Meanwhile, the Horde was not idle, but it was also not able to immediately pursue the Alliance forces north: Orgrim Doomhammer, known by some now as the Backstabber, had betrayed and killed Blackhand the Destroyer and seized control of the Horde, but in so doing then had to clean house by purging Blackhand's supporters in the Shadow Council. He'd been able to take these steps because Blackhand's puppetmaster Gul'dan had nearly gotten himself killed trying to invade Medivh's mind when the Last Guardian was being killed by his apprentice Khadgar and childhood friend Lothar. Comatose, there wasn't much Gul'dan could do while Doomhammer killed his acolytes and supporters. Unfortunately for the future of Azeroth, Doomhammer didn't just walk over to Gul'dan's unconscious body and bash his skull in with the Doomhammer. (It's kind of awkward the way the guy is named Doomhammer and carries the Doomhammer, but at least the hammer doesn't look like a smaller version of himself.)
While Terenas was doing his level best to create the Alliance, Doomhammer was replacing those he'd been forced to purge, sending for more orcs and ogres to come through the Dark Portal, making alliances of his own with native trolls, and even achieving control over the dragons of the Red Dragonflight through the Dragonmaw Clan's control of a powerful artifact. While moving north to destroy the humans once and for all (and invading the dwarf kingdom of Khaz Modan in the process, helping motivate the dwarves and gnomes to join the Alliance, going so far as to push the dwarves and gnomes into the fortified city of Ironforge): it was during this process that the orcs made enemies of the high elves of Quel'Thalas and allies of the Amani trolls of Zul'Aman and their leader, Zul'jin. Yay, yet another name with a mysterious apostrophe in it!
It's interesting to note that Doomhammer's northern march seems to have made as many enemies for the Horde as it gained them supporters. He got the goblins to work as mercenaries for him, took over Grim Batol and plopped the Dragonmaw there to keep watch over Alexstrasza and her brood which the Horde used as weapons, twisting life into death. There's an interesting bit of politics here, as the Dragonmaw leader Zuluhed the Whacked was loyal not to Doomhammer but to Rend and Maim Blackhand, sons of the slain Blackhand the Destroyer. Despite this, Orgrim was willing to trust the old shaman and current warlock when he approached the new warchief with tales of a vision of a dark artifact that could help bring victory to the Horde. Visions that later proved to be of the Demon Soul, visions sent by Deathwing himself.
So, manipulated by the insane Aspect of Earth, the Horde used the Demon Soul to bind and enslave the red dragons and in so doing gained a powerful weapon (the dragons themselves) that helped them menace the entire region, which led to the formation of the Alliance that Deathwing would later manipulate to nearly place himself on the throne of a human kingdom.
Doomhammer proved himself a canny warchief and one completely unwilling to discard any advantage. When Gul'dan woke up and found the great bulk of his supporters suffering from a sudden case of the dead, Doomhammer quickly made sure that Gul'dan understood he was no puppet to be manipulated. Why he didn't kill the man who'd ordered the assassination of his best friend Durotan is simple. A pragmatist, Doomhammer intended to win the war with the humans and their allies. There was no going back through the Dark Portal, as Draenor was so tainted it couldn't support the orcs anymore. Like it or hate it, Doomhammer saw the war in terms of the survival or destruction of his people and didn't really care about the natives of the new world he was on. Their deaths were meaningless to him. Seeing that, Gul'dan quickly made a deal with Doomhammer, offering to give the Horde back the magical power it had lost when Doomhammer had caved in the skulls of the Shadow Council. Thus, the first Death Knights seen on Azeroth were born, as Gul'dan chose to place the spirits of his slain Shadow Council minions in the bodies of Knights of Stormwind. Teron Gorefiend was the first of this new dark order.
All in all, the Horde push north managed some very notable successes under Doomhammer... the penning in of the dwaves and gnomes, the enslaving of the red dragons, the alliance with the Amani trolls cemented when Doomhammer's forces helped free Zul'jin from High Elf captors.
It was Zul'jin's presence as an ally that allowed the Horde to reach Quel'Thalas. This allowed Gul'dan access to the ancient elven runestone from Caer Darrow, gave the Horde the chance to pen the Alliance in at Aerie Peak, and penetrated deep into elven territory. It seemed a great victory, but in fact it was the beginning of the end for the Horde's forward progress. Up till this point, the High Elves didn't see any more reason to fear the Horde than they did the disorganized trolls they saw as rabble and had defeated thousands of years earlier. While the high elves had honored their pact with Anduin Lothar as detailed in our Alliance KYL, it took this show of force by Doomhammer's Horde to wake the elves up. The Horde was a serious threat, and they'd been complacent thus far.
This marks the end point of Horde expansion: finally, Lothar had a force that could contend with the Horde on both land and sea. With his trusted lieutenant Turalyon, Lothar began a counteroffensive push that used all the strengths of the various Alliance forces... gnome and dwarven air support including the powerful Wildhammer Gryphon-Riders, elven sea power, human infantry and cavalry... and he began by playing against the tendencies he'd observed in dealing with the orcs by dividing his forces. Turalyon commanded a force that worked to solidify elven support by clearing the Horde from Eversong, while he himself took a force to the Hinterlands surrounding Aerie Peak to push the Horde back there as well. This didn't keep Gul'dan from cutting up the Caer Darrow runestone and making Ogre-Magi with it, of course.
It did, however, push the Horde back, first out of Lordaeron proper and then further back out of Khaz Modan and the Arathi Highlands. Tol Barad was retaken and used as a base to push further into Dun Algaz. However, the seeming defeat of the Horde turned out to be part of a much more complicated series of events. Uther the Lightbringer discovered that Aiden Perenolde, one of the kings who helped found the Alliance and head of the kingdom of Alterac was in league with the Horde, and had allowed a Horde force through his kingdom: Lordaeron itself was soon under siege! Doomhammer had turned the tables on Lothar and managed to get the Alliance to overextend itself forcing the Horde back, while preparing to move a major offensive to the very walls of the greatest of the human cities. While Uther and his forces broke the back of Alterac in reprisal and cut off Horde reinforcements, it was beyond the Alliance forces to dislodge them.
However, luckily for the Alliance, Gul'dan didn't care even remotely about the Horde, Doomhammer, or victory at Lordaeron. Since he'd awakened he'd been biding his time, strengthening his position, and making himself useful to the Horde so that at the fateful moment when Doomhammer was busy elsewhere (namely, attacking the most fortified city the humans had with the vast majority of his forces) he could move for his true objective: the Tomb of Sargeras that Medivh had waggled at him as a carrot to get him to build the Dark Portal. Now, with that information liberated from Medivh's dying thoughts, with two clans (the Stormreavers and Twilight's Hammer) loyal to him, and with Doomhammer the Backstabber's back turned, Gul'dan stabbed by sailing away for the Tomb on the island of Suramar and leaving Doomhammer and the Horde deprived of key magical support.
This act sealed the Horde's fate and effectively handed victory to the Alliance. Gul'dan and most of his forces were eaten by demons, which as it turns out might have been for the best for them, as those that managed to escape being demon chow ended up as dragon chow when an enraged Doomhammer caught up with them. However, since Doomhammer had taken the dragons to punish Gul'dan and his men for treachery, the Horde had no commanders and no air support in Lodraeron and were quickly given the bum's rush all the way back to the fortress of Blackrock Spire, a former Dark Iron stronghold occupied by the Horde. Here, Doomhammer attempted a last breakout against the forces of the Alliance and met Lothar himself in combat.
Lore fans will probably go nuts pointing out that what happened in that battle has been retconned several times now and differed depending on which RTS campaign you played: as the game is currently, Doomhammer killed Lothar in a desperate struggle and expected to see the human morale falter as a result, Instead, Turalyon, gone nearly insane with rage lifted Lothar's shattered sword and crushed Doomhammer and his men, nearly tearing the head off of the orc warchief in the process. Beaten, Doomhammer was spared (barely) and taken in chains to captivity while the Alliance pushed the remainder of the orcs to the Dark Portal, slaughtered those that resisted in what is called the bloodiest battle of the Second War, and then the mage Khadgar blew the portal itself up. This, it was hoped, would seal it for good.
Next time we look at the Second War's aftermath. The orcs were beaten, their troll and goblin allies leaving them to their fate. What about Grim Batol? Why did Grom Hellscream ride into Azeroth on missions of thievery? How did Teron Gorefiend find someone to take Gul'dan's role as mystical leader of the Horde, and who was it? And what about the Alliance Expedition to Draenor, the fate of Turalyon and Alleria, or the creation of Outland? All that and a Day of a Dragon, too.