Author's Note: Have you ever taken that quest in Tanaris where the Goblins want you to kill the Wastewander Bandits for their water? Have you ever considered the situation from the bandits' perspective?
The desert was silent.
Krak was awake, every nerve bristling, senses alert. The desert was never silent.
Even in the wide empty spaces of southern Tanaris where antediluvian bones rested in the scalding sand, there was life. But not now.
Krak rolled over and quietly emerged from a sand dune. He had slept most of the day cocooned beneath the earth, a hollowed out bone serving as a breathing tube as his tribe had taught him. It was twilight, and the air was cool. Krak felt around his neck and withdrew his fine metal dagger from its sheath.
A rare prize that dagger. Metal was extremely scarce in Tanaris if you were a nomad of the Wastewander people. Krak still remembered how he won the blade.
Krak was eight, and a sturdy young dwarf in the Shattered Bone clan of the Wastewanders. He had been on his third raid with his ‘pack’, other young Wastewander rogues, all human. The five of them had tracked a group of mounted humans and night elves into the lands of the Sandfury trolls. Two of the humans wore carapaces of shiny metal. Krak had hardly believed they were human until they removed their head-shells and he could spy their features.
Krak’s pack convened. Obviously these strangers were fabulously wealthy. Why they wore metal as if it were cloth! Surely they had more water than they could keep track of. If the strangers did not notice was what lost, it would be their problem. The desert is not kind to the water-soft.
The pack’s plan slowly came into being. They would track them until dusk, and rob them while they slept. For a bunch of eight-year olds, it was a good plan. Unfortunately it was not to be.
The strangers rode west to the troll ruins and the pack followed. As night descended, the strangers let out a cry. The sands around them exploded with nets and arrows. Trolls of the Sandfury tribe had sprung a trap. They were wise and perceived that the strangers sought their ancient home. The battle was over before it started. The water of the strangers’ bodies was crimson against the earth, and the Sandfury set to work to harvest their kill.
The pack was furious. They had been robbed of their hunt! They could not return to camp empty handed. It would be a black mark on their manhood.
Krak didn’t remember who started it. His friends just turned as a one and ran towards the troll band. The trolls were momentarily stunned by the appearance of six feral children over the dunes. At least until one of the trolls was swarmed by the youthful apparitions and fell to his knees. The troll’s water spouted from deep gashes made by bone knives. The children suckled at the nourishing water, their lips stained ruby.
The Sandfuries were in an uproar. Arrows twanged and war-screams rent the night. The strangers’ equipment was in the center of the troll’s makeshift camp. Krak ran towards it, determined to bring back tribute for the tribe and fulfill his raiding debt as a man. Aal, his packmate, rushed towards the packs as well, and together they lifted a heavy saddlebag off the pile and sprinted for the edge of camp.
A bow-string twanged and Krak felt the bag become crushingly heavy on his shoulders. Rolling out from under the weight, he looked back to see Aal slammed face down on the sand. Aal’s thigh was transfixed by an arrow and his body was losing water. Aal reached out and struggled to move forward, his body undulating like Father Serpent.
Screaming, a troll warrior sprinted toward Krak, its face a mask of filed teeth and white froth. The warrior’s bone club came crashing down where Krak was seconds before. The saddlebags spit open, and its contents spilled everywhere.
Krak grabbed the first thing he could lay his hands on. He must survive and return to the tribe! He must take tribute for the pack! Krak dove under the troll’s legs and slammed his tribute into the assailant’s calf.
The troll’s screaming reached a higher octave, and Krak finally looked down at the thing in his hands. Long and curved at the tip, the serrated metal blade glinted in the firelight, slick with the troll’s water.
Dodging grasping arms, Krak sprinted into the night. The wounded troll hobbled a ways but soon crashed to the earth, screeching in rage. Arrows followed, but they only tracked the young dwarf’s footsteps.
Krak did not look back for Aal or the others. The pack knew. They were as one, so long as each could take care of himself. The weak fell from the pack, they were not of the tribe. The tribe’s warlock repeated these words to Krak when he returned home.
When it was discovered Krak was the only one to return, the elder solemnly returned the dagger to him. Krak was a man. By right, the trophy was his.
Remembrances passed through the dwarf’s mind in an eyeblink. Krak sprinted forward now, making no attempt to hide his approach.
The tribe should have challenged me by now, Krak thought Where is Shree and Mmir? Why aren’t they guarding the camp? He heard the high-pitched yipping of the hyenas before he saw it. The wind changed direction and he smelled the dying embers.
Gone. Krak looked around wide eyed. Tents of lion-skin were smoldering ashes, craters of blackened sand dotted the landscape, and their precious mobile forge was a heap of twisted steaming metal. Krak quickly rushed to the tribe bank, a large aperture dug under the rocks. He looked around in horror. All the tribe’s water, all their wealth was gone.
Krak staggered around the camp as if in a dream. Ravenous hyenas yipped and tore apart blackened carcasses. Bloated flies droned around unidentifiable remains. Krak saw none of this. In his minds eye, the elder’s tent still was standing tall in the sun, and Mmir was tanning Ogre hide by the bonfire.
Then he tripped over it. A handsome stranger, encased in metal with black scorch marks covering his face and arms. Krak bent closer to examine the burns. He caught a whiff of something pungent. Gunpowder. Krak realized Goblins! The pieces came tumbling together. The goblins in their walled city! They always wanted our water! Too lazy to get it themselves they sent OTHERS to steal it for them!!
Filled with inconsolable rage Krak screamed the wordless dirge of the dead. After a moment’s hush, the hyenas joined in, lifting the song of loss to the glittering heavens.