As usual, Rommath would not let him have his way.
"Lor'themar," he called again as he caught up to the regent lord. "You cannot seriously—we do not—"
"You heard her, Rommath," Lor'themar interrupted. "We go to Northrend or we lose Forsaken support—and likely the rest of the Horde's as well. So we go." He turned to leave again.
"There are still soldiers in the infirmaries from Quel'Danas!" Rommath continued. "We have not even held a proper service for the dead—by the Sunwell, Lor'themar!"
"We do not have a choice, Rommath; do you not understand that? We do as Sylvanas asks or we quite possibly lose all of Quel'Thalas south of the Elrendar River!"
"So, let it go!" Rommath shouted, and Lor'themar froze in shock. Slowly he turned back once again, catching sight of Halduron's equally startled face as he did.
"Let it go?" His voice started to rise. "Do you know how many elves—sin'dorei and quel'dorei alike—died to defend that land? How many continue to die? And you say I should just let it go? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"They would rather have died in vain than have given their lives just so you could turn into nothing more than the puppet of some—some monster, in the name of their sacrifice!"
Lor'themar could not believe what he was hearing. Rommath glared at him, not in anger or contempt, but in wild and shockingly uncharacteristic desperation. During all of Lor'themar's tenure as regent, though he and Rommath had argued on many counts, Rommath had never lost his composure or poise. Now he practically shook. Out of the corner of his eye, Lor'themar noticed that a small crowd had gathered. He had no wish to cause a scene.
"Do not fall for her threats," Rommath said quietly, and Lor'themar realized in horrified awe that he was pleading. "She will only use you."
Lor'themar clenched his fists in resentment. "I will do whatever it takes to protect Quel'Thalas and its people," he stated. "Even if it means being used. And you will obey my orders. Do I make myself clear?"
"And how long do you think you can play this kind of game?"
"As long as I need to," Lor'themar answered, unflinching. Rommath had run up against his obstinacy, and the regent lord would not be easily bested. He straightened and stared Rommath down. Rommath stared back for a moment, but his whole body seemed to sag. He closed his eyes.
"Another leader of the sin'dorei once said something very similar to me, Lor'themar," he said softly, looking away. "I did not argue with him then; indeed, at the time, I thought him right." Lor'themar's blood ran cold.
"We buried him on Quel'Danas," Rommath said. He sighed heavily. "I will notify Lady Liadrin and Magister Bloodsworn of your decision, Regent Lord. I will report back to you with their preparations." He left without another word, his shoulders hunched.
Barely able to think, Lor'themar blankly watched the grand magister's receding figure until it disappeared around a corner.
"Lor'themar." Halduron's quiet voice startled him out of his trance. He turned to his friend only to find the ranger-general regarding him strangely, as if seeing him for the first time. Lor'themar wanted to shake him, to yell at him to stop looking like that.
"What are the regent lord's orders?" Halduron asked. His formality was unnerving.
"Send word to Farstrider Retreat and Farstrider Enclave," he answered. "Tell them what has been decided."
Halduron nodded, leaving him with a final, unreadable glance.
Lor'themar looked around, one dark scowl sending the servants and palace guards scurrying back to their respective duties. The only person who remained in the hallway was Aethas Sunreaver, who refused to be ignored.
"If you are going to Northrend, will you also support the Kirin—"
"The Kirin Tor can do whatever they damn well please—it is no concern of mine," Lor'themar snapped. "But seeing as any number of sin'dorei forces will shortly be heading north, I expect many of them will likely end up on your doorstep. You will do what you can to aid them, Aethas. Now go find Rommath. I am sure he will have much use for you." Lor'themar's contempt finally bested him. "I suppose you should be pleased, Archmage."
Aethas shook his head. "It is true I wished to acquire your support in Northrend, Regent Lord. But not on these terms. Believe me when I say I would rather have seen you agree of your own free will, not because of—"
"My free will remains intact, thank you," Lor'themar interrupted him again, smarting from the sting in Aethas's words. "And it is still by my will that Quel'Thalas is ruled."
"Of course, my lord," Aethas answered, bowing slightly in conciliation. But as he raised his head, Lor'themar could see that the apology did not extend to his eyes. Seething, Lor'themar turned on his heel and left him there, standing alone beneath leaden banners of red and gold.
Journal of the Regent Lord, entry 83
I cannot remember the last time I told anyone such a bald-faced lie, even since I was forced into politics. But I did lie to Aethas, and he knows it, and I know it, and anyone who heard me say it knows it. My will means very little, in fact. I can pretend my power is real, but in the end, it is all an act, and none of it is honest. I can wash my hands of it, play martyr, be victimized, and accomplish nothing, or I can fight and victimize others in my turn and thus become the essence of all I have battled. If I have ever rationalized my choices using any other logic, I was certainly lying to myself. Hawkspear was right: I deal with the devil indeed, but the Sunwell may never have been restored had we not sunk to those levels. He and Aurora can sleep soundly, knowing they have never compromised their ethics, but if they deny that they prosper in the wake of those who have, then they delude themselves as much as I.
Here I find myself so close to believing that the ends justify the means. But the ruins of the Magisters' Terrace will haunt me forever, reminding me of the fate I tempt with that thought. This is the line I walk, finally knowing that the actions I take in necessity are nonetheless indefensible. Those truths can never be reconciled, but sometimes I can hold them both side by side and almost understand. I might call this revelation profound if I were ignorant enough not to realize that I am only learning what Kael'thas, and Anasterian before him, had also learned in their turns. All we can do is walk the road we are given with such dignity as we can muster, each to our own glory or demise, and pray that there yet remains something of our own hearts when all is said and done. By the Sunwell, I hope that there will remain something of mine.