The upcoming novel, World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore – Tides of War, is the bridge between Cataclysm and the upcoming events in Mists of Pandaria. Warchief Garrosh Hellscream and the rest of the Horde are poised for an all-out attack on Jaina's beloved home, Theramore. Alliance forces converge on the city to repel the Horde onslaught, but the brave defenders are unprepared for the true scope of Garrosh's cunning and deceptive strategy.
Tides of War depicts the ramifications of Garrosh's shocking assault in this thrilling new chapter in Warcraft's ongoing story.
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Chapter 10: World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War
The Focusing Iris appeared to have sprouted wings, so swiftly was it traveling. Like a mastiff on the scent, Kalecgos had spent most of the day dutifully following where it led. It had been to the northwest of Theramore when he had departed that isle, and Kalecgos suspected it was now in Mulgore, perhaps near Thunder Bluff. When Kalecgos had made it to the Great Gate, the Iris stopped for a moment, then began moving northeast toward Orgrimmar. Kalec followed, flying as quickly as his wings would allow in an attempt to catch up. No sooner had he gotten to the Crossroads than the Focusing Iris shifted course yet again, this time heading almost directly south.
A realization struck him, as shocking as lightning, and his wing beats faltered.
"You are clever, my enemy," he said softly.
They were no fools. But he had been one, more than once on this journey. First he had failed to see through a simple spell. And then he had arrogantly assumed that the thieves who had absconded with the Focusing Iris hadn't counted on being followed.
Of course they had. One didn't steal a priceless magical artifact from a dragonflight without being prepared for repercussions. They had known someone from the blue dragonflight, probably Kalecgos himself, would come in search of the Focusing Iris. They had not only disguised the object but were now ferrying it about somehow from place to place in an effort to exhaust him as he followed something he would never get close enough to find.
He believed the human phrase for such a useless pursuit was "a wild goose chase."
His temper got the better of him, and he bellowed in anger. Not even a dragon could fly ceaselessly. He could never hope to catch it. Even as he realized this, the artifact took a turn toward the southwest.
Kalecgos thrashed his tail and beat his wings, then calmed himself. It was true that as long as the thieves were toying with him like this, he would never get close enough to the Focusing Iris to retrieve it.
But they could not do this forever. As long as the Focusing Iris was flitting erratically from place to place, Azeroth was safe. It would have to come to a halt in order for any use to be made of it.
His path over the last several hours, during which he had been forced to pause and rest, had taken him over Silithus, the Un'Goro Crater, Feralas, Mulgore, the Barrens, and now to—
Northwatch Hold. Or rather, what remained of Northwatch Hold.
Once it had boasted towers, and walls to enclose its inhabitants safely. Once it had been a military stronghold that had sent out scouts and siege weapons, warriors and generals. The troops that had destroyed Camp Taurajo had been garrisoned there. Now it looked as if some giant hand had smashed it like a toy. The towers were reduced to just a pile of stones, as were the walls. The cannons were silent, and smoke wafted upward in a thin gray-black line from a large fire. And swarming around the ruins of a once-proud Alliance hold were hundreds of tiny figures.
Horde. From this height Kalec could not distinguish what races, but he could spot the basic colors of each banner. All were represented here. The wind shifted, and Kalec grimaced as his sharp nose caught an acrid scent. The victors were burning bodies—whether their own in a sober ceremony or those of their enemies, Kalec could not tell, and had no wish to.
The trail of the Focusing Iris continued blithely along. It turned yet again, heading back toward Mulgore, but Kalecgos was no longer following it. With one strong downward beat of his wings, Kalec repositioned his body and changed direction, flying now directly to the south. He knew what he needed to do.
He could track the Focusing Iris from Theramore. And he would. He would wait until it finally came to a stop, until the thieves had tired of the game, and then head directly for it. In the meantime, he would return to Jaina Proudmoore.
From what he had seen, she was going to need all the help she could get.
"How many did he say?" asked Pained. She, Tervosh, Kinndy, and Jaina were in the library, but the long table at which they had spent so many hours recently was no longer covered with books or scrolls. Instead, a large map of Kalimdor was spread out over it, the only books remaining on the table serving to anchor the parchment at each corner.
"He didn't," Jaina said. "At least not specifically. He said only that the Horde's numbers were strong, and as we are now, we would fall."
"Are you sure you can trust him?" asked Kinndy. "I mean, come on—he's a member of the Horde. This could be a trap of some sort. We end up calling in reinforcements and bracing Theramore, and then they attack Stormwind or something."
"For someone so young, Kinndy, you have quite a suspicious mind," said a voice.
Jaina whirled, her heart lightening as Kalec strode into the room. Her pleasure faded somewhat as she caught sight of his face. It was still handsome and smiling, but he was paler than she recalled, and there were furrows in his brow.
"You couldn't find it," she said quietly.
Kalec shook his head. "They're playing a little game with me," he said. "Whenever I get close to the Focusing Iris, they move it somewhere else."
"Trying to wear you out," said Pained. "It is a sound strategy."
"Sound or not, it's as frustrating as trying to haggle with a goblin," said Kalec. "I can sense it from here. I will wait until it slows and stops. Then I will go in search of it."
"Is it safe to wait?" asked Pained.
Jaina answered for him. "We don't know what they're planning, but attuning so ancient an artifact toward whatever it is they want to do will take time and effort. Especially as they aren't blue dragons, and therefore have no innate connection with the Focusing Iris. They cannot perform such complex work if they are traveling with it. Kalecgos is right. When the Iris ceases to move, then he can track it down."
"I hope you have enough time," said Kinndy.
"You would have me out there, flying around uselessly?"
"Well, when you put it that way—no."
He nodded, then turned to Jaina. "I came back for another reason," he said. "It sounds as if you have already heard, but Northwatch Hold has fallen to the Horde. I saw what was left of it."
"We have heard," she said. "From a very trusted source. But—you've seen it. I was also warned that from there, the Horde plans to march on Theramore."
Kalec paled even more. "Jaina—you're completely unprepared for them."
"We were told their numbers are strong," Jaina said. "And that, yes, right now, we aren't prepared for them. But thanks to the warning, I've had a chance to send out some requests for aid."
"I don't know if that will be enough," said Kalecgos. "Jaina, every race of the Horde was there. They have all but wiped Northwatch from the face of Azeroth. The only things that remain are rubble and—and pyres. They've not dispersed. The army—and it is an army—is still gathered. I wish I could truly show you what I saw. If your requests for aid are not met, and quickly, you're not going to survive the attack."
"And then Garrosh will summarily destroy the rest of the Alliance footholds," said Tervosh. Kalec nodded, his eyes somber.
Jaina looked at them, then at Pained and Kinndy. "You're all acting as if the Horde has already won. I won't accept that." She narrowed her eyes and jutted her chin out defiantly. "I believe Kalec when he says they have an army encamped at Northwatch. But if they are there now, then they're not marching. And if they're not marching, then they're not ready to march. That means we still have time."
She moved to the table, feeling Kalec's curious gaze upon her. "Look. Here's Northwatch." She tapped a slender finger on the map. "And here's Theramore." She drew her finger down and to the right. "Over here is Brackenwall Village. Some Horde live there, but it's not a military outpost. It does stand between Fort Triumph and us, however." Fort Triumph was a rather newly established military base. If there had been more time, Jaina thought, it would have sent reinforcements to Northwatch. It might be too late for Northwatch Hold, but she prayed it wasn't too late for Theramore.
"We'll have the soldiers from Fort Triumph march through Dustwallow Marsh. They can avoid Brackenwall if they're careful. We'll also send out runners to Forward Command."
"Any who are left," Kalec said. "When I passed over the area, it seemed deserted."
"Most of them probably went to help Northwatch," said Kinndy quietly.
Which, Jaina thought with a pang, meant most of them were dead. She shook her golden head, almost physically trying to clear the image from her mind's eye.
"Any who escaped the battle probably regrouped at Fort Triumph rather than Ratchet," she said. "It's the first place we should look for survivors."
Kalec stepped beside her, his focus on the map. She looked at him in query, expecting him to have a comment. He shook his head. "Go on," he said.
"Theramore is both uniquely vulnerable and highly defensible, depending on how fast reinforcements can get here. If we act quickly, Stormwind can send several ships, and any Horde vessels that attack will, hopefully, not even get close enough for their crews to come ashore." She placed a finger on the map and drew a half circle around Theramore.
"If the Horde reaches the harbor first," Pained said, "we will have no chance at all."
Jaina turned to look at her. "That is true," she said. "Perhaps we should all just lay down our arms and go to the dock so we can greet the Horde and thus save ourselves the trouble of a battle."
Pained's purple-pink cheeks flushed a darker hue. "You know I do not advocate that."
"Of course you don't. But we have to go into this battle thinking—no, knowing—we will succeed. I welcome all comments about flaws in my planning," she said, addressing this to Kalecgos. Pained, Kinndy, and Tervosh already knew Jaina was open to constructive criticism. "But comments like that, Pained, do nothing save drag us down. Theramore has defended itself well in the past. We will do so again."
"Whom have you sent letters to so far?" asked Kalec.
Jaina smiled a little. "Letters? None. Nor have I teleported. I have a way to instantly communicate with King Varian, young Anduin, and the Council of Three Hammers."
"That must be interesting," said Kalec. "From what I hear, the three dwarves seem inclined to agree on very little."
Not so long ago, Ironforge's leader had been Magni Bronzebeard. In an attempt to better understand the unease of the earth prior to the Cataclysm, Magni had performed a rite to make him "one with the earth." It had succeeded, after a fashion. Magni had been turned into diamond, indeed becoming one with the earth. After a brief time of chaos—during which Magni's daughter, Moira, attempted to claim the Ironforge throne and rule with the Dark Iron dwarves—order was restored when a council was formed instead of continuing the tradition of a single ruler. Each clan of dwarves—Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron—now had a representative. The ruling body was called the Council of Three Hammers, and while its members cooperated, getting unanimity on anything was a challenge.
"It would seem that no one likes the idea of the Horde running Kalimdor," Jaina said. "While they might argue some of the details, all three were in agreement about that."
Kalecgos suddenly looked uneasy. Jaina thought she knew why. Gently, she placed a hand on his arm. "You are a dragon, Kalecgos," she said. "You don't need to be involved in this. Especially since you are a former Aspect who is already preoccupied with tracking down a stolen artifact."
He smiled gratefully. "Thank you for understanding, Jaina. But… I would see none of you come to harm."
"Lady Jaina knows what she's doing," said Kinndy. "The Alliance will come to protect its own."
Kalecgos shook his head. "This is more than a scuffle or a raid on a small village. If the Horde succeeds, Garrosh would not be overconfident to assume that he could indeed control Kalimdor. I… will need to think on this before offering my aid. I'm sorry, Jaina."
He looked into her eyes, and she knew with perfect understanding how much this was tormenting him. Their hands, seemingly of their own volition, met and clasped. Jaina found herself reluctant to let go, but she had time only for the defense of Theramore right now.
"We need to take steps immediately," she said. "I'll go contact Varian. Pained, you go among the soldiers, both here in Theramore proper and those stationed along the roads. If Sentry Point is without at least one horse, get them one. They need to be able to ride swiftly to inform us if the Horde approaches."
The night elf nodded, saluted, and left at a running trot. "What about the civilians?" asked Kinndy. "Should we tell them?"
Jaina considered, her brow furrowing in thought. "Yes," she said finally. "Theramore was originally a martial city. Those who choose to dwell here know its strategic position. We've been fortunate ere now. They will understand and obey our orders."
She turned to Tervosh. "You and Kinndy start going door-to-door informing the citizens. No more ships are to set sail from this port. We need every single vessel we can muster. Those civilians who wish to leave may, though I believe they'll be safer here than in the marsh with the Horde approaching. The gates will be open until sundown, at which time they will be closed and not reopened until the danger has passed. I'm also putting a curfew into effect at two bells beyond sundown."
"Why not at sunset?" Kalec queried.
"Because they are people, and they need to feel like people, not trapped animals. Two hours past sundown will give everyone the chance to have a meal at an inn with their family, or a drink or two with friends by the fire. Such simple things will remind them, when the fighting does come, what they are fighting for: not just an ideal or even their own lives, but also their homes, their families, their way of life."
Kalecgos looked surprised. "That… had not occurred to me."
"And two hours isn't really enough for anyone to get into trouble," said Kinndy. "Good idea." Jaina gave her a bemused glance and wondered how she knew about such things.
"Thank you, world-weary one," Jaina said, smiling as the gnome rolled her eyes. "Any questions?"
"Nope," said Kinndy. "Come on, Tervosh. I'll go down to the harbor; you go talk to the soldiers at Foothold Citadel. While you're there, find out what supplies Dr. VanHowzen is going to need to treat the injured. I'm sure there are many civilians here with first aid training who will be glad to help."
Tervosh suppressed a grin. "Yes, boss," he said as Kinndy waved absently at Jaina and Kalec and started descending the stairs at a brisk pace. Shrugging, Tervosh followed her.
"Your apprentice is most self-assured," Kalecgos said.
"A quality I have no desire to see her lose," said Jaina. "Few things are more dangerous than an insecure mage. Indecision at a crucial moment can cost lives."
He nodded. "Very true. Now… what can I be doing to help?"
"I will let you know. First, I need to contact King Varian," she said, adding apologetically, "I'm not sure he'd be particularly glad to know there is a blue dragon here."
"Ah, yes, I can quite understand that," said Kalec. "I will return to my quarters until you send for me."
"No, you can come," Jaina said. "Just don't stand in front of the mirror."
He looked at her, baffled, and she smiled.
Kalecgos followed Jaina as they went from the library, which of course housed hundreds of books, to her parlor, which probably only housed dozens. Jaina stepped up to one shelf and touched three books in what struck Kalec as a very precise order. He was not altogether surprised when the bookshelf slid aside to reveal a mirror, oval and not elaborately framed, hidden behind the books. Kalec blinked. In the mirror, he saw Jaina's reflection and his own.
"You did mention a mirror. I assume there is more to this than a way to discreetly tell me I need to shave?" he joked.
"Much more," she said. "It operates using the same methodology, the same math"—she bowed slightly—"that a portal does. Except it's much simpler and more basic. Portals actually have to be able to physically transport someone somewhere. The mirror just allows viewing of a different place and, if the timing is right, other people. I'm going to use this to contact Varian. Let's hope he's nearby, or we will have to try again."
Kalec shook his head, again marveling at the wonderful lack of complexity of the younger races and their spells. "I know of this sort of spell. Very old, and very simple. Just like the 'costume' spell the thieves utilized to hide the Focusing Iris from my detection."
"Yet your flight doesn't use such things?"
"Most would think it beneath them to use a garden-variety spell like this one," he said, adding quickly, "but I think it's brilliant."
"I'm trying not to be insulted," said Jaina. She said the words lightly, but her brow had furrowed again.
"I," said Kalec, reaching for her hands, "am both clumsy and rude. I do think it's brilliant. We dragons…." He struggled to explain the mentality of dragonflights, especially that of the blues. "Dragons seem to think that the more complicated a thing is—the longer it takes to perform, the more ingredients it has, and the more people it requires to participate—the better it is. That goes for clothing, meals, magic, art—everything. They would rather sit down for days and design a laborious spell to teleport a thing directly to their hands than simply get up and fetch the saltcellar."
That got a smile out of her, and Kalec was glad. "So, you like that I'm simple and uncomplicated?" Jaina queried.
All the humor fled him. "I like you," was all he could say. "I've seen you be simple, and I've seen you be complex, and it all suits you. You're Jaina. And… I like Jaina."
She did not let go of his hands; instead she looked down at them. "That is high praise, coming from a dragon," she said.
He placed a finger beneath her chin and tilted it up so that she looked into his eyes. "If that is praise, then you have earned it."
Color suffused her cheeks and she stepped back, releasing his hands and smoothing her robe unnecessarily. "Well… thank you. Now, please, move all the way over into that corner. You should be out of Varian's line of sight there."
"I obey, my lady," he said, bowing and retreating to the corner she had indicated.
Jaina turned to face the mirror. She paused for a moment to tidy a stray lock of hair and inhaled a deep, steadying breath. Composed, she murmured an incantation and waved her hands. As Kalec watched, her face was bathed not in the ordinary hues of lamp or sunlight, but in a soft blue tint.
"Jaina!" said Varian. "It is good to see you."
"And you, Varian. Although I wish I were contacting you to ask how Anduin's studies are going."
"It sounds as if I should be wishing that too. What's happening?"
Succinctly she informed him of the situation. Word had not yet reached him about the fall of Northwatch Hold. Varian remained silent as Jaina spoke, interrupting only occasionally for clarification. She told him she had received a warning that the Horde's reach far exceeded its current grasp of Northwatch.
"Garrosh wants nothing less than the entirety of Kalimdor," Jaina said quietly. "He will take Theramore and then launch his forces across the continent all the way to Teldrassil."
"If Theramore falls, he could do it, too," growled Varian. "Damn it, Jaina, I always warned you that this Horde you are so fond of would turn on you like a tamed wild beast!"
Kalec raised an eyebrow, but Jaina remained calm. "It is clear to me that Garrosh is the driving force behind all this. The Horde would never have done anything like this under Thrall's leadership."
"But Thrall is not leading the Horde, and now Theramore—indeed, all of Kalimdor—might pay the price!"
She didn't rise to the bait. "It is clear, then, that you realize the severity of the situation."
A sigh. "I do," he said, "and in answer to your unasked question, yes, Stormwind will stand with Theramore. I'll divert the 7th Legion's naval fleet toward Theramore immediately." There was a pause. "And, as things seem to be quiet for once in at least a few parts of this world, I'll notify several of my finest generals to report to you as well. They'll give you a hand with the city's defense, and together you can hammer out a strategy that will send those Horde dogs home with their tails between their legs."
She smiled gratefully. "Varian—thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," the king of Stormwind said. "It's going to take a few days. You'll want a good-sized force to greet the Horde, and some of the generals I want to send to you are stationed in rather distant places."
Kalec's heart sank. The Horde was only a day's march, perhaps two, and its forces were already gathered at Northwatch. Varian's strategy was a good one, so far as it went. But all the king's generals and all the king's ships could not save Theramore if they arrived an hour too late. He wished he could speak but had to content himself with clenching his fists in frustration. What was worse than his own dismay was seeing Jaina looking stunned and worried.
"Are you sure? Varian, Ka—one of my scouts said he saw the Horde still assembled in full numbers at Northwatch."
"If they are still gathered and not yet marching," said Varian, "they obviously are not interested in a swift conquest. They have their own plots. I will move as fast as I may, Jaina, but nothing can change the fact that it will take time to assemble any kind of a fleet that would make a difference. I'm sorry. It's the best I can do."
Jaina nodded. "Of course I know that, Varian. And you raise a good point. I'll be contacting the other Alliance leaders as well. The kaldorei may be able to send both ships and warriors; the dwarves, warriors and perhaps gryphons. I think even the draenei would be willing to help."
"I will speak with Greymane," said Varian. "I know well a few worgen on the battlefield will strike fear even into the hearts of the more bestial members of the Horde."
"Thank you," Jaina said. "Sometimes it's easy to feel a bit deserted here on this island."
"Well, don't," said Varian, but his voice was kind. "Contact me again in a few hours, and we will share our information. Take care, Jaina. We will win this yet."
"I know we will," said Jaina.
And as the soft blue light of the magic mirror faded and her features returned to normal hues, Kalecgos resolved that whatever happened, he would do all he could to make sure Jaina's faith was justified.