Once the mighty elder shaman and chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, Drek'Thar had seemingly withered in his old age. The War of Nightmare presented in Stormrage
had taken its toll on the old shaman. While Drek'Thar had always experienced dreams and visions, after the War, the dreams were far stronger than they used to be -- though as of late, they were less dream, more nightmare.
A dream of the world splintering into pieces woke the shaman, and he demanded that his attendant Palkar deliver a message to Thrall at once. Though Palkar held great respect for the chieftain, he urged Drek'Thar to go back to sleep. Drek'Thar's visions were disturbing but often untrue -- he'd had a horrific vision of Orcs sabotaging a meeting between Night Elf and Tauren druids in Ashenvale months before and demanded that runners be sent to intercept. The runners had been sent, but there was nothing there -- except the growing suspicion of the Night Elves, who wondered why any would make such a ludicrous claim.
The land will weep ...
Meanwhile, the war in Northrend was over. The Lich King had been defeated, and the troops that had been fighting for so long could at last take the long trip home. Cairne Bloodhoof
made the long journey to Northrend to pick up the last of the army, including Garrosh Hellscream
. Though Garrosh took after his father a little too much for Cairne's liking, Cairne had to admit that his leadership in Northrend had lit a fire in the hearts of the Orcish race -- something they desperately needed.
Brash, headstrong and blunt, Grom's son was an effective leader, just as willing to cart crates of supplies to Cairne's ships as he was to order a fleet into Icecrown Citadel. It was this Garrosh the armies of Northrend had embraced -- an Orc who was a fierce, ruthless leader yet didn't raise himself above anyone else. But Garrosh still had plenty working against him -- the same brash tendencies that led the Northrend forces to victory time and time again also led to a clash between Garrosh and Varian Wrynn in the heart of Dalaran, one that threatened to ruin whatever tentative threads of peace the two factions had founded for good.
As for High Overlord Varok Saurfang, he would not return with Garrosh and the rest of the forces, instead content to stay behind and mop up the few remaining Scourge that remained. Once the Scourge were cleared, Saurfang would remain, living out his retirement in the wilds that had claimed the life of his son not once but twice.
But it wasn't a peaceful retreat from Northrend. The Kvaldir
attacked as the fleet attempted to leave, claiming a few last lives from those who had traveled to Northrend. And a swift, torrential storm had followed, then dissipated just as quickly as it had arrived. Though Cairne was bewildered by the strange ferocity of the instantaneous storm, his attentions were drawn away when Garrosh noticed an Alliance ship flying the flag of Stormwind and desperately trying to keep itself afloat. To Cairne's dismay, Garrosh ordered their ship to attack.
To Cairne's further dismay, the crew of the ship agreed wholeheartedly with Garrosh's decision. Despite Cairne's protests that the Alliance ship had probably been swept into Horde waters in the storm and that it wasn't even capable of defending itself, the crew opened fire and quickly tore through the Alliance ship. After capturing and baiting the Alliance captain, Garrosh set him and the few crew who survived free with minimal supplies and a rowboat to get them back to shore.
Though Garrosh may have been a great leader in Northrend, he had much to learn about respect and honor. But the return home to Orgrimmar was a victorious one highlighted by a march through the heart of the city -- one in which nearly every member of the fighting forces in Northrend participated. Almost every member -- the Sin'dorei and Forsaken were noticeably absent from the march, both races having their own problems to deal with on the Eastern Kingdoms. But the Orcs, Trolls and Tauren gladly took part in the march, and Orgrimmar erupted in cheers when Garrosh Hellscream at last came through the gates.
It was a celebration, the entire city coming together to cheer and drink and carry on. Warchief Thrall
led the festivities by presenting Garrosh with his father's axe, Gorehowl. Thrall hadn't been idle while the ships returned, however; he'd been investigating the strange storm that nearly toppled the Horde fleet, as well as an array of other equally mystifying events -- droughts, storms, fires, all curiously uncommon and unnatural for the time of year. Hamuul Runetotem suggested that he and the other Tauren druids could speak with the Night Elves and see if they'd noticed anything unusual.
This didn't sit well with Garrosh. But Thrall attempted to soothe Garrosh's temper by letting him know that his service to the Horde would not go unrewarded. In between the dealings with the unusual elements, Thrall had still been trying to find a place for the younger Hellscream, and he would not be forgotten. This irritated Garrosh even further. After all, he'd led the forces in Northrend to victory. Why should he be placed in a much smaller role, after all that he'd done for the Horde?
Quick to pick up on this fact was Magatha Grimtotem
, leader of the Grimtotem Tauren -- a branch that had not allied itself with the Horde and was only barely neutral to the rest of the Tauren race. With sweet words, Magatha quietly implied to Garrosh that should be come into a position of power, the Grimtotem would be far more likely to join the Horde and follow him in earnest. It gave Garrosh entirely too much food for thought.
The end of an era
Meanwhile in Stormwind, a service was being held for the dead -- and as Jaina Proudmoore
tallied the numbers, she was horrified. The losses in Northrend were known to be great, but a total of perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 people had died. The services were interrupted by the arrival of two Night Elf Sentinels, who quickly caught the attention of Proudmoore and King Varian Wrynn
, and they left the ceremony.
The Sentinels were there to deliver sickening news: Sentinels who had been assigned to guard a convoy of supplies were brutally murdered -- not just murdered, but outright slaughtered. The skins of the Sentinels were found hanging from the trees, the rest of the bodies having been chopped up and left for the carrion birds. On the skins, painted in the Sentinels' own blood, was the symbol of the Horde.
Jaina was taken aback, convinced that there was no way that this could have been authorized by Thrall, but Varian was quick to place the blame firmly on the Warchief. When Jaina attempted to remind him that Thrall was no more responsible for all the Orcs than Varian was responsible for the Defias
, Varian snapped. Though Varian's odd ordeal of being split into two physical bodies had ended, he was still very much two men in one body -- the wise ruler Varian, and the bloodthirsty and rash warrior Lo'Gosh. It was Lo'Gosh who then taunted Jaina about her poor decisions with Arthas, needling her to the core -- and it was Varian's son Anduin who happened to walk in at that precise moment.
In an instant, Varian was back to himself, but the damage had been done. Anduin had been dealing with his father's dual nature for far too long, and it was wearing on the young man. Varian was well aware of the toll his odd personality was taking on his son, and after apologizing to Jaina, Proudmoore came up with an idea. She gave Anduin a hearthstone bound to Theramore, so that he could visit her when he saw fit. Anduin was delighted, and Jaina returned home.
But she wasn't home on pleasure. Instead, she had scheduled a meeting with Thrall to discuss the incident in Ashenvale. Varian had sent a courier to Thrall, demanding that he apologize for the actions of his people and turn over those responsible for the slaughter. While Thrall was happy enough to see Jaina, to her dismay, he replied that while he would return a note stating his disapproval of the incident, he would not be offering an apology. Nor would he be turning over the criminals.
The Horde handled Horde matters -- and the Horde, despite Thrall's disapproval of the events, were cheering at the incident. Ever since settling in Durotar, the Horde had struggled with trying to come up with enough resources, food and water to survive. When the Night Elves dissolved the trade agreement that they'd forged with the Horde, that struggle became even more difficult. Thrall knew that whatever his personal opinions were, he could not by any means turn those responsible over to the Alliance; to do so would undermine any authority he had as Warchief.
Jaina was unhappy about this, but she understood. When she returned to Theramore, she found Anduin waiting for her -- and the clever boy figured out that she'd met with Thrall before she could even say anything. They spoke of the discussion between her and the Warchief, and Anduin made it home just in time for dinner, where his father waited for him with more news. Though Varian liked the idea of Anduin getting out of the kingdom every now and again, he wasn't entirely sure sending Anduin to Jaina was a good idea.
On top of this, Anduin, while smart and growing fast, wasn't particularly proficient with weapons. In an effort to guide Anduin to someone who could help, Varian suggested Anduin spend some time in Ironforge with Magni Bronzebeard. Anduin, excited about the possibility of delving through the tomes of the Explorer's League, agreed -- and Varian quietly planned for Anduin to receive weapons training as well.
But Anduin wasn't the only one making a trip. The incident in Ashenvale had given Warchief Thrall much to think about. Thrall could never condone those kinds of actions, yet his people did so wholeheartedly. And on top of this were the continuing oddities of the elements, brought fully to light when a fire raged through Orgrimmar, the flames unresponsive and outright refusing to be swayed by the pleas of the shaman who tried to soothe the blaze. Thrall could no longer ignore the strange actions of the elements. Something had to be done -- and he could do it, but not as Warchief. As a shaman.
And so Thrall planned a trip to a land where the elements once raged against the world -- Outland. By traveling to Nagrand, he could try to decipher what was going on in Azeroth and pay a visit to his grandmother as well. But he could not leave the Horde on its own; it required a leader. His first two picks, Cairne and Saurfang, were both far too old to take such a responsibility, and Saurfang had suffered far too much in Northrend. There was no way Thrall could ask him to return to Orgrimmar after all he'd been through.
In fact, the only logical decision for a temporary leader was plain as day. Though Thrall didn't want to admit it, there was an Orc who the citizens of Orgrimmar -- the citizens of the Horde -- had followed all the way through Northrend. They'd cried his name in triumph when he had made his victorious return. They looked upon him as a hero, a natural-born leader who had brought glory and honor to the entire Horde in the direst of situations. It was the only choice that Thrall could make -- the only choice that would make the citizens of the Horde happy.
He had to ask Garrosh Hellscream and deal with the aftermath of that situation, whatever that might be, upon his return.
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