In retrospect Garrosh knew that he was very lucky the duel had been interrupted, though he would rather have died than admit it. It was no matter. Thrall had come to his senses and finally issued the command to march upon Northrend, a call that Garrosh had taken to with fervor.
Now he stood in the front hall of the citadel he had built, set upon the land he had conquered, awaiting the arrival of Korm Blackscar. Thrall had remained in Northrend. Garrosh was certain he desired to witness how Garrosh handled the sky-reaver.
Shall you be disappointed once again, Warchief?
Blackscar lumbered in through the doorway, looking around in surprise at his audience. Despite the warchief’s presence, he addressed Garrosh. “You requested I return to Warsong Hold, Overlord,” he said. “I’ve honored that request.”
Garrosh held up the missive on the Broken Front. “Here you detail how one of your patrols prevented the Alliance from taking a strategic point against the Scourge.”
Blackscar broke into a wide grin. “That was a piece of work on their part! Is it not glorious?”
Garrosh looked at the report, then back to Blackscar. “No.”
Blackscar’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“An ambush on open troops waiting to fight is one thing. To attack a regiment already engaged in battle with another from behind? What would you do next?” Garrosh demanded. “Would you sneak into their camp and poison their water? Would you enslave one of their commanders with magic and force him to murder his troops while they sleep? Would you rain disease upon your enemies, like the Forsaken? Would you fight the way they do?”
Blackscar stuttered, at a loss for words.
“There is no combat but honorable combat, Blackscar.” Garrosh held up the report in front of his face and crumpled it in his hand. “This? This is coward’s work! I will not have cowards among my ranks!”
“Overlord,” Blackscar stammered, “if I have brought shame to our cause, I will leave my post.”
“Do you admit to being a coward? Again: I will not have cowards among my ranks. Prove that you are not one, Blackscar. Go back to Orgrim’s Hammer and lead your soldiers in a manner worthy of the Horde. Should you fail, it is not your resignation I will seek, but your head upon a pike. Now get out of my sight.”
Garrosh did not wait to see Blackscar leave. He strode out of the hall and up the stairs to the top of one of the hold’s bulwarks. Up and down he walked, brows furrowed. He examined the status of the defenses and noted to himself what would need fixing, and who was responsible for letting it lapse.
He turned to walk the wall’s length again, and he started when Thrall was in his path. “Yes, Warchief?”
Thrall eyed him thoughtfully. Garrosh did not like the look on his face.
“I think you handled Blackscar well,” Thrall said. “His soldiers' actions at the Broken Front were unconscionable, but he is still a strong commander. Our advance into Icecrown would suffer for his loss. You made the right choice.”
Garrosh pushed past him. “He will only get one more chance. I will not have tricksters and deceivers amongst my ranks,” he answered.
“Indeed,” Thrall called after him wryly. “I recall something someone said to me at the top of the Violet Tower not too many weeks ago. 'A true warchief would never partner with cowards.'”
Garrosh stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned around. Hearing Thrall quote Garrosh’s own words unsettled him. “I am not the warchief,” he answered after a moment.
Thrall chuckled. “I know. True words, still. Fitting for an overlord every bit as much.” Thrall looked about, taking in the hold, the gray sea to the west, and the vast tundra plain that stretched all around them. “This is no small accomplishment, Garrosh. Our holdings are secure, and the front in Icecrown presses forward. You fight alongside your soldiers with courage, and they respect you. You should be proud.”
Garrosh narrowed his eyes.
“I do not regret my choice of commander for this offensive,” Thrall said.
Garrosh blinked in surprise, unsure of what to say. This reaction was unexpected. He shifted from one foot to the other, uncomfortable with the feeling of Thrall’s praise, but not disliking it. “I serve the Horde,” Garrosh finally said. “I will do what’s best for it.”
“That I don’t doubt,” Thrall answered. “And you do well, I am proud to say.”
Garrosh shifted again and looked past Thrall’s shoulder toward the wall behind him. The crimson Horde banner draping its face stirred in a light breeze.
“However,” Thrall continued, “I believe your attitude toward the Alliance is wrong. We cannot win this war without them.”
Garrosh snapped his eyes back to Thrall’s. “My duty is to the Horde,” he responded, “and the Horde alone.”
“Perhaps, Garrosh,” Thrall said, “but bloodshed is not the only way to fulfill that duty.”
Garrosh turned and leaned both hands against the parapet. Behind him he could hear Thrall’s footsteps receding back down the stairs. Garrosh looked toward the overcast sky. Thrall did not understand that the Alliance would never leave them be. It would push at the edges—like the orcs' enemies in Garadar—until the Horde broke. The only counter was to fight, to drive the humans out first. The orcs' security came above all else. There would be no negotiation until the Alliance understood that. Garrosh would not stop. His people would never dwindle, not again. The Horde would never fall.