Partially motivated for Big Bear Butt's writing challenge, but also because I wanted to ruminate on a possible explanation behind Garrosh's eventual downfall, particularly, what could he do that would horrify everyone, even his own loyal followers?
Timeline-wise, I picture this after the initial "on Pandaria" content, where some of these characters are major players. In my mind, this/the attack on Theramore would be the patch prior to 5.3 (The Siege of Orgrimmar).
I make no claim that this story has the best writing, but hopefully it's still enjoyable.
Garrosh Hellscream was in a foul mood.
"Get out! All of you, leave me!" he shouted at the guards, dignitaries and advisors who typically surrounded him in Grommash Hold. One Grunt made to protest, then noticed the fury in his Warchief's eyes and thought better of it. Within seconds, Garrosh was alone in the throne room.
The attack on Theramore had not gone as planned.
It should have been perfect, thought Garrosh as he paced back and forth, replaying the damning events in his head. With one decisive blow, the Horde would finally be rid of the humans' irritating presence in central Kalimdor, and be able to seize the valuable port city for their own use.
And it would have been a tremendous moral victory, as well. Theramore's cowardly attack on Camp Taurajo, and their slaughter of civilians and children, had been weighing heavily on Garrosh's mind for months. This was a crime that would not go unpunished, he had sworn. Theramore would pay for their audacity.
It had always surprised Garrosh that the Horde hadn't done this sooner, actually. Theramore was isolated and alone, far away from any Alliance reinforcements, and surrounded by Horde territory. What a plump, juicy target, ripe for harvest. Crushing Theramore would have given the Horde an unshakable chokehold on the entire continent, one Varian would never be able to overcome.
Garrosh had always assumed Theramore's continued existence was due to Thrall's weakness, or his bizarre friendship with the city's leader, Jaina Proudmoore. Jaina. That slender, scrawny excuse for a female. He had never understood why Thrall bowed and catered to her every whim. What had she ever done to deserve his respect? Who was SHE to tell the WARCHIEF of the HORDE what to do? And she'd had the nerve to teleport into Orgrimmar unannounced, simply to meet with Thrall? Into HIS city? Unthinkable.
Of course, now Garrosh knew better. Theramore continued to stand not because of Thrall's leniency, but because Jaina was a damned monster.
Garrosh roared, and brought Gorehowl down on the massive table the elves had been using for their meetings, splintering it and sending meticulously-written papers fluttering. His cry echoed and bounced about the empty hall. Muttering, he kicked angrily at the wreckage, sending bits of wood and iron clattering across the floor.
The assault had started so well, too. Garrosh had learned from Eitrigg that the only other time the Horde had attacked Theramore, the then-ruler of the city, Daelin Proudmoore, had gone to great lengths to encircle the city with a powerful naval battalion, to protect its docks from Horde attackers. Upon learning this, Garrosh immediately knew that this would be their avenue of attack.
And it had worked magnificently. The city was completely unprepared for the Horde warships that had swooped in and surrounded the docks, gutting their fleet and spitting out dozens of the Horde's finest warriors. Off-guard and surprised, Theramore's defenses fell with laughable ease. After all, they weren't even a real army, just a ragtag militia. They might have been able to take out a crocolisk, or a handful of unarmed Tauren civilians, but they were no match for real warriors.
Garrosh had, of course, led the charge, cutting a swath through the humans' desperate defenses. His target: the central keep, where he knew he would find Jaina. If they could penetrate the keep and eliminate her, the battle would be won.
To his surprise, simply gaining access proved tremendously difficult. The humans stationed here were fine warriors, and did not falter or crumble when Garrosh's legions smashed against them. And though Garrosh had not seen Jaina, her presence was unquestionably felt. Horde soldiers fell in droves around him, crushed by immense chunks of ice that appeared from thin air, or burned to cinders as the air around them ignited and burst into flame.
High above, Garrosh had seen the telltale flash of sorcery and redoubled his efforts, knowing that his troops would continue to be cut down every moment his foe was allowed to work her magic unopposed. Spotting a hole in the human line, he had driven through it, sweeping Gorehowl in a massive arc, driving back the nearest Theramore soldiers.
Before they could pursue, a pair of Kor'kron had stepped in and blocked their path, as he knew they would. Behind the line, they would no doubt be cut down, but Garrosh would be successfully out of the enemy's reach by then. He had allowed himself a proud grin as he pounded up the stairs. Their sacrifice would not be in vain, he had vowed. Blood and glory!
Garrosh had ignoring the frightened clerks and servants as he raced up the stairs, searching for his target. After all, there was no honor in slaying an unarmed foe, especially one who wielded a quill instead of an axe. This was a war strike, not butchery.
Jaina had evidently heard him coming or had been warned by one of her guards, for as Garrosh reached the top of the stairs, a massive gout of flame had nearly taken off his head. He snarled and rushed the sorceress before she could unleash another spell, but every time he drew near, she would wink away or vanish before his eyes, unscathed.
Having little experience battling mages in the past, Garrosh had soon realized that if their fight had taken place in an open field, he would have been killed within minutes. Luckily for him, the crowded, enclosed tower worked in his favor, as he was able to take cover from her spells behind the endless desks and bookshelves, while hurling these distractions at her and drawing dangerously near with his swings, forcing her to retreat over and over again.
Eventually, she had blinked across the room and staggered against the sill, exhausted. Seared and covered in frost, Garrosh had roared and leapt upon her, hurtling Gorehowl down upon her gasping form. To his annoyance, his swings rang off a shimmering azure barrier of force, jarring his hands and nearly sending Gorehowl to the floor.
Snarling, Garrosh had wound up for another blow as Jaina straightened and outstretched her palms, pouring a blinding cascade of energy into her shield. Gorehowl once again bounced away harmlessly, but this time a terrible jolt had shot through Garrosh's veins. However, Jaina had winced as well, and the barrier had, for a moment, shimmered faintly and faltered, its hues flickering and losing their vibrancy. Undeterred, laughing away the pain, Garrosh had rained blow after blow upon his foe, forcing her to focus on maintaining the ward, unable to counterattack.
The pain had been torturous, but this was the fight Garrosh wanted - no dodging about playing raptor-and-hare, but a brutal test of strength and willpower. What would give out first, his body or her magic? His muscles had been aflame, his vision clouded from pain, but Jaina was tiring as well. It was only a matter of time.
With a melodious tinkling like a dropped string of bells, her wards had shattered under Gorehowl's blade, much to Garrosh's relief. The pain had been unbearable, and he hadn't known how much longer he could endure it.
Wordlessly, down on one knee, Jaina had glared up at him, raising her staff defensively. A futile gesture, they had both known, but Garrosh had grinned, admiring her perseverance. Truly, this was a warrior worthy of respect.
"Well fought," he had rumbled, bringing Gorehowl down with aching limbs.
"Jaina, no!" a voice had shouted. To Garrosh's shock and dismay, Gorehowl did not meet staff or flesh, but instead bounced painfully off a dazzling, golden sphere of force. Its light had seared into Garrosh's surprised eyes, leaving his sight blurry and unfocused.
Angry and confused, he kept swinging, determined to crush this latest shield just as he had the others. He had just barely been able to make out her form behind the barrier, and had aimed Gorehowl directly at her, hoping to take them both out in a single swing.
Moments later, Garrosh had let loose a triumphant roar as the shield winked out, and Gorehowl plunged through unopposed, landing with the satisfying, sickening crunch of metal parting bone. Eyes watering, Garrosh had stepped back and leaned heavily on his knees, wincing at the lingering effects of her retributive magic, and shaking his head, trying to clear his vision.
"What...what have you done?" Jaina said, interrupting his recuperation, dread and horror in her voice.
Blinking and rubbing his eyes, Garrosh had looked down to see Jaina, alive and whole, kneeling next to a crumpled form on the ground. Fair-haired, cut nearly in half, whose blood was still dripping from the axe Garrosh was holding in his hands.
A small, tiny body...that of Prince Anduin Wrynn.
Garrosh had choked and staggered back against an overturned table, horrified. A child! Not a trained soldier or a military leader, but a CHILD had fallen to his blade. He had tried to form words of denial, but his mouth would not obey him.
"Murderer..." whispered Jaina, rising to her feet. Anduin's blood stained her robes, and the air around them was cracking and sparking with power. Garrosh had grunted, and forced himself to put his horror aside so that he might step forward to renew the fight.
However, one look at Jaina's face had stopped him cold. Her eyes had been ablaze with fury, tears running unchecked down her face, her features twisted into a pained, tormented snarl. Her anger had slammed into Garrosh, driving him back against the desk. When she lifted her eyes to stare into his, Garrosh saw not the fragile human mage he had been battling moments earlier.
He saw only death before him.
"I did not... I would never-" Garrosh had began protesting, but was forced to dive aside as Jaina sent a torrent of flame at him, wholly incinerating the desk and the heavy shelves behind it. Garrosh had gasped at the destruction despite himself, coughing on the acrid smoke and ash filling the air.
"I tried, Light help me!" Jaina had screamed, hurling a shower of searing bolts at the ducking and stumbling Warchief. "Thrall asked me to give you a chance...to put up with your idiocy, and to not lose hope that one day, we might have peace. And this! This is what we get for our patience!"
She had punctuated her vitriol with an enormous chunk of flaming magma, which had slammed into Garrosh's chest, burning him terribly and blanketing him in scalding cinders. Desperately, he had staggered to a window and thrown himself through as another fireball erupted behind him. Rolling and scraping down the sloped roof, he had dropped heavily to the ground, gazing in dread up at the tower, which was exploding with raw, gathering arcane energy.
Around him, forces on both sides had stopped fighting, staring in shock at the spectacle overhead. Garrosh had limped toward the docks, signalling and gasping through seared lungs for a total retreat. Thankfully, the Theramore soldiers had not seemed inclined to pursue.
Aboard his warship, Garrosh was wincing, getting his burns tended to by a shaman, when the warship alongside his own had exploded in a shower of burning timbers and debris. Horrified, he had looked back to see Jaina standing on the beach, hair distended wildly about her, her body wreathed in fire. She had gestured, and another warship blew apart, shattered by a kodo-sized ball of flame that plummeted unerringly from the clouds.
Jaina's outraged voice had echoed across the waves, chasing him back to Orgrimmar, damning him.
"Yes, 'Warchief!' Run! Run and hide! I will remain and mourn our dead, including poor Anduin, the child you MURDERED! Savor your time, for when we are done here, the entire Alliance comes for you, cowardly Hellscream, and no walls of iron and steel will protect you from our fury! Varian and I will burn down all of Kalimdor to find you. This I swear!"
The voyage back to Orgrimmar had been uncomfortable and painful. Not only had the Horde lost, they had been routed, and their Warchief humiliatingly so. But worse than the defeat was the effect Jaina's words had had on Garrosh's troops. His soldiers, so loyal and faithful, now looked at him askance, sometimes with outright disgust. A child. Their Warchief had killed a boy...an innocent. Instead of reverence and respect, suspicion and anger now adorned their faces when they looked upon him. Even the Kor'kron, his honor guard, could not look him in the face.
Garrosh could not stand it. It was like he was back in Garadar again, an outcast from those he adored and worshiped. To lose everything he had worked so hard for, in a moment's mistake! He hadn't MEANT to kill the boy! Why did he have to interfere? What we he even doing there? He deeply regretted what he had done, and was sickened just looking at the blood still dried on Gorehowl's blade, but this was Jaina's fault, not his...
Garrosh stopped pacing and sighed. He had to face facts. He had lost the respect of the Horde, accident or not, and there was no going back. Furthermore, the Alliance would be storming Orgrimmar's gates soon, of that he had no doubt.
And Varian...Garrosh hated him, but his feelings toward the human king would be nothing compared to what Varian would feel upon learning of his son's demise. He would not stop until Garrosh was dead and Orgrimmar - and the Horde - lay shattered and broken at his feet.
Garrosh could not let that happen. He was Warchief, and it was his job to ensure the Horde's survival. No matter the cost to his own personal honor.
He walked to the front of Grommash Hold, checking to see that his guard had indeed closed the massive wooden door, something that had never been done before. The gate was down, and secured. He was alone.
In the hold's antechamber, just inside the entrance, was an odd wooden bulwark blocking access to the throne room. Visitors had to walk around the curious barrier, which had a few murder holes facing outward. Garrosh's advisors had scratched their heads, but shrugged. They realized that in a full-blown siege, even a few archers or mages placed behind the wall would have a deadly impact on invaders as they funneled into the narrow entrance, directly in their line of fire.
But the strange wall had another purpose, one known only to Garrosh and those who had whispered to him during the hold's construction, telling him to add it to the goblin blueprints.
He stepped up to the bulwark, and reached a hand, still blistered and raw, inside one of the murder holes, locating a small, concealed lever. He took a deep breath, and pulled.
The wall and the section of the floor Garrosh stood upon began to descend slowly into the earth. As Grommash Hold grew distant overhead, only the quiet grinding of goblin-designed gears indicating his movement down the shaft. At his feet, a few small candles flickered, their flames growing weaker and weaker as they descended.
After a few minutes, the platform groaned to a halt, lurching precariously as it did so. Garrosh knelt down and picked up one of the candles, and took a step out. Before him was nothing but inky darkness, and the candle's feeble light was not enough to reveal anything past his own wrist.
He crouched and searched the dirt for the object he had been told would be waiting for him. His fingers closed around a wooden handle, and he rose, touching the candle to oily, waxy filaments. Lifting the torch, he strode out into the darkness, a single star burning in a sky of endless night.
A sense of chilling unease ran through his spine, and he stopped, knowing he had arrived. He could not see them...but he knew they were there, lurking just outside the torch's light, watching, waiting.
"Haaaave you reconsidered our offerrrr?" came the sibilant, grating voice Garrosh remembered. The words echoed faintly, lingering in the darkness that seemed to wrap and plaster itself around his tiny bubble of light.
He grimaced, but nodded. "Things in the Horde are...we did not..." He stopped, then started over again. "I made a mistake...and the Horde's survival is in jeopardy. The Alliance are coming, and my people do not trust me any more," he spat.
"So you agree to our terms, then?" came a different hiss, more distended and warbled than the first. "Say the words, Garrosh Hellscream, and you shall have everything you desire..."
Garrosh hesitated. He knew there was no going back from this...that committing to this pact would be crossing a line he could never return from. But if it meant the Horde would survive...if it meant they might push back the Alliance assault...did he really have a choice?
"Everything I do, I do for the Horde..." he whispered to himself, steeling his heart and preparing himself.
"Weeee do not hear a confirmation, Warchief," rattled the first speaker. "Issss that a yesss or a no?"
Garrosh tossed the torch down to the ground, glaring defiantly up at the shadows surrounding him. "Fine then! I agree to your terms. Be warned, if you do not honor your side of the bargain, I will hunt you down and end you!"
"Soooo be it, son of Grom. The pact is sealed. Ready yourself. What comes next will be...indescribable."
Garrosh took a deep breath, and stamped out the torch.