Zoh Soulscream: The Beginning
Her father was a peon. Her mother was a peon. Their parents were peons.
She watched as they all grew old from years of slaving at their menial tasks, hour after hour, day after day, month after month. She watched as strong backs grew hunched and crippled, as muscles knotted and mangled, and as bodies bowed and contorted from the backbreaking labor. She watched as the mind numbing drudgery sucked the light from their faces and the life from their souls.
And she realized that she would not – could not – be like them.
In the evening time, when the workload was lighter, Zoh would steal away, robbing herself of sleep in order to feed her dreams. The forges and anvils of Orgrimmar were not far away, and she would slip into the shadows nearby and watch the smiths working their magic – crafting wonderous tools from little more than fire and rock. She watched with facination, marveling at the magic she witnessed, facinated by the orange glow of hot metal as it illuminated the determined expressions of concentration on the smiths’ faces. This was magic! This was power! This had meaning and purpose far beyond the rote grind of the peon!
Simply by watching, she learned a few of the most basic concepts, and then she tried. She built her own fire, a childs thing really, and cast some rocks into it. Nothing happened, of course. Disappointed but undaunted, she continued to return to her observation, and then she noticed – peons brought rock to these metal makers. And the rocks were special, for the smiths would inspect each one, discarding some while accepting others. Zoh could not tell what made one rock special and another junk, for she could only manage to inspect a few of the junk rocks. She knew that the smiths held magic in their eyes as well, knowing special rocks from refuse.
The fire grew within her – she must learn the magic of special rocks and fire, the magic that makes metal. It became her passion!
Until she noticed another thing.
The ones who came to talk to the smiths, who purchased the bronze axes, the iron shirts and the steel pants. These were the warriors of Thrall – Might Thrall, the deliverer from slavery! These were the strong right arm of the Warlord, the defenders, the protectors, the ones who kept slavery and death at bay! She watched them now, as they came and went. She watched them test their new armor for strength and durability. She watched them test their axes too – sometimes upon a prisoner of Thrall; a squealy quillboar or filthy koltar. WHACK! the enemy of the Horde fell dead.
Oh to be a warrior for Thrall! And to know the secrets of fire and metal, as well!
Oh the dreams of an adolescent peon girl!
But how to make those dream into reality? That would be the biggest magic of all. No ordinary shopkeeper or civilian could become a warrior, let alone a lowly peon. One had to have training – special training in a far off (for a peon girl) place called the Valley of Trials. And one could not simply just ‘show up’ on the doorstep of this valley. This was special training.
Patiently over the seasons she waited for a chance, continuing to steal away in the evening to watch the smiths at their forges and anvils, and the warriors repairing or replacing their weapons and armor. It didn’t take long for Zoh to become a fixture at the forges, and she soon stopped hiding and simply sat to the side and watched the work, waiting – waiting – for a chance. The ringing rhythm of the hammers became her heartbeat, the whoosh of the forge billows became her breathing, and she began to understand the chatter of ‘special smithing words’.
“You!” It was one of the apprentice smiths, and a junior one at that. “You dere in shadows. Step out, I have work for you.”
The adolescent orc stood, stepping forward, for she’d been taught all her life to obey, and it was an instant reaction, yet even as she did so, she hated herself for it.
“My master, smith Ug’thok requires dat dis mound of slag be removed from Orgrimmar! I do not wish to waste my time packing dis refuse all de way out of city. You do it!”
Slowly, and against her short lifetime of training, Zoh shook her head. “No. I am not working now. I will not.” She managed to say.
“What! You a peon, you do what I say!” He shouted, but the young girl slowly turned and started walking away.
“Wait!” He called out. “Ug’thok wants dis slag moved. You move it, I have you meet him.” the apprentice changed his tactic. “You want to meet him, yes? To learn? Dat is why you be coming here every night for -er- many seasons, right?”
“You swear on your honor?” The young orc asked as she turned back around. She wasn’t stupid – she knew that this promise was probably false, but it was a chance – a very small chance in truth, but could she afford to lose any chance at all? Would there ever be another? “You swear on the Warchief’s honor?”
“I swear no oaths to peon, let alone little girl! Do it and find out!” The apprentice shouted back, and Zoh knew that if she was to have any chance of attaining her dream, she would have to work for it.
It took several long hours, most of the night in fact, for the young adolescent to shovel the rock and ash and cinders into the canvas bags, haul them all the way outside the city walls of Orgrimmar, then come back and do it all again. And again. And again. Each time she returned, the apprentice was there to mock and berate her work. It was nearing dawn, and Zoh was exhausted when she returned from her final trip. She would have to return home soon, only to be sent out into the fields for the days work. When she returned, the night workers were either leaving or had already left, however the managed to find the apprentice who’s task she had completed.
“Where is your master, Ug’thok? I am ready to meet him.” She pronounced boldly.
“Hahaha! You stupid little peon! You never meet Ug’thok! You always be nothing but stupid little peon!” The apprentice derided in a booming laugh, turning away and heading to his home, “stupid little peon always be stupid little peon!”
Her reaction was probably universal to any adolescent of any race who suffered mockery from an elder. “I’ll show you!” She hissed angrily at the apprentice’s back before herself turning to go home. But she returned the next night, and the nights which followed, avoiding the apprentice as much as she could, until one day, the apprentice simply did not show up. Why was a mystery, but from that night forward, she never saw him again.
As it happens so often, the young orc’s true chance came unexpectedly and without warning. On what seemed a normal day of work, Zoh along with a team of other peons was sent just outside of Orgrimmar to the Rocktusk Farm, there to dig a new water basin for the swine raised there. The work was tedious, the ground filled with rocks and boulders which proved difficult to remove, and the team of peons realized quickly that it would take all day to complete their task. The grumbling and complaining started – some of the peons decided a nap in the sun was more to their liking and since the overseer made his rounds to the farm barely once per hour, work progressed slowly. Toward the end of the day, the herd of swine began to squeal and snort, unhappy at not having a mudbath all day. The commotion grew louder – and began to attract attention.
The Bloodtalon Scythemaw seemingly came out of nowhere, attracted by the sound of an easy meal, it’s roar unmistakable. Zoh was in the bottom of the water basin with several of the other peons at the time, shovel in hand working to free a particularly large boulder. The other peons fled in terror, dropping their loads and abandoning their work – tripping and sliding on the loose dirt and steep sided basin as the Scythemaw charged into the basin – someone was going to die to feed the beast that day.
While the other peons reacted out of fear, a different instinct gripped at the young orc named Zoh – she swung her shovel as hard and fast as she could at the Bloodtalon’s head as she danced around the boulder to keep it between herself and the beast. KA-THUNK! She now had the beasts full attention, and faced it’s beady eyes and dagger sharp teeth full on.
Exactly what happened from that point forward is still, to this day, a haze of jumbled images and sounds in Zoh’s head. She didn’t manage to kill it – not a young peon girl with a shovel. But she did manage to hold it off, and hold it’s attention from the rest of the fleeing peons long enough for them to escape, get the guards at the front gate, and for the guards to return. Her next clear memory is of beating the shovel at the dead beasts head, yelling out hoarsely in rage.
“It is dead, young one. You cannot make it any moreso.” One of the two responding guards spoke in a calm, slow voice. Zoh ceased her flailing, looking about her; The beasts was indeed dead and the two guards looked at her with a bit of puzzlement. Her muscled ached, sweat poured down her brow and stung at her eyes as she tried to make sense of what she’d just done.
“Why did you not run, like the others?” the second guard asked. Zoh had to think on this for a few moment. Why hadn’t she run? That would have been the sensible thing to do, right?
“It would have killed.” She stated simply. “So had it to be killed.” The two guards looked at eachother for a long, silent moment before both burst into laughter. The laughter lasted for nearly a minute, and Zoh began to shuffle away, knowing that they were laughing at her ineptness.
“Come with us.” The first guard stated in a tone any peon was compelled to obey. The pair of guards turned and started off to the city gates, the young adolescent girl with them.
“Little one, listen carefully,” the first guard began in a deep, level voice as the threesome strode through the gates of Orgrimmar. “The gazelle of the Barrens, when attacked by the lion, flee. Each gazelle knows that it does not have to be the fastest of the herd, they just cannot be the slowest.”
“They are content with saving themselves alone, and leave the slowest to die,” the second guard continued.
“But the lions of the Barrens, they are quite different. When attacked, their pride bands together and they fight back, tooth and claw, roaring defiantly!” The first one went on.
“Did you hear the roar of this little one?” The second asked the first, chuckling in amusement.
“How could I not? The last time I heard such screams, Neeru Fireblade was ripping the soul from that captured cultist!”
“Ha! Yes! A true scream of the soul!” The guard recalled, then went, “we shall see if you truely have the great heart of a lion, little one, or the meek heart of a gazelle.”
Shortly, the stood before a guard captain, and the first guard spoke. “This little one who’s name is …” he turned to the girl.
“Zoh.” She responded in a soft, hoarse voice.
“Zoh,” the guard repeated, “face a Scythemaw with little but a shovel in her hand. We paused to watch for a moment before dispatching the beast.”
“Her arms are strong, and her feet are quick.” The second guard continued. “She fought with sense and reason, using the terrain to her advantage.” Zoh puzzled over this, not truely remembering how the fight had progressed. Did it truely happen that way?
“If you think it worthwhile,” The guard captain stated. “Then take her to the Valley of Trials. There we shall see beyond doubt if she is what you say.” Then the captain turned to address her directly.
“Not everyone who goes into the Valley returns. Many are buried there, many who failed. You will either succeed or die. You must used your wits, and attend your training with diligence. It is not easy, but should you be one of the fortunate who survived the Valley, you will be on your way to becoming a warrior for the Warchief. This is the path before you, Zoh …” He hesitated a moment.
“Soulscream.” The first guard intoned, the captain looking up for a moment, brow raised, then returning his attention to the girl.
“A great honor, girl, to have been given a name already! Never the less, this is the path before you. You will either succeed or die. Lok’tar ogar, Zoh Soulscream!” And the captain saluted. And the guards saluted. And for perhaps the first time in her life, the young peons back straightened and she stood to full height, her shoulders held back as pride filled her breast and threatened to burst forth, and as she spoke, she did so with confidence and self purpose …
“Lok’tar ogar!” Victory or death!