The procession of nobility filed into their seats, and Sheigh nervously awaited their continued questions. General Halduron Brightwing sidled up to him as the nobles milled about taking their seats. “Milord, I have some information about your wife that you might wish to know,” he casually commented. Sheigh turned to him, but the general was already walking toward the Lord-Regent’s dais.
The first questioner was Lord Sartheril, a noble often scoffed at for his large and continuous parties at his estate in western Eversong. Many nobles considered him a joke, but Sheigh knew the man well, and knew the secrets that flowed with wine. Sartheril was a man who saw much, and heard much, and was not to be underestimated.
“Milord, we have heard of your battle honors, but frequently you have supported peace, in one form or another, with the Alliance.” Sartheril actually walked toward Sheigh, addressing him across the floor instead of from his chair. “It is well-known that you often grant clemency to members of the League of Arathor. Your elaborate ballroom parties in Booty Bay are still famous throughout Alliance and Horde lands. How can a man be so civil toward an enemy he has fought so bitterly against?”
It was not the first time someone had asked him the question, and he hoped this crowd would appreciate the response he usually gave. The timing was now probably better than ever, though. “Milords and ladies, at one time the people of Stromgarde, of Dalaran, of Lordaeron were our close friends and allies. We fought alongside men of Arathor, dwarves of Grim Batol. We flew gryphons into battle, taught Men the art of magic, and prayed to the Light alongside each other.
“We were friends with the human kingdoms. In fact, we were friends with the humans themselves. I doubt a single person in this room cannot think of a man or woman of Stromgarde, or Dalaran, or Stratholme whom you do not include in your prayers for the dead.” He let the words hang a bit as each noble dug into their memories, seeing tangs of pain, of guilt, or fierce anger rising to hide remorse. Moreso than the common folk, Quel’thalas’ nobility had traveled to human kingdoms and fought alongside Humanity against the Orcs. “I myself was taught at Dalaran, and I have even faced old friends across the battlefield, friends who were lucky enough to survive the Scourge, only to be unlucky enough to die to propaganda.
“Propaganda, my lords and ladies. Lies, whispered and then spoken and then screamed by the ancient usurpers, by our betrayers among the Alliance, by those whom we should call cousins and brothers, but call hated enemies instead.”
“You speak of the Kel’dorei, milord? The Night Elves?”
“Aye, indeed I do. But that is not the answer Lord Sartheril looks for, and it is not the answer I hope to give. I sponsored the Booty Bay Ball because, milords, someday the fighting will be over. Someday soon there will be no more Lich King. The Scourge will be defeated, as were the Blackrock Orcs, as were the demons of the Burning Legion. Someday, this land will have peace thrust upon it by virtue of war.
“Every child born in the last thirty years has known nothing their entire life but war. Little boys never knew their fathers who fell in battle, watched as their brothers marched away to become veterans, and then in time took their turn as men with swords or bows. Girls often joined them, or even if they found the peace of the homefront, grew to marry men they would never grow old with, give birth to children who would die in the flower of their youth on the fields of war.
“An entire generation of Humanity has known nothing but war. Two generations of Orcs and Trolls know of nothing else. Our nations are nations under arms, filled with veteran soldiers to whom it is as natural to kill another man as it is to eat or drink. When peace comes, and it will come, our world will not know what to do with it. We are an entire world dominated by warcraft, and we may not remember how to beat swords into plowshares when that time comes.
“We can continue to see old hatreds, old wrongs, and find a reason to go back to Azeroth’s natural state of war. Or we can remember a pretty smile, a friendly glass of wine, a bow and a curtsy, a handshake between men and women whom on any other day would have been reaching for their blades.
“The Booty Bay Ball symbolized peace. It showed us that we’re not all so different. We enjoy celebration. We enjoy relaxation, and dancing, and laughter. We can enjoy peace. I intend to enjoy peace someday.”
The first clap cracked the silence of the room like a thunder strike. He did not see who clapped first. He saw the second was Lord Kelemar, the city’s ambassador. Another joined them, then another. Somebody stood up, clapping loudly. Soon the room was standing, the ovation was like a heavy summer sea rain, and Sheigh couldn’t help but smile to know his feelings were shared by these men and women.
All except one man. Steely eyes stared at him angrily, darkening the room for Sheigh as he locked eyes with Vranesh. The blood knight champion waited for the room to calm down before rising. “Lord Llyrandor, I find it more likely that the Booty Bay Ball was simply your excuse for drunken excess and whoring. As were your date auctions, pimping off the women of your Tuar’annwn to the highest bidder.” Someone booed him. “Oh, I am not done! No, indeed I am not. The . . . what was it called, Rave in the Cave? Dancing and drugs and garish, decadently indecent costumes! Cavorting about the Darkmoon Faire with Alliance sluts! I have it on good authority that you’ve bedded members of my order, common serving girls, trolls, piggish orcs, were unfaithful to your own wife, ended a marriage engagement over infidelity, have slept with your apprentices . . . why, I have even heard from the priests at the temple that you have been treated for no less than four different venereal diseases!” He spat on the floor. “You are a drunkard, a drug addled lecherous pervert, a sick man!”
“Hear hear!” shouted a single voice.
Sheigh turned to meet the angry eyes of Duke Deh’lorei. Islimah’s uncle, he cursed to himself. He had spoken with Vranesh, they planned this. His mind raced as he kept a stoic demeanor. Some of that was true, cannot deny that, but I cannot look as bad as they try to make me out to be, he thought guiltily. Finally he replied, “Milord champion, I cannot deny that I have indulged my vices in the past. Certainly not to the extent to which your sources report, but I was also never a champion of virtue. I am no temple priest, Lord Champion, and even they are caught with their hands occasionally reaching into the cookie jar.
“I cannot deny that, in my youth, I enjoyed a life of freedom and excess, as is not uncommon among today’s youth. It is the nature of our people.” He looked around the room, not wanting to see Vranesh anymore. “But I assure you, the gravitas of my exile, and the ferocity of the battles in Northrend, have cured me of youthful ignorance and the need for selfish indulgence. No Exalted Champion of the Horde could be a drug-addled lecherous fiend and pass the Warchief’s strict muster, nor could such a title be accepted by this Council when placed on such a drunkard.” That’s right, turn it back on them – do they admit they made a mistake, or do they forgive me the road I’ve paved with my indulgences?
“He does speak truth,” Deh’lorei replied, standing now, nodding to Sheigh. So fast he abandons his earlier intentions, why? “Lord Llyrandor remains engaged to my niece, and he remains faithful to his promise to her, though their wedding has been delayed by the war in the North.”
The room fell silent for several long moments, before Grand Magister Rommath rose. “Lords and ladies, if the floor has no further questions, I know that I and the High General have many we would like answered. Please convene for ten minutes, and we will continue this council meeting.”