No. No...I’m not leaving you,” she said, crouching next to him. Spike cried out urgently, eyes desperate; if he had the strength, he would have pushed her away. “I’m your pack sister. I’m not leaving you.” And it’s not like I’d be able to find help in time before Bwonsamdi comes for me, either.

She laid next to her raptor, curling herself around him as best she could, and he returned the favour with her. Draggka sighed softly. Of all the things she’d faced, her death would come at the hands of the elements. And not even the elements of home, either. The troll at least hoped Bwonsamdi could reach her soul here. The hunter began to utter a soft prayer, preparing for the end as fatigue slowly stole across her body. I’m coming, Ma’da.

Then, on the edge of her hearing, between the wind’s howling, she thought she heard something. A guttural yell, or multiple yells. Maybe the call of a beast too? No, a hunting party wouldn’t venture out into such a storm. Right? Yet Spike’s eyes opened wide, and he stared at her, grunting urgently. Something approaches. They come.

The realization managed to hold the tide of tiredness back, and Draggka fumbled with her pack, grabbing a flare. They were supposed to be fired from her bow, but in emergencies, they could be activated by hand. With a strength Draggka didn’t realize she still had, she smashed the activation end, and held the burning end as high as she could muster, casting everything in its bright blood red glow. Spike also threw back his head and screeched with all the air in his lungs, a last desperate attempt to attract attention.

More voices in the guttural tongue sounded out, louder, more urgently. They were getting closer, as were the calls of rylaks, and the sounds of beating wings.

“They’re coming for us.” Draggka, feeling her second wind withering fast, and with it the malaise returning. “We’re gonna be safe. We’re gonna live...”

The last thing she remembered was something large landing next to them, and hands reaching for her.

Chapter Text

It was the closest thing to home Draggka had ever imagined. The troll had never really been a city person, at least for long stretches of times, just from her nature of being a hunter. But she could appreciate them, especially when they contained pockets of peace and nature, like the Valley of Spirits and Wisdom in Orgrimmar.

Yet the city of Dazar’alor...

At the shores of a great sea and surrounding by jungle, the city sparkled like a jewel. Part of it was to do with the gold gilding on the buildings and the huge giant gold pyramid of the Great Seal, but for Draggka, it also sparkled in a very different way.

She’d heard of the ancient troll empires, seen the remnants of them in Zul’Gurub, Zul’Aman and Zul’Drak, but the buildings in Dazar’alor weren’t ruins; they were living, breathing. Bright carved frescos denoted everything to trolls waging war, riding raptors, taming brutasaurs and many more of the Loa (there were ones of winged serpents that looked like they were replacing images of Hakkar, however). Vines and flowers wound their way around the edges, less as if the jungle was making a bid to reclaim the area, but more as it intertwining itself with the city. Numerous shrines to the Loa were also laid out in quiet areas, the ritual fires kept lit and offerings laid out, the smell of incense hanging pleasantly in the air around them.

Children ran through the streets, shrieking excitedly and peering at the Horde races curiously, whilst saurids scampered around them, feeding off the waste and scraps, and occasionally stealing objects that were left unattended and not tied down. And gigantic brutasaurs walked through the larger avenues, backs laden with cargo and other goods, some Zandalari sitting on their backs as the huge beasts made their leisurely way through the city.

Draggka may have been Darkspear and therefore several degrees removed, but it was still her heritage she was standing amongst. It was more like home than Orgrimmar, and with the way the war was going, the hunter could have seen herself throwing the mantle of the Horde off her shoulders and forever calling Zuldazar her home.

Or she would have done.

The troll rubbed at the golden ring pierced into the flare of her nostril, still getting used to its presence. She’d found her home in a person, not a place, in the presence and arms of Archmage Khadgar, the equally charming and infuriating human she’d met fighting against the Iron Horde. Wherever she and her lifemate resided, it felt like home, even Dalaran and the ancient tower of Karazhan, two places Draggka would never have chosen otherwise.

Whilst Dazar’alor was everything she could have wished for, she knew in her heart that it would never be home unless they let Khadgar walk the streets as freely as she did. And with him being human, the likelihood of that was close to zero, especially with the war. It hurt her heart. She wanted to show him everything she’d seen about the city and the jungle. She wanted him to experience it with her. Alas, it was not to be.

Spike’s soft grunt alerted Draggka to a Nightborne approaching her. She was a mage, with her robes a pleasing mix between her people’s clothing and some of the Zandalari fashion, showing she had embraced working amongst them.

“Hello. You’re the Speaker for the Horde, aren’t you?” The Nightborne gave a little smile. “Is it alright if I sit with you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Draggka nodded. “Mind de raptor.” She tapped Spike’s rump with her foot, encouraging him to move over so the mage could take a seat.

“Oh! Yes, I’ll be careful.” She was true to her word, settling down next to the troll with her drink. “Thank you, Speaker.”

“Ya don’t need to be calling me dat.” The hunter waved a hand. “I just be Draggka. You?”

“Lasai Vustri.” The Nightborne replied. “You were part of the heroes that stormed the Nighthold, weren’t you?”

“Dat be me.” Draggka nodded. “How be Suramar now?”

“Better.” Lasai smiled. “Much better. With the Nightwell gone, there has been some struggling with our withdrawals, but the sin’dorei have been very kindly helping us through it all.”

“Dat’s good to hear.” The troll said, an idea suddenly surfacing in her mind. “Lasai, is dat masquerade magic common in Nightborne society?”

“It’s a fairly high level, especially if you want to make a Masquerade that is good enough to fool people, and is only revealed through the use of revealing and detection spells.” Lasai said. “But most arcanists, including myself know how to do them.” She sighed. “Elisande had me making disguises to help her forces infiltrate yours. I had been using them the resistance, but I think she suspected me, and that was to test my...’allegiance’.” Her face twisted into a frown.

“It be you helpin’ to cloak dem?” The troll asked, eyebrows raised.

“It was me and a few others.” Lasai replied. “I was worried that you and the rest of the resistance might not have had the skill to detect the deceptions, so I introduced tiny flaws into the disguises I made. Imperceptible except to powerful arcanists, or ones very attuned to the ebb and flow of magic.” She managed a smile. “I assume it worked, since we are sitting here now.”

Draggka smiled back, wistfully.

“Yeah, it did. My mate sensed dere be something amiss wit some of da elves in our company, and dat be when we discovered dat dey be hiding amongst us,” she said. “Was it easy to do? Makin’ da disguises, I mean.”

“It was easier to do when there were...’examples’.” Lasai grimaced. “Prisoners or fresh corpses were used over generating appearances by scratch. Technically after you’ve created your first with a living source, it’s easy to make new ones without help. Although they tend to be more fragile, and more likely to raise suspicion if you make a mistake." She gave Draggka  a level look. “I assume if you’re asking me about it, you require my services.”

“If ya be willing, yes. It not be anyting vital or important, it just be...” She sighed, lowering her voice. “I be life-mated to Archmage Khadgar, dat human ya might be hearing of in da resistance. I want to be showing him dis place, but wit him bein’ human and all, I tink da Zandalari would be havin’ a very dim of him being in dere city.”

“Oh, I think I know who you mean. Tall, grey hair, eccentric?” Draggka nodded. “Okay.” Lasai looked her over, also lowering her voice. “I must admit, I didn’t think there would be such a pairing as yours, but I’ve been cooped up in the same city for years, so what do I know?” She chuckled. “I can help you. You’d need to find me an unfortunate Zandalari and a little tiki mask, but I can definitely conjure a disguise for your mate.”

“Tank you.” Draggka smiled widely. “Do I be owing ya anyting?”

“Oh no, just the reagents will be payment enough.” Lasai said. “Consider this a small payment towards my gratitude in freeing us from the Legion, and helping us rejoin Azeroth.”

“It be no problem.” Draggka said, smiling weakly. "No-one deserves to be under da Legion’s rule.” Though I fear you swapped one tyrant to another. She watched the Nightborne for a long moment. “Ya not have any problems wit da...implications of doin’ dis?”

“The implications of sneaking a lover into city they’re not supposed to be in, just so their partner can show it to them?” The mage’s long eyebrow arched. “I could go on a long diatribe on not caring what race he comes from, what colour clothes he happens to wear, the fact I dealt under the table when Elisande ruled and that I have a very long list of misgivings since a great tree full of people was burned, but honestly, I am a sap for romantic things such as this. And undermining questionable authority.” She smirked. “I am all to happy to help you, Draggka.”

The troll only just managed to stop herself from grinning. I like this woman.

“Tank you, really,” she said, shaking Lasai’s hand. “It be meaning a lot to me.”

“I can tell.” The mage said, before she suddenly smirked. “And if anyone asks, I know nothing about the Speaker of the Horde asking me for such a thing, and I certainly wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize the Horde.”

Draggka’s smile became feral.

“No, of course not.”

Chapter Text

Making a deal with Bwonsamdi had not been one of the things Draggka had been expecting nor wanting when she came to Zandalar, but it had brought the Loa of Death onto their side in the conflict between the Zandalari and Zul’s forces (blood trolls and all). It unnerved her, being involved in the Loa’s business, knowing that every person she killed would have their soul going straight to him.

What unnerved her more was his occasional requests for ‘assistance’.

This one was announced to her in the usual way, by Bwonsamdi’s voice invading her mind and asking her if she could possibly encourage a wandering spirit to come to his care that had been lingering for years, preferably before malign hands got their grip on it. Draggka did not ask any questions; frankly, the less she knew, the better.

Most lost souls that Bwonsamdi wanted were hanging around the Necropolis, but were just reluctant to cross the final barrier to the Other Side, and this was the same for this one. Draggka hurried her way there, Spike alongside, and hoped it was a simple request so she could leave this skin-crawling place as soon as possible.

As she turned the corner, however, the hunter stopped dead in her tracks.

The spirit was standing by a decapitated pillar, gazing at it as if in deep thought. She was a female Darkspear troll, tall, but shorter than she remembered, dressed in the casual vestments of one who didn’t need to work that day. Though being a soul had drained almost all colour from her, there was still some purple left in the short hair tied up in a knot on top of her head, still light blue in her fur, and there would still be orange in her eyes when she turned around. She stood tall, healthy, strong. ‘Alive’.

“Ma’da...” Draggka’s eyes filled with tears, her throat closing up. She felt rather than saw Spike look up at her.

The spirit seemed to sense that there was someone trying to get her attention, and she turned around, orange eyes widening.

“Draggka?” Her voice was just how she remembered.

Ma’da!” The hunter cried, only just managing to stop herself from running over and throwing her arms around her mother, knowing that she would just go straight through her. She felt like a young whelp once again, the decades falling away as she jogged over, Spike following a little further back.

“Draggka...By the Loa, look at you. Look at how you’ve grown.” Her mother said, raising a hand to touch her daughter’s face, but she phased straight through, Draggka feeling a slight chill. “What are you doing here? It isn’t your time yet.”

“I...” The hunter swallowed hard. “Why are you still here, Ma’da? Why haven’t you crossed to the Other Side?”

Her mother sighed, glancing away.

“I cannot go until I know for certain what happened to your father and brother. The doubt has constantly lingered in my mind whether they lived or died.” Her ghostly eyes searched Draggka’s. “Did you, perhaps...?”

Now I see why he asked me, Draggka thought to herself.

“Dat I did, little hunter.” Bwonsamdi replied, his ‘voice’ feeling like the Loa himself running his bony fingers down her spine. “She be a stubborn one, tinking me untrustworthy. But I tink she be convinced by her daughter, hmm?”

Yes, but...My father. Bwonsamdi, did you ever receive my father’s soul? Draggka ‘asked’, more than a little unnerved that he was listening into her thoughts.

"I did indeed. He be wit me on da Other Side right now. If she be needing to see him to believe, ya know where to be finding me...” The hunter could almost feel his smile, and that there was something he wasn’t telling her.

“Yeah, I know about both of them, Ma’da.” Draggka nodded, trying to play off her conversation with the Death Loa as just some thoughtful moment. “Dranka managed to escape Zalazane. There were a tribe of witch doctors on the island who went into hiding after Zalazane blindsided them. The Loa spoke to them, and granted them their powers, training them whilst they waited for the Echo Isles to be retaken.” The hunter smiled. “Vol’jin did it, Ma’da. He took the Isles back, and Bwonsamdi took Zalazane. Dranka was a part of the druids, they know them as. He’s alive, Ma’da. We’ve been brother and sister for several years now.”

“Oh!” Her mother cupped her hands with delight, and if she could cry, Draggka was sure she would be. “Where is he now? Is, is it possible for me to see him?”

The hunter could felt the Death Loa’s disapproval, but in a fit of defiance, ignored him, though she kept her thoughts to herself.

“Yes, he’s here on Zandalar. It might take me an hour or so to reach him, but I can bring him here to you, Ma’da,” she said.

“Oh, thank you, child.” The spirit smiled brightly, and it make Draggka’s heart ache. “And...your father?”

“He...wasn’t so lucky.” Draggka said, her heart starting to fill with stones as Bwonsamdi’s words sunk in. He’s gone. He’s really gone. “I spoke to Bwonsamdi. He has Papa’s soul with him.”

Her mother frowned slightly.

“Are you sure, Draggka? You know what I told you about talking to him. He is not to be trusted.”

“And yet ya still dedicated ya soul to me...”

“I be sure, Ma’da. It's...a long story, but Bwonsamdi promised me that he'll let you see Papa’s soul, if it will convince you to cross to the Other Side." Draggka said. “I’ll get Dranka to come and see you first. Then...we can all go and see Papa, yeah?”

Her mother’s frown didn’t waver as she thought, before she nodded.

“Okay. I trust you, Little Raptor.” Draggka’s heart almost punched out of her ribcage at the old nickname, and tears welled up again. “I...I’m so glad to see you again. And have some answers.”

“Me, me too.” The hunter nodded, swallowing hard. Spike rubbed against her leg, rumbling softly. She touched him unconsciously, soothing herself with his presence. “I...I’ll be back, Ma’da. I’m just going to go fetch Dranka.”

“Okay, darling. I’ll be here. A few more hours won’t hurt.” The soul replied.

Draggka nodded, before she hurried off towards Zo’bal Ruins. She hoped that maybe she could stop crying before she got there.

Chapter Text

“Remind me whose idea this was again?” Cayeli asked, looking down the line of her friends, her hawkstrider fluffing its blue wings.

“Oh, a crazy idea that might result in injury or death? That’ll be one of Draggka’s then.” Elizabone commented, perched on her eerily still dreadsteed.

“Hey!” The troll cried, craning her head to glare at the Forsaken from on top of her venomhide ravasaur.

“Oh no, she’s right.” Harnaka grinned. “You’re always been the troublemaker in this group.” Her frost wolf shifted underneath her eagerly.

“An’ Tink isn’t?”

“Excuse me?” The goblin arched an eyebrow. “You’re the one dragging us into all these things. Also I’ve half a mind to give the others a headstart now.”

“You could, but den I might forget to tell Bane here dat ya not be food...” Draggka said, the ravasaur swinging its head towards the goblin and gnashing its teeth greedily. The brown wolf Tinkerspring was riding to give her extra height snarled back at it, baring its teeth.

“Come on, let’s not start a fight before the race has actually begun.” Cayeli said. “I’d prefer to try and beat you all without resorting to my fists.”

“Yeah, it be no fun brawling against a monk.” The hunter said. “Or Harnie.” She looked at the warlock. “I could take Liz, though.”

“Hey, I might look like a fleshy bag of bones, but I’m a very well-held together fleshy bag of bones” Elizabone retorting, pointing a bony finger accusingly.

“Ahem.” They quietened when Tinkerspring cleared her throat. “Alright ladies, enough bickering, let’s set down the rules. Pretty simple, really: the first person to get down the mountain, dodging bears and harpies, to where Aiya is by the old Bloodtotem area will win.” She folded her arms. “Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that you need to win fairly, but I better just remind you so we knew where we stand.”

She gently nudged her wolf to walk forward down the line of riders. “Cay, you’re not allowed to paralyse anyone, and nor giving your hawkstrider any ‘go-faster’ brews.”

“They don’t exist, but I won’t paralyse anyone.” Cayeli said, bowing her head.

“Draggka, no Aspect of the Cheetah, and definitely no laying of traps to slow people down.”

“Don’t worry Tink. I be wanting to win fairly.” The troll did the same, soothing her ravasaur’s anxious shifting.

“Harnie, leave the elements out of this. No speeding up with the wind, and no earthgrasp totems.”

“Fair enough.” Harnaka nodded.

“And Liz, you know what I’m going to say. Don’t put the fear of god knows what into people, and don’t cheat using your portals.”

“As if I’d do that!” Elizabone’s eyes widened, resting a hand on her chest.

“You’re a warlock.” The shaman reminded her.

“How rude. You’re lucky I don’t have my succub-” Elizabone began.

“No demon summoning either!” Tinkerspring yelled.

“Ugh, fine.” The Forsaken narrowed her eyes at the orc. “You’re going down.”

“Wait, isn’t her dreadsteed technically a demon?” Cayeli piped up.

“No demon summoning other than her demon horse!” The goblin replied.

“He’s not just a ‘demon horse’! He’s a dreadsteed from Xoroth!”

“Oh, for the spirit’s sake!” Draggka cried, jabbing her heels into the sides of her mount. It gave a triumphant roar and sprang forward, much to the loud consternation of her friends.

The hunter didn’t care, lowering her body to the ravasaur’s back and watching the foothills lurch closer with every powerful stride. The howl of the frostwolf sounding out from behind her signalled that her friends were now on the move too. The troll genuinely didn’t know who would win; most of their mounts were bred for stamina, not speed, with the only exceptions being her venomhide ravasaur and Elizabone’s dreadsteed.

Of course, they were now all out for her blood after her little stunt. Draggka had been honest when she said she’d wanted to win fairly, but sometimes her friends could get caught up in their bickering and they needed an ‘outside influence’ to get their minds back on track.

The hunter glanced back to see her friends charging down the hill behind her, Harnaka and Elizabone in front with Cayeli following behind.

“Draggka! You cheating bint!” The Forsaken hollered.

“Got ya moving though, didn’t it?” The troll called back, looking back to make sure she wasn’t going to ride into a tree. They’d never let her live it down for the rest of her life.

“Laugh all you want Drak, but well all know who’s going to lose in the end!” Harnaka cried.

Draggka grinned, turning back to the race. This is going to be fun.

Chapter Text

“And dat be why ya don’t challenge a Forsaken to a drinking game.” Draggka, sipping at the tea in her hands. “Dere livers already be dead.”

“Yes, I would have thought that par for the course for them.” Khadgar commented, an amused smile pulling at his lips. “I’m surprised you hadn’t realized on it sooner.”

“It not be someting ya really tink about, though,” she said. “Ya don’t really sit dere and tink ‘oh, dey don’t be needing dat beer, dey just be drinking it to be fitting in. By da time it be hitting ya, you be face down on da floor wit Da Barrens Run song echoing in ya ears.”

“‘The Barrens Run’?” He asked. “How does that go?”

“Dere be a hundred verses ‘bout youngbloods looking fer a lost orc’s partner and legends ‘bout da Saurfang family. No-one be finishing da song ‘cos dey get someting thrown at dere head to make dem shut up.”

“Ah, one of those. Say no more. I completely understand.”The archmage nodded, drinking his own tea and watching Spike turn over in his sleep, a comfortable silence settling over them.

Draggka still wasn’t quite sure what to make of the eccentric human archmage who had led the Alliance and Horde to this Alternate Draenor, but she was increasingly seeing him as a friend and confidante. He seemed not to hold a grudge against the Horde (impressive, considering his role in the First and Second Wars), and he’d always checked in on the hunter since she was given control of the garrison of Frostwall.

This was one of the couple of times they’d had to sit and take a breather. Though it was more her taking a breather than him, as the mage seemed to be full of questions for her, about her people, her adventures, and the Horde in general. Draggka was happy to answer his questions, as his curiosity mirrored her own, and she liked that he was taking the time to know her people better.

That he was funny and Spike liked him enough to snooze in his presence also helped a lot.

“You know, Draggka,” Khadgar began. “You’ve never told me what your favourite food is.”

The troll arched an eyebrow at him.

“Why do ya need to know? Ya planning to surprise me, Archmage?” She asked playfully.

Khadgar flushed brightly for a moment.

“N-No, but I’d like to know a-all the same.” He smiled slightly. “We know places each other prefers, like you prefer jungles and rainforests, and I prefer places with many books.” He chuckled deeply. “That said, if your favourite food starts appearing around here, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind, right?”

“No, I not be minding.” Draggka admitted, her eyes looking curiously over the mage, wondering as to his strange reaction earlier. Humans are so weird. “Be honest...I don’t tink I be havin’ a favourite food. When you be out in da wilds, ya don’t be havin’ de option of being picky. Most of da time, what I hunt, I eat.”

“I can understand that.” Khadgar nodded. “When we were on Outland, we lived almost hand to mouth some days. In a choice between eating something not particularly appetising and starving, we quickly learned to take the first option.” In a blink, his dour expression cleared. “But that wasn’t the question I asked. Put aside all notions of survival for a moment, and think of all the good meals you’ve ever eaten. In a perfect world, if you could magic one dish to eat whenever you wanted, what would it be?”

“Ya really be fishing for dis answer.” Draggka commented.

“I would really like to know.” Khadgar replied. “You must have realized by now I am terribly curious. Nosy, some might say.”

“Well, ya keep saying ‘knowledge be power’ and all.”

“Yes,  and I am right about that, so-” The mage paused, before he gave a little sigh. Had he been in his raven guise, Draggka would have sworn he would have fluffed his feathers.  “Alright then, Commander. If you won’t give me your favourite food, I’ll have to give you mine. He waved his hand, magic coalescing around it and forming quickly into a familiar shape. “Strudels. Mana strudels in particular, but, like yourself, I’m not particularly bothered by what they contain.” He arched a silver eyebrow. “Now, yourself?”

The hunter frowned thoughtfully, considering everything she could remember eating and cooking herself over her life and adventuring career. Trying to figure out if she yearned for any of them again, if at all.

“I...I don’t really be havin’ a favourite.” She finally admitted. “But...If I could be choosing da food I be wanting most at any time, I tink it’d be da food dat da Pandaren cook.”

“An understandable choice.” Khadgar smiled, “I’ve heard much of their culinary prowess since Pandaria was revealed. I suppose that the standards of food in the Horde has blossomed since their inclusion?”

“Yeah, dey definitely have.” Draggka nodded, chuckling. “I know only a little bit of cooking from dem. i were too busy eatin’ to be learning! Besides, I don’t be havin’ much time to be carryin’ many spices and suchlike in my pack. I be foraging what I can, but most meals be fresh meat wit what seasoning I can spare.”

“Understandable.” Khadgar nodded.

“Sorry dat it not really be da answer ya looking for.”

“No, it’s perfectly fine, Draggka.” The archmage smiled, waving a hand to dismiss her concern. “It is still an answer, as ‘imperfect’ as it may be. Although I don’t consider it imperfect at all.” His blue eyes met hers, and his smile became earnest and somewhat shy. “Thank you indulging an old man, Draggka. Not many of the Horde, especially one of your race would be so ready to answer my incessant questions.”

“Ya welcome, Archmage.” Draggka smiled back. “Not many be so curious to be learning ‘bout us.”

“A shame,” he said. “You are as interesting and diverse as any race of the Alliance.”

As he leaned back to drink his tea, the troll felt her face flush with heat, and her heart flutter in a most unusual way...

Chapter Text

Draggka found her friend in Val’sharah, sitting in a clearing amongst a clump of flowers. The troll smiled, happy that her intuition had been right, tying her ravasaur mount loosely to a tree before she walked over.

Aiyaona’s ear flicked in the tell-tale sign that she’d heard the hunter’s approach, but she didn’t look up from what she was doing, which was picking the flowers. Draggka sat beside her, watching the tauren work in silence, and marvelling as she plucked the plants quickly and effortlessly, even though her fingers were much bigger than Draggka’s.

“Who sent you?” Aiyaona asked, after a while, her eyes still on her flowers.

“I heard from Harnie dat ya be more quiet den usual.” The troll replied gently, Spike wandering off to keep watch. “Dere be someting ya wanna talk about?”

The Sunwalker did not reply for a few moments, before she said:

“Do you ever feel like you are disappointing people?”

“Sometimes.” Draggka admitted. “I be makin’ some decisions dat I be wonderin’ if my parents would agree wit. What ya tinking of?”

Aiyaona stopped picking flowers, instead just staring at the bunch she had in her large hands.

“I don’t know why I’m part of the Silver Hand,” she said. “It was an Alliance organisation. I am Horde, a tauren. I am a Sunwalker. I don’t see why they recruited me.”

“Pretty sure it be havin’ someting to do wit ya being da best damn Sunwalker around.” Draggka said, raising an eyebrow.

“You say that when Dezco Dawnchaser still lives.” Aiyaona snorted. “Not only that, but I am a Grimtotem. I could not be further for their minds when looking for worthy recruits. I am only to fill the ranks.”

Draggka leaned back, eyeing the shining shield attached to the Sunwalker’s back, and the sheathed sword by her side.

“What about dat shield ya got on ya back? Be looking a mighty special one fer any old recruit to have,” she said, watching her friend’s face. The tauren didn’t look at her, staring at her hands. “Aiya, da Highlord wouldn’t be choosing jus’ any old recruits to be going to look for Truthguard. She be knowin’ ya as a part of our group. Ya took down Deathwing an’ Garrosh! We be clearing out Highmaul, da Blackrock Foundry, and we even be facin’ Archimonde down wit Khadgar an’ dem. She knows ya be a worthy Sunwalker.”

Draggka reached out, gently resting a hand on the tauren’s wrist. “An’ she might not be knowing ya as well as we be knowing ya, but ya be a fine Sunwalker. And a worthy match for da Silver Hand. Ya can’t stand injustice, and whilst ya never try to be starting da fights, ya always be da one to finish dem.” She smiled. “Dere be no other Sunwalker I trust to have my back in da middle of a fight, and I know deep in my bones dat you would lie ya life down for us at least twice over to be keeping us safe.”

She gently squeezed her wrist. “You be worthy, Aiya. Whatever ya tribe be, whatever colour ya fur be. We know dat. She knows dat. I know dat.”

The troll and tauren sat together for a long, silent moment. It was quiet aside from the odd breeze stirring the leaves, and the sound of birds in the canopy above. Spike was still wandering around behind them, just to make sure they weren’t jumped by the more unsavoury things lurking in Val’sharah’s shadows.

Aiyaona gave a long sigh, her ears drooping.

“I am sorry, Draggka.” She said softly.

“What for?”

“For worrying you and Harnaka.” She finally met the hunter’s eyes. “I am just finding it hard to believe that I have been given responsibilities higher than I have ever known. I am wielding a powerful artifact weapon, forged by the Titans themselves. I report to the Highlord herself. It is...daunting.”

“Now ya know how I were feeling when Khadgar an’ Go’el dumped Frostwall an’ Draenor’s campaign in my lap.” Draggka chuckled. “Ya going ‘what, no, I not be asking for dis! Take it back!’ At least ya not be havin’ all da responsibility I had back den. But, ya gotta take it by da reins. Dey be givin’ it to ya for a reason. ‘Cos dey be pretty sure you not gonna screw it all up, mostly.”

“I am very glad I was not chosen as the Highlord.” Aiyaona said. “I don’t know if I could have...shouldered that burden.”

“No.” The troll shook her head. “Tirion be leavin’ some very big boots to fill. I tink Camdyn be doin’ a good job of fillin’ dem, though she be her own Highlord. Better dat she be forging her own path den tryin’ live up to what he were.”

“No Sunwalker can outshine An’she.” The tauren agreed. Another brief silence settled over them.

“What were ya gonna do wit dose flowers you were pickin’?” Draggka asked curiously, leaning over for a better look.

“Oh.” Aiyaona peered down at them. “I don’t know. It was something to occupy my restless mind. But since you have soothed my worries, I...I have pulled them without needing too...” She trailed off, thick brows furrowing.

Draggka shifted over, looking at the collection she had, before her gaze shifted up to her friend...and her thick mane, braided into a long, equally thick pair of braids.

“Hey Aiya, ya ever thought ‘bout putting some of dose into ya hair?”

Chapter Text

In the jungles of Zuldazar, far away from the nearest settlement, and being accompanied by Archmage Khadgar was something Draggka would describe as pretty much perfect.

The mage may not have been as used to the environment as she was (she’d told him to modify his battle robes for a hot, humid climate and he appeared to have done nothing of the sort), but she enjoyed showing him all the wonders of the forest, especially when he first clapped eyes on a brutasaur. The troll was almost tempted to ask if she could scrape his jaw off the floor before a spider crawled into it.

Regardless, their jaunt through the jungle kept the outside world firmly at bay, exactly where the two wanted it to be.

They were strolling casually by some mighty trees festooned with huge and bright jungle flowers that would daunt even the most rotund bee, when Khadgar suddenly stopped, lifting his head as if he’d heard something. Draggka froze too, her ears twitching, but she couldn’t pick up anything that could be untoward. Spike too was now on alert, only the movement of his eyes stopping onlookers from thinking he’d become locked in time.

“Ba’la?” Draggka asked, her hand naturally moving to the bow on her back.

“Do you feel it?” He replied softly. “A storm is coming.”

The hunter blinked at him.

“A storm? How can ya tell?” She asked. “I thought dat be a shaman’s business.”

“It is mostly.” Khadgar nodded. “But the arcane shifts in accordance with the elements as well, and with it magi can essentially simulate its power, almost mimic it." He closed his eyes. “I used all of my power once to call a storm into being during the Second War, to try to stem the burning of Quel’Thalas’ forests. It drained me so badly and left me so useless afterwards I never tried again. I was needed too much to allow myself to return to that state again.” The mage’s eyes opened again as he frowned thoughtfully. “I do wonder if I would be as drained if I performed it now.”

He shook his head to dismiss the thought. “Anyway, we should get to cover before the heavens open.”

“Yeah, da rains in Zandalar be someting else.” Draggka chuckled. “Hmm. I tink dere be a cave to shelter in further up da hill. Hopefully it be empty, or we can be convincing its owners to leave.”

“I don’t mean to cause doubts on your skills, darling, but I’ve seen some of the wildlife here. I’m not sure they would be particularly intimidated by a human, a troll and her raptor companion.” Khadgar said as they set off.

“Dat be why I said ‘hopefully’. Otherwise it be getting messy.”

“Lovely.”

They didn’t manage to find a cave, but close to a stream tumbling down a hill, a tree’s roots had made an overhang big enough for the party to huddle under. Thunder rumbled fiercely overhead, and soon after, the soft plips of rain began to sound out as they fell into the stream, rapidly joined by the more substantial ‘plap’ of rain striking the leaves.

“Looks like we were just in time.” Khadgar commented, as the rainfall swiftly increased, filling the air with a loud hiss. “By the Light. That is...considerable.”

“It be like when da Great Rains come over Orgrimmar.” Draggka said, smiling. “‘Cept dese be more regular and tankfully not be as long.”

“This is a rainforest, and I have seen the size of the peaks around Dazar’alor, so it’s not surprising they get a lot of rainfall.” Khadgar nodded. “Being by the sea probably helps too.”

They said nothing for a long while, just standing and watching the rain fall in a loud cascade, running in rivulets down from the overhang the the branches of the surrounding trees into the stream below, which quickly swelled. It was no danger to them, but decades of this had worn away to produce the small ravine it ran through.

It was beautiful, a sight Draggka was more than grateful to be sharing with her lover. She’d often found shelter from Zandalar’s numerous rain storms, and found it calming to watch them as she dried off (or tried to, at least). It was a part of the world she loved so much, and it was also some snatch of...normality. She knew in her heart that Azeroth was dying and or struggling - the large necklace resting against her sternum was proof enough of that - yet seeing things like the rains coming, or the sun rising was enough to remind Draggka that hope wasn’t lost, and that she had something to fight for.

And that one day their child would see it too.

Khadgar looped his arm around her waist, and with a gentle tug, he turned her to face him, a warm, loving smile on his lips to match an equal adoration in his eyes that melted her heart.

“Ya not want to watch da rains?” She asked, her voice too soft to be teasing. The mage just smiled, leaning so their foreheads touched.

“I did, but I’ve become distracted by the greater beauty at my side.” He murmured, hand lifting to cup her cheek. “I don’t know which of your many Loa brought you to my side, but I’d serve them a thousand years in gratitude.”

“Ya be careful, dey might tink ya be makin’ a deal.” Draggka chuckled.

“I can live with that, so long as I have you.” The archmage replied, leaning forward. “Ba’la.”

The hunter’s heart skipped a beat at the Zandali word for ‘beloved’, and she beamed with delight as he closed the gap between them, kissing her softly and deeply.

It was completely, utterly perfect.

Chapter Text

Thas’dorah was an incredible bow. Not least because it was a heirloom of the legendary Windrunner family, once held by Alleria Windrunner until her disappearance, but because it seemed to have its own energies and power.

Draggka had brought it to Archmage Khadgar, knowing her lover’s friendship with the high elf, although with it the sparse news about her. He’d attempted to scry for her, and in doing so, discovered that the bow appeared to be drawing in energy; apparently a property of the wood it had been carved from.

The hunter wondered if that was why it had been in such good condition when she and Vareesa had found it in Niskara. Perhaps it had drawn in the power of the Nether and Fel to keep itself in prime condition. Whatever it was, it had kept the bow so well that the troll had not needed to spare too much time varnishing it and restringing it.

After that, and finding a friendly magi who bestowed an arrow-creating enchanting on Thas’dorah’s quiver, Draggka had gone back to Trueshot Lodge to practice with her new weapon.

She had a feeling that many people believed that bows were easy weapons, just a bendy stick with string attached, and all you had to do was pull the string back with an arrow on it and let go. Some with more knowledge knew bows were classed by range, but they still believed that bows were still simple.

The troll had grown up with bows and from a young age had been taught to shoot and basic maintenance for them, and they were anything but simple. Every bow, even inside their own range-class was different. They had different draw strengths, for one, and getting used to pulling a certain bow to its full draw quickly and reliably was something that took hours of practice. And that was when Draggka was standing still and upright. It would take many, many more hours for her to practise the other scenarios she encountered out in the field.

And these were the trials she was putting Thas’dorah through. Even with the Legion invading, Draggka dared not skimp on her discipline. Thas’dorah would need to be as much a part of the hunter as the tusks jutting from her mouth, much like the ones who used firearms trained.

The troll had used guns once or twice, and she saw the appeal. She’d built a few, and took some apart as part of her engineer training, but they felt far too clinical. Too removed. Same went for crossbows too. No, Draggka preferred her bows. They were visceral, and demanded effort from their wielder to use, unlike the crossbow and gun which was more point and shoot (a part of their understandable allure to others). That and they were mostly silent helped.

But good gun hunters had undeniable discipline with their weapons; they had to, to avoid serious injury or even death, and Draggka had admired that. She already had fair discipline with her bows due to her upbringing and training, but their ethic fuelled hers.

Yet the bow was…strange. Sometimes it made Draggka feel light, like her movements were made effortlessly, like the wind was nothing to her. And it seemed to gel to her quickly, almost too quickly. Its accuracy unerringly perfect; Draggka was a very good marksman, yet some shots she expected to go wide hit dead on the mark, as if the bow was compensating for her somehow. And her arcane shots packed more of a punch than the troll remembered them having.

Or maybe that was because she was spending so much time with a mage that his power was rubbing off on her. The hunter pushed the thought away, and went back to her training, moving from standing shots to ones on the move. Spike acted as a distraction, darting in front of her and playfully snapping at her, forcing her to dodge around him to hit her target. Her arrows were deliberately blunted to prevent him getting hurt, though the hunter was very good at at shooting around him.

And the eerie accuracy of Thas’dorah was certainly helping too.

The training went on for what felt like hours, but when Draggka finally sat down for a drink and a rest, she felt confident that Thas’dorah would serve her very well. It could shoot at tremendous distances, and was strong enough it didn’t feel like it would give way at the slightest rough treatment in a melee.

“I can see why you were so favoured.” She murmured to herself, before a wry smile spread across her face. A bow of the high elves, used to slay countless forest trolls, was now in the hands of a jungle troll. “How ironic.” Draggka murmured. “Let’s just hope Khadgar can convince Alleria to forgive me, if she ever comes back.”

Chapter Text

“Khadgar! It is good to see you.” Anduin said. The archmage bowed to him, taking the proffered hand to shake.

“You too, your Majesty,” he said. “It has been a long time since the King of Stormwind set foot in Dalaran. If you don’t count your father after he…abdicated, of course.”

“Well, he didn’t exactly come on a royal visit.” Anduin admitted, sharing the sad smile on Khadgar’s face, and noting the hollowness in the archmage’s eyes. How old was he now, fifty? He would soon match his outward appearance. “Although, neither is this. Has the Warchief already arrived?”

“Not yet.” Khadgar replied, gesturing for the King to follow him. “But she will be here soon. I decided upon the gardens as it is a fair distance away from both enclaves, unlike Krasus’s Landing, which shares a wall with the Horde district.”

“As you said in your correspondence.” Anduin said, glancing back at his small retinue of guards. “I confess, Khadgar, I’m not exactly confident in this. Sylvanas was ousted from power and delivered to the Alliance for judgement, but the Horde has committed grievous crimes, and we have no information as to who has taken the throne. My spies have only reported rumours or…not reported in at all.”

“I understand your misgivings, especially with your spies suddenly going silent. But considering she bargained for peace, and handed the Banshee Queen and what remained of her…’Prince’ over, I would presume it’s a good start to peaceful negotiations.” The mage commented. “That and her suggestion to meet on neutral territory.”

“Yes. It is a show of good faith…” He eyed Khadgar suspiciously. “You seem to know an awful lot about this mysterious new Warchief. Too much.”

The archmage just smiled knowingly, blue eyes sparkling.

“We all have our secrets, your Highness. And our sources.” Before the young king could ask more, Khadgar seemed to freeze, his eyes focusing on something Anduin could not see. They seemed to glow slightly, as did what appeared to be runes inscribed on the mage’s collar that he hadn’t noticed before. Had they always been there? “She’s here. A moment, please.”

The older man vanished in a flash of arcane magic, leaving Anduin feeling he was missing a big piece of the puzzle. Khadgar was clearly sitting on something, but for all the mage’s habit of being reckless and eccentric, he wouldn’t do anything to put Anduin in true danger. He trusted him.

Anduin closed his eyes and murmured a soft prayer to the Light. It hadn’t steered him wrong yet, and it didn’t feel like it was changing its pattern this time.

The sound of footsteps made him open his eyes to see Khadgar leading the Horde party into the gardens. It consisted only of a retinue of guards, mirroring what had been agreed in the letter, and Anduin noted they seemed to be almost entirely female, representing every race in the Horde (including, surprisingly, a Forsaken caster).

It was only when they came to stop in front of him (Khadgar moving to the side respectfully), did Anduin finally get a look at the Horde’s new Warchief. She was a female troll, shorter than her other compatriots, but she still carried herself with their same pride, dressed in what had to be formal wear for her race, similar to what he’d heard the Zandalari described as wearing. It was a dress that seemed quite bulky, masking the shape of the troll’s body underneath, decorated with gold filigree and abstract images of what had to be her Loa.

Her bright red hair was worn up in a mohawk, with four braids hanging down over her braids, decorated with black raven feathers, whilst her ears were pierced with a pair of gold rings each, and the right nostril of her nose also had a ring in it, a gold chain linking it to one of her earrings. At her side was a large red raptor with intelligent blue eyes, who regarded Anduin calmly, despite its hide been covered in scars.

The troll’s orange eyes met Anduin’s blue, and a memory stirred. She seemed familiar, and he was sworn he’d seen her before. Known her, even. What was her name…

She smiled at him, a small, but earnest one.

“Ya look well, Ya Majesty,” she said in her Zandali accent, and it clicked.

Draggka?” Anduin said incredulously. “You’re the Warchief of the Horde now?”

“Dat be me.” Draggka replied, bowing her head slightly.

Anduin give Khadgar a look, all the pieces falling into place.

“You knew it was her all along.”

“Yes. I’m sorry Anduin, but I was in no position to let you know.” Khadgar said, looking genuinely abashed. “Regardless of my neutrality, most in the Horde see me as an Alliance hero, and with my mate now as Warchief, there were concerns that I was going be a…’malign’ influence. In order to allay their concerns, I had to pretend to be as clueless about the Horde’s new leadership as you. I am also as far divorced from their affairs as possible, unable to influence anything aside from offering the Warchief advice.” A smile played on his lips. “As far as the Horde views me, I am the Warchief’s consort. No more.”

Anduin looked back to Draggka.

“When I returned Saurfang to the Horde, I did not expect the result to be…this. How did you end up here?”

“I be sufferin’ through Garrosh. I were not gonna let myself be a pawn of Sylvanas. Not when Azeroth be dying.” Draggka replied. “Da Horde I believe in be worth fighting for, so I did. It not be my idea to be takin’ power at first. But afta talkin’ wit Saurfang and de others…” She took a breath. “I be havin’ da best chance of turnin’ da Horde in da right direction, witout Go’el.”

“I see.” Anduin nodded, his face grave. “You do understand the Horde has to suffer consequences for what happened in the War though, don’t you?”

“I be painfully aware.” Draggka sighed. “It be difficult to be makin’ up fer da Burning of Teldrassil. Even if we handed ya da agents of its destruction, we still be on da hook for it.”

“Yes, but the Alliance appreciates the gesture in you handing her over to us.” He glanced to Khadgar again. “I assume her method of imprisonment was your doing?”

“I suggested the use of an arcane prison.” The archmage said, lifting a shoulder. “But it was the sin’dorei who provided the means. I only offer advice, remember.”

“I be more den willing to talk peace wit ya Anduin because I trust ya to be fair.” Draggka spoke. “But ya need to know, we already be badly drained. Da war be taking a lot outta us, even wit da Zandalari allying wit us. We be takin’ out Sylvanas an’ her support base quickly, but da consequences be gutting us. Lotta people be turning on Sylvanas, but dere be a good section of da Forsaken loyal to dere Queen.”

“I can imagine.” Anduin sighed softly. “How many remain now?”

“Few.” Draggka nodded to the woman in her ranks, who bowed her head. “Da last val’kyr be slain before we took Sylvanas, so da Forsaken now be da last of da last. Dose dat have accepted dat have stayed. De others…be dead or banished.”

“I see.” Anduin’s mind lingered on Calia for a few moments, but he dismissed it. He had a rapport with Draggka, and didn’t want to damage it so early. He’d made that mistake once before. “Perhaps we should go somewhere else, if we are to discuss the details of peace agreements.”

“Dat be fair.” Draggka nodded, turning her head to Khadgar.

“Very well. The Council Chambers should be free at this time, so I’ll open a portal there.” Khadgar said, weaving his magic. “Assuming you two will want to sit down to talk?”

“If da King of de Alliance doesn’t mind, I be needing to sit. Da fight wit Sylvanas an’ her Princeling be leaving me wit some wounds.” The troll said, her hand self-consciously moving to her stomach.

“That sounds fine to me.” Anduin nodded. “I will need the full explanation of what’s happened to the Horde, and I have a feeling this will take some time…”

Chapter Text

Warmth. That was the first thing Draggka noticed as she slowly rose from the mire of unconsciousness. She was warm. Safe. Alive.

With those basics ascertained, her mind began to slowly unravel, taking in more information as her senses reawakened. The warmth surrounding her, thick and soft and furry, mingling with her own fur. She could hear a deep, strong heartbeat under her ear, comforting and soothing, along with  breathing in and out. It lived, and it was big, to have encircled almost all of her body. It smelled familiar…like leaves and moss and that scent of slightly damp animal, with something else Draggka couldn’t easily describe, but it put her at ease.

Awareness was beginning to percolate further into her mind, and she began to recall what had happened to her. Frostfire Ridge, news of a new outpost to the north, a storm…Cold, unbearably cold, unable to find the way, whirling white all around, Spike falling in the snow. Holding him tight, the sounds of rescue? Spike.

Spike!

Wakefulness came back to her full force as Draggka remembered her pack-brother freezing to death in the snowy wilds, and she began to move, opening her eyes to darkness.

“Drak. Drak, it’s okay, you’re safe.” The deep voice above her rumbled, and Draggka stopped.

“Dranka?”

The hunter looked up into the eyes of a bear - no ordinary bear, however, with light blue fur, patterned with paint, a red mane and a pair of large tusks jutting from his mouth. His brown eyes were immediately familiar, always carried over when the druid transformed.

“Dranka, where’s Spike? He-”

“He’s safe, sis.” He rumbled. “He’s here, Harnaka’s busy taking care of him.” His jowls moved in what appeared to be a smile. “Sorry. There’s not enough room to hold the both of you.”

“I need to see.” Draggka finally freed herself from her brother’s grip and out from under the fur blanket covering them, looking up over him.

They were in a room of the garrison keep, converted into a large bedroom, with the fireplace blazing brightly. On the floor by it was Spike, covered in thick fur blankets and warmed by the totems placed beside him, as well by the orc shaman sitting beside him, gently rubbing his sides. She turned around at the sound of movement, her orange eyes widening.

“Draggka! You’re alive!” Harnaka spoke.

“Spike! Is he-”

At the sound of his pack-sister calling his name, one of the raptor’s blue eyes opened. He took a moment to take stock of his new surroundings, before he uttered a wheezy noise, trying to climb to his feet.

“Oh no no, not yet! You stay there.” Harnaka said, holding him down. “You’re still weak. The both of you. If we hadn’t have gotten to you when we did…” She trailed off, shaking her head. “Spirits Draggka, we were worried you wouldn’t make it through the night.”

A wave of relief washed over Draggka first, and she let her brother pull her back down into his arms and under the blanket again. She was a live and so was Spike. But they’d had a narrow escape; they could have easily been on the Other Side long by now. The sudden upwelling of emotion had her wrapping her arms tightly around Dranka’s thick neck, returned by his own bear hug.

“Gonk’s teeth, Drak, I thought I’d lost you.” Dranka said, his voice heavy and wavering. “Please don’t do that to me again.”

“I’m sorry, Drank.” She replied, tears burning hot against her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

They stayed like this for a couple of minutes, until Draggka pulled back, a thought occurring to her.

“How…how did you find me?” She asked, wiping her eyes and looking between her brother and her friend.

“Khadgar.” Harnaka replied. “We didn’t realize you were caught up in the storm until he arrived. He said he’d had a premonition that you were in danger in the middle of it all.”

“We thought he be joking at first, but it be clear dat he not be playing around when he be askin’ fer items to scry for ya.” Dranka said. “We be lucky de armourer still be having ya old cuirass, and he be using dat to locate ya.” he bowed his head. “If not for his warning, we wouldn’t have found ya in time.”

Draggka laid back, letting all this information sink in. She knew that magi did have some ability to divine the future, but she’d never expected that ability would save her life.

“Is he still here?” She asked.

“It was difficult to get him to leave you after the search team found you.” Harnaka smirked, before she chuckled. “I had to remind him that we’d need to strip you out of your wet clothes to warm you up again to get to back off and let us work.”

“I don’t mind.” Dranka said, beginning to transform back to his troll form. “He be dere for you when I weren’t. And he be calmer when he saw me. He were pacing a groove in da rock when I be last seeing him, though.” He set a paw-hand on his sister’s shoulder as she sat up. “But he don’t need to be seeing ya right now. Unless ya be wanting him to see ya in jus’ ya pants and bra.”

That was the moment Draggka belatedly realized her state of undress; necessary before, but now it was just an embarrassment waiting to happen. She blushed, pulling the blanket self-consciously around her.

“A-Ah, yeah. Harn, ya got a clean shirt or anyting?” She asked.

“Of course. And some trousers too.” The orc threw the items of clothing onto the bed. “We’ll get you your proper stuff in a while, when the both of you have recovered some more.”

“I feel better now.” Draggka said, pulling them on.

“You might be a troll, but need I remind you that you almost died.” Harnaka commented, giving the hunter a stern look.

“I be wit her.” Dranka agreed, slipping out of the bed now he was fully troll. “Afta dat scare, ya gonna be confined to barracks for a little bit. And I bet Khadgar would agree with us.”

Draggka snorted.

“Okay, fine. But I’m gonna be bored sick.”

“Consider that a lesson in ‘don’t go out in blizzard season without people knowing where you are, or without a Frostwolf escort’.” The shaman replied, glancing over to the druid, who nodded, before slipping out the door.

“Yeah. Sorry, Harn, I thought dat I were gonna be somewhere safe in time.” Draggka sighed. “Ya right, dose plains be needing an escort.”

The door opened again, and a familiar human archmage stepped through, closing it behind him. There were dark rings around his eyes as if he hadn’t slept, his grey hair ruffled by constant abuse from his hands. But his blue eyes brightened as he took sight of her sitting up in the bed.

“Draggka! You’re alive!” He breathed, hurrying over to her.

“Yeah. Don’t tink I woulda been if not fer you and ya…vision,” she said, embarrassment prickling at the back of her neck.

Khadgar glanced away, an uncomfortable expression on his face.

“I…I couldn’t let you suffer. Or anyone, for that matter. No-one deserves to freeze like that,” he said softly. “I’m only grateful they managed to reach you in time.”

“Me too.” Draggka nodded. “How did ya know? Was it-”

“I was busy trying to divine Gul’dan's next move.” Khadgar said suddenly, interrupting her. “But I-I got the sight of you in trouble instead, and I knew I had to aid you. Divination is a fickle thing, and it is rare it gives anything for free. I had to respond to it.”

“I be glad dat it be so generous to warn ya.” The troll replied.

“Yes. Me too.” Khadgar nodded, turning to Harnaka. “Shaman, how long do you give our Commander before she is up and about again?”

“Being that she’s a troll and also Draggka, she’ll be itching to go tomorrow.” Harnaka said, folding her muscled arms. “But I think a day’s rest will be required. Especially for Spike here.” She gestured to the raptor. “Just to make sure they’re fully recovered from their ordeal.”

“A wise course of action.” The mage nodded. “Sorry, your name escapes me. You are?”

“Harnaka Fireforge.” The orc grinned. “I know you well enough, Archmage.”

“Yes. My reputation precedes me.” He replied, smiling back. He looked back to Draggka, his gaze lingering on her before he said: “Right, okay. I should let you get on. I’ve been under your feet long enough.”

“Ya saved my sista.” Dranka said suddenly from the doorway. “Ya be welcome here any time.”

“And my closest friend.” Harnaka added. “I can’t speak to Draggka or the others, but you’re welcome in Frostwall any time.”

“Thank you. I’m honoured.” Khadgar bowed. “I hope to see you on your feet soon, Draggka. Along with your companion,” he said, nodding to Spike.

“See ya soon, Archmage.” Draggka replied. “Good hunting.”

“You too.” The young old man nodded, before he gestured, teleporting away in a flash of arcane magic.

“Hopefully he be getting some sleep.” Dranka said, loping casually over to his sister. “Looks like he were up all night worrying.”

“And you weren’t?” The shaman shot back.

“Fair. But, Draggka be my sista. And I don’t be havin’ anyone else,” he said. “Khadgar just be…someone we know.”

“He cares for da people he be working wit.” Draggka said as her brother sat beside her. “I appreciate dat.”

“Yeah, so do I. We be lucky he likes us.” The druid seemed to consider whether to say something more before he dismissed it, wrapping his arms around the hunter. “Glad you’re still with us, Drak.”

“Glad to still be here, Dank.” Draggka hugged him tightly back.

Chapter Text

The beams of sunlight sneaking under the curtains were what woke Draggka from her slumber. She huffed a soft grunt, turning her head and slowly opening her orange eyes. All was quiet, save for the soft breathing of the raptor on the floor beside her side of the bed, and from the figure she shared said bed with.

Draggka turned her head to look at Khadgar, still fast asleep, uttering soft little wheezing snores as he lay on his back. He was the picture of peace, the lines on his face smoothed, hair ruffled by his movements during the night. He was gorgeous, so handsome Draggka wanted to cup his face and kiss him softly until he awoke, and she’d see those tired blue eyes light up with joy when he saw her for the first time in the morning.

But he needed his sleep, and he slumbered the most soundly by her side, though he did try to burn the midnight oil a couple of times. Luckily Draggka could literally put the drowsy mage to bed if need be, and despite his protests, he’d usually be too tired to give a robust defence. That and he did like it when she picked him up.

As a hunter, Draggka was used to getting up as soon she woke, and it was only with Khadgar and the room offered her that the troll learned about sleepy mornings in. Mornings where you were so warm and comfy, and nothing was urgent, so you just rolled over and went back to sleep. It had taken some getting used to, but it was easier when you had someone like Khadgar to nestle into. He was warm, soft, and being wrapped up in his arms was probably what paradise felt like.

Today was a lazy morning. Today she was going to while away her time by admiring her lover as he slept, and marvel at how much she loved this human archmage.

Said archmage made a grunting noise, rolling over and tucking the troll close into his body, burying his face into her crimson hair.

“Good morning, Ba’la.” Draggka said softly into his chest, and she felt his lips curve into a smile against her.

“Good morning, darling.” He replied, voice thick with sleep. He didn’t make any moves after that, and she gently untucked her head to look at him properly. She was greeted by his eyes opening, warm with his smile. “We don’t have to be anywhere, do we?”

“No.” She smiled, ignoring the part of her mind pointing out that Spike would need to go out at some time. “We can be staying here, where we belong.”

“A fine plan.” Khadgar murmured, curling himself around her. “Probably the best you’ve ever had, Huntmaster.”

“Mmhmm.” She hummed, raising an eyebrow.

“Second best then. After your idea to fall in love with me.”

The hunter chuckled.

“Dat not be someting I be havin’ any control over, Khadgar,” she said. “Not dat I be changing de outcome of it either way.”

His eyes opened again, bright and alert.

“You really mean that?” He asked.

“Course I do.” Draggka nodded. “I not be denying some of da tings I- we be going through to get here be hard an’ painful. But I be happy to go through dem all again for you.”

Khadgar smiled, big and broad.

“Oh Draggka, I feel just the same. All the trials and tribulations were worth it for you.”

With that, he pulled her close, kissing her deeply. Their breaths were stale with sleep, but that didn’t matter when they were in each others arms, their lips pressed together. It took what felt like a good minute or so before they pulled away, with Khadgar thickly murmuring:

“I love you.”

“I love ya too.” Draggka replied, her heart swelling with pride and affection.

Until there was a grunt-hiss from the bottom of the bed. They glanced over to see Spike standing there, a devious look in his eyes.

“Spike, I know what ya be tinking. No.” The hunter said. The raptor tilted his head, his backside wiggling as he sized up his jump. “No. Spike! No! No! Spike!”

He didn’t heed her (and Khadgar’s) protestations, and he hopped up onto the bed with the gracefulness of a falling brick.

“What did I say about raptors on the bed?” Khadgar said sternly at the beast. “Bad raptor. Down. Get off!”

Spike continued to smugly ignore them, clambering clumsily up the bed until he was on top of them, before he huffed loudly, plonking himself down on them like a giant scaly cat.

“I don’t believe this.” Khadgar groaned. Draggka merely sighed.

“Sorry, Archmage. Ya want me, ya get da raptor too.”

“So I see,” he said, before sighing himself. “This is my life now, isn’t it?”

“Pretty much.” The troll nodded.

“I thought as much.” The mage eyed Spike, who was looking back at him at him as innocently as he could manage (which wasn’t much). “I’m still not allowing raptors on the bed.” The raptor blinked widely at him. “You can stay for now, but next time I’m going to teleport you back onto the floor.”

Spike turned his big eyes on his companion.

“No, I agree wit him. Ya too big to be getting in bed wit us.” Draggka replied. Spike huffed and thumped his head down away from them to sulk. The troll looked back at the mage. “Ya reconsidering?”

Khadgar chuckled, a sound coming from deep in his throat.

“No, my dear. Not at all.”