We had been fools, I realised ruefully.
I stood on the north coast of Durotar, near the zeppelin tower, looking out to sea; perhaps ten feet from the waterline. One of my hands played with the boar's mane thoughtfully, as a few other strands of it moved back and forth in the sea breeze.
We thought we could maintain the status quo indefinitely.
If not true peace with the Humans, then at least a state of cold war, on a few, isolated fronts, while we continued to strengthen our position on Kalimdor, and hopefully, gradually improve diplomatic relations with Stormwind. We thought the Forsaken had set themselves a fool's quest, and that we would not have to worry about them recreating the Plague, because surely it was impossible.
We were wrong on both counts.
I shook my head, as I realised the folly of it. Grom Hellscream would never have approved of that. Peace was not the way of our people; truthfully it had never been, even before the Blood. Varian Wrynn might have been driven mad himself by hate, but he was right about that, at least.
My own admiration for the Warchief was second only to that which I felt for Hellscream himself, but although my fists clenched when I thought of Garrosh raising a hand against Thrall, I had to grudgingly acknowledge that in one respect, he had been right.
Peace had not been good for us. Guilt had softened us. Made us fat, lazy, and complacent. In seeking to preserve us, and keep us from extinction, Thrall had threatened to change the very nature of our people, and in a way, that would have been extinction as well.
To be sure, there had been the Legion campaign to keep us busy, but in truth, the demons had never been as big a threat as we had once feared. It was only their sheer numbers which really made them dangerous, and for a clever general, there are ways around numerical advantage. Once we had taken their measure, it had simply been a gruelling test of our endurance, and the main form of war that I had learned to fight was a seige.
The Legion's other major weakness was that it had a clear chain of command, which, once we discovered, we were able to eliminate the major elements of. The rest of the demons, due to this, had now largely been reduced to a mindless, wandering state.
And Illidan? Ha! The Betrayer, one of the princes of the Kel'dorei, in the end reduced to nothing, as I had anticipated he would be. Even with the Skull of Gul'dan, he was still a Night Elf; a member of the most contemptible race that had ever set foot on either of the two worlds. Although, I reflected, smiling fondly as I thought not only of Nariyya, but of one other fellow Hunter I knew, and the former head of our order, some few of them had proven themselves.
I realised that I had hungered for peace myself, without even knowing it. I was gradually moving past fighting age, and as one becomes an old Orc, and the call of the grandfathers slowly grows louder, the fire in our blood burns down to embers. Then we seek peace, for ourselves at least, and a secure place of solitude, where we can sit and dream of past victories, until the time of our rejoining with the earth comes.
This thought made me think again, with worry, of Varian Wrynn, the resurgent king of the Humans. He was still young, and impulsive, and sought war with us for no sound reason other than his own hatred.
Ordinarily the thought of resumed conflict with the Alliance, if distasteful to me, would not have been considered a dire matter. However, with the resurgence of the Lich King as a threat, having to fight a war on two fronts would not go well for us.
Wrynn did not have to be a huge problem. Most of the desire for war among the Alliance came from the king himself, and if he could be assassinated, and even more, if it could appear that we were not responsible for it, the Alliance could still be led to peace. In war with us, the Alliance would be in a similar position, fighting on two fronts, which I knew they would not enjoy.
For all their triumphalism and bravado, the Humans were a weak race. During the First and Second Wars, Blackrock Spire itself was really the first time they had presented us with any significant challenge. Before then, we had simply been chasing a stampede of terrified cattle; we might have been driven mad by the Blood, but they were driven equally mad with fear.
It was no war. It was a massacre, and that, in truth, was the real reason why many of us felt guilt for it. There is no honour in fighting an opponent who is too weak and pathetic to be able to defend themselves, and up until Blackrock Spire, that is what the Humans were.
And now, that the Legion campaign had been carried, as much as by anyone else, on the Orcish back, in our weakened state, when Orgrimmar had also been shattered by the Lich King's initial assault, like a true Human, the cowardly upstart Wrynn had seen his chance to strike.
Although the Warchief might have slain him, I always felt that Aedelas Blackmoore embodied the true spirit of the Alliance; a woman beater, a traitor, and a drunk, who even while committing his sins, insisted that he was a child of the Light. I saw that spirit alive and well in Varian Wrynn.
So we would go to Northrend. I relished the thought of uncovering new ground, and stalking new prey, but at the thought of the Lich King, in truth, my slowly aging bones ached.
When you have seen enough battles, you eventually get a sense of which will be fast, and effortless, and which will not. I could already sense that the Northrend campaign would be long and arduous. Arthas, I felt, would prove a maniacal, but still dogged opponent, and then we had his spiritual brother, Wrynn, to deal with as well. It would not be easy.