…how much would the Horde have changed?
Wow, so full disclosure I originally intended this to be MUCH more condensed but as usual I started writing and couldn’t seem to stop so as a result I ended up with a mini novel.
Derp. This is a LONG read so continue at your own risk!
For this scenario, let’s say Dranosh was about to charge the LK but in this timeline was stopped by Bolvar who reminded him just what a deadly foe they faced and that their only chance was to work together.
Frankly, Dranosh’s reckless charge never sat well with me because it seemed far more in character for someone like Garrosh who was significantly more hot headed whereas Dranosh loved to fight but was a calculating warrior versus a rash berserker. But I digress.
This time, Bolvar leads and blocks the first strike by Frostmourne with his shield while Dranosh seeks an opening to hammer his axe into the LK’s side, only for them both to be knocked back by a howling blast of frigid wind.
As they gather themselves to resist, the Forsaken traitors make their move and begin launching plague indiscriminately. The LK withdraws wounded as both Saurfang and Bolvar are trapped by the advancing mists.
Calling upon the Light, Bolvar burns the surrounding area with his shining aura as Dranosh keeps close. Asking if Bolvar can maintain the aura, Bolvar grunts with effort and shakes his head no, saying it’s taking all his concentration to keep the plague at bay.
He believes however if he channels the Light in front of them, it could temporarily cut a path through the poisonous fog and allow them a chance to escape. On Dranosh’s signal, Bolvar purges a path before them and Dranosh sprints towards freedom.
Hearing only his footsteps however, he turns midstride to see Bolvar collapsing after spending all his strength to clear a path for Dranosh. A weak smile creases his tired lips and he mouths ‘go’ as the fog closes in.
Dranosh roars in denial but is forced to keep running, barely reaching freedom as the plague fills in the space where he had vacated only seconds ago.
As he watches the Red Dragons burn the surrounding area, he roars to the skies in grief and anger. He will kill the LK, but first the treacherous Forsaken will pay for their betrayal.
Leading the Horde forces into Undercity in Thrall’s stead, he expresses disgust at the scale of the betrayal and admonishes Sylvanas for so foolishly trusting a Dreadlord. When Varian confronted them seeking vengeance, Dranosh averts the violent confrontation by stepping forward and speaking of how Bolvar’s bravery saved his life. His honorable conduct as well as the implicit promise that the Forsaken’s actions would be VERY thoroughly scrutinized by Warchief Thrall causes Varian to soften and agree to withdraw Alliance forces peacefully as Jaina sighs in relief.
Sylvanas smirks and comments about his seeming fondness for Humans, only for her smile to disappear as Dranosh angrily whirls on her and says they only just averted a war that was almost started because of HER failure, so who was she to lecture him? Stepping closer till they were eye to eye, he growled that he’s still not fully convinced this coup was a mere lapse in judgment on her part and that he intended to keep a VERY close eye on her in the future.
‘Your dedication to the Horde is as inspiring as ever, General,’ she says in a cordial but mocking tone. Glaring, he stalks away, Sylvanas’ red eyes following him as her quirked smile slowly fades to be replaced by a cold mask of anger.
After the fall of the LK and the first hints on the Cataclysm begin, Thrall lays down the mantle of Warchief and contentedly passes it to Dranosh Saurfang, now a hero known and respected throughout the Horde who accepts it to wide acclaim, even by Warlord Garrosh who is relieved to not be asked to accept such a burden.
Seeing the Horde in capable hands, Dranosh’s father Varok steps down as High Overlord and seeks a simpler life away from battle to finally find peace. As a reward for his service in Northrend, Warchief Dranosh’s first act is to promote Garrosh Hellscream as the new High Overlord in his place.
Some of the leaders like Cairne express concern over this appointment, citing Hellscream’s hatred of the Alliance as a potential problem to a lasting peace if given too much leeway. Privately agreeing but seeing this as a learning opportunity for Garrosh as he sees the potential within him, he tells Cairne to act as the moderating influence needed to draw it out.
As the Cataclysm begins to shake the world, High Overlord Garrosh immediately advocates using the chaos to seize the initiative against the Alliance and secure valuable resources, a suggestion Warchief Dranosh flatly rejects as both a betrayal of the fragile peace forged between the two factions in the wake of the LK’s defeat and a critical distraction from the true threat, the Twilight’s Hammer and their master Deathwing.
As Hellscream’s passionate arguments turn vitriolic and he accuses Dranosh of favoring the Alliance over his own people, Dranosh slams his fist upon the table silencing any further discussion and sternly orders Hellscream to obey his orders or he will find someone else who would. Gritting his teeth angrily, Hellscream acquiesces though with ill grace and leaves.
After hearing of the disguised Twlight Hammer ambushing and killing the Horde Druidic delegation, to Hellscream this is the proof he was looking for of Alliance treachery and he storms into the throne room demanding an audience with the Warchief.
Telling of the Alliance’s seeming attack on their sovereignty, Hellscream once again requests the right to order the Horde’s military to war and to strike at the targets he previously outlined in retaliation. However, Dranosh is not so convinced as he sees such an attack by the Alliance as out of character. Seeking answers, he once again refuses and calls on Cairne to investigate the matter thoroughly so that the truth may be known.
Outraged, Hellscream once again pleads with Dranosh over the seeming treachery of the Alliance and demands action, only for Dranosh to once again flatly refuse and sternly tell Hellscream they will seek the truth before committing the Horde to an unnecessary war.
Overstepping his bounds, Hellscream angrily calls Dranosh a coward unwilling to protect the Horde in favor of his fragile alliances and challenges him to Mak’gora for leadership of the Horde.
Silence greets this pronouncement to be broken by a furious Cairne who starts to tread purposefully towards the defiant Hellscream. ‘You DARE…!’ he begins only to be stopped by the firm grip of Dranosh on his shoulder who steps forward and coldly accepts the challenge.
Smirking, Hellscream bows and leaves to prepare. Cairne incredulously questions why Dranosh accepted, stating such insubordination must not be tolerated and even offers to act as the Warchief’s champion in his stead to teach this arrogant upstart a lesson.
Shaking his head calmly, Dranosh states that Mak’gora is quite specific…he was challenged and he will face Hellscream. What he needs Cairne to do however is equally important…find the truth behind who attacked their Druids and sought to bring the Alliance and Horde to war.
The day arrives and Dranosh faces off against Hellscream in Mak’gora. As the signal is given their weapons clash and the fight begins in earnest, Hellscream’s brash attacks being expertly deflected by Dranosh’s more clinical approach as he searched for openings.
As their weapons lock and Garrosh pushes hard to inch Gorehowl closer to Dranosh’s face, Dranosh’s nostrils catch a strange scent coming from it and his eyes widen in surprise. Poison, and a potent one.
At first confusion and rage threatened to overcome Dranosh and he suddenly moved to the side, momentarily unbalancing Hellscream which allowed Dranosh to deliver a thunderous kick to his back which sent him tumbling before quickly regaining his feet. Was Hellscream so consumed by his obsession with the Alliance that he’d stoop to such cravenly dishonorable means to have the war he craved?
As he watched Hellscream advance warily, his rage cooled and he mentally shook himself. No. Hellscream might be passionate and reckless, but at his core he was an honorable Orc who would rather die than stoop to such means to achieve victory. Which means, thought Dranosh grimly, someone else wanted him to die.
Expertly deflecting a series of vicious strikes, Dranosh carefully took in the surrounding crowd until his eyes found who he was looking for. MAGATHA, he breathed as she stared back unblinkingly, a slight smirk quirking her lips.
Of course. The enmity between Garrosh and Cairne was well known and if he became Warchief, it would be simple for her to turn the impressionable warrior against him, perhaps even goading them into another Mak’gora. And if he died here, nobody would know about the poison.
NO, he breathed, I will NOT die here. As Hellscream swung Gorehowl once again, Dranosh’s fingers loosened and his own axe fell to the ground. He saw Hellscream’s eyes widen momentarily in surprise as he suddenly stepped forward inside the arc of the axe and gripped the handle firmly, arresting its progress. Before Hellscream could react further, Dranosh pulled hard and brought Hellscream forward for a thunderous headbutt. With a sharp crack, Hellscream’s nose was broken in a spray of blood and his grip on his axe momentarily loosened in surprise and pain.
Seizing the opportunity, Dranosh let his body fall backwards while pulling hard on Gorehowl’s handle. As Hellscream fell forward with him, Dranosh placed a foot firmly against his foe’s stomach and pushed, flipping Hellscream over him to crash in a heap and leaving Gorehowl in his hands.
As Hellscream scrambled up with a look of panic on his face, Dranosh tossed away Gorehowl to the murmuring surprise of the crowd. Hellscream was also astonished, but a grim smile soon crossed his blooded face. Time to end this thought Dranosh as Hellscream moved forward purposefully.
With a roar, Hellscream suddenly leaped forward, surprising even Dranosh with his speed. As they crashed to the ground, Hellscream scrambled atop and began raining blows towards Dranosh’s face that he tried somewhat successfully to deflect.
‘I’m not doing this for myself!’ roared Hellscream, ‘I’m doing this for the Horde!’ as the raging pummeling continued.
Ancestors, breathed Dranosh, he really did think he was doing the right thing. Pity welled in his heart. Hellscream might be foolish, reckless and easily manipulated but his love for the Horde was genuine, he truly DID want the best for them.
However, thought Dranosh with a snarl as his palm caught Hellscream’s descending fist, belief alone was not enough. Clenching his fist, Hellscream grimaced in pain as his knuckles cracked painfully and Dranosh used the opening to deliver a thunderous roundhouse to the side of his face. Sailing off, he crashed onto his back as Dranosh stood upright once again.
He could feel the painful bruises starting to form on his face, but he stoically ignored them as he advanced on Hellscream whose chest was heaving in exhaustion as he attempted to get back on his feet. Still on one knee, he attempted a weak punch towards Dranosh that was easily deflected and answered by another blow to his face. Spitting blood and wheezing, he swung again wildly but missed as a vicious kidney punch followed that tore the breath from his throat in a painful gasp.
Dazed, he felt a firm grip on the back of his head as his face was forcibly pulled into Dranosh’s raised knee and black spots began to fill his vision as his already broken nose was ground against an unyielding object in exquisite agony.
Roaring in effort, Dranosh lifted the stricken Hellscream above his head and held him aloft for the awestruck crowd to see before slamming him to the ground with a bone crunching crash.
As the dust settled, Hellscream lay on the ground, bloodied and covered in bruises as he coughed blood. He weakly tried to rise once again but this time failed, crashing back to the ground in an exhausted heap.
A shadow loomed over him and he looked over to see Dranosh standing over him, Gorehowl in his hand. He chuckled weakly. ‘W-well fought, Warchief’ he enunciated. ‘Now I ask you to grant me one last boon…a warrior’s death.’
Nodding slightly, Dranosh raised Gorehowl and Hellscream closed his eyes, willing himself not to shake as he heard the distinctive whistle arc downwards.
To his surprise, he heard a thunk next to his ear and he opened his eyes to see Gorehowl buried in the sand next to him. Dranosh leaned forward, hand extended.
‘This is not the end for you High Overlord,’ said Dranosh. Hellscream snarled. ‘The rules of Mak’gora are clear! You defeated me, my life belongs to you!’
‘Your life belongs to the Horde and it has need of you still, as do I.’ Dranosh’s hand remained extended. Hesitantly, Hellscream reached up and then gripped the hand as Dranosh pulled him upright. ‘Why?’ Hellscream whispered. Out of the corner of his eye, Dranosh saw Cairne emerge from the crowd. ‘Because,’ said Dranosh beckoning Cairne forward as the crowd parted to allow his passage, a clinking sack fixed to his belt, ‘You have been deceived…we all have.’
‘My Warchief,’ Cairne said, kneeling. ‘Our scouts have investigated the scene as you ordered and conferred with our Alliance counterparts as well.’
He glanced at Hellscream as Dranosh nodded for him to continue. ‘You were right, we have all been deceived my Warchief. It was not the Alliance who slaughtered our Druids, but cultists from the Twilight’s Hammer seeking to draw us into a war while the true conflict raged elsewhere.’
Opening the sack hanging from his belt, he tipped it upside down and several wickedly serrated weapons clattered to the ground made of a metal that seemed to suck the surrounding light into it with a subtle wrongness.
‘Infiltrators…’ breathed Hellscream, picking up one of the unnatural weapons in disbelief. His fist clenched tightly around the handle before throwing it back to the ground. ‘Then I have been played for a fool,’ he whispered, closing his weary eyes in shame. A hand on his shoulder caused him to open them and, to his surprise, it was Cairne’s.
‘We were ALL nearly deceived little brother,’ Cairne said softly, kindness in his eyes. Unsure of what to say, Hellscream nodded wordlessly before turning and kneeling before Dranosh.
‘My Warchief,’ he intoned. ‘I raised my weapon against you from deception and sought position that I know now is not rightfully mine.’ He swallowed but continued on resolutely. ‘My life is yours and I will accept any punishment you see fit.’
Dranosh smiled wearily and, gently taking Hellscream’s arm, bade him rise. ‘As you said, deception guided your blade not malice.’ He placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘You are a true son of the Horde and your passion is admirable, but it must be tempered with wisdom lest those seeking to destroy us turn it towards malicious ends.’
‘You have my trust now and from this point High Overlord, see that it is vindicated,’ he added with a grin. Hellscream finally broke a smile of his own and nodded. ‘Aye Warchief, for the Horde!’
The officiator, unsure of what to do, finally stepped forward into the ring. With an acknowledgment from Dranosh, he spread his arms wide. ‘Mak’gora has been decided and the victor is claimed! Honor has been satisfied!’
‘Not quite yet,’ said Dranosh, turning to draw Gorehowl from the ground where it had remained standing. ‘My Warchief?’ asked the old shaman in confusion. ‘There is still a matter of honor to be settled…’ he breathed coldly, lifting Gorehowl purposefully and pointing it down the arena, all eyes now following it to an old Tauren female with a look of dawning horror on her face.
‘Hold her,’ growled Dranosh as Magatha began to inch back. Turning to flee, she ran straight into a Horde Grunt who quickly restrained her left arm as another appeared from the right and bound her remaining arm. ‘Walk with me,’ said Dranosh quietly as he slowly walked towards the immobilized Tauren, Cairne and Garrosh glancing at one another in confusion but following quickly behind.
‘Magatha?’ asked Cairne, uncertainty written on his features. To her credit, she didn’t flinch even as Dranosh stopped mere inches before her, Gorehowl held menacingly in his grip.
‘Are you often in the habit of blessing the weapons of Mak’gora?’ asked Dranosh coldly. Wisely, she chose not to answer. ‘A most interesting blessing you gave to the High Overlord’s weapon no?’
‘Warchief?’ asked Garrosh. ‘I don’t understand…the fault was mine, Lady Magatha merely consented to bless my weapon.’ Turning to Garrosh, Dranosh shook his head sadly. ‘What she gave you was not a blessing,’ he said, turning back to stare at Magatha. ‘It was poison,’ he said loudly so the surrounding crowd could hear.
Gasps and angry murmurs began to fill the area as Garrosh and Cairne looked on, dumbstruck. ‘Magatha…’ Cairne rumbled, rage filling his voice. ‘What have you done?’ ‘That…that can’t be right,’ breathed Garrosh. ‘I watched her apply it myself.’
‘Yes, she was quite subtle about it,’ said Dranosh, lifting Gorehowl and inching it towards her face. Now she did flinch, straining her neck to keep as far away as possible as if the weapon were a fiery poker though the Grunts held her firmly in place. ‘But not quite subtle enough,’ he hissed.
Quick as a snake he ran the edge of Gorehowl across Magatha’s cheek, making a shallow cut that began to bleed.
‘Nooo!’ she finally shrieked before convulsing and going rigid, her mouth agape and her eyes wide with animalistic panic. Nodding to the guards, Dranosh stepped back alongside them as Magatha slowly sank to her knees, utterly immobilized.
‘As I said,’ Dranosh said with finality, ‘poison,’ as he tossed Gorehowl to Garrosh who caught it gingerly as if handling a venomous snake. Lifting the edge carefully, he took a cautious sniff, eyes widening.
‘You!’ He whirled on Magatha, still helpless as his face turned thunderous. ‘You sought to steal my honor? To make me your unwitting assassin???’ Seething, his hands gripped Gorehowl’s shaft until it shook.
He ached to plunge it into her exposed neck, he could already imagine the gout of blood fountaining from her corpse. It would be so EASY.
He closed his eyes, blew out a deep breath and lowered Gorehowl. Not again, he promised. Twice today his passion had nearly caused catastrophe, but he was the High Overlord now and the Horde could no longer afford to be ruled by passions, it had to be ruled by wisdom.
Glancing over, he saw Dranosh smiling with pride. He grinned. ‘I see you decided to teach me two lessons today my Warchief.’
Nodding sagely, Dranosh turned back to the helpless Tauren before him. ‘Magatha Grimtotem, you have conspired to dishonorably strike down your Warchief and push the Horde into a deceptive state of war. You have committed the ultimate sin and betrayed the Horde, and so you will pay the ultimate price.’
Hushed whispers filled the crowd as Dranosh turned to Garrosh. ‘High Overlord,’ he intoned solemnly. ‘Her life is yours.’
Grinning savagely, Garrosh began to move forward before suddenly halting. ‘With respect my Warchief,’ he said turning to Dranosh, ‘her life should not lie in my hands.’ He looked at Cairne who started in surprise as Garrosh tossed Gorehowl to him.
‘It should lie in his.’
A look of newfound respect crossed Cairne’s face and he nodded graciously before turning to Dranosh expectantly. ‘Agreed,’ he said, looking at Cairne. ‘Do what you must.’
‘For the Horde,’ breathed Cairne as he strode purposefully towards Magatha, Gorehowl hefted with lethal intent. Stopping in front of the stricken female, he looked down, his eyes filled with rage.
‘I trusted you,’ he whispered. ‘I let you live when the other tribes called for your head because I still believed that you could change, that with time and patience you and the Grimtotem would come to embrace the Horde as brothers like we did.’
His hands gripped Gorehowl’s shaft tightly, cold anger filling him. ‘I see now that was a mistake, the naive hope of an old bull who didn’t want to face the truth of what you are and have always been.’
Lifting Gorehowl above his head, he stared into her eyes and banished the pity her silent pleas tried to instill in him. ‘You are a venomous pit viper who has poisoned our people and the Horde with your very existence. And to save the body, I will cut you out!’
With a roar of fury mixed with equal parts anguish, he brought down the axe and cut her thread.
Silence filled the air as Cairne slowly turned, lifting the bloodied axe aloft. ‘So perish all traitors!’ He roared. ‘For the Horde!’
‘For the Horde!’ echoed Dranosh and Garrosh, fists raised in the air and crowd took up the chant. ‘FOR THE HORDE!’