Chapter Four: Negotiations
Atop Tiragarde Keep, Tanith looked over the growing numbers of orcs, tauren, and trolls. She was very interested in how the creatures appeared. The tauren were huge, cowmen, like minotaurs. But they had longer necks and were more hunched and wielded huge totems. Meanwhile, the trolls were wiry and tall, wielding spears.
It was quite a large army, Tanith doubted she'd be able to defeat it.
Still, the ships coming toward them on the horizon were a clear escape route. Now Tanith just had to get Thrall to let them go. Glancing to where Benedict and Yarrog were glaring at one another, she stood and walked over to them. "Thrall certainly seems to be gathering his full force here, doesn't he?"
"Yes, he's called for help from adventurers across the Horde," said Benedict. "It seems he means to make a statement of how out of our league we are."
"Well then, I guess we'll have to make a statement of the irrelevance of numbers," said Tanith. "Yarrog, have you finished sending out those messages I asked?"
"Yes, I've sent imps to the various forces you specified," said Yarrog. "I doubt they'll come to our aid, though, they hate us as much as the Horde."
"But they're not coming to our aid," said Tanith. "They'll be getting back at the Horde. We're just telling them about an opportunity to do it."
Now came the time.
Thrall came forward, with a peon carrying the flag of parley. Tanith wore her helm and made her way out on foot to meet him. Arriving across from the warrior, she looked him up. He was huge, even for an orc, and wore black and gold armor. His beard was short, and he had long, black hair tied into braids. In one hand was a huge warhammer.
Tanith remembered all the research she'd done leading up to this point. If all went well, there would be no siege. If all did not, well, they'd give better than they got. Nearing Thrall, she drew off her helm.
Thrall recoiled for some reason.
"Jaina!" said Thrall. "What is the meaning of this? Why are you leading these humans?"
Hmm, did Tanith resemble Jaina? She supposed if you lengthened her hair, there might be a resemblance in body type and hair. "Hmm, there must be some mistake.
"I'm Tanith Telus, the leader of the Kul'Tiran Expedition."
"...You look exactly like her," said Thrall. "But I see the difference now. The spirits speak of the blood you've spilled, the atrocities you've committed."
Tanith laughed as she remembered her history. She couldn't help herself, and as she laughed, the orcish guard shifted nervously. Thrall, however, did not flinch. "Is something funny?"
"You're really going to try to take the moral high ground here, then?" asked Tanith. "You, the people who tried to depopulate two continents." She'd heard a history of the Second and First War from Benedict and was amazed at the Alliance's restraint. If they'd tried to pull that stunt on Harlenor, the whole species would have been depopulated.
Then again, if Duke Vanion had been running the defense, he'd have made the orcs eat each other. They'd never have even gotten to Lordaeron.
"The Horde has paid for our crimes with blood and battle," said Thrall. "We no longer seek conquest or domination."
Tanith laughed harder. This was hysterical.
"Stop laughing!" snapped Thrall. "I am Warchief Thrall of the Horde! Do you seek terms or not!"
Tanith got ahold of herself. "Yes, yes, I would.
"I'm willing to accept this land, from this fort to the sea. It shall belong to Theramore from now to the end of time. Also, a tribute in gold, we can discuss the details."
Thrall stared at her. "...Are you joking human? We outnumber you."
"I know," said Tanith with a shrug. "I'm offering you my terms of surrender."
Thrall went still. "...Let me see if I have this straight. You are surrendering to overwhelming numbers, and you want the terms to give you lands."
"Well, that is how the Third War ended for your people, isn't it?" asked Tanith. "You fought on the side of the Legion. Then you changed sides at the last minute to fight in one battle, and then got rewarded handsomely. So there is precedent."
"We are free of Mannoroth!" said Thrall. "And the Warsong's actions were not their own."
"Oh, so you attacked us out of your own free will, then," said Tanith. "Good, I'm glad to know village burning is an accepted form of offering friendship. I'm sure we'll get on great."
"Hellscream acted against my orders," said Thrall.
"Yes, and as a reward for disobeying your orders and starting a war, you sent him to Ashenvale with no oversight." Tanith made a show of recalling the history she'd read up on in Theramore. "There he...
"Slaughtered lots of night elves, hamstrung the defense against the Legion by killing a demigod and... went right back to trying to kill humans. While you... fought more humans.
"Then you had one civil war, where the Warsong weren't punished at all for their crimes and killed one demon."
"It doesn't matter," said Tanith flatly. "Hellscream was under your command. You have to learn to take responsibility for the actions of your subordinates. The funny thing about being in command is this, Thrall; Everything is your fault.
"Even when it's not.
"So yeah, that's the terms of surrender I'm offering. This territory is ours, now and forever. In repayment for your attacks on Theramore, among other insults."
Thrall glanced back to his warriors, then to Tanith. "...You do not seriously think you can defeat us? Admiral Proudmoore is dead! All that's left now is a remnant!
"Why should we give you anything! How can you justify this?"
"We were tricked by demons," said Tanith.
"What do you mean?" asked Thrall. "You employed demons against us!
"Oh yeah, all those orcs we killed. We got tricked by demons," said Tanith. "And I don't feel obligated to explain anything more than that to you.
"You're asking the world to forgive you for much larger atrocities. More than that, you expect it to reward you for doing the bare minimum to clean up a mess you created. So, how about you become the change you're trying to see in the world. And forgive us for a crime we are not at all repentant for.
"It would be hypocritical to declare yourself atoned and judge me irredeemable. After all, we're so sorry for what we did. Won't you forgive and forget Warchief?"
Thrall said nothing.
"Amazing, isn't it? What having a passing interest in history can bring to light?" asked Tanith. "Are you a hypocrite, Thrall?
"Because if you do decide to wipe us out, it raises unfortunate implications. Maybe you aren't repentant at all. Maybe you're using a feigned road to redemption to justify murder for fun.
"And then, maybe, we're the same. And maybe, my actions are right."
"We are nothing alike!" roared Thrall, and the earth trembled.
"Oh, really?" asked Tanith. "How much have you done to make up to the night elves your atrocities? Have you given back the land you stole?"
"That land belongs to the Warsong by right of conquest." began Thrall.
"How convenient," said Tanith. "You are absolved from responsibility for your conquests, but get to keep all the benefits. Have you punished the Warsong for making a deal with Mannoroth?"
"They did not know what they were doing!" said Thrall.
"Neither did we," said Tanith. "I assure you, we are as repentant as you are, Warchief. We're truly, very, totally sorry for our actions. We regret that the situation has come to this, and wish things were otherwise.
"So Thrall, would you like to make amends? Or have it out steel on steel? Because I'm fine with either. I'll leave the choice to you."
"I need no time to answer this," said Thrall. "There will be no terms.
"You and your kind will leave this fortress immediately! You will return to Theramore and abandon all further attacks on the Horde! Jaina will deal with you as her people see fit!
"Do so, or the Horde will wipe you from this world once and for all!"
"As you wish," said Tanith. "I've already got things packed, so we'll be out of your hair soon enough."
There was a brief silence, during which Thrall probably wondered if he had been outwitted. "...What do you mean?"
"You talked me into it," said Tanith. "You win. Your superior martial might has made be give in to your most generous terms. We'll leave Tiragarde with all the plunder we accumulated."
"The plunder will be left behind!" said Thrall, obviously trying to regain control of the negotiations.
"Oh very well, there wasn't much of it anyway," said Tanith.
"...What trickery is this?" said an orc, not understanding what was going on. "What are you playing at."
"No trickery here," said Tanith. "You can have this broken, rundown keep that was a complete waste of manpower with my blessing. Really, giving it up will only consolidate Jaina's power. Thus making the Alliance that much stronger when you try to invade it."
"We do not seek war with the Alliance!" snarled Thrall in frustration.
Tanith smiled. "Well, then we've got no quarrel, do we?" Then she raised her hands outward. "Now, let us declare eternal friendship. After all, my people have redeemed themselves in your eyes. "
"...The Warlock stays," growled Thrall.
"Excuse me?" asked Tanith, letting an edge into her tone.
"The Warlock stays," said Thrall. "You have among you servants of the Burning Legion. They will not return to Theramore."
"The deal is done," said Tanith. "You can't just keep adding new things onto it."
"I will not allow the Legion-" began Thrall.
"Aren't you negotiating with the undead right now?" asked Tanith, remembering hearing stories of a messenger heading that way. "The Undead Forsaken? Benedict told me about them. They murdered an Alliance General during a parley."
"He was a racist," said Thrall. "And he-"
"He was a General of the Alliance and had upheld his end of the bargain," said Tanith. "And he was murdered in cold blood. Accepting the Forsaken into your Horde is effectively legitimizing Sylvanas' assassination.
"What is this? One rule for the Alliance and another for the Horde? Why is Yarrog irredeemable, but Sylvanas a potential ally? Or do you only care about yourselves?"
"You speak as though you care," said Thrall. "All your words mock and belittle us, yet you seek blood and death for its own sake. You wouldn't have done all this if you actually cared."
"Of course I don't care," scoffed Tanith. "I'm a mercenary, and I'm looking out for my employer's interests, whether she wants it or not. As far as I'm concerned, the strong do as they like and the weak do as they must. But you are making claims to higher pretenses, so I'm allowed to point out your failings.
"So, if you want Yarrog, you'll have to break off all ties with Sylvanas Windrunner. Or, I guess you could put a sword to my throat and drop the pretense of heroism you've got going here. I don't mind either way. Of course, if you do that, we're going to have a fight here.
"The plunder is one thing. But giving up one of my companions to you? That's not something any honorable warrior does without blood being shed. Of course, I'm headed to Theramore, and Jaina wants to stay in your good graces. So she might just be the worse man and hang him for you. That way, you won't have to break the deal you just made."
"...Get out of my people's lands," snarled Thrall.
"As you wish," said Tanith.
And she walked back, pleased to find the defenses were well prepared for an onslaught. Mentally, she calculated that Thrall might attack them. Still, she was confident she could hold out until word arrived from the frontiers. Yarrog was waiting for her when she arrived. "How did it go?"
"We got everything we wanted and more," said Tanith, then she glanced at Benedict. "Man the walls; I wouldn't it put it past these ones to launch an attack or two.
"Now we just wait until the ships arrive and evacuate.
"Yarrog, you've got leave to go to Theramore with us as well."
"Me?" asked Yarrog. "I'll be killed as soon as I get there."
"Oh ye of little faith," said Tanith. "Have you no belief in the power of redemption? Ask for forgiveness, and it shall be granted.
"As soon as we arrived in Theramore, you shall publically convert to the worship of the light. You'll go to church every day, say your prayers and do so until I say otherwise.
"And now, henceforth, you shall serve Lady Proudmoore. And it is basically true, if not in the way they'll take it."
Yarrog nodded. "You would make a good Dreadlord."
"What makes you think the beasts won't attack us as soon as we head for the ships?" asked Benedict.
"They're going to have other things to worry about," said Tanith.
A call went out, and the Horde began to mobilize behind them. Right about now, Thrall was receiving news of simultaneous assaults on his borders. None of the attacks could be directly connected to Tanith, who was leaving.
Thus it was that the men of the Alliance cheered to see the Horde rushing away as if in retreat, even as they evacuated. Of course, since the Horde had left, there was no one to hand their plunder over to.
Tanith really, really, loved her job.
Tanith returned to Theramore in triumph.
Men bought eachother drinks as people cheered at the returning warriors. The story of the redeemed Yarrog quickly far and wide. Yarrog seemed to find all this beyond absurd, but Tanith wasn't concerned. Better still, with a sudden increase in numbers, Tanith was rapidly able to set Benedict up with a rank.
It turned out that a lot of people were quite hostile to the Horde, which had wrecked this city. And that the Horde had been humiliated and defeated. All without breaking the truce was the best of both worlds. Plenty of new recruits signed up for the militia.
For her part, Tanith made her report to Lady Proudmoore in private.
Looking at her, Tanith realized Jaina actually did look a bit like her. The facial structure was the same, though Tanith was more muscular. It was all in the posture that the difference was.
"From there, I returned to Theramore alongside the ships," finished Tanith. "The truce is maintained, the Horde now takes you seriously as a power. Your armies are stronger, and Tiraguarde is no longer dividing your authority. I let out some rumors among the people that all this is going according to your plan. So you've more credibility as a war leader.
"You are now more powerful than ever, and in a much better position."
"Except the Horde no longer trust us," said Jaina, who seemed to have no idea what to think. She had probably expected Tanith to act openly against Jaina. Instead, Tanith had simply given her numerous benefits. "They will remember this for years."
Ah, so she was trying to find some reason to get rid of Tanith.
Well, that didn't matter to Tanith in the slightest. So she shrugged. "They'd got bigger problems. When we thought we were about to come under siege, I had Yarrog send messages. They were to Lord Kazzak, the Quillboars, and the Centaurs. In those messages, I explained what was happening. They picked up on Thrall's troop movements, and all attacked around the same time."
"What? Why wasn't this reported to me?" asked Jaina.
"I'm reporting it to you right now," said Tanith. As a point of fact, Colonel Loreena had been sent to the border, just in case. Jaina hadn't established a proper chain of command. So Tanith had been able to insert herself into power easily. With all the new recruits he was mustering, she'd soon have a majority of the army under her belt.
She just needed a proving ground for them. "At any rate, Thrall is now engaged in a war on three fronts.
"Kazzak gets all the credit, of course, or the blame if you work for the Horde. I expect he'll be repulsed shortly, and Thrall will make plans to wipe out the legion once and for all. No loss there. But, with his warriors trust in him shaken, I doubt he'll want to call on you for help. Which means he'll take more losses.
"So we don't have to do anything.
"The Horde, the natives, and the Legion will tear eachother to shreds. This could go on for years, and they'll all be weaker at the end of it. In the meantime, you can increase your defenses and solidify your hold here in Duskwallow.
"When the orcs attempt to destroy us, we'll be in a far stronger position."
"That won't happen!" yelled Jaina suddenly. "The orcs have changed! They are like humans!"
Tanith had the feeling there had been a failure to communicate at some point in their chats. "I know.
"That's why they'll try to destroy us. Haven't you noticed that Thrall hasn't been in a hurry to make it anything more than a truce? Why not make a formal Alliance or pact of friendship?
Your friendship isn't important to him. You aren't valuable.
"As long as he doesn't need the land you're on and has other enemies to fight; he'll let you stay around. But when he wants Duskwallow, he'll enslave you or wipe you out. The strong prey on the weak and the weak do as they must. That's the natural state of the world. Every nation has hawks and doves.
"If you want to change nature, you must first become strong and beat down those who would do what you consider wrong."
"I want you out of Theramore!" snapped Jaina.
Ah, and here the patricidal little fool had acted too late. The doors opened, and several men from Lieutenant Benedict entered. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. Benedict and his ilk are heroes to some of your people, even if they'd never admit it to you. He's willing to listen to me, I've convinced him that you're valuable as a means of keeping the Horde at bay.
"If you exile or kill me, he might just raise some trouble.
"And that'll lead to a civil war.
"Do you want to kill your own people? Or are you going to invite in the Horde to murder your political enemies again? Go crying to Thrall again, and you'll lose what little credibility as a leader you retain."
"...People like you don't get away with this sort of thing, Tanith," said Jaina. "You can't do this forever. Sooner or later, you'll alienate all your allies and die friendless in the wilderness."
"Well then, we'll scarcely notice the difference than if you'd kept on ruling," said Tanith.
"How can you even begin to understand me!" snapped Jaina. "All you care about is war, perpetuating the old hatred! You're doing this to satisfy your ego, and you're going to destroy everything Thrall and I worked to build?"
Tanith sighed. Honestly, she couldn't even hate this idiot. "Thrall and I? I'll let that pass.
"I don't hold you in contempt because you want peace. I hold you in contempt because you are sacrificing your nation for a fairy tale. War is inevitable, and in peace, the wise man prepares for it."
"The Prophet said we would find salvation!" said Jaina.
"Why do you believe him?" asked Tanith.
"He... he was Medivh, the Last Guardian!" said Jaina.
"...So, him nearly destroying the world is to his credit?" asked Tanith. "How do you know he wasn't some other evil power which happened to be working contrary to the Legion? He certainly seemed to care little for humanity."
Jaina said nothing. She had nothing to say.
"In any case, you can rule Theramore however you want," said Tanith. "Make speeches, build orphanages, whatever you want. I'll take care of the foreign policy today. Just remember that you killed your father for absolutely nothing. Think about that."
Then she turned and walked out.
Jaina could teleport out if she wanted to, but Thrall wasn't going to be able to do anything right away. And by the time he did, Tanith would already be well on her way to fixing this mess. She would secure Theramore soon enough.
Later, within a meeting room, Tanith stood by with her Lieutenants. They'd replaced the guards quickly. Word would spread of what they'd done, but Tanith meant to finish things before any action could be taken. Jaina was a weak leader, whose standard reflex was to beg someone to do her work for her out of goodwill.
And she hated resorting to violence.
Tanith was confident she could crush her if it came to it.
"...Have you been sent by the Legion?" asked Yarrog.
"No," said Tanith. "I only came to this world a week or two ago."
"You realize that Proudmoore won't take this lying down, don't you?" asked Benedict.
"Yes, but the orcs are occupied fighting right now," said Tanith. "She won't be able to call on them for help just yet. Our main problem right now is public opinion.
"Everyone loves a winner.
"So, it's time we attacked."
"The Horde?" asked Benedict with a smile.
Tanith looked at the map, and then to a village in Duskwallow Marsh. "No, the Stonemaul Ogres, here. In Brackenwall Village."