Since being named Archmage, and put in charge of the Tirisgarde, I've taken my responsibilities very seriously. The Draenei know a thing or two about arcane magic, but I feel we're a bit...how should I say it...under-represented in the Kirin Tor, so I do my best to be as visible as possible, and also easy to deal with. The very first thing I did was make appointments to sit down with each of my fellow mages and talk to them about their backgrounds, what they were doing now, and their goals for the future...aside from beating the Legion, of course.
In due course, I sent an arcane servant to deliver a message to Ryanna, the Nightborne apprentice that Aethas Sunreaver had recruited. Of course, she was not his apprentice anymore, since he had chosen to join the Tirisgarde as part of my retinue. Ryanna wished to join the Tirisgarde herself as well, and I was all for it; as brilliant as Aethas is, Ryanna had arcana in her very bloodstream, and I was sure that he'd actually had little to teach her.
Thus it was that I asked her to come to the little room that I'd managed to find myself for a study. An arcane servant brought us tea and scones, and I poured for us both. Ryanna sat, looking a little nervous. I didn't blame her; I remembered the first time I'd been called to my superior's office, and how nervous I'd been, even though that first meeting had been several thousand years ago.
"Be at ease, Ryanna. This is the same meeting I'm having with all the mages," I said soothingly. Her lovely violet skin took on a slightly deeper hue.
"It's hard not to be nervous, Lady," she said, taking a sip of the tea and smiling in appreciation. "These are such uncertain times for all of us, and it seems that the Tirisgarde is in a constant state of flux."
"I suppose it is," I agreed. "I'm working towards stability. And no need to call me Lady, or even Archmage. Just use my name - Aela - as you would with anyone else. We all need to work together right now, and worrying about using peoples' correct titles will only get in the way of that."
Ryanna smiled at me at last, which relieved me. One more difficult session with an Elf and I was going to set the place on fire, I was sure, even if I had to steal Felo'melorn to do it. I had a thought of how to relax her even more: give her something to giggle over with me. Leaning forward, I looked deep into her violet eyes.
"So Ryanna...how did you and Aethas Sunreaver meet?"
Another blush, and then a sly look...
Although it was essentially a graveyard, Aethas enjoyed traveling through Tel'anor; it was quiet and shady, if you could avoid its more dangerous denizens. Not that they gave him much trouble; but harpies and ghosts were not exactly quiet or peaceful. When he had to pass through areas thick with them, he usually employed Greater Invisibility for ease of travel.
This day, however, he had a lot on his mind. The night before, he'd had another instance of his recurring dream about his imprisonment in the Violet Citadel during the Pandaria War. He'd awakened with a start to see a figure standing at the foot of his bed; calling a light in panic, he'd seen it was Rommath, the Grand Magister of Quel'thalas. While Aethas had sat wide-eyed, wondering if this was a part of his dream, Rommath had delivered an angry and impassioned speech about the dangers of rejoining the Kirin Tor or associating with them in any way.
Eventually Aethas had risen, pulling a silk robe around him. "This couldn't have waited for morning, Rommath?" he'd asked, trying to keep his tone mild despite the bad fright the older magus had given him.
"That's all you can say?" Rommath had retorted. "I'm frightened for you. When I realized all that the human bitch had done to you -" His voice broke, and he started again. "I heard you scream in my mind, and that's why I'm here now. I didn't think I could wait for morning, no.'
Aethas had bowed his head. "I was dreaming," he'd murmured. "I must have called to you in my dream. My apologies, Rommath...you must have been sleeping too."
"I was not," Rommath had answered, though what he'd been doing instead, he hadn't revealed. Giving a sigh, he'd sat on Aethas' sleeping couch. "Come home, Aethas," he'd said, his voice gentler than Aethas had ever heard it, and sad.
Aethas had faced him, his own eyes as sad as Rommath's voice had sounded. "This is my home, Grand Magister," he'd replied. Rommath had spent a long time arguing with him, but when at last the Grand Magister teleported himself back to Silvermoon, he was alone.
Now, passing through Tel'anor, Aethas was still bothered by the conversation. On the one hand, he and Rommath weren't friendly, mostly due to Rommath's grudge against the Kirin Tor and the Alliance. On the other hand, he knew that Rommath cared for him as passionately as he did any of his people, especially the mages. Aethas cared for Rommath just as much, so he did not question it. "There are so few of us now..." he murmured.
One moment he was walking along a shaded path, the next he was hanging upside down by his ankles, his staff on the ground. His immediate reaction was anger at himself for not attending to his surroundings. Wasting no more time, he jackknifed his body to bring himself upright, grasping the vine that had snared him...and came face to face with a harpy.
For a moment they stared at each other, wide-eyed - of course, the harpy could not see his eyes through his hood - and then the harpy gave a raucous cackle. "What have we here? An elfling? Let's see!" And with a quick movement she tore the hood from his face, scraping his cheek with her talons. Aethas gasped with pain, but stayed upright, staring at her, willing himself not to flinch.
"Handsome!" shrieked the harpy. "Let's see the rest of you!" In two quick tears, the rest of his clothes were torn away. Aethas gasped, feeling very helpless, and then he dropped the vine, reaching toward the ground for his staff.
"Not so fast!" his enemy cried, and before he could cast a spell, she'd wrapped him in vines, and stuffed a clawful of leaves in his mouth to stifle him. His arms were trussed behind him; his legs, trussed as well, and his ankles secured to his wrists. He breathed in sharply through his nose, and immediately regretted it.
The harpy thrust her face close to his. "Aren't you a pretty one?" she shrieked. "I haven't seen one like you before. You'll give me quite a few pretty clutches of eggs, won't you, before I have to eat you!"
Aethas' eyes grew wide again, which set the harpy laughing. She licked at his face, her tongue like silk against his skin. "Such a sweet taste," she said in a hoarse whisper. and her tongue danced against the edge of his ear. "So much to enjoy before the end." Aethas, sensitive even for an elf, felt his body responding even in his fear and horror. He had no doubt she'd take from him whatever she wanted.
Aethas heard a hissing noise, and then he felt the harpy's hot skin, so close to his, turn suddenly cold. She shrieked, which caused his eyes to tear in pain from the proximity, and then turned. Aethas followed her gaze, and saw a banshee, floating up in the tree, her hands moving as she began to cast another shadow spell.
"Stop it, Bethys!" the harpy screamed. "He's mine!"
"But I want him, Tolla," hissed the banshee. "He'll make a nice plaything for my sisters and I on the cold nights."
"Finders keepers!" Tolla proclaimed. "Go find your own!"
Without bothering to answer, Bethys reached her hand toward Aethas. Even though she was not close enough to touch him, he felt her hand close around his most sensitive parts. Breathing in deeply, he tried to steel himself, but his body betrayed him, which caused both women to cackle with glee.
"We won't eat you, like the harpy will," Bethys said. "You will be our treasured pet, as long as you last." Her shadow-fingers stroked him, tearing a groan from his throat. "And then you will be one of us...forever."
"Stop that, Bethys!" shrieked Tolla. "I need him for my mate! It's clutching time! You just want to play!"
Looking thoughtful, Bethys floated closer, until Aethas felt chilled by ner nearness. Panicking, he began to struggle in his bonds, until Tolla's very real talons closed around him where Bethys' shadow-fingers had been stroking. He stayed still, only trembling a little, looking from one frightening apparition to the other, his breath coming fast. He felt faint, and wondered if perhaps unconsciousness might not be the best thing, but at the same time he knew that his only chance at life was to stay alert.
Bethys smiled at Tolla, a terrible thing. "Perhaps we could share him," she suggested. "You could have him for your mate, but we could also play with him in between times."
Tolla cocked her head to one side. "Share?" she said, her voice hoarse but softer. She looked Aethas over speculatively. "Do you really think he's strong enough to last very long?"
"Perhaps not," replied Bethys, stroking her cold fingers against Aethas' throat. "But surely, he'll live long enough to give you a few clutches, and then you get to eat him while we will get to keep his ghost. That was your intent, surely, to eat him? He does look delicious."
"Naturally," agreed Tolla. "Why waste food? But I want to make sure I get good use of him." She leaned close and licked Aethas' face again, this time running her tongue along the bloody cut under his eye. Aethas gave a strangled whimper, which made both females laugh.
"All right," said Tolla at last. "We will share him - but I get him first." She enclosed Aethas protectively in her feathery arms.
Bethys frowned. "We want him before you damage him," she argued. "You know you're rough, Tolla. We should get a chance to play while he's still in one piece."
Tolla gave an angry squawk. "I won't hurt him!" she shrieked, letting go of Aethas to gesticulate.
"You've already hurt him!" said Bethys, and Aethas whimpered again as the cut on his face became very cold.
"That was just because he had that pretty face covered up and I snagged him when I was uncovering it," retorted Tolla. "He's mine mine mine first!"
Bethys opened her mouth to respond, but suddenly both females were encased in ice. Aethas felt his bonds loosen and then snap free, stinging him in some rather sensitive places; unable to keep his balance, he fell out of the tree, and into the arms of a new captor, whose mount immediately leaped into the sky to fly away from the area. Aethas, dizzy, shut his eyes and tried not to think as he was carried off.
"So that was our first meeting," said Ryanna, concluding her story. "Poor Aethas! I took him to my camp, got him cleaned and tended to, and lent him a robe to wear. He was a bit traumatized by the whole thing, but he's recovered nicely, don't you think?"
It was my turn to feel discomfited. I'd intended merely to set Ryanna at ease, but I'd been in Dalaran when Aethas had been taken prisoner, and I had cause to know - more than Ryanna, perhaps - just how much being in bonds again might have traumatized the young Archmage. Finally, though, I looked up and smiled into her eyes. "How very lucky for him that you came by!" I said.
Ryanna looked a little like a kitten with some cream. "Lucky for us both," she agreed, but I did not question her further on that line. It was time to get down to business.