Nobody spoke much of that night afterwards, though we all thought of nothing else. Khairan’s anger was carefully balanced by his capacity to easily overexert and injure himself. Our luck improved, but I found my attention waning. We were exiled here, and I was not in the mood for business as usual. Not anymore.
Dalaran was… irreversible. It had been disgusting and barbaric, but it was by no means one-sided and it was by no means isolated. Theramore, Taurajo, Southshore, Angrathar… I could not keep pretending that the High Elves were innocent as much as I could not attack my own faction. The ease with which the Sunreavers had been summarily expelled showed that it had been a thought in many blue eyes for quite a while. Dalaran was bad territory as much as it claimed neutrality, because it had been anti-Garrosh long before Jaina became its leaser. If Silvermoon had been anything to go by the last time we had visited, Garrosh was not liked, but was equally not removable. Were we to survive and adapt, not just in the Convocation but in our race, we would need to prepare for an outcome where Garrosh remained just as much as we would need to prepare to rejoin the Alliance (though I saw no likelihood of that anytime soon).
I spent most of my time reading or contemplating what we would do in the future, as we regained our footing in Desolace. After arriving at Ghost Walker Post we left the druids briefly indebted to us. It was clear that they would ‘forget’ as soon as we left. If we were to help the Horde establish itself properly, we would need other allies – or, as was Sorlain’s plan, conveniently disposable allies who would be prone to oppose us if they were left strong when our task was complete.
So, in our usual style, we got messily involved in a centaur gang war. A brief interlude followed as a rendezvous with the Thousand Eyes let me rest from afar while their heavies dealt with one clan, earning us the favour of the other.
The plan was to waste their numbers on distracting the cultists while we retrieved the library book. Hurrah. Not much of a deviation from our usual plan, and I remained preoccupied with what to think.
I could not in good conscience excuse what Garrosh – what Garrosh’s Horde – was doing to the Horde I was used to. But the Horde I was used to had been Thrall’s. And Thrall had spent most of his reign trying to expunge the violent and downright evil nature of the Horde’s greatest heroes and turn them into martyrs. It was not hard to see why Garrosh had recreated the bloodthirsty war-mongerers of the Second War.
Still, after everything, I had hoped my people could rise above Garrosh.
None of those that resided in Silvermoon had displayed the same spirit I had seen in the aftermath of the Scourge. The banding together of groups, the knowledge that it had been all we had and that come undead or withdrawal we would never let the others go…
Garrosh was slowly crushing my people’s spirit. Yet the leaders of my own people were content to let the race be torn apart, strip by strip, until there was nothing left.
It had been days now. Things had gone swimmingly. The centaur were decimated, the Hammer were decimated, the Burning Blade were decimated, the Circle was weakened, the Alliance were mostly out of the picture, the satyr were dead… A brilliant success. One that was hollow and mattered little, because the only passes into Desolace were through the contested Stonetalon and the inaccessible Feralas.
The Horde did not control Desolace in any way, and I doubted that it would. We had merely paved the way for lawlessness to fail against the Cenarion Circle. More forests was a good enough outcome, regardless. We were on our way to Orgrimmar to receive some sort of… commendation, I supposed. It was hard to tell exactly what Garrosh was saying, because it all came out in the same mangled yell about death and honour and the Horde. Khairan spoke better orcish than the Warchief, and Khairan did not speak good orcish.
The Horde at its most base level could be considered an Alliance of convenience. Everyone had something else to offer the others, and we were better off together than alone… or were we?
Sylvanas (and, originally, Thrall) offered troop support against the Scourge from the south and the Alliance from… well, the Alliance was a naval power, we were protected from all angles. By forsaken ships who possessed the weapons to plague us, and orcish destroyers whose ballistic power was more than a match for the architecture of Silvermoon. Could it be said that it was more coercion than Alliance?
A thousand questions, all the exact same but in different forms: What was I to do?
I despised inaction. It was the greatest evil, because it was such inaction that had felled our kingdom. The same inaction had left Kael’thas forcing himself into the Violet Hold. I could not do nothing, because then I would not be able to change the repercussions in future. But still I was faced with the same question.
Following some mostly-successful meetings with the Warchief and a few Kor’kron officials, we had been assigned to a rather humble watchpost just outside Bladefist Bay, which had fallen into disrepair and was to be our base for as long as we were in Kalimdor. Though it was built of the same blood-coloured brick and dark iron that coloured Orgrimmar, it was significantly less impressive; the roof had several holes and the iron was beginning to rust, less pristine due to its proximity to the coast.
Things had truly fallen into a lull. Everyone was mostly calm, having settled into the new order, although Khairan refused to speak Orcish and spent most of our meetings staring out of the window, and if one listened closely the angry whisperings of Archon Kal’es could be heard just after every time Sorlain spoke. We had picked up several new recruits whilst in Orgrimmar, including a curious street-healing urchin named Twist.
An… extremely hazy episode followed due to a large amount of chloroform within one of Orgrimmar’s backalley hairdressers, whose proprietor (a short and rather vicious goblin woman) had been using the Forsaken-made chemical to take advantage of her customers (and their scalps). My most prominent memory afterwards was activating a lever which deposited me into an underground cavern which the hairdresser had used to hide both her corpses and her chloroform.
Sadly, this was not the Third War anymore. Looking out for myself above all was a viable survival tactic when you were alone against the mindless undead. Factoring in friends, family and colleagues (in a situation where enemies could be among any of those groups) changed the goalposts.
If I left either the Convocation or the Horde, there would be repercussions for my family. I had only gotten involved so deeply in this war to protect them from having to serve themselves. I wasn’t about to curse them because I disagreed with the regime.
But the regime was wrong, fundamentally flawed, and it was unfortunately unlikely to change. Perhaps the only way through was quiet resistance. I would have to wait until the time was right, at least to make my views properly known. Within the Convocation and the Horde, I was in a much better position to look out for my family than I would be if I went into hiding or exile.
And generally, elves do not tend to forget.
Not long after our success alongside the Kor’kron, we were notified of a Reliquary presence in Razor Hill, requesting a meeting. I was not looking forward to it. As a rule of thumb, those within the Convocation detested their hastily-assembled replacement, and the feeling was reciprocated. The murky involvement of both the Reliquary (who we had verbally crossed swords with in Krasarang) and the Sunreavers in our exile was still a sore and unknown topic, and it brought up a lot of resentment from several within the Convocation.
We packed in to the charred and beaten inn, the residual desert heat seeming to aggravate the tension between the smug, yet dishevelled ambassador and our own forces. I found myself snapping several times, though more down to the attitudes of my contemporaries. They seemed content to antagonise those most likely to be in charge of allowing our return to the High Kingdom. Eventually, I excused myself, too warm and flustered to be of use, and instead decided to join Twist, who had uncovered a camp bearing the Reliquary’s markings.
I could not foresee how the war would end, but I could continue to feign withering loyalty just as easily to Garrosh as I could to Silvermoon, whose outdated political system, unbearable pettiness and offensive sluggishness I found to be on a par of idiocy with Orgrimmar’s being made of metal in a desert.
I was not sure of the Regent Lord’s personal loyalties, but I remained hopeful that the tide of opinion in Silvermoon would turn. The Sunreavers as a majority appeared to take offense to their exile at the hands of Aethas, and Silvermoon appeared to be equally offended at Lor’themar’s decision to provide sanctuary to almost-Quel’dorei. Either Lor’themar would leave the Horde and force us to adapt, or Garrosh would lead to his own downfall. I had seen enough of Kael’thas’ reign to know it would either end in one of those ways, or the people themselves would rise and make their feelings known (this was less common in Silvermoon’s history than the regime usually ending itself through foolishness or wisdom).
Until something happened along those lines, I could remain quiet, bide my time and see how opinion swayed. The Regent Lord would not live forever, and his advisors were too divided to take over from him without risking civil war. Silvermoon was not a monarchless state, and it required a central figure or to adapt.
The ability of elves to adapt is notoriously absent, as our millennia-long history has shown.
My rendezvous with Twist yielded several snippets of information:
One, that the Reliquary were carrying most of their supplies with them;
Two, that they’d been in battle recently;
And three, that they had been nowhere near Desolace looking for us (as they had claimed earlier). They appeared to have come straight from Ratchet.
When this information was relayed back, things went better than expected. It turned out that the Reliquary had in fact been ambushed by a weak sect of the Burning Blade, who had made off with several of their artifacts. Although Twist formed some theory about a human and a troll, I surmised that the Reliquary had also been heckled by Northwatch troops.
Having left thoroughly humiliated (and with a disappointing false promise to look into our return) we were able to reclaim the artifacts for ourselves and take out the cultists without issue. Orgrimmar remained the same, and Durotar held little more promise.
Several days later, Sorlain informed us of a situation developing in Ashenvale which the Warchief wanted to capitalise upon. We were to aid in escorting a Kor’kron caravan to Splintertree Post and then further west to Zoram’gar.
It was a curious turn of events. But Sorlain refused to yield anymore information in the days leading up to our departure, and as we left all I had managed to garner was something about a ‘project’.
A project designed to win the war.