Disclaimer: I own nothing, and I'm not making money out of this. I hope that this fic is a worthy tribute to the world Blizzard has created.
Please note: This story contains spoilers for the "Hero of the Mag'har" (Outland, Horde only) quest line!
Author's note: Alright, a few things to get the setting straight (author rambles, feel free to skip. I have done my best to make these things apparent in the story, but I mention them straight out to avoid confusion):
1. This is a "what if" type of story, set about a year after the opening of the Dark Portal. Enough time for settlements to be built, but no bosses have been downed yet so to speak. Note: This was written before the Warcraft comic had stated that Varian Wrynn kills Onyxia. I have chosen not to edit this afterwards, as the story is already heavily "what if" as it is and the Horde having killed Onyxia to help Theramore makes things a little easier for Thrall and Jaina to make their case.
2. Some quests in WoW will be mentioned, but their timeline in the story may not match their level. That means, a low-level quest chain can appear to have taken place almost at the same time as a high-level one. Because, let's face it, people were off killing Ragnaros while others hadn't even made it to Ratchet yet. How else would it make any kind of sense that everything from the beginning of WoW's timeline to the start of the Burning Crusade expansion was about a year?
3. Some connections to the events in Cycle of Hatred by Keith R. A. DeCandido. Namely, Aegwynn and her presence in Theramore. She is the saving grace of that book.
Poets like to think of it as romantic. Jaina thought that those poets had never laid wide awake in the middle of the night, watching the cold white light carve every shadow deep into the familiar items of one's bedroom. It made everything cold and sharp.
Especially the heaps of papers cluttering her desk.
Jaina turned over on her back and stared at the ceiling instead. There was a shadow upon it too, cracked in the middle because of a gap between the curtains. After a while she pressed both palms against her forehead, elbows pointing at the opposite wall, trying to make the buzzing in her head stop.
Pirates. Ships unjustly sunk soldiers paranoid shooting killing innocents.
The Crossroads. Raids week after week so many hurt and dead.
The Shady Rest Inn. Mystery solved, but no closure and what now tensions rising…
The Scourge. Arthas' next move when, where, how?
She groaned and rolled over as each subject swam through and pecked at her mind.
Outland they say Kael'thas has gone mad it's true-
Have to stop the fighting how how when will it escalate?
Kicking at the blanket, she only managed to twist it around her legs as her nightdress had slid upwards due to hours of tossing and turning. Grumbling, Jaina sat up to sort herself out. At least that was a momentary distraction.
Once free she seated herself more comfortably and leant against the wall. It felt pleasantly cool against her hot forehead, but did little to soothe her thoughts.
Have to stop the fighting. Those zealous fools won't listen, they have their own excuses.
She fisted the cloth of her nightdress.
Outside, the night remained peaceful. There was a distant sound of marching feet, the familiar sound heartening – the city guardians did not rest.
But they are as scared as everyone else.
So kill the fear. Kill the excuses. If there might be a way, why not try it? We have tried everything else.
Taking in a deep breath she shook her head. She had been over this with herself, beating back that one crazy idea growing in the back of her mind. How long had it been there? No… don't go there.
She kept telling herself that, along with several other select words in protest. Somehow, they sounded more hollow now than they had when she had first chastised herself. And the most alarming part was that she found it difficult to feel disquieted at this failing resistance.
Or was it truly alarming?
Jaina pressed a fist against her lips, trying to sort out her thoughts. The idea made too much sense to her, in its promise. She may have blamed her overheated brain for crazily flailing for hope, but… there was not just hope, but also the full awareness of the teetering problems as well as solutions.
More than a feverish dream. She could make sense of it. But on the other hand, it could probably never be. Even if she could see the possibilities, somebody else would have to as well – and then an awful lot of people would have to be convinced that it was a good idea, most of them who definitely would never think so.
And still she could see how it could possibly be done, over time, if only he would agree with her.
She swallowed and tried to wrestle herself away from that line of thought. No, it could only be a pipe dream. It had to be, for sanity's sake. And still, the thought of him not even agreeing in theory made her feel like choking.
No. No, no, no. Think of something else. Anything is better than putting myself through this torture.
Why risk losing a dear – admit it, the dearest – friend when there were enough troubles landing in her lap on an almost daily basis? More than enough with the monsters of the swamp and ocean, suspicion towards Brackenwall village, the Crossroads getting attacked by vigilantes, and just over a year ago, a whole new race of people crashing in the north and trying to find their way around this world that was completely new to them. And everybody in this world were still trying to figure out what exactly to make of them.
The draenei made no secret of their painful memories of the orcs in former Draenor, but Jaina knew full well what Thrall and his shamans thought of the matter. Would it ever be possible for those two races to reach out to each other again? There was not only that troubled past, however, but the complicated now as well.
If the draenei begin communicating with the orcs, the Alliance will judge them.
Amazing, really, that the draenei had gotten so far as a place in the Alliance. Deep down in Jaina's heart, a self-loathing voice wondered how long the human kingdoms would be able to handle such inhuman-looking allies. There were well-written, borderline poetical letters lying on Jaina's desk at that very moment, from Tyrande Whisperwind – never anything spoken out loud, but one did not need to read deeply between the lines to see the bitterness. The lone two seats out of seven in the Alliance Assembly was merely the tip of the iceberg – the elves faced small slights in the old world almost daily, and Light knew how the dwarves and gnomes felt. The elves at least had seats in the Assembly. Jaina did not even know if Tyrande bothered sending well-worded complaints across the ocean or if the High Priestess simply turned to a leader she knew as a personal friend.
How long until a letter arrived from Prophet Velen, asking any variation of Why are your people treating us with such suspicion? We have done everything we can to earn your trust, what are we doing wrong?
And Jaina would not have an answer, nothing past a weak "humans have gone through a lot, please give them time". Although, perhaps the draenei were prepared for difficulties in acceptance, having fled so far from home and borne witness to such atrocities. Suffered so much.
And now they came here, and hoped for a chance of friendship and peace with people who would not even help each other against a force threatening them all. What a stroke of luck that they crashed so close to Kalimdor, and not the Eastern Kingdoms. At least, when they met with night elves and the people of Theramore, there would be people who remembered alliances with outworldly, humanoid creatures. As long as they could make the night elves understand that they were not the frightening eredar the elves at first thought them to be.
Jaina truly wished to believe that her people knew what it meant to join hands with other races against a common foe. They had done it before. And, recently…
She smiled slightly, the buzz subsiding. Even now, a couple of weeks after the fact, one could feel a sense of confusion and grumbling gratitude in the air.
Panic at first, when the news came of the discovery of Onyxia in Stormwind, and her furious flight – into her lair in Dustwallow. But then, on the very day when a troop of Stormwind soldiers arrived in the harbor and prepared to set out on the hunt for the treacherous beast, they and all of Theramore received quite a surprise. A surprise delivered by an orcish messenger, grinning so wide his lower jaw could have fallen off.
"Hear the words of Warchief Thrall…"
Go'el, Jaina silently corrects.
But she does not say so. The messenger goes on, reading from the document he carries.
"… Son of Durotan, Lord of the Clans and leader of the Horde. Citizens of Theramore, know that our warriors have struck down the fearsome dragon Onyxia. Her head is perched atop a pole in Orgrimmar, and she can no longer threaten any being of this world."
Only an expedition to the lair, in order to see the proof with their own eyes, would convince both the Stormwind soldiers and the people of Theramore, of course. But that evidence could not be questioned, even if some tried.
A lighthearted note softened the buzz even more. Dear old Aegwynn, true to herself, delivered a characteristic analysis of the situation once the two of them got away from the confused crowd to write a reply to Thrall.
"It's not quite as chivalrous of the knight in black and copper armor if he sends somebody else to slay the dragon and save the princess."
Jaina softly laughed at the memory, despite the vague feeling of guilt those words caused then and now. The look that the former Guardian gave her in that moment did not help, either. If Aegwynn knew, then… but that woman saw everything, didn't she?
And she was back to what she had tried to get her thoughts away from. Yet, when approached from this angle it offered respite instead of torture. It required little thought, even for the simplest man with little understanding for tactics, to see that the orcs had not been nearly as threatened by Onyxia as the people of Theramore. Oh certainly, there were the orcs and ogres in Brackenwall village, but they may as well just have ducked until the danger passed. The humans could not hide as easily. Stone walls around a city did not protect against dragon fire from the sky.
And yet, the orcs had struck quicker than the humans, before the furious dragon could take her revenge on the closest humans she could find.
Some of course said, mainly the Stormwind troops, that it was a trick. That the orcs conspired with Onyxia to get the humans to lower their guard.
Right, others slowly replied. The dragon sure seemed to be in on it. That's why there were so many orc, troll and tauren bodies burnt right into the ground. Not to mention that she let them cut her head off just to fool us.
And back and forth they went, some claiming it wasn't really Onyxia's body and others wondering if it really mattered, because they had been scared of a black, female dragon – and one was definitely lying dead and beheaded in that lair. How many female dragons of that size could possibly exist in the world?
And that slowly gave way for the exasperated sighs and knowing glances. Jaina heard more than one report about people speaking of Hyjal. Unwilling to admit it to themselves at first, but…
Good work, Warchief. You knew what you were doing.
She relaxed against the wall. Yes, things were not so horrible right now, were they? There were actually a few reasons for optimism, and even joy. It didn't have to be something grand in the eyes of the world, not by far.
Barely stable on the ground, and his call rings in her ears the moment she appears on the butte.
He grabs her hands and she blinks, not at his force because he still remembers to be careful not to break her fingers.
She has never, ever seen him so happy.
It is beautiful.
"Jaina," he repeats, smiling like he has never done before, "I have a grandmother."
Even now she smiled. One hand rose up, fingers splayed out against the cool stone, stroking it slowly, idly. She watched the motions, drawing invisible circles on the wall. For just a little while her everyday troubles were completely gone, chased away by the memory of Thrall's story and the warm swelling in her chest as she listened to him.
It felt the same, remembering. Him watching her like that, still grasping her hands. Because she let him, because she held on to him too.
His real name still sounded foreign to her, but she tried to use it whenever speaking to him later. It lit a sparkle in his eyes like nothing else ever had. All their problems seemed so far away then that she almost forgot herself in the middle of a sentence. Him laughing with her, soft and rumbling chuckles from deep inside his chest.
But too soon, they always had to return their focus to the skirmishes between the Horde and Alliance, and his eyes darkened.
The insane idea gently poked at her again. Thoughts of him were, after all, its most powerful weapon.
You know you can stop the fighting, she told herself, staring up at the night sky between the curtains. Kill their reasons. Try it at least.
It is insane.
It is hope.
Again Jaina wondered how long the idea had been with her. Now that it had taken shape and dug into her, it seemed to have existed in the back of her mind for years – even if she had only admitted its existence to herself during the last couple of months.
And if she was brutally honest, it had been there for much, much longer.
At worst he'll laugh at you.
She closed her eyes.
No. At worst I'll lose his friendship.
Throughout her life she had given up things even when it felt as if it tore her heart right out of her chest. Many a time during the war had she risked her life to win. To act on this insane idea should not be any more frightening than that.
All my choices led towards this, didn't they?
And am I prepared to risk something so precious to me again?
Always meeting in "secret", the kind of secret everyone knew but never spoke of, always only snatching a touch to his arm and wonder when he would make a choice for himself? Always waiting for the next war?
To never know?
She straightened up.
No. I will not wait and see. If I lose, then at least I tried.
The relief this decision caused could not be described. Focusing on her breathing, Jaina lay down and closed her eyes. She only trembled in doubt briefly, but shielded herself with the steel hard determination that had driven her through two wars.
She would just need a day or two to think this through practically, before she contacted him. A question for tomorrow.
Very soon, sleep overtook her exhausted mind and body.