Greymane sighed impatiently next to her. The assembled audience had been waiting for quite some time, all vying for a view of the center of Stormwind's power and the famous Lion Seat, the great filigreed throne of the Wrynn kings.
Jaina looked at the great cats that adorned the dais, each standing alert and fierce as if guarding the whole of Azeroth. She wondered how deeply this ideal had been ingrained into Varian as a child, and how much that pressure affected his thinking. Growing up in the shadow of heroes must have been difficult. To think any one man could shoulder such a weight is folly. She had once loved a man who had broken under just such an impossible burden.
Jaina watched the restless crowd and took in the scene. She had the enviable gift of being able to read people with amazing insight. But today it did not take much talent to sense the palpable fear and frustration in the air. She had zeroed in on one wellspring of discontent in the mob. It seeped mainly from a group of nobles and delegates surrounding a large bear of a man with an unhappy and rather reddish face. Lord Aldous Lescovar, son of the traitor Gregor Lescovar, was clearly brooding about nearly everything, and it was infecting others in the room.
The nobles had been drinking enough to loosen their tongues, and as she listened in, King Wrynn's name came up over and over, often spit from the mouth like bitter poison.
Jaina knew that some of what these men said was true. Varian was a difficult man at times, and his intensity was as hard on his friends as it was his enemies. But she also knew the king well enough to know his true heart. He would willingly give his life to save his people. He was driven by ancient principles few understood today—a code of conduct that demanded something more of its leaders. This misunderstanding had slowly closed off the king from his people, even from his own son, and the king's enemies used it for their own devious ends.
Jaina had always been King Wrynn's ally, if not his staunchest supporter. And, the Light knows, Varian does not make it easy to be his ally, much less his close counsel or friend! When dealing with the Ghost Wolf, Jaina knew it was best to approach his heart rather than his fangs.
She herself had come today to once again try to dissuade the king from his unbending stance against the Horde, but the drunken delegates surrounding the hotheaded baron could easily derail her agenda. Forcing a smile, she approached Baron Lescovar and his rabble.
"Remember well." Jaina bowed to them all, using the traditional greeting for the holiday.
"Remember well, Jaina Proudmoore." The baron glanced to his allies, then back at her, unable to make up his mind if the sorceress's approach was a sign of support or danger. Jaina felt the man's eyes walk all over her as only a young baron would dare. He had a brutish face, and despite how he put on the airs of rich furs and silk, his harsh eyes betrayed any elegance his clothes tried to create.
The baron was wary, his mind wavering much like his body. "What brings you so far across the sea when your own homeland burns in slag?"
Jaina could now see the baron was drunker than she'd realized, and ignored his dig. "Just like you, I come to pay my respects to the heroes of old, but also to seek a wise plan for the new dangers that ail the Alliance today."
The baron gestured at his compatriots with a somewhat wobbly sweep of his hand. "Indeed, these new dangers hurt us all—rich and poor, merchants and rabble alike. How did it come to this, wizard? Who shall we blame?"
Jaina kept her face straight, unreadable. After a careful pause, she spoke. "Alliance leadership has faced many challenges of late. Yes, errors in judgment have been made, and many lessons learned. But we have also achieved great victories."
An old and sinewy noble pushed his way forward, shaking his silver head in frustration. "We are tired of Alliance wars depleting our gold and our blood. Reckless adventuring and personal vendettas only undermine our chances for peace and prosperity!"
Jaina put up her hand gently to calm the mood. "Many have voiced similar concerns. For example, the ill-directed aggression toward the Horde. I, for one, believe good allies are hard to come by these days, even as our enemies seem to multiply without end."
The baron put his meaty hand on her shoulder, and her skin crawled at his touch. "I think we have an orc lover here, boys." The ensuing laughter smelled of stale mead. The baron leaned in close, too close, his breath hot and mocking. "Or maybe your tastes run more toward reeking tauren?"
Jaina gracefully slid out from under the baron's grasp and put on the mask of sympathy for his concerns. The Alliance could ill afford to have more rifts weaken it these days. Azeroth had recently revealed its own hidden fractures, and they had literally torn the world apart.
Jaina tried to smile, and the baron smiled back, but it only served to highlight the swine-like features of his face. He gave her a wink. "We know you and the king are close. We need you to reason with him. Make King Wrynn listen to his nobles; get him to find peace where we can and make sure that damn dragon is taken care of before there isn't a city left for us to trade with."
"I understand your concerns. I share many of them."
"Then do your duty, and use your influence. No one profits from mindless war. The king's current plans are—"
"Are what?" came a deep voice behind the baron. Everyone wheeled to see King Wrynn standing in the doorway. The murmur of voices faded as Varian strolled in. "Please, Baron Lescovar, enlighten us all. Tell us all what my plans will bring." Varian's stare was like a bolt of lightning, burying itself between the baron's eyes. Lescovar stepped back in unconscious submission.