But Jaina was far from a typical child, far from a typical girl, and her grief started early on -- her eldest brother Derek killed by orcs during the Second War
when she was just a small child. Despite this, Jaina continued with her studies, seemingly carefree and unconcerned to those around her. Duty first; grief second; self-pity? Never. Sent first to Lordaeron to dispense with the usual niceties of court hospitality on her way to Dalaran, Jaina encountered a young boy only a year older than herself who was so full of mischief and an utter lack of care for the propriety required of his station that she couldn't help being fascinated with him. The boy wasn't just any boy -- he was Arthas Menethil
, son of King Terenas and heir to the throne of Lordaeron.
Arthas, fascinated by the newcomer and perhaps just a little entranced by her self-effacing demeanor and beauty, offered to formally escort her to Dalaran, to his parent's delight. It wasn't really out of any sort of burgeoning need for romance; after all, Arthas was only 12 at the time; rather, he was delighted to see a girl his own age and curious about the sparkle in her eye that suggested she was as much unlike the nobles of the high court as he himself was. While en route to Dalaran, the two camped in the Hillsbrad area, accompanied by a lady-in-waiting and a few guards. But after everyone had fallen asleep, Arthas woke Jaina and took her on an "adventure" that would unwittingly serve to fuel her motives, years and years in the future.
Hillsbrad was home to one of several internment camps that had been set up to imprison the leftover orc forces after the Second War. And perhaps because of his own curiosity, perhaps simply to test the young Proudmoore girl's mettle, Arthas intended to sneak out and take a look at the orcs up close -- and he intended to take Jaina with him. At first, Jaina protested, her usual cheerful demeanor broken momentarily as she remembered her older brother's death. She fell silent at his repeated insistence that they give the place a closer look, but as Arthas was about to give up on Jaina altogether, she finally agreed to go -- possibly to stare her brother's killers in the face, or possibly simply to see for herself.
But what Jaina found was a group of orcs -- not killers, but saddened, caged beasts. Men, women, and even children shuffled around the camp, struck with the strange lethargy that had plagued them since their defeat at the hands of Alliance forces. And while Jaina could have been angry at them for her brother's untimely demise, she instead found herself inexplicably saddened.
"Oh," Jaina whispered beside him. "They look ... so sad."
Arthas snorted, then remembered the need to be quiet. He quickly glanced up at the tower, but the guard had heard nothing. "Sad? Jaina, these brutes destroyed Stormwind. They wanted to render humankind extinct. They killed your brother, for Light's sake. Don't waste any pity on them."
"Still -- somehow I didn't think they would have children," Jaina continued.
What was going through the mind of that 11-year-old girl was nothing short of groundbreaking, if heresy in other people's eyes. It wasn't just that she found the orcs sad -- it was that she, unlike many around her, looked at them and humanized them. They weren't brutes to Jaina; they could never be the savages that others claimed them to be, after that evening. They were simply people, green and odd, yet people with families and children and sadness and everything else that human beings such as she herself had. An odd thought for most coming out of the Second War, but not for young Proudmoore.
But that was the person that Jaina had been all of her life. Where she got it from, nobody knows; her father, Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore held an unshakable amount of hatred for the Horde that had murdered his eldest son. The rest of her family doubtless felt the same way -- but Jaina was decidedly different. Studious and single-minded almost to her own detriment at times, Jaina was a stubborn girl who refused to take anything anyone told her at face value, instead choosing, as she had that evening with Prince Arthas, to see for herself.
After a somewhat shaky start in the Kirin Tor, Jaina quickly caught everyone's attention. The talented girl eventually became apprentice to Archmage Antonidas
, leader of the Kirin Tor. She continued with her studies, single-minded and almost obsessed for several years, deigning not to respond to the romantic attentions of Prince Kael'Thas Sunstrider. The prince, despite his best efforts, was too stilted and too formal for Jaina. Her studious nature only went so far; underneath it all was still a girl who didn't mind sneaking out in the middle of the night to go on adventures. A girl who enjoyed breaking free from her studies every now and again and indulging in snowball fights.
And it was that
girl who had remained firmly in the back of Prince Arthas' mind. When he came of age and officially joined the Order of the Silver Hand, Jaina was there to congratulate him. And when he came to Dalaran to study Azeroth's history in preparation for his eventual ascension to the throne, Jaina was there to keep him company, full of sunshine, smiles, and eventually, romantic feelings for the prince.
Why was it that Arthas and Jaina fit together? It was a matter of being from similar backgrounds with similar attitudes. Jaina was from a noble family but chose a life of study and dedicated, hard work over simply being a noblewoman. Arthas was the son of a king, destined to take over the throne of Lordaeron someday in the future -- but the pressures of being a monarch were far from his mind. He simply wanted to have fun and take care of his people. Jaina brought out the serious side of Arthas, and he in turn brought out the playful side of her -- the side that was more often than not buried behind whatever studies she had to tend to at the time.
It was inevitable that it wouldn't work out. Jaina's serious nature led her to naturally accept that her future perhaps was at Arthas' side, a side that included marriage, children, and eventually being a queen. But Arthas hadn't considered this -- he was simply having fun. He loved Jaina, loved her dearly, but when push came to shove and he realized the enormity of what lay before him -- a future with a wife, children, and a kingdom -- he buckled and begged her to forgive him. He simply wasn't ready.
"It's all right, Arthas. I understand."
He stepped back, his hands on her shoulders, peering into her eyes. "Do you?"
She laughed slightly. "Honestly? No. But it's all right. It will be eventually, anyway. I know that."
And it would be, in time. Jaina, despite her willingness to throw away her studies for Arthas and take up the life she'd never thought about leading, was nothing if not sensible. If this wasn't the intended path for her to take, then she simply wouldn't take it. After all, there were always her studies and the Kirin Tor to turn back to -- and she did for the next several years, throwing herself wholeheartedly into her studies with a vengeance.
Duty first. Grief second. Self-pity? Never.
Years passed, and the orcs broke free of the interment camps, led by their new Warchief, Thrall. Jaina viewed the proceedings with a certain amount of detachment -- certainly what had happened at Durnholde Keep was terrible, but at the same time, the memory of that stolen glimpse of the internment camps years before haunted her. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing that they'd broken free, after all.
Besides, there was far more to think about. Jaina inadvertently overheard a conversation between Archmage Antonidas and a mysterious prophet who insisted that the Kirin Tor and the rest of Lordaeron should at once evacuate to Kalimdor. Antonidas dismissed him outright, and when he discovered Jaina eavesdropping, informed her that there was a new threat the Kirin Tor should be more concerned with: a new plague had begun to spread across Lordaeron, and the Arch Mage suspected it to be magical in origin. He sent Jaina to investigate -- but he didn't send her alone.
Arthas joined her, and though there was a moment or two of awkwardness surrounding their reconciliation, the two were soon as friendly and warm to each other as they had been years before. Arthas hadn't forgotten her, it seemed. After the investigation was over, he wanted to talk to her about the two of them, about beginnings, about finally being ready for something more.
The discussion never happened.
As the two continued their investigation, they discovered the plague's source. Shipments of grain sent from Andorhal had been infected with the plague, and that's what was making people sick. The duo left for Andorhal and found the man responsible, a former member of the Kirin Tor who had disappeared after his experiments with necromancy had been discovered: Kel'Thuzad. Arthas, enraged to find that he'd been too late to stop the last shipments of grain from going out, killed Kel'Thuzad.
And that's when Jaina began to doubt. The next several weeks were spent watching as the man she was certain she loved began to crumble, and nothing she could say would bring back the boy she'd known in her youth. Kind words, love, comfort -- none of it was enough. Arthas continued on his path of steadfast, single-minded vengeance, and there was nothing Jaina could do but watch and hope that Arthas would turn around and see what he was doing.
The single word was so much more. It was both question and plea. Even as she stared at him, frozen like the bird before the snake, he reached out a gauntleted hand to her. She stared at it for a moment, thinking of all the times that hand had clasped hers warmly, had caressed her, had been lain on the wounded and glowed with healing light.
She could not take that hand.
"I'm sorry, Arthas. I can't watch you do this."
There was no mask on his face now, no merciful coldness to shutter his pain away from her. Shocked disbelief radiated from him. She couldn't bear to look at him anymore. Gulping, her eyes filled with tears, Jaina turned away to find Uther regarding her with compassion and approval. He held out his hand to help her mount and she was grateful for his steadiness and composure. Jaina was shaking, badly, and clung to her horse as Uther mounted and, holding her horse's reins, led them both away from the greatest horror they had yet encountered in this whole dreadful ordeal.
"Jaina?" Arthas's voice followed her.
She closed her eyes, tears slipping from beneath closed lids. "I'm sorry," she whispered again. "I'm so sorry."
In the moment she turned away from Arthas at the gates of Stratholme, Jaina was doing what she had always done -- choosing what she deemed as the greater good over her own selfish desires. Duty first. Grief second. Self-pity? Never. Even when Arthas came back after slaughtering the citizens of Stratholme, demanding that she travel with him to Northrend, she refused to go.
And days later, as she wandered the streets of Stratholme, the city still oddly ablaze, streets littered with the corpses of men, women and children that Arthas and the troops he commanded had slain, she was approached by the strange prophet that had spoken to Antonidas before. Flee, he said. Take those you can save and flee to Kalimdor. Despite Terenas, Antonidas, and even Arthas dismissing the prophet's words, Jaina refused to take anything anyone told her at face value, instead choosing to listen -- and ultimately choosing to go to Kalimdor and to leave Arthas to his fate. It was her duty to save her people, and it was for the greater good of everyone.
She was nothing if not sensible.