After several younglings are lost attempting their om’gora rites, Thrall begins questioning the value of the trials. The new generation places such emphasis on martial strength and battle prowess that they would risk death attempting the rites before they are ready. Walking through Orgrimmar with his family, Thrall reflects on his son’s readiness for the trials, his own coming of age, and how to prepare this new generation to build on the legacy he and his friends started long ago.

The young orc moved like a shadow through the palm fronds.

The edge of the Northern Barrens was a beautiful place: countless trees heavy with fruit, the sound of songbirds calling above. The young orc had heard stories of how the night elf druid Naralex and others restored this once-arid land to the stunning glory that now lay before him. And yet there was great danger here, for all that rampant green majesty. There were scars upon the land if one knew how to look—old bones bleached white amid tangles of lush grass, broken blades, the rusted handles of war axes. The land remembered those who’d fought here. Those who’d bled and died here.

The orc expected it to feel like a graveyard—that was how his father had described it—but it did not carry that mournful melancholy. Instead, with each old weapon, each mark of fire on the oldest trees, he felt a sense of wonder.

I am walking through the history of my people, he mused. It was not the kind of thought he usually had. There was the weight of truth in it, as though he was on the verge of some greater understanding—as close to it as to the beast he now stalked. Something new trying to bloom in the soil of his soul.

He climbed atop a cracked boulder and squatted there, his hands automatically moving to touch his blades. Being alone out here was entirely different than he had expected. Long before he’d even left home for his first leg of the om’gora, he had been filled with excitement in all its many forms: The bravado that boiled in his chest when announcing to his parents he was ready. The thrill of the hunt. The delight in taking the first step toward acceptance. The hope of earning the next blessing after this one. But now those feelings had faded—not gone, but receded to a shadowy distance in his heart and mind. He’d felt the change happen slowly. The anticipation of the om’gora lasted still, but the fires beneath it had been banked. The fear was there, of course. He was young but not foolish.

Now what he felt, he was certain, was a sense of awe. Perched atop this boulder, hearing the wind rustling, the ferns pressing in on either side of him, staring down toward the gaping maw of the Wailing Caverns, he felt as if a thousand—no, ten thousand—orcs stood all around him. He was in their company, even if most were lost to time and battle. Some, he knew, had failed trying to complete this exact rite, here on this rock or within the thick darkness of the caverns.

He felt them.

He was them.

Download to read the Rest of This Short Story by Jonathan Maberry

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