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This story takes place in a near-canon timeline, distinguished only by a single choice that might have been made by an adventurer with more agency than the original medium allows.


Derk'nal had a lot of time to think while riding around in a Krom'gar Demolisher, systematically destroying Alliance troops. The job might have seemed like it would require one's full attention, but for Derk'nal, it was easy enough to do while thinking, so he decided to think.

When he'd been sent to Battlescar Valley earlier that day, he hadn't expected to see much action, except maybe from up on top of the nearby Cliffwalker Post. Being sent there to drop an explosive—one known only as the Bomb—on Battlescar Valley because there was no hope for the Horde, Derk'nal really didn't think he'd be rolling around in a tank destroying the Alliance.

However, a snag appeared in the plan. In reality, it wasn't that the Alliance was overpowering the Horde; as Derk'nal could see, it was quite the contrary. Horde troops outnumbered Alliance troops 2 to 1, giving the Horde a tactical advantage. The Horde even had more Demolishers than the Alliance had Ancients. No, that wasn't why the Bomb was brought there, as General Grebo had clearly explained to Chieftain Cliffwalker within Derk'nal's hearing when Derk'nal had landed at Cliffwalker Post.

"My scouts have informed me that Thal'darah Grove—the grove within Battlescar Valley—holds a powerful weapon," Grebo had explained. "A weapon that the Alliance will use against us if they are not stopped. Furthermore, I am here by the authority of Overlord Krom'gar, who was himself appointed by our Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream. You will do his bidding or suffer the consequences."

However, Cliffwalker apparently didn't agree with Grebo's scouts.

"I have sent my boy, Orthus, to Thal'darah Grove to fetch you proof," Cliffwalker had said. "You will soon see that they pose no threat to us."

So it actually wasn't the fight with the Alliance that required the Bomb's deployment, but instead destroying a superweapon. Derk'nal was glad that it wasn't about dropping the Bomb on a bunch of Alliance soldiers, as that would have most definitely violated his code of honor; after all, he reasoned, using anything of such massive power on people who had nothing of the same scale to resist would hardly be fair…unlike the current battle, where the Horde was winning, but honorably, not by tactics that were unfairly beyond their opponents.

Derk'nal's thought session didn't get much further before he found himself back at Cliffwalker Post, the battle securely won for the Horde with the Alliance dead or fleeing. After being sure to formally announce his presence, Derk'nal informed the General of what had just occurred, after which he brought up his next question.

"Is there anything left for me to do here, or would I be better off assisting Krom'gar's Army elsewhere?" he inquired. Being a Champion of Krom'gar's Army might have been a high rank, but he still had to answer to the Generals.

"You have one final task," stated Grebo. "If you've successfully driven off the Alliance from Battlescar Valley, it's time to drop the Bomb."

Cliffwalker raised his hand in objection. "My son still has not returned from his investigation at Thal'darah Grove to see if there indeed is a superweapon there. Surely the Bomb's deployment can wait for a small party to check on Orthus's safety?"

Derk'nal looked between Grebo and Cliffwalker. He knew he had to answer to Generals, but Tauren Chieftains weren't on the rank list. However, he did want to see for himself whether or not the Grove had a superweapon.

Grebo broke the silence and answered Derk'nal's question simultaneously. "I will allow you time, Cliffwalker," he said. "But I will send no more than this one Champion, Derk'nal, and when he returns, the Bomb will be deployed."

"If the Champion's results agree with your scouts," Cliffwalker amended.

"My scouts are correct and I will prove it!" exclaimed Grebo.

"Whoever's scouts are correct," Derk'nal said, attempting to defuse the situation, "I'm going to go check on your son. I'll check on the superweapon while I'm there."

• • • •

When Derk'nal returned to Cliffwalker Post, he had, indeed, checked on both the superweapon and on Orthus. The superweapon's status wasn't especially complicated; the superweapon just wasn't there. Orthus's status, however, was peculiar; he had been lying dead on the floor amidst a group of Alliance druids, clutching a Krom'gar General's insignia.

"So as I see it," Derk'nal explained to Chieftain Cliffwalker, "either there never was a superweapon there, and both Orthus and the druids died in battle with each other—"

"—which would not have happened," Cliffwalker cut in. "I knew Orthus. He would never have killed any of the young druids there. They were his friends!"

"Well, then there's my other theory," Derk'nal continued, "which is that there was a superweapon, but it destroyed itself firing upon the group. I'm inclined towards this view, since there's no reason why both Alliance and Horde would have died in the same place otherwise…"

"You missed a third option," Cliffwalker said grimly. "Did you forget about the General's insignia?"

Derk'nal knitted his eyebrows, an expression of confusion coming over his face. "I didn't," he said. "I just don't see where it comes in. Orthus would have had no reason to have had a General's insignia…"

Cliffwalker's answer came in a whisper. "Unless he were killed by one."

Derk'nal was too perplexed to respond.

"Look around you, monk," Cliffwalker whispered. "The guards are now in battle formations. Do you think they're expecting an attack when no Alliance can be seen in the area? More likely, they're expecting a mutiny for their general's dishonor…and I intend to give them one."

Cliffwalker walked over to the General's tent, with a stunned Derk'nal following him at a safe distance.

"GENERAL!" bellowed Cliffwalker. "Come out from your tent and face me!"

Grebo came out of his tent at full speed. "Foolish tauren," he said. "You dare display such disrespect? What is the meaning of this interruption?"

"Did you lose your insignia, General?" said Cliffwalker.

Grebo felt around on his armor for where his insignia should have been. "…Yes, I did lose it!" he said, evidently somewhat perturbed. "Where did you find it?"

"Derk'nal found it," said Cliffwalker. "On the corpse of my only child, you miserable son of a pig."

Grebo laughed. "Your boy was weak," he sneered. "Spineless. Just like his father. Neither of you knew what must be done. I'm disappointed in you."

Everything clicked together in Derk'nal's mind.

There was never a superweapon, but the General never wanted anyone to know…

"And you, Derk'nal," said Grebo. "You are a disgrace to the Horde! The punishment for you all is DEATH!"

Grebo and his two guards charged at Derk'nal and Cliffwalker. From his safe distance, Derk'nal had a few seconds to prepare for combat. Fortunately for him, the distance was to his advantage, as he'd learned the ways of the monk from the Pandaren. Focusing his magical power (or chi, as the Pandaren called it), he blasted it at one of the guards through his hands in the form of a wave of green lightning, sending the guard flying backwards. Derk'nal charged over to the guard, knocked him out with a fast kick, and turned to see how well Cliffwalker was doing.

He's pinned against a wall. That's not good.

Derk'nal did a near repeat of his lightning blast, this time sending a sphere of chi at the remaining guard and Grebo, just enough to grab their attention. The guard who the sphere had hit charged at Derk'nal in anger. That was his last move. Derk'nal delivered a powerful uppercut to the guard at close range, sending him flying over Derk'nal's head, where he landed on the other guard and sent them both off the edge of the small pillar that Cliffwalker Post resided on.

As Derk'nal turned back to Grebo, he found himself pinned against a wall as Cliffwalker had been a moment before. "Traitor," Grebo spat. "You turn against me just because your foolish old friend wants some fickle peace? No one needs reasons to destroy the Alliance."

Derk'nal concentrated his power into his hands again. This time, no lightning or chi sphere shot out of his hands; he simply smacked Grebo with the flat of his hand. Grebo froze in place, unable to move under the power of Derk'nal's attack.

"Everyone needs reasons," said Derk'nal. "For example, your dishonorable murder of Orthus now gives me a reason to assist in your demise. Cliffwalker?"

Derk'nal didn't see what hit Grebo, only that Grebo fell off of him, smoking.

"That was for my son!" yelled Cliffwalker. Flames went out in his hands; evidently, their job done, he had no reason to continue using them.

Grebo moved as if to stand up, but then slumped back down. "Krom'gar will kill you…" he said. "All of you…" Grebo went still.

Cliffwalker checked to see if Grebo was still alive as Derk'nal checked to make sure that no one was about to try to kill him. After ascertaining that no one was, he turned back to Cliffwalker, who now looked concerned.

"Grebo was right," said Cliffwalker. "He may now be dead, but that's all the more reason to worry. When Krom'gar finds out that his subordinate has died, he'll kill us all for treason." Cliffwalker breathed heavily for a moment, then brightened slightly. "Derk'nal," he said, "perhaps if you spoke to Overlord Krom'gar, he would listen to what you say? You are a Champion in his army, after all. You saw everything. Please help us, friend. We simply wish to be left alone…in peace."

Derk'nal thought for a moment. "All right," he said. "I'll tell him. But first, I need evidence that I saw everything. The mission can wait; no one will tell Krom'gar if I take a short break to map Thal'darah Grove in order to prove to Krom'gar that there is no superweapon."

"You're sure?" said Cliffwalker.

Derk'nal turned to the other inhabitants of Cliffwalker Post, then shouted, "As of now, I am in charge here, not Grebo. None of you are to leave this place until I return. Is that clear?"

If anyone disagreed, they made no signs of saying so.

• • • •

Derk'nal scanned for opposition as he came up to Cliffwalker Post on one of the lifts that provided access to the top of the pillar where the Post lodged. However, no one had moved from their positions and there was still no sign of opposition. Sighing with relief, Derk'nal moved to take a flight to Krom'gar Outpost.

As he flew, Derk'nal looked over his thorough map of Thal'darah Grove. This should convince Krom'gar, he thought.

After Derk'nal landed, he approached Krom'gar. "Overlord?" he said uncertainly, unsure of whether anyone had talked to Krom'gar in his absence.

The Overlord turned to face Derk'nal. "What is it, Champion?" he said.

Derk'nal cleared his throat, trying to figure out the best way to explain his point to Krom'gar without losing the Overlord's interest. "General Grebo and Chieftain Cliffwalker battled at Cliffwalker post due to a dispute over honor."

"And the outcome was?"

"Cliffwalker emerged victorious and killed Grebo."

"TREASON!" yelled Krom'gar. "We must apprehend this traitor at once!" Before Derk'nal could stop him, Krom'gar had given a few directions that Derk'nal couldn't hear before getting on a wind rider and flying off towards Cliffwalker Post. Derk'nal promptly got on another one and flew after him.

"Overlord," Derk'nal said, shouting to be heard over the flapping of the wind riders' wings, "the dispute concerned whether or not a superweapon existed in Thal'darah Grove."

Krom'gar made a barely audible noise of contempt.

"I scouted out the Grove, and there isn't a weapon," said Derk'nal. Making his wind rider move a bit faster to catch up with Krom'gar's, Derk'nal passed the Overlord his map. Krom'gar took one look at the map, then crumpled it up and threw it away.

"There was never a weapon there," said Krom'gar. "The weapon was just an excuse to fool the masses into obeying us. Did you really ever think, for a second, that something so implausible existed there?"

We have one. Why couldn't they?

"I know what you're thinking," said Krom'gar. "But the Alliance is too soft. They wouldn't dare resort to surprise tactics or utilize mass destruction. That's what we have over them: power."

"So you're dropping the bomb just to scare them."

"Of course."

Derk'nal felt a growing anger rising inside of him. "If all we have is power, then we have nothing!"

Krom'gar gestured ahead of him towards Cliffwalker Post, which was coming into view. "Look ahead of you, orc. Does this look like nothing?"

Derk'nal squinted to see the Post, then paused with horror, his wind rider now flying of its own accord. All the buildings in Cliffwalker were on fire, and corpses littered the area. Many of the orcs who Derk'nal had seen back at Krom'gar Outpost now filled the Post; clearly, Krom'gar had sent them ahead to cause the carnage that Derk'nal now witnessed.

"There was a battle here?" said Derk'nal, his mind slowly catching up with events. "Why?"

"To stop the traitors," said Krom'gar. "And as you should be able to see now, we won. Now, we can drop the Bomb in peace without some puny uprising stopping us."

Just then, the wind riders landed. Derk'nal got off and looked around. No one familiar from Cliffwalker Post had survived except for a single tauren, who was now being guarded heavily. Everyone else from the Post had died.

The Overlord killed innocents…just because he feared betrayal…

"Overlord!" Derk'nal called out, catching up with Krom'gar, who had moved towards the Bomb. "We have something more, something higher than power: we have honor! This does nothing but destroy that in favor of a baser motive!"

Krom'gar snorted. "Honor is weak, stupid, pointless," he said. "Anyone who holds honor over power and loyalty deserves to die."

"Loyalty?" said Derk'nal. "Did the Warchief send you here to slaughter these people?"

"The Warchief sent me here to take Stonetalon Mountains," said Krom'gar. "Nothing else matters."

"We could still do it in an honorable way! One that doesn't involve these atrocities!"

"You'll never see it my way," said Krom'gar, reaching to release the balloon holding the Bomb.

This was the last straw for Derk'nal.

I could never follow someone this dishonorable. This act of deploying the Bomb on harmless druids would be unthinkable. Even what he just did of killing everyone here…terrible. There's only one option: Krom'gar must die.

"Krom'gar!" Derk'nal said. "For your dishonorable deeds, I challenge you to mak'gora!"

Krom'gar turned to Derk'nal. "Foolish orc," he said. "Fine. You want a duel to the death? So be it. Let us end this now, so no others will ever make your mistake again. When the Bomb is dropped, all will see the true might of the Horde with no interruptions."

Before any time could be taken to prepare for the duel, Krom'gar threw his axe at Derk'nal, who managed to drop to the ground to dodge it before it could hit him. Krom'gar ran for his axe, giving Derk'nal time to kick Krom'gar. Krom'gar stumbled but kept going, then retrieved his axe as Derk'nal stood up.

"You have made a grave mistake, Champion," said Krom'gar, swinging his axe at Derk'nal. Derk'nal stepped back to dodge it, then kicked it out of Krom'gar's hands as it swung backwards, sending it flying onto one of the piers that the lifts attached to.

"The point of the duel is to see if I've made a mistake, Overlord," said Derk'nal, "or if you have." Focusing his chi into his whole body, he shot past Krom'gar onto the pier, apprehending Krom'gar before Krom'gar could retrieve his weapon. After taking a moment to assess their positions, Derk'nal ran at Krom'gar, figuring that there was no time to channel lightning at him. However, Krom'gar was faster than Derk'nal had expected. Before Derk'nal could attack, Krom'gar had punched him backwards. Derk'nal had barely enough foresight to grab onto the edge of the pier and avoid tumbling to his demise.

Krom'gar picked up his axe, then walked over to the place where the pier connected to Cliffwalker Post proper. "Now, this ends," he said. Just as Derk'nal managed to scramble back onto the pier, Krom'gar cut the connections to the pier, sending it tumbling off the cliff.

But Derk'nal wasn't done. Most of his energy might have been spent, but he still had one trick left. Just as he had done to roll past Krom'gar, Derk'nal focused, then propelled himself up the falling pier, up the cliffside, into the air, and past the stunned Krom'gar. As Krom'gar slowly turned to face Derk'nal—from the look on his face, trying to get a grip on events—Derk'nal blasted Krom'gar's axe out of his hands with green lightning as he had earlier blasted the guard. Krom'gar moved to collect his axe, giving Derk'nal enough time to step forward and kick Krom'gar off the cliff, leaving the non-magical orc to fall to his doom.

Derk'nal took a minute to catch his breath. As he did so, he was approached by the tauren. "Well done, Overlord," he said. His voice was extremely familiar. As Derk'nal turned to look at him, he saw that it was none other than Cliffwalker.

"Chieftain?" said Derk'nal. "You survived?"

Cliffwalker laughed humorlessly. "Who else would the Overlord have kept alive to torture other than me?" he said. "At any rate, by Orcish custom, you are now the leader of Krom'gar's Army, having defeated him in single combat. Have you any plans for your new army?"

Derk'nal paused for a moment. "We will finish the Warchief's mission and take these lands for our own," said Derk'nal. "Honorably."

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