Title: Warcraft - Last Tour Before the Battle
Author: Rowan Seven
Teaser: On the eve of his last battle, Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore reflects on his life and the events that have led him to this moment.
Disclaimer: Warcraft belongs to Blizzard Entertainment. I wrote this story for entertainment purposes and am not making any money off it.
Author's Notes: "The Founding of Durotar" is, in my opinion, an interesting campaign with refreshingly different gameplay and an excellent plot that was marred by poor execution of the storyline. To feel satisfied, I had to fill in the blanks of the story myself. This is a product of that endeavor.
Spoiler Warning: This story takes place in the setting of the Warcraft universe and uses information freely from the games and the Warcraft RPG series. Numerous spoilers related to both sources may be present in the following tale.
Once again, the tides of darkness are rising and the green plague comes to destroy the Alliance. Once again, the orcish Horde is invading human lands and spilling human blood. And once again, I will stand and fight them to the bitter end. Only by exterminating these vermin here and now can a second genocide be stopped. Loyalty to King Terenas staid my hand at the end of the Second War, but he and his noble kingdom are dead. Lord Lothar and Sir Uther -- May the Light bless their souls -- are dead. As the sole survivor of this company of brave men it is my duty to finish what they fought and died for and ensure that no more innocents fall to this race of black-blooded beasts.
My dear Jaina...she doesn't understand this. How could she understand this? She's too young and naïve and has never seen the insatiable bloodlust of the orcs. She didn't bury the countless men, women, and children they slaughtered. She never walked through the ravaged, scorched skeletons of what used to be entire cities full of life and view with horror the blood-stained ashes that remained.
I blame myself. As her father, I shouldn't have shielded her so much from the...ugliness of reality. I hoped...I was foolish enough to believe...that the nightmare had ended and that my daughter's optimism and willingness to see the best in everybody wouldn't endanger her. Although it is a small comfort, this battle...regardless of the outcome...should shatter her illusions. She is my daughter and is strong enough to survive anything this war-torn world can throw at her. I allowed her to study magic at Dalaran to guarantee that she would always be able to protect herself. Now I can only hope she is smart and wise enough as well.
I'm doing this for you and our family, Jaina. I pray you will come to realize this. On that day so long ago I made a vow that no more of my children would perish beneath the orcish onslaught, and that oath still binds me.
Cold. An unfeeling, uncaring iciness that numbed the mind and prevented, at least for a time, full acknowledgement of reality. As Lord Admiral Daelin Proudmoore climbed the stairs to his young daughter's room, he was fully aware of the tragedy...the outrage that had taken place, but for now he embraced the cold, relying on the callousness it lent him to perform his dread task of spreading the news and issuing the orders that his nation -- no, the entire Alliance and all of humanity -- needed to win this bloody, merciless war. Already, though, he could feel the first sparks of rage and hatred grow and spread deep within his heart, and once they finally set his soul ablaze he knew there could be no going back.
"Oh my son, my beautiful, brave boy," he muttered sadly and soundlessly as he ascended the spiraling staircase. It had only been a few hours since he'd received the news of his son's death along with the total destruction of the entire Third Fleet of Kul Tiras, but his mind still seethed with questions and vague half-notions of disbelief that warred with grim acceptance. How did his beloved son die? Was it painless and quick, or did he die slowly as the fires of red dragons burned him to a crisp? Did he feel any anger or regret in his last moments? What was...how did...
Proudmoore shook his head, temporarily clearing it of such unanswerable queries although he knew they'd be back. He had...he needed to be strong right now for the sake of his family and the Alliance. They'd be time to cry and mourn after the Horde was defeated. And if the Horde was not defeated, well, there wouldn't be any humans left to shed tears.
Yes, the time to weep was definitely not now. Perhaps there never would be a time to mourn this loss. Regardless, it was up to him to personally inform his children that their oldest sibling was no longer of this world. The earlier they learned this and accepted the news the better off they'd all be. His wife, Lady Proudmoore, was currently in no condition to help him, overcome with grief. Although he didn't love her -- their arranged marriage was one of political convenience and their feelings for each other merely a fondness born of forced familiarity -- he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Their children were her life, and as a noblewoman she lacked his painful familiarity with death. It just...wasn't fair, and although Proudmoore had seen all too often the unfairness of reality he just couldn't understand...couldn't accept...couldn't comprehend...WHY!
Wincing, he retracted his gloved hand from the wall he'd just punched and noticed with some surprise that he'd actually cracked the stonework. Clenching and unclenching his fist in front of his eyes to ensure that nothing was damaged, he imagined that it was the monstrous heart of the orcish Horde he was squeezing and, for the briefest of moments, a grisly smile appeared on his stoic, downcast face. Feeling the first stirrings of warmth that portended the inferno to come, he clenched his teeth and made a vow, terrible, unwavering resolution in his voice.
"With the Light as my witness and by the blood of my firstborn son, I promise that I will never stop fighting these barbarous orcs and that no more of my family will fall to their bloodlust!"
"I must admit, you orcs are more tenacious than I remembered. I thought you savages would've turned on each other by now!"
Then again, that would be too easy, wouldn't it? Much as I loathe admitting it, the Alliance only won the Second War thanks to the Horde's own internecine power struggles and squabbles. It's too much to hope for that history will repeat itself. More to the point, humanity can't afford to leave our fate to chance again. We must seize the initiative and eliminate all our enemies before they gain the power to destroy us. Only then can the Alliance rise up and be the glorious force of order and justice it once was before ambition and petty politics ruined it all.
Sometimes...I wonder how history would be different if humanity had acted as one from the beginning. If we'd supported King Llane Wrynn and Stormwind in their hour of need when the orcs first reared their monstrous heads in the Swamp of Sorrows, the First War could've ended very differently and with so many human lives saved. My son...likely would still be alive today. If we hadn't been divided by foolish arguing when the New Horde first tore down the internment camps and resumed their war against the Alliance, for how long could they possibly have remained free? Even the Scourge would not have been able to overpower the united might of the human kingdoms, the Ironforge and Wildhammer dwarves, the high elves, and the gnomes. If only we'd stood together like allies should...
Heh, I must be getting sentimental in my old age. Such musings lead nowhere. What has been done cannot be undone, and wishing for a better past will not create a secure future. Besides, as a warrior it behooves me to accept the resources I have and make the best of them. The gnomes, although weakened by the recent tragedy of Gnomeregan, still put their brilliant minds to work in service to the Alliance, and the Ironforge dwarves are as strong and steadfast as ever. Those stubborn, undisciplined Wildhammers are another story, but they will doubtlessly come around once they learn the consequences of their disobedience. As for the high elves, they are back in the fold albeit in...less than peak condition. Still, their loyalty remains intact.
And, of course, there is my race, humankind, the leaders of the Alliance. It's a bitter irony that we are our own worst enemy. Prince Arthas Menethil did what even that murderous beast Orgrim Doomhammer could not and destroyed the kingdom of Lordaeron. Before him, Lord Perenolde of Alterac endangered all of humanity with his betrayal. And then there is that stubborn old fool Greymane who remains hidden behind his wall, biding his time and waiting for who knows what. One would think that all of this would make everyone realize the danger we're in and see the need to cooperate, but it hasn't. Jaina and her supporters, although few and far between, are blind to the threat of the Horde, and even in the Eastern Kingdoms there are those who refused to aid me, those who should have...those I wished had but refused to...join me. The fools...
...So be it. I know my duty, and I will fulfill it no matter what the personal cost may be. Light willing, Jaina and she will both eventually understand this. Even though...even though we're in disagreement, please remember that I love you two dearly. You mean the world to me, and I hope…I hope that I will have the chance to tell you that again.
Although the question was barely above a whisper, it still rang out loud and clear inside the interior of Daelin Proudmoore's temporary command tent along the coast of Lordaeron. Outside, sentries manned barricades under the starless, somber night sky, looking forward to tomorrow when their rescue operations would end and they could finally return to their island kingdom of Kul Tiras. A wolf howled, the only sound of life in this dead, corrupted land.
"Because it must be done," Daelin Proudmoore answered calmly from the chair he was sitting on behind his desk, maps and military charts laid out before him. "The Alliance can't afford to let the orcs run free right now, Finnall. They're too dangerous."
"The orcs are a ragtag band of warriors reduced to using guerilla tactics," Finnall Goldensword retorted, shrouded by her cloak and the shadows within the tent. "What does it matter if they by some miracle manage to successfully cross the ocean and build a home for themselves? They're only primitive savages that can be easily crushed by a concerted effort. More importantly, they're nowhere near us while the Scourge has already conquered most of Lordaeron and grows with each passing day!"
"You're underestimating an enemy you know little about, Finnall," Proudmoore cautioned the half-elf. "The orcs are a relentless, monstrous force of carnage that cannot be allowed to reestablish themselves in this world. The Alliance can't afford to wage a war with the Scourge only to have the Horde come back and finish us off while our backs are turned."
"The Alliance can't afford to not wage a war against the Scourge!" Finnall countered angrily, fists clenching in frustration at the admiral's obstinacy. "The undead are a heartless, ceaseless plague of death. Every hour spent not fighting them is an hour they become stronger. If you abandon Lordaeron now there won't be anything left to save when you come back."
"There already isn't anything left for me to save," Daelin Proudmoore spoke grimly, gazing forcefully at Finnall in the hope of making her understand. "Look around you. Lordaeron is a dead kingdom beyond any hope of salvation. Trying to destroy the Scourge here and now would be, pragmatically speaking, a futile waste of resources. The best we can do is quarantine the undead and wait until the Alliance has gathered enough strength to eliminate them. Until then, it is imperative that any other threats to humanity such as the orcs be exterminated so that we will actually be able to deal with the Scourge when the time comes."
Finnall gaped silently at the man she had always respected and looked up to, her expression a mixture of disbelief and disappointment that he, one of the greatest heroes of the Second War, had seemingly given up. "...If you didn't come here to take back the continent, then why did you summon me?"
A note of paternal pride crept into the Admiral's voice as he answered. "Because you're a superb warrior and leader, Finnall, and I want you to come with me to hunt down the orcs across the ocean. With the two of us working together, I know that the Alliance will finally be able to triumph over our mortal enemies."
"Your place is by my side here in Lordaeron!" Finnall snapped, arguing desperately. "The Scourge is our mortal enemy now, and if we don't destroy them soon we might never be able to! Prince Arthas murdered Kilnar, my mother, with his own hands! Surely her death means something to you! ...Please," she pleaded weakly, exhausted by her emotional outburst, "please help me, father."
For one long, pregnant moment, the two warriors stared at each other, and Daelin Proudmoore found himself confronted by a pair of eyes and an indomitable spirit that were just as hardened, uncompromising, and determined as his own. He was the first to look away.
"I'm sorry, Finnall, but I must do this. The future of the Alliance depends on it," he reasoned, trying one last time to convince her although he knew it was pointless.
"...So be it, Admiral," Finnall Goldensword spoke coldly, unable to hide the sense of betrayal she felt in her voice. With all the poise she could muster, the half-elf turned around and began to walk away. Pausing for a second at the exit, she spat one hateful, accusing word, and then disappeared into the darkness of corrupted, forsaken Lordaeron.
She did not look back.
Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore sat still for several long minutes, alone save for the silence of the empty room and the soundless but still condemning echoes of Finnall's last words to him. Finally, though, he went back to examining the papers and plans laid out on his desk. He had a war to wage.
"Can your blood atone for genocide, orc? Your Horde killed countless innocents with its rampage across Stormwind and Lordaeron. Do you really think you could just sweep that all away and cast aside your guilt so easily? No, your kind will never change, and I will never stop fighting you!"
Nothing has changed in the past twenty years and nothing will ever change -- not in another twenty years, not in another century, not even in an eternity -- as long as humans and orcs both exist. We will go on, fighting and killing each other, until one race finally emerges as the victor. This is not a matter of choice. It is one of necessity! You orcs are monsters, vile beasts who don't even belong on this world! It is impossible for you to erase the blood of so many human lives...the blood of my son!...from your hands and, like the demons you are, once you've tasted human blood there is no going back. Sooner or later, you will rebuild your destructive Horde and seek to satisfy your bloodlust, just as you are doing now!
You claim that this isn't the Horde I remember as united orcs, trolls, and ogres attack once again? Ha! Even your new allies, these giant bull-men, reflect your true brutish nature. A dog that turns on its master is still a dog, and although you fought the Burning Legion at the World Tree that doesn't make your kind any less of a monster. A race that has fallen can always fall again, and I'm not willing to take the chance that you are somehow better than humanity and won't succumb to evil once more. More than that, mankind can't afford to take that chance.
Warchief, you may have fooled my daughter and her followers, but you won't deceive me. Despite your ability to speak like a man, you are still an orc. The only difference is that your human intelligence makes you and the Horde even more of a threat to the Alliance and the world, and for the sake of my people I must exterminate you savages here and now before it's too late! For the Alliance to survive, the Horde needs to be destroyed. Honor and reason demand it!
...Jaina, I hope you're observing this. Look at your orc 'friends' and their allies as they ruthlessly invade your island. Watch as they mercilessly slaughter Theramore's defenders with glee on their vile faces. Do you honestly believe any peace between us can last? Do you truly believe that the Horde has changed? Open your eyes, my daughter, and face the truth! It is only by accepting the world the way that it is that we humans can survive! Your naïve ideals will doom you and all those that support you if you don't wake up from the dream world you've been living in!
Please, Jaina, for your own sake, confront reality and live. Let me know that, even if I die today, you will be able to take care of yourself and protect the Alliance. Please, stay alive.
Father and daughter stood in the tower's sitting room, an uncomfortable, awkward silence between them as both struggled to find words to begin what promised to be a contentious, painful discussion. Magic candles bathed the room in warm, welcoming hues that were at odds with the somber mood of the chamber's occupants even as pale moonlight filtered in through a curtained window. Outside, the streets of Theramore were filled with the sounds of war preparations as soldiers and artisans fortified the island kingdom as best they could on such short notice and readied themselves for whatever would come, some with eagerness, others with dread, but all with uncertainty.
Finally, Jaina forced herself to speak, hoping that by starting with more familial, less divisive issues this conversation might be more productive than their last one. "So," she said with strained politeness but genuine interest, "how's Kul Tiras?"
Thankful that he could, at least for a little while, delay the inevitable argument, Daelin breathed a small sigh of relief and answered. "Our country is still standing strong, and I've put Tandred in command until I return. Hopefully his new responsibilities will help him build some self-confidence, and even if they don't-" Proudmoore smiled slightly. "-I'm sure Captain Mishan Waycrest will."
Jaina chuckled quietly, an image of her brother and Mishan, his lady friend, popping into her mind. "I'm glad those two are still on good terms," the sorceress commented, adding somewhat wistfully, "It's good to know that some people are still able to find happiness these days."
Father and daughter once again grew silent, plagued by bittersweet memories of lost loved ones and those they had left behind across the ocean. Both struggled to find another subject to discuss to end this disturbing quiet, but the resignation on their faces made it clear that they already knew what they had to talk about and that any more delays would be pointless. Daelin, although glad for this temporary respite, was the first to end it by preempting his daughter's next words.
"You won't change my mind, Jaina. I decided upon this course of action long before I ever set foot on Kalimdor," Proudmoore said firmly, eyeing his daughter wearily. They'd done nothing but argue since their reunion, and he was becoming tired of it. Why did his daughters have to be as stubborn as himself?
Jaina sighed sorrowfully. "I know, but I still have to try. I can't let you destroy the hard-won peace we've managed to achieve here in Kalimdor, father. The only way we'll ever be able to defeat the Scourge and safeguard Azeroth from the Burning Legion is by working together with the other inhabitants of this world, and that includes the orcs and their allies. Another war, on the other hand, has the potential to destroy us both."
"And co-existing with those savages is just as if not more likely to result in humanity's demise," Proudmoore rejoined forcefully, frustrated by his perception of his daughter's naiveté. "You can't trust the Horde to keep its promises, no matter what may have transpired between you. They are monsters who will turn on us the moment they feel strong enough to do so. I've seen the horrors these beasts are capable of committing in their mindless bloodlust, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that humanity never has to see those same horrific visions again."
"The orcs have changed, father!" Jaina insisted, an almost pleading note in her voice as she tried one last time to reason with her parent. "They're not the same race you remember fighting in the Second War. They've defeated their demons, and I have fought side-by-side with them against the Burning Legion and the Scourge. I know Warchief Thrall personally and also know that he can be trusted. Please, father, trust my judgement and stop your war before you destroy the peace and future so many fought and died for at the World Tree!"
Proudmoore snorted. "I also know the 'New' Horde's Warchief from the Alliance reports on his campaign to tear down the internment camps. Despite being raised by humans, what was the first thing he did when he escaped? He sought out fellow orcs and led an army against his human teachers. He even murdered the man who'd saved his life as an infant. Those hardly sound like the actions of a creature wanting to make peace. And even if, against all likelihood, the orcs have changed, that doesn't erase their crimes against us, Jaina!" Rage crept into his voice as he continued. "I can't forgive and I will never forget the acts of genocide committed by the Horde! Moreover, what you seem to be ignoring is the fact that, even if you are right, the orcs could change back to the murderous beasts they are, and I refuse to allow that possibility -- no matter how remote -- to exist!"
Unperturbed by her father's ranting, Jaina squared her shoulders, raised her head, and looked her father directly in the eyes. Daelin was, for one brief moment, taken aback by the resolute, intelligent, and independent woman he saw, wondering when exactly his little girl had become so grown-up, but his convictions and hatred prevented him ceding ground, even to his beloved daughter. Her next words, however, cut him straight to the bone.
"Murdering the orcs won't bring back your son, father," Jaina said sadly, almost pityingly. "Please, for all our sakes, stop living in the past."
"...Better to be trapped in the past than to live in a fool's paradise," Proudmoore muttered venomously, barely able to contain his anger. "I know all too well that exterminating those beasts won't somehow miraculously return your older brother to life, but it will prevent more sons and daughters from dying at the hands of the orcs and save untold parents from the throbbing, terrible pain I feel every day! Now, get out of my sight!"
Jaina, face heavy with disappointment and resignation, lowered her head and turned away from her parent. "I am...sorry that it has come to this, father, but...I will do what I have to do. May the Light show you the right path before it is too late."
Daelin Proudmoore stared at his daughter's receding back as she walked away, remaining silent even after she had left the room and he could no longer hear her footsteps descending the spiral stairwell. Finally, though, he spoke. "I am not sorry," he retorted without a shadow of a doubt in his voice. "This war is necessary and the way things must be, and I pray that the Light will show you this truth before your naiveté gets you killed, Jaina."
With that, he looked away and returned to his desk. He had many preparations to make before tomorrow's battle although he knew that, one way or another, things would come together somehow. This war was inevitable, after all.
Monsters. More than ever before, the orcs are monsters, brutal, bloodthirsty beasts now armed with cruel, dangerous human intelligence. This 'New' Horde has overrun Theramore's defenses far faster and more effectively than I imagined, and it will likely be only minutes before they reach me. This could very well be my last battle.
Heh, no matter. Live or die, this conflict will go on. It has too. Warchief Thrall may have deceived a few pockets of optimistic, peace-minded humans, but just look around. There are armies of brave men and women willing to fight for the cause of the Horde's destruction. We can't forget their crimes, and we know deep in our noble hearts that humanity will never be safe as long as even one orc exists in this world. No matter how many of us die, we have no choice but to fight the Horde!
"For Sir Lothar!"
The half-orc is here, a filthy mongrel between two races that have no right to be in Azeroth. His axes are stained with human blood, and there is a forbidding, purposeful expression on his face. He spots me, and his murderous march changes to an executioner's stride. Behind him and fighting for every inch of ground are countless orcs, trolls, ogres, and even those bull-men. The stench of carnage is everywhere.
With one last prayer for my surviving children, I draw my sword and prepare to fight. Better to die a warrior's death standing for what I believe in than to outlive another son or daughter. Besides, perhaps with my death Jaina and the rest of the doubters will finally realize that the Second War never truly ended and will never end until one race emerges triumphant and the other is utterly extinguished.
You hear that, ogre? Are you listening, Warchief? Jaina, are you watching? Human versus orc, Alliance against Horde, this is the way things are and must be. Nothing any of you do will change this, and, although you have embraced delusions, images of war have been forever imprinted on my eyes. I can never forget, I can never forgive, and, as long as there is life in my body, I will never stop fighting!
"Death to the black-bloods!"
"Father...why wouldn't you listen?"
"Above all else, Jaina, he was a proud warrior. Remember him as such."