I still have to get this approved by my good pal T. Mirai who owns Nok, but I come here to get my grammar and sentence structure checked Apart from when Collins is speaking Orcish, because he’s far from fluent. That’s supposed to be lightly messed up.
Should probably mention that this fic contains mentions of drugs in a jolly sense, which I believe is a first ever for my stories. Goshdarn trolls. Also contains a finally fully revealed mancrush, gasp and HORROR. No! I will NOT think of the children! :mwahaha:
This takes place during the last chapter of Diplomacy.
It didn’t look like the headquarters of an organization of elite rogues answering only to the Warchief and Vol’jin. The house he was led into looked no different from most other orc huts he had seen, although it was close to Grommash Hold and there were many orcs and trolls dressed in black leather bending over tables covered with maps, discussing in low voices.
But then, Collins highly suspected that very few people ever got to see the real headquarters of the Shadows of Orgrimmar, and certainly not some upstart human temporarily imported from Theramore.
Lady Proudmoore had been very efficient with teleporting them to Orgrimmar, leaving him with a Kor’kron Elite and then hurrying off with the Warchief to make their final preparations for the morning ceremony. From there Collins had been handed off to a female orc rogue, who silently led him to this house.
There were no Forsaken in sight, for which he had mentally prepared himself. He relaxed only a fraction at the lack of undead.
He pulled off his leather helmet as a small group of rogues left one of the tables and came towards him and his guide, led by a lanky troll. Nobody else even turned their heads, but even if they kept talking they were definitely listening in.
“Ya da guard da Ladeh Proudmoore sent?” the lead troll asked in accented Common. He sounded unimpressed, but his gaze weighed the small man before him.
“Collins Reed,” Collins said. He touched his fist to his chest. It was not a full orcish salute since he didn’t put enough force behind it, but it was a diplomatic gesture. “I will follow the directions I am given while I am here.”
“Ya one of da emissary Sodstone’s guards,” the troll said. It wasn’t really a question. The information they could get about him was limited, but there were some readily available base facts.
None of the orcs snickered at the mispronunciation of Thomas’ last name, but they probably laughed internally. Collins ignored it, though he suspected that unlike Vo’don, this troll knew how silly it turned out.
“I be that, and I sure ya know I talk Orcish,” Collins replied in an even tone, and that language. He could speak Orcish a little better than what his odd word choice and heavy accent relied. But they were all rogues here, and rogues don’t share personal information that freely. While he was rusty from not getting to use his language skills as often as he once did, he could do better. They didn’t need to know that.
The troll only grunted in reply, but switched languages as well as he spoke again.
“I’m sendin’ ya off with two guards,” he said, and a male orc from the group stepped forwards, moving up beside the orc female who had brought Collins in the first place. The sliver of an unfriendly smile touched the troll’s lips. “Not everyone gonna know dat ya be here with da Warchief’s blessing.”
“I appreciating it,” Collins replied, his voice neutral.
“An’ don’t be too eager to use all ya daggers, mon.” The troll’s tone made it very clear that he knew about at least most of them.
“They just in case.”
A troll mage emerged from the second floor and walked down the stairs. Barely a minute later, Collins followed his two guides through a portal and emerged in a troll styled hut set on a lake surrounded by orange cliffs. People were already gathering on the shores, but the two orcs led him away from the crowd, to the far end of the lake.
Collins pulled up his black face mask, smiling wryly underneath the cloth. They really just wanted him out of the way.
“We’ll be close by,” the male orc said, he and his companion turning around towards Collins. “Don’t stray too far away.”
They stepped forwards and disappeared in a blur. For a moment Collins looked in the way they had disappeared, then shrugged and moved his feet further apart. Breathing out slowly, he focused his will and slipped into the Shadows. The world shifted around him, darkening and weaving intricate, wispy patterns.
The ceremony was starting. He could hear the drums beat, growing closer and closer. Minutes passed, and the beat echoed between the cliffs before it suddenly came to a halt. The distant crowd was dead silent.
Lady Proudmoore’s voice rang out, taking up the space that the drums had left behind. From here, Collins couldn’t hear the words, but he knew the gist of the event.
Though Collins knew Thomas had been a bit envious that his friend would be there, both of them had been aware that he probably wouldn’t be able to see much. He hadn’t expected to be sent this far away, though. He stayed where he was, until the cheering from the other side of the lake told him that the ceremony was reaching its end. Then he started moving, slowly. No real plan about it, his “guards” ought to come and pick him up any minute now. He just enjoyed the strange fact that he was slipping through the Shadows inside of the Horde capital. Who would have thought?
He crept alongside the cliff wall, ducking into any shadow that could be found to better cloak him. He could vaguely feel the heat of the rocks, reflected from the early morning sunlight, and he knew they were a sunset orange color, but the world of the Shadows was very different from the world he normally dwelled in. Everything looked as if it was made out of ethereal, transparent substance that might shatter at a touch.
He felt safe here. There was an urge to stay forever – it wouldn’t be lonely. There was life here, and a presence he couldn’t grasp but knew well enough not to fear. Feel a deep, healthy awe and respect for, but not fear. Not after the first shivering, long moments of their first and only meeting.
But that safety, and that world, was not for him alone.
And that made it less safe than it might feel.
A huge, three-fingered hand in a dark glove closed in an iron grip around his arm.
“Ya be far away from home, mon,” a deep voice growled behind him, smirk lacing the words.
Collins struck like a viper, instead of immediately trying to dart away and tear himself free instead elbowing his capturer in the stomach as hard as he could. There was the resistance of leather armor, but an “ouff!” and a loosened grip rewarded him. He wrenched free as he leaped sideways, rolling to his feet in a crouch and drawing two of his daggers. The shadowy world shattered around him and his attacker, colors sweeping in and filling his sight.
“Big men like ya should pick on some people their own size, if you don’t like evil surprises,” Collins growled back.
The troll crouched too, green eyes glinting above the black mask covering most of his face. Dark tattoos encircled those eyes, making them seem even more wicked. He moved his feet further apart, and though his mask hid his grinning, it showed in his gaze. Dark leather armor protected his body and long limbs – only his ears and the little visible, untattooed area above the mask revealed that his fur had an unusual, violet color.
One look at him was enough to tell he was yet another rouge. Collins, of course, was no stranger to how rogues fought. Unfortunately, being a troll the opponent was at least twice the human’s size.
“Aww,” the troll cooed, mockingly as he eyed the small man before him, “a cute thing like ya can’t be wicked.”
“Oh, I sure you love to find out.” Collins moved one foot behind the other, preparing to spring.
“Mmh, yeah.” The troll’s eyelids lowered slightly. “I luv squishy leedle things.”
“Just my luck.”
The troll hoarsely chuckled at that last retort and started moving sideways. Collins mirrored him, cautiously. They were in a fairly closed off corner by the lake, but he was still in not very friendly territory and this didn’t look that good. If somebody else noticed and decided to join in, he wouldn’t stand a chance.
Was his escort enjoying the show, or had they stopped watching at some point? No time to dwell on that, as they would have acted by now if they cared.
He wouldn’t stand a chance if the troll struck first and hit, either. Collins feinted to the left and leaped through the world of Shadows, in the blink of an eye reappearing behind the troll and slicing upwards with one dagger. He hit only air, the troll already gone through the Shadows himself. But the large, lanky form blazed back into existence only to smack his palm into Collins’ chest, knocking the air out of his lungs and sending him stumbling back. He lost his balance. The dagger in his left hand flew from his grip and clattered over the hard shore, to be lazily lapped by the water. Collins on the other hand crashed into the lake with a splash. It was too shallow to get his face underwater even if he landed on his back, but deep enough to slow him down as he tried to roll aside to avoid the next blow.
In the water, he couldn’t be fast enough. The troll’s feet landed on either side of his legs, splashing water all the way up to his chest, and that same three fingered hand clapped down on Collins’ throat, trapping him. The other hand caught the human’s right wrist, seizing the hand that had managed to keep hold of his dagger.
Collins snapped for breath, struggling to get air into his aching lungs through the wet mask. In the next moment the troll let go of his throat only to pull the cloth mask away from Collins’ face. He squinted and grimaced as his much bigger opponent leant in closer. The long, thick curves of the troll’s tusks brushed against the human’s cheeks, framing and trapping his head.
“I win,” the troll hissed, the sun behind him turning him into a pitch black silhouette.
The hand holding Collins’ wrist twitched, and the human suddenly grinned as the troll blinked and glanced towards his arm.
“Nuh-uh,” Collins said and lifted his free, dripping arm from the water to point at a thin, bleeding gash between two pieces of leather armor by the troll’s elbow. “You’re dead.”
The troll quirked an eyebrow.
“I could still have time to break ya neck, even if ya poisoned me,” he said.
“If you be twisting in pain I could kick ya in the stomach an’ get away while ya be off balance,” Collins replied.
“I’ve got high pain tolerance, mon.”
“Yeah, but it make it easier fo’ me to put up a better fight even from down here.”
The troll bent down the last little bit until the tips of their noses touched – sun burned pink and still mask covered violet, furry.
“How about I put mah last strength inta flippin’ ya on ya stomach and then crash on ya while da poison kills me. Den ya drown.”
They watched each other for another second, and then burst out laughing.
“I need making friends with people who can say hello normally,” Collins said, though grinning cheerfully, as the troll sat back and hauled the human up to sitting. “Hang on, lemme fix that numbing drug.”
The troll tugged down his own mask, smiling wide so that all his sharp teeth showed.
“Yeah, I’d appreciate dat. Mah arm’s startin’ ta feel as soft as you, Squishy.”
Letting out a “pff!” Collins shoved at Nok’kai of the Shadows’ chest. The troll shoved back, though much lighter lest he’d push Collins back into the water, and then went to taking off his gauntlet. To do so, he had to lift the wounded arm up and hang it over his knee with the still responsive hand.
“Dis stuff works damn fast,” he commented.
“Yeah, but it not spreading far, not worry.”
Collins fished out a soaked piece of cloth from a pocket, and a vial of clear liquid from another. He swiftly wrung and shook the cloth before dripping the antidote on it, then went on to dab his troll friend’s wound. It was already starting to close, only just deep enough to draw blood.
“I not running around with real poison for guard duty here,” Collins commented as he put the cloth aside and started to massage the big purple arm to help it come alive again quicker, starting around the cut and working his way down towards the wrist. “Just something ta end trouble if a big bad Nok saw me.” He inclined his head towards the sitting troll and gazed at him through his eyelashes, doing a good job looking stupidly innocent.
“Ratha’ me dan any o’ dem really big bad stab-happy fools, eh?” Nok said, grinning with a both amused and soft edge to it as he watched Collins rub his arm. His thick fingers twitched when he tried to move them, not recovered yet. He used his good hand to swiftly pull Collins’ helm off and ruffle the sand blond hair. Or rather move it around since most of it was pasted to Collins’ skull because of the water. “It’d be such a pain ta clean ‘em up aftah ya got done with ‘em.”
Collins chuckled, and for a moment a cold, cruel expression passed over his features. Then it was gone, and he took one of Nok’s fingers between both his thumbs and pointing fingers to massage it.
“Well, ya knew I be here, no?” Collins said with a slanted smirk.
“Yup.” Nok grinned at his little friend, then waved at their surroundings. “Gotta say dis is a bit far off if ya were gonna protect da Ladeh Proudmoore, tho.”
Collins tch-ed and shook his head.
“Ya boss sent me out here,” he said. “Didn’t want me gettin’ in da way.”
“Yeah, he can be an ass like dat,” Nok said with a huff. Then he smiled. “Tho’, he did tell me where ya were.”
“An’ ya stepped up ta make sure ya Squishy didn’a get inta trouble. Aww,” Collins cooed.
“A’course!” Nok said, grinning wider. “Ah, an’ now ya startin’ ta sound right again.”
Even though he knew it always happened after a while, Collins himself didn’t think much on how his Orcish bit by bit changed the longer he talked – from a bit stilted to much more relaxed. And speaking with a troll only made it happen quicker.
“I be a bit rusty these days,” he said with a shrug, then chuckled. “Yanno, last time I came with Thomas ta one’a da meetin’s with orcs, one’a dem asked me later why da hell I have a troll accent.”
“Ooh, what did ya tell ‘em?”
“I said ‘I got no idea whacha talkin’ about, mon’,” Collins replied, imitating the same innocent look he’d given the orc representative that had asked him.
It was definitely there, even though that tint wasn’t in all the words he pronounced. Most of what he said came out with a mix of a Common and troll accent.
Nok laughed out loud and slapped his knee, unsettling the wounded arm so that it fell into the water, out of Collins’ grip. He managed to lift it back up on its own this time, although sluggishly.
“Ah mon, he couldn’a let ya go aftah dat!” Nok said, grinning.
“Naw, then I said da goblin dat taught me had an accent too from learning Orcish from trolls. Da truth raises waaay too many new questions.”
“Aw, ya oughta say ya were kept as a slave by wicked trolls. Much mo’ exciting.”
“Dat true. An’ not that big lie, eh? You be pretty wicked, Big Man.”
“I am, I am.”
Laughing, Nok slung his good arm around Collins’ shoulders and lightly pulled at him.
It was pure coincidence that they met, one day in the sweltering heat of Booty Bay – and really, it was all Vo’don’s fault when it came down to it, since Collins knew him enough to recognize him, if not the violet-furred troll rogue walking beside him on that day.
Some people’s personalities simply fit together and then those people get along wonderfully, no matter what race they belong to. Especially if they find themselves having a common cause – in Nok and Collins’ case, it was the cause of “hunting down those bastard night elves and humans who wanted to execute my best friend and his companions.” Thomas might not be the vengeful sort and be satisfied with leaving the unpleasant affair behind as he, Vo’don and the others had made it out alive.
Collins, on the other hand, was not as forgiving. Neither was Nok. So they naturally got along swimmingly. The fact that they cooperated was the prime reason they found the vigilantes in the end, too, as Nok could get reports from Grom’gol, and Collins could walk into Fort Livingston and ask about mercenaries seeking aid in hunting down Horde. The amalgam of information proved vital where others had failed to catch up to the butchers.
That friendship which started and developed in the depths of Stranglethorn Vale was why Collins now spoke Orcish much better than Thomas did – albeit with a troll accent.
“An’ now dat ya here, I oughta do da most wicked thing I can and getcha ta smoke with me,” Nok said, his sharp teeth glittering as he grinned.
Collins groaned, raising his fist to shake it at the troll. Since Nok snagged him closer to trap Collins’ shoulder against his big friend’s chest, the fist shaking looked even sillier.
“I know watcha want, ya big lecher,” Collins said to Nok’s chest plate and left arm, since that was his entire view.
“Of course!” Nok grinned even wider, judging by the sound of his voice. “Ain’t nuthin’ funnier than when ya start ta giggle like a gnome.”
Groaning even louder, Collins pressed a hand to his forehead. Then he let the arm fall and craned his neck up, smiling apologetically.
“Sorry tho’, man, I gotta work an’ watch Thomas while celebrating,” he said. His smile faltered for a moment, before he pulled it back. “’Sides, I prolly jes’ start moping on ya.”
Nok had been cooing an understanding “aww,” but he too sobered at Collins’ subtle change in demeanor and his words. While he let the human sit back so that they could actually look at each other, the troll let his arm remain around Collins’ shoulders. Reaching out, he put the tip of his thumb and bigger finger at the corners of the human’s lips and squeezed just the slightest bit. Forcing the fake smile back.
“Ya don’t hafta pretend around me, mon,” Nok murmured in a low voice, taking away his fingers. He leaned in as he spoke, just so that he could whisper and Collins still hear him. He knew well that he threaded on a very touchy subject.
“Aw, I didna wanna ruin the good mood…”
Collins trailed off. He glanced away at the empty lake for a moment, as if half expecting to see somebody listening in. Deep down, he was. Paranoia came with the job.
Then, his shoulders dropped. Nok tilted his head, grin gone and exchanged for a small smile. Quite a feat for somebody with a mouth with a long, curved tusk in both corners.
“Yanno, bein’ resigned was easier befo’ he got all stutter ‘round dat Ta’sih,” Collins murmured.
“Aw, mon…” Shaking his head, Nok patted Collins’ shoulder. “Ya were resigned before, ya can build it up again.”
Collins nodded, a small motion.
The normal thing to do in a situation such as this should have been to offer some comforting words about not giving up. However, Nok knew enough about the situation to not push for things that were beyond hope. Well, he didn’t know Thomas personally, but Collins did, and Nok knew that his little friend put a forceful lid on his emotions, with mental fingers trembling from fear of awkwardness.
Thomas didn’t know how precious he truly was to his best friend.
And in Collins’ view, that needed to stay that way. He’d rather stay silent and just watch, never speaking, never touching, than run the risk of being chased away by embarrassment. There had been so many instances of flight in the past, but for wholly different reasons, wholly different situations.
Not again. Not Thomas.
“Is just a hero worshipping crush,” Collins grunted. It sounded just like the mechanical mantra it was. Then he pulled himself together and continued, “She be cheating, she got boobs.” But the joke had a miserable twinge.
Nok snorted, grinning, and let it slide. He could tell Collins wanted to let the subject go, even though he had also needed to vent it. Considering that Nok was the only other person alive who knew this secret, Collins had no choice but to bottle up his helpless frustration until now.
“Ya, mon,” Nok said, “dat just ain’t fair.”
With that, Nok pushed himself to his feet and hauled Collins up by his arm. Both of them were dripping wet from sitting in the lake, the human even more so as he had been pushed into the water earlier, but the sun blasted down from a clear blue sky and would dry them off soon enough.
“Come on now, bettah get ta reporting nothing bad happened out here,” Nok said, starting towards the shore. He threw a smirk over his shoulder at Collins. “Try ta look cute so dey won’t ask about our armor being wet.”
“Okay,” Collins said, and his face twisted into a wide-eyed, sweet expression.
“Not dat cute, ya gonna make da poor orcs puke.”
“Ya gotta wish exact, Big Man,” Collins replied, relaxing his face to something more bearable to look at.
Snickering, they continued along the shore.
Near the place where the shore turned towards the city, but far enough from the road so that no passerby would hear their conversation, stood a couple of troll rogues and the male orc that had accompanied Collins earlier. They looked up as the odd pair approached, and Nok saluted. Collins mimicked him.
“Anything?” the orc gruffly asked.
“Nope,” Nok said, then gestured at Collins who was shaking his head. “Jes’ a leedle Theramore rogue. I don’t think he looks dat dangerous.”
Even had they had anything to report, not like they would have spoken of it in broad daylight. But as it were, it didn’t matter much.
The orc snickered at Nok’s comment, looking Collins up and down with an appraising, amused look.
“Say we caught a Burning Blade nutcase sneaking about,” the orc said. “What would’ya do with him, pinky?”
Collins smiled brightly, the picture of cheerful innocence.
Then he started talking.
“Prop him up, paralyze him, cut him open and braid his guts. Den pour out oil an’ set ‘em on fire if he still not talking.”
A thoughtful silence followed.
“Aww, he’s adorable,” one of the troll rogues snickered.
“Ya cannae have him,” Nok said. He wrapped his arms under Collins’ armpits from behind and hoisted the much smaller man up against his chest protectively. “He’s mah combat pet.” He used the word in Orcish for a hunter’s companion.
From the looks of them, the others understandably expected Collins to struggle and protest, but he only smiled and – rather awkwardly, because of his position – raised his hands in a shrugging motion. Then he did sigh.
“How they evah gonna take me for serious if you saying all that?” he complained.
“Take ya seriously?” Nok gave Collins a sideways, wide-eyed look. “Whatevah gave ya dat crazeh idea?”
“Kill da thought,” Collins said, rolling his eyes.
Nok snorted in amusement and shook his head.
“Ya mean perish,” he said.
“Ah yeah. Perish.”
“Dat gotta be da weirdest human I’ve evah seen,” the second troll commented, shaking her head.
Nok let Collins slide down onto the ground, but only so he could poke a big, violet finger against the human’s head.
“He ain’t really human,” Nok said. “He’s a troll spirit who got stuck in da wrong body. Ain’t ya?” He craned his neck to gaze at Collins’ face sideways.
“Mebbe I passed through a smoke cloud an’ got dizzy,” Collins said with a shrug.
For that, he got a smack to the helmet from Nok.
“Hey, no insulting da ganja,” Nok said, though he smirked.
Collins just snorted. The other three rogues were looking at the two of them like one might look at an ogre juggling goblins.
“Anyway, we done here?” Nok asked the orc, sobering a little bit.
“Yeah, all’s clear. You can take him to the headquarters,” the orc waved dismissively at Collins, “but don’t go anywhere else.”
As the two of them were walking down the road, Nok nudged Collins with his elbow and muttered:
“Betcha they would’a preferred if ya wore a blindfold through da city. But, we supposed ta be allies now.” He made a snorting sound, while Collins rolled his eyes. There were still quite a few people around, and many were staring with a greater or smaller amount of suspicion at the human rogue walking around. Nok made sure to stay a little closer than usual at all times.
“Well, cannae expect it ta be so quick.” Collins shrugged. Thinking anything else would be naïve.
“Ya, dat true. Ah yeah…” Nok put a hand on Collins shoulder and steered off across the road to a hut with a pen on the side, grinning wide again. “I think dere’s somebody who’s been missin’ ya.”
As they got closer, a series of loud sniffs were heard from around the corner of the hut, followed by a screech. Feet with claws the size of Collins’ lower arms pounded at the ground and a huge, bipedal shape with a serpentine neck and long, thick tail emerged from the shadows of the house. It screeched again, murderous claws at the end of its small arms ripping at the air.
“Aww, dere’s a pretty girl,” Collins said. He reached out and rubbed the underside of the raptor’s massive jaw. The deep violet scales were rough against his hands, but the great beast let hear a delighted, soft hiss. “What, ya missed me, Xaala? I be touched.”
The raptor mount proved her affection by suddenly sweeping her head down and rubbing the top of it against Collins’ chest. The only reason he didn’t fall over backwards from the push was that he was prepared and swiftly shifted his stance to keep his balance. Noticing that she had used too much force, Xaala straightened and chirped. Or rather gurgled in a high-pitched way. It took somebody who had been around raptors for a while to know that this was actually a friendly sound.
Nok jumped over the fence of the pen and called on the great lizard’s attention with coos and gentle prods until she stopped snuffling Collins and turned her head. Swiftly, Nok outfitted her with reins from one of his pockets and opened the simple pen gate to lead her out.
In a few fluid motions he swung into the saddle, then offered his hand to help Collins up.
“Ridin’ back or front?” the troll asked.
“Best is what looks most little threat to people,” Collins replied, making a subtle motion towards the small crowd that had gathered to watch. They really ought to get going quick, but he couldn’t help it.
Neither could Nok. He looked thoughtful for a second.
“But,” he said, “I dun wanna tie ya up and hang you ovah Xaala’s back.”
“Sure ya don’t.”
They grinned at each other as Collins took Nok’s hand and was hoisted up in the saddle in front of the troll. Smacking his lips and urging Xaala to a quick trot down the road towards the city, Nok put one arm around Collins’ chest. It was mainly to help him keep his balance, but it also gave a more secure impression to any onlooker.
Turning the corner of the road, they came out on the path high above the spiky rooftops of the Valley of Strength. By now the sun had risen above the cliffs, turning the rocks into a burning orange and glinting in armors and weapons below. On the other hand it also shone on the banners and decorations, as well as the tables set out and being covered with containers for food and drink for the celebration.
Both of them refrained from speaking, as a human having a conversation – possibly asking suspiciously innocent questions – while brought past a grand overview such as this would seem more than a little alarming.
They both knew that this situation would take a while to settle into for both Orgrimmar and Theramore. Yet, at least the attempt was made, and one would never know before trying.
After all, in the middle of all this suspicion and factional hatred were people and friendships like theirs.