Moxie Bluetongue is an orc warlock formerly of the Thunderlord Clan who survived ruin time and time again in pursuit of a life she could call her own. No masters, no chieftains- she lives in pursuit of a self-sufficiency that will leave her beholden to no one. It's the only kind of living she can imagine will give her any peace.
Moxie was born without incident in the middle of a scorching Draenor summer, in the foothills of the Blade's Edge mountains. Her father rode wolfback and hunted for their meals and her mother muttered spells that kept stranger creatures far at bay. Safety was in short supply, and shorter still in the near future- but for just a little while, when she was a little girl with dirt in her hair and bloody knuckles, she had it from them.
She was an energetic, curious child who could never decide which parent she admired more. She followed her father on hunts, whether he allowed it or not- and her mother could draw her attention for hours with just a few ensorcelled words, tumbling lights across her fingertips and weaving mysteries out of thin air. Curses, she eventually learned they were called- and her mother laid those curses on anything fool enough to come close to their hut. Carrion birds wheeled through the sky in panic, their necks hunched in agony as strange magic drove them away from Garmax's latest catch.
Moxie decided that she very much wanted to learn all of her mother's curses- but her mother only relented in letting her study after her father saw her complete her Om'riggor.
The beast was dead, nobody could deny that. So what if a few words remembered from her mother had tumbled across her lips? A few precious syllables, wracking it with seeping agony that shot through its muscles like shattered glass, transfixing it in a blinding pain that allowed her to walk up and brain it with a stone club- she was told to bring only her body and a weapon, and that's exactly what she did. The rite was honored, albeit cruelly done.
And so the mean old silver-horned talbuk, maimed, hung over her shoulders like a champion's mantle as she returned home. With it, she fed her family, claimed a trophy, and paid the toll to walk the path of a warlock.
The drums of war were beating louder every day, and Moxie had to learn everything she could before the easy peace of her youth gave way to carnage. First, the curses. She saw no need to admit she already had a handle on them- let her mother think of it as simple grace, the mark of a student eager to demonstrate what they'd learned. Next came the fires- no sorcerer's abjuration, these were the projection of the self, the soul made living flame. Droma was grave in her instruction- never give too much of yourself to the flame, never feed too much of the flame into your quarry- in that moment, you become them and they become you, and the both of you burn to death.
A solid grip on one's own soul was requisite above all else to take her first real step into the shadows. By the time the horns of war were blowing, and Ner'zhul called on warriors far and wide, she had learned what her mother called the cuts, slices of shadow cut off and hurled forth- a bolt, a corrupting sickness, a flame that blackened with a ribbon of exquisite darkness hollowing its core.
Further, Droma refused her. Neither of them were Gul'dan. Neither of them, Droma insisted, had any need to treat with the strange, miserable creatures that dwelt on the other side awaiting call. Their way was enough, and it had been enough since Droma's mother, and her mother before her, first sunk hands into the shadow and pulled forth their first boil of inky black protection.
So when they passed through the portal, a convenient chaos separated the two of them, and Moxie sought study elsewhere.
The Laughing Sage
The sound was like a crow, choking as much as it was taunting, wet and rasping, high and thrilled. As much a wheeze as anything else, especially as the greybeard slapped at his chest and leaned on his staff, grinding the heel of it into the bloody dirt to steady himself.
He named himself Promise, which was no kind of orcish name, but there was humor in that for him.
"There's power in a name," that was his first lesson. "You may be called upon to give it, and when you do, it shackles you. Now me, I'm lucky. They ask me my assurances for their bargains, ask me a name, but all I can do is shake my head and tell 'em, 'I Promise.' Ha!"
Promise knew nothing of the cuts. He'd heard of them, sure, but hadn't any use for them. His way was the green lash, a bead of life from soul to soul, drawing one toward the other. He claimed to be a hundred years old or more- a lie, and a wild one at that, even as old as he looked- but doubt crept into Moxie's mind as she wondered, could the magic do that?
She found out when the soldiers fell upon them. Promise was laughing again, his green lash swiping across armor like water, stealing at every gap, turning the brown and blonde and black mustaches beneath to salt and pepper and snow. On they came, and faltered, and died- at least on his side. At his back, Moxie spat her curses and watched one man choke- but as soon as her eyes parted from him, he rallied, just a few paces behind his brothers.
"Take!" Promise bellowed. "Quit giving and take or they'll do plenty of taking with those swords, ha!"
Quit giving. He had a point. Droma had always insisted the shadow was sacred, in its own difficult way. And here she was, drawing them fruitlessly into it, giving them tastes- like taking a little venom with your water until a snake could no longer threaten you, was she simply making them comfortable with it?
The thought disgusted her enough to finally take Promise's advice- and the magic seemed to draw on that disgust, erupting from the darkest corners of her living soul in a thick band of sickly green that whirled about her wrist like half a set of fetters, the other end locking tight around a man's neck. His sword dropped, and then the rest of him did, and suddenly the panic was gone from her.
Suddenly she was laughing just like Promise.
Deep Blue Something
Sometimes, magic leaves a mark. A scar, a brand, a glowing rune- the sorcery has its due, and always offers a memento. Promise told her as much, flashing tusks in a grin and tilting his head to reveal a trail of markings that raced down his neck from under his ear, disappearing into that bristly gray beard.
It worried Moxie, just a little. What if reaching across the planes maimed her face? Left her unrecognizable- or worse, only recognizable as a warlock who consorted with all manner of demons? But she had been waiting for a long time, and the war- was it the First or the Second? She wasn't sure anymore, if she had ever known. It was growing longer and ever more vicious as the humans and their allies dug in.
A little backup would make all the difference in the world.
"You never know what you'll get. Name, shape, attitude- ha! My first was a toad of an imp, called himself Daglop. Potbellied little cretin, picked his nose between every fireball he ever hucked."
She hoped desperately that whatever she called out to would at least have a little more dignity than that.
The night sky was black-blue silk piled so thick that the stars could scarcely peek through it at all. The moon had turned her back long enough for ritual fires to go up without her attention. Pigment and blood hung in wet beads from Moxie's fingertips as she completed the circle and bent her head to say the words.
Her tongue ached to say them, suddenly. The pain was so alarming and so strange that she hardly knew what to do with it, as if the muscle had been stretched out and pulverized with a hammer. She forced herself through the syllables, the pain growing and growing as she reached out, casing her shadow across the nether and reaching out a shadow's hand to take hold of something- anything, damn the pain- to pull back through before the opportunity spoiled.
She heard Promise let out a mocking whistle and laugh his crow's laugh as she took a staggering step backward, yanking a thoroughly offended succubus through the circle by the wrist.
Just as she felt she might be able to speak again, Promise took her by the chin, gave her a long, searching look, and laughed at that too. He had a new name for her, and she had a feeling she would come to hate it.
Bluetongue, he had said. Bluetongue and her little girlfriend. If his cackling had begun to grow on her, it was wearing off by then.
Dust and Song
Wars end, and thank the spirits that they do. A little atrocity here and there, forever embittering orc and human toward each other, a little more bloodshed, a healthy dash of rioting, and then they were over water.
Moxie hated the sea with an intensity that made her forget all about Promise's wheezing laugh. She missed him more than she loathed him, and she felt seasick more than she felt either other way.
A beautiful, dutiful succubus held her hair as she vomited starboard and aft, away from the wind and away from the other refugees, what thin few there were who would sail among the warlocks.
"I expect it pleases you to see me like this," she muttered, giving the succubus a little poke at the ribs with her elbow. The demon let out a hissing laugh and shook her head, but had the good sense not to confirm.
The warlock was asleep when they ran aground in Durotar- beautiful, bright umber as far as the eye could see. Canyons, a distant river, mountains biting into the horizon, boars and lizards to eat. She shuddered with relief- this wasn't Blade's Edge, she might never see those mountains again, but it didn't get much closer to home than this. Maybe she'd find her mother and father, coming off another boat. She laughed and picked the succubus up off her hooves and whirled her around in excitement, then dropped her with a klonk on the deck and rushed off to disembark.
She even shed her shoes in the process, to feel that rusty clay cooking underfoot. They were still tucked under her armpit when she found an orc sat astride a wolf, barking at grunting peons to haul sacks and crates up from the hold.
He had lost an eye and all his hair on the same side- a milky green patch of uneven scarring from nostril to neckline told the tale, Alliance mages. Yet, even maimed, she knew him.
Garmax of the Thunderlord Clan grinned down at his daughter.
"You made it."
"You made it!"
They echoed each other in many ways- their body language, their stares, their smiles- and finally in their embrace, as Garmax dropped out of the saddle and kicked up dirt, thundering forth to wrap up his long-gone little girl, not so little anymore. And that reek! Darkest magic, sinister and smoking, somewhere underneath the skin.
Just like her mother. No, maybe a little worse. A little more potent. What had she done?
Garmax decided he didn't care, and hugged her again, clapping her back and reveling and pointedly ignoring the succubus standing about ten paces away, inspecting her fingernails.
Now where was her mother? Where was Droma, genius that she was? Moxie had to thank her, had to hold her hands and look her in the eye and say that those dark words of mystery had saved her, that she was sorry, that she had missed her so very much...
Garmax's expression grew grim. Droma had heard, he said. The rituals, the theft of life- borrowing, Moxie insisted- consorting with maniacs like Promise. Droma would not see her.
"She told me that whoever you are now," Garmax grunted unhappily, "she doesn't know you. I'm sorry."
Somehow Moxie knew it already, but knowing it did nothing to stop the ache in her chest that followed.
Night by Night
Drinking didn't come easy on the other side of the sea. Who had time to brew? What ale they had was stolen, stinking stuff that the humans swilled until they staggered. Promise never seemed to mind, but then, Promise had less and less qualms as the war went on, until he found that even dying troubled him very little.
Sitting in Orgrimmar half a year after its construction, Moxie drank until she could hear him laughing, drank until she could see her mother tumbling lights across her knuckles, drank until the long struts of bone and horn holding up the roof looked like the crisscross peaks of home.
Nobody came close when her head hit the table. The succubus standing vigil at her side marked her as forever an outcast- but more than that, looked a little too dangerous to bother. When she woke up, her head a single uniform throb from her spine to ends of her hair, the tavern had been cleaned in a radius around her, and her cheek was sticky with whatever she'd spilled hours and hours ago.
It was beneath her. As far as that went, it was beneath her stalwart companion. She knew it was dangerous territory to start respecting a demon and appreciating their company, but who else had been there? Her father had his duties, her mother... best not think about that. Nobody else who'd ever been at her side had crossed the sea, and so the succubus was all she had.
What would become of her if Moxie drank herself to death? If their pact broke, would she simply disappear? Would she wreak havoc in the streets? No, better not to find out. Better to live more of a life than this. Take the day to rest, wash, pull herself together. And then when the sun went down, she would take her life back.
She walked the long road to Razor Hill, and then to the valley beyond it. It cheered her to see the young orcs grunting in the dust, cutting down boars and roasting them on spits- but long after sundown, when the cookfires went out, young warlocks-to-be started their ritual fires, nervously trying the words and reaching out into the shadows, only to recoil suddenly as if burned on a hot stove.
It made her laugh, but it wasn't Moxie Bluetongue she heard, as she walked up on them with her own shadow trailing long and back, eerily still in the flicker of the firelight. Promise's dry cackle stirred the fear in those acolytes and satisfied whatever mourning she felt for him, if only for a moment.
They were a way for her to keep learning, different from all the other ways. For once, she could watch their mistakes instead of her own. Breathe a little while, with no master over her, and no clan to come calling.
"You'll get nowhere, giving yourself to the shadows like that," she told them in her own voice. It had changed, too. It was rich, deep, full with experience. She saw them gaping at her, a stranger come out of the night- maybe to mock them, maybe to enlist them in some dark purpose- but she had neither in mind. She walked smoothly around the fire in heeled boots, punching divots in the clay and ash as she took stock of them. Weak and stupid, every last one, but that meant nothing- she had been too, and maybe worse, once.
On the other side of the fire, the succubus snapped her whip, causing one of the hooded figures to yelp in shock.
"If you want to be a warlock," she offered with arms spread wide, as if demonstrating just what a warlock was to these unblooded, silly creatures, "then you've got to learn to take."