Disclaimer: Same as the previous chapter. Everything but the characters I made up belong to Blizzard.
Chapter 4: Heartfelt Goodbyes
As Thrall slowly made his way into the newly constructed crypt and down the flight of stairs that would lead him to Jaina, he suddenly felt a sense of reluctance well up in him.
The crypt had been constructed well enough, so it was not the crypt that caused the new feeling; As perfect as Human standards went, the stone crypt consisted only of a single, large chamber buried underground beneath seemingly endless soil and sand, slightly damp but otherwise clean, sturdily constructed and well maintained for the time it was hasily built. The Humans had not left the burial place of two of their greatest leaders dark, of course, as there were torches - magically enchanted to burn perhaps for years - lit every few metres, ensuring that Thrall was not lacking for light, and the tiles of the walls around Thrall were all in place, perfectly spaced, probably with help from magical means. It was probably a law for Humans to make the crypt so, and although a little small for his frame, Thrall otherwise had no complaints.
As such, the Warchief could only ponder in wistfulness and wonder why this reluctant feeling was there; Thrall, who had led the Orcs from the internment camps in Hillsbrad into a new, revitalized Horde and civilization, who had led his people against countless foes, who never showed an ounce of fear and had to be teleported away from the Demonlord Archimonde to prevent Thrall from killing himself! Thrall chuckled sadly at that; it had been Jaina who teleported him away, after all. Thrall had never known fear and never thought he would, and he hadn't feared the risks ahead of him when he came all this way here to pay his respects to her. By no means should Thrall fear this...
But the reluctance was there, not fear, something else almost entirely different, and it was there, growing with every step down the flight of stairs deeper into the crypt. Despite the feeling, Thrall didn't know why, didn't understand; when the Warchief finally did reach the bottom of the stairs and into the final large hall that was his destination, however, that feeling only increased.
And Thrall cursed himself for feeling so.
The final hall, had it not been underground, was easily fit as a chamber for a king or any other Human dignitary. Large pillars with fancy-looking gravings lined the sides of the hall, lined with rows of empty Human armor in vigilant, straightened poses as if defending against enemies in death. Torches again lined the pillars, brightly illuminating the hall; within the torchlight, mounted on the far walls in perfect symmetry, were numerous paintings of what Thrall presumed were an illustrated history of Admiral Daelin Proudmoore's heroics, depicting the rise of a nation that was supposedly Kul Tiras and of various victorious battles, land and sea-fought, against the Orcs of the Second War. Thrall sneered in involuntary mirthlessness at the pictures, drowning the reluctant feeling slightly; the Humans obviously saw fit not to include certain details, as Thrall could not find a single painting depicting the more recent of events, the rise of Theramore and the Admiral's recent war against Durotar - and not one of the paintings saw fit to include Jaina into the fold. From this the Warchief could only realize, overall, who the more important leader was to the Humans here.
The thought that Jaina was only an add-on to the Humans, laid to rest in a tomb not welcoming of her, sickened and angered Thrall. Was Jaina not deserving of honor and respect from her own people after all she did? Was this to be the final fate of the courageous young Ruler of Theramore Isle, willingly forgotten and only given the most token of recognition? To the Humans it might be so, but to the Orcs - to Thrall - this was not acceptable. The more angered at the indignity he became, the redder his sight slowly became, and as rage began rising in his gut Thrall suddenly had the urge to put a stop to this, even at the cost of his own life. It was far easier to give way to anger than it was to succumb to grief; Raising the mighty Doomhammer in his hands, Thrall suddenly felt very tempted to simply give in to his rage, destroy the tomb, spirit Jaina's body away from this place of indignity and take her back to Durotar where she could be properly honored as a friend of the Orcish Horde.
But just as the red completely flooded him, he remembered Jaina, remembered Leonid's vouching for him and the trust that Jaina, through Leonid's words, had given Thrall to do what was right. Jaina's visage slowly dispelled the rage and red, her blue eyes taking hold of his mind. In a short while, forcing his restraint to take over once more, Thrall had managed to fight this feeling, his chest heaving heavily and with slight exhaustion over having fought over the anger.
No matter what had happened, Thrall remembered, he had given his word in Jaina's memory. He will not throw away his own honor, and Jaina's, even when faced with others' dishonor. If the Humans would forget Jaina, Thrall himself will forget Admiral Proudmoore. He was here to honor Jaina and Jaina alone.
Lowering the Doomhammer again and forcing himself to ignore the unsightly paintings, Thrall's eyes finally caught onto the very center of the hall - and the two glass sarcophaguses, Daelin and Jaina's, resting in the tomb, almost shining in the midst of more than abundant torchlight. Suddenly empty from the loss of anger, Thrall began feeling reluctant again, the old feeling tinged with renewed sadness at the sight and prospect. The Warchief took a step forward; the feeling grew, and steadily continued to do so with each step Thrall took towards his true friend, so that when Thrall was finally standing wistfully next to the sarcophagus holding Jaina Proudmoore's body his heart could only feel immense pressure, telling him to back away.
But Thrall remained stubbornly rooted to where he stood, trying to think of what to say, his own blue eyes locked onto hers that would never open again, long, fine golden hair that had forever fallen still, and pale peach skin that had lost vibrant life in its hue. The pressure in Thrall's heart turned into a throbbing ache at once; even without the splendid white silk dress and necklace that had been put onto her after death, Jaina was still, even now, painstakingly beautiful to him.
Seeing Jaina now only renewed Thrall's grief, making every sinew in his body feel heavy and weak and his breathing labored with sadness, and at once the reluctance that Thrall had felt was suddenly and painstakingly understood: Thrall didn't want to see Jaina's body, to see her truly gone, to see her beauty and acknowledge that it no longer mattered.
Thrall's eyes and his visage of Jaina suddenly blurred as moistness appeared on his cheeks, and he knew, while at the same time an old memory surfaced in his mind as well.
Tears. I am shedding them now, for Jaina, just as I had that day, Thrall realized, trying hard to keep his grief controlled but failing.
Just as I had when I saw Taretha that day before Durnholde fell.
The resemblance between the two young women had been astounding - and, admittedly, endearing somewhat - to Thrall and Thrall alone, but now it only brought more pain into him. When he and Jaina first met that day in Stonetalon Peak to seek out the Oracle, he had not given it much thought in the heat of battle; however, when Thrall had calmed enough to finally register the Human leader for the very first time, he could only remark on how similar Jaina and Taretha had been, the long, flowing golden hair and shimmering blue eyes so much alike each other, and the immense bravery despite odds both women possessed, Taretha for him, Jaina for her people. And just as Taretha had been killed by Aedelas Blackmoore for sympathizing with him, to break Thrall, Jaina had likewise perished helping Thrall, paying the price for upholding what she thought was best for him and his people.
It had been Taretha who taught Thrall how to cry, what tears meant, and now those same tears of grief fell for Jaina from Thrall's eyes. Jaina was the third person for whom Thrall had ever truly grieved like this, for whom Thrall's tears had fallen freely and with only pure grief and loss. This time, it was different from when Taretha perished; with Taretha's death, much of the sadness went into Thrall's already existent hatred of Aedelas Blackmoore, grief turned into rage for her murderer and the one who had abused the both of them throughout the years.
With Jaina's death, there was only helpless, endless grief for Thrall, and the knowledge that there was none but himself to blame for her demise regardless of the method. It didn't matter who killed Jaina Proudmoore; Thrall was responsible one way or another.
Seeing Jaina, Thrall didn't want to have to cry. He wanted Jaina to return, to come back to him.
But all Thrall could do now was to honor her.
Or was it even enough?
The Warchief fell to his knees, oblivious to all else, eyes still stubbornly locked onto Jaina and unwilling to let go of her. His tears fell onto the glass separating Jaina and Thrall, creating small puddles of sadness where they landed; Thrall's large, calloused fingers reached out gently to touch the glass around Jaina's head, wanting to feel her but making do with what he could. A part of him wanted to remain like this, to stay here with Jaina forever, but reality knew better. And reality, at that moment, made things even more melancholic.
How did Jaina meet her end? Thrall wondered to himself, his thoughts drifting. Did Jaina know it was coming, did she know what to expect? Has she found peace now?
His eyes welled shut to block the tears.
Does she blame me?
Thrall tried to say something to commemorate Jaina, but the words would not come, his mind blank with loss and preventing anything from being said. No amount of words could express his grief; no words of comfort could reverse any of this. While Thrall knew it proper to say something, he simply didn't know what to say that would be of worth...
Struggling between words and silence, Thrall could only kneel beside his true friend in awkward silence and tears, memories of Jaina returning to him too fast, too immensely, whether Thrall liked it or not. He didn't know what else he could do until, all of a sudden, someone would give him a hint, someone interrupted his thoughts and caught Thrall's attention.
The new voice that came from behind startled Thrall and, despite his grief, instinct once again kicked in; rising to his feet quickly, Thrall raised the Doomhammer in his hands hurriedly - fortunately managing to miss the sarcophagus holding Admiral Proudmoore's body - and turned to face the new intruder, chest breathing heavily and sharply to try to recompose himself back to fighting condition. With a wipe from his left forearm Thrall tried to dry his tears from the intruder, to no avail; he sneered, his voice slightly wavering.
It turned out Thrall didn't need to have bothered.
The speaker, standing at the foot of the stairs Thrall had proceeded down, was a Human girl - not woman, girl, as she seemed not much older than fifteen, even - and from her short, small and lithe stature the girl seemed very much out of place amongst the warriors that faced Thrall earlier. Her hair was red, braided so that it flowed down her back in one large strand, as were her big, round eyes - slightly reminiscent of Leonid's - and lips, and her skin was of a perfect peach color reminiscent of Jaina's when she was still alive. Wearing a short-sleeved white vest and skirt and brown leather boots, the girl was pretty enough by Human standards - Thrall would know - but was still very much dwarfed by Jaina's own exquisite beauty. Still, for her to be down here, Thrall deduced despite his thoughts that while she probably wasn't very high-ranked in Theramore, she was still someone of importance.
"And you are?" Thrall asked bluntly, drying his tears once again. He didn't want anyone else to see his tears, the tears that were now shed for Jaina alone.
The girl didn't seem bothered at all. "Name's Alice - Alice Albionus."
Thrall blinked at her blankly. "You're Leonid Korlend's..."
"He's my grandfather." Alice breathed in deeply, and nodded before Thrall had to ask his next question. "So yes, I knew Lady Jaina before the Admiral started this whole mess, and no, I'm not here to kill you, so you can put that hammer of yours down. Careful with it, though." Once Thrall had lowered his Doomhammer to the ground gently, Alice sighed relief. "It's nice to finally meet you, Warchief Thrall."
To that Thrall had no reply. He turned back wordlessly towards Jaina.
"You can cry if you want to, Warchief, it's a funeral, it's alright to cry." Alice shrugged; turning again towards Alice, Thrall could see that although they had been dried now, the redness around them implied that Alice herself had indeed done her own share of the mourning, as well. That made Thrall slightly more accepting of Alice to know that she, too, probably believed in what Jaina had, that peace between Durotar and Theramore was possible and that Alice, too, trusted Thrall, but her next words confused him: "Lady Jaina would've loved that. She would've felt honored by it."
She...she would? What did Alice mean by that, Thrall wondered. But why would Jaina? I was the one...
That was interrupted when Alice held out what seemed to be an envelope, plain and sealed simply, towards Thrall while walking forward until she, too, was right next to Jaina's body. At a confused loss, Thrall gently reached out and took the envelope in his large hands, completely overwhelming Alice's own. Alice pulled back, stepping backwards once, and gestured for Thrall to read it.
"And this is...?"
"Lady Jaina wrote this for you some time before your people attacked the Admiral," Alice explained. Thrall bit his lip tightly; if Alice knew about Jaina helping them before the attack, she chose not to say anything about it. He felt slightly grateful to Alice for it. "She wanted my grandfather to give this to you if anything happened to her. I guess..." Alice turned away and shuffled uncomfortably. "I guess Lady Jaina always felt she would...you know...sooner or later."
Thrall knew, and sheer curiousity and anxiety overtook him as he quickly fumbled open the envelope, broke the seal with his nail, and pulled open the folded letter placed inside of it. He was suddenly anxious to see what Jaina had to say to him, what she had felt; Alice only waited, turning around slowly without purpose, while Thrall unfolded the letter and began reading Jaina's words that were reserved only for him:
I have always been told as a little child that bad things happen even to good people, that even the most heroic and holy of people suffer every now and then. Even now, I do not understand how this has come to pass; I could not understand why Father could not see the change in your people from old times, why he refused to understand the possibility of peace between your people and mine. But if there is one thing I know, it is that sometimes bad things have to happen for more good things to come about, no matter how sad they may be.
Thrall, when I made the decision to help you stop Father, I felt saddened by it, that I had to come to that and, mostly, that Father would not accept anything else but that. He is, after all, my Father, and even now it still hurt; even now, I wish things could've turned out differently, that we could've worked a compromise out and prevented all this from happening. Most importantly, however, I wished that I could've done more to stop all this, that I could've done more than I can right now to maintain the truce we had agreed upon.
But when I thought about it more, of the stress and pain that you must likewise be feeling over what you have to do, I knew at once that while it hurts...it was still what was right. It was what had to be done. I had never been born to lead, Thrall; my only aspirations in the past had been to become a sorceress, a scholar in magic, and yet Fate had led me to Kalimdor, to building Theramore, and to you. At first I wasn't confident that I could even do what was demanded of me, but after Hyjal, after all that came to pass, I slowly realized that this actually was the best thing that could happen to me and the people I led here, that if I hadn't listened to Medivh then, I wouldn't have been part of such a great thing. It wasn't what I wanted at first, but it was for the best.
My truce with you was different, though; it was for the best and what I wanted to see, because I know you. I can feel it whenever I remember your eyes, the gentleness I see in you outside of battle, the grief you felt for Grom when he sacrificed himself honorably. I know you're different than the Orcs I've been told about as a child, than the Orcs my Father fought against and still think you are.
I know you're special.
And I believe that, no matter what may happen, you'll do what you feel is best for you and your people. You'll do what you feel is right. Whatever you choose to do, I believe in that; I made my decision believing in you. And remembering that, I realized that in the end, no matter how heavy the decision was for me to turn against Father, I never regretted what I did. And I never regretted siding with you, Thrall, and finding peace - however brief it was - between our two nations.
It was my decision to help you, nevertheless, and I am prepared and accepting of whatever may happen to me because of it. There is no need for you to seek my forgiveness, regardless of what had transpired; I never blamed you for anything, and there is nothing for me to forgive. I believe in you more than enough to know that whatever you do, you carry forth with the noble heart I admire in you.
I feel so honored to have a friend such as you, Thrall.
I do not wish to say goodbye to you so soon, but should anything happen to me - which most likely had transpired if you are reading this, because should I have had any say in it this letter shall be burnt - I only ask of one thing from you: Never lose sight of who you are, and never spurn the person you've become. You are destined for great things, and your destiny can only shine brighter, Thrall; It is because of you and your heart that this destiny is a certainty, and nothing but yourself can change that.
Perhaps I am not destined to be in your future, but I can continue to believe in it.
With all the pride, gratefulness and love in my heart,
"You were more than a friend to her, Warchief, and she believed in you with all her heart," Alice sighed softly, shaking her head and gazing upon Thrall with sympathy for his loss. "I remember grandfather asking the Lady, the night before your forces attacked, if she was afraid she'll die when you finally did attack or if someone found out that she was helping you," Alice lowered her head wistfully at that. Clenching the letter tightly between his hands, Thrall looked up and blinked at the girl. "And Lady Jaina told him that...that she was a little afraid, but that she'll accept it if it's for the best. She didn't regret a thing, Warchief, even if she was going to die; I guess the Lady wouldn't have minded if she had to die by your hand, too..."
With the memory obviously too much to bear for the girl, Alice ran out of the hall, pranced up the stairs in front of Thrall's eyes, and eventually the Warchief was left alone with Jaina and Admiral Proudmoore once again. Still holding the letter, Thrall's eyes turned to Jaina once more; grief returned, as did fresh tears, but now there was a new feeling of gratitude and pride for her, having read her words and found them comforting, finding that she had shared his feelings and that she had never blamed Thrall for her fate, believed in him. And hearing that made it much, much easier for Thrall to let go of her, to finally find the closure he came to Theramore to seek.
That, Thrall knew very well, made everything alright between him and Jaina.
With his large fingers gently stroking the glass over Jaina's body with the gentleness she had liked in him, Thrall gave one more good look at Jaina and managed, at least to him, a small, almost fond smile on his lips. She believed, and it was time he continued to do so, as well.
"Farewell, Jaina," Thrall whispered, and the 'smile' never faded despite the tears. "I feel honored to have you as my friend, too."
By the time Thrall emerged from the crypt and finally left Jaina Proudmoore behind him, the sun had almost completely set behind the Kalimdor horizon.
As the large-built Warchief, Doomhammer in hand, took his first step back onto the sands of Theramore's northern shore once more, the Human warriors that had been in charge of the funeral once again cleared a path around him, but Thrall was no longer bothered by their caution and hostility; he had come to do what he must, and had honored his word and his friend. He had not lost who he was, although in his blind grief Thrall had come so close to doing so. It was now Thrall's time to depart. With a sense of closure, Thrall began walking away from the crypt doors - which quickly sealed behind him - and none of the warriors dared stand in his way this time.
Thrall came across Leonid Korlend first, eyes solemnly on Thrall, arms holding a distraught and sobbing Alice to him. There were no other words Leonid needed to say; he understood, and knew from the faded grief in Thrall that Jaina had likewise accepted him as well. The Archmage only nodded with as much courtesy as he had in his frail body. "Safe travels, Warchief."
"Lok Tar Ogar, Sir Leonid. Give my thanks to Alice as well."
"She understands, Warchief," Leonid smiled faintly and nodded again, turning to Alice. "Don't worry about that."
Next was Albin Bridget, and the Paladin obviously did not want to see Thrall; he had to grudgingly acknowledge that Thrall, despite being an Orc, did keep his honor and his word - there was no reason Alice would lie to them - and it was as if Albin didn't dare look at Thrall lest he himself become tempted to do anything rash in turn. There was plenty of time for that afterwards, Albin frowned derisively. As Thrall passed by, Albin's back was to the Warchief and he didn't dare turn to see him; all Albin did was nod in acknowledgement.
Finally, standing firmly in a smaller ring of Humans, Tashiroth bowed to Thrall as the Warchief approached. The Warchief nodded, and gave one last look around him. It was unlikely he'll ever be back in Theramore Isle after this, but it was enough. He had given his respects to Jaina as Thrall felt he wanted and had to. The Blademaster straightened and glared once more at Albin.
"Let us depart, Tashiroth."
That was all. With that, once again side-by-side, Thrall and Tashiroth weaved their way through the crowd of Humans as they cleared around them again, and eventually, in silence, reached Dustwallow Marsh once more. At the outskirts, Thrall turned towards the Human settlement again; he sighed as the Humans continued to finish the funeral ceremony, with only the back row of Humans keeping a cautious and feared eye on them. The sun had finished setting, blanketing Theramore Isle over a blue night sky, and the lights of torches slowly, but surely, became visible throughout the island.
Thrall sighed once more. It was finished, but would the next time Thrall catches sight of Theramore Isle be as an enemy or a prisoner of war? With Jaina gone, would Kalimdor once again ever see the peace that she and Thrall had believed in so fervantly before Admiral Proudmoore arrived? It was definitely going to be difficult at best, of course, especially with people by the likes of Albin Bridget behind the government. But Jaina had believed, even to her end. Thrall was willing to try once more, for Jaina, because she would always believe in him. And he will always treasure that.
Thrall and Jaina would always be true friends who, despite all barriers, found that faith in each other to move onwards, hand-in-hand, and that never will change for either of them.