Chapter Eleven: A New Campaign
Arthas strode along the path, his eyes glancing over the orcs and humans now drilling. He'd ordered that the militia train with them to build familiarity. Wilhelm walked before them, inspecting them as they walked. "Keep it up, you men. You are not peons, you are not peasants, but soldiers of Lordaeron. You live for mankind; you die for humanity.
"The undead will not stand before us! We will gain victory!"
"Wilhelm presents a different face before them, doesn't he?" asked Whitemane.
"Yes," said Arthas. "When one gains any authority, it is necessary to wear a thousand masks."
"What do you mean?" asked Whitemane.
"Well me, for instance," said Arthas. "Until recently, I wore a series of masks so familiar I didn't even realize I was wearing them." He paused. "To the people, I was a caring Prince. To Jaina, I was Prince Charming. To Uther, I was an eager young apprentice.
"I wanted so much to be what they wanted and in the end..." He sighed as a robed monk made his way toward them on the road. "I suppose I failed."
"In my experience, actions define a man, not his feelings." said the monk. Then he drew back his hood.
Arthas blinked. "Uther, you've returned."
"Yes, lad, I have," said Uther. "I haven't been able to spare any men, but I have come myself. Which, not to brag, should be of significant help.
"I've heard of your recent victories, and I am... impressed. The recent flow of livestock has gone a long way to helping with hunger.
"You'll be happy to know that the Silver Hand has ruled you remain part of our order."
"I'm touched," said Arthas, not entirely lying. "In any case, I've been drilling the peons of the Blackrock Clan was footmen. They should provide an excellent source of manpower."
"I don't like this, sir! Giving these animals weapons!" said a man to one side.
"Quiet, do you want to be on the front lines?" asked a man. "Or them?"
Arthas sighed and looked to them in irritation. Men off duty could not be left idle, or they talked. "I am certain you gentlemen have something more productive you could be doing with your time. Do you not?"
They nodded. "Yes, Prince Arthas."
"Good," said Arthas, "then I ask that you trust such decisions to me."
Arthas remained silent for a long moment and looked up at the waning sun. Above him, the hills of Alterac were silent and still. Hair blew through his hair, and he sighed. Then he looked to Whitemane. "Whitemane, what of the new converts?"
"We have been training many of the faithful in the ways of the light," said Whitemane. "Soon, they will be ready to bring their staves to our aid."
"You've had her training new priests," said Uther, voice disapproving.
"She has a hand in it, yes," said Arthas.
"Is that wise?" asked Uther.
Arthas smiled and looked at him. "Well, you said she was ideal for my purposes, so I believed you."
Uther grunted. "You've made your point.
"These men of Alterac you've recruited, can they be trusted?"
"So long as we uphold our end of the bargain, yes," said Arthas. "They are in no position to wage a lengthy war. If we give them what they want, they can be relied on.
"What news from my father?"
"There is some reluctance in the court to acknowledge Aliden," said Uther.
"Do they have an alternative?" asked Arthas.
Uther sighed. "In truth, no. But Thoras Trollbane won't be happy about this."
"Will, his troops, be present?" asked Arthas.
"Probably not," admitted Uther.
"Then I need not concern myself with him," said Arthas.
"I wish I could agree, but you know how politics affect things," said Uther. "Perhaps-"
"Prince Arthas!" said voice.
A man rushed up to Arthas. He was clad in the leather of Blackthorn and held only an axe and shield. He had stubble and graying dark hair. Kneeling down, he bowed his head, and on one arm was tied a white scarf — a messenger.
Arthas moved forward. "What is it?
"I bring news from Lord Blackthorn. The trolls have withdrawn back to their homes." said the man.
"Why?" asked Arthas.
"The undead are pressing in on them and the Blackrock Orcs with overwhelming force." said the man. "The two of them are fighting one another as we speak."
Uther nodded. "We can hardly wish any better fate for our enemies to tear each other to ribbons.
"Still, are there any settlements in that region that could be harmed? We should see to them."
"Unfortunately, yes," said Arthas. "If Mal'Ganis wins here, he'll be able to strike at the surrounding regions. and have access to many new corpses."
"There is something else, Prince Arthas." said the man.
"What is it?" asked Arthas.
"The orcs, they have dragons." said the man.
Arthas opened his mouth, then looked to Uther and Whitemane. He wondered if he had misheard them, and it seemed they were thinking the same thing. He looked back. "What?"
"Red dragons are flying to aid them against the undead. Jubei'thos and his men are cooperating with them now." said the man.
Arthas was past it at this point. "Oh, of course. Because if Alexstrasza must defend someone, she'll aid the green-skinned abominations." He became aware of a peon resting after a hard day's work. "No offense."
"None taken. Me no like warriors either." said the peon, before taking a drink. Well, at least someone here had common sense.
"There is nothing for it," said Arthas. "We're just going to have to bail out the orcs."
"What?" said Whitemane. "But surely it would be better to wipe them out."
"Believe me, I don't say it with enthusiasm," said Arthas. "But I'd rather have a weakened Blackrock Clan living in Alterac than Mal'Ganis.
"They'll have more trouble replacing their losses anyway.
"Or do you have an alternative, Uther?"
"Unfortunately, no," said Uther. "It's been a bad month. And the longer the orcs keep the undead occupied, the more time we have to fix this mess."
Arthas looked at the man. "Take some rest. Then go back to Blackthorn. Tell him that he must attempt to divert some of the undead and buy the orcs time. But do not take any undue risks; you are all too valuable to lose.
"We will follow behind with our forces.
"Wilhelm and Athanar will guard this region against any further assaults," said Arthas. "Whitemane, Uther, and I will move against the undead once our forces are mustered." Then he paused. "...Why would the Lifebinder take the orcs side?"
"Perhaps she has succumbed to the fel corruptions." suggested Whitemane. "We could burn her at the stake as an example!"
"Don't be foolish, girl," said Uther. "If the Red Dragon Flight had gone bad, they should have taken the side of the undead. The orcs are a broken tool the undead mean to dispose of and not worth defending."
"Enough," said Arthas, although privately, he thought an evil Red Dragon Flight could use the orcs as pawns. "Meaningless speculation will only confuse the issue. I will deal with the matter of the Lifebinder personally."
"How are you going to do that?" asked Uther.
"I'm going to write her a strongly worded letter," said Arthas.
"That's unexpectedly tame of you-" began Uther.
"And if she doesn't reply, I'll wipe out the Blackrock Clan, and kill all her children in this region," said Arthas.
Uther sighed. "Nice to see you back to your old self, lad."
"Don't you have an army to gather?" asked Arthas. "Whitemane, introduce Uther to such lieutenant as he may choose to accompany us. I will speak with Wilhelm and make arrangements."
Another day in Lordaeron.
From atop the spire of the Red Flight's Capital, Alexstrasza looked down on the world. The sun was setting beneath snowy highlands, and the old world was fading. The red-haired goddess felt a chill wind send her hair flowing past her elven form.
She sensed him approach, her friend and consort.
Turning around, she saw an elven man wearing a black cloak. He fell to one knee, as formality dictated. "Queen Alexstrasza."
"Korialstrasza, what is it?" asked Alexstrasza. "I had thought the Kirin Tor had your full attention."
"Antonidas has given me a message for you," said Korialstrasz.
Alexstrasza sighed. "Another one?
"I see." She looked down to the caves below, vast caves. And most of them empty. Once, they would have been filled with life. "It is unfortunate that we cannot act. But even if our strategy did not rely on luring the legion into a false sense of security, we lack the power to aid them."
"It is... different, this time, Alexstrasza," said Korialstrasz.
Alexstrasza looked back. "What do you mean?"
Korialstrasz shifted. "This is not a request for help from the mortal races as a whole if it were that I should have handled it myself.
"It is an ultimatum from Prince Arthas Menethil." He offered the scroll. "Somehow he knew that the Kirin Tor had a contact with the Red Dragon Flight. I had thought the Deathwing crisis had been kept under wraps. But it seems Terenas is more observant than we thought."
Alexstrasza found herself intrigued. She'd never gotten an ultimatum from mortals before. Striding over to him, she took the scroll. "Let me see it."
Sure enough, it had the seal of House Menethil on it. Breaking it, Alexstrasza unrolled the parchment and looked over it. The writing was neat, but hastily written and with no flourish.
'To Alexstrasza the Lifebinder, Queen of the Red Dragon Flights, Mother of all Life.' The usual praise, as a formality.
'It is with respect to all your previous achievements that I write this. None hold your slavery to the Horde against you, nor your inability to aid us against the Scourge.' That was a lie, Alexstrasza knew that the memory of it had not faded. Many still hated them.
'However, I've received reports that your flights have been aiding the Blackrock Orcs. The Blackrock Orcs have been a terror to the people of the Alliance for years. They have stood secure in their mountains until now. Meanwhile, not one dragon has come to aid the Alliance against the unending tides of the undead.'
'Many whisper that you have taken the side of the darkness.' An exaggeration, surely?
'It is my desire that you grant the leaders of the Alliance a meeting and account for these actions. Bear in mind; I am already moving against the orcs as we speak. If we are not given proof that you have not turned on us, I shall be obligated to treat your flights as an enemy.' That was... unexpectedly candid.
'Hoping this finds you in good health,
'Arthas Menethil, Crown Prince of Lordaeron.'
The Prince of Lordaeron had just threatened to declare war on her flight. Why? Because she had chosen to aid the Blackrocks against the Scourge and not his people? An understandable motive for anger. But Alexstrasza had watched over the world for ages. Surely her credibility had been established by now.
She wasn't really sure how to react to this. "This is unfortunate.
"Events were still proceeding as expected, better than expected until I received this."
"I find it outrageous," said Korialstrasz. "He's treating you as if you were just another mortal kingdom."
What would Alexstrasza's action look like if she were a human monarch? She would have been unwillingly forced into war with the Alliance. From there, the Alliance had freed her and ceased all hunting of her flights.
Oh, that was it.
Prince Arthas Menethil was treating the Red Dragon Flight like a vassal state. Like an ungrateful nation that had been liberated, now contemplating rebellion. This was something Alexstrasza had never had to deal with. The elves, however much they advanced, had always treated her with the utmost respect.
And the lesser, no, newer races had always regarded the Red Dragon Flight with awe. Alexstrasza had been worshipped as a goddess in ancient days before the light came. She had allowed it because it was better for them to worship her than other powers. And it had allowed her to act freely for the betterment of the races.
Those who succumbed to dark powers hated and feared her. Those who sought the good treated her as a goddess until they no longer needed to. Until someone sent her a letter demanding she explain her actions.
This was new. It was remarkable how the little things could rattle you.
Alexstrasza sighed. "Well, there is nothing for it. I'll just have to go meet him."
"What?" said Korialstrasz. "But Alexstrasza, you are the Lifebinder. To appear before these humans, when summoned like a mortal monarch is beneath you.
"Allow me to go in your stead-"
"Do you what the term 'Omniscient Morality License' means, Korialstrasza?" asked Alexstrasza.
"...I don't believe I'm familiar with it," said Korialstrasza.
"It's a rather complicated term," said Alexstrasza. "The general idea of it is that someone who possesses one is powerful and wise that they can do whatever they want. Actions that would be impossible to justify are permissible. They just need to have a long term positive effect.
"For some centuries, there has been a misconception that we, and the Guardians of Tirisfal, have one.
"The truth is that there is no such thing.
"If you cannot explain to someone at the moment why what you are doing is justified or necessary, it isn't." said Alexstrasza, "Do you remember Aegywynn?"
"The Mother of Medivh?" asked Korialstrasz.
"I never liked her," said Alexstrasza. "In retrospect, I know why. She believed that because she was the Guardian of Tirisfal, she was always right. She believed that the universe did and should revolve around her. And as a result, we faced an invasion by the Burning Legion well before we were ready.
"If we'd had one or two more generations, we could have refounded Arathor. None of this cloak and dagger business would have been necessary. I have no intention of ever becoming like her.
"I will explain myself. At least partially."
"We sent the Prophet for that purpose, did we not?" asked Korialstrasz.
"He barged into King Terenas' throne room unannounced. He then proclaimed the world doomed," said Alexstrasza. "The blessing of the Dragon Aspects granted him an audience. But to the more pragmatic, they would have rejected him out of hand. While I commend him on his handling of the Warchief, I am less than impressed with his work on the Alliance."
"Proudmoore did listen to him," noted Korialstrasz.
"And how many others did?" asked Alexstrasza. "Proudmoore funded her expeditions my arguing in favor of resettling refugees. Not on the basis that there was an unstoppable tide of doom coming to consume the world.
"Many more will die because of our Prophet's insistence on spectacle." She sighed. "Send word to Prince Arthas. I will meet with him en route."
"Are you certain he'll be willing to listen?" asked Korialstrasz.
"He's a ruthless pragmatist with limited resources," said Alexstrasza ruefully. "I expect he'll understand my position." How she wished she could say she was nothing like him.
"As you wish, Queen Alexstrasza," said Korialstrasz.
Then he departed.
Sorry, this took so long. I was basing my initial game plan off a series of missions I was designing. However, I ultimately decided that it wasn't a good way to make a story.
On a separate note, I've always felt that Alexstrasza would despise Aegywynn.
My basis for this is their personalities and actions. Alexstrasza is kind and forgiving to a fault, insisting on the mortal races standing on their own. When the time comes for her to give up her powers, she does so gladly. In contrast, Aegywynn is a selfish, sexist, jerkass who treats people as tools. She ruined her unborn son's life to keep her power over the position of Guardian of Tirisfal. In the end, her greatest regret was that her plan failed, not that she enacted it.
I suspect Alexstrasza and Aegywynn had a similar relationship to Arthas and Tichondrius. They are technically working toward the same goal. But both despise one another and are looking to get rid of the other as soon as possible. Alexstrasza by insisting Aegywynn do her job by handing over the position. And Aegywynn by mind raping a baby.