Tai’tasi was right – the innkeeper wasn’t interested in putting me up for a night if I couldn’t pay for it, even though he had beds empty and available. Two really good things did come from my visit to the inn, at least – he did let me cook a small fish I caught over his fire, and I met a young herbalist named Mishiki. By no means could I claim to know all about the plants that grew out in the wilderness, but we had a great conversation over dinner about life on the farm and the types of crops we grew. I guess I hadn’t quite realized just how much I had learned while tilling, planting, caring for, and eventually harvesting for all those seasons. Mishiki was the second helpful troll I had met on my journey, and it was only the end of the first day! If that weren’t a sign of good things to come, I don’t know what else could have been.

Not being able to afford a room, I spent the cool evening resting against some nearby trees, watching the last vestiges of the sun set below the endless Great Sea. The offshore breeze was cooler than I expected, but it provided welcome relief from the overbearing sun that had beat down on the land all day long. In the morning I pulled on my boots, after checking them for creepy-crawlies that may have wanted a quiet place of their own, stretched a bit, and continued on my way, leaving Sen’jin Village behind.

I turned Northward, where a very long ways off the sprawling capital of Orgrimmar waited for me. I’d never been, but my father had once, and he told me about the impossible number of people they had gathered in one place. Not just orcs and trolls either, he said, but goblins and other things we never saw down in the valley – he even claimed to see a tauren from afar, but I think he was just pulling my leg. His stories made me happy as a child, and walking the long, cracked paths of Durotar made me think about what stories I could some day tell my future children, whether they’d be impressed with their father and his adventures to save his sister.

In the distance, toward the coastline, I saw the ruins of a great castle with a clock-tower in its center. My father had certainly never mentioned anything about seeing anything like that before. A wild boar grunted at me as I sneaked by to get a better look – something about the place gave me a bad feeling, let alone the hills were overrun with animals that didn’t seem so neutral to young orcs like me. Cresting a nearby hill, I froze – humans! Pale-skinned and bony, there were real-life humans in the ruins of the old keep, undoubtedly with savagery on their mind.

Everyone knows we’re at war with the humans and dwarves, their Alliance having been the cause of countless raids against our peaceful homelands. For some reason they saw it as a grand crusade to wipe out everyone who didn’t look like them – which I always thought confusing, because it sounded like dwarves and humans looked almost nothing alike – and to find even just a few soldiers here, in the middle of Durotar, rattled me to my core.

I crept back down the hill and raced toward the well-worn road, deciding whether I should run back to Sen’jin or onward toward the town of Razor Hill. My mother always said troops were stationed nearby, and I didn’t see any while visiting the village, so I kept running North toward the larger outpost. I lamented that there weren’t any guards on the road, like there were back in the Valley of Trials, because I’m sure they could do something about those terrible interlopers.

Breathless and panting, I finally made it to the wooden walls of Razor Hill – already it looked like a defensible position, and I was glad to have come this way. I ran through the entrance and toward the very martial-looking barracks, trying to get the attention of guards and warriors. A soldier of indeterminate rank came outside to investigate the commotion I was causing, and I gave him all the information I had – there were humans, maybe even a dozen of them, holed up in a broken-down castle to the South, Doubtless they were planning a major attack on our farming villages!

Much to my chagrin, the soldier did not seem worried or even interested in the news. “They’re back, you say?” he asked, rhetorically. “We run them off every few weeks. It’s a good exercise for our new recruits. I think the Alliance just wants to remind us they’re around.”

I couldn’t believe it. Actual humans, here in Durotar, and the guard didn’t even consider it a threat? The soldier waved me off, saying he would send some troops to look into it, and disappeared back into the barracks. I was left stunned, mouth agape, standing in the dusty city square. The world was much larger than I could have imagined, where something that was a truly existential threat to everyone I had ever known was barely a training exercise for real Horde soldiers. I sat down near the stables, trying to process what had just happened.

Either my sense of priorities were far off-base from the rest of the world’s, or the soldiers in this town had a very flawed measure of right and wrong. No matter how personally moving and distressing seeing the humans had been, I tried to balance that with the fact that I knew every little of the world outside our farming valley, and that the people I was likely to meet would have far more life experience than I. It was a good, logical argument, but did little to settle the unease in my stomach.

Instead of staying in Razor Hill, I decided to put more miles between me and the encroaching humans. Even if the local guard weren’t upset by the news, it still didn’t sit well with me, and I knew I would not be able to get a comfortable night’s rest, even within the well-defended walls of the city.