he news couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Thrall sat in Grommash Hold, troubled and brooding as the never-ending council with Varok Saurfang and Garrosh Hellscream dragged on.
“I tell you we cannot risk open war with the Alliance,” Saurfang sternly admonished his charge. “Not with the Scourge looming so close nearby. Our numbers would be decimated along with those of the enemy, and the only gain would be the Lich King’s as he would acquire free soldiers for the Scourge due to our folly.”
“Pah! The Horde would crush the Alliance as well as the Scourge. It would do the world good to be rid of them both.” Garrosh fumed. How was he supposed to live up to the Hellscream legacy if these idiots kept stepping in the way?
“We cannot fight both! The Alliance seeks to destroy the Lich King as we do, and it is the Lich King we shall focus on. Was it not yesterday that Warsong Hold was attacked by the lich Chillwinter? The Scourge poses a threat far greater than the Alliance at this point, young one.”
Vol’jin shot Thrall a look that clearly said Hellscream was more trouble than he was worth. The Warchief stared at the shadowhunter, silently wondering if this was not beginning to be the truth. What if Garrosh could not be controlled? The meeting at the Violet Hold had been a disaster, partly because of him.
What had happened to the brooding, depressed Garrosh I met in Nagrand? Thrall wondered. It was almost as though once he learned of his father’s fate and ultimate victory, Grom’s son gained a wild confidence that orchestrated his every move. His strategies in Northrend were violent, savage, and uncontrolled, held in check only by Saurfang; Thrall himself had come to blows with the brown-skinned orc several times now and could hardly reason with him. If the Warchief himself could not control this newcomer, what message would that send to the Horde? To the Alliance? It was unsettling to think about.
And Thrall had enough to worry about already.
The Forsaken apparently had their own agenda, one that did not align with that of the rest of the Horde. Furious with Sylvanas, Thrall distrusted her more than ever. The banshee queen always had been a wild card; did she want revenge against the Scourge or both the Scourge and the living, regardless of faction? Although she claimed innocence in what happened at the Wrathgate, Thrall simply didn’t believe she was stupid enough to allow such a plague to be created right under her very nose, and that made him uneasy.
Worst of all, the king of Stormwind had returned to claim his throne. When he’d first heard the news of Varian Wrynn’s rescue, Thrall dared to hope that the human would be open to peace talks, and for a few fleeting moments it appeared that he was. The peace summit at Theramore had started off well enough with talk of putting past conflicts aside and looking towards the future with thoughts of mutual gain by working together; Varian offered Thrall lumber in an attempt to end the battles at Warsong Gulch, and in return Thrall promised Stormwind exotic animal hides, copper, silver, and other resources readily provided by the Barrens and Durotar.
Unfortunately the peace talks came to a grinding halt when the Twilight cult invaded the city and by some freak chance the half-orc female Garona, who had murdered Wrynn’s father before the man’s very eyes years before, arrived with them. The instant Varian espied her among the cultists he jumped to the conclusion that the Horde orchestrated the assault and sent her in to kill him. Negotiations violently concluded, Wrynn left for Stormwind vowing that he could never trust the monstrous orcs after what they had done to him over the years.
And then the disaster at Wrathgate and the Battle for the Undercity occurred…
As he watched Hellscream pacing about the room while Saurfang continued to rebuke the younger orc, Thrall wished that Jaina would return from Dalaran soon. Perhaps she would have some suggestions on how to harness the uncontrollable Hellscream. He recalled the last time they had met.
The Undercity had been reclaimed for the Horde. Thrall could not deny the thrill he’d felt as he and Sylvanas slew the treacherous demon Varimathras and the Forsaken rebels while Vol’jin directed the artillery from the outside. What a battle it had been! A true victory for the Horde! But ultimately a bittersweet one as well, for when they went to deal with that traitor Putress the forces of the Alliance led by King Varian Wrynn arrived on the scene.
The human king threatened Thrall and Sylvanas and, having slain Putress and seen the horrors of Undercity for himself, proclaimed that the Forsaken had been planning to murder them all and that there would never be peace between the Alliance and Horde. Then he had the audacity to actually attack them! Fool! Did he not see that this was no time for petty faction squabbling?
Thrall had been prepared to crush the king’s skull without regret, but luckily Jaina stopped the fight before it could even begin, teleporting Wrynn and the Alliance army back to Stormwind. Thrall couldn’t help but smile at the thought. Good, coolheaded Jaina! Thank the spirits for her! As he wondered how Wrynn and the rest of the Alliance must have reacted to her intervention, his heart ached slightly; he knew there would be anger and possibly violence against her and prayed for the sorceress’ safety.
The battle for the Undercity thus concluded, Thrall bemoaned the loss of peace between the two factions. “It ends like it began. All that we have fought for in this world is lost. The hopes and dreams carried by my father and mother... by Doomhammer… gone...… if only you were here now, old friend. You would know what to do,” he recalled himself saying aloud, thinking of Grom Hellscream.
Then Varok Saurfang came to his side. “I know what he would do,” the older orc had said. “He would say to you what I am about to say to you: Thrall, lead your people.”
Saurfang was right. He had to lead his people no matter what. And so he would, to whatever end. But what if, despite everything he’d accomplished so far, he wasn’t up for the job? He had not been watchful enough.
Thrall’s thoughts were interrupted by the sudden appearance of a blue portal that materialized from the air to his left. Jaina had arrived, late as usual (Thrall had come to expect that now), but as she emerged from her portal and stepped out onto the butte, surprise and dismay filled him as he realized she walked as though she were a million years old, hunched over and painfully slow. There was no smile on her face this time, just lines of worry and fatigue.
Did she doubt his leadership ability now? Blame him for what happened at the Wrathgate not three days earlier?
For a long moment they just stared at each other. There were no words to say. Then Jaina strode over and threw her arms around his neck. Accepting the embrace, Thrall wrapped his arms around her, careful as usual not to squeeze the woman too tightly least he break her.
Pulling away, Thrall looked down into her tired eyes. “Jaina… how could this have happened? How could this have happened? My own allies… I am a fool.”
“No…you are not a fool, Thrall,” she sighed. “How were you to know?”
“I should have known. Sent spies –”
“Spy on your own allies? Don’t be ridiculous. You upheld your end of the alliance while Undercity did not. There was nothing you could have done. Don’t blame yourself for what you cannot control.” Ironic words coming from her, she knew. Continuing she explained, “Varian Wrynn is in shock over the entire thing. I told you Bolvar was like a brother to him. His grief overwhelmed his rational mind. H-he actually thought that Lordaeron could be reclaimed for the Alliance! That man… he is like my father. He isn’t looking at the bigger picture of things.”
“And now he has all but declared open war against the Horde. Idiot!”
To his surprise Jaina defended Wrynn. “Try to understand him, Thrall. Varian has seen only betrayals and violence from Orcs. He watched his father’s murder and then his city’s destruction at the hands of the Old Horde. H-he didn’t ever have a Taretha to show him the good of the other side,” she said softly. “All he knows is the savagery.”
Thrall frowned, considering this.
“And then he lost his identity, became a slave, and his kingdom was nearly destroyed because of it. And what does he get once he’s reestablished himself as king? He sees poor Bolvar murdered by the Forsaken rebels! That’s enough to drive anyone to madness! Varian needs time to sort out his emotions but war hasn’t allowed it. Remember my words when you are dealing with him.” Her hand slowly reached forward and grasped his. “Please. For me.”
“It certainly can’t be blamed entirely on him. All of us have a fault in it.” Thrall turned his eyes upwards to the sky. “I’m glad you were there to intervene. Who knows what would have happened next if you hadn’t? Is the king furious with you?”
“He’s not happy with me, that’s for sure. But he’s not clamoring to have me hanged for treason unlike some of the populace. The Alliance is eager for war against the Horde after what happened.”
“I cannot blame them. It was a tragedy for both sides. We both lost good soldiers and there is much cause for grief. But we cannot afford to let faction wars get in the way while the Lich King is amassing his army to destroy us all.”
“I agree. I agree,” she sighed wearily. And she kissed him.
Varian Wrynn lived a bitter, angry life, Thrall knew as he recalled Jaina’s pleas on the man’s behalf. The king had lost his family and almost his entire kingdom at the age of twelve due to the original Horde, and as if that weren’t bad enough he’d only recently come out of captivity from the Crimson Ring’s gladiatorial pens and recovered his true identity. Yes, the human had plenty to be angry about… but Thrall’s life had been no cakewalk either and he managed to overcome his dreadful past and could look past it and towards a peaceful future, putting personal grievances against humans aside for the good of his people. Why couldn’t King Wrynn do the same?
As much as he wanted to completely blame the man for the hostilities at Theramore, Undercity, and the Violet Hold, the orcish leader could not deny his faction’s own part in ruining the peace. Garrosh Hellscream who clearly wished to wipe the race of humans off of the face of the earth goaded the already embittered Wrynn every chance he got; perhaps Wrynn wouldn’t have been so hasty to blame the Horde for Garona’s presence at Theramore or to attack at the Violet Hold if Hellscream hadn’t riled him so. Not to mention the Forsaken traitors at Wrathgate made the Horde look -
“I do not see why you would pass on an opportunity like this!” Garrosh slammed a fist against the map on the table, bringing Thrall back to the conversation at hand. “You have said yourself that we need shipping lanes! If we take Valgarde and claim it for the Horde before the Alliance has a chance to rebuild, we shall have not only a stronger hold in the Howling Fjord but a shipping lane as well.”
“No,” Thrall cut in, tired of this nonsense. “If we take the ruins of Valgarde and claim them for the Horde, what message will that send to the Alliance? The king of Stormwind does not need an excuse to declare war upon us just as we do not need to push our luck by intruding upon an Alliance held camp.”
“That fool human has all but declared war on us already! You saw how he acted at the Undercity! At the Violet Hold!”
“Do not remind me! You goaded him on at the Violet Hold, Garrosh! You are as much to blame for that disaster as he if not more so. And what happened at Undercity was a misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstanding? From what I heard he called us cowards, said it was time to rid the world of us! I say we rid the world of him instead!”
“You be makin’ a big mistake, Garrosh,” Vol’jin snapped. “You think reckless! Da Scourge will be crushin’ us all if we create widespread war wit’ da Alliance.”
Saurfang nodded, saying, “Get the idea out of your head! We are not attacking Valgarde, no matter how vulnerable it is at the moment.”
Thrall did not hear Garrosh’s reply. A messenger from the Kirin Tor had just arrived from Dalaran bearing an urgent letter from Rhonin himself, one of the Kor’kron informed him discreetly and turned the letter over to him. Eager for the distraction, Thrall took his time opening it.
“Think of the consequences for once,” Saurfang spat at Garrosh.
“Yah, mon. Da Horde –”
The Warchief again tuned out the conversation as he read his note.
To the revered Warchief Thrall of Orgrimmar
It grieves greatly me to write you this news. Lady Jaina Proudmoore was visiting Valgarde Keep when the Scourge attacked and destroyed it two days ago and she hasn’t been heard from since. The Kirin Tor is investigating the matter and I’m sure King Wrynn will be sending his own representatives to the Howling Fjord. I am of the opinion that the lady is not dead but captured, perhaps by the Dragonflayer Clan, and I know everything in our power will be done to ensure her safe return. For the time being Lady Proudmoore’s chamberlain will be presiding over Theramore. Lady Proudmoore is an irreplaceable leader in our peace efforts as you know well, and I know the Horde will react as its leaders see fit.
Rhonin of the Kirin Tor
His stupefied brain took several seconds to confirm
the news. Thrall stared at the paper in his hands as though the words
written there would jump off of the page and bite him. Jaina missing. Scourge attack.
In Thrall’s mind there was only one rational conclusion and it sure as
hell didn’t involve simple Vrykul as Rhonin seemed to believe.
The fool had tried to be strong and failed, failed
within a few minutes. As a turtle curls into its shell when poked at by
a predator, she’d frozen and withdrawn from reality. How pathetic. But
it was ultimately predictable as well; the shattering revelation she
just experienced would put any weak mortal into shock, he supposed. Out
of an eagerness to study her further rather than pity, he allowed her
to remain still, not bothering to shake or slap her out of her stupor.
had snuck over to where she slept, gently waking her in his usual
fashion. She’d propped herself up on one arm as he reached out and
caressed her face. After a few moments of silence, he finally spoke.