For Those Who Remain an alternative timeline story. The basic premise is that the assaults on Stormwind and Orgrimmar the occurred before Wrath of the Lich King are successful and Varian, Anduin, Thrall, and Garrosh are all killed in the process. The over-all state of the world will be revealed progressively in the story.
For Those Who Remain
Bolvar threw the covers off the bed and put on some clothing. There was no point in trying to sleep. Even a drunken stupor would only bring back the painful memories. Part of him wanted to leap back on the Dragon Slayer and storm back into the city in a blaze of glory, but another part of him wanted to mourn the loss of his King, Varian, who had been like a brother and Anduin, who he had looked after as his own blood. The commander in him wouldn't let him do either.
He knew how the men who had managed to flee with him from Stormwind were only held together by his leadership. What's more, if Southshore fell then all the human lands would be forsaken. The parts of Bolvar fought over how to feel about Westfall, Darkshire and Redridge, which he knew had been left to their fate with no one to aid them. He knew they were gone in his head, but in his heart he painfully wanted to return. After all that deceiver had tricked him into doing with her forked tongue, the knife only stabbed deeper when he knew the right decision was now to try to find what support he could among the remains of the northern kingdoms. And perhaps one day return.
In all honesty when he thought about why he had come here he could rationalize to no end, but the truth was that when he saw Stormwind falling, and his King and Prince slain, it was all on instinct that he managed to get one of the new sailless boats out of the harbor and sail to Lordaeron. He was no Varian. He was no king.
Bolvar's veins still flowed with the adrenaline from only three days ago. The Scourge had mounted a brazen assault on the harbor in Stormwind after unleashing a new plague upon the population. The combination had been too much. There simply weren't enough fighters to secure the harbor. Everyone fought with everything they had but in the end it wasn't enough. Every valiant fighter who died was risen anew and fought for the Scourge. The Argent Dawn envoy to the city was hardly enough to help stem the tide.
Since fleeing the city they had already had to throw several still living men overboard. They had shown signs of the plague and knowing what would happen had begged to have their lives taken lest they be forced to fight their friends in death. The only bright spot in the entire affair seemed to be that Southshore had been completely free of the plague. Bolvar had made special care to quarantine everyone on the ship until he could be sure no one else was infected.
But what to do now. Bolvar knew there would be time for mourning. He was a soldier and knew when his feelings had to take a back seat to what must be done. But what could a meager band of fighters, a single ship, and the civilians of a small town do to retake an entire Scourge held city? Bolvar closed his eyes and rubbed his head. Would Stormwind suffer the same fate as the kingdom of Lordaeron and become a bastion of the undead? Was this the end? A knock came at the door.
"Come in!" Bolvar Fordragon rasped maybe a little too harshly. His frayed nerves made it impossible to speak any other way.
One of the soldiers came in and saluted, "Sir! I've returned from Ironforge."
"What did Bronzebeard say?" This was the messenger that Fordragon had sent to Ironforge he was back much sooner than expected.
"Sir, King Bronzebeard expressed his most heart felt sympathies for his allies in Stormwind. He offered to host us in Ironforge and give us whatever supplies could be spared."
"Damm it!" Bolvar hit the wall beside him making a slight dent. The soldier flinched and looked ready to turn tail and run. "He didn't say he would be sending any forces?"
"N-No sir! He said that the plague in his lands was still a considerable concern, as were the various Troll infestations, the Dark Irons, and the Dragonmaw Orcs."
"Dammed son of a rock thinks he's next!" Bolvar roared. Then he chuckled, realizing it was exactly what he'd do. "I don't blame him. How'd you get back so fast?"
"Sir! Dwarven flying machine, sir!" The soldier barked back.
"Ah good. Return to Bronzebeard. Tell him we make our stand here... for now. Please request he send us supplies and any forces he can spare."
The soldier saluted, "Yes, sir!"
Fordragon returned the salute, "Dismissed!" The soldier turned around and started to run down the steps of the inn.
Once the soldier left Bolvar leaned against the wall and then slowly lowered himself to the floor. He knew he had to keep up the appearance of a strong leader for his men, but inside he was as doubtful as the rest of them. Was this the last stand? He sighed and it shuddered all through his body, his emotions barely contained. He was all alone now.
On the wall across from him he could see the beginnings of the sun rising. He had stayed up all night yet again. He knew that a commander run ragged wouldn't be fit to lead his troops, but what else could he do? Every time he closes his eyes he saw his friends dieing. As always waiting just for something to happen was eating him slowly from the inside.
Then suddenly a shout came from outside. The sounds of soldier's boots came running up the stairs. "S-Sir!...." Bolvar was already strapping on the last of his armor by the time the soldier was at his door. Bolvar swung the door wide and almost smacked the soldier in the face.
"Lets go!" He barked at the soldier. If this was to be his last stand he would make it a costly one for the Scourge.
Fordragon walked out into the center of Southshore. He followed the excited sounds of the guards and spied a group of undead coming towards the town. His heart raced and he ran to the front where the guards were.
But then he noticed something else. The undead were waving a white flag.
Master Gadrin peered through his spy glass at Razor Hill. The town had been well built and was a credit to the horde, but there was a weakness in every fortress.... Just as there had been a weakness in Orgimmar.
Gadrin had not been there himself but Vol'jin spoke of the surprise aerial assault the Scourge had launched. Orgimmar had the best defenses for a land based assault, but an attack from the air was never something that had been foreseen. The suddenness of it had simply been too much. The Scourge were already in the Valley of Wisdom where Thrall and Garrosh fell before the battle had hardly started. Without their leader the Horde had been thrown into chaos. It was something of a miracle that Saurfang had managed to unite some of the survivors and mount a tactical withdraw to stem even further losses.
Saurfang had not permitted the Scourge to expand into the Barrens and beyond, but there was little he could do to stop their expansion southward into Durotar. The Scourge now held Razor Hill as their main base in Durotar from which they were in the process of killing and raising the local centaurs and quillboars.
Vol'jin had recognized the threat immediately. The centaurs and Quill boars had only been annoyances before. Their ability in warfare was poor, and their infighting was nearly constant. In undeath there would be no infighting, and their attacks would be directed by the generals of the Scourge. Only a shallow river separated them from the Barrens and the Horde forces encamped there. A flanking attack on the Horde encampment in the Barrens would be devastating. And so Vol'jin had sent Master Gadrin to take Razor Hill, from which they could stop the scourge from going south through the canyons and keep them from launching a flanking attack.
From atop their bats the Troll forces had maneuvered around to the eastern side of Razor Hill. They had access to the flaming concoctions that had proved so useful in razing fortifications in the third war, but their objective was to take the town intact and use it for their own. Gadrin collapsed his spy glass and spoke to his force of commandos. "We wait here until da cover of da darkness. Den we sneak up da hill and take da tower without maken a sound. Den we be jumpin over da cliff and plantin da fire bombs in da skelletons. Da rest of us be assassinating da necromancers before dey be cause'n troubal fo us."
"Mastah." One of the commandos asked permission to speak.
"What is it mon?" Gadrin replied.
"How we be leav'n da place once we done wit it?"
Gadrin grinned and gave a hushed chuckle, "We be mak'n dat up as we go."
Gadrin walked with precision and soundlessness as he entered the stronghold. The plan had gone off with out a hitch and soon the bodies that the Scourge had planned on reanimating would be nothing but ash. He peered around the corner and silently cursed. Instead of the necromancers or death knights they had expected there stood, or more accurately hovered, a Lich. It was one thing to behead and dismember most undead creatures, but the stupid Lich hardly even had a substance to his body. Knives wouldn't be any help.
It was a good thing that Gadrin had brought a mace. Gadrin holstered his dagger and hefted his mace in one hand and a stick of dynamite in the other. "Well dis be a good a way to go as any." He whispered to himself. Gadrin ran up to the Lich, but he was too slow. The Lich rooted him to the ground with frost magic.
"You dare think you can challenge the might of the Scourge?" The Lich roared. "Soon you will join our ranks and fight against your former allies. There is nothing your meager weapons can do to stop us!"
"Well we be see'n 'bout dat!" Gadrin yelled. He threw his mace and it hit the Lich square in the head. It dazed the Lich and the undead creature roared in pain and anger. In that moment Gadrin melted the ice on his feet with his magic and dashed up to the Lich. He shoved the dynamite into the Lich's still open mouth and lit the very short fuse. The dynamite exploded only after a few seconds, throwing bits of bone everywhere and lifting Gadrin up and throwing him against the wall. Blood streamed down from where the bone fragments had cut him on his arm. Gadrin ripped a piece of his shirt off and wrapped it around the wound, but it was hardly enough. As he walked outside he could hear the heaped bodies burning and his commandos sowing chaos around the encampment. Gadrin used his witch doctor magic to launch a great flare into the sky above Razor Hill. Soon the bats swooped down into the middle of the town. Gadrin collapsed onto the back of one and blacked out.
"Be silent. Now his spirit be return'n." Gadrin slowly drew in a breath and was wracked with pain all over. He spasmed and hacked in agony for what seemed like forever. Ever so slowly the pain subsided and he grew aware of his surroundings. He saw Vol'jin and one of the commandos who had come on the raid with him.
"We..." Gadrin spasmed and hacked up a wad of black phlegm that stuck on the ground of the hut he was in.
"Easy der friend." Vol'jin said. "Ya spirit still be weak. You just be rest'n now. Da rest of da Darkspears be kill'n what undead be left in da Razor Hill. It be ours now. You earn your rest." Gadrin tried to breathe shallowly but still occasionally hacked up sickly black phlegm. Vol'jin turned to the commando. "He be need'n time ta heal and for his spirit ta be strong again. But der still be work ta be done. In Orgrimmar der be da weapon of Thrall and da warchiefs before him, da Doomhammah. I be need'n you ta find out where it be hide'n." The commando saluted Vol'jin and left the hut. Gadrin passed out again into a fitful realm of dreams both good and bad.
Sylvanas stared at the breathing, living man that strode towards her. Wrapped in the regalia of Stormwind, he glimmered in the light of the dawn. Sylvanas despised the light just as it despised her. It had abandoned her and her people. It was only right to despise it. But Putress she despised most of all.
The alliance man walked up to Sylvanas's negotiating party and announced himself, "I am Bolvar Fordragon, protector... of the human peoples of these lands."
Sylvanas smirked as he stumbled after saying protector. "That's right," she said silently to herself, "you no longer have a Stormwind to protect. You're such a great protector. Oh Bolvar, always doing the footwork for the glory of others. You poor fool."
Then openly she announced herself in turn, "I am Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, Queen of all the Forsaken. I have come to negotiate an alliance between our forces to defeat our common enemy, Arthas," Sylvanas spat the name with so much venom that the alliance soldiers visibly winced, "and his forces in Lordaeron. I propose an armistice to last this day so we may negotiate."
Bolvar nodded, "So he has attacked your city as well..." Bolvar considered a moment then spoke suddenly, "I will agree to your armistice and propose we reconvene at this spot in one hour. I will have my forces erect accommodations."
Sylvanas had been fixing Bolvar with an icy stare and narrow eyes while he spoke. She leaned to the side with one hand on her hip looking impatient and condescending. She gave him what passed for a grudging respect that he had recovered his countenance despite his earlier stumble, and now acted with caution to apprise the situation before acting. She knew he would be harder to manipulate then the last alliance commander she had used. "Agreed. One hour." Sylvanas turned with her companions and advanced back towards the Forsaken defenses that had been erected around Tarren Mill.
Once she was out of hearing of the alliance men she said to the commander of her infiltrators, "Inform the watchers we have posted to observe their guards that we will be meeting with the alliance commander in an hour. They are to stay concealed unless they sight a significant troop movement."
The commander bowed, "Yes, my Lady."
When Sylvanas returned the Alliance had erected a tent with open sides in the no-man's land and placed a table with chairs surrounding it inside the tent. Sylvanas looked with disdain on the banners bearing the crest of Stormwind.
The irony of what she was doing was not lost to her. Before the Third War the High Elves had withdrew from the alliance, which had descended into a gaggle of nobles bickering over their greed and vainly held together by the good King Terenas. They had postponed the cleansing of their lands of the trolls for long enough at the behest of the affairs of man. Sylvanas had been the leader of the armed forces of the High Elves, and she had agreed with the decision at the time. Now Sylvanas was asking to be readmitted to the last scraps of what had once been that grand alliance. She had no choice since her Blood Elf allies had decided against her advice to completely abandon their homeland and evacuate to Draenor.
She thought with bitterness about her death and enslavement at the hands of Arthas during her defense of her homeland. This was an alliance of necessity as was her membership in the Horde. No one would ever take her freedom from her again. She knew the stakes of survival and if she had to make slaves out of others so that she could remain free, so be it.
Sylvanas lead her entourage into the tent where Bolvar and his aids were waiting. Deliberately and without any ceremony Sylvanas strode up at took her seat at the center of the table on the side closer to Tarren Mill. She crossed her legs with a feminine grace and then eyed Bolvar with an icy stare that threatened to bore into his soul. Bolvar decided to take a seat without a word as did the other aids.
Bolvar hesitated thinking Sylvanas might begin, but she simply kept her icy stare on him, so he started the negotiations. "The Alliance's position here is to ensure the defense of the town of South Shore and provide what other aid we can to protect the other human villages in the area to prevent any southward incursions into Alliance lands. Furthermore we also seek the restoration of the city of Stormwind and it's surrounding lands from all hostile forces."
One of Lady Sylvanas' aids whispered something to her that a messenger had brought to him. Sylvanas sat in contemplation for a moment before standing up suddenly and to Bolvar's surprise. "My men have discovered Argent Dawn forces moving south from Chillwind camp. I propose we admit them as an equal party to these negotiations."
Bolvar's eyes lit up and with a barely contained exuberance he said, "Yes, of course!" Sylvanas smirked. She hadn't told Bolvar what the state of the Dawn's forces was.
The Argent Dawn representative arrived and sat herself awkwardly at one end of the table. She looked frazzled and a little more worse for wear. Sylvanas was loathe to move herself to a new position at the table for the new representative, but it wouldn't do to remove the new party from the discussion by making her yell to be heard. Once they were situated again Sylvanas looked at the Argent Dawn Officer and said with surprising warmth. "We already know the objectives of your organization and appreciate your efforts. Could you be so kind as to tell us the disposition of your forces and your objectives in moving south?"
The Argent Dawn officer nodded then sighed before starting. "I am Officer Proudheart the ranking member of our expedition..." She paused as if trying to compose what she was going to say. "We were stationed at Chillwind camp, just north of here. About a week ago all communication with Lights Hope Chapel ceased. We have no idea what has happened there but we're forced to assume the worst. The forces at the bulwark have been evacuated to Chillwind once the Undercity fell." Bolvar looked with surprise then a smug satisfaction at Sylvanas. Sylvanas simply kept her gaze fixed on the Argent Dawn officer. "My contingent has been ordered south to find what support and supplies we can to sustain our effort at Chillwind. I am able to enter into any arrangement on behalf of the Argent Dawn that is in our best interests." Officer Proudheart finished and swallowed nervously.
"Thank you." Sylvanas said simply and earnestly. "The Forsaken seek first to retake the Undercity and second to destroy the Scourge and their leader. As always we will provide what assistance we can to your forces. I wonder though, if your group could be spared to come south can the Argent Dawn contribute forces to aid us?" Sylvanas had no immediate designs on attacking Arthas, but she said what suited her needs.
Officer Proudheart looked away then back at Sylvanas, "We may be able to contribute some small force, but surely you understand that our strategic position at Chillwind must be maintained at all costs. If not for us the Scourge onslaught would fall upon these very lands in little time." Sylvanas nodded sagely at the Argent Dawn Officer.
She could feel Bolvar staring at her, his single question of what had happened at the Undercity didn't need to be asked. Sylvanas continued to ignore him. She wanted him to hate her so that he would leave of his own accord after the Undercity was retaken. She had no use for him past that and if he didn't leave her city then disposing of him and his forces would be an unwanted chore. She finally turned to look with a smug self-assurance at Bolvar that she new would perturb him. "So Fordragon, with Varithmas and his ilk in control of the Undercity this whole region is open to attack from their rogue forces and whatever designs he most assuredly has. Do you accept my invitation to an alliance to rid ourselves of this threat?"
Bolvar absolutely glowered at Sylvanas. He stood up and extended his hand across the table to Sylvanas. She accepted and they shook to confirm their alliance. "Let it be done." Bolvar growled. Sylvanas smiled.
Anchorite Benevaal gazed out at the coast from the bow of Torrent. The waves crested white over the beach in a scene that looked like a painting. It was a beautiful scene and one of the reasons he had volunteered for this trip. He had always liked sailing and from time to time held fantasies of making a career out of it.
To his right the shore ended with a light house on a small island and to his left the shore went inland a ways and he could see Stormwind Harbor off in the distance if he squinted. He tried not to though. If there was one thing Anchorite Benevaal had learned in his many years it was to value the beautiful things in life when you had the chance. Focusing on what bad might come never did anyone any good. All you could do was try to clean things up afterwards.
The Captain of Torrent came up to Benevaal, "Excuse me Anchorite. We're ready to send a party ashore. A squad of my marines will go with you and your team to escort you in your appraisal of the area. Please don't tarry though. Being this close to Stormwind... well it's only a matter of time before they notice us and pirates still operate from Stranglethorn."
Benevaal puffed himself up and nodded gravely, "Do not fear Captain. I have no desire to stay here a long time either, though hopefully we will find more than just scourge, no? Are the boats ready to take us ashore?"
"Aye, they are. If your team is ready we can launch immediately." The Captain replied.
"Good. I will gather my team on the deck and see what the condition of this once fruitful land is."
On the shore the boats lay far up on the beach where neither the waves, nor the murlocks could carry them off. They had landed towards the middle of the shore where there was a break in the cliff face so they could go inland easily. Once they had taken care of the boats they proceeded inland with Benevaal's team in front and the marines trailing.
The Anchorite's team was composed of other Draenei who, like him, had given their service to Velen and the world of Azeroth. Marlen was a paladin and the muscle in the group. Sherleena was a shaman and was chosen for her ability at far sight. Finally Vylina was a hunter and an expert at tracking. Benevaal was chosen for his wisdom and diplomatic abilities should they encounter any surviving organizations and as such was the leader.
Once inland the group paused and Sherleena casted her sight among the land. "I cannot see any scourge."
"Doesn't mean they aren't here." One of the marines grumbled.
"I see a town south and east... The road, it will lead there.... The buildings look like they've been repeatedly attacked and crashed. A group of large hills is blocking my view to the east." Sherleena relaxed and lowered her arms as she came out of her trance. "I did not see much activity except for wild life and a few bands of gnolls. Nothing we cannot take care of."
Benevaal nodded and in his best commanding voice said, "Good. To the town then."
As Sherleena had said, the town was empty and in disrepair. The buildings looked like they had long been in disuse. In various places there were signs of battle, but it was all faded from days long ago. Benevaal grumbled, "Well I suppose we will just have to check the rest of the area and head back. It is no surprise that this land would be abandoned after how oppressed it had been by the Defias. Let us gather everyone up and continue to head along the road."
"Wait!" Vylina yelled. Anchorite Benevaal rolled his eyes and sighed. He knew Vylina's value in what she could contribute to the team, but she was such a free spirit that Benevaal thought she hardly knew what the meaning of team was.
"Yes Vylina? What is it?" Benevaal said.
"Someone has entered this barn recently." Vylina said.
"How recently? Have they come back out?" Benevaal asked.
"I do not know." Vylina replied.
Benevaal didn't feel like asking twenty questions with Vylina and waiting to hit upon just the right one that would get her to tell him something useful. She reminded him of when he was young and squabbled with his siblings. "Marlen.... you and you." Benevaal pointed to two of the marines. "Let us go inside and look." Marlen nodded and hefted her shield as she headed inside, taking point.
"What about the rest of us?" Vylina said to their backs.
"Stay here by the entrance. Do not wander." Somehow Benevaal knew that was like telling a cat not to be curious. As he was going through the door he turned around and said, "Sherleena is in charge until I return." Hopefully that would help.
"Hey!" Vylina tried to retort something but Benevaal ignored her and walked into the barn.
"Anchorite!" Marlen yelled from the far side of the barn. "The barn! It is entrance to a tunnel network!" Benevaal ran up towards Marlen with a shocked curiosity. It was quite a bit of work to go through to disguise an underground lair in a beaten down settlement. Then he heard sounds of clashing swords outside. Merlen and the two marines were already running back outside. What Benevaal saw once he reached them shocked him.
"Defias!" They were bandits clothed in fine, but worn leather. They wore blue bandannas over their faces.
"Stop this at once!" Said a middle-aged man who strode purposefully towards the fight in front of the barn. "I order you to stop!" The Defias reluctantly withdrew to a stand off distance.
The middle-aged man came up to what seemed like the Defias leader. "These people obviously aren't undead or bandits." The Defias grumbled something about an entrance. "Yes, yes. And a good job you do, just don't ask questions later, you understand? The more still-breathing bodies around the better." The Defias leader grumbled again and he and his men started to move off back to various places in the town where they had apparently been hidden.
The middle aged man approached Benevaal's group. "I am sincerely sorry. Those men are tasked with protecting the entrance to the Deadmines where our supplies are stored and our forces take rest. We never get visitors in this part of the world... unless they're interested in killing us. Where exactly did you come from?"
Benevaal approached the man and puffed up his chest making him look even larger and more important. "I am Anchorite Benevaal, leader of this group. We have arrived by boat from Theramore. Our mission: to coordinate resistance to the scourge. My team and I are surveying this land for survivors."
"My, that sure is a long way to travel. Where is my hospitality. I am Gryan Stoutmantle, the leader of the Westfall Army. Please, my command is based at Sentinel Hill just over the ridge there." The man pointed to the northeast. "It's much nicer there than in this rundown place."
Benevaal smiled, "We would much appreciate that friend. Please lead on." Excited sounds came from the marines who seemed eager to kick off their boots and take a bit of shore leave.
At the top of the tower in Sentinel Hill the entire land of Westfall could be seen with just bare eyes. Benevaal admired Gryan for choosing this as the position of his command. It was the natural choice.
"So tell me, what is the state of Azeroth? We haven't been able to make contact with any other forces besides undead." Gryan asked.
Benevaal pursed his lips and sighed slightly, "Well, things are quite bad. Quite bad. This is our first expedition to the eastern kingdoms so the state of things on this side of the world, it is not known. However!" Benevaal placed a large emphasis on the last word. "We do know the situation in Kalimdor a great deal. It is only a small triumph. Orgrimmar is in ruins..."
Gryan Stoutmantle interjected an exclamation of, "Light be blessed!" at the news of the fall of Orgrimmar. Benevaal ignored it for the sake of diplomacy.
Benevaal continued, "...The Horde have formed a bulwark in the Barrens to contain the Scourge in Orgrimmar and they have recently captured Razor Hill in the south of Durotaur." The excited look on Gryan's face lessened somewhat. "The most unfortunate news of all though... The night elves... They have withdrawn into their lands after driving the Horde out of Ashenvale. A few volunteers have joined the Horde, or Theramore, however the Night Elves refuse to establish contact unless it is to say that they wish no contact and anyone who trespasses will be killed."
Gryan looked quite disconcerted at the news of the night elves. "But they had wonderful relations with Stormwind! They had even established a special envoy and created a moonwell in the park quarter"
Benevaal shook his head slowly. "I am as bewildered as you are. The few rumors we have heard have said that Tyrande Whisperwind and the old leaders are gone and the new leader, a high ranking druid, is to blame. We have been unable to verify any of this at this time."
"Well that is a shame, but here in Westfall we have always gotten by on our own. After all what did Stormwind ever do to help us defeat the Defias." Gryan spit out over the edge of the tower.
Benevaal was very confused now. He had been operating under the assumption that Gryan was the leader of the Defias. "Well hrmmmm... Forgive me, but where not those that attacked us Defias."
Gryan laughed a hearty chuckle. "No, certainly not! Defias wear red bandannas!" Benevaal chuckled lightly and tried to look as if he understood the joke. "Well they used to be Defias, but no more. Once their cowardly leader, and his lieutenants down in the deadmines were killed, most all of them gave up and turned to banditry. When that happened it was easy enough for the People's Militia to clean up anyone who wouldn't acclimate themselves to behaving civilly. I'm proud to say that many of the former Defias saw things our way in the end. That's why they've got blue bandannas now. Besides, strong arms are nothing I'll turn away with the Scourge breathing down our neck. No matter what their former allegiance was."
Benevaal nodded sagely, "I see. You have been fairing well against the Scourge, no?"
"Well we hold our own." Gryan admitted modestly. "Our current plans are to take the garrisons just over the river in Elwynn. They're a strategically positioned strong point from which we can both better defend our homeland here and also strike out against Stormwind when the time comes for that... Say, you wouldn't happen to be able to get us any more troops or supplies would you?" Gryan asked Benevaal.
Benevaal puffed himself up and tried to make himself look somewhat regal, "We do not have much to spare, but we are here to help! My team and I shall remain here as envoy to your forces. Though we are a mere few, we are well trained and hand picked by Velen himself for this mission. We have a ship waiting off the coast for news of what we've found."
Gryan interrupted Benevaal. "You have a ship off the coast! You bloody fool! Get that thing out of here! The Scourge send airborne assaults against Sentinel Hill almost every day! Why do you think we hide our stuff down in the mines?!" Benevaal was taken aback. This kind of behavior was simply not expected during diplomatic work.
"Wh... I... Yes, yes of course. It was only remaining in case we needed to make a hasty retreat! Ah-A-Actually it was the Captain's decision to remain! I told him we had no need of him to stay. My team can more than handle a whole army of Scourge on their own..."
Benevaal would have kept going but Gryan interrupted him, "Well bloody well use that hot air to blow the thing out of here!"
"Uhhh, Uh, Yes, yes of course." Benevaal headed down the stairs at a stately pace before trying to look commanding and order the unwilling marines back to the ship. He ended up winning over in the end when Marlen came up beside him and crossed her arms while giving a low growl.
"Yes," Benevaal said to himself, "life on the sea would probably be best. People know their place there and obey their Captains. Yes I think I like the sound of Admiral Benevaal." Benevaal puffed his chest up with satisfaction at the idea.
Jaina fidgeted by the window of the upper room in Rachet. She understood that the trade prince had graciously offered to host them in Rachet and that the goblins were now offering their services and wares at discount prices to the Horde in light of their favorite customers being in a sticky situation, but she would have preferred to just go to the Horde encampment. Waiting wasn't her strong suit. She gazed down at the town below her anxiously.
Then suddenly a flash of light happened just outside the port and Jaina recognized the large Tauren and their guardians emblazoned with the symbol of the Horde. Jaina felt excited to see Cairne again. While she had corresponded with him from time to time through agents of the Tauren, it had been quite some time since she had talked to him in person. Jaina greatly admired Cairne has one of the most gentle and caring individuals she had ever met, but also for his strength and decisive action which was much like her own. It was fortunate that even in his old age he was still a strong leader the Horde could rally to now that Thrall had been defeated.
Jaina tried to push the thought out of her mind. She hadn't heard it directly, but her agents had briefly assessed the situation after the fall of Orgrimmar and their news was only confirmed when she saw that the Orc walking with Cairne did not wear the armor of the Horde Warchief. "Oh Thrall... why did you have to leave us..." Jaina struggled with her feelings. She felt a great sense of loss for Thrall, who was a great leader committed to peace and prosperity for his people... and he was a great friend. But she couldn't afford to be emotional, not now with Cairne and his companion coming to talk official business. The very survival of the Horde and perhaps all the living in Kalimdor depended upon the few leaders left committed to repulsing the Scourge.
Jaina saw Cairne and his compatriots entering the door below her and so she turned from the window and took the moment to compose herself. Cairne came up the stairs accompanied by a goblin decked in finery and an Orc in imposing armor.
Jaina bowed, "It is good to see you again after so long Cairne."
Cairne reciprocated, "I only wish we were meeting in better times." Cairne returned from his bow. "Let me introduce to you Overlord Saurfang, commander of the Horde's forces in the Barrens and Glint Rekket, supplier of our efforts in the Barrens." Cairne's speech was slow and deliberate, but deep and strong. Jaina already felt a little more comforted in his presence.
"It is good to meet you all. Shall we get down to the business at hand?" Jaina offered and motioned towards the waiting table.
Glint Rekket grinned and moved towards the table, "Ah business, my favorite topic." Everyone took a seat around the small table.
Jaina clasped her hands in front of her. The orc, Overlord Saurfang, had seated himself in front of her. She knew Cairne would do whatever he could to preserve life in general against the Scourge. The goblin she knew could be counted on to support their efforts in every way. Envoys from the goblin trade princes had reached her in Theramore declaring the goblins' intentions to do all they could to preserve the living on Azeroth for in their words, "The undead make poor customers." Of course that didn't mean they were just going to give things away so long as there was still money around to be given in exchange for their goods. Saurfang though... Jaina knew of him, but she had always dealt directly with Thrall, never his subordinates. She knew he must be a somewhat effective military commander, but what his agenda was she couldn't tell. Thrall had always honored the old alliance they had made on the slopes of Mount Hyjal, even if relations had become somewhat strained. She knew that other orcs could not be counted on to pay her the same courtesy. Who knew what Saurfang might do once he regained Orgrimmar... If he regained Orgrimmar.
"Gentlemen. I wanted to meet with everyone here to exchange information. In the current crisis Theramore was approached by Velen, the leader of the Draenei, to assist his people in coordinating the defeat of the Scourge on Azeroth. Our ships have been busy in scouting the lands and increasing communications. I am sorry to confirm that Stormwind lays in the hands of the Scourge as does much of the surrounding lands." Saurfang grinned an ever-so-small smile. Cairne shook his head in sadness. "Dalaran has moved to Borean Tundra in Northrend where they are cooperating with the dragons in order to deal with a great threat from the blue dragon flight."
"What could be more pressing then this." Saurfang muttered softly.
"Of course here in Kalimdor you already know most of the situation. Nothing has really happened in the south as the goblins repelled the small scourge force sent to Gadgetzan... The night elves also seem content to stay inside their fortress off the coast of Feralas, though our ship was given warning shots when it approached." Saurfang frowned a mean orcish frown that would strike fear into the heart of his enemies. Jaina, sitting across from him, was glad she was not one of them.
"Those fools! They think they can simply close themselves off from the world and escape it's fate? If it weren't for Glint we'd have no wood to even build our fortifications with! It's only a matter of time before they've amassed their forces enough to attack us. Our defense of our logging camps may have bloodied their forces but I know those devious women. They are just waiting for the moment when we are weak to strike! The cowards." Saurfang finished his rant.
Jaina looked reproachfully at him. "I think the Scourge have to be dealt with first at least."
"I agree." Cairne said, ending the discussion.
Saurfang simmered, but kept his emotions in check. "The Scourge send raiding parties against us daily. They're trying to probe our defenses for weaknesses." Saurfang grinned outright. "But they have found none. Vol'jin and his forces in the south of Durotar have taken Razor Hill and so our flank is protected. Our defense is solid, just so long as those Night Elves stay in their forest." Now Saurfang sighed a very down-to-earth sigh. "But our chances of attack are not so good. Orgrimmar was built to be the superior fortress. It was dug out from the rock itself. No enemy could ever crumble those walls. Of course the Scourge flew in and took the city by air, and so the walls still stand. Our air forces are meager, no match for the likes of frost breathing undead dragons. A land attack would not succeed either. We can only attack the side entrance to Orgrimmar, so if we attack they can shift all their forces to that entrance." Saurfang shook his head. "We need more options... and more men."
"Well I can see what Velen might spare, but my marines are stretched to the limit with all my ships being deployed constantly, and there's not enough armor to go around for all the sailors." Jaina replied.
"Well we could fly some zeppelins over the city? Maybe juice them up a bit." Glint Rekket offered.
Saurfang shook his head, "No, their gargoyles and their wyrms would be too much, not unless it was an all out attack."
"Wait, we could make it an all out attack." Jaina said. Saurfang looked at her with the same 'you're an idiot' look he had just given Glint. "Most of my ships ought to be returning from their scouting missions shortly. We could use them to transport some of your forces around to the other side of Durotar to attack the front entrance?"
Saurfang looked intensely at Jaina now. "No... I think even more will be required. We can only attack once. With every warrior that falls we add to their ranks. If we fail in our first attack, then we are done. We will use the ships, but in a more devious attack. You will move as much as my forces as you can to the far shore of Durotar to attack the main entrance. Also Rekket's Zeppelins will carry as many as they can and land their forces into Orgrimmar from the air."
Jaina and Rekket now looked confused at Saurfang. Cairne looked at Saurfang and said, "Mmmm, yes." In agreement.
"Wait, won't that leave your defenses in the Barrens dangerously understrength?" Jaina said.
Saurfang grinned a toothy grin with a glint in his eye as he leaned closer over the table. "Yes, and the Scourge will move most of their forces out of the city to attack the defenses, while we assault the unprotected city and then take their forces from behind."
Jaina's eyes widened in surprise. It was a cunning tactic that was every bit what she would expect from a brilliant general. Jaina was both hopeful and fearful for her future. There just might be a chance to retake Orgrimmar and drive the Scourge from Kalimdor, but with the city retaken, would the Horde still heed Cairne, or would the Night Elves and the Orcs go to war once again? Hadn't Azeroth seen enough of war? When would blood-thirsty men bent on war realize that healing the people of the planet was the most important thing they could do? Perhaps it was only Cairne and herself that thought that way.
"I will make the arrangements for my ships to sail to Rachet then. I will send a messenger when they are ready for your troops." Jaina said as she stood up.
"Thank you Jaina." Cairne said. Saurfang and Rekket also got up and the Horde group went back downstairs to return to their camp.
Jaina paused a moment to watch them go. After taking back Orgrimmar they needed to deal with Arthas once and for all. "Oh Arthas." Jaina said to herself, "You used to be my friend. What happened those years ago in Lordaeron? Why did you choose to die and give your self over to the evil that stalks this world? Why did my friend die? Why do all my friends die" She turned away from the window and let tears come for her fallen friends. It was only in private that she could cry, so she took the moment to be with her feelings before teleporting back to Theramore.
Fordragon and Sylvanas rode side by side at the head of the column. He had been thinking about why Sylvanas hadn't asked the Kirin Tor to join her first. They were obviously the most powerful nation left in Lordaeron, even after their city was mauled in the Third War. Finally he couldn't stand it any longer. "Why ask the Kirin Tor now? Why not go to them for aid first Sylvanas?" "Finally," Sylvanas thought to herself. "I knew he had been chewing over something for the past two hours." Then she said aloud to Bolvar, "Ever since the Third War the Kirin Tor have erected a large impenetrable barrier around the main part of their city. They seem to be mostly only concerned with rebuilding and protecting their own ever since they sent that idiot Arugal to fail miserably. They've never tried to position troops against the Forsaken, and with my alliance with the Horde it never seemed prudent to approach them."
Bolvar Fordragon nodded, understanding the sound logic of Sylvanas' strategy. He had to remind himself that Sylvanas used to be the supreme general of the Elves before her death at the hands of the traitor. "So now that you have a Paladin around you thought you might give it a shot?" Fordragon offered. "We're securing our rear and getting what help we can against a common enemy." Sylvanas said curtly. Bolvar laughed softly at Sylvanas' shortness. She was smart. He'd give her that. But she was also full of herself. If she thought she was manipulating him for a second she was dead wrong. Bolvar knew what was going on and that the best sort of relations South Shore could hope for with Sylvanas was a tense sort of non-aggression. He knew what he was doing in helping Sylvanas take back her realm. It was easier to fight the enemy you knew, then the one you didn't know anything about.
Sylvanas cursed suddenly and Bolvar looked up from his thoughts. "It's gone?" He said in surprise. Then he laughed, "They moved the whole city! Genius! That must have been what they'd been doing the whole time under that barrier. It was in a horribly indefensible position."
Sylvanas ignored Fordragon's comments and peered over the head of her death-steed to use her superior elven eyes. "No, they're still here." She said and started to move down towards the remains of the city.
"The city has been moved to Northrend M'lady." The wizard, who was the commander of the forces in the ruins around Dalaran, replied to Sylvanas. "There in the Borean Tundra and with the aid of the Wyrmrest Accord we hope to save Azeroth from complete annihilation. My forces here are simply to guard our lands from those that would take up residence in our absence."
"Northrend?" Bolvar said. "Dalaran is attacking Arthas directly?"
The wizard shook his head. "No sir. The blue dragon flight is, at this very moment, taping the very fabric of this world in an effort that will lead to the complete and total physical destruction of Azeroth. It would be much worse than Draenor. We believe the leader of the blue dragonflight has gone insane."
"By the fiery depths of Molten Core, as if the Scourge wasn't enough. Will this planet get no rest." Bolvar responded.
"Surely you understand that your position here will be over-run if the Undercity is not retaken?" Sylvanas said.
"Lady Sylvanas, our orders are very specific. We are not to leave the historical lands of Dalaran. We cannot provide troops even if it would seem advantageous to do so." The wizard replied apologetically. Sylvanas narrowed her eyes at the wizard. "You may talk to my superior however. He resides in the garrison to the west. These orders bind all of us, but perhaps he may provide you with some other assistance."
Sylvanas regarded the wizard for a moment then turned her steed towards the west. She was quite familiar with where the garrison he spoke of was.
"Lady Sylvanas, Lord Fordragon, welcome." The high elf wizard bowed to both of them in turn. "I am Fyrlan Flameye, leader of the Kirin Tor that remain here." Sylvanas knew that a good number of the High Elves had remained among the Kirin Tor and had neglected their allegiance to their people in Silvermoon. Though she gave no outward appearance of it, she regarded the wizard with disgust. The Kirin Tor had stood idly by while the Scourge ravished the elven lands. They had gotten their just deserts when their city was attacked as a result.
"As you have no doubt been told, we cannot leave the lands of Dalaran. These orders come from the highest levels and I would be thrown into the violet hold for all eternity for violating them. I am sorry but we cannot help you, though I wish you luck in your mission." The wizard said gracefully. Sylvanas noticed that Bolvar was quite at ease around the High Elf.
"Would you...." Sylvanas was cut off by Bolvar.
"Perhaps you could provide assistance to us in other ways?" He said. Sylvanas glared at him with a piercing stare of pure black ice.
The wizard regarded Bolvar, "What do you have in mind?"
"We would like to use your garrison here as a main base of operations so we can consolidate our command of the region before moving closer to the Undercity." Bolvar said. Flameye nodded. "Well I think we can..."
Sylvanas inserted herself. "We will not need to stay here long. We will simply need your garrison to host our attack force for a few days and if any among you are talented in teleportation it would be to our advantage."
Bolvar looked confused at Sylvanas, "How will we ever mount a successful assault without pacifying the lands here. They are filled with worgen and countless other hostile forces. We would be inviting them to attack our supply lines if we did not first deal with them."
"Bolvar." Sylvanas said condescendingly. Bolvar was a little taken back that she had addressed him so informally. "We'll take the Undercity by surprise through the back entrance before they have any chance to form a defense against us, while the rest of our force attacks the main entrance as a distraction. They're weak now, so we attack now."
"But our rear? Our supply trains?" Bolvar said exasperated.
"We'll have none." Sylvanas replied dismissively. "The entire operation will last only three days. The attack will last only one night."
Sylvanas looked back to the wizard in charge. "Can you host our troops for two days near this garrison and then teleport a small team to the back entrance of the Undercity?"
The wizard was taken aback by what he had just witnessed, though he had heard of the Banshee Queen's famous demeanor. He looked strongly at Sylvanna, "Yes, I think that can be done."
Sylvanna stood up. "Good. We greatly appreciate your assistance." She bowed gracefully and started to the exit. Bolvar reluctantly stood up and left after her.
On the road back to Tarren mill and South Shore, once they were out of ear shot, Bolvar spoke up. "Just who do you think you are ordering me around like that? I could easily just leave you high and dry to do this operation on your own." Bolvar accused in a hushed but angry tone.
"We are both here for our mutual benefit. You don't have to like it." Sylvanas offered nonchalantly. "I know you're here because you think I am the lesser of two evils. I hold no illusions about our alliance lasting into perpetuity."
"Hmpf, good. Neither do I." Bolvar replied.
They rode along the road in silence for a moment before Sylvanas spoke again. "I'd like you to lead the bulk of our forces against the main entrance. I'll lead the strike force against the back entrance. The assault on the main entrance only need be a distraction and not a costly attack for our forces and I know you can reign in the troops while creating the effective impression of a serious attack. I think this arrangement is suited best to each of us."
"I agree." Bolvar said dead-pan after considering for a moment. "We will need to organize siege equipment to keep up the appearance of the attack."
"Correct. We can pick some up from my base at the Sepulcher. It is along the road to the Undercity anyway." Sylvanas responded, equally emotionless.
"Ah, Fordragon." Sylvanas thought to herself. "This is where you are most at your strength. Your emotions gone, and focusing on the task at hand. Despite how hard you try to match up to me, your judgment will always be clouded in the end. Such a waste of good talent. It is no wonder you were manipulated by Prestor." In an odd way Sylvanas found herself pitying Fordragon, an emotion she seldom felt. He would make a good lieutenant, but Sylvanas was no longer in the mood to trifle with lieutenants.
"WAAAAAAAGHHHHH!!!!!!!" Saurfang yelled as he fired the goblin chain gun from the side of the war zeppelin. Rockets, gunfire and other contraptions whizzed through the air around the zeppelin assault force creating a whirlwind of carnage in the sky above Orgrimmar. Occasionally one of the zeppelins erupted in a ball of flame when stray fire from the other zeppelins hit it, or Scourge forces set off the zeppelin's munitions.
On the ground below Saurfang could see the Scourge forces attacking the Horde bulwark in the Barrens and on the other side of his zeppelin the sea-born force was just now dismounting and assaulting the main entrance to the city. Saurfang grinned with delight as another gargoyle fell to the ground from his gunfire. His plan was working out exactly how he had imagined.
Suddenly rockets mounted to the side of the zeppelin activated, quickly swerving the airship to avoid an icy blast from a frost wyrm. Saurfang piled bullets into the undead flier's face, but it was unphased. The frost wyrm started to summon up another arctic blast at Saurfang's zeppelin. Then suddenly another of the war zeppelins, full rocket boosters raging, roared straight towards the wyrm. Saurfang sighted a large Tauren figure leaning over the side of the zeppelin and roared with delight. Cairne Bloodhoof swung his long axe and decapitated the frost wyrm in one mighty blow.
Cairne's zeppelin, apparently stuck with it's rockets on, continued to roar towards the Valley of Wisdom in the city. Saurfang stepped back from his gun and reached for the goblin communication station. He pressed the communicate button and roared, "FORWARD to Orgrimmar! FOR THRALL! FOR THE HORDE!" He looked at the zeppelin pilot, "Follow that Zeppelin! Use full rockets!"
The goblin saluted and said, "Aye, aye sir!" Before flipping a switch to activate all the remaining rocket boosters and target them towards Cairne's zeppelin. The zeppelin suddenly lurched forward and Saurfang had to brace himself to stay upright. Saurfang struggled against the acceleration to the side of the airship. He arrived just in time to see a cluster of the rockets on Cairne's ride short out and the thrust from the rest of the rockets throw the zeppelin down into the Valley of Wisdom.
Saurfang yelled to the goblin pilot, "Take us down there!" And pointed to the crashed zeppelin. He could see Cairne and the rest of the zeppelin's crew salvaging what they could from the wreck. The majority of undead were outside the city or in at the main entrance, but there were still enough that they needed to defend themselves.
As the zeppelin cruised lower and cut off it's boosters Saurfang grabbed one of the tie lines that dangled off the side before dropping to the ground a few feet below him in a controlled roll. His guard followed suit. They came to a stop near Cairne's crashed zeppelin.
"Do not fear young orc. We are unharmed." Cairne said as Saurfang got up and approached.
Saurfang growled in assent, "Good." He gestured to the large fortress near them flanked by the armor of Mannoroth. "Inside. On your guard." Cairne nodded and followed, the zeppelin crew and orc guards taking up a position to cover the rear.
Inside the light was low, much lower than what Thrall had usually kept his throne chamber. Saurfang could smell the stench of undeath and make out a figure on Thrall's throne. It shifted and stood up and in horror Saurfang recognized the armor of the Warchief and the Doomhammer hanging from one hand.
"Thrall!" Saurfang yelled in surprise and agony.
"By the earthmother... How could they do such a thing." Cairne remarked.
Outside a commotion was heard as explosions went off and a goblin yelped in his final agony. Saurfang looked back through the doorway to see a lich in the distance urging on a flock of undead. Then he looked closer at what his orc guards were fighting.
"Garrosh! No!" Saurfang looked on in horror.
Evil laughter echoed from the corpse of Thrall. "There is no escaping my master. You will all serve in death."
Saurfang whirled back around and bellowed in anger at the corpse of Thrall. "I will never again be a slave!" Saurfang drew his axe and readied himself to rush Thrall, but Cairne stopped him.
"No." Cairne exhaled a long hot breath that stirred the dust in the air. "I will see to it that our friend will finally rest in piece." The death throws of an orc were cut short by the gurgling of blood back at the entrance. "Go help them."
Saurfang nodded at Cairne then inhaled a mighty wind and bellowed, "FOR THE HORDE!" as he rushed to the doorway and threw the reanimated corpse of Garrosh back into the valley. The remaining survivors rallied to him as Garrosh picked himself up and bellowed a bestial roar from the crowd of undead that was gathered at the entrance. "Leave Garrosh to me." Saurfang told the remaining survivors. "I never did like him."
The corpse of Garrosh built up to a run and leaped into the air with all the strength he had in life. Saurfang quickly grabbed a rocket straight out of the goblin launcher where it was already lit and hung on as it propelled him into the air to meet Garrosh. The two met in a clash of steel and muscle and tumbled to the ground to make a crater in the undead beneath them. Chaingun fire came from the entrance as the survivors made an effort to try to clear Saurfang's flanks of undead.
Saurfang slowly got up from the hard fall, blood oozing from a small spot on his arm where he had been cut by a scourge's helmet. He breathed in a deep breath and roared, summoning the bestial bloodlust of the orcs and charged Garrosh. Garrosh charged as well and they locked weapons in the middle of the circle of undead. Saurfang flexed his muscles and pushed against Garrosh. Garrosh pushed back with an invisible, unholy strength and grinned at Saurfang. Garrosh's eyes had been scratched out by gargoyles and in their place an icy glow emanated, mesmerizing Saurfang. Garrosh suddenly shifted his weight and brought up his foot to kick Saurfang in his gut. Saurfang cried out and collapsed on the ground, gasping for air. Garrosh laughed an eerie menacing laugh and walked up to kick Saurfang's collapsed form. As he lifted his leg Saurfang dropped the act and spun around to kick out the only leg Garrosh was standing on. Saurfang spun around as he stood up and whirled his axe with him to bring it to bare on Garrosh's side as Garrosh also quickly stood up. Garrosh blocked the axe and Saurfang quickly struck again and again, each time the clash of blades brought sparks. In the flurry Garrosh managed to swing back at Saurfang skillfully, but Saurfang was expecting it and dodged to the side, then thrusted his shoulder into Garrosh's chest, throwing the reanimated hero back and to the ground. Saurfang wasted no time with gloating. He quickly swung his axe above his head and brought it down to crush Garrosh's neck and spine.
Saurfang sensed an icy essence escaping from the corpse. "Return to your father's side now." Saurfang said at the now silent corpse of Garrosh. The remaining guards rushed in to clear a path to Saurfang. From inside the fortress a Tauren bellow resounded outward. "Cairne!" Saurfang rushed inside.
Cairne stood over the corpse of Thrall. He leaned heavily on his large axe. The corpse had been ripped in two right down the middle ruining the Warchief's armor. As Saurfang approached he heard Cairne struggling for breath. He slowly slid to the floor with amazing grace for a creature his size. Saurfang could see where the Doomhammer had smashed into Cairne's side. Saurfang rushed over to Cairne.
"It is done..." Cairne sighed and then hacked up blood. "Thrall.... is at rest and has gone to be with the spirits of this place.... to ever watch over Orgrimmar." Cairne coughed again splattering blood on the floor. "I also go as well to be with the earth mother. It is my time, just as it is with all things." Cairne closed his eyes and took a breath before opening them again. "You... Saurfang..." Cairne reached for the Doomhammer, still clenched in Thrall's lifeless fist. Saurfang moved it closer so that Cairne could pick it up. Cairne held it up. "You must take up the Doomhammer, symbol of the leader of the Horde. Cairne offered the Doomhammer up to Saurfang. Saurfang hesitated. "You must do this Saurfang." Cairne commanded. "You alone now can keep the Horde united." Saurfang gently gripped the handle and Cairne's fingers slipped off the Doomhammer. "Lead our peoples to peace... as Thrall wanted..." Cairne said. He heaved one last breath and then closed his eyes to breathe no more.
Saurfang's face felt hot as salty tears streamed down it. He stood up, a firm grip on the Doomhammer and stomped outside, anger in his eyes. He ignored the survivors as he strode out into the crowd of undead at the entrance and proceeded to lay waste to them all with the Doomhammer. "Arthas!" Saurfang cried out, "Traitor to your world! Come and face judgment for all the sins you have committed against my people!" He swung with the Doomhammer as he yelled the words, flinging back the undead soldiers in the air with ease.
Off in the distance Saurfang could hear mixed shouts of victory from many races. The Lich, who had been hovering in the distance now spoke. "I am Kel'thuzad and I speak for my master. You may have won here today, but it is a small victory for your kind. In the end death comes for all. It is inescapable, except through my master who can grant all those who wish it the immortality of undeath."
Saurfang bellowed at the lich, "My people have already known the sting of slavery. I would sever my own limbs rather than serve in death. Fight me coward and we will see if you truly are immortal!"
"No." Kel'thuzad denied. "My master has greater plans for me. But fear not for we will meet again in the frozen wastes of the north. There you will come face to face with the true form of death." And then suddenly in a whirl of frost the Lich was gone.
Orcs, Tauren, Humans, Draenei and many others barreled down the valley of Wisdom toward where Saurfang and the handful of survivors stood. The scourge in their path lay down before the might of their blades. Behind the rage, and tear-filled eyes Saurfang saw the waving banners of he Horde advancing. He lifted up the Doomhammer high above his head and roared,
Up and down the valley, outside to Durotar and the Barrens, a wave of warriors lifted up their weapons and echoed Saurfang's cry. The battle for Orgrimmar had been won.
Sylvanas took her position in the circle of power among her strike force and nodded to the wizard. "Do it." Instantly, Sylvanas and her forsaken were teleported from the Kirin Tor garrison to the beginning of the sewer entrance to the Undercity.
The forsaken moved according to the plan and without command from Sylvanas to take out the guards in front of the tunnel. Sylvanas had hand picked her strike team from the very best of her forces. She mused that once she had regained what was rightfully hers maybe some of them would find themselves in positions of power.
Sylvanas followed her forces down the tunnel. They dispatched any resistance skillfully and with ease. They were proceeding down to the Undercity at a quick pace. It gave Sylvanas an uneasy feeling. "It shouldn't be this easy." She thought to herself. "Putress and Varimathras know that this entrance is the weak, easy way into the Undercity. The main entrance is endlessly defensible, Bolvar's distraction shouldn't be taking all their forces. They must be planning something. It must be a trap." Sylvanas moved to the head of the strike team and signaled them to follow her lead. The plan had been broken as often happened in war.
They moved carefully and cautiously until they came to the exit to the tunnel. There was only the usual pool of bile there. Not even any guards.
Then booming laughter resonated from somewhere. "Putress." Sylvanas spit out the name with disgus
"Did you think we were not waiting? Did you think we were not prepared? I have the concoction you had me create that brings decay and destruction to all it touches. I only have to give these barrels a small nudge and you will be erased from existence!" Sylvanas focused using her ears to locate exactly where Putress was standing. He seemed to be in the window above the entrance that the giant bats usually flew through. "You were a fool to ever be satisfied with this petty little kingdom. We were brought back from death for something far more grand! The light has abandoned us because we are truly instruments of death. We should embrace our existence as harbingers of the will of eternity! Varinmathras has seen this in us from the beginning. We should take our rightful place among the Burning Legion and leave behind this mockery we have been playing out as if we were still alive. You were a fool Sylvanas and now your demise will ring out to this world the signal of it's final destruction!"
"No the fool is you Putress." Sylvanas though silently. She had learned her lesson about gloating. She drew a special arrow crafted out of bone and fired it. Even though she could not see Putress she knew exactly where he was. The arrow curved and impaled Putress through his head. His body fell back out the window before rolling down the stairs at the exit to the tunnel and into the river of bile. Sylvanas motioned to two of her strike force to dismember the body just to be doubly sure. Perhaps she would display the remains outside the city as a reminder to all traitors. She signaled the strike team to move towards the throne room.
As they rounded the corner they could see down the corridor to the throne room. It was filled with ranks upon ranks of abominations. They all lurched in unison at Sylvanas and the Forsaken. They were no match however. The corridor was only wide enough to fit two of the hulks at a time. Sylvanas's strike team positioned themselves in the bottleneck and defeated the monstrosities in detail. When it seemed they were done Sylvanas gracefully leapt on top of the pile of flesh and proceeded to the throne room without missing a step.
There on top of the dais in the middle of the room stood Varimathras, her former lieutenant and her betrayer. Sylvanas did not feel any anger though. It was in the creature's nature to betray. It was only the unexpected weakness created by Arthas' global offensive that had given him an opening.
"Greetings Sylvanas." Varimathras said. "I hope your encounter with Putress went well?"
Sylvanas snapped her fingers and one of her team threw the decapitated head of Putress into the room. It left a trail of bile before rolling to a stop at the foot of the dais "Back those many years ago I had offered you a chance to join the new order my brothers and I where beginning here in Lordaeron. You unwisely choose to reject this and we warned you that anything in our way would be eliminated. You thought you could control me here, but I was simply biding my time. If you had joined us we might be in Ice Crown right now with Mal'ganis. But no, you are an over-confident and self-absorbed creature Sylvanas. And now... You will be a relic of the past." Varimathras waved his hand and all of the strike force Sylvanas had assembled fell into a deep, sleep-like trance.
Sylvanas seethed and narrowed her eyes at Varimathras. She knocked two arrows and fired them at the traitor, but with demonic speed he avoided them. Sylvanas whipped her free arm out and a dark icy beam sprung from her palm to hit Varimathras. Sylvanas could feel his fel energy flowing out of the demon and into her. He suddenly charged her with the speed of his wings, but Sylvanas rolled out of the way and fired an arrow at his back. As Varimathras whirled to face Sylvanas he lashed out with his wing-tip breaking the arrow in two. He launched a ball of fire at Sylvanas. Quickly she fired off an arrow of ice that sliced right through the fire ball and into Varimathras' palm. He howled at the outrage of being injured and his eyes burned bright. He started to mutter demonic phrases. Sylvanas locked him with her draining beam again, but suddenly fire rained on top of her. It burned through her cloak and her hood as she dodged out of it, but the fire followed.
"Fine!" She screamed and barreled straight towards Varimathras, drawing her sword as she ran. The dreadlord stopped channeling the spell and met Sylvanas' swing with his bare hand. It grasped the blade and yanked it out of Sylvanas' grasp before Varimathras kicked Sylvanas towards the ground below the dais. As she fell though, Sylvanas grabbed a handful of arrows, wiped around and threw them at the demon.
But suddenly he wasn't there anymore.
Instead of falling on the hard stone below Sylvanas felt a huge pain erupt in her back as a mighty blow fell upon her from behind. She was thrown forward to collapse face first onto the steps of the dais. She quickly rolled over to face her foe, but he was already on top of her, pining her down. Varimathras grinned down on her, savoring his victory. As he drew a fist back for the final blow he said quietly "If only you had taken our offer..."
The roar of a mighty human sounded at the entrance to the room and suddenly Varimathras was engulfed in a holy light. He cried out in agony and yelled, "We cannot be stopped! Balnazzar and the crusade will reach the sunwell!" Before he disintegrated into ash and a war hammer clattered to the ground to reveal Bolvar Fordragon standing at the entrance with a team of human paladins.
Sylvanas stood up and dusted herself off. The forsaken strike team suddenly arose from their trance to look around wide-eyed. Some of them rushed for their weapons to attack the paladins. "Stand down!" Sylvanas shouted. The Forsaken reluctantly sheathed their weapons.
Fordragon approached Sylvanas on the steps of the dais He paused and looked confused. "You are unharmed by the light?"
"I am no friend of the light." Sylvanas spat. She kicked the pile of ash at her feet in anger and then cursed Varimathras. Even after his death he was making trouble for her. She barely contained her rage at being saved by Fordragon and his forces sullying her city with their presence. But much as she'd like she couldn't simply have them killed because she still needed them. The Scarlet Crusade empowered by whatever remnants of the holy sunwell had been left behind might truly be the biggest threat the Forsaken could ever face.
She fixed Bolvar with the coldest gaze drawn straight from the icy depths of her still heart. "The Crusade is being controlled by a dreadlord. They're moving to take the remains of the sunwell."
A look of horror and then disbelief took Bolvar, "Wait. How do you know that? The Crusade are zealous, yes, but they are committed to fighting all that is unholy. I refuse to believe their very leader is a demon!"
"Bolvar you fool!" Sylvanas unleashed all her rage and fury. "You where here when Varimathras said it. The dreadlords are brothers and they mean to take this world for the Burning Legion by any means. You know the capabilities of a dreadlord!"
"But the Crusade are filled with those rich in the holy..." Bolvar was cutoff by Sylvanas.
Sylvanas had ceased to disguise any of her disdain. "I have never met a more blind and blundering fool than you Bolvar. And I swear if you hadn't helped me get this far I would cut you down right where you stand. Now get out! Get out of my damm city!" Sylvanas glowered at Bolvar, who stood there frozen in shock at all he had heard and how he was being treated. She hoisted the holy-infused mace that Bolvar had used to save her and threw it down at Bolvar's feet. "And take your dammed holy light with you! It never did me any good!"
Bolvar knelt with a resigned look on his face and retrieved the mace. "I hope for your sake Sylvanas that one day you get revenge on that traitor that did this to you." He turned and left flanked by his paladins.
Jaina gazed at the ornate and gorgeous trappings of the room around her. She wondered how so much tragedy could befall such a grand people as the Quel'Dorei. It was tragic. Even more tragic was how Kael'thas had succumb to the influence of the demons and tried to use the font of magical energies to summon Kil'jaeden once again. The man she had knew was such a better person than that.
It reminded her of the friends she had lost. She had just recently received the bad news from Saurfang. With Cairne gone there was hardly anyone of her past left alive. Jaina was eternally grateful for all the strength and support Velen had shown her through this crisis. She didn't know how she would have made it without him.
Kael had always invited her to visit the elven lands, but she had been a young girl more interested in her studies than anything else. This was her first time in Quel'Thanas, the very heart of the Quel'Dorei lands and she was amazed at the beauty that the elves had poured into all that they had made, but she very much wished that she where there in better times.
As Jaina had heard the story, once Orgrimmar was retaken Saurfang immediately tried to find out what had happened to the Forsaken. Sylvanas herself returned on the zeppelin scout that had been sent, bearing news of the Scarlet Crusade's intentions to take the sunwell. Saurfang had reached out to Jaina to provide ships for an army to stop the Crusade. Everyone had just joined in from there.
The army had arrived just in time to relieve the Shattered Sun Garrison forces that watched over the Sunwell after Kael'thas' ultimate defeat. The Crusade where trying to bridge the gap between Silvermoon and the island where the sunwell rested so they could launch an all out offensive and claim the remnants of the holy power it contained to fuel their war machine. Now they glowered across the sea from Silvermoon at the prize they could not reach.
Jaina gazed at the twinkling remnants that where all that remained of the sunwell on Azeroth. The blood elves had decided to abandon their homeland and move their people entirely to Draenor. Jaina couldn't blame them. With the scourge that had already lain on the very doorstep to the maimed city of Silvermoon, Jaina could only wonder at what horrors Arthas might have launched against the blood elf city in his global offensive. And that didn't even include the guerrilla war the forest trolls were still waging and the recent betrayal of Kael'thas, their prized son. They had taken the sunwell with them of course and it rested somewhere in Terokkar in Outland now, but for whatever reason some remnants of it still remained here where Velen had purified it. Perhaps they were in a rush to depart, or their mastery of the holy light wasn't advanced enough.
Velen now was at work gathering the remnants into a purified crystal that floated in the middle of the room. Around the edges of the former sunwell stood some the remaining leaders who had been involved in this crisis: Saurfang, Fordragon, Sylvanas, Vol'jin and herself. Jaina was uneasy with what she felt of them. There was an obvious tension between Sylvanas and Fordragon that they both kept diplomatically just below the surface. Saurfang was there as the new Warchief of the Horde with his ally Vol'jin, leader of the darkspear trolls. Saurfang was brilliant, but still had a mind that focused on war. Vol'jin might be more diplomatic, but Jaina found him damningly unreadable, and in any case she knew that the darkspear's loyalty to the horde was absolute. She wondered if even after surviving everything, the worst was still to come.
The last of the remnants drifted past the surface of the crystal and came to rest at its core. Velen walked towards it and retrieved the crystal from the air. "All the remnants have been retrieved now. I will see to it that these are reunited with their companions in Draenor." Velen said with the speech of one with a near infinite wisdom.
Fordragon cleared his throat in as introduction, "I do not dispute the Elves' rightful claim to these remnants, but perhaps they should remain on Azeroth until we are at peace? The holy light contained in this crystal would be a powerful weapon against the scourge and the bane of Arthas himself. It would not be foolish to relinquish such a boon so quickly."
Jaina could tell how much that comment had stirred the waters among those present, but not which way they leaned. Velen put the discussion to rest before it took place. "No. These are pieces of the Naaru M'uru's spirit. It is not good that they remain apart from the others." Fordragon remained silent, but scornful of Velen's choice. Sylvanas seemed relieved to have the remnants be removed.
Jaina took the moment to say something bold she had been thinking of for a long time. "I think this whole crisis has shown us that divided we can be conquered. The free peoples of Azeroth should take this moment to put aside their differences and join to defeat the threats to our world once and for all."
The first answer surprised Jaina. Sylvanas said in a strong voice, "I agree. We should launch an assault on Northrend immediately to defeat Arthas and the Scourge."
Fordragon shook his head at Sylvanas, "I'm afraid I cannot join any Horde forces in assaulting Northrend until Stormwind is regained no matter what grievances I too have with that traitor." Sylvanas stared coolly at Fordragon.
Saurfang shook his head sadly. "I have sworn on my honor to defeat Arthas, but it simply cannot be done now. The Tauren are in mourning. We are still rebuilding Orgrimmar. Our offensive still has not been started to reclaim our lumber operations from the Night elves."
Jaina looked scornfully at Saurfang. "I do not think that is what Cairne would have wanted."
Saurfang spit back a retort. "You were not there when Cairne died. Do not preach to me about the affairs of the Horde." Even though he said the words with confidence Jaina could see he wasn't sure if he was doing the right thing. "Once we have the resources to attack, you have my word as Warchief that Arthas will have no place to hide from the Horde."
Sylvanas looked perturbed at Saurfang. "The Scarlet Crusade, lead by Mal'ganis, has already launched an assault against the Lich King. Delaying does us no good."
"What proof do you have of this Sylvanas?" Saurfang said strongly.
"Varimathras said it just before he died. Fordragon was there as well." Sylvanas replied.
"He said no such thing!" Fordragon replied with an ever so slight grin. Jaina could tell he was lying and she scowled. Varian would be ashamed of his friend.
"I have nothing to say to you." Sylvanas snubbed Fordragon rather than give him a reply.
Suddenly Velen spoke. "If no one else will see to this dire threat then I will send the few forces the Draenei have to see what forces Arthas summons in the north."
"Then you will have my cooperation." Sylvanas said boldly. Velen strode towards her with one hand outstretched and the other holding the Sunwell crystal. Sylvanas looked uncomfortable, almost panicky, but managed to hold her hand out in the air in front of her for Velen to grasp.
Velen shook her hand, "May this relationship of cooperation bring new life in the dead north." Velen smiled at Sylvanas and graciously released her hand. She managed to maintain her composure, but looked a little dazed. Velen took a place around the outside of the room near Jaina, to whom he was already staunchly allied.
Fordragon spoke up, "The Argent Dawn would be happy to help you, though I know not what condition they're in. Sylvanas and I contacted some of their forces in the eastern plaguelands, but they had been cut off from their leadership. There has been no contact at all with Light's Hope since this all began..." Fordragon said sadly.
Jaina also was disheartened at the news, then she remembered a report she had heard, "Oh! Lord Fordragon! A ship returned from a scouting mission to the Eastern Kingdoms not long ago. They brought news that the citizens of Westfall have formed an army and are holding their own against the scourge in Stormwind." She smiled at Fordragon.
"Truly?! This is wonderful news Jaina. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Perhaps with a little help I can free Stormwind from the clutches of the Lich King." Fordragon looked at Jaina expectantly.
Jaina replied. "Well I only have so many ships but I will see what I can do."
"Thank you." Fordragon bowed graciously to Jaina.
Velen nodded to himself. "Jaina if you would be so kind? Draenor is a long way to walk for an old Draenei." Velen smiled a gentle grandfatherly smile.
"Certainly." Jaina said and opened a portal to Shattrath. Velen strode through carrying the sunwell crystal. The sunwell had now left Azeroth for good.
"I can transport the rest of you if you wish?" Jaina offered to the rest of the assembled leaders. Saurfang shook his head. "Thank you. I will accompany my troops back on the seas."
"I have a zeppelin." Sylvanas said simply.
"Lord Fordragon?" Jaina said.
"Certainly." He smiled at Jaina. "If you could take me to South Shore that would be wonderful." Jaina complied with Fordragon's request and he disappeared in a flash of light. She was somewhat relieved to see him go.
Jaina bowed to the rest of the leaders left in the room. "Well I must be off then."
"One moment Lay'dae." Vol'jin said suddenly and unexpectedly. He walked over to Jaina and draped a troll talisman around her neck. "Dis be for yo help'n us retake our city. It protect you from da dark spirits."
Jaina fingered the talisman and gazed at it. It was strange, almost scary, but beautiful in an odd way. She bowed at Vol'jin. "Thank you Vol'jin. It is very beautiful." Vol'jin took a step back and proceeded out the door with Saurfang. Sylvanas also left on her own.
Jaina looked down at the talisman. Even with everyone she had lost, she had still made a new unexpected friend. Her concerns for the future left her momentarily in exchange for an optimism for the future. "Maybe, just maybe. Things will be alright one day." She said to herself and smiled.
-End Book 1-
Continued in: Only the Strong