“She is nothing but trouble, my Lord.”
Sheigh startled at the old crone’s rough voice, his cheeks flushing in embarrassment at being caught in the private moment. He lowered the perfumed silk from his face, letting the last scents linger in his nose as he fought to regain his composure. Turning around, he saw the disapproving scowl on the crone’s face and knew he was in for another of her lectures.
The old orcish woman he kept as a cook and housekeeper held her hand out like a chastening mother waiting for a favorite toy to be turned over as punishment. He did as she willed, and the orc tucked it into a pocket with a satisfied harrumph. “Look at that. Is your silk anyway. She stole it from you last week, my Lord. You best chase that one off, she nothing but trouble.”
“You’re just mad that she took your apple,” he prodded her, throwing her a playful wink as he slipped into his morning robes. “She’s some strange manner of houseguest, nothing more. Better I let her take what she needs than let her steal something of actual value.”
“HAH!” the crone retorted. “Quick thinking with one head to cover slow thinking with the other!” Sheigh snapped his head around at her to silence her insolence, but he knew she was right, and after a second he shrugged and nodded in agreement.
The old woman didn’t let up though, turning to make his bed. “Why you do this thing, my lord? You already found a good woman, why not marry her and stop all this childish playing?”
“Glennis, my dear, I would not expect an old grandmother like you to understand the flickering hearts of young elvish men.”
The crone broke into a wide, tusky smile. “Don’t be so certain about that, my lord. Old grandmothers were young girls once too. I remember what it was to hunt, and to be the hunted.” Her smile turned wistful, and Sheigh could almost imagine he saw Durotar in her eyes.
Honestly he didn’t know much about the woman. She was an excellent cook and a meticulous housekeeper, but her body was old and wracked from injuries long ago. When she first took up work in his tower she had brought a granddaughter with her, but the girl had moved away before Sheigh even learned what it was she did for a living.
“To hunt, and to be the hunted,” he smiled as he repeated it. “Not entirely sure where I stand at the moment.” He thought about the girl for a moment. “Not entirely sure I want to be either, some days.”
“Ohhh, it’s all part of life, my lord.” She took a seat at the dinner table to begin rolling up clean napkins, and he found himself compelled to join her.
He tried his hand at a few of the cloths but quickly lost interest once he had gotten one to fold correctly. “Well then, Glennis, tell me a story about when an old grandmother was a young girl. That would have been back in Durotar, right?”
Glennis nodded, not stopping her work as she told the story. “I know I don’t move too fast these days, but once there was a time when I was as swift as a wolf and as quick with an axe as any of my brothers, though they would never admit it in front of Father. And my hair,” she ran her fingers through the thin mop of white that adorned her scalp like a snow-capped mountain peak. “Long and black, black as night. You wouldn’t see it now, but I was beautiful.”
He cocked an eyebrow, trying to imagine her as an olive-skinned young woman like those he had seen in Maghari camps. No, he couldn’t see any beauty there, but he admitted that orc women never had caught his eye. “I’m certain you were quite the catch for whatever young warrior finally claimed your hand.”
She grinned. “Oh I was. Many tried, some came close, but Magasa’s grandfather, he was a special man. But not the first who had shared a roll in the grass with old Glennis!”
She winked playfully, and Sheigh couldn’t help but laugh. “Why you naughty old girl!”
“Oh yes. I remember one patrol, we joined a Warsong camp for the evening. There were games of strength and skill, and one young warrior kept getting angrier and angrier as I beat him at the javelin, at riding, foot race, and another game we used to play, throwing axes. Finally he said I had dishonored him and he challenged me to combat. Ohhh he took off his armor and one look at that muscular back, those broad shoulders, oh my. I don’t even remember what weapons we used, but he beat me quickly. Later that night I invited him to one last contest of strength, wrestling . . . and I let him win that one very quickly too!”
Sheigh blushed and looked away, stifling a chuckle, fighting embarrassment with entertainment.
Glennis continued. “Ah but Ragnar, he was a good man. His family was poor but they were always so kind and generous. Ragnar might not have been the handsomest, but the first time I talked to him, just as friends, I knew there was no better man in the world for me. We never married, not properly, but we spent the rest of his days together. Our son was Magasa’s father, and Ragnar got to watch Stomos grow into a man before the ancestors claimed him.”
Sheigh thought about that for a moment, working out the timeframe in his mind around the events that led the Orcs through the Dark Portal. “What happened during the time of Gul’dan?”
She thought for a moment, as if preparing her words. “Honestly, I remember it being a good time, a time of great excitement. There was even peace with many of the ogre tribes as we prepared for a great journey. My Ragnar died of the wasting cough, but I was still strong and fast enough to be an archer in my son’s legion, and I was proud as Stomos rose to the rank of centurion in the Horde. We didn’t think of ourselves as The Horde, we didn’t call ourselves that, but we were a great horde and our axes sang in joy during battle against the Draenei. But when the Portal opened, we forgot everything. Coming to Azeroth was a magical time for us all.”
“Well, that is an interesting way to put the war.”
“Eh, things were different back then. I was cut down by a knight, you know, crippled like this outside the gates of Stromgarde. But we loved it. It was the blood taint, they say.”
“Your son . . . Stomos? He was your only child?”
She nodded. “Ragnar was the only man who I wanted a child with. During the invasion of Azeroth, I never even thought about it. Once I was hurt, I tended to camp like all the other infirm. My son never married either, but he took a woman from the camp and Magasa was born. The poor girl died after giving birth, she ate some unhealthy berries, so I raised my granddaughter as my own.”
“I heard, well, I heard once that Magasa was saying she was cursed.”
Glennis hung her head sadly. “Poor girl. She believes it too. She says it too much. She could find a nice man, one who doesn’t care, if she let herself.”
“What is wrong with her?”
Glennis clammed up for a moment. “When . . . when we were prisoners, before the Warchief freed us, Magasa was a young woman by then. Beautiful girl, poor girl, coming of age as a prisoner. She was . . . the guards . . . ” She stopped, a tear running down her cheek.
Sheigh knew the rumors, had even seen some of the half-orc, half-human offspring starving in orphanages, rejected by both cultures for what they represented. He didn’t know what to say.
“The child was stillborn, Magasa was still too young really to be a mother. But the damage was done. The whole camp kept track of the bastards, and terrible things were said about the girls who were . . . forced. That is why she couldn’t stay here, I think. You pink-skins all look the same to her.”
“So after Warchief Thrall freed you, you came here to Orgrimmar?”
“Oh yes,” she nodded, as if the question were redundant. “This is a good place here, like my home as a girl. I love it here.” She smiled up at him. “And I have to admit I love my work for you. We are all friends now, elves and orcs and trolls and the tauren-people. Our days of war are over and I am happy for it.”
Sheigh smiled, standing up. “Thank you for sharing that, Glennis.”
She smiled back. “I have many stories, my lord. You need only ask.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the perfumed silk cloth. “Maybe once in awhile you listen now, hmm?”
He laughed and turned away, climbing back up to his laboratory. “The most poisonous snakes are the most beautiful ones, my dear. I won’t forget.”