What is the Law of the Sea in Azeroth?

Warning:  This post contains spoilers for the pre-Cataclysm novel The Shattering by Christie Golden.  Read no further if you want to avoid the spoilers.

Conflict between Garrosh Hellscream and Cairne Bloodhoof begins early in The Shattering.  Cairne is dispatched to Northrend to supervise the evacuation of Horde troops to Durotar.  Upon departure, the Horde fleet encounters a nasty storm, and, when the weather clears, discovers an Alliance ship.

“Alliance?  In our waters?” said Garrosh.  “They are in clear violation of the treaty.”

Cairne asks for confirmation that they are in Horde waters, which the ship captain confirms.

Garrosh grinned.  “Then by all laws, theirs and ours, they are ours for the taking!   We are allowed by treaty to defend 0ur territory…including our waters!”

Cairne is more forgiving:

Have you considered the possibility that the same storm that so damaged us blew them off course?  That they are not here to attack. but are here only by accident?

In fact, the Alliance vessel is a virtual derelict:

The vessel was listing badly to port.  It sails had been shredded by the vicious wind….and it was taking on water.

Cairne tries repeatedly to dissuade Garrosh from attacking the Alliance cripple, only to be brushed off by Garrosh, who even ignores outright surrender and launches an attack.

The incident compels me to wonder about the state of international law, and the law of the sea, on Azeroth.   In the real world, international law during peacetime, and even times of truce, call for a warning to a vessel violating territorial waters before attacking.  Moreover, a ship in distress is generally recognized to have rights to seek safety, even if it means violating the territorial waters of another power.  In fact, international law requires assistance to a vessel in distress.  Does law on Azeroth not require similar assistance?  It’s a hypothetical question, really beyond the scope of any of the games or stories that provide the lore of the game.

Even so, Cairne clearly recognizes Garrosh’s attack for the act of piracy that it is.

“Vengeance is petty and beneath you, Garrosh,” Cairne snapped.  “And what honor is there in slaying those about to drown?  You may not violate the letter of the treaty, but you violate its spirit.

Certainly international law is an esoteric concern for a game, although Golden brings it up repeatedly in this passage.  And the game is about conflict, where many rules go out the window.  But cultures at least as far back as the Romans have recognized certain rules about conflict (concepts of jus ad bellum and jus in bello) , and the concept of honor is even more ancient; soldiers and warriors in most cultures have accepted that certain acts are beyond the pale and dishonorable.

This assault is certainly one of them.  With this act, Garrosh goes from the puerile churl of Nagrand in Burning Crusades to lawless renegade.

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