…have found a way to secure her people’s safety and future without destroying any potential peaceful relations with the Alliance?
I believe there was.
For Sylvanas, I think she made two major mistakes right off the bat: 1) trying to kill ALL of the Alliance forces and 2) keeping Varimathras as her second in command. But what if she made different decisions in this regard?
Let’s say the scenario starts off as it canonically did right after Varimathras ‘killed’ Balnazzar and immediately turned on Grand Marshal Garithos afterwards.
As Varimathras finishes Garithos off and stands up with a smirk on his face, the air suddenly splits with an otherworldly scream and everyone, even Varimathras shouts in pain and clamp their hands over their ears in a futile attempt to stem the agony. Grimacing, Varimathras starts to turn but is suddenly transfixed in pain as three arrows strike him squarely in the back. Falling to his knees, he tastes blood in this mouth but, with a tremendous effort, he manages to turn his head to see Sylvanas Windrunner lowering her bow as the last of her banshee shriek dies upon her lips.
‘You…’ he breathes with a curse, ‘treacherous banshee, you dare…turn on me?’
Sylvanas’ eyes narrow and she takes a calculating step forward as Varimathras flinches. ‘Don’t act so surprised Varimathras, you’re an even bigger fool than I took you for if you honestly thought I was going to spare your life.’ Her lips quirk contemptuously. ‘What were you expecting, that I would make a Dreadlord my second in command? A demon of lies and manipulation at my back to turn my people against me and themselves for your amusement?’
Clever, Varimathras thought in spite of himself as he tried to ignore the burning pain in his back. It’s exactly what he intended to do of course, but he was sure he had been subtle and secure enough in his pledges of loyalty to ingratiate himself into the new order. No matter. The opportunity still existed, he’d just have to up the ante and offer more than he had originally planned to give. Inconvenient, but minor when the alternative was death. He forced what he hoped was a disarming smile and injected a subservient tone into his voice.
‘M-my offer was sincere and my loyalty still lies with you Dark Lady,’ he wheezed, ‘You seek power to overthrow King Arthas yes? I can give it to you and more…secrets from the Burning Legion that have been solely within our province for millenia, a gift without price that I will give freely. With what he has become, you will need what I can offer you if you ever wish to see him dead.’ Pathetic, he thought as he saw her eyes lose some of their hardness and evince uncertainty. Revenge was such an easy motivator for mortals and none were so motivated for it as Sylvanas Windrunner. Give them what they believe they want and they will be yours, their Sire would be pleased.
But then the silence was broken as Sylvanas suddenly began to laugh and Varimathras felt a chill run down his spine that had nothing to do with the arrows sticking there. ‘Your usefulness was at an end as soon as your brothers were dead Varimathras, you have no power that I want nor are you in any position to offer it.’ Her face twisted in utter contempt. ‘Did you think me so foolish as to fall for such a transparent ploy, that appealing to my desire for revenge was all it would take for you to worm your way back into my good graces?’
Cursing inwardly, Varimathras flinched as Sylvanas walked closer and made to raise his arms to defend himself only to find to his horror that he could no longer move his limbs. ‘P-poison…’ he breathed angrily. Smirking, Sylvanas leaned in close, utterly in control as Varimathras began to panic. How had he misread her so utterly?
‘You like it?’ she purred savagely. ‘It’s same one I tailored for that brat Arthas, I’m please to see it effects demons equally.’ She leaned closer to his ear, her next words whispered so that only he could hear them. ‘I will find that bastard one day and I will kill him, but it will be done by MY will and not as a hollowed puppet for your master’s bidding. Goodbye Dreadlord.’
Straightening up, she slowly turned and began to walk away as Forsaken began to edge closer and surround the stricken demon. Looking over her shoulder, she breathed two words. ‘Kill him.’
Cresting the rise, she looked upon the Alliance remnants who were staring at her as well as each other in confusion. Time to diffuse this situation before it exploded, she thought.
‘Soldiers of the Alliance!’ she cried. ‘I am Sylvanas Windrunner, once Ranger General of Quel’thalas until I was slain by the murderous Prince Arthas. Once I was a tool to monsters, but I broke free of the Lich King’s will and sought to free others as well to fight as free men and women, not slaves.’
‘Both Quel’thalas and Lordaeron have been ravaged by the Scourge and both our peoples have suffered for it. So I seek to end any further suffering between us while our true enemy, the Lich King, still draws breath. Therefore, I will give you leave to withdrawal and seek shelter to the south while my people hold the attention of the Scourge here.’
Murmurs began within the Alliance ranks until an officer stepped out, a captain from the look of his armor. ‘You lied to us and killed Lord Garithos!’ he shouted. ‘Why should we believe a word you say?’
Sylvanas closed her eyes in exasperation, I should have known it wouldn’t have been that simple she thought reproachfully. The damnable thing is he had a point and she had given it to him by killing that insufferable man, trying to ignore that wouldn’t help the tense situation and would very likely make it worse.
She never was the political one, that always tended to be the province of her outspoken subordinate Lor’themar Theron. Her heart ached at the thought of him, did he still live? Did Nathanos? Focus, she chided herself. There will be time for such things later, right now she needed to avert a catastrophe to ensure there WAS a later. And to do that, she’d have to start becoming what she had never been…political.
‘Because he left me with no other choice if there was to be peace,’ she said sadly. And before the captain could retort, she continued on. ‘Ask yourself, would Lord Garithos have truly have allowed us to leave after retaking the Capital?’ She spoke louder and more confidently so the Alliance soldiers could hear, inspiration filling her. ‘In your heart of hearts, would he have sought peace or would he have committed you to yet another pointless battle that would have seen both our peoples ravaged and the survivors left as easy pickings for the Undead?’
From the Captain’s silence and the increasingly uneasy murmuring from within the Alliance’s ranks, she knew she had guessed correctly. Well done Theron, she smiled inwardly. She forged on. ‘He did not seek peace and to rebuild, he was a man lost to vengeance who would have spent your lives carelessly for his own ego. For both our peoples to live, he had to die.’
‘Aye, he always was a right bastard!’ said a dwarf in the front ranks with an shrug who quickly feigned ignorance as the Captain rounded on him. Murmurs of agreement began to sweep the ranks and the Captain looked helplessly for support from his fellow officers only to find them stoically inspecting their boots with neutral expressions on their faces.
Defeated, the Captain turned back to Sylvanas. ‘This is still our home too, you’re asking us to abandon Lordaeron for the questionable safety down south. There’s no guarantee the Scourge will even let us leave.’
Sylvanas nodded slowly. ‘My people will guarantee it…by attacking Andorhal.’ ‘Andorhal???’ said the Captain incredulously. ‘But…that’s a Scourge bastion for this entire area! You’d never be able to overcome its defenses even if both our armies attacked it together!’
‘I have no intention of trying to take it,’ said Sylvanas sagely to the Captain’s confusion. ‘But it will have the effect of focusing the majority of the Scourge’s attention on my forces which will give you the opportunity you need to escape.’
Surprise crossed the Captain’s face. ‘You…you’re going to act as bait…for us? I-I don’t know what to say…except…well, thank you. But what about you, how do you intend to hold them off?’
Smiling, Sylvanas spread her arms to encompass the surrounding city. ‘With Lordaeron City under our control and the defenses still mostly intact, we will be able to withstand a siege even from the Scourge.’ Nodding in the direction of the Alliance soldiers, she turned back to the Captain. ‘I suggest you move quickly before you draw too much of their attention.’
‘I agree,’ said the Captain. Turning, he shouted for the officers to move out and the Alliance forces began to head in the opposite direction. As he moved to join them, he stopped and faced Sylvanas once more. ‘I’m still not sure what to make of you or your people my Lady, but I don’t think you are monsters. For what you’ve done and are about to do on behalf of the Alliance, you have my gratitude and if we live through this to see the spires of Stormwind I will ensure King Wrynn hears of your valor.’
As the Alliance army marches out of sight, Sylvanas turns as one of her banshee companions draws close. ‘My lady, you’re really going to let them go?’ she asked. ‘It’s the best option at this point,’ Sylvanas responded simply, still watching as the last of the Alliance soldiers crested the horizon before disappearing. ‘We had them at our mercy and could have killed them easily,’ stated the banshee matter of factly, ‘are you not concerned their leaders may treat us as Scourge and seek to see us eradicated regardless?’
Turning to the banshee, Sylvanas nodded with a weariness she finally let herself show. ‘Yes, it’s possible,’ she admitted. The banshee frowned. ‘Then why take such a risk?’ she asked quizzically. ‘Because we cannot survive much less destroy the Lich King on our own, it will take time,’ said Sylvanas as she closed her eyes tiredly. ‘Time…and allies.’
The banshee quirked an eyebrow. ‘You believe the Humans would ally with the likes of us? They seemed all too ready to destroy us if that human Garithos had given the word.’ Sylvanas’ eyes flashed. ‘I have no great love for Humans especially after what that bastard Arthas did to Quel’thalas,’ she gritted her teeth, ‘or to me.’
After a moment, she let out a deep breath and stared deep into the banshee’s ethereal eyes. ‘But a rather troublesome subordinate whose wisdom I’ve finally begun to recognize taught me that in order for our people to survive we can’t simply be guided by our hatreds, we have to be more than that.’ She turned to look out at the horizon. ‘I have to be more than that.’
‘We won’t forget what Arthas has done and one day our blades will taste his blood, but we will not do so alone. We will seek out those who would aid us, we will fight alongside those seeking the Scourge’s end and we will survive.’
‘Our destiny is now our own, let us seize it.’