Chapter 15: To Ashenvale


A/N: I never found confirmation of Cairne was at Hyjal or not. Google fails to find me an answer, and the WoW Wikipage only cites Hamuul Runetotem as the sole named Tauren there. Cairne kind of disappeared after Grom Hellscream was recovered in the campaign, and doesn't appear in the Burning Crusade CoT Raid. So... I'm just going to make a executive story decision and say he was anyway, because cow power!


"While the people are setting up, I would like to start a small initial expedition to make way to the Night Elves to seek out their aid."

King Teranas regards Jaina for a long moment. "If you have been here before, why not simply teleport to them?"

Jaina winces. "The Night Elves are... well... their relations with other races outside of their own tight circle are even worse than humans and the High Elves usually are. Just teleporting into their lands is likely to get me killed before they'd even consider hearing me out."

"And we are to ally with these Night Elves?" asked the King dryly.

"End of the World," she reminds him.

He huffs, shakes his head, and waves her off. "Take who you need."

She nods and steps out of the command tent onto the shores of Kalimdor. Arthas falls in behind her and asks, "Who else?"

"A small group of troops for safety, maybe your captains, and we need a representative of the High Elves... perhaps Sylvanas if she can be spared," said Jaina, "I'd consider Fordring with his approach to other races, but I don't know the exact date the Horde lands on Kalimdor and I don't know how long this will take, so he should stay just incase."

Arthas nods in agreement and leaves to gather his men. Jaina has a brief word with Kael, and Sylvanas is lent to her.

"I'm not looking forward to this," admits the Ranger-General, "From everything I've heard of the old tales, the Kaldorei are likely to be... vindictive, spiteful."

Especially without having been humbled by the Legion.

"Likely so, but, they are not absolutely merciless," said Jaina before glancing at Kael, "I hate to use them like this, but, when you meet with their leadership and ask for their aid, I suggest some of the more sickly children are brought as examples of the withdrawal."

Kael grimaces, distaste on his face. "I loath to use our young in such a manner, but you are right, it is likely to draw sympathy, and even if the Kaldorei only offer to save the children, then at least some of us will survive."

Jaina nods, and leaves with Sylvanas, joining up with Arthas, Falric, and Marwyn before exiting the large camp. Most of the population is still on the ships, or out on conjured boats to help fish for food. Its going to take a long while to set things up, so they have time while the Legion is preparing for their invasion. She wonders how she's going to go about this. She had hoped that maybe she could find the Tauren and get an introduction to the Night Elves that way, but she has no idea where they even are at the moment. She recalls Thrall briefly speaking of his initial arrival and helping the Tauren migrate from one of their villages after a Centaur attack, but that's it. She's not even sure how well the Tauren will greet humans either. Especially if she doesn't exactly want to fight and kill the Centaur and drive them off as possible allies, so she wont get the same introduction Thrall had unless the Centaur force them to.

It turns out far easier then she expects.

Not even twenty minutes out, they stumble upon an encampment of Quilbor... that had a injured younger Tauren Bull trapped in a cage. Considering the fire being set up, and the Quilbor sharpening knives... ugh they were going to eat the poor Bull. She briefly considers trying to negotiate with the Quilbor, but the moment they are noticed, they attack. A lightning bolt, a few arrows, and a swing of Arthas's warhammer sends them fleeing for their lives.

"What the hell is that?" asks Arthas, motioning to the Bull.

"A Tauren, a race we can hopefully ally, powerfully built and brutal in a melee, not to mention shamanistic," advises Jaina before waving a hand and unlocking the cage.

The Tauren doesn't move, watching them wearily.

"Are you alright?" asks Jaina, switching to a loose Orcish.

The Tauren gives her a blank look and speaks...

Oh.

Right.

The Tauren haven't picked up Orcish common yet, she only has a very loose understanding of Taur-ahe. She has a language spell, but she's not going to just randomly cast it on the scared Bull. "Arthas, make a show of healing a wound and then motion it to him."

Arthas goes in a slow motion, one of his men handing him a sword, he lightly scratches himself and heals it with the holy light before motioning to the now curious Bull, who nods in permission. Arthas calls down a small blessing, and the Bull's wounds are healed. The Bull steps out of the cage, more relaxed, before going to one of the now empty Razormane huts and retrieving what she assumes is his equipment, hefting a war-totem onto his shoulder.

Jaina draws his attention by pressing a hand to her chest and sending a glow along her body, bringing her hands up to her lips, and then motioning outward making a sound before pointing at him and repeating the motion. The Tauren doesn't quite seem to understand, but he gives a short nod anyway. She slowly approaches, making no rapid movements, before reaching up on her tip toes to touch his forehead, and then her own, a brief glow encompassing them both before she also pushes the spell towards the others.

"Do you understand me now?" she checks.

Both the Tauren's eyebrows climb. "I do, paleskin."

That... voice is actually kind of familiar.

She takes a step back to give them both space and looks them over... is that... is that a much younger Baine Bloodhoof? What the hell was he doing as almost Razormane food?

She chooses her words carefully, "My name is Jaina Proudmoore, I am a human, daughter of Daelin Proudmoore, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras. Who are you and how did you come to be here?"

He grunts. "Well met Jaina Proudmoore, I am Baine Bloodhoof, son of Cairne Bloofhoof, chieftain of the Bloodhoof tribe. I..."

He looks sheepish. "I wished to prove myself worthy of my father and test myself against our tribe's enemies."

"By yourself?"

He scowls.

A very young Baine Bloofhoof indeed. It was likely Cairne was out searching for him now and would have located him in time anyway considering the Tauren was very much alive in the future. But this... this is a very good in with the Tauren. "It would be our honor to escort you back to your father, and perhaps to speak to him, we are strangers on these lands, fleeing from a terrible foe."

"The Centaur?"

"Something far, far worse," she said ominously.

Baine nods solemnly before moving. "Come then."

It doesn't take them long to run into a search party of Tauren.

"Baine!" comes a familiar voice that sends an ache down Jaina's chest.

She had never really had issues with Cairne Bloodhoof, he was an honorable Tauren, he had fought against the end of the world at Hyjal, and had actually challenged that bastard Gorash for control of the Horde. Oh if only he had won... Theramore would likely still be standing. But that was then, and this was now. Jaina motions for her party to stay back and wait as Baine approaches his father and proceeded to be drawn first into an embrace, and then a fierce scolding for his foolishness. She regards Cairne with an air of loss, and hope. She prays, oh how she prays, that things will end differently in the long run.

Cairne sticks his waraxe into the ground and approaches. "My son tells me that I have you to thank for his safety. You have my permission to cast your... speech magic upon me."

Jaina does so. "It was our honor to help someone in need."

Cairne grunts before motioning off in the distance. "My son tells me you have a foe of your people you wish to speak with me about. Let us return to my herd and we shall do so."

The groups join and head off, Jaina would want to speak on the way to save time, but she knows in this time and place, getting into things will prove a distraction that could get them killed if they were caught offguard mid conversation. They eventually come to a large group of huts and tents that the Tauren live out of. She approves of the mobility of it all, its nothing they couldn't pack up or abandon in seconds. Cairne briefly leaves to gather a few others, before they are led into a large tent. She recognizes Hamuul Runetotem, its not hard to recall those of notoriety who fought at Hyjal with her. The others... not so much.

She's given permission to cast the spell on others, and then they sit in a circle. Cairne and his advisors on one side, her Arthas and Sylvannas on the other.

Cairne briefly looks at Sylvanas. "You are not of the Kaldorei, are you?"

Sylvanas's lips go tight for a moment. "No."

Cairne hums.

"The Kaldorei are actually why we are here," explains Jaina.

Cairne snorts. "I am thankful of you saving my son, but I have my herd to look after, I will not make enemies of them and destroy my people."

"Oh, no, not them," soothes Jaina, "We're looking to speak to them and request their aid against a common foe."

"And what is this 'common foe'?" poses Cairne.

"I don't know what stories are past down through your people, but, have you ever heard of the Burning Legion?" asked Jaina.

There is no recognition on his face.

Jaina licks her lips. "What about the sundering of the world?"

Cairne shifts. "I know some of the old tales, of the world being split apart because of foolish elves playing with power beyond their control. It is why the Kaldorei now only use the Earth Mother's or their Moon Goddess's gifts."

Oh boy, "Its a lot more complicated than that," said Jaina, just a tad stressed, "The Highborn of the original Kaldorei civilization were delving into arcane magic, yes, more specifically, the Well of Eternity, the greatest font of arcane power in our world. Doing so attracted the attention of the Burning Legion, a innumerable army of demons that wanted to put Azeroth to the flame and consume the Well of Eternity. They've already burned countless worlds, corrupted so many races. The War that broke out ended with the implosion of the Well of Eternity that ripped apart Azeroth."

She takes a deep and lets it out. "The Burning Legion has returned. We tried to stop their arrival, but we failed, and we fled as they burned our home."

Cairne nods slowly. "These 'demons'... they will spare no one, will they?"

"No," she agreed, "They will kill or corrupt everything. I highly suggest that you move your people away from the shores of Kalimdor before they arrive."

He grunts in acknowledgement. "My advisors have suggested the same thing as of late, if only for the centaur rather than these demons."

Jaina hums. "From what I know, the centaur are rather bloodthirsty."

Cairne scoffs. "Paleskin, you say that far to lightly. They are abominable."

Jaina frowns. "That is... unfortunate. It is unlikely then, that they can be persuaded to stand against the Legion?"

Cairne stares at her for a long, uncomfortable minute before saying flatly, "Unlikely. They will defend what land they see as theirs viciously, but if you mean as allies, then you are very, very foolish."

She meets his gaze unflinching. "This is the literal end of the word, Chieftain Bloodhoof, I will do what I must, and ally with who I must, in order to see the Burning Legion defeated."

He snorted. "They are more than likely to stab you in the back. If it comes down to battle, paleskin, and we are as allies, keep them away from me and my tribe, from all tribes."

Jaina nods, that about all she can do. She cuts right to the point after. "Would you be able to get us an audience with the Kaldorei?"

He rubs his chin in thought. "Our peoples are not allies, nor are we acquaintances in truth. We both respect the land and those that govern it, that at least makes us neutral in the odd encounter my people have had in my lifetime. If I approach their lands and ask for an audience, we may be fortunate enough for whoever watches the border to be in the mood to entertain us. If they refuse and send us on our way however, I will leave. My tribe has enough enemies as it is without turning the Kaldorei against us."

"Of course," agrees Jaina.

"Very well, as thanks for the safety of my son and the warning of these demons, I will attempt to gain audience with the Kaldorei," said the Chieftain, "Allow me to situate my people and give my standing orders, pack provisions for the journey, and I will guide you to Ashenvale."

They are underway within the hour, Cairne waves off an escort of his people, leaving more to defend the tribe incase of attack. She'd not often had the chance to walk the barrens, Horde territory and all. Its... calm. The sun is shining, periodic cloud cover giving them reprieve now and then. The grass swaying. A pleasant breeze blowing. Kodos grazing off in the distance. She sights centaurs moving in the far distance, but they are moving away and out of sight. There are some harpies flying high in the sky, but they wisely choose not to come near. Overall... its peaceful, a different taste from bricks and stones and the busyness of cities, and not a bad one. But...

Its all going to burn,

Her lips purse tightly, shaking her head and pushing away the ill thought.

She instead watches Cairne, the Tauren moving about with knowing motions, paths retread who knows how many times across his life. Hes not one for idle conversation, eyes always watchful as he leads them on. About half way across the Barrens is when that changes. He suddenly stops and holds up a hand, the other going for his halberd. She sees nothing at first, but that doesn't stop her or the others from readying their weapons...

Then the ambush is sprung.

Centaur suddenly rise up from hiding in tall grass. They gallop down or around hills, a horn blowing from one of them drawing hidden ambushers that had been trailing them out of sight...

Jaina scowls, irritated. Spilling blood of Azeroth's defenders is not her goal. Its all so pointless in the face of whats coming. She waves a hand, and a wall of ice surges up around them, blocking off the centaur. The beasts roar and stab or shoot at the wall, to no avail. Jaina focuses her energy. Walls of ice shoot up in a pair of straight lines ahead of them, giving them a clear, uncontested path towards the north-east. Cairne looks back at her appraisingly.

He gruffs out a single, "Impressive," before he starts walking down the path.

He doesn't put away his halberd though. Neither does Arthas or the others with their weapons. Jaina maintains the wall cascade as she goes, collapsing unneeded walls while shifting others to cover their backsides. The centaur howl in rage, some galloping up ahead to try to put themselves in the path they are going. Jaina merely scoffs and flicks her wrist, a burst non-lethal energy blowing them out of the way before more walls of ice surge up. Its tiring, but overall, good practice to exercise her reserves, she is going to need it.

"How far will they follow," strained out Jaina.

"Close to the border," advised Cairne, "But not into Ashenvale itself. Few centaur are foolish enough to draw the ire of the Kaldorei."

"I have to agree with his earlier opinion," muttered Arthas, "These centaur do not seem like possible allies. If anything, I'd think they'd side with the demons."

"Perhaps," said Jaina, "But then again, I don't intend to ask for their aid through them."

His eyebrows furrow, head cocked to the side, but she shakes her head. Not here. Later if they have the chance she'll reveal some of her plans. But yes, she's going over their heads straight for Princess Theredras, and potentially, for Therazane the Stonemother, but that plan is still sometime yet to come. In honesty, she isn't actually certain how much Theredras has control over the centaurs. Hopefully a good chunk of it. For the time being, she doesn't acknowledge the sneers, the jeers, the threats from the Centaur riding around the ice walls, puffing up themselves to be threatening. They soon show their cowardice and taper off as they close in on the edge of Ashenvale, last guttural threats given before they gallop away.

"Since I know where it is," said Jaina as she let the ice walls fall, "I'll teleport you back to your tribe rather then have you risk a lone walk back."

Cairne nods briefly and then motions for them to hold as they come to the edge of the forest, the pathways still uncharted, no obvious roads made by the stamping of the horde or the carnage of the Legion. Just wildness, an air of eerie otherness to the forest much like Quel'Thalas had. Jaina lets out a tired sigh, wiping sweat off her forehead, but chooses not to take a mana potion, ought to start rationing them.

Jaina briefly looks to Arthas and says, "Treat these lands just as you would Quel'Thalas's on an official visit."

He nods. "I guessed as much. Though I suspect I wont have much part truly to play, I imagine you and Lady Sylvanas will have to do the talking."

Sylvanas grimaces, but nods, forcing the very unhappy and sour look off her face into a calm mask. They went silent as Cairne approached the edge of the woods and boomed out, "I announce myself as Cairne Bloodhoof, chieftain of the Bloodhoof tribe, and seek an audience of any of the Kaldorei who would be willing to listen to one who follows the ways of the Earth Mother."

He then kneels down and bows his head, waiting. Jaina follows suit and does the same, the others following. There is silence for a long few minutes, but Jaina feels a presence watching them. It briefly leaves for another few minutes, returning others who stand hidden as one begins to trek out of the forest and...

Is that Shandris Feathermoon? It had been a long time since Jaina had seen her. She fondly recalls that Shandris had been in the initial group of Night Elves defending Jaina's base at Hyjal. They had killed a lot of demons together then.

"It has been some time," muses out the Night Elf, bow in hand, but no arrow immediately nocked, "Since I last encountered your kind, even longer since you last sought us out. And such interesting company you bring. I don't recognize the mortals, but do my eyes deceive me?"

Her voice turns mocking, "I dare say I see one of the Highborn in your midst. They've certainly changed, but the stench of arcane still identifies them so. I distinctly recall your ilk being banished from these lands."

Sylvanas purses her lips, but doesn't respond.

Shandris's eyes don't leave her. "Chieftain Bloodhof, why are you here?"

"The paleskins saved my son's life, and warned me of a dangerous enemy that is on approach, their only request is that I attempt to seek an audience with the Kaldorei on their behalf."

"I suppose you would be forced to acknowledge such a debt," grits out Shandris, her gaze turning into a full on glare at Sylvanas's lack of reaction, "So then, Highborn, why have you come?"

Sylvanas's eyes flicker to Jaina, and Shandris scoffs. "Oh? You defer to a mortal?"

Okay, Jaina really hadn't missed this arrogance from the Night Elves as first. Light, she missed Malfurion, he rarely had this nonsense, he hadn't hesitated in the slightest to give up his immortality to stop the Legion. Jaina slowly stands from her kneeling position, stares right at Shandris, and says, "The Burning Legion has returned to Azeroth, and we've fled our homelands across the sea following the words of a prophet to seek your aid."

Shandris froze, face going pale. Then she swallows, steels herself, and hisses out, "If this is some kind of fool game you play mortal, you will regret it."

"I watched the Legion summon Archimonde the Defiler into our world," Jaina snapped back, "We tried to stop it, but we weren't enough. We seek out the Kaldorei, we seek out your patron, Cenarius, and beg aid."

Shandris grips her bow tightly, swears under her breath, and turns, "You will remain here until I return."

Shandris turns and full on sprints back into the forest. Jaina settles to sit down on the ground and wait. The others doing the same. She watches as Sylvanas gazes into Ashenvale, eyes distant. The elf takes a deep breath in, twitches, resisting a shudder, but gives no other reaction. Jaina wonders what this place feels like to her. She'd never asked any of the high elves. She doubts it will ever take the place of Quel'Thalas, but perhaps, if things go the way Jaina hopes they do, it might eventually become a home for them. But that's being highly optimistic she supposes.

Its hours later that the Night Elves return, and when they do, they certainly make an entrance. Tyrande Whisperwind rides out of the shrubbery on her nightsaber, Shandris and a host of other Sentinels at her heel, and comes to a halt a short ways from their group as they rise to their feet. Then, seeming to melt out of the forest is the one she had hoped to find still alive. It fills her both with hope, and apprehension at having to negotiate an alliance with him and the Night Elves...

The Demigod Cenarius steps out of Ashenvale.


Review Responses:

Tanatharon: Glad you enjoyed the story, and yeah, had little desire to write with this for awhile.

Guest: No? Tirion didn't die in cannon until Legion expansion. In this, he's still alive and well.

AFalseName: Nothing for the time being, never honestly considered them. Googling around, they weren't much involved with the third war. Though there was a potentially missed opportunity with the Stormgarde Brigade.

Deathwing17: It can be a struggle tbh. Jaina was always a strong Archmage, with future knowledge of events/abilities she didn't have before, even more so. Trying to not cross over into peggy territory or having her be wangsty requires a balance. As for changing events, I always wanted the Legion involved into this, but once Archimonde is actually summoned, the ways to actually defeat him are... limited. But without him or other high ranking demons, this story would have been a cut and dry wrap up, no need to even head over to Kalimdor. Maybe the Scourge could have still been a threat, could have also had them go down to help Ironforge and Stormwind I suppose. But a lot of the Scourge's initial power was in the treachery of it all. Arthas becoming a Death Knight and marching in to murder his unaware father. All the traitors in their midst, the unknown of how the Scourge operates, ect... Jaina eliminated a lot of that for Lordaeron. So... while the journey there is going to differ, the Third War will be decided one way or another at Hyjal.

Byakugan789: Never read Chronicles. WoW Wiki is my source for most lore, and well... its a wiki. The quote I saw was "The Highborne's reckless use of magic sent ripples of energy spiraling out from the Well of Eternity and into the Great Dark Beyond." I didn't actually know about the Nighborne, 'shrug'. Tyrande was the defacto leader at that point with Cenarius, she didn't answer to Malfurion, and I can't see Cenarius being approving of Illidan being cut loose, at least, not right away. No clue what this night warrior ritual is.

Hey, who says Sylvanas can't be nice to a select few who earn her approval? Doesn't mean she can't be an ass to others when she doesn't have to play nice. :D. Jaina needed to conserve energy for funneling energy to the elves, and yeah, bit of a slip up to not mention using the food, oops.

Orcs are apparently very bad at sea navigation, or at least on going facefirst into a storm at getting shipwrecked on an island.

Tichondrious mentioned the dwarves were preparing to shut their gates, and that Stormwind was getting wrecked. The dwarves will have the Ashbringer, and in tight quarters inside the capital or at choke points they're likely to never lose. Breaking out will be a bit tough though, especially when Stormwind crashes. I don't think we'll be getting more people's perspectives in this aside from Jaina/Arthas, and even then, mostly Jaina.

Psh, bringing along more people is cheating! :D

Yeah, Jaina is kind of a mess and a walking disaster at the moment, few actually trust or want her in such a position at the moment. No scrying as of the time being.

Kel'Thuzad quite liked swaying lazily in the Sunwell while everyone wanted to but couldn't kill him all the while poking at Jaina's slip ups/cover story. I'd say closer to 60%+. Silvermoon never actually fell before the elves fled, and Kael was there this time to burninate all the things. Though one could argue some would refuse to leave their homeland/died on the way out when the Legion was spreading through Lordaeron/Quel'Thalas.

Nah, Dar'Khan died, but not before he slipped Kel'Thuzad in.

We'll go with the tanks being in Ironforge.

Arrrghhhh time traveling/rules/laws headacheees. Make it all go away.

Haven't yet decided on who gets the ol' Frostmourne, leaning towards Varian Wrynn at the moment. His wife being re-animated could be a mega destabilizing gut-punch/temptation. Or if he got tricked into the blade, a reward for him like Arthas's horse was to him... yeah idk, the book Rise of the Lich had me weirded at that.

Because she's a bit paranoid/distrustful/skeptical. Because the more who know, the more who could let it slip in the presence of a Bronze. Or if we wanna make a bad argument, because author says so. 'shrug'

Hmm... wasn't aware of Nozzy cheating like that and changing time.

Vulkhanos: lmao, yeah, and its not like I've played WoW front to back either. I have decent knowledge up to WoTLK, but everything futher is mostly WoW Wiki or light dabbling. I certainly have my own innacuracies as well, so, we'll see how it goes.

Guest: Yeah, there will be overviews rather than rehashing explanations to everyone.

Ander Arias: Sally is alive and on the ships.

As for Naga, wait and see, there will be a few things Jaina doesn't expect, or doesn't realize will draw attention from certain powers. You'll have to w&c on a few things.