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An Unlikely Alliance

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Prologue

 

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.”

 

Chapter one

 

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.

I am.

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?”

 

Chapter Text

          Arrangements to repair the eastern fort were made soon after the Heroes defeated the garden terror.  Jaina had even offered to assist in some of the labor, feeling bad that they couldn’t get there sooner to defend their homes.  The villagers told her there really was no need, but she insisted. 

Reconstructing the town would begin early the next morning, so the townsfolk would stay within the closest town to them until then.  Jaina needed to relax since the battle had exhausted her to her limits.  She treated herself to a warm bath, then headed to the park.  The Brotherhood of the Bracelet tucked under her arm and her staff in her opposite hand, she moved swiftly through the crowd toward her favorite reading spot.  She took a seat underneath the tall oak tree, pulling her fur-lined cloak around her shoulders.  At least it was a bit warmer outside, but not by much.

The fight could have gone better, I could have done better, she kept thinking to herself.  Tyrael’s injury could have been avoided, and the eastern fort could have been saved.

Through her thoughts, she had trouble comprehending the words on her pages and found herself reading the same sentences over and over again.  Perhaps it wasn’t the best time to be reading, not when all these distractions were on her mind, at least. 

“It’s chilly out here,” said a voice in front of her.  Jaina jumped, her gaze shooting upward.

“I thought you’d at least be in the library by the comfort of the fire.”

“Kael,” she breathed, flushing and tucking some of her hair away from her face.  Of all the people to run into right now…

“I just wanted some time to myself.  Besides,” she stood, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”

The scratches on his cheeks were starting to fade, but a slight purple tinged the skin around the area.

“You did get your cuts looked at, didn’t you?” She spoke with a frown.  Kael’thas huffed, bringing his hand up to examine his nails, “I told you that there was no need.  Those thorns weren’t laced with poison; I would have sensed it.”

Jaina wanted to reach up and touch one of the marks, just to see if he would flinch from pain or irritation, but her hands remained on her book and staff.  “Do you really resent our healers that much?”

“Of course not,” he scoffed, “It would be a waste of time and effort for one of them to look for something that doesn’t exist in my body.”

Jaina pursed her lips, growing agitated of his pride. “Then when you’re unable to focus clearly in the midst of a fight, I’ll tell them that you were injured from our battle with the garden terror and refused to be healed.  I doubt the council will like that very much.”

Kael’thas rolled his eyes. “I’ll have it looked at if I begin to feel symptoms,” he said with a sigh.  Jaina smiled, pleased, “Excellent.  Now, is there anything I can help you with?”

“Mn, gracing me with your lovely presence is enough.”

Jaina’s breath caught in her throat, her grip on the book tightening.  His tone of voice didn’t particularly sound flirtatious, but she fell silent, and her blue eyes glanced over the frosted grass.  After contemplating to say it, she asked him the question that had been on her mind since his arrival.

“You still have feelings for me, don’t you?” She asked softly.  The elf’s smirk had faded into a straight line.  “I do indeed.”

Jaina sighed deeply, rubbing her forehead.

“However, I absolutely refuse for my feelings to hinder us in battle.  I assure you—“

“Is that why you came to the Nexus?” She interrupted.  Kael blinked, “What?  No, I was offered the position by the council, and I accepted.  Truth be told, I hadn’t known for certain if you were even inside the Nexus.” 

Jaina felt a churning in her stomach, not knowing exactly how she should feel at his explanation.

“It was wrong of me to act rudely toward you earlier.  I’m sorry.” She avoided eye contact, mostly out of humiliation.  Kael smiled gently, “There’s no need for apologies.  You’ve been through so much, Jaina.”

She looked to him with a sad smile, “Haven’t we both?”

He inhaled deeply, folding his hands in front of him.  The crisp, cool air caused the tips of his ears and nose to flush red—not that he would admit to being cold, especially for a fire mage. 

“Something tells me that none of it will matter soon enough.  These alliances… are rather odd, to say the least, and I’m unsure if I’m opposed to it or not.  I’m sure you feel similarly.”

“I do.  However, I see it as an opportunity for us all to live in harmony together.  Though, I know that will never be possible; too much has been lost for any kind of redemption for some of us.” Her mind wandered to Arthas, Sonya, and Kael himself. 

“You still strive for peace though, don’t you?” asked the other, “Your dedication is a trait of yours I’ve always admired.”

Jaina felt her cheeks warm from his compliment, and she smiled gently before bringing her staff close to her chest.  “I should, um, go see how Tyrael is doing.”

Kael thought to assure her that he was fine, but decided against it.  He bowed his head slightly, “Certainly.  Until later then, Jaina.”

She slipped past him and started toward the gates in which the archangel resided.  It was odd, but unique, how each Hero had their own home fit to their preferences.  Tyrael requested a larger home with golden gates, to which she only assumed to look like his own home in the High Heavens.  She always thought these homes to be a bit much, but didn’t judge anyone for their decisions.

          Much to her dismay, she quickly learned that he was out once she had arrived.  To where?  She was uncertain.  Jaina just hoped it wasn’t too taxing on him.  How much exhaustion could angels tolerate anyway?  They were immortal, weren’t they? 

As Jaina walked slowly back down the street, a friendly but gruff voice called out for her. 

“Ah!  I see that you are faring well, my ally!” Sonya approached her with a confident grin.  “Congratulations on your victory against the giant plant beast.  We are all grateful for what you and your teammates have done.”

Jaina gave her thanks, trying not to let too many emotions show.
“It was a fight that did not come without sacrifices,” she paused, shifting her weight.  “Your archangel, Tyrael, was injured in battle, and the town has lost most of their buildings.”

Sonya clapped a hand on her back, “Tyrael is a mighty warrior; something like that beast is nothing compared to the demons of hell.” She laughed heartedly, moving her hands to her hips.  “I do appreciate your concern for my comrade, though—but I can promise you that he is fine.”

Jaina returned her smile, “That’s wonderful.  Malfurion and Gazlowe both seemed to take no, or very little, damage during the fight.  I didn’t notice any injuries or limping, so I think I can safely assume that they haven’t been hurt.”  She quirked a brow, “However, I’m almost certain that Kael’thas has been poisoned by the monster, but he doesn’t want to admit it.”

“The new Hero?” Sonya asked, blinking.  “He seemed like a noble type, I didn’t take him as a prideful one.”

“You’d be surprised,” Jaina replied with a chuckle.  The ginger tilted her head, her coy smile still present on her features, “He’s from your realm, is he not?”

“He is,” Jaina replied.

“The two of you have history together?”

The frost mage gripped her staff nervously, “I have ‘history’ with almost everyone here who is from my world.”

Sonya raised a hand in defense, “I did not mean to pry, forgive me.  You do not like him, then?”

“I…” Jaina paused, sighing.  “It’s just—just very complicated.  I do not dislike him, but as of now I’m unsure how I feel.  And seeing how any of us can be sent to fight as teams together, I think it’s wise to keep my feelings neutral toward everyone.  For the sake of everyone’s safety.”

Sonya nodded understandingly, “I wish everyone could share the same ideals as you, but as soldiers of the Nexus, we must all try to fight together to ensure its wellbeing.” The barbarian turned on her heel before glancing back at the other woman, “Come.  It’s cold, and I am not exactly dressed for the weather.  Let us continue our conversation elsewhere.”

.          .          .

          The Serpent’s Tail was particularly busy in the evening, and tonight was no different.  Townsfolk and some of the Heroes themselves wound up at the tavern for delicious food and refreshing drinks.  Live music sounded from the left while bartenders bustled about to serve their customers on the right.  Laughter would occasionally roar from some of the tables, and it was clear to see who had too much to drink.

Kael’thas entered the room quietly, as he didn’t want any attention brought to him.  The only reason he was here was to clear his head, and Gazlowe thought very fondly of the place.  So much had happened on the elf’s first day, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.  A relaxing evening was simply in order.

He took a seat at the bar and ordered himself a glass of wine.  If it weren’t for the fact that he was literally the only blood elf in the Nexus, he’d think that the bartender didn’t recognize him; he wasn’t exactly dressed in his princely attire either.  Commoner’s clothing seemed more appropriate for the time being.  As he waited, he tried to drown out the background noise with his many thoughts. 

Jaina was here.  Safe, content, and with allies of the Nexus.

Of course, around everyone else, Kael felt awkward and wanted to avoid confrontation if he could.  Too much blood had been spilt for him to simply forgive and forget everything that some of the Heroes had done.  He folded his hands on the counter, leaning forward slightly.  The thought of having to fight alongside Arthas made his stomach ache; he even wondered if the corrupted man would try to take his head off in one of their battles together.

The bartender slid a glass of red wine over, and Kael thanked him before handing him payment.  The man chuckled, “Oh, no, sir.  What you did for the east fort is enough.  This one’s on the house.”

In all honesty, Kael had money to spare, but accepted the bartender’s offering, “You flatter me, and have my thanks.”

“Don’t suppose it was enough, though,” a man’s gruff voice came from behind.  Kael turned his head slightly; a scruffy gentleman with a cigar in his mouth slouched in his chair at the table behind him.  A mug half full of beer rested on the wooden surface in front of him.  The man drew a puff of smoke before locking eyes with the elf, “Reckon you guys could’a stopped that thing before it destroyed a whole town.”

“We did all we could to ensure the safety of everyone; there was no saving that town.”

“You don’t know unless you try.” He growled smugly.  Kael’s blood began to boil—who did he think he was? 

“I’d advise you to watch your tongue around royalty, human.” He stood, wine in hand, and a scoff that sounded more like a laugh left his lips, “Actually, I’d advise you to watch yourself around a force of sheer power itself.”

“Oh, yeah?” The man withdrew the cigar from his mouth, grinning.  He rose to his feet as well—he didn’t quite reach the height of the blood elf, but the man was definitely taller than Kael imagined.  His muscles flexed when he crossed his arms, “You tryin’ to start somethin’ here?  Too bad, I’d hate to ruin one of your pretty manicured nails.”

The mage could feel the heat gathering in his hands, but tried his best to control his temper.  A blonde walked up behind the man, placing a small hand on his shoulder, “Tychus, let’s go.  You’re too drunk to start picking fights.”

He huffed, brushed her hand away, downed the rest of his beer, and grabbed his cigar before stomping out of the building.  Kael’thas sighed in frustration before taking his seat again.  He was aware that some of the people in the tavern had seen their argument, but he didn’t care.  They were both able to keep their cool without behaving aggressively, so nothing else mattered much to him. 

The blood elf swirled his wine in its glass before sipping it contently.  It was way too early for his reputation to go down the drain.  He hadn’t even known this so-called “Tychus”, and he wondered if perhaps he was simply rude toward everyone, or if he really did think that the town could have been saved.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was jealous that the newbie got to go out and fight instead of him.”

Kael whipped his head around and gasped, eyes widening, “Master Illidan!”

The demon hunter towered over the other.  A faint green light glowed from underneath his blindfold, and he raised a hand, “Let me make this clear,” he started, folding his arms across his chest, “I am by no means on good terms with you.  If it weren’t for our current circumstances, betraying me would be the last mistake you’ve ever made.”

For as fiercely as Illidan spoke, he kept a calm demeanor.  Kael’thas swallowed hard. “I understand—“

“However, since we are on neutral grounds, I am here to assure you that I will participate in no foul play against you, nor anyone I resent.  This realm is fragile, and it cannot handle destruction as our world can.” Ilildan tipped his head to the side, a clawed finger tapping on his bare arm, “Are we clear?”

“Very much so,” Kael sputtered, heart racing. 

“Good.  I shall see myself to the exit.” He started toward the door, but then stopped and looked back at the other, “And do not refer to me as ‘Master’ any more.  It’s clear that you don’t think of me as such.”

.         .          .

          Jaina treated herself and Sonya to some hot tea and sat comfortably on the sofa.  She enjoyed the other’s company; Jaina could find herself relating to her in a few different ways.  Though, she wouldn’t necessarily say they were alike, so to speak.  Everyone was unique in their own way.

“Oh— have you heard?  There are rumors of another Hero joining us already!”

“Mn, I have indeed.” Sonya shifted in her seat, “They say that they shall hail from my realm.  If that is true, I only fear the worst.  Another evil hell spawn in the Nexus is the last thing we need.” She thumbed the ceramic cup in her hands, gazing down into its contents.  Jaina immediately regretted bringing the subject up, though she meant no harm in her gossip. 

“Whoever they may be, I’m certain they will come with great strength, and aid us greatly in our battles.”

Sonya stifled a laugh, “If Diablo and Azmodan themselves can work alongside us, you might be right.  I have more faith in our upcoming comrade now.”

Jaina smiled gently, finishing the rest of her drink.  The two women exchanged in small talk and conversation for a bit longer before Sonya decided she should be going for the evening.  The blonde cleaned up their dishes before finding herself on the sofa once more, nose stuck in her book.  She had debated whether to study or read her fantasy book, but she stuck to learning new spells for the time being. 

She hoped that having another mage wouldn’t mean they would have to compete to fight—it wasn’t likely the issue was going to surface, but one could never be too careful.  Jaina should stick to her ice magic, as Kael’thas should stick to his fire.  If they were to perhaps bide by that rule, there wouldn’t be any need for competition. 

‘The two of you have history together?’

Sonya’s words echoed in her mind.

Jaina huffed, shaking her head and tried to focus on the words in front of her again.  Still, the memories of their time studying together fogged her thoughts.  Though he was never really her mentor, Kael would tutor her and help her perfect her skills.  While she was very much appreciative of his kindness, Jaina would never had guessed his motivations ran deeper than simply “you are dedicated to your work, let’s make you better”. 

She was sad that their relationship had to fade into an awkward friendship after he confessed his feelings.  At that time, romance was such an alien subject to her, and since she and Arthas were already romantically involved, having feelings for another man was out of the question.  As dedicated to her studies as she was, she wasn’t even sure she wanted a partner at the moment.

          But things had since changed; Jaina was now a powerful leader and mage.  Arthas had long since been corrupted by the darkness.  She feared for Kael, but had hope that not all of him had been lost.  He still seemed to be the same bold, cocky fire mage as she knew before.  She hadn’t even recalled the last time she had seen him, especially not since she joined the Nexus. 

Jaina found herself going over all his features in her head, comparing them to his younger self.  She wasn’t completely sure how the elves aged, but she could definitely see a few years in his expressions.  How she hoped he had matured; she was never fond of his hot temper, nor overconfidence.  And oh, that damn, smug grin he would get when he knew he was right, and the way his eyebrows would raise above his glowing eyes in an arrogant manner.

Jaina then, looking up from her pages, wondered if some of these features of his were ones she liked all along?

She huffed, abruptly shutting her book and pushing it aside.  She rubbed her temples and felt her cheeks.

Heat was definitely there.

She lowered the temperature of her palms before pressing them to her face.  Her pulse raced against the skin of her throat; Jaina rose to her feet and went over to her wardrobe, beginning to dress into her evening attire.  The image of the fire mage resided clearly in her mind; how he looked to her at the town square when they were called for the emergency meeting, and how his gentle features scrunched as he cast the powerful spells fighting the beast.

How he looked to her with a bittersweet smile, small scratches littering his otherwise flawless complexion.  The same understanding expression she’d received after she had told him they would never be more than friends.

But now, she wondered, if she could have been wrong?  Perhaps the tranquility of the Nexus was a perfect place for second chances.  By that logic, however, she would have chosen to forgive Arthas for his wrongdoings; yet how she resented him now for all that he had done.  Not just to her, but to so many others.  Simply because they were on neutral grounds didn’t mean she had to forget everything that happened.

One thought contradicted the other, and Jaina found herself emotionally exhausted within minutes.  She flopped onto her bed and stared at the wall.  Tomorrow was a new day; she’d feel better by then after she had gotten some rest.

Hopefully.

Chapter Text

Upon waking the following morning, Jaina found herself a bit sore and fatigued from yesterday's battle.  She tugged up her blanket further before checking her clock.  It was only 7:00, no big deal.  She’d just rest her eyes and bit before climbing out of bed.

As for her early morning daydreams, she thought of herself going to the training grounds for some practice; shards of ice would fall from the sky onto the training dummy, and the frost from her staff would chill it as she lined up a frost bolt.  Though, what she really needed to practice was summoning a blizzard.  Perhaps that’s what she would study later in the day then?

After a few more moments of shut eye, the blonde slipped out from her bed.  Jaina continued with her morning routine before changing into some comfortable working clothes.  She hadn’t forgotten at all about the destruction dealt to the eastern fort and town from yesterday; she looked forward to helping out wherever she could to make the load lighter for everyone.  Of course, the mage never left without her staff, so she grabbed it quickly before heading out. 

 

          To her surprise, hardly anyone was up this early and the time pushed 8:00.  She thought then, maybe, it was the chilly air keeping everyone inside?  Typically, Jaina wouldn’t show many signs to the cold, however this morning she bore a light flush on her cheeks as she walked through town.  Sparing her horse the ride over, she left him to sleep and took the trip by herself.

Jaina was glad to see so many people at work—that way, at least, things should get done sooner.  People would have their homes again and security in the town would be restored.  She caught the eye of Uther as he passed an armful of wood off to another worker.  He greeted her with a wave, calling to her, “Good morning!  Glad you could make it.”

She smiled pleasantly and walked over, “I meant what I said; I want to help as much as I can.”

“We’re very appreciative of all the help we can get.” He lowered his voice a bit, just to where she was the only one who would hear him, “And, I do believe that us Heroes coming out to help restore buildings means the world to the villagers.”

“Then I’m even more happy to be here,” Jaina replied, taking a brief look around.  Townsfolk bustled about, hauling wood, stone, and other materials to fix anything that was damaged during the monster’s assault.  More was lost than Jaina thought, much to her dismay.  She got an empty feeling in her stomach as she thought about those who could have possibly gotten killed from the beast.

She prayed that they weren’t too late yesterday.  All of their lives had to have made it, she was sure.  A smaller group of people were tending to workers taking breaks, handing them food and blankets.  Despite their circumstances, they seemed rather content, even happy to an extent. 

“Well, you’re more than welcome to help however you see fit.  I think we have plenty of workers on construction duty, so you might want to check up with Mrs. Lyon over yonder.  She’s the dark haired lady in the blue dress over in the crowd there.  She can put you right to work.”

Jaina nodded, thanking Uther before heading in the direction he pointed out.  As she walked she felt more than a comfortable number of eyes watching her.  In admiration, resentment, or something else was out of her knowledge.  She clutched her cape as her staff was currently resting on her back.  Mrs. Lyon, from a distance, appeared to be a stern type, but as Jaina heard her speak to the workers, she could hear the compassion and kindness in her voice.  The frost mage approached, “Excuse me, good morning,” she started, getting the older woman’s attention.

Mrs. Lyon turned, eyes widening with a sincere smile, “Lady Jaina!  We are blessed to have you here with us today,” she said, folding her hands in front of her.  The blonde giggled and brushed some of her hair out of her eyes.

“I’m here to help however I can.”

“Splendid!  If you would kindly pass out the bread that we’ve gathered on that table there,” she pointed a few meters away, “you would be a lifesaver.” Mrs. Lyon covered her mouth, laughing, “Oh, not that you haven’t done enough already!  Goodness, dear—I meant no offense by that.”

Jaina returned her laugh and waved a hand reassuringly, “No, no!  It’s all right, I know what you meant.”

 

          She then wasted no time in heading over to the table where bread and other refreshments awaited her.  Jaina then realized that someone on the other side of the table was actually conjuring the bread and water.

“Kael?” She blinked, eyebrows scrunched together.  The blood elf glanced up from his hands, looking just as surprised to see her as she did him.

“Good morning,” he greeted, bringing a conjured piece of bread to the wooden table.  The woman huffed, speechless for a moment.  She wasn’t angry to see him—confused was the right term.

“You’re—you came to help?”

“Of course,” he replied quickly and said no more on the matter.  Jaina’s shoulders dropped; she was almost in disbelief.  He wasn’t as stuck up as she remembered him to be.  Though, another glance at his face contradicted her previous thoughts.

Would it have been wise to bring his cuts up later, yes.  Did she ask him about it now?  Unfortunately, she did.

“The marks are turning purple,” Jaina murmured, keeping their conversation just to themselves.  Kael’thas’ eyes flicked up toward her, pausing mid-spell. 

“They’re fine.”

“They don’t look fine.”

He heaved a sigh through his nose and resumed his spell.  Jaina pursed her lips.  Part of her wanted to give in, say ‘fine’, move on, and let him suffer for his pride; yet the other part yearned for him to disregard everything and simply have it looked at.  Why he was refusing to do just that was beyond her.  Even his eyes at this point looked a bit dim, but maybe that was just from lack of sleep.

Finally, Jaina spoke up.

“Kael,” she hesitated, clenching her fist.  “Please.”

The other remained silent and picked up a bowl of the conjured bread.
“They won’t help me,” he started, “most of them would have me dead.”

“That’s not true.” She gripped the hem of her cloak, “If you’re so worried about them, then at least let me look at your injuries.  I don’t know if magic is required in order to heal what you have, but I do know some first aid.”

Jaina took a bowl of her own into her hands, “I’m not going to stand here and let you refuse help when you clearly need it.  I wouldn’t do that to anyone, especially you.”

Regardless of their situations in the Nexus, she would be just as persistent if they were back in their home lands.  She cared for him whether she wanted to admit it or not, and she was not about to let his pettiness destroy him. 
“After we’re done here, come to my home.  The procedure we’ll have to follow won’t be the prettiest and I expect you’ll want privacy.  If you won’t let anyone else help you, please let me.”

Kael stood motionless, his gaze downward into the bowl and his face expressionless.  He turned, “Fine, but I still don’t expect poison to be lingering in my veins.  You’ll be disappointed.”

“I can assure you that you’re wrong,” Jaina replied with a laugh of disbelief, “but thank you for accepting my help.”

 

          The two mages continued to hand out food and drinks to the exhausted workers as the minutes flew by.  Jaina found herself enjoying conversations with some of the townsfolk; she was genuinely interested in what their say was in all that happened.  Some, as expected, weren’t the happiest since some of the destruction could have very well been avoided, however the majority of the villagers were ever grateful for the Heroes’ services.  Kael’thas and Jaina were both treated with the utmost respect from everyone.

Around noon, Uther made his way over to the tables to rest.  He wiped his brow and Jaina walked over to pay him a visit.
“How’s it going?” She asked, setting a tray on the table.

“Wonderfully,” started the man, “we’re expecting to have everything done sooner than expected.  The turnout for helpers was larger than anyone thought!  And I cannot thank you enough for what you did yesterday and for what you’re doing here now.” Sincerity sounded in his voice.  Jaina folded her hands in front of her, “It’s my pleasure.”

“Has Mrs. Lyon been working you hard?” He asked with humor in his voice.

“She has—she’s a wonderful woman, too.  She’s so passionate about her work and the well-being of others, I admire her.”

“You should tell her,” Uther replied, taking a sip of water.  “Those compliments would better benefit her coming from you than from me, after all.”

“Oh, but she seems so busy!”

“Then later, Jaina.” Uther set his glass on the table, “She works hard for everyone.  I’m certain some enthusiastic compliments will do her some good.”

She smiled before tugging at the sleeves of her robes.  She had been working so much that she almost forgot how chilly it was outside.  A gust of wind blew, making her shiver from the cool air. 

“Well, I’d best get back to it.”

Jaina blinked, “You’ve only sat here for a minute though!  Don’t push yourself, stay a while longer.”

“Oh, I’ll be back soon enough.  Don’t worry yourself,” the man waved her a hand as he stood and walked back off to the worksite.  She kept a brief watch on him as he left before taking her tray and loading it with glasses of water. 

 

          Another two hours passed before Mrs. Lyon told both of the mages they were relieved for the day.  Jaina insisted she could stay longer to help, but since others were coming in for their shifts, they would have more assistance than required.  Kael’thas had been on top of himself and created what looked to be more than enough food for the workers, so he was no longer needed either. 

“You have all of our thanks for your service today,” said the dark haired woman, dipping her head in respect.  “You too must go rest now; I can’t imagine the exhaustion on your body from conjuring so much and fighting yesterday.”

The blood elf smiled, “Your concern touches me, but I can assure you that this isn’t the most taxing work I’ve done.  I wish you luck with the rest of your own today.”

Jaina remained as the other took his leave.  She tucked some of her hair behind her ear, “Your dedication to helping others is truly admirable; I feel honored to have worked with you.”

The woman chuckled, “Bless you, Lady Jaina.  The prince and yourself are truly remarkable people.  I wish there was some way we could repay you.”

“No, no—there’s no need at all.  So long as everyone is living in harmony, nothing much else matters to me.” Jaina pulled her hood over her head, “Take care, and stay safe.”  Turning on her heel, the frost mage started toward the gates to the inner town.  To her surprise, the blood elf awaited her atop his mount. 

“Care to join me for the ride home?”

Jaina stopped, flushing, “I left Arrow at home.”

“Oh.  Well, then hop on.  You even have my permission to take the reins if you’d like.”

Jaina fumbled with her hair, taking glances around before shyly approaching.  “I’ll be fine sitting behind you.”

Kael held out his hand to help her up.  She mounted gracefully and timidly clung to his waist as the horse started into a gallop.  Luckily for her, no attention seemed to be drawn to the two as they rode into the next town.  Everyone was focused on their own thing, and Jaina was glad for that.  She saw none of the other Heroes walking about but that didn’t mean they weren’t in town. 

She paused her thoughts; why did she suddenly care so much?  So what if she was riding with the prince of Quel’thalas on his own horse?  Surely no rumors would start from just that, would they?  And even if they did, Jaina would give them the honest answer.

 

Jaina.”

 

Of course, in all honesty, she much preferred people to mind their own business; whose horse she rode on and with was certainly none of their concern.  Why would it matter so much?

 

Jaina.”

 

Perhaps she was still paranoid from her youth with Arthas.  Keeping him, them, a secret was exhausting, and she was constantly worrying about someone finding out.  Yes, that’s why she kept doubting herself.  That was why she felt like she always had eyes on her no matter where she went.

 

Jaina!”

 

Kael shifted in her arms, and she gasped before looking up at him.
“Wh-what?  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

“It’s all right,” he began, confused.  “I promise you I’m a good rider and you have very little chance of falling, so could you kindly loosen your grip on my waist?”

 

Oh.

 

Jaina blushed, not realizing how hard she was clinging to him.  She assumed her tense thoughts lead her to subconsciously perform such actions.

A brief moment of silence fell over the two before the male spoke up, “Are you feeling all right?  You’ve been awfully quiet.”

“Yes, everything’s fine.  I’m just thinking,” she forced a light laugh, “I’m always thinking of my new spells and crafts, after all.”

Kael quirked a brow.  Something was off, and he knew it.  He slowed the horse’s pace as they approached her home.  The woman slipped off the large horse and headed inside, Kael following not far behind.  She rummaged through her closet and piles of miscellaneous items before finally finding a box.  It contained an assortment of various medical supplies she could use to treat him.  She only feared that the poison had spread too far out of her control.

If only he had gotten it looked at yesterday.  If only he wasn’t so prideful.

Jaina sighed to herself and grabbed the box before rushing back to the main room of her home.  For a moment, she almost didn’t recognize him; he looked more like an elven commoner rather than the prince himself.  She was used to seeing his flowing cape draped across his shoulders and falling elegantly to the floor—mana orbs would be levitating around his broad shoulders while he would look down at her from lidded eyes.  His current posture wasn’t necessarily bad, but Jaina could tell he was fatigued. 

 “Your horse, what is their name?” She asked him, setting the box onto the table.

“The original owner called her Opal, so I suppose I’ll be calling her the same.”

Jaina smiled, “A lovely name for a lovely creature.”

“Indeed,” Kael replied, having a seat on her worn couch.  Jaina breathed a sigh, pulling her hood down and letting her blonde locks fall free around her back and shoulders.

“I’m going to have you vomit,” she explained, changing their conversation and sitting beside him.  The other shut his eyes, pursing his lips.  “I was afraid of that.  There’s no other way?”

“No, not really.” Jaina shifted in place before going through her box of supplies.  “If it helps, I’ve got some water and mint candies to settle your stomach after you’ve done what you need to.” She scooted closer, trying to get a better look at the cuts.

“May I?” She asked, reaching a hand to his face. 

“You don’t have to ask,” Kael replied gently, holding still for her.  Jaina’s cold fingertips ghosted his tainted skin, biting her lip once she saw how bruised they looked.  They didn’t look untreated, so it was safe to assume that he at least cleaned them after he had gotten home.  Nevertheless, the drained look on his face was from more than fatigue.  Jaina sat back down before she would catch herself caressing his cheek.  She brought a small pill out from her box, offering it to him.

“This will disrupt your stomach enough to make you nauseous.  If you’re more comfortable, we can move to the bathroom.”

“I don’t imagine any of this is going to be ‘comfortable’, but that’s not a bad idea.”

 

          Ten minutes later, the two found themselves back on the couch sitting beside each other.  Jaina gently rubbed Kael’s back with one hand while he rubbed his forehead, groaning.

“That was horrendously disgusting,” he said through gritted teeth.  The woman showed him a compassionate smile, “It’s all over now, though.  Your body just needs rest.”

He popped another peppermint into his mouth before taking a sip of water from his glass.  She wouldn’t dare tell him, but she thought the situation to be rather amusing; Jaina never got to see him in such a weak and helpless state.  She pitied him, of course, and she wanted to make him feel better as much as she could.  Nonetheless, underneath the pressure of his title Kael’thas was still someone with flaws and issues just like anyone else.  Obviously, he didn’t like to show them and was possibly raised not to, yet she was glad he could open up to her.

“You must promise me,” Jaina murmured, gazing to the floor, “the next time you get hurt like that in battle, please accept the help of our healers.  We’re all here for a reason, and the reason is certainly not to cause trouble amongst each other.  We’ve agreed to settle our own quarrels in our own realms.”

The woman sat up straight, locking eyes with him, “We must all work together as teams, and teams look out for each other.  Not one of our healers will harm you.”

The blood elf’s expression softened.  She spoke to him so gently, putting all of his nerves and worries at ease.  Illidan’s words from the previous day echoed in his mind.

This realm is fragile, and it cannot handle destruction as our world can.’

Kael shifted in place, “I trust your word, Jaina.  I always will.  If you are promising me my safety, then I will heed your advice.” He paused, a slight curve on his lips graced his features. 

“Thank you.”

Chapter Text

          The night was a restless one for Kael; no matter how much he repositioned himself, counted sheep, or attempted any other sleeping exercise, he couldn’t rest.  His mind was wide awake, but his body begged him to quiet himself until morning.  Yet he couldn’t.  Only one thing ran through his mind, and it was, of course, Jaina. 

Later, he thought to himself, I can think of her in the morning, but convincing himself was never so difficult. 

She still loved him.  She had to, she never gave up on him, insisting there was still good in him.  That man—that monster—had slain more innocent lives than she could have ever imagined.  Though Kael could never truly be angry with her, he would admit he felt frustrated that she was blinded by her love for Arthas.  She would never truly defend his actions and wrong-doings, but the small bit of hope resided within her.

She could possibly never even love again, he thought, not after everything she’s been through. 

Kael sat up, growing aggravated with his thoughts.  The time had to be around 3 am, yet he felt no less tired than when he first lied down.  The blood elf made his way to the sink to wash his face; the cold water was a bit of a surprise to him, and did more of waking him up than making him sleepy. 

Perhaps a walk was in order?  Surely no one would be up at this hour.

Throwing on some darker robes and a lightweight cloak, and after slipping on some boots and combing his hair into a loose ponytail, he headed out into the chilly night.  It was awfully cold for a summer night; was the Nexus always like this in temperature?  He would know soon enough as winter approached. 

As if on cue, Jaina’s image popped into his mind.  Her frosty blue eyes glistened in the light, greeting him as they themselves smiled wistfully.  Her lips curled into a meek smile that only did more to compliment the rest of her features; her round cheeks flushed slightly, and the tip of her nose matched in color.  His name sounded from her as a delicate hand reached up to brush some of her hair from her face, gracing him with the full sight of her other eye.

And then, cutting completely away from this Jaina, was another from his past.  She stood before him, the colors of the sunset creating the somber moment for the both of them.  Her voice quiet, her head tilted away so she wouldn’t make eye contact with him.

 

‘I can’t.  Please, move on.’

 

And she was gone.

 

Kael felt his heart wrench; at that time, Jaina had dismissed the reason they couldn’t see each other, and accidentally finding out later triggered emotions he had never felt before.  That smug grin on Arthas’ face-- the way he looked to him knowing Kael had walked in on them.  He purposefully kept his lips on Jaina just to irritate the other mage. 

Finally turning around, she gasped loudly, and Kael could see the physical embarrassment on her face.  She begged him—pleaded him—not to tell anyone about their relationship.  Upsetting her even more was completely out of the question, so Kael did as he was asked. 

His relationship with the human prince, however, knew no pleasantries, even before he knew about his relationship with the woman he loved.  Arthas was crude-- a hot-head, prideful, and constantly trying to one-up him.  Even at their fight atop the dreaded mountain after the man’s corruption, asking Kael if he was angry he ‘stole his woman’ made his rage burn harder within him.

To talk about Jaina in such a way sickened him; she never belonged to him, she never belonged to anyone.  Though he didn’t doubt the two had history before Kael himself had met her, he couldn’t help but to wonder if Arthas suggested they get together just to spite him?  But he didn’t know about Kael’s feelings toward her at the time, did he?  Unless it was painfully obvious, to which the elf dearly hoped wasn’t the case.

Regardless, there were more than just a few reasons he could never forgive the Lordaeron prince.  Rubbing their relationship in his face was one, but the more important factors were that of turning Ranger General Sylvanas, one of Kael’s most powerful leaders, into the Banshee Queen to lead his Undead army, and of course the massacre of his people.

They had done him no wrong—none of them deserved what happened to them.  The suffering they later endured, from the humans no less, was Arthas’ fault entirely as well.  Even as Kael’s own father faced him in battle, the king of Quel’thalas fell to Arthas’ blade. 

Kael’s hatred for the man ran deep—it burned mercilessly in his heart and veins.  Rage began to slowly consume him the more he thought of Arthas and all he had done to bring harm to him and the Sin’dorei. 

 

The heat ran into his hands, blood boiling underneath the skin. 

 

Arthas destroyed the Sunwell—the very essence of magic the elves craved and needed to survive.  Knowingly, that damned bastard destroyed it.

 

Brightly lit eyes flicked to the side as his heart pounded in his ears.

 

“Her lips were so soft—she felt so good in my arms.”

 

A strained growl tore from his throat as he abruptly turned on his heel, launching a fireball at a wooden training dummy.  He stood in silence, slowly dropping his arms and heaving tired breaths. 

In his mind, he had planned to simply walk around town, but it appeared as though he wound up in the training arena.  Kael’s expression softened slightly as he summoned a block of ice to extinguish the flames consuming the dummy.  Perhaps an occasional visit was in order to blow off some steam?  Not always at this hour, of course.  Though, he wondered if anyone would hear him from their homes if he were to shout?

The elf’s ears twitched, there had been a shift in the air.  He turned, staring past the gates of the arena out into the town.  Not a soul was out—was he hearing things?

Brows scrunched and eyes squinted, he turned once more before catching a glimpse of blue light next to him.  Kael jumped, startled, and reflexively set his hands ablaze in case his unexpected company were to threaten him.  To his fortune, the archangel Tyrael happened to be the one standing beside him.

“Calm yourself, my comrade.” He raised a single hand, a gesture meant to try to soothe the other. “What brings you here this hour?” He spoke in a quiet tone, but slowly and gently.  The fire engulfing the mage’s hands went out, he stood up straight.  “My apologies.  I hadn’t meant to disrupt you or be an inconvenience.  Though, I could ask you the same question.”

There was a shift in the fabric of Tyrael’s hood, Kael could only guess he had tilted his head.  “Let’s just say angels have a different method of sleep than mortals.” Pausing between his sentences, the angel did something Kael had not seen him do before.  He lowered to the ground, standing on his feet instead of levitating as he usually did.

“Is something troubling you?”

The blood elf hesitated to respond.  Would Tyrael somehow know he was lying if he were to say no?  Angels weren’t all-knowing beings, were they? 

“I’ve merely had a difficult time resting.  Much is on my mind tonight.”

The other let out a thoughtful hum in reply, his armor plates creating quiet clinks as he shifted his weight to the side.

“I hope you’ve recovered from the fight; that monster was more of a threat than we anticipated.” said Kael.

“My wounds have been mended, thanks to our healers.  I am glad that no more were severely hurt—the battle was in our favor.” He turned to face the elf, “Have you come to train?”

“I had meant to walk around town, but I ended up here somehow.  After that first fireball I casted, my body is begging me not to try anymore spells until I get rest.”

Tyrael stayed quiet.  He looked to Kael, gesturing to a bench, “Come, sit.  Unless you would prefer to head home now that you have realized how fatigued you are?”

Kael paused; perhaps he did need to talk?  With the right amount of sleep, he normally wouldn’t have opened up about his feelings so easily.  Something about the angel seemed so warm and comforting; he wasn’t sure what, yet he couldn’t feel suspicious of him whatsoever.  He wanted to think something was off.  He wanted to think of Tyrael as someone who pries for information to gossip about later, but Kael couldn’t see him as that type of person.

 

Or angel.

 

Or whatever he wanted to call himself.

 

“I suppose a few more minutes out here wouldn’t hurt,” the mage walked over toward the other before tiredly sitting next to him.

“What is on your mind, friend?” Tyrael asked, his brightly lit wings fluttering behind them.  Kael folded his hands in front of him, leaning forward and staring at the ground.

“My past haunts me,” he began, breath quivering slightly, “I’ve made many enemies within my life, and now I’m forced to fight and live alongside them.  The man who took everything I loved lives just across the street from me now.”

“You are not the only one who has to face these challenges.  With that said, I am not dismissing your feelings, but I do understand from where you are coming.  I’m unaware on how you age compared to humans and angels, but I’m sure you know that we cannot live our lives without difficulty and challenges, and there is no such thing as a perfect world; obstacles are inevitable.”

Tyrael took a moment to pause, he straightened his posture to look up toward the sky, “The foul creature that corrupted and attempted to destroy my home lives in harmony amongst us; amongst the brave heroes who stopped him.”

Perhaps his selfish side was dormant due to fatigue, but Kael’s expression was sympathetic.  The immense suffering he and his kind had endured gave him restless nights, second thoughts, and doubt of his own skills in leadership.  He was never ready to be king, and never once considered himself to be so after his father’s death.  Blinded by his own problems and concerns, the prince never thought much of anyone else’s issues besides his own people’s. 

“So then, how do you handle your own situation?”

“I take all into consideration.  As the embodiment of judgement, everything must be observed from their respectful points of view.  While I shall forever be an enemy to the minions of hell and those who serve the Lord of Terror in his name, it all essentially comes down to our current situation at hand.  This realm is not like any place I’ve seen; its mysterious and magical ways will always amaze me, and the future heroes to arrive.” Tyrael leaned back, pausing from his words.

“I have come to the conclusion that it must be guarded, and we are its chosen protectors.”

Kael’thas’ mouth twitched into a frown, brows scrunching together in thought.  “That was something the Council was never clear about—just what are we protecting the Nexus from?”

The archangel looked to him, and Kael felt chills as he saw no shape of a face inside the white hood.

“What can only be described as monsters.  You saw the ferocious beast that attacked us the other day; I’ve been present for more battles, and I can guarantee you that there are worse creatures than that lurking in the Nexus.”

A tired smirk curled the elf’s lips, “I feel both glad and uneasy, then; that weed stood no chance against the elements of fire and ice.”

“Do not let your pride be the end of you,” replied the other, a hint of amusement in his tone, “In regards to that fight, I shall forever be grateful of your assistance that day.  My wounds would have been greater had you not intervened when you did.”

Kael’s grin turned into a softer smile, and he fidgeted a bit in place, “It was nothing.  I do only what is needed to protect my team.”

Tyrael laughed, clapping a hand on the other’s shoulder, “You had best keep that attitude, for you will have battles with the people you dislike fighting alongside you.  I pray everything will play out in your favor, of course, but do not let your past and hatred blind you.”

The blood elf kept his gaze to the inside of the angel’s hood, and he nodded respectfully, “I understand,” he ran a hand through his long blonde hair, “Thank you for your time.  I wish to not take any more of it up, so I suppose I shall be taking my leave now.  Your advice was very helpful; you have my gratitude for that as well.”

Standing, Tyrael fluttered his wings and held out his hand, to which Kael shyly took as he stood.  “It was my pleasure.  I only hope that my words have helped you settle your thoughts for the evening so that you may find rest.”

“Yes, they have indeed.” Kael turned on his heel before focusing to open a portal leading back to his home.
“Have a pleasant evening.”

 

          The archangel’s words did indeed bring about peace of mind to Kael, and his night proceeded with a deep slumber.  When he awoke, he found the time to read 10:00, much to his dismay.  The elf had plans of starting the day early, but it only made sense after a night of restlessness he would awake in the late morning.  He rolled over with a soft groan, raising his arms to rest his hands behind his head.  Silent, he lied motionlessly for a few moments, letting his eyelids fall to relax.  His thoughts wandered to the conversation held with Tyrael last night, and how he wasn’t expecting the other to be so open and kind, especially to someone he didn’t know.

A weakness, perhaps, but also an admirable trait.  Nevertheless, Kael didn’t know if he felt glad or angry with himself for opening up to someone as he did.  In all honesty, he began to regret it.  His emotions were something he had learned to mask, as most blood elves had been taught to do.  Pride became his shield as outward appearance became his armor; being brought up and raised in a royal household, hiding his emotions to maintain a calm demeanor was something his tutors held high as a priority to teach him.

Regardless of his situation here in the Nexus, he was still a prince, and felt the heavy pressure of keeping himself fit to the definition.  Why did it feel so difficult here?  He wasn’t among his own people, but he thought that would perhaps lighten the weight on his shoulders if anything.

Though, this pressure could have also originated from—

 

Knock knock.

 

Kael jolted, startled, “Who the hell,” he threw the blankets off, grumbling, “would be wanting to see me this early?”

He began to dress himself, deciding to throw on a simpler robe but one that would be easier and more convenient to wear for just a moment.  The knocking proceeded, and the elf let out a huff.

“One moment, please!” Irritated, he rushed to his dresser and ran a comb through his silky hair.  He wouldn’t style it perfectly, nor how he wanted it to look within the given time span, but it was passable so he stuck with it.  Gracelessly hopping to the front of his home while pulling his boots on, he blew a strand of hair out of his face and collected himself before opening the door.

“Good afternoon, valiant Hero!” A short man, dressed in a tailcoat with a monocle and a top hat greeted him.  The man offered a bow of respect as Kael stared briefly, “Good morning,” he replied, a bit stern, “may I ask what you need from me?”

“Yes, sir!” The man reached into his coat and pulled out a slip of paper, “I am one of the assistant managers of Cosmic Cosmetics; it’s the large white building down Goodman Road.”

Kael raised a brow.

“We’d like for you to stop by for a fitting—we’ve offered all of the Heroes in the Nexus a complimentary outfit of their liking.  It can be used in combat, out of combat, whatever you’d like.” The man then held out the slip of paper, offering it to the mage, “They know who you are.  Just stop on in and ask for a Mr. Barrington and they’ll send you my way.”

Taking the paper in his hand, Kael examined it as the man took a step back and tipped his hat, “Have a wonderful day, Prince Sunstrider.”

          His morning proceeded to drag on as late afternoon soon approached.  It was an odd feeling, to awake late to see the afternoon seemingly come and go so quickly.  He made himself brunch, but only to find himself hungry again around 3:00.  Adjustments to his sleep schedule would need to be made, and he wasn’t looking forward to them.

Kael’s fingers brushed over the pages of his book, the other hand resting on the hard-backed cover.  The story was growing bland and he couldn’t remember if he had actually read this novel before or not.  Sighing, he pinched the bridge of his nose and set the book on the coffee table, then turned to look out his window.  He could spot a few of the Heroes chatting by the fountain and village children playing. 

Despite his efforts, he would never be able to shake the feeling of danger whenever he left his home.  He had no guards, no henchmen, no advisors-- only the power residing in him and his wits.  And, in most cases, that was simply enough to get him through tough situations.  He wondered if this place would be any different, should he get himself into trouble.

Kael’s eyes flicked back down to the book.  He couldn’t just stay here, locked up in his home in solitude; but then what was there really to do?  There was truly only one person in the Nexus he wanted the company of, and he was certain she didn’t want his.  He wondered if seeing her every day would earn him a bad reputation.  He shook the thought; should they happen to see each other every day, then there was no helping it.  Of course, he would have days when he would want to see her just for the fact of seeing her.

His feelings for Jaina were still present, and Kael didn’t have any plans of abandoning them.

With her on his mind, the blood elf prince huffed and rose to his feet before heading back to his bedroom to redress himself.  Throwing on some nicer robes and styling his hair more to his liking, he looked down at his nails to see if the paint had chipped.  After a brief glance over himself in the mirror, making sure his eyebrows were groomed properly, he pushed away from the dresser, grabbed the book he had been reading, and headed outside.  His steed greeted him with a soft whinny, and the mage rested a warm hand atop her snout.  She stood still and patient as Kael saddled her up, pulling and adjusting straps and belts as needed.

As the time pushed 4:00, he figured it was safe to assume she was at the library.  Since the park was closest, however, he thought it best to check there first.  He simply hoped he didn’t appear too tired, as the dark circles under his eyes stood out to him more than usual.  Nevertheless, he kept his attitude pleasant to those who greeted him—that was something he would have to get used to all over again—as he rode through the town.

With a quick glance around the park, he saw no sign of her and moved on.  He tugged Opal’s reigns and directed her toward the library, starting a slow trot.  Arriving, he dismounted and tucked the book into a bag on her saddle, then headed inside.

The librarian perked her head up when the chime of the bell rung as the door opened.  She smiled warmly, “Good day to you!  May I help you find anything?”

“I’ll just be browsing today, thank you.”