Hana woke to the sound of banging hammers and muted voices, and for a long moment she couldn't understand it at all. Rolling over, she blinked up at the carved wooden ceiling in confusion for another long moment before it all clicked back together. This was Nemai'Aran, the new Kaldorei city, and Tyrande herself had released her from the their Temple of Elune. The generous, plush bed was empty of anyone but herself, but she could feel Tassadar in a corner of her mind. And no pain.
:Elune has done what I could not. You should never again feel pain from the bond.:
Hana gasped and shivered; Tassadar's telepathy had never before felt like that, so much more than just the plain words he had sparingly used with her up to now, even more than the fleeting brushes of emotions that had bled into her with his touch. This was more like the few times they had joined completely, it was verging on being completely overwhelming. She felt his apology and it was enough to bring tears to her eyes. Worse, she could feel his confusion, his mental touch fading in his determination not to make things worse, and somehow that hurt even more. She stumbled, practically tripping over her own two feet in her rush to get out of bed to go to him, to fix this mess she had somehow made.
“Whoa, whoa, easy Hana, deep breath, yeah?”
Looking up, she was surprised to see Raynor there, offering her a hand up off the floor.
“But,” she started, biting her lip when she felt a sob catching in her throat. They were alone in a screened off portion of a larger room that was open to the city on the far side. Was this their room at the inn, then?
“It's all right, Hana, but you should probably get dressed first, yeah?”
Frowning, she glanced down and then blushed bright red as she realized she was completely naked. God, could this get any worse?
“Hana, seriously, deep breath and stop panicking, yeah? It's okay, everything's fine, but you need to relax,” Raynor insisted softly. Hana nodded, closing her eyes as she forced herself to take a deep breath. Nothing good came from panicking, she knew that, but getting the panic to stop was easier said than done. And then Raynor was pulling her into his arms and it was almost like he was somehow sharing his calm with her.
“That's it, deep breaths,” he murmured, hugging her tight and kissing the top of her head. “I told him we needed to ease you into this, but apparently we have different definitions of the word slow.”
“How ... you ... you're bonded ... he's a telepath ... how is that even possible??” Hana stammered, another soft wash of apology sliding over her.
:Only when we are perfectly aligned as one is there no longer room for misunderstanding.:
Hana glanced up, half expecting to see Tassadar standing there, to feel his hand on her skin, but there was nothing, just her and Raynor. Another shudder as she took another deep breath and then she forced herself to step back, to walk over to the wardrobe. Looking over the elvish tunics, she couldn't help a soft sigh.
“When can I go home?” she asked as she selected a tunic. “The fel fire is out of my system now, right? So why are we still here?”
:Your body has been cleaned and healed, but you still have more healing to do.:
“I don't want to ... to work through it, I just want to forget. I want the whole incident erased from my memory. I don't care how childish you think that makes me, I don't want those memories! Any of them!”
It was a strange sensation, feeling the way Tassadar's mental touch narrowed as the absent templar focused on only her, dropping Raynor completely from their telepathic loop.
:N'rithaa, we have spoken of this. I know you hurt, but do not ask this of us.:
She bit her lip, wanting to ask for clarification and yet not sure how. Would just thinking it be enough or did she need to say the words?
:Even if you forget, we will remember. All of us. You are not alone in your pain, n'rithaa. You are Khalai, you are never alone. You will always have our support.:
“I don't understand,” she mumbled before she could stop herself. And then Tassadar triggered her memory of that night, the first time they had joined completely. She hadn't noticed it properly then and in the two times since he had kept her screened, shielded from the rest of the Khala. But now that he was guiding her through the memory, there it was, the moment she had been bonded into the Khala.
“But ... but that was months ago!” she said, shocked and even a bit horrified that she hadn't figured it out on her own. “You mean all those times you said....”
“It's about time you figured that one out, baby girl,” Raynor said, smirking. “I'd be jealous, but you've needed the Khala's strength way more than I have.”
“Then you...?” but she couldn't quite bring herself to finish that question, afraid that he was harboring anger or resentment at the differences in their statuses.
“Only just last night,” the commander said with a shrug. “Like I said, you needed it more than I have. I may have been a shit boyfriend a few times, but doubting Tass's feelings was never the problem.”
“But then ... that thing he said yesterday about making it public....”
“He was talking about the rest of the alliance, yes,” Raynor said with a little nod. “The Khalai have known since he bonded you that we are three.”
:Three warriors, one heart.:
Maybe it was stupid, but Hana couldn't help it, collapsing to the wooden floor as tears ran down her cheeks. Raynor scooped her up into his arms almost too easily and she clung to him.
:Wherever you are, with us, you are home.:
Home. It was the one thing for which she had been searching for all these years. To have finally found it in the Nexus ... it terrified her. What would she do when the Nexus ended?
:Is not today filled with trouble enough, n'rithaa? Do not waste energy on such fears.:
She wished it could be that simple.
The crack of thunder would have been enough to get anyone's attention, especially on such a mild, clear day. Hana tried to sit up, but while she could see Sentinels running about, shouting to each other in Darnassian, she couldn't understand any of it. Sometimes she felt like having even what little telepathic ability she now had was less useful than a hundred science fiction plots had led her to believe.
“Tass?” she asked, glancing up at the Protoss behind her. “What's going on?”
:Stay here, n'rithaa,: he sent, fingertips briefly brushing against her shoulder to reinforce his desire that she stay safe while he investigated. She huffed a sigh as she watched him go, turning off her tablet and setting it on the table. Thunder without lightning ... a sonic boom could have a number of sources if they were back on Earth, but she was less certain about here in the Nexus. Both the Protoss and Raynor's Raiders had hypersonic craft, but as far as she had been able to tell, neither had much use for them here. Pilots were still going up to fly, of course, they were pilots. But would they be flying over Nemai'Aran? She wasn't even sure where they were in relation to Khor-emeth, only that the Protoss city was on a broad plain, Thrall's Drakamar was up in the distant mountains, and this city was in deep forest. Far enough apart to need to fly between them, but.....
“You know, it's not healthy to always be wound this tightly, dear.”
Hana blinked. She was certain that chair had been empty a moment ago.
“Chromie is just fine, Hana dear.”
“Lady Chromie –.”
“Just Chromie,” the ancient dragon in a female gnome's body said, a hardness glittering in her eyes even with the grin on her face.
“What, um, brings you to Nemai'Aran?” she asked, not sure if it was even appropriate of her to be asking such a thing. After all, it wasn't like she was anyone important, just a displaced MEKA pilot on medical leave in an elvish city that wasn't even half built.
“Where else would I be at a time like this?” the bronze dragon asked, her grin getting even bigger. The shouting got louder, a knot of elves moving towards the temple.
“Oh right, over there,” Chromie said, frowning and then vanishing. Hana wondered what that had been about, mentally reaching for Tassadar, but he was busy, promising to explain when he could. That ... didn't make a lot of sense to her, but she picked up her tablet again anyway. Not that it did her much good, since Nemai'Aran was a Kaldorei city, built to Kaldorei tech standards, which was to say virtually none. She could sort of understand why, but not being able to play made her miss her games even more.
So she was surprised when a little box popped up to inform her she was reconnected to the Protoss network. And then it clicked, her tablet tossed back onto the table as she got up, shoving her feet into soft-soled boots before running off towards the landing area at the far edge of the city. Of course Raynor got to her before she could actually get that far, laughing and swinging her up into his arms as if they hadn't seen enough other in days instead of just a couple of hours. But then again, Raynor was always like that, making her feel treasured like that.
“Hey baby girl, miss me or something?”
“How strong's your psi rating?”
“Just barely above latent, why?” he asked, frowning.
“Something's going on, can't you tell?” she said, pouting a little. And yet, even as she said it, she realized the city had gone quiet again. Did that mean ... but still that busy buzzy feeling from Tassadar. She didn't want to push, so she focused back on Raynor again.
“When I asked about it before, Tass said he was too busy to explain, which doesn't make sense to me at all, but then again I'm still new to this whole telepathy thing, so I thought maybe you...?”
“Depends on what he's doing. If he says he's too busy, I trust him to mean it. I'm sure he'll explain when he can,” Raynor said, tucking an arm around her as he started towards the dining room where Hana was spending her days for the moment. She would have preferred being back at the Overwatch Tower or better yet, moving into an apartment in Khor-emeth proper, but since Tassadar was still insisting she stay here with the Kaldorei....
“So I guess you didn't see or hear anything on your way in then,” she said with a sigh.
“Was I supposed to?”
“Well, there was a sonic boom like five minutes or so before you got here that had the whole city, well, what there is of it, in a flurry.”
“Not from my boys, I don't think, but hand me your tablet and I'll double check. Pilots aren't supposed to come out here without specific orders, in deference to the Kaldorei's stated wishes. Well, Lunara's wishes, anyway,” Raynor explained. “The plains go right down to the ocean, we direct them on paths that way. Hey Artanis, can I get you to check flight paths for me?”
“Why can you not do this yourself? You have the clearance.”
“Because I'm a lazy ass who doesn't want to tramp all the way back down to my scout when I can just use Hana's tablet to call you?”
“... fair enough. What am I looking for? And how is Miss Song?”
“Any flight activity around Nemai'Aran about five to ten minutes before I got here. And stop acting like the Khala doesn't already know as well as I do how she's doing.”
“Of course the Khala knows, but in my experience, you humans prefer to be asked. Especially since she isn't joined in the same way. Ah yes, a transdimensional rift was detected at about that time, quite small and only lasting long enough to allow passage of one bio unit. The AI tagged it as anomalous but not of immediate concern as it was too small and too distant from the city to be considered a threat.”
“Didn't sound that distant,” Hana muttered, startled when that got a laugh from Artanis.
“Probably not,” the templar agreed, “but since the mass detected was less than that of a power-armored zealot, the AI deemed it unlikely to warrant our attention. If Nemai'Aran was in our network, it would have notified the Sentinels, but since it is not....”
“Sonic boom in the middle of a forest that isn't supposed to have such things? It got noticed just fine,” Hana said with a low huff.
“... was the AI wrong? Do I need to dispatch assistance?”
“The city's gone quiet now and Tass feels fine,” Raynor said with a shake of his head. “Busy but fine. Whatever came through, he and the Kaldorei seem to have a handle on it.”
“... a dragon....”
“A dragon. Well, a dragon in humanoid form, from those readings. Chromie was here, sitting at this table, when a bunch of elves hurried into the temple. If Chromie's involved, that means it's a dragon ... doesn't it?”
“You'd know more about it then either of us, I'd wager,” Raynor said with a small smile. “I haven't gotten to the books on the dragons of Azeroth yet.”
“According to this, the Nexus is in active expansion again. Or rather, still. Seems your Draenei friends are not the only ones who have been ensnared lately. Raynor, I'm calling a Council meeting for this evening, though of the two of you, it might be better to have Lord Tassadar return.”
“We'll figure it out. Thanks, Artanis.”
“I take it our arrival has caused trouble.”
Hana started to get up, but Boros waved her back while his companion brought over the kettle from the open hearth, refilling teacups before pouring two more.
“Please to pardon our intrusion, Lord Commander,” the bulky Draenei Vindicator said, a hand over his heart. “We had hoped only to inquire when we might acquire transportation to Khor-emeth, but it can wait if now is a bad time, yes?”
The words seemed rather at odds with the way the two males had taken seats at the table. Curious, Hana tried extending her senses towards the two Draenei, only to feel a gentle reproach and push back.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, getting a startled frown from Raynor.
“It is all right, little one, no harm done,” Boros said and she was surprised at how much a simple smile could transform his face from formidable to kind.
“Unless you're here to tell me you asked to be brought to the Nexus, no one is blaming you, Vindicator. As for transportation ... if you're in a particular hurry, I can arrange for a drop ship, though between us? If you could persuade Lady Whisperwind to change her mind about even just a stable portal connection, I'd be grateful. By the law of Dae'Uhl, I can only suggest, each city is within its rights to refuse as much Protoss help as it chooses.”
“We do not wish to unbalance the governance of this city or any other,” Boros replied with a shake of his head. “If we were a greater number, we would find a place for a city of our own. As it is ... we are petitioners, refugees once more.”
“Don't misunderstand me, Vindicator. Your people are welcome in either city and entitled to representation in the union's ruling council, same as any other sub-faction. In fact –.”
Raynor's jaw snapped shut as he suddenly stood from the table. Hana started to reach for him when the air crackled and he was gone, taken by the Nexus. She started counting the seconds, but she could see the startled and worried expressions on the faces of the two Draenei still seated with her. She might not be someone of official standing, but she was here and seeing as she knew what it was that had just happened....
“It's all right, you just got an object lesson, so to speak, in how the Nexus operates. Anyone marked by the Nexus as a viable operative - and Commander Raynor's a senior operative - is subject to taking at any time,” she said, reclaiming her tablet to see if she could hack into the Nexus for a list of active operatives. If Boros or any of his people were on the list, it would probably be helpful for him to know. Annoyingly, her first attempt was promptly blocked.
“Vindicator Boros, your presence is requested in the temple. Also, transport to Khor-emeth will be here in approximately four hours.”
“You have our thanks, Lord Executor,” the paladin said as he got up from the table. The two Draenei saluted the Protoss then left, headed for the temple. Frowning, Hana watched them, the unhurried way they walked feeling strange. She really wished she knew what was going on, but she wasn't sure it was her place to ask.
:You spend far too much time worrying for nothing, n'rithaa.:
“But I'm not ... it's not like I'm someone important.”
She could feel his reaction to that and winced. That wasn't....
“You know what I mean,” she mumbled, getting up to crawl into his lap.
:I do, yes,: and she could feel his amusement, the warmth of his love for her in a way she really hadn't even felt it in the past. :I have to go help James, but stay here, someone is coming to join you shortly.:
Hana wasn't sure what that meant, huffing a sigh as he set her back on her feet. Throwing herself into her chair again, she reached for her tablet, intending to try hacking the Nexus again, only to find it wasn't there.
“Dammit, Tass!” she grumbled in his direction, even though he was already out of sight.
:You have better things to do, n'rithaa. Read a book.:
“I can't, you took my tablet,” she countered with another huff. So of course the next instant a stack of books thumped onto the table. Smartass. Taking the first one, she wrinkled her nose at the English words on the page. She hated reading critical things in English, she always felt like she was missing something important.
“If you'd left me my tablet, I could be reading this in Korean,” she muttered, but she could feel Tassadar's distraction. A flicker of worry that something serious had happened to Raynor, swiftly followed by the realization that what she was getting from them had nothing to do with any sort of injury. And then she was being gently shielded out and she wasn't quite sure how she was supposed to feel about that.
“Balancing between three is always difficult.”
Hana glanced up at the intruding voice, then up again, jaw dropping open as realization sunk in of just who was joining her.
“G-great Lady Alexstrasza....”
“Hana Song, yes? I feel as though I should apologize to you, as it was my request that you stay here,” the dragon queen said. Hana couldn't stop gaping, at a complete loss for words for a long moment.
“I ... you ... you asked to see me?” she squeaked, heat rushing into her cheeks. Alexstrasza smiled, settling into one of the other chairs at the table.
“I did, yes. We have something in common, something those who love you don't, can't understand. Well, a bit more time and perhaps your Lord Tassadar could come to understand it....”
Hana frowned down at her tea, not sure she liked where this conversation was going. Leaving aside the frankly ridiculous suggestion that she, a mere human teenager, could have anything in common with the queen of all dragons, it felt wrong to try to compare he experience with what Alexstrasza had suffered at the hands of the Horde.
“You think if you try hard enough you can bury and ignore it,” the dragon queen said softly, one gloved hand briefly covering hers. “But the more you try to ignore it, the more it will fester instead.”
“I'm not like you, my queen,” she mumbled. “I don't have your strength, I never have. I've locked up and ignored enough other things, I can lock this away, too.”
“Perhaps. But Hana, you don't have to. You aren't alone.”
“Forgive me, my queen,” Hana said as she hurriedly pushed herself to her feet, “but I've been sitting here for a few hours now. I should really get up and walk around a bit.”
For a wonder, Alexstrasza didn't argue or otherwise try to stop her, just watched her walk away with those bright, soulful eyes.
“Well. That ... could have gone better....”
“I did tell you she wasn't going to listen, Allie,” Chronormu chirped, taking one of the other chairs.
“So you did,” the dragon queen said with a sigh. “Some day I will remember to listen to you.”
“Oh but think how dull it would be if everyone just did what I told them all the time!” her fellow dragon countered, laughing easily. “Give it time, Allie. You've only just gotten here, you have a lot to learn still.”
“Indeed. You could start by telling me what you and I are doing here.”
“Can't,” the dragon gnome said with one of her more unrepentant grins. “But wait awhile and Tyrael will explain everything.”
“Including why our Kaldorei are building a city here?”
“Yup!” Chronormu said with a nod. A sigh and a shake of her head and Alexstrasza got up from the table.
“Am I at least allowed to fly while I wait?”
“Of course. Tyrael always knows where to find you. Just keep an eye out for the other dragons. You and I ... we're not alone~”
Curious, Alexstrasza started stretching out her magic, feeling the vibrant life in the city, the green pulse of it in the surrounding forest. No sign of dragonkin beyond herself and ... no, even Chronormu had vanished. Well, that was all right, she would just keep exploring elsewhere. To the south, perhaps? Yes, the south would be a nice direction, who knew what she might find down there, away from the far eastern mountains and the orcs she could faintly sense among them. That ... she would deal with that later.