Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wrath Gate

(RP mode enabled. I started this months ago, after only just having finished the Wrath Gate questline, but just finished it this morning)

I could still barely understand what had happened. There hadn't been enough time.

We had not long finished securing Icemist Village and the Pit of Nar'jun. The Nerubian city had not completely been secured; that would take some time. The induction of the Taunka into the Horde had gone well, however, with much cheering when their chieftan took our oath. Though there was no need, I willingly, joyously, retook it again, myself, with him.

After this, Angmar, the local commander, gave me a task I could scarcely believe. I was to report to Warlord Saurfang the Younger at the Wrath Gate, to take part in the Icecrown offensive.

As well as our progress at Icemist, I'd heard good things from other parts of the Dragonblight, and my mood riding up to the Kor'kron Vanguard was optimistic, and eager; almost elated.

I had no idea what was coming. None of us did.

After killing some lesser Scourge, the human Highlord, Bolvar Fordragon, demanded that Arthas show himself. At his appearance, Saurfang charged him, and was killed, his soul being drawn into Frostmourne. Arthas began to repeat an earlier claim, that any attempt to stop him was pointless. Suddenly he cut off, in midsentence.

Then came the event which none of us could have anticipated.

Putress, Grand Apothecary of the Forsaken, a figure unheard of by many of us, stood on the cliffs overlooking our position. After calling down death on both the Scourge and the living, the catapults which stood next to him were fired. Catapults containing a Blight which, spirits help me, I had assisted the Forsaken in creating.

We then, all of us, fell to our knees, overwhelmed with a green mist. Gasping, coughing blood, my lungs on fire, I followed the mad scramble away from the terrible cloud, as both Horde and Alliance commanders called a retreat. Having been right at the front, Bolvar was caught at the centre of the blast from the catapults, and was bathed in the poison. When he fell, he did not get up again.

Somehow, however, even in the confusion, I managed to burn one very important image into my mind. As we had fallen to our knees, coughing and hacking, so had Arthas.

After staggering back the few meters that I could, I fell to the ground. I expected to die as had Bolvar.

When I came to, the ground around me was ablaze. The red dragonflight had purged the cloud by fire, and everyone else had run. I was uncertain how I had not been burned alive, but standing near me in human form, was their Queen, Alexstraza.

She bade me take Saurfang's armor from the flames, and back to his father at Warsong Hold. The ride back was long, and I still do not remember most of it. I was still in a daze, almost sleepwalking. Saurfang...

His father's face, on hearing my news, contorted with agony, and on seeing it, so did my own heart. Yet it only lasted a second, and he told me to leave the armor with him, where it would be taken to a pyre in Nagrand. Unbelievably, he then told me that he had to return to more pressing matters.

I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to rave that nothing was more pressing than the death of his own flesh and blood; the death of another of our greatest heroes.

Yet something held me back. It was the realisation that he was right. That forcing our minds away from what had happened, did not mean that we did not feel the agony that had been caused by it.

We would mourn Saurfang. There would be drumming at that funeral that would shake Nagrand to the very bedrock, and the cheers of our ancestors around Oshu'gun, as he joined them, would be heard by us all. The more pressing matter, then, was vengeance.

Arthas, in his arrogance, apparently was unaware that, even more than ever before, with this act, he had truly called down the full fury of the Horde upon his head; a fury that Mannaroth the Destructor had not been able to withstand. Arthas would be made aware.

I was not intimidated by Arthas. He bragged about how we were powerless to stop him, yet what he apparently also did not realise, was that we very nearly already had. Did he really think, that if he were so unstoppable, we would be able to reach his very gates? His so-called invasion had been stopped in its' tracks. His command structure had been taken apart, piece by piece.

We also did this even without the Blight, and I had known, even before the Blight, that we would find the means, we would push his supposedly unstoppable army back, and we would crush him, just as we had the Legion before him. Saurfang's death, as had the insult of the invasion of Orgrimmar, rather than intimidating us, had merely enraged us further. Garrosh, always the son of his father, was right. Let the Forsaken have the Blight, and the Humans the Ashbringer. We had the fury of the Horde, and we needed nothing else.

The most urgent matter at that moment, however, was Varimathras. Saurfang pointed me to a portal to Orgrimmar that a Sin'dorei Mage had opened for me, and I went through it.

Arriving at his fortress, I watched the tense pacing of the Warchief. Then another portal opened, from Stormwind, and through it came Lady Jaina Proudmoore; who had come to learn the truth of what had happened, for she and Thrall had signed a non-aggression pact some time earlier.

I listened to her words, standing silently next to Thrall.

"...Farewell, Warchief. I pray that the next time we meet it will be as allies."

As she turned to leave, back through the portal, I spoke, hesitantly at first.

"My Lady?"

She turned back to face me.

"I have just come from the Wrath Gate," I explained to her. "I witnessed Lord Bolvar's death, alongside that of Saurfang the Younger. His last words to Arthas were spoken with courage. Know that there are some among the Horde who mourn him with you."

At this, she smiled.

"However, I fear I must speak other words, which perhaps will not be as easy to hear," I continued. Thrall looked at me gravely, but I went on.

"I know well who the primary antagonist is for war between our two peoples, Lady Proudmoore, and so I must ask that when you tell your King of the betrayal of Varimathras, that you also tell him this:-

Firstly, that you, and not he, are who is recognised by me at least, and I suspect, in his heart, also my Warchief, as sole ruler of the Human kingdoms, and true leader of the Grand Alliance. I may not be one of his subjects, but still I do not acknowledge the right of Varian Wrynn to be King, even if the right is his by birth. He is not fit for the throne; there is much he has not seen, and much he does not know, and I can only thank our ancestors that it was you, Lady Proudmoore, who guided the Alliance during the battle with Archimonde, for if it had been Varian, his madness and hatred would have led to the death of us all. He desires to make war on us from the basis of ignorance.

Secondly, tell him that I tire of war between our two peoples more than most, and that right now, I am aware that it is a greater danger to us than Arthas himself. I spent my entire childhood under the influence of the Blood Fury of Mannaroth the Destructor. Like most of us, I have killed many Humans, but I am haunted constantly by the shame and agony of it, and I will kill no more of your people; save one, if it becomes necessary.

Tell him that on the very throne behind me that my Warchief sits on, I take oath now as I have never taken it before. Tell him that Mirshalak of the Warsong Outriders, and the Frostwolf Legion, has sworn that if peace between our two peoples does not come through the life of Varian Wrynn, then I will see to it personally that peace will come through his death. I would do this to ensure the survival of both Human and Orc, for I well know that the destiny of both of our peoples is interlinked, and without the one, the other will not survive. He may choose for peace to come with him, or without him, but either way, peace will come."

Jaina's expression grew stern.

"You threaten the life of our King? If peace between us is what you desire, Mirshalak, I do not think that this is the way to obtain it."

She continued. "Also, in seeking to have me as Queen, you do not know what you ask. That is a position which I have never desired, and I do not desire it now. I have sought to lead my people with the heaviest of hearts, and from necessity only. My Art is my one true love, though for a time it was rivalled by Arthas..."

Here her voice broke, and her face twisted with long-held, but still unhealed grief. I felt empathy for her pain. She was a virtuous woman, and few there were within the Alliance, for whom I had that opinion, or such feeling. I could even almost imagine the Humans as one day being members of the Horde themselves, if they were under her rule.

She recovered. "But no more. I understand your sentiment, Mirshalak, but I can not bear such a message to the King openly. Even if, as you say, I might reluctantly percieve that it would be better for the Alliance for me to rule in Varian's place, I am not as popular as I once was, and do not have his degree of support. To move against him directly at this point, therefore, would mean my head. I also would not usurp him, even if I could. The throne is his by birth."

"We could help you," I said, looking pleadingly to Thrall. "Once Varian was gone, we could take Stormwind and give it to you."

She went on. "In the current climate, I am almost an outcast for still desiring peace with you. The desire for war within the Alliance is more far reaching than you know. My people have regained their numbers, to a degree, and now some of them wish for what they see as vengeance."

Her expression changed to one of deep sorrow. "A new war between Human and Orc may at this point be inevitable. I desire it no more than you. I remember what was won at Hyjal, as well as any; and how narrowly, and at what great cost. I will pray to the Light that all of that is not undone, and will do what I can to prevent it, but I am only one voice now, Mirshalak, and I am at risk of being drowned out in a sea of others."

With this, she departed through the portal, back to Stormwind. My gaze turned back to Thrall.

"You have a great tendency to be outspoken, Mirshalak," he said to me sternly. "What you said to Lady Proudmoore then, could have cost us enormously."

"It needed to be said, Warchief," I answered him. "Did I lie to her when I said that for her to rule the humans, was the desire of your heart also?"

Thrall sighed with exasperation at this, and did not speak. I grinned. I had seen Thrall's spirit, and that was why I still admired him, when I knew now that many did not.

"Hellscream has taken command almost entirely in Northrend, Warchief," I continued. "This worries me greatly. He desires war almost as much as those within the Alliance do. There are many who interpret the loss of your fight with him, as his successfully deposing you as leader."

Thrall growled. "Do you think I do not know that? While you advocated treason among the Alliance, would you now also among the Horde?"

"Never, Warchief," I answered him. "When I took the oath to the Taunka, and had them swear it, I retook it myself as well, and I meant every word. My life is yours, and not because it must be, but because I choose it."

I continued. "In one respect however, and one respect only, I concede that Garrosh was right. Peace has not been exclusively good for us. In seeking to become more, "civilised," in order to please the Humans, we have become soft; and some of us more than others." I looked at him meaningfully at this point.

He roared. "You go too far!"

My eyes stayed level with his, the flame in them just as high.

"Garrosh went further! Also, I assure you, that however traitorous my words might sound now, there are others of us on the field, whose thoughts are far moreso! You still have my loyalty, as I have said, and as difficult as it may be for you to understand, that is why I say what I do right now. I would see you as Warchief, and no other, but in order for that, there are things that you must hear, like them or not."

Thrall's voice lowered in his next reply, but was still dangerous. "Then what would you have me do?"

"I would have you train," I answered him simply. "I would have you fight. I would have you remember what it means to be an Orc! The Humans taught you that our bloodlust was a bad thing. I tell you that right now, it is something you need to experience! I would have you go to Hellscream, and give him a beating such as he has never had before, and never will again. I would have you beat him such that he must either yield to you or die. And I would have you echo to him what Saurfang the Elder has already said; that if he gives in to depravity as his father did before him, and threatens to lead us down a similar dark path with the Humans again, that in order to preserve both our people and his own soul, you will kill him."

Thrall's anger diminished at this, and I could see that he was aware that I really was on his side. After a few moments, he laughed.

"Good advice, although you endangered your own life in the giving of it," he said.

I grinned. "I should hope so. Now you are remembering our way, not what you have been taught by the Humans."

He gestured to the portal to the Undercity. "Come with me to fight Varimathras, and I will show you that I have not forgotten to perhaps quite the extent you think. And perhaps, in time, I will remind Hellscream as well, as you have said."

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