The ceremony proceeded upon a tenuous truce; both sides braced for the schemes of the other. It wasn’t the wedding Jaina had dreamed of — hardly anything close to it —, but it was what it was.
There were no gowns or flowers; they would marry in their armour, polished to a shine and gleaming in the falling light of dusk. It was only practical — there were still many who despised the thought of the union. How would they defend their people from defectors in lace and silk?
Jaina stood before Sylvanas and tried to keep her emotions from running rampant on her face. The Warchief looked as dour as she felt, because even if they were doing it for the greater good, it didn’t mean either of them had to like it. Still, there was no point in aggravating already simmering tensions, so Jaina forced herself to muster a polite expression.
The Banshee Queen’s left ear twitched, and she looked away towards the crowd indifferently.
Sylvanas was clad in deep purple accented in golden elven motifs, and Jaina had to admit that she cut quite a striking figure among the masses. Her own dressing matched in the subtlest ways; Anduin had insisted that they match somehow, for tradition’s sake, and Genn had to very delicately pry her grip from her staff to keep her from committing treason.
They were supposed to be the united front of the New Era, after all.
So both their collars were high, elegant against broad pauldrons that flaunted lines of gold. Jaina’s came in shades of royal blue to match the deep teal of her robes, and she appreciated the broadness they lent her. She had chosen those colours for how well they blended together in Alliance blue and Kul Tiran green.
Behind them, the flags of their joint factions swayed in the restless breeze —Alliance and Horde; Forsaken and Kul Tiras.
Sylvanas took her hand, and Jaina inhaled sharply at the coolness of her touch. She reached up and clasped her hand over Sylvanas, as directed, and watched stubbornly as the Warchief’s lips pursed into a thin line.
Defiantly, Jaina mets her gaze and held it. For how much her eyes blazed in whorls of glowing ember, Sylvanas’ gaze was cool on her face, distant, almost. Unfeeling, she could say, but she knew better than that. Plus the fact that her ears had pinned back significantly since the ceremony began.
Their joined hands were bound with silk, a bright red that prickled at Jaina’s spine. She used to imagine holding hands with Arthas like that; the thread connecting them virginal white. She imagined big, warm, callused hands engulfing hers.
Sylvanas’ hands were cold, with fingers long and elegant, but no less marred from war. It was a comfort, almost. A familiarity.
It was only fitting, she thought, to be bound in blood.
“Do you join together with free will, and to pledge your lives to each other, ‘til death — er, do you part?”
Sylvanas glanced at the priest, an ear twitching irritably. “Yes,” she replied curtly, and her lips curled into a smirk when she looked back at Jaina. “In a manner of speaking.”
The priest turned to Jaina encouragingly. “And do you —”
“Yes,” Jaina cut in, setting her jaw and glaring back at Sylvanas. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes and then rolled them. Jaina made a point to conjure a sharp bite of frost in her palm spitefully, even though she wasn’t entirely sure Sylvanas felt the cold. If she did, the Warchief gave no sign, only rolling her eyes again.
“By the power vested in me, I pronounce you wife and...wife.”
The crowd erupted in noise; mostly the Horde and Forsaken who roared and hooted for their Warchief’s union. Members of the Alliance clapped and cheered with far more restraint, eyes lingering warily still on Sylvanas.
They did not kiss.
The wedding feast was made only marginally bearable by the fact that it meant the night was swiftly coming to an end. Horde and Alliance and Forsaken feasted, but the Warchief ate no food and took no drink. She could see Jaina’s curious look from the corner of her eye and ignored it.
As ever, Sylvanas sat at the head of the table, and her new bride to her left. Blightcaller was hardly pleased to surrender his place to the Kul Tiran, and Sylvanas caught to sly little curl of her lip Proudmoore gave him.
Her own lip twitched in amusement — just barely, but enough.
The night continued with dancing and feasting and drinking, and the Warchief even managed to exchange some pleasant conversation with Jaina, albeit stiffly.
“That was a clever little trick, at the ceremony,” she remarked. “I almost felt that.”
Jaina pressed her lips together and looked away haughtily. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Sylvanas smirked slowly. “We weren’t even married yet and I was already getting the cold shoulder...or hand, as it were. That must be some sort of new record.” She wondered how easy it would be to incite the mage’s temper — clearly it didn’t take much.
“I just wanted to make sure your eyes didn’t roll all the way back and stay that way,” Jaina retorted, swirling her goblet of wine. “Can’t have the Warchief of the Horde going blind.”
Chuckling, the Banshee Queen leaned back in her seat, regarding the Lord Admiral. It was no secret that the Alliance still held their loathing for the Forsaken; just as it was clear to anyone with a pair of eyes that the Horde seemed eager to break bones more than break bread with Wrynn’s entourage. It was a tenuous peace they had, but certainly they had accomplished more in that single night than they had in centuries.
People were sitting. Eating. Drinking. Celebrating.
...and there was only a little bit of bloodshed.
“Are you enjoying yourself, Proudmoore?”
Jaina started at the question, eyeing Sylvanas suspiciously, wondering if that was a baited question. Was either of the answers the right one? She took a deep breath, exhaling quietly as she lifted her goblet of wine to her lips. “Well, Genn hasn’t tried to jump over the table and murder you, and Nathanos keeps looking at me like I personally pissed in his cup. I’d call that a win in my books,” she replied dryly, glancing at Sylvanas over the rim of her drink.
Sylvanas smirked. “The night is still young. The Old Dog might yet find his fighting spirit.”
Jaina raised an eyebrow at her. “I thought the point of this wedding was minimising bloodshed between our factions.”
“Unfortunately true,” Sylvanas sighed, and resumed her idle crowd-watching, leaning her chin against elegant fingers. “But one could dream.”
The feast came to a close, and with it came the moment that rankled Sylvanas’ temper dangerously. Alcohol loosened the tongues of the crowd a fair bit, and some of the Alliance men had begun murmuring among themselves about the wedding night.
Sylvanas arched an eyebrow dangerously at a particularly rowdy group of soldiers, glancing at the Wrynn cub with open disapproval and distaste. Even Proudmoore sat straighter, jaw clenched tight on her pretty face as she stared ahead at some distant space, likely to calm her own rising temper.
She was Warchief. No one in the Horde would dare touch her consort.
That certainly would need some getting used to.
She was certain any advances she made towards her new wife would be met with deadly force, regardless. It wasn’t as if they were marrying for affection .
A look at the Lord Admiral told Sylvanas that the feeling was mutual.
Heaving a much put-upon sigh, Sylvanas leaned an elbow on her seat, pressing her fingers to her temple with a distinctly bored expression on her face. Her voice carried just enough for their own table of people to hear. “I thought we’d made it clear to your council that there was to be no bedding ceremony, Little Cub.” The words dripped from her lips with disdain, as if the very thought of it was beneath her, and truly, it was.
To her delight, Anduin blushed up to his ears, and tried his hardest to hide it behind a mug of ale. “There won’t be,” he assured them, peering at Jaina apologetically. “They’re just...hopeful that the union will be...peaceful.”
“And you think I would be at peace knowing the depravities that your men conjure at the thought of debasing Lord Admiral Proudmoore?” she drawled, baring her teeth in a vicious smile. “Strange that you call the traditions of my people barbaric, and yet…”
Greymane gave her a withering look from lower down the table, but Sylvanas merely turned her attention to her bride.
Leaning in carefully; an image of a concerned spouse to onlookers, she whispered low into Jaina’s ear. “The choice is yours, Proudmoore. If you wish to have those pretty mage’s robes shredded from your form, I would not stop you,” she said, clipped, but without malice. “But know that I will take no part nor blame for the humiliation.”
Jaina met her gaze coolly. “I was prepared for nothing short of humiliation. I almost expected you to demand it,” she admitted. “But for once, I think we’re actually in agreement about something.” It amused her almost, thinking that the Banshee Queen somehow cared about her wellbeing.
Maybe she was just being contrary for the sake of it. Either way, Jaina was loath to admit that she was grateful. She couldn’t stand the thought of anyone’s hands —Forsaken or Horde or Alliance — touching her.
“You are my wife now,” Sylvanas said simply, and noted the way Jaina’s cheeks flushed darker. “Any disrespect shown to you is disrespect to me. Humiliating you would certainly defeat the purpose of this union, as appealing as the thought may be.” A sly smirk spread across the Banshee Queen’s lips, before she turned to address the rest of the hall.
“The Lord Admiral and I will take our leave,” she announced, and the unwavering coldness of her voice silenced the rowdy guests in moments. “My bride has had her fill of festivities for the night, but please —” she flicked her hand out to gesture broadly towards the crowd, her drawl as dry as ever. “Continue as you like. It is a night to celebrate, after all.” She rose from her seat smoothly, reaching to pull out Jaina’s.
She reached out a hand, glancing at the mage expectantly.
Jaina looked down at the proffered hand and then back at her face, and then at Anduin and Genn. At the rest of the crowd; from Bloodhoof and Lor’themar to the surly face of Saurfang. Sylvanas watched her as she did, and she knew exactly what the mage saw.
All of them waiting — bracing, really — for the treaty to shatter to pieces before it had really even begun to fall into place.
It was the cycle of things, after all. An endless cycle they had meant to break.
Jaina’s eyes glazed slightly, and she seemed to steel herself. She rose to her feet in one powerful, fluid movement and slipped her hand into Sylvanas’.
“Lead the way, Warchief.”