I was checking out the latest Beta stuff today, and noticed something unusual. There's a new Feat of Strength pertaining to the attack on Theramore. Called Theramore's Fall, there's one for Horde, and one for Alliance.
Now, the Alliance one reveals something interesting. Theramore's Fall: Protected Jaina as she recovered the Focusing Iris from the Horde-ravaged ruins of Theramore.
So wait. Jaina has to recover the Focusing Iris from the ruins of Theramore? Would that be the same Focusing Iris that Malygos was using to control the surge needles, distorting and manipulating Azeroth's ley lines so that all magic began to flow into the Nexus? And the same Focusing Iris that the Dragon Aspects used to channel their magical power into the Demon Soul, to empower it so that it could defeat Deathwing?
Why is it in Theramore??
We never really do find out what happened to it after the Aspects used it to charge up the Demon Soul. And you know, this probably isn't something that should just be left lying around. We're talking about an extremely powerful artifact created by Malygos, the Aspect of Magic, at the height of his power, using his own blood. We've seen in the past that someone can use the Iris to divert and mess around with all magic on Azeroth through tapping into the ley lines, which is rather significant. And the Aspects - essentially Warcraft's demigods - needed it to charge up the Demon Soul, perhaps because it let them focus their power into an single concentrated point, or perhaps because it could absorb/contain such raw, unbridled power in a controlled manner.
And speaking of the Aspects! They crammed unimaginable energy into the Iris. Even if the infusion was temporary, and ended up focused/diverted away into the Demon Soul, do remnants/traces of that awesome power remain? Pouring that much magic into something has to have some kind of effect on such a potent artifact, especially considering its purpose and function. Just imagine - if it was capable of altering the behavior of magic on the entire planet before the Aspects lit it up, what can it do now?
It's a hell of an unknown.
So why would an artifact this dangerous be in quiet little Theramore? The answer is obvious, really: Jaina. She's immensely powerful, perhaps one of the strongest mages still alive today, and she's got LOADS of experience in terms of threats on a global scale. She studied under Antonidas and Aegwynn, and has had huge leadership responsibilities since she was barely out of her teens.
Besides, who else is going to look after this thing and study it? Who else would you trust with its power? The Aspects are depowered, so Kalecgos is out (and probably has other things to deal with). Dalaran/the Kirin Tor could, but honestly, they really only care about magic, not the rest of the world. And it's not like they haven't had some bad eggs in the past. A Guardian would be nice, but Medivh is gone, Aegwynn is dead, and Med'an doesn't exist in in-game lore yet.
Additionally, I really don't know that anyone else would be universally trusted with the Iris. Oh sure, the Horde might not like giving the artifact to the Alliance, but if there was ANYONE they would trust on the Blue Team not to use it against them, but to protect it for the sake of the world, it would be Jaina. Baine certainly trusts her, and Vol'jin would undoubtedly honor Thrall's faith in her. And who would the Horde want to give it to, anyway? Sylvanas' people? Neeru Fireblade and the other orc warlocks?? Yeah, I don't think so.
It's probably Thrall who ends up handing the Iris over to Jaina, anyway. He's the only non-dragon figure of note present at Wyrmrest Temple, so he probably picks it up, considers the points I've outlined above, and comes to the only sensible conclusion. He obviously trusts her, and he'd also want to avoid giving it to someone on either side who'd use it in the faction war. He knows Jaina wouldn't exploit the Iris irresponsibly like that, so to Miss Proudmoore it would go.
Okay, so it would actually make a lot of sense for the Iris to be in Theramore. And should the Horde attack and seize control of the city, Jaina would be understandably distressed that Garrosh's forces might discover the Iris, and take it back to Orgrimmar to study and use against the Alliance.
I think we can all agree that Jaina would NOT want this to happen.
For one thing, that kind of power in Garrosh's possession? You can bet that's going to send a shudder down every Alliance member's spine.
However, remember that this is a ridiculously powerful relic that just had even more ridiculous power jammed into it. Who knows what kind of state it's in? Who knows what kind of power is still contained within that orb, just waiting for release? And who knows how destructive or terrible that release might be?
I'll tell you. No one knows...with the possible exception of Jaina, who's been studying it and guarding it since Deathwing's demise. She might not be frantic to recover it because of the possible danger to her allies, but because of the possible threat the Iris could pose to the entire world, if tinkered with by untrained hands.
Such as say, oh I don't know, goblin hands?
It's pretty simple Horde math. Goblins make weapons and bombs. Here's this crazy powerful artifact just brimming with power that nobody understands. GIVE IT TO THE GOBLINS TO FIGURE OUT!
Unfortunately, goblin success rate leaves something to be desired. And considering this might be an extremely volatile, ready-to-explode vessel of infinite magical energy...yeah, that's not good.
Sure, Garrosh could send it to Silvermoon, but I somehow suspect he is going to want to keep such a prize right at home under heavy (and trusted) guard, and also, where he can watch over it. He might even have heard the warnings about the Iris, but since they came from a human, he'd almost certainly disregard or distrust them.
Imagine what kind of effect this awful moral dilemma would have on the kindly Jaina, too. Seeing her city in ruins, seeing her friends and citizens lying dying and wounded in the streets, but being unable to help them because she has to look at the bigger picture, address the bigger, global threat. She can't afford to wait for reinforcements, she can't stop to catch her breath - if the Horde makes off with the Iris, Azeroth itself might be doomed. She's the only one who can prevent this.
And yes, she'd put the recovery of the Iris first, because it has to be done, but oh, what a gaping wound it would tear in her soul, to be forced to ignore the cries and pleas of her people.
Now, I think this is all pretty plausible. I could envision Theramore's destruction playing out exactly like I've described so far, with Jaina making a desperate retributive strike against her occupied city to recover the oh-so-dangerous Focusing Iris before it's too late.
But what about another scenario?
Maybe Jaina's not recovering the Iris from where she was studying it before the Horde can nab it. Maybe she wants to grab the Iris because the artifact caused the destruction, after being used as a weapon by the Horde!
I've theorized that the Iris might be an arcane time bomb just waiting to explode...so what if that's exactly what happened? What if the Horde were the ones who took possession of the Iris after Dragon Soul, and found a way to overload the magic contained within, causing a catastrophic explosion?
All it would take is a seaside diversion to allow Horde agents to sneak the Iris in undetected, plant it in the heart of Theramore, magically overload it and then GTFO. Or hell, maybe they just drop the damn thing from a zeppelin above the city, and let the fall and impact do the rest of the work.
Perhaps you've seen this Mists of Pandaria Theramore loading screen? (Don't click that link if you don't want to see the loading screen.)
Now this type of attack might seem outside Garrosh's normal methods. And yeah, it is. But then again, things change. From what we know of the Horde come Mists, things aren't great. Garrosh is angrier, war funds are low, and the state of resentment/discontent that has been slowly building in Cataclysm seem to really be stressing the Big G out. It wouldn't surprise me if the Horde decisively lost the first major faction struggle on Pandaria, adding to Garrosh's surly mood.
Something else to consider? Attacking Theramore is a major, major act of war. This is different from skirmishes between naval vessels, or the ongoing clashes in Ashenvale. This is a bold, fuck-you style military strike meant to eradicate.
Problem is, the Horde's leaders are not experienced war generals. Garrosh is an accomplished warrior, and is certainly capable of leading and inspiring troops and being a small-scale hero, but as a general? A strategist? That's totally not his bag.
And the others? Baine is a complete rookie, Vol'jin is more of a foot soldier type, and Gallywix is a merchant. Lor'themar DOES have military leadership experience, but he would not be a good leader of orcs and trolls and tauren, at least, not without some "battlefield cred" first. (And Garrosh probably doesn't even know who he is.)
That, of course, leaves Sylvanas.
And guess what? She IS an accomplished general. She IS a military leader, who has a TON of wartime experience. She's fought and led armies since the Second War, and taken part in every major battle since then. She was (literally) commanding troops when Garrosh was a snot-nosed little puke in Nagrand.
And most importantly? She does not lose.
Look at what Sylvanas and the Forsaken have accomplished in Cataclysm. They took over Gilneas (for a while, at least), destroyed Southshore and seized control of Hillsbrad, Arathi Highlands, and the Western Plaguelands. They essentially have all of the northern Eastern Kingdoms in a stranglehold, and they've done it basically without assistance.
Meanwhile, the Kalimdor Horde forces - made up of orcs, trolls, tauren AND goblins - control Durotan, Azshara, and the Northern Barrens. Mulgore is besieged/fenced in, and the Southern Barrens and Ashenvale are still being fought over.
Garrosh may not like Sylvanas, but he HAS to respect her prowess and capabilities (and likely fears them). When it comes to this assault on Theramore and the planning it will require, he's a fish out of water. And he can't ask Baine, or Vol'jin (not that he would, necessarily). And Garrosh knows it.
Let's face it - if you want a good, blood-pumping brawl, you call on the orcs, the tauren, the trolls. But if you want to WIN, you turn to the expert.
You turn to the Banshee Queen.
And guess what? Unleashing a surprise, devastating explosive attack in the heart of Theramore IS exactly the type of ruthless - but effective - strategy she would employ. We know Garrosh wasn't thrilled to see this type of attack used in Stonetalon, but this is a far more aggressive course of action than what Krom'gar was supposed to accomplish in Stonetalon, and like I said, things in the Horde (when this all takes place) don't sound like they're all that great.
And so, perhaps Jaina isn't recovering the Iris to keep it out of the Horde's hands, but rather, she might be trying to get her hands on it to deactivate it and stop/prevent further decimation to her beloved city. Or who knows, maybe Jaina WAS in possession of the Iris, and Horde agents infiltrated her keep, located the orb, and overloaded it. How would the Horde dig up this info? Well, according to the Horde Feat of Strength, Horde players DO rescue a spy named Thalen Songweaver from Theramore. Who knows what kind of underhanded shenanigans he was up to, behind enemy lines?
In any case, Iris goes boom, Theramore goes splat.
Whatever the scenario ends up being, I think it'll all end in the same way - with Jaina recovering the Iris, but something going Horribly Wrong, with whatever energy still contained within the artifact leaking out and transforming her. Maybe it's damaged in the assault, or maybe there's just too much magic and death and power flying around in the air, causing its power to start coursing out into whoever's holding it. Jaina also might be in a really bad situation, and - especially given her angry, horrified state - might tap into the Iris' magic, in desperation.
One of the most powerful mages alive, student of the mighty archmage Antonidas, student of former Guardian Aegwynn, with years of combat experience under her belt, now empowered by an ancient Dragon Aspect artifact capable of shaping and controlling all magic on Azeroth, which was further enhanced by the combined might of all five (four + Thrall, at least) Dragon Aspects?
Good god, what has Garrosh done??