“Tell me again,” Sylvanas said, closing her eyes and waving her hand like she was wafting a particularly pleasant scent to her nostrils. “I want to savor this.”
“Malfurion Stormrage is unwell,” Nathanos said, a glint of amusement in his eyes despite the evenness of his voice.
Sylvanas fixed him with a pleased smile, feeling something akin to giddiness. “He never did recover from the War of the Thorns, did he. This is almost better than if that traitor had finished him off.”
“My sources tell me that the tree burning nearly drove him mad for a time.”
For a druid as powerful as Malfurion, it seemed likely that he would have been deeply affected by Teldrassil burning. There’d once been a time when Sylvanas had been that in tune with nature as well. Now, of course, she’d lost her green thumb, to have it replaced with one of death and decay. Absently, she looked at her hand, and wished for Jaina to return from Kul Tiras.
She missed nothing of Jaina, of course. It had simply been a calculated risk agreeing to this visit, and she worried the former Lord Admiral might try to spite her by flaunting the Compact. Again.
“Keep me apprised of that situation. I’ll be sure to send proper condolences when we’re finally rid of that man.” Just because they were now allies didn’t mean she had to like him. He was in all ways her direct opposite, and an irritating reminder of what she’d lost. She’d rather share table with Greymane.
At least Greymane was easily provoked and thus endlessly amusing.
“Would you like to send some now?” Nathanos asked, a sly smile on his face. “Perhaps we could ask Thalyssra to deliver the missive. I understand the two of them have been attempting to mend fences.”
“Now now, Nathanos, let us not be crass. We’ll do so when it’s appropriate. However, I am always happy to provoke Whisperwind when there’s a good reason to.” As long as there were no threats of the Shal’dorei leaving the Horde, Sylvanas would encourage tighter bonds, especially as it would help form more cracks in the Alliance for her to pry apart should it ever prove necessary.
She shifted on the throne, restless with unspent energy. She had in fact been fidgeting all day, though the one person who’d brought attention to it had nearly lost his head.
“She’s late.” Nathanos glared in the direction of the Hold’s entrance pointedly. “If she returns, you should punish her, or worse.”
“She has an hour before the sun sets,” Sylvanas replied lazily. “And she was told ‘by the end of the day.’ Technically, that would be midnight.” Her eyes flicked to her champion, amusement glinting in them. “Perhaps if you were so concerned you could have suggested sundown.”
Nathanos sneered. “She likes pushing you to your limits. She’s a traitor, Warchief. She always has been and she always will be and it’s only a matter of time before she proves it. The question is how much damage she does before you realize that.”
Sylvanas lifted her hand to her nose, remembering the fight. If he knew just how right he was, she would never hear the end of it.
She fixed him with an icy look, her eyes growing darker and redder.It was a bizarre thing, this urge to actually give Jaina that chance and Nathanos’s loaded statements weren’t helping. Her tone was dark, though her words were light. “Nathanos, you declare Lady Proudmoore a traitor if she so much as sneezes.”
“I am merely suggesting that we be cautious where that -- where Proudmoore is concerned.” He bowed his head, though Sylvanas caught something like concern and defiance in the way his jaw tensed.
She got to her feet and approached him, tilting his chin so that he was forced to meet her gaze. Nathanos was toeing a line with his statements about Proudmoore’s trustworthiness, a fact she wasn’t going to forget. Her voice was even, like the edge of a sharpened blade.
“You serve me well, Nathanos. You protect me and you protect the Horde in turn. But Jaina Proudmoore is my consort, and as much as the two of you might wish otherwise, she is Horde. I told you once before; no one may belittle my wife but myself. This is the last time I will say it. When you disrespect her, you disrespect me. Do not test me, old friend, or I might not hold her back the next time you provoke her.”
He said nothing as Sylvanas let go of his face. She regarded him a moment longer, then turned only her head towards the entrance to the hold. “Ah. There she is.”
Something strange and unwelcome rippled through her. Perhaps, just a little bit, she was happy to see Jaina. Dismissing it simply as satisfaction that Jaina had kept to her word, Sylvanas left Nathanos, ignoring his response as she walked out of the hold. Sylvanas clasped her hands behind her back as Jaina slowly walked up the ramp towards her. Jaina looked up at her, raising her eyebrows. “What?”
Sylvanas fought back a smile. It wouldn’t do to let Jaina know she was in a good mood. It might go to her head and that was the last thing she needed. “You’re on time.”
Jaina absently grasped her necklace, thumb rubbing along the silver finish. “I’m firmly aware of the value of my word and how easily it can become worthless.”
Fingers on one hand twitching, Sylvanas inclined her head. “Allow me to escort you home.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Jaina narrowed her eyes,then looked around as if expecting some sort of trap. “Are you well? You’re being oddly pleasant.”
Jaina’s confusion and discomfort only made Sylvanas more amused. The only way this day could have been better was if Nathanos had told her Malfurion had died. An idle fantasy at this point, but Sylvanas pondered the implications of that and how she could sway it in her favor. Would prying at a fracture between the Kaldorei and the rest of the Alliance break the compact? Tyrande was certainly more pleasant to look at than just about any of the other leaders of both factions.
“I am just happy to see you,” she said cryptically, brushing past Jaina and not looking to see if she followed.
Jaina had worn it that way specifically for this experiment. If Sylvanas wanted to press her buttons, she had to expect Jaina to push some back. As long as it kept Sylvanas mollified why should she care that her wife had some kind of hair fetish?
Varian was sleeping on her pillow, which was adorable and so she had to disturb him by picking him up. Sylvanas let out a disgusted noise when Jaina cooed at the kitten. “You’ve grown! I’ve only been gone a few days!”
Sylvanas scoffed again and Jaina snickered into Varian’s fur.
She left her bag in the bedroom with Varian clinging to her shoulder, feeling Sylvanas shadowing her as she moved through the quarters and into the kitchen. While Jaina had been used to being served (and could conjure her own meals besides), she enjoyed preparing meals for herself sometimes, too. And it was far too late to bother someone when a simple snack would do. She rolled her eyes at Sylvanas. “If you’re going to loom there, you can help me.”
“Hand me that knife.” Jaina fidgeted, rubbing the tips of her fingers along the counter as she waited, shoulders tense.
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes, then picked up the knife and handed it to Jaina.
Jaina looked at the knife, not really meeting Sylvanas’s eyes as she tried to fill the awkward silence. “You know, we’ve been married almost three years now. I’ve never asked, but can you still eat?”
Looking taken aback, Sylvanas replied, “Yes.”
“Do you need to eat?”
Sylvanas shrugged, pursing her lips. “It is complicated. Most food lacks taste.”
Jaina sliced into a loaf of bread, the kitten’s soft purr in her ear soothing. “I mean, do you require sustenance? Fuel for your body? Or are the rumors true and you drink blood and feast upon the souls of children?”
She was rewarded with the faint hint of a smile on Sylvanas’s face as Sylvanas replied. “Unfortunately, nothing quite so morbid. When I cannot naturally regenerate my energies, a tasteless meal will suffice.”
“Hmm.” Jaina pointed to the counter next to her. “Come here, I’m going to teach you how to make a sandwich.”
“To think, a noblewoman like yourself, enjoying herself in the kitchen.”
Ignoring Sylvanas’s mockery, Jaina grabbed her hand and pulled her to the counter, barely taking any breaths as she spoke, “I’ll have you know my family and my people pride themselves on survival and self-sufficiency. Everyone learns basic cooking skills, everyone learns how to sew and repair clothing in the field and especially at sea. And cooking is fun. I don’t do it nearly often enough, but then, I think I’m only a passable chef-- Sylvanas, it’s a bread knife not a dagger, you’re holding it wrong.”
Sylvanas adjusted her grip on it as Jaina showed her. “Striders and Rangers knew how to prepare meals.”
“Yes, but making a meal in the wilderness is a lot different than preparing one at home.” Jaina made an almost delighted sound as she realized, “You always relied on servants, didn’t you.”
Not allowing Jaina the satisfaction of a response, Sylvanas instead slapped some meat between two slices of bread and held it up. “A sandwich.”
“That’s not how..... Give me that.” Jaina took the offending thing away from Sylvanas, took it apart, and prepared it properly. Only after she’d handed it back did she notice the smirk on Sylvanas’s face. Jaina laughed and poked her shoulder. “You bitch!”
Sylvanas’s low, rumbly chuckle sent a jolt through Jaina, heating her face as she set Varian on the floor with a quick meal of his own, grabbed her plate and made a beeline for the living area, where it was safe. She pretended to ignore her wife as she curled up on the single reclining chair and pulled out the latest book she’d been reading.
Sitting across from her, Sylvanas took a bite from the sandwich. She ate slowly, brow furrowed. Jaina watched her out of the corner of her eyes, consumed with curiosity and highly amused at the great Sylvanas Windrunner eating a sandwich with something like insecurity. “How is it?”
Eyes focused on her fingers rather than Jaina, Sylvanas said, “It was satisfactory, for tasting like sawdust.”
But she licked her fingers clean, and Jaina felt her stomach tighten at the sight. She certainly couldn’t read with Sylvanas doing that. She barely noticed the cat had finished eating, though she noticed when he used his claws to climb up her leg to her lap.
Sylvanas got up after another moment, moving behind Jaina’s chair. As slim fingers threaded through her hair, Jaina’s eyes flicked to the clock; it had taken about forty-five minutes.
It could almost have felt...nice, except that the idea of enjoying anything Sylvanas did to her still made her a tad queasy. So, rather than give her the satisfaction, Jaina feigned an irritated sigh, turned her page with exaggerated indifference, and listened to Varian’s soft purring as she settled in to read
***Thirty-Three Years Ago***
She had a patrol scheduled tomorrow and looked forward to it; sitting around doing nothing had been driving her crazy. The healers had been very clear on what could happen if she didn’t follow their directions, however, and the thought of losing some use of her hand had been worrisome enough to keep her mostly in line.
Fortunately she’d had some help, even if that help was a mischief-maker entirely too much like her mother Feydori.
Fey… Sylvanas still couldn’t look at her without feeling some heartache, or at her daughter without another sort of pain. And yet she would not give either of them up for anything. Friendship or love, Sylvanas would keep Fey in her heart for as long as she lived. Even if she might still hope, on occasion, that when Fey was done with mourning her spouse that she might look her way again.
Which was selfish and vicious and exactly why Sylvanas would never voice the thought out loud. But waiting… Sylvanas was good at waiting.
She heard the movement before the horns of the Ranger General rang out. Sylvanas stepped out into the street, cloak billowing behind her as she walked towards the inner walls.
A blur ran past her and her hand snapped out, grabbing the girl by the back of the neck. “Child, how does the Heir to the House of Sundreamer act?”
Looking abashed, the dark-haired girl replied, “Like a lady?”
Sylvanas tilted her head, one eyebrow raised.
The girl tried again. “Like a warrior? No, a lady and a warrior.”
“Very good.” She let go of her, the exhausting girl having to jog to keep up with Sylvanas’s long strides.
They arrived at the gate, and Sylvanas signaled the guards to let them pass. She could see her mother’s patrol gathering together for their briefing. Putting her hand on the top of the girl’s head she guided her through until they reached Lireesa and Feydori.
She exchanged a pleasant nod with her mother as Feydori’s eyes darted between her own child and Sylvanas. “Auditioning?”
Sylvanas smiled back at Feydori. “And if I was?”
Fey got a twinkle in her eye that had been missing in recent months. She held her hand out until Sylvanas clasped it. “Keep an eye on her, will you?”
Quashing a faint surge of hope, Sylvanas nodded. “I will watch her as if she were my own.” Her hand tightened on Fey’s. She added just in case, just so that they could both be clear. “No matter what you need me to be for you, I’ll be here.”
She got a squeeze back, and Fey nodded once. “When I return...We should...”
The order to mount up sounded, and she gave Sylvanas an apologetic look for being unable to finish voicing her thoughts, before kneeling to give her child a quick kiss on the cheek. “Try not to drive Sylvanas too crazy. We need her to defend Silvermoon. She’s our best line of defense and as long as she lives our people will never fall. Listen to her as you would listen to me.”
Fey gave Sylvanas a quick glance and a smile, and Sylvanas folded her arms as the Rangers prepared to depart. She turned her attention to her mother as Lireesa led the Rangers into the forest, feeling a strange sense of foreboding as they disappeared from view. She shook the feeling off, then looked down at the girl standing next to her. “I’ve got duty on the walls tonight. Would you like to join me?”
“Maybe I can see mother from there,” she decided, and smiled up at Sylvanas.
“I am certain we will upon their return,” Sylvanas promised, smiling back at her. “And if you’re very good, you may join me on patrol tomorrow. We should be back with plenty of time to spare before your mother returns to yell at me.”