Rekindling the Flame [Letters]

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Dear Cairne, my High Chieftain,

The Horde has become a much different place since your passing. Sadly, your noble sacrifice has not taught the young son of Grom humility or respect for his elders. His brash and impulsive decisions continue to alarm the elder advisors, yet his ruthless campaigns continue to meet with success, so their hands and tongues are tied.

But I am not writing this letter to speak of Hellscream. No High Chieftain, I wished to thank you for saving my life, and giving me the strength and courage to recognize my flaws, and overcome them. I was lost in shame, but your eternal faith guided me home. Thank you, old friend.

It is Gamon, Cairne Bloodhoof. Yes, that Gamon.

I have no illusions or excuses over what I had become. I know I let you down...let our people down. I was a disgrace, a laughing stock. But you never lost hope in me, never gave up. Truly, I did not deserve your loyalty. The world is a darker place without your loving hand guiding us.

As you know, so many years ago I was one of the warriors who stood at your side as we signed the pivotal alliance with young Thrall and his Horde. But even before that fateful day, I took great pride in watching you blossom into our noble leader, smiled with paternal pride as you grew in wisdom and strength. I was proud to fight back the wicked centaur by your side, to stand at your back when we rescued your young son Baine from their clutches.

And I wept with joy when the back-breaking construction of Thunder Bluff was finished, and you took those first, dizzying steps across the rope walkways to test their strength. The rest of us were terrified at the notion - walk out into the air with nothing but a few hempen ropes and boards keeping us aloft, hundreds of feet above the plains below? But you just smiled your comforting smile and stepped out, no hesitation of apprehension on your face.

I remember the rest of us shouting at you to stop, to let one of us take the risk...but you just chuckled and - I will never forget this - said that you had faith that the walkway would be secure, trusted us. And though it swayed under your weight, though at one point a breeze shook the bridge perilously, you did not slow until you were safely across. That is just who you were.

Ah, Cairne. Those were good times.

But sadly, those were also my final days as a Taurajo brave, and the beginning of my downfall. After the labor was finished, when we had time to sit and enjoy our new city, and truly relax for the first time in was then that the injuries and hardship I had endured over countless battles started catching up to me. No centaur axe could touch my heart, no harpy claw could wound my spirit...but age and weariness? That sinister spear flew straight and true, and I could not avoid its thrust.

You tried your best to make me feel useful, to convince me that I was still a valuable member of the tribe - that I wasn't too old and battered to still be of use. You tried everything - dignitary missions to outlying villages and outposts, management of mundane but crucial domestic matters, even training young warriors in the way of mace and spear. I loved you for the gesture, and I know you had only the best intentions, but Cairne, we are warriors. I am no politician, no simple farmer content to count grains of wheat and fret about the midsummer harvest. I tried to perform these duties, because you had asked me to, but I could not. I am sorry, my Chieftain.

How long was it before you first found me shirking my responsibilities, horn-deep in my cups? And how many times after that did you turn a blind eye, until finally, you were forced to remove me from my position? Secretly, I think I wanted this. I wanted to fail, to stop the sad charade of my once-satisfying existence, but I was too weak to tell you directly. I didn't want to let you down...and so I took the coward's route out, and forced your hand.

I am so ashamed.

Even then, you were not angry with me. I wish that you had been. It would have made the moment hurt less. Instead, I sensed only...disappointment. I felt your hands gently tremble in regret as you removed the ceremonial harness marking my status, and put it aside. Normally, this was a grand tradition for our people, and the next to wear your symbol would have been proudly heralded and celebrated. But this was different. This was not a moment of triumph, but of painful, resigned sorrow.

"Gamon, old friend," you began, then fell silent for long moments. I did not see the look on your face, for I had dropped my head to study the floor. I could not bear to look at you. My hand clutched and twitched for a flask, a mug of ale, anything so that I could drink myself into oblivion and forget this moment forever.

I heard whispers, the malignant opinion of Magatha Grimtotem, as she directed her barely-contained disgust and pity toward me. Once, her serpent's words would have provoked me into an unstoppable battle rage, the kind our shamans tell stories of to our youth. And perhaps that is the reaction the crone desired. But her words washed over me and did not alight any spark within me. I was no longer Gamon the Strong, Gamon the Proud, Gamon, An'she's Hand. I was only Gamon...the drunk. The failure. The disgrace.

In the end, you gave me one final chance I did not deserve. "Gamon, our people are isolated from the rest of the Horde," you said. "We need a representative in Orgrimmar, someone who can speak for our people, who can be our eyes and ears amongst the Orcs, Trolls and Undead. I want you to be that person."

Magatha hissed, clearly against the idea, but you silenced her with a look, and continued. "I know you have fallen on hard times, Gamon, and it pains me to see you suffering. It is my hope that you will take this responsibility, this vital task, and wield it as you once so mightily wielded your spear at my side. Do not let this lethargy defeat you. Do not let melancholy and depression topple the strongest brave I have ever known. I know you have it within yourself, Gamon. You just have to believe it too."

My heart broke as I solemnly accepted the assignment, knowing that I was doomed to let you down again. I wanted to refuse you, to tell you to stop believing in me, to just let me be. But how could I? I would not throw your compassion in your face like some upstart calf; you deserved better. For you, Cairne, I would try.

The ride to Orgrimmar was long and hot, as the Barrens always is. I lingered and loitered, spending extra time at Camp Taurajo, then the Crossroads, even making a trip out to the goblin seaport Ratchet. All to delay arriving in Orgrimmar, where I feared my inevitable failure. On my stops, the ale flowed heavily, the rum even more so. I lost myself in an endless herd of tankards and drowned my fears in an alcoholic stupor.

But I could not postpone the voyage forever.

I arrived in Orgrimmar, a stranger among friends, and met with Thrall. He remembered me, that was clear, but he was clearly shocked to see the sorry state into which I had fallen. My hulking frame, once so powerful and bold, sagged with neglect and flab. My hunter's eyes were bloodshot and unfocused, and I reeked of whiskey, sweat and other less pleasant odors. The Warchief was kind and welcoming, but I knew he was dismayed at what I had become.

Was I destined to live my life disappointing those who I most respected? I pondered this question that evening as I unpacked my belongings.

I didn't have an answer.

From there, the days became a haze. I tried to proudly represent our people, Cairne. I truly did. But I had no energy, no ambition. Being forced to sit in a stuffy hall and listen to the droning complaints of merchants and farmers was like pulling hooves. Listless and sluggish, it was all I could do to attend Thrall's meetings sober, and when he asked my opinion on something, asked what the Tauren thought or what our people might suggest...I had no answers to give him.

Eventually, he stopped asking.

Eventually, I stopped going to the council meetings.

Day after day, I sat morosely at the the Broken Tusk, nursing my ale, wondering if I should head back home to Thunder Bluff so you could give my position to someone who was capable of doing it. But I couldn't bring myself to leave, to admit that I had failed and had let you down again.

Tomorrow, I told myself each night as the stars rose into Orgrimmar's boundless ceiling. Tomorrow I will stop drinking and start getting into shape. I will meet with Thrall and tell him the concerns of our people, what we could offer if given a more permanent presence in Orgrimmar. Tomorrow is a new day and I will seize it!

But tomorrow came and went. And evening found me in the tavern, bleary-eyed and drunk, Morag patiently refilling my tankard. Just like the night before. And the night before that.

Cairne, I am ashamed to admit it, but I became a joke, a pack animal to be harassed. Word spread throughout Orgrimmar of my apathy, and young Orcs and Trolls would amuse themselves by entering the inn and slapping my head, tossing carved wooden hoops onto my horns, or even challenging me to a fight. Me! Gamon the Proud, challenged to fist fights by youths barely into their fullgrown days.

But the worst part is, Chieftain...I let them. I let them humiliate me, batter me until they grew bored and left. I knew that despite my sorry state, I could have pummeled the youths into the dirt and taught them a valuable lesson...but why bother? What was the point, really.

I felt hollow and empty inside, and the abuse, as cruel as it seemed like penance. Justice, for the pathetic wretch I had become.

Sometimes, I wondered if the world would be a better place if I simply walked out to the shore, laid down in the surf and let it carry me away. I doubt anyone in Orgrimmar would even notice, except perhaps Morag, wondering what had happened to his best customer. But in the end, I was too cowardly to ever truly give the idea serious consideration.

All I was good for was filling Morag's coffers and taking up a seat at the bar...and then, as it turns out, I couldn't even do that right. One regular who I often shared drinks with, a Darkspear named Tazan, asked if I could safeguard a key for him, as he was traveling soon and did not want to risk taking it with him on the road. Tazan was a scoundrel, but we had shared many drinks and I think we could be considered friends, so I shrugged and agreed. It was the least I could do, since I wasn't going anywhere.

But somehow - I have no idea how this might have possibly happened - I misplaced the key. I retraced my steps meticulously, asked everyone in the bar, searched my room with the utmost care, frantically combed the bushes and cacti outside...and nothing. It was gone. I nearly wept with loathing. The simplest task imaginable - watch something for a friend - and I failed at even that.

I dread the day Tazan returns home and I have to tell him the bad news. Yet another person whose trust I have betrayed.

One day, I heard shouting and yelling coming from outside the bar. I stumbled out to the doorway and beheld a bizarre sight, Cairne - an elf, dressed all in blackened, skull-laced plate armor, trotting a vile undead stallion right into Orgrimmar! Even through my drunken, dulled haze, I could immediately sense the powerful sense of wrongness that emanated from the visitor. I reeled against the doorway in shock, nearly tumbling over in shock and inebriation. A Scourge Death Knight! Here, in Orgrimmar!

To my horror, the Orc guards did not immediately leap to the attack, but instead jeered and threw refuse at the Scourge monster. I cursed as I realized what was happening. The guards were young, brash and inexperienced. They were in their home city, indomitable and invincible. They did not fear a lone agent of the Scourge.

They had no idea what evil stood before them, encased in mortal flesh. Unlike us, Cairne, these young soldiers had never heard the horrors these creatures were capable of. They had not spent long nights around a campfire, listening to older Orc veterans of the wars tell the stories about Teron Gorefiend and his cadre of monstrous Death Knights, spreading disease, misery and decay wherever they went. I remember Varok, brave, fearless Varok, whispering in dread as he recalled the unthinkable blasphemies Gorefiend's troops carried out upon their Human or dead.

I looked around, frantically, but the scene was the same everywhere I looked. Mockery and jibes thrown instead of spears and arrows. A rotten piece of fruit flattened itself against the Death Knight's arm, and I saw a flicker of cold, icy annoyance in his face. Someone had to do something. I had to do something.

I grabbed a chair and ran out into the street, pushing my way past the gathering crowd of onlookers. I took a deep breath and leaped in front of the Scourge abomination, brandishing the chair.

"SCOURGE! Stand back! Gamon will save us all!" I cried, hoping the gathered crowd would realize what a dire threat stood before them. "Arm yourselves, quickly! Before he attacks! I will hold him off!"

I held up the chair and waited to die, hoping I had bought them enough time. one moved. They just laughed.

The Death Knight glanced down at me for a moment, then stoically walked his steed past me towards Grommash Hold. I lunged, swinging the chair, but my feet were like lead, weighed down with alcohol and months of inactivity. Instead of smashing the chair across the elf's back, I instead tumbled mouth-first into the dirt.

I coughed and struggled to my feet, trying to lift the chair defensively, only to see the Death Knight slowly disappearing into the distance. The mob swarmed after him, taunting and catcalling, leaving me behind...forgotten and ignored.

The Death Knight had not felt threatened by my actions, nor had he bothered killing me, or even acknowledging me. I was like a pesky fly, brushed off and disregarded without a moment's notice.

I was only a few yards away from the Broken Tusk, but it felt like the longest walk of my life. I left my silly dreams of a heroic, worthy death on the road where I had fallen. They could join my pride, my honor, and my self-respect in the dirt where I had abandoned them. I had nothing left.

The days that followed after that a long blur. I vaguely remember a flood of undead refugees arriving in the city, fleeing their home after some calamity, but I couldn't bring myself to care.

One day one of the Kor'kron rounded us up to answer our questions about what was going on. I don't remember much, drunk as I was, but I think I heard that Lady Sylvanas had been betrayed by her demon lackey, and the Undercity had been seized. As I stood there, bored, it occurred to me with some irony that this impromptu information session was much like the council meetings I had attended with Thrall. As it turned out, I still did not have anything useful to contribute.

Slowly, things changed in Orgrimmar. Thrall stepped down as Warchief, and Grommash's son took his place. The gates were fortified, new buildings were constructed, and whispers of war began spreading throughout the city.

Of course, you know all this. You saw it all when you stormed though the gates that summer morning. You saw how Orgimmar had changed, what it had become.

And you also saw the same of me.

Oh Cairne, I would have done anything to spare you the grief that must have filled your heart when you beheld my pathetic state. But you did not curl your lip in disgust like so many others have, nor did you look away in shame or pity. You saluted me with dignity, as one Brave would another, and then strode off into the city. So great was my shock at seeing you that by the time I stumbled to the door, you were lost in the bustling streets. I stared around groggily for your mighty frame, but to no avail.

However, I had only settled back into my tankards when you appeared in the doorway, like a phantom! You had a grim look on your face, and your face was flushed with anger - a frightful expression I had not seen in years. I quailed inside, awaiting the harsh reprimand you were about to unleash upon me.

Instead, you did nothing of the sort, simply took a deep, calming breath, and drew up a chair. You sat, you looked at me, and you talked.

And for the first time in years...I listened.

My bloodshot, blurry eyes widened as you told me why you were there. A mak'gora, with Warchief Hellscream? My memory traveled back to those early days when we wandered the dusty plains alongside the Orcs, learning their traditions and rituals. For long moments, the word escaped me, but I finally remembered Eitrigg telling us about it. Mak' honor duel!

I began to protest - you were an Elder, and should not have to defend your rank against one so young and brash as Hellscream, despite his accomplishments! How dare this pup challenge one as honored and revered as you! But you chuckled sadly, and continued.

My knuckles whitened as you grimly told me about the horrible attacks Hamuul and the other druids had suffered, how he had been the only survivor of the assault, waking alone and wounded in a mass grave. And how the attackers had been Orcs...

My heart ached for old Hamuul, who I had always considered a close friend. Suddenly, everything made sense. Now I understood why you would challenge Hellscream to a mak'gora, something your peaceful heart would normally never seek. It was the only option left to you. You were doing it not for your own glory or bravado, but for the good of our people - for the sake of the Horde.

You sipped your ale slowly, a weary look stretching across your face. I saw the weight of age upon your shoulders, Cairne, and for the first time, you looked tired, tired of the endless responsibilities of leadership.

You caught my gaze and gently patted me on the shoulder. Me! You were about to fight one of the most savage orc warriors in their history, many score years your junior, in his prime, and you were comforting me!

"Do not worry," you said warmly. "I am not some decrepit relic throwing my life away in a futile, symbolic gesture. Hellscream is young and strong, yes, but he is also reckless and careless. Think back to our battles, Gamon. We are powerful, but we are also wise. It is not always the rushing boulder that wins the day, but sometimes the subtle flood or the flickering wind."

You drained your mug and stared idly out the door, watching Orgrimmar stream past. "But Cairne," I said quietly. "He is like his father, wild and unchecked. What if he should land a lucky blow? What if you are underestimating him? Is this really worth your life?"

You just smiled calmly as you stood and shouldered your pack. "Gamon, old friend, I am touched by your concerns, but this is not just about Hamuul or the druids. It is for the Horde. For all of us. I would not do this if I didn't believe it to be absolutely necessary. And if I should fall defending my beliefs, I will die content knowing that others will carry on our fight, that I met my end in a manner fitting a Bloodhoof Brave."

Much to Morag's surprise, I dragged myself to the arena to watch the duel. There were but a few of our people in Orgrimmar, and I could not let you face your fate alone.

You fought well, old bull. But the blow that shattered your runespear seemed to sap your strength, or perhaps exhaustion chose that moment to catch up to you. I turned away as Hellscream readied the final blow, his axe shimmering in the dusty air, slick with your life's blood. I did not want to remember that moment.

But Cairne, I did not return to the tavern. I went and found your attendants, who were distraught and paralyzed with grief. I told them what they needed to do, that Baine had to be notified immediately, that all of Thunder Bluff must know what had happened there today.

While they were preparing your body for travel, I went out to the arena floor and carefully gathered the pieces of your spear. It had served you well for all these years, it should accompany you into the afterlife.

As I crawled slowly over the cool sand, searching, I thought about what you had said. That even though your bones were tired and your soul was ready to rest, you still fought on for your friends and companions. It shocked me to realize that I had forgotten these values, so caught up in my own misery had I become.

But no more. How could I continue to wallow in self-pity after witnessing your courage? You were old and had more than earned your rest, yet you never stopped fighting for our people. You never gave up on us...on me.

I will mourn you, Cairne, but in the way you would have wanted. I will honor your death by living.

I may have let you down in the past, but I will not betray your final act of faith. Your limitless love and compassion finally broke through my shell of loathing, and I feel revitalized, full of life for the first time in years. It feels like the first touch of spring sun upon my face after a long, dreary winter.

I have sworn off drinking (much to Morag's disappointment, I am sure) and now train every day with the Kor'kron. Their young blood runs hot, and my muscles scream every night as we stagger back through the city's gates. But I have instructed their captain not to coddle me, to treat me like any other raw recruit. And he has done just that. Countless menial tasks, merciless reprimands if I make a mistake, Bloodfist has reveled in his role as vicious taskmaster.

But the relentless, grueling exercise has paid off. Slowly but surely, the old warrior within my heart has begun to fight its way back to the surface. My mind is sharp, my body fit and strong. No longer am I the town disgrace to be bullied and ridiculed.

I am a Brave of Thunder Bluff. I am the Strong. The Proud. I am An'she's Hand.

I am a Bloodhoof.

Ish-ne-alo por-ah, my High friend. May your spirit walk with the Earthmother.

Show/Hide Letter Notes

Of all the changes that came in Cataclysm (technically the Shattering), Gamon's magical transformation from infamous punching bag to devastating raid-level badass has been one of my favorites. It was always fun to watch people casually murder Gamon as they walked by, and I am guilty of this myself. Every now and then I'd see how far I could kite him on my Hunter just to stretch my kiting muscles.

Also, I have always been surprisingly moved by Gamon's hostility and, seriously, bravery when you enter Orgrimmar on a new Death Knight. The guards really do throw fruit, the civilians shout insults, but only Gamon is brave (or stupid) enough to actually rush out and attack you. What really does it for me, is that he doesn't attack out of anger or vengeance - he does it because he honestly thinks he's trying to save everyone. His exact quote is "SCOURGE!!! Stand back! Gamon will save us all!" For a little level level 12 or 14 guy or whatever he was, that's some guts.

I also loved how during the Battle for Undercity, Orgrimmar is in chaos, the Forsaken refugees are everywhere and everything is madness, but there is Gamon, steady and reliable. It just wouldn't be Org without him.

8 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. gravatar

    amazing. The letters are by far my favorite parts of your writing rades/

    November 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM

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    Gamon still came out to punch new death knights at 85 ;) Can't believe you Rades, tormenting poor Gamon. I was never mean to him. It was highly amusing watching people still go in and try to kill him at the start of cataclysm, and fail dismally.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 PM

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    I love the letters. :) Please keep writing them. :D

    And you know what your notes made me think of? (Don't shoot the Trekkie) Morn in Quark's bar in Deep Space Nine. You never hear him talk, and he doesn't do much except for one episode centered around him, but it just wouldn't be the same without him.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:59 PM

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    a really moving letter, i almost teared up there.

    one little thing though: Cairne only lost because Magatha poisoned Hellscreams axe:

    "Although the mighty tauren fought valiantly, no amount of strength could have led him to victory. The matriarch of the Grimtotem tauren tribe, Magatha, had poisoned Garrosh's blade, unbeknownst to either of the duel's combatants. Cairne became immobilized after he received a flesh wound during the battle, allowing the new warchief to land a killing blow"


    November 8, 2011 at 12:39 AM

  5. gravatar

    Thanks for the comments all! Gamon was someone I really wanted to write a Letter for. He's such an Orgrimmar fixture!

    Oh, and Kaorin, yeah we players know that Magatha poisoned Cairne's axe, but I thought it fit Gamon's drunk/hazy memory better if he didn't actually realize that was how his beloved Warchief died. To make it feel more brave/heroic than a despicable act. :)

    November 8, 2011 at 1:25 AM

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    I wanted to say this made me feel so sad and I was almost in tears. Me and my fiance have become addicts to your blog from the wonderfull writing and fun stories you tell. Thank you .From Frezez (ravendholt)

    November 8, 2011 at 5:29 AM

  7. gravatar

    I remember logging in on the first day after the Shattering and seeing some level 80 hunters and mages kite newly empowered Gamon around Org. It made me laugh.

    This letter on the other hand almost made me cry. A very touching story. I'm not sure I'll ever look at Gamon the same way again.

    November 13, 2011 at 10:03 AM

  8. gravatar

    Oh Gamon, let me hold you...

    Knowing the secret lives of the little characters is my favorite part of your stories :) I think I shall stop by and give Gamon a /hug today.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:49 PM