It had been a week. No, two weeks? Two and a half, maybe, since the newest Hero of the Nexus was announced, and Jaina Proudmoore found herself feeling more nervous than she wanted to admit. Uther had even taken notice, asking if she felt ill. She dismissed him with a sheepish laugh and a wave of her hand, insisting that she was fine.
What she wasn’t fine with, however, was the choice to recruit someone who would only cause trouble by being here; someone whose history with most of the Heroes from Jaina’s world was absolutely sour. Yes, they needed a new damage dealer—a ranged one, preferably. At the moment, there were only 10 specializing in damage, including herself. The number of warriors was almost the same, and the Council decided amongst themselves to send another Hero specializing in damage in an attempt to balance the other classes.
But why him? she would ask herself, cold hand grasping the wood of her staff. With a huff, Jaina threw herself onto her bed, burying her cheek in her pillow as her honey blonde locks fell over her face. Things were already weird in the Nexus—no, absolutely bizarre. She supposed that it wasn’t crazy enough yet, though.
Interrupting her thoughts was a knock on her door. The young woman jumped up, startled, and brushed herself off as she scrambled toward the front of her home. Her gaze met with the burly Sonya once she opened her door, and the tall woman blinked in confusion.
“I hope I didn’t intrude on anything,” she started, taking notice of how Jaina’s hair and clothing was mussed up. The other lady quickly waved a hand in defense, “No, no, not at all!” A timid giggle slipped past her lips, “Can I help you with something?”
Sonya held out a thick, leather-backed book, “I simply wanted to return this to you. You left it at the library earlier today.”
“Oh, thank you,” she took her spell book from the other, “but how did you know this was mine?”
An amused smirk tugged at the corner Sonya’s lips, “It had your name in the cover. And, I also saw you leave it there.”
Jaina flushed, embarrassed, “Well that was very kind of you to return it, thank you.”
“There is no need to thank me twice. Believe me,” Sonya huffed, sticking her hands on her hips, “if that book is what I think it is, I would definitely hate for it to fall into the wrong hands. We would all have a bigger problem to deal with in the Nexus.”
“You sound like you speak from experience,” Jaina chuckled. The other returned a half-hearted smile, “That will be a story for another time,” she replied, her heavy accent lacing her words.
Briefly, silence fell over the two. Jaina never thought of Sonya to be a compassionate type, but of course, she had learned to never judge a book by its cover. Though, everyone from Sonya’s world looked… unfriendly, to say the least, and each of them were odd in their own way.
But she supposed that was the way of the Nexus; oddities coming together to fight, and ever since Jaina arrived at the peculiar realm, she could not brush aside the feeling of loneliness from time to time. No, she didn’t want friends, so to speak. Someone to talk to every now and again would be a better term, and the only people she was comfortable speaking to were from her own world. Uther would listen, and try his best to help, but Jaina always still felt as if he viewed her as a student, and not a teammate. Li Li and Chen Stormstout were all right, she supposed, when they weren’t both going on and on about tea. The Night Elves always intimidated her, even though she knew Tyrande and Malfurion were kind and gentle.
And it was obvious how she felt about Arthas at this point. He was out of the question.
“Would you like to come in? I can make us something warm to drink?” Jaina spoke, brushing some of her hair out of her face. “I’d very much like to hear about your travels, if you wouldn’t mind talking about them.”
Sonya raised an eyebrow, but a gentle smile graced her features, “Certainly, lady Jaina.”
The following morning proceeded just like any other. Jaina followed her routine as usual, and once she finished dressing herself, she took the book Sonya had returned the previous day and headed out. She was greeted by the townsfolk as she exited her door, to which she responded with a small wave. Pulling the hood over her head, she clutched her book to her chest and started toward the library.
Normally, she would enjoy being outside, reading under a shady tree. Since the weather this morning had other ideas, she decided studying inside would be for the best. At least it was nice and warm inside the library, and the fireplace was guaranteed to be lit. On her walk there, she couldn’t help but to notice the other Heroes talking amongst themselves about the new arrival. Sylvanas had a scowl on her face—not that she didn’t always, but this time it was more pronounced.
It seemed no one was necessarily happy about the decision concerning the newest Hero, but that was to be expected. Jaina, at the very least, hoped that everyone would put aside their differences and conflicts for the sake of their battles together.
However, she quickly realized how hypocritical she was being, as she wasn’t happy about any of this either.
A long sigh escaped her lips as she finally reached her destination. The blonde quickly shut the door once she entered, not wanting any of the chilly air coming inside. The warmth of the building embraced her in a welcoming manner, the librarian greeting her cheerfully.
“I’ve got some new stuff in, I think you’ll like it.” She said, lifting two crimson colored books up from behind the counter. Jaina grinned, “I’ll have to check them out later then, I plan to study for at least an hour right now.”
The librarian chuckled, “Suit yourself. I’ll have them right here for you.”
It was clear that more than an hour had passed once Jaina felt her stomach growling. She exhaled through her nose in a sigh, keeping her finger on the text on the page as she looked around for the clock. It was almost noon?
Damn, she thought, biting her lip. Her breakfast hadn’t held her over like she had thought it would. Rising to her feet, Jaina was almost sad to leave the comfort of the sofa by the fireplace. She gathered her belongings before heading toward the counter. She left once she had lent the books the librarian mentioned earlier.
Jaina was so focused on the hard textured cover of her newest studying material that she didn’t even notice the crowd gathered in the town square. Advanced Magics; Polymorphs, Pyromancy, and More read the first title. Jaina slid the first book to the bottom of the stack to read the second title. The Ruler of the Bracelet, read the second. Jaina smiled to herself; she had heard about this trilogy, but didn’t have time to look for it. It might be nice to read something other than school text for a while.
She arrived home without any interference, set her books down on her bed, and went to the kitchen to make herself something to eat. Conjuring food was an option, but she didn’t like the taste of it at all and tried to do it only when it was necessary. Jaina much preferred the taste and texture of warm, steamed vegetables and grilled meat over the fake conjured bread.
As she ate, her eyes ran over the words of her new fantasy story. She found herself smiling, giggling at the witty remarks the characters made. The author clearly had a good sense of humor. Engrossed in her book, Jaina almost didn’t hear the pounding on her door until the person outside called her name. She jolted, gasping and rushing to the front of her home.
“What is it? Is everything all right?” she questioned, the villager meeting her outside was panting and out of breath. He tiredly pointed a finger, “It’s those bloody monsters! Th-they’re harassing the east fort!”
The frost mage’s eyes widened. She grabbed her staff and threw on her hood, “We’ll put a stop to them. You all know what to do in these situations; please, stay safe and gather the troops.”
Wasting no time, she rushed out of her home toward the town. A team of five would be chosen to stop them—that was how it usually went. She could hear townsfolk shouting “Call the Heroes! Gather the Heroes!”
Jaina ran up, standing behind Valla, the demon hunter associated with Sonya, as more of the Heroes gathered around. They were categorized into their specialties; damage dealers, warriors, supports, and those who did their own thing. The Dark Lady Sylvanas appeared to have been put with the last category, seeing as how she stood beside Gazlowe, Zagara, and the others with that all-too-familiar scowl. Jaina was almost certain she would see her standing with the other damage dealers.
She always dreaded this part; some Heroes took longer to arrive than others, and sometimes they would start to draft teams without everyone present. Time grew short, and no one wanted to waste any of it. It was understandable to Jaina, but then again, she had never been late to an emergency gathering. It was clear not everyone was here—the support group lacked two, the warriors were missing half their group, and Jaina couldn’t tell how many were missing from the other two categories.
A glimpse of scarlet red caught the corner of her eye, and there she finally saw him. Jaina straightened her back, watching from behind the demon hunter as he approached.
“Glad you could join us,” Uther greeted solemnly. Glowing eyes infused with green fel magic glanced over toward Jaina, and a smirk curled the blood elf’s lips.
“If you would wait over there, we shall discuss the situation when the others arrive.”
The other assassins shifted to make room for their newest member. Jaina’s heart raced as he approached.
“Kael’thas,” she spoke, not necessarily in a friendly manner.
“Jaina Proudmoore,” he returned, dipping his head in respect, “I’m honored to fight by your side.”
“Nothing has been decided yet,” she quickly replied. The calm, collected look remained on his face, “Then here’s to our future battles together,” he said with a nod, then turned around. Jaina looked to the side, crossing her arms over her chest as she waited impatiently for the remaining Heroes.
“Heroes, we’ve received reports of a massive, plant-like beast destroying buildings and constructs of the eastern fort.” Uther stood in the center of the four groups and spoke loudly, “As you know, we need a team of five to go out and stop its rampaging.”
“Are there any known weaknesses?” Valla called. Uther rubbed his chin, “Not many. The only thing I can think of is that it uses attacks up close. Ranged attacks from our side are preferred.”
Diablo let out a ferocious laugh, “Then let us burn it to the ground!”
“And risk destroying more of the town? Bad idea,” said Nova, propping her sniper rifle on her shoulder.
“Elements aren’t a terrible idea, though,” Uther said, folding his arms. His eyes flicked over to the assassins. “Kael’thas, Jaina, would either of you be up for this task?”
Jaina’s face paled, but the fire mage spoke up, “I’m always prepared for a good battle, and I can assure you my magic is controlled enough so that no buildings or townsfolk will be harmed.”
Uther nodded, “Excellent. We shall need more ranged Heroes. In any other situation, I think we would all agree on a Hero with high mobility.”
Illidan and Kerrigan clicked their tongues in disappointment.
Jaina sighed, “I’ll be secondary damage.” Kael’thas looked to her, surprised. She gripped her staff, “If my frost spells become hindering to your fire, I’ve been studying other types of magic, so I can switch it up if needed.”
Uther smiled, “Splendid. Now, we’ll need a warrior, and possibly two supports.”
The team now consisted of the two mages, Gazlowe, a specialist exceeding in creating inventions to hinder the monster, Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice who would serve as their warrior, and Malfurion, a healer who would also restore mana and would make the beast immobile for at least a little bit. Soon enough, the team was mounted on their steeds and set off for the battlegrounds.
The ride didn’t take very long, and soon enough they could see the massive plant beast from a distance. Screams of the townsfolk sounded in the air, and the Heroes quickly dismounted. Malfurion ran forward, “Evacuate the area, get everyone out of here!” He demanded. Relieved that they had arrived, the villagers quickly did as they were told.
“What’s the plan?” Asked Jaina. Tyrael unsheathed his sword, facing the direction of the beast, “I am mobile enough to cause a distraction to the monster without getting injured. While I am doing so, we’ll need you, Jaina, to freeze the abomination in its tracks.”
She nodded, clutching her staff with both hands. “Gazlowe, go now and set up any machines you can to hinder the beast. It will be in the town soon enough, so set them up toward the front of the village.”
“You gotcha,” said the goblin, mounting up once more and riding off. The Archangel looked to the assassins again, “While the monster is rooted, we should make our best efforts not to melt the ice. Kael’thas, target the areas that aren’t frozen, preferably the head and arms.”
Tyrael lastly turned to the night elf, “Malfurion, I would like for you to focus on restoring health and mana to those who need it. Only when Jaina is unable to immobilize the monster anymore with her ice will you use your own rooting abilities.”
Malfurion nodded, “An excellent plan, my ally.”
“Everyone is in agreement?” Asked the angel, looking at the three. “Good. Let’s move out.”
Thankfully, the town was soon evacuated and the Heroes stood prepared for the beast’s arrival. They could see it, not far away now, but it then took a turn down another path.
“Not good. We’ll have to lead it here,” Tyrael grasped El’druin in his hand, “It isn’t too far away, I’m going to lead it over to our set up. All of you, stay a safe distance back—we can’t have any of you injured.”
The angel raised his sword, and was gone in a flash.
“Do you—do you think he’ll be all right by himself?” Jaina asked with concern.
“The guy’s a literal angel. He’s immortal, he’s gonna be fine.” Gazlowe said, leaning against a broken stone wall with a cigar in his mouth.
“He did mention that he could possibly get injured,” she replied, quietly. Malfurion stepped beside her, “There is no wound that monster can make that I cannot restore,” he said reassuringly.
“Here they come!” Kael’thas called, pointing out beyond the gate. Sure enough, the beast was swatting at Tyrael like a fly as the angel blinked in and out of its attacks, all the while leading it toward the gate.
“Gazlowe, ready your machines!” Malfurion called, “As for you two, quickly, get into position!”
Sooner than they had expected, the giant crashed through the gate, and Tyrael quickly blocked an attack with his sword, then slashed through the thick green vine. It screeched in pain, growing angrier, and Jaina acted upon the opportunity to cast out a frost spell on the terror’s feet. She held nothing back, and strained herself to freeze it solid to the ground.
Gazlowe’s canons fired onto the beast, and Kael’thas began casting fire spells onto its body. Tyrael blinked beside Malfurion, seemingly out of breath, “And just how many battles have you fought in again?” The druid chuckled, restoring some of his comrade’s energy.
“Too many, but few have put me this out of breath.”
“It’s just begun! Don’t wear yourself out too fast.”
“Hm, there’s still fight in me yet!” Tyrael lunged at the beast with his sword in hand, hacking and swiping at the foliage aggressively. The goblin rushed to repair any machines that had taken damage while the mages did their hardest to hinder the monster.
In an act that caught Tyrael off guard, the monster started to swing at him with a vine. Reading his movements, the terror was able to predict the angel’s blink pattern, and whipped around, a large arm of vines colliding with Tyrael’s body. He crashed into the stone ground hard, Jaina gasped as the angel cried out, but kept her focus on freezing the beast.
Malfurion gritted his teeth before rushing forward, “Watch out!”
Tyrael groaned, looking up to see the same arm that knocked him down falling down straight onto him. He held up his sword horizontally, ready to take the impact, but was surprised to see a fireball smash into the vines, causing the beast to screech in agony.
“Go, get up!” Kael’thas shouted, readying another spell. The other grunted, standing and clutching his waist.
Tyrael’s injured, Jaina thought, but another problem was on her mind; she began to feel her powers giving out. The terror started to crack the ice, and she was unsure if Malfurion would be able to root it if he was restoring the angel’s health. Her vision began to blur, and with a sharp crack, the monster broke free from her ice. She cried out, falling backward and colliding with the brick wall behind her.
Gazlowe’s canons fired explosive rockets at the terror as Malfurion attempted to bring roots from the ground to stop it in its tracks. Jaina shut her eyes—not like this, she thought. There has to be some way.
Jaina caught her breath, gathered her thoughts, and strained to rise to her feet. She could hear her teammates shouting her name, begging her to focus.
Staff in hand, she waved it gracefully and opened her eyes. Whistling ice hurled toward the beast from the sky, freezing it to the ground once more. Gazlowe laughed, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Without another second, a giant pillar of fire sprouted from the ground, engulfing the garden terror as it shrieked in pain. The green foliage turned a murky brown color, the terror began to wilt and crumble. Swiping left and right at anything that was in reach, thorny vines shot out from its body, thrashing around wildly. And finally, it started to sink to its knees. The screams were not at all pleasant, but it was a relief to hear the last of them once the pillar of fire settled.
Silence fell over the battlefield.
“Holy shit! That was bad ass!” Gazlowe cheered happily. Jaina was completely out of breath, but that was to be expected. How long had it been since her last battle? Too long, she supposed. Another thing was on her mind, however, and she looked to the blood elf beside her. He, too, appeared to be worn down from the fight. She could see the faintest sight of little cuts and scratches down his exposed face.
She wondered how she looked compared to him.
“Kael’thas,” she spoke, quietly, “you’re injured.”
“It’s nothing, and I won’t be requiring any magic to heal it,” he turned to walk away, but Jaina huffed, “Well at least let him look at it to see if you’ve been poisoned.”
Kael’thas stopped, turning back around to shoot her a sly grin, “I didn’t think you cared so much, Jaina. You seemed so cold earlier.”
Her face quickly flushed, “I refuse to let you get sick or worse because of your pride.” She pulled her hood over her head, letting her bangs cover half of her face.
“And of course I would care about a teammate—especially one who’s willing to put himself in danger for others.”
The elf scoffed, “I was never in any danger.”
“I saw how close you had to get to launch the pyroblast, Kael. You were well within the range of the monster’s reach.”
He stared at her, silently, and turned his head, “I wouldn’t let an ally be caught off guard. You’re thinking too much of it.” He placed his hands on his hips, looking toward the angel and druid.
“Are we finished here? Or shall I incinerate the monster’s remains?”