The trek from Nagrand to Shattrath took an absurd amount of time, given the circumstances. The Kor’kron let out a sigh of relief after several long hours of riding, gazing upwards at the large, circular sanctuary filled with a wide variety of outcasts and refugees. As he entered one of the city’s gates, the peacekeepers saluted, and the orc saluted back in respect.
Behind Khaadgrim was Cham, riding slowly behind on his chopper bike, gazing at the city’s architecture with splendid wonder. Every time he was here he never got a chance to actually look around and see Shattrath for what it was. But this time, he wasn’t working, and he took every single bit of the large city in earnest.
“This place really is big,” noted the carrier. Khaadgrim continued to gaze forward, arms crossed as Kagaresh, the orc’s faithful worg, carried him down the Lower City. The Kor’kron didn’t bother to acknowledge Cham’s words as there were already enough things on the orc’s mind. After his wyvern’s death, things seemed to displace from his thoughts. As the two rode through the Lower City, they were suddenly stopped by a hulking beast of a Netherwing. The onyx-colored dragon settled in front of the two, focused on the Kor’kron, who quirked a brow at the disruption.
“Ah!” the dragon spoke, perking its eyes. “There you are, Khaadgrim. I hope your travel went well?” Khaadgrim nodded, suspiciously, looking over the netherwing with curiosity. Cham peered behind the orc, looking over the dragon as well but seeming more interested in what it was rather than what its intentions were.
“I’ve been following you since your departure from Shadowmoon.” Solemnly, the dragon shook his head. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have gotten to you sooner. Your loss is disheartening.”
Khaadgrim barked back. “Your pity is wasted on me. I have some errands to run, so please move aside.” The dragon didn’t budge. Cham gazed between the two fellows, blinking a bit in confusion.
“Hear me out, Roark,” the dragon urged, his voice calm and relaxed. “I have been asked to lend my services to you. I only wish to help with your endeavors since you’ve helped us regain our freedom.”
The Kor’kron let out a chuckle. “There were many that helped your flight! I am no different from the denizens of others that had risked life and limb to help your brood. I don’t see why I am so special.”
The dragon flashed a smile, his razor sharp teeth showing. He softly shook his head and let out an ethereal-sounding chuckle. “You aren’t. We are rewards for your services, you and they. I am special, however, as I am yours to assist. All of you are just our volunteers, but my father wishes to reward you for that, and here I am.”
“So I own you?” the Kor’kron questioned, tilting his head. The dragon nodded.
“For better or worse. I am Zaranaku.” Khaadgrim looked over the dragon as it gave a humble bow of the head. With a nod, Khaadgrim dismounted Kagaresh and let the worg ride off towards the central hub of Shattrath. The orc turned, facing Zaranaku, who waited patiently for orders.
“To be fair, I’ve never actually ridden a dragon.” Zaranaku nodded respectfully at the confession, then lowered his body to allow the orc access.
“We are no different from other flying companions. Please, let me give you a lift to your destination.” Khaadgrim hesitated, then lifted himself onto the dragon’s back. Cham smiled widely as he watched the two gain some familiarity with the other. Zaranaku lifted himself up, flapped his wings, then flew off as the young man watched from below. He chuckled with a grin as the orc and dragon disappeared behind the Lower City’s walls.
“I hope they get along well,” Reichel said, appearing as a ghostly substitute of her former self behind Cham. The young man kept his gaze upward, toward the walls, a feeling of excitement surging through himself.
“They’ll get along well. Maybe a fight here and there, but they’ll get along.”
Khaadgrim and Zaranaku approached the central hub of Shattrath. Both gazed over the people and soldiers, some of them planning, others simply socializing. A’dal was floating in the center of the hub – as usual – with Khadgar plotting among other peers. But, instead of a map of Quel’danas among the council, there was a map of Northrend. A slight burst of interest went through Khaadgrim, but Zaranaku snapped him out of it.
“Where to from here, Roark?” the dragon asked, hovering some feet over the ground. Khaadgrim looked about for a quick moment, then pointed to one of the Horde portals in the corner.
“There, the middle portal.” Zaranaku didn’t budge, but instead glanced to Khaadgrim with a raised brow.
“Is there something the matter?” The orc glanced to the dragon, then back at the portals.
“You can shape shift, correct? I don’t think Orgrimmar would take your current image lightly.”
Zaranaku nodded, then began flying towards the portal to Orgrimmar. As he flew closer, his body began to take on a silhouette of white light. The transformation then disappeared through the portal, and the light was gone.
Khaadgrim deftly planted his feet on the floor of the trollish hut, then lifted himself up and gazed about. He quickly made his way downstairs, then out into the open of the Valley of Spirits. He continued looking for Zaranaku until he realized that he was nowhere to be seen. The dragon seemed to have disappeared from that flash of white light.
Just then, as the orc was peering about, another orc with a slightly bulkier build and a taller stature walked up to him. This orc also had the same equipment Khaadgrim wore, bearing the same resemblance of the other Kor’kron. However, this unfamiliar Kor’kron had no face, not even some sort of shadow beneath his helmet. No eyes were seen and it was as if there was nothing underneath his helmet, only a pit of darkness.
“Khaadgrim,” the suspicious Kor’kron said, glancing to him. Khaadgrim turned around, furrowing his brows as he looked into the pit that was the unfamiliar Kor’kron’s face.
“What is it? I’m busy,” Khaadgrim said, sounding irritated. The other Kor’kron waved a hand, then let out an ethereal chuckle, much like Zaranaku’s.
“Is this disguise suitable?” The Kor’kron asked. Khaadgrim narrowed his eyes at the suspicious Kor’kron, and it nodded to him.
“Zaranaku?” Khaadgrim moved closer to the other Kor’kron, then lifted a hand towards his helmet. The other Kor’kron stopped Khaadgrim’s hand, then shook his head.
“I’m afraid you can’t remove my helmet.” He let go of Khaadgrim’s hand, who kept his gaze on Zaranaku. The disguised dragon continued to speak, peering throughout the valley. “My magic still needs work, but this disguise should do, lest you say otherwise.” Instead of an ethereal voice, it was more gruff, hoarse and rugged, gravel-sounding yet distinct.
“It’s much better than a dragon following me around,” Khaadgrim admitted. He ushered Zaranaku to his side and the two began walking down the path, towards Grommash Hold. Zaranaku looked about, exchanging small talk with Khaadgrim as they walked. He mentioned the awe of the city and its architecture, and how the people seemed to be made up of many different races.
“Welcome to Orgrimmar, Zaranaku. We’ve made strides in our history, from the slaves of demons to the free people of Durotar, the capital’s land. Like any mortal race we aren’t perfect, but it’s our salvation from outside troubles… most of the time.”
“Most of the time?” Zaranaku inquired. Khaadgrim nodded to the civilians and grunts that recognized him, then looked to the disguised dragon.
“Some of our troubles are within the city’s confines.” They passed the entrance to the Cleft of Shadows, where some warlocks conversed near the side of the ramp. “We have warlocks of our own, and even demons residing in a chasm further down within Orgrimmar. We keep the warlocks to protect ourselves from demons, but the demons themselves weren’t our doing. Warchief Thrall is doing all he can to rid ourselves of this problem, but they don’t seem to disappear no matter how many heroes we send down there.”
“Is Warchief Thrall your leader?” Khaadgrim nodded at the question, then went on to explain more about the demon problem, and the Burning Blade cultists and all of those other cults that plagued Orgrimmar’s peace. Khaadgrim then told Zaranaku of the heroic feat that Thrall and Grom Hellscream achieved – the death of the pit lord Mannoroth.
“Incredible!” Zaranaku exclaimed. Just then they stopped at the bones of the pit lord. Zaranaku moved further towards the bones and read the inscription at the base of the slain beast.
“Grom is one of our most cherished people in Orgrimmar.” Khaadgrim crossed his arms, gazing over Mannoroth’s remains, smiling as he stood. “He freed us from our bloodlust, and now we are starting anew. Aside from our demon and cultist problems, everything has been well.”
“This orc truly is a great being.” Zaranaku trailed his fingers over the inscription, then looked to Khaadgrim, who beckoned the dragon over.
“I’ll tell you more about our history another day. For now, we have work to do.” The two made their way into Grommash Hold, where Khaadgrim saluted the guarding Kor’kron Elite. Khaadgrim and Zaranaku stood in the center of the chamber, and as Khaadgrim reported his findings in Outland, Thrall kept a close eye on Zaranaku.
The Warchief held up a hand, to which Khaadgrim went silent to. The fires of the chambers resonated and everything else was hushed. A minute of silence passed, then Thrall finally began to speak.
“If I have heard correctly,” Thrall said, pausing in mid-sentence. “You have come from Outland, correct?”
“Yes, Warchief,” Khaadgrim responded crisply. Zaranaku kept his eyes focused on Thrall, who glanced to him from time to time in a suspicious manner. The Warchief raised himself from his throne, then slowly made his way down the stairs.
“And you say you have also helped the Netherwing flight in Shadowmoon… correct?” Again, Khaadgrim responded with the same words, crisply and quickly. Thrall brushed his chin curiously, now keeping his attention locked onto Zaranaku.
“May I ask where you buried your wyvern?”
“In Nagrand, Warchief.” Khaadgrim furrowed his brows. “Is… there something the matter, Warchief?”
Thrall let out a soft chuckle. Zaranaku and Khaadgrim exchanged confused looks, then looked back to him. Then, the Warchief waved toward Zaranaku, letting out a charge of electricity. Zaranaku’s orcish form began to waver, then finally let down, and he formed back into his dragon appearance. Some of the officials and guards in the room let out a gasp, others braced themselves and raised their weapons. Khaadgrim slowly let his gaze down, toward his feet, seemingly guilty of allowing Zaranaku into the chambers.
Zaranaku tried to back away, but some of the Kor’kron were closing in towards him and Khaadgrim. The dragon looked to Khaadgrim, but he only continued to gaze down towards his feet.
“I believe I made a mistake of coming here with you,” Zaranaku admitted. Khaadgrim looked to the dragon from the corner of his eye and nodded.
The Warchief raised a hand and the whole chamber went quiet once more. He continued to gaze at the netherwing, brows furrowing in thought. Thrall slowly walked around the two, examining them from head to toe, murmuring. Once a rotation was complete, he made his way to his throne and calmly sat down.
“No,” the Warchief said, smiling. “The mistake was concealing yourself.” Thrall gestured to Khaadgrim, who stood at attention now. “You are the companion of a good orc. I believe the intent was true, so there is no need for a punishment, let alone the thought of it.” The Warchief shook his hand, chuckling softly, almost in a father-like manner.
Zaranaku bowed gracefully, and so did Khaadgrim. “My sincerest apologies, Warchief,” Khaadgrim said, finishing his bow. Again, the Warchief waved his hand.
“With our problems as they are, another friend is another ally.” Thrall looked to Zaranaku. “What is your name, friend?”
“I am Zaranaku. My humblest apologies for misleading you, Warchief.” Thrall nodded, then looked to Khaadgrim.
“Treat your friend well. And you,” Thrall pointed to Zaranaku, “Do the same. You are welcomed here as an honored guest of Orgrimmar. I expect you to be responsible for your shape-shifting shenanigans.” The Warchief grinned doggishly, Zaranaku chuckling at the statement and nodding. Zaranaku reformed into his orcish self, then was dismissed. However, in mid-turn, Khaadgrim was told to stay, and watched as Zaranaku left the main chamber.
“You’ve done well, Khaadgrim,” The Warchief said. Khaadgrim stood silently in the middle of the chamber, alone, eyes at full attention to Thrall. “I am deeply sorry for the loss of your wyvern. It is not every day that a humble and majestic beast finds a good master. I hope that your newest companion meets your needs in whatever you do.”
“I’m sure he will, Warchief.” Khaadgrim lifted a hand and shuffled his helmet. Thrall raised a brow, grinning.
“Now it’s my turn to ask what is the matter.” Thrall let out another soft chuckle and Khaadgrim cleared his throat.
Khaadgrim started rather hesitantly, trying to formulate the responses and words in his mind. “Well, Warchief… it’s – erm – not every day that you request my presence. I am curious as to why you asked for my report directly rather than the usual transcripts that I give to my current superior.”
“Oh, is that it?” Thrall let out another exuberant chuckle. Khaadgrim kept his hands folded behind his back and glanced down to the floor.
Thrall motioned to a Kor’kron. The orc shuffled a hand in a leather bag and produced a black cape with golden-stitched lining. The cape was a prestigious creation of grace and handiwork, soft and pleasant to the touch, but durable and resilient. The lining felt almost like flexible metal and was rough and coarse, but flowed along with the cape as a whole. The Kor’kron guard presented the cape to Khaadgrim, who looked at it with a confused stare, then took it.
“You have done well to service the Horde, Khaadgrim.” Thrall smiled to the Kor’kron, who looked up to him with the neatly-folded cape still in his grasp. “You are cunning, like the wolf. You are resilient like a snapjaw, stalwart like the kodo, and as ferocious as a worg. You have passed the Kor’kron training rituals and rites with very excellent marks, and have served your superiors well in the past. So, with this cape, I present to you the option of becoming an ambassador for the Horde.”
Khaadgrim’s eyes widened at the sentence. He quickly looked down into his hands, at the cape itself, then back up to Thrall, who still had that smile on his face. With a great, deep bow, Khaadgrim accepted the position, and the Kor’kron guards in the room began cheering for their companion while some of the officials applauded.
Zaranaku waited outside of Grommash Hold, leaning on the outer wall that connected the stairs to the structure. Horde races of all kinds went to and fro, going here and there, conversing to the side of the road, some others heading into the hold with an urgent expression on their face. Khaadgrim came down the stairs, the cape swept over his body, which made him look sophisticated compared without the item. Zaranaku uncrossed his hands and watched as the orc descended.
“What happened in there?” Zaranaku asked. He pointed to the cape. “I heard applauding. Where did you get that cape?”
Khaadgrim grinned, ushering Zaranaku down the path with him. “It seems I was promoted,” the orc said, nonchalantly. “I am now Ambassador Khaadgrim Roark, and I have the duty of showing you around Orgrimmar during your time here. So, let’s begin, because I have a lot to show you, my friend.”