Parting and Possibility

Summary: When the end of Admiral Proudmoore's invasion leaves tragedy in its wake, Thrall finds himself needing to seek closure - despite the prospects - with the brave, young Human woman he had indirectly, unwittingly, killed as well. (Very, very AU)

Author's Note: Lord of the Clans, of all things, finally convinced me to try a WarCraft 3 fic (other inspirations include all the really nice Thrall fanfics on FF.N, including J CAE's 'Listen', Tyraa Rane's 'The Finer Points of Redemption' and one of the reviews either Tyraa or Rowan Seven made for 'Rain River' when it was still on the site ), as it really, really raised my opinion of Thrall by a few more notches and really fleshes out his past. It also makes me curse Blizzard for chickening out on making the game...ah, well, at least I have the novel to tide me over, and I can't wait to see how Durnholde turns out in WoW.

After being re-written and drawing board-ed three times, however, this was the end result. -.-;;;

In either case, here it is, an experiment and something I really want to try, and I sincerely hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I will writing the story...I hope.

Disclaimer: I wish I owned WarCraft III and Lord of the Clans, but I don't, so deal with it. Both belong to Blizzard. The LotC novel was written by Christie Golden. World of WarCraft purists definitely should stay clear of this story, however, as it is a blatant AU - and trust me, you'll know it's an AU soon enough. You have been warned, buddy!

Chapter 1: The Cost of Peace

It wasn't the ideal ending. It wasn't even the favorable end to the bloody crisis.

The Great Hall in Orgrimmar, despite the victory the Orcs had won only the day before, was deathly, oddly silent, and the Orc Warchief known as Thrall could find no reason to celebrate that victory. Thrall's large, muscular and combat-worn form sat wearily on his throne, lost in thought; his mighty Warhammer lay at the foot of one side of the chair, unused for quite some time. There was melancholy and wistfulness in the air about the veteran Warchief as he sat there and, unmoving, he could only analyze the end result and alone find it - all in all - pyrrhic where most others cannot.

The cost of Admiral Daelin Proudmoore's demise had been too high.

The Orcs' counterattack into Theramore Isle was supposed to have ended the crisis and returned everything to normal; a veteran of the Second War against the old Orcish Horde, Admiral Proudmoore could not bring himself to even think of co-existing with his long-time enemies and, predictably, began planning for the complete extermination of every Orc in Durotar and Kalimdor. With notable reluctance despite having the assistance of Daelin's daughter, Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall could only order the strike and that the Admiral had to be killed. It was the only thing to do. It was the only thing Thrall could do.

After the battle ended and the last of the flames of battle died away on Theramore Isle, the zealous Admiral Proudmoore was indeed slain under the axes of the new Horde of Durotar, bringing an end to the planned invasion by the Kul Tiras fleet...and, by all means, the uneasy truce between the Orcs of Durotar and the Humans of Theramore Isle should've returned to the way it was, despite the tension accumulated. For the briefest time, it had seemed that way.

Until when news reached Thrall that Jaina had been killed as well.

Even now, Thrall could not bring himself to understand, nor find an answer to, how it had come to pass; Jaina Proudmoore was an ally of the Orcs, a friend of Thrall's who fought alongside him during the worst of the Burning Legion's invasion of Kalimdor, and the one who had assisted Thrall's forces in breaking the blockade around the island and stopping her own father's invasion. It was Jaina who had established an uneasy truce with him after Archimonde's defeat - the truce which her own father threatened with sword and blood - and understood the importance of that truce to both their peoples, understood what had to be done. By all means, Thrall sighed to himself, Jaina shouldn't have been killed; she shouldn't even have been harmed by the attack, and Thrall's orders saw to that - or so he had thought.

It had been very much a surprise to the Warchief himself when he received the news, a shock and, for a brief moment, a lie, a possible scheme by others sharing the Admiral's viewpoints to relax Durotar's guard. It had been a human footman who had supposedly found her body in her quarters inside the Theramore Citadel an hour after the last Orc had left the island; Jaina had been wounded mortally, lying lifeless in a pool of blood that gathered between her and the cold, stone floors of the citadel, and by then she was far beyond any aid either Human or Orc could muster - no healing salve or spell would return her to life, would undo the damage. It had been a coward's blow, the cut on Jaina's frail back being the most grievous of the numerous wounds and the lack of corpses around her, a proven sorceress and warrior in her own right, suggesting that not even Jaina saw her death coming.

It had been eventually claimed that the Orcs murdered her, most blindly and savagely, during the heat of battle for her father's role in the entire war; Thrall's forces, of course, denied even having raised their blades against her and her forces or even having actively sought her out as a target. In the end, however, that matter was resolved with one blatantly simple answer for the Warchief: It no longer mattered who killed her.

Thrall didn't believe the news at first, and couldn't be blamed for being both shocked and suspicious enough not to; The Warchief remembered his temper flaring at that news, heart surging with stubborn disbelief; Having been exposed to deceit and treachery as Admiral Proudmoore had subjected him, Rexxar and Rokhan to before the attack, it at first struck Thrall as an attempt by more of the overzealous Admiral's sympathizers to lower Durotar's guard, to set it up for a counterattack. That disbelief helped Thrall bear the news at first, keep him hopeful that it wasn't true, but even he had to admit eventually that there was no room for denial; each subsequent scout sent to Theramore only served to confirm those rumors and kill Thrall's hopes, little by little, until the Warchief had to finally accept the fact that Jaina had indeed been killed.

And when that truth became reality, Thrall could feel only numbness, the stubborn disbelief finally giving way to a slowly growing blind grief...

More pressing than the consequences of Jaina's demise, however, was the loss Thrall felt for her and the guilt he couldn't deny that Thrall, partially, had been the cause of her death - and where Jaina's death leaves Theramore didn't help Thrall's feelings any at all. With her gone, who would lead Theramore now? Probably one of the Admiral's second-in-commands, Thrall could only surmise to his chagrin, one who didn't believe any in peaceful co-existence like the Admiral himself; Someone who would never think or hear of an Orc nation, who would not hesitate to resort to old hatreds. Someone, Thrall nearly winced at the thought, not nearly as brave or firm to his principles as Jaina Proudmoore had been...

As the Warchief tried his earnest to find out what went wrong, each analysis only supported the fated conclusion, for him, that had he not made that fateful decision to attack Theramore once and for all, Jaina would still be alive - he wasn't sure where any of those possible 'alternatives' would leave Durotar, of course, but at least Jaina wouldn't have died. Thrall sighed, biting his lip wistfully; he had killed her, and he'll have to always accept that. He had brought this about, like it or not; he was guilty. He had killed a friend, an innocent, promising young woman who Thrall had been proud to have had fought alongside as a comrade.

Thrall wished it didn't end like this.

Thrall wished Jaina didn't have to become a casualty.

But she had, and there was nothing Thrall could do about it. He wanted to do something to honor his lost friend and the former leader of Theramore Isle, anything other than sitting here and wallow in silent grief, grief that most of his people would never be able to understand, but what could he do from Orgrimmar, only two days after her death and Admiral Proudmoore's, that would effectively do this without dragging another war upon them? How could Thrall bring closure to this while letting his own heart accept Jaina's passing?

He didn't know. Not yet.

Thrall's reverie was interrupted at that moment as an Orc runner, nimble and blunt in his movements and lacking in utter grace as was the general feel of his people, made his way into the Great Hall and knelt respectfully in front of the Warchief. Stifling his thoughts - Thrall was reasonable enough to realize that his grief was his alone, and he must be strong now in front of his people outside of it - the Warchief straightened himself quickly and turned to the runner, beckoning for the runner to stand. Inwardly, Thrall took a deep breath and readied himself to listen; if the runner performed his task correctly, he just might find an answer yet...

"What news do you bring from Theramore?"

"The Humans had made preparations for Admiral Proudmoore's passing, noble Warchief," The runner reported, notable pride in his deep-toned voice over the victory earned two days past. For most of the other Orcs, it sadly seemed to Thrall, Jaina's death meant little, especially compared to what had been prevented by her father's death. He supposed he couldn't grudge his people that. "Admiral Proudmoore is to be entombed on the morrow, at sunset on the northern shores of Theramore Isle. The humans will elect a new leader for Theramore the day afterwards - we have no idea as of yet who the candidate shall be."

Thrall nodded passively, bringing himself to the question that mattered: "And what of Jaina?"

The runner's voice died slightly as if out of consideration, but otherwise mercilessly didn't falter. "Jaina Proudmoore will be buried with the Admiral, Warchief, in the same ceremony."

The news stabbed at Thrall's heart - Spirits, it still hurts to hear of it, Thrall realized - and, resisting the urge to sit down and recover, Thrall forced himself to stand and nod passively. An instinctive decision gnawed at him at the news - Thrall had always learned over the years to at least listen to his instincts, if not follow them - and the Warchief at once realized, with his heart gaining slight weight, that if he was to seek closure with Jaina Proudmoore's passing, he'll have to do so now; once Jaina was buried, she will forever be so.

Of course, there shall be risks; the only way to see Jaina now was to trek across Durotar and onto Theramore Isle itself, too close for comfort for both Orc and Human, and if Thrall wanted to give his last regards, he'll have to go alone, without any escorts that the Humans could treat as an act of war. Besides, Thrall bit his jaw, his fists clenched slightly at the prospect, this was his grief; he wanted to go alone. He needed to.

Thrall was willing to take the risks if he could see Jaina again, bring about closure.

Ask her forgiveness.

With another gesture of polite farewell, Thrall dismissed the runner. "You may go. Lok Tar Ogar, my breathren."

"Lok Tar Ogar, Warchief."

The runner was oblivious to Thrall's thoughts all the way out of the Great Hall, but inwardly Thrall had already made up his mind. The Warchief sat down, trying to be careful with the plans, rubbing his chin in cautious thought and once again silent; he would leave the next day at noon and, barring interruptions, he could be in Theramore Isle in time for the funeral ceremony and return before the Moon rises - and going into the funeral alone would likely ensure, at least, that the Humans would hear him out before raising their swords. It was still a rough plan at best but, as the Warchief's eyes narrowed again and closed, forcing them and his thoughts shut, Thrall tried not to think about the consequences.

Thrall didn't have a choice and didn't give himself one.

Jaina, Thrall's mind firmly stated with as much conviction as he could muster. He would leave this tragedy behind, one way or another - he would see her again, because he owed her that much. I'll bring closure to this, I'll see you again soon. I don't expect that you'll forgive me even if I ask, Jaina, but I only hope you understand me. I want you to understand that I grieve for you, too...