A concept struck me while I was discussing some aspects of the Horde’s history a few days ago. I don’t want to give away the conceit straight off, but to set to the scene, keep these details in mind:
- Orgrim Doomhammer was captured after the Battle of Blackrock Spire during the Second War and held in the capital of Lordaeron, a prisoner of King Terenas.
- Terenas, as the chief organizer of the Alliance, was responsible for starting the internment program that imprisoned the orcs for years before they were set free by Thrall.
- Because the dialogue here was so critical to me, I tried to imagine Tony Jay as Terenas (as he was in WC3) and Peter Cullen as Doomhammer (as he was cast to play the role in the cancelled Warcraft Adventures game). If nothing else, the irony of having a voice actor who traditionally did villainous roles as the more readily identifiable “hero” (Jay) and an actor linked inextricably with one of the most recognizable heroes in cartoons as the more overt “villain” (Cullen) was incredibly amusing to me.
Scene 1: A Dungeon in Lordaeron’s Capital
When Terenas entered the cell, he did not expect the chained orc to rise. The orc did not, his small grey eyes focused on the form of the slightly-built king. When the cell door closed, the king set the torch he carried in a sconce, then crossed his arms over his chest, waiting.
“Should I be honored?” said the Doomhammer, the chains about his wrists jingling as he shrugged in mild confusion.
“You have been my guest here for some time, Warchief,” said the King, “and so I felt another conference between us was in order.”
“A conference with no other audience,” Orgrim replied.
“There are those among my peers who do not consider you…” and at this Terenas paused, careful, “worth further conversation.”
The Doomhammer scoffed. “And so, king, you see why the Horde is led by a warchief. A warchief has no peers.”
“I see,” Terenas said, “when a warchief is abandoned by his troops, there are none who have an interest in ransoming him. Surprising.”
“Orcs do not believe in ransom, human. Some might seek honor for themselves by daring to rescue their warchief against impossible odds, but there are many who would consider me a failure for allowing myself to be captured.”
Terenas spread his hands to take in the cell. “Then here we are. No one will come to rescue you, warchief, for your people are scattered, imprisoned, or dead.”
“Which begs the question of why you wished to speak with me, king.”
Terenas nodded, and paused briefly. Clearly he needed to choose his words more carefully, because the orc was as cunning as he was brutishly strong. “As I said, your Horde is beaten. Your goblin mercenaries have fled back to their islands, your troll allies have retreated to their forests, and the orcs and ogres still uncaptured hide in caves and hovels from the hunting parties of all the kingdoms. Your portal is closed forever. There are questions I would ask about your future, and though my allies feel the answers are self-evident I would know your opinion, for your kind have displayed more than the mere low cunning of thieves or scavengers.”
At this, the Doomhammer rose to his feet, even though the chains that bound him would not allow more than scant inches of slack. “Your Lion and his apprentice did their work well. But so long as an orc is alive, he must fight to survive in the world. We will cut out our place on Azeroth or die in the attempt.”
The King could hear the swelling pride, concealed beneath the measured but menacing delivery. And yet the orc’s choice of words was intriguing. “You seek merely a place? Do you no longer seek conquest? Or destruction?”
Orgrim squared his shoulders, the chains at his wrists clinking again. “My predecessor was only interested in destruction. I deposed him because he was a puppet of darker forces, but I chose to press the war because your Lion rose to the challenge. It is in the nature of orcs to contest the strong, to battle those who choose to battle. So you see, king, even if we are beaten, we are never broken.”
A grin threatened to break across Terenas’ features, but he held it in check. “So if I were to release you, and your people, and offer you a land in which to live peacefully, you would gather your strength and attack at the first opportunity?”
Orgrim spat, his voice lowering to a growl. “You ask if I would eat the scraps from your table, like a dog. I would not, king. Nor would any orc. I would choose death before your charity.”
“I would call it amnesty, but that is clearly a matter of perspective.” Terenas paused. “You would not take what is given to you freely, but choose instead to fight for it, regardless of what you may lose.” His voice trailed off, ponderous.
“You sound impressed,” the Doomhammer said.
“I am impressed. There are no people like you on our world, Warchief. The trolls, the goblins; they understand a bargain. Your kind are an enigma, a riddle to which I have no answer, save death.”
“And why not death?” The orc bristled, the chains jangling again. “I have no value as a prisoner, nor do my warriors. You would be better served killing us, if you have the mettle to do it.”
“That is the difference between you and I, orc,” said the King. “The Light teaches us that mercy is the mark of a virtuous ruler. I cannot order the death of unarmed thousands, even of the bloodthirsty murderers you call your Horde. That is not justice, but butchery. That is not our way.”
“You slaughtered them, didn’t you?” said the King, detecting the slightest hesitation in the orc’s speech.
And yet the Doomhammer continued, undeterred: “They rose to the challenge, and failed. Their Light did nothing to save them, and their faith was rewarded with death. As will yours, king, if you do not kill us all.”
Terenas had held the Doomhammer’s gaze, and held it now for a longer time. Words were the king’s specialty; he’d convinced the other nations to forge this Alliance, after all, despite generations of land wars and trade disputes. And yet now his words failed him in the face of this implacable enemy. Despite all of that, every fiber of his being told him that something deep within the recesses of this creature had a kernel of nobility to it.
Without taking his gaze away from the warchief, the King knocked on the cell door. Moments later it opened. “I pray we meet again, Warchief,” and turned to go.
“At my execution,” grunted the orc, “or yours.”
Terenas let the grin show across his face before passing through the door. He looked down the hallway, seeing that his household guard had assembled, as previously instructed. Their captain stepped forward at the King’s nod.
“Remember your orders, captain,” said the King. “Take the Warchief outside the city, unchain him, and return to him his arms and armor. No harm is to come to him unless he chooses to assault you first.” As the captain saluted silently, Terenas heard a confused grunt from within the cell. He turned to regard the orc, who said nothing.
“You ask for death, Warchief, as though there is no other path, and I deny it to you. You spit on freedom, and yet I grant it to you, alone, for now Azeroth is your prison. Look now to your people, as I look to mine. When you do, I wonder if the future will remain so certain.” Terenas nodded his respect, turned and left his soldiers to their duty.
He was sure that if he ever met Orgrim Doomhammer again, the circumstances would be quite different.
- The only explanation for Doomhammer’s escape from imprisonment was his own offhand remarks to Thrall in Lord of the Clans, where he states he was held as an oddity and then escaped easily. With this scene, Doomhammer is released by Terenas, but Doomhammer would never admit to being set free, since everyone would question why, as Doomhammer himself did, whereas writing it off as an escape wouldn’t raise any suspicion.
- Upon his capture at Blackrock, there isn’t any clear-cut reason provided as to what triggers Doomhammer to escape imprisonment but then go into a self-imposed exile until Drek’thar sends for him. Words are spent explaining that he saw the orcs in the internment camps and saw they’d lost the will to fight, but not why he waits until Drek’thar takes on an apprentice before he decides to start his liberation campaign.
- The idea that Terenas knew about the lethargy of the orcs and intentionally released Doomhammer so he could see it for himself was intriguing to me. As though Terenas wanted Orgrim to come to the conclusion on his own that the orcs were, in fact, broken in their defeat.
- Couple this with the idea that Terenas is dealing Doomhammer a more painful blow by shattering his pride rather than simply killing him, and hopefully it adds some depth and cunning to Terenas, who otherwise comes across as somewhat ignorant in all of his appearance otherwise (prior to his death, of course).
- To a certain extent, this is building towards a what-if scenario that would really change the course of the post-WC2 history, and if there’s interest I might pursue that line further. But the idea of asking what the conversation between Terenas and Doomhammer would look like was what gave birth to this scene, and it was a great thought experiment if not a lot of fun to write.
What do you think? Let me know below. ^_^