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Cold.

Everything was cold, very cold, far too cold. The storm raged inside of her violently, a swirling vortex of concentrated magics that was clawing at her to be let out. Too much, the power was too much. It was too strong and unwilling to stay still, to be forced down. It refused to be tamed and listen to her as it should.

Too much, too much, too much.

She couldn’t stand it. It was impossible to contain on her own. Her eyes glowed, a brilliant white light engulfing them completely, and a wail of pain clawed its way from her throat as an icy maelstrom of raw mana exploded from her body outwards, the area around her turning into a frozen wasteland in the blink of an eye. Winds that had been calm only a moment before suddenly howled with the same rage that she felt fuelling her, clouds that had been fluffy and sedate were suddenly overfull and ominous, fit to burst with the frozen shards that they now rained heavily onto the field below.

She was incapable of reining it in, of bringing back her magic under control. It was pouring out of her like a torrent, unbridled and unchained. She was a vessel of destruction, a conduit through which an elemental fury was able to find expression.

It also hurt immensely.

For Jaina, handling magic had been second nature since she was a little girl. She had been born with it and it was like another limb, a muscle that she had trained and made strong through years of practice.

Now, however, it refused to listen to her as it used to. It was no longer the faithful friend she had known for so long. It was now a wary companion, one that had been burned and was now shy and anxious, growling at her distrustfully and refusing to listen when she called to it. What was usually silk sliding through her veins now burned with an intensity that was more than she could bear, the feeling of mana forcing its way out of her akin to razor blades that slashed at her relentlessly.

It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts!

She fell to her knees, gasping desperately even though she didn’t need to breathe. She needed to get herself under control. She needed to rein it in, to bring herself back down, but it hurt, it hurt, it hurt and she couldn’t stop, she couldn’t stop and it frightened her.

“-moore.”

She dug her fingers into the ground, gouging the earth underneath her hands as she tried to reel her power back to no avail. She could no longer see anything or hear any other sound over the roaring in her ears. She was lost in a sea of white.

“Proudmoore!”

Everything hurt, she was unable to fight the outpouring of mana and the blizzard intensified even further, the sensation of razor blades intensifying with it and now feeling as though they were shredding her from the inside-out. Another scream was torn from her damaged throat, not that it could be heard over the howl of the winds.

JAINA!

She was suddenly engulfed in a warm embrace, strong arms crushing her to a lean but powerful body. Soft, melodious Thalassian rang in her ears as a gentle voice sang to her; faint, too faint to hear more than a whisper at first, but growing in volume as she began to calm and the maelstrom of grief and fury within her began simmering down into something that was manageable.

She didn’t know how long they stayed entwined like that, but it felt like a small eternity. The arms holding her never faltered and the soft voice crooning in her ear never wavered. The blizzard slowly decreased in intensity before stopping altogether, the only signs of it having ever existed being the mountains of snow and ice that engulfed the field around them.

“I do believe I told you that if you began feeling this way again, you were supposed to come find me.”

Jaina was broken from her trance by that same soft voice lightly chastising her. It held no judgement and no real anger, something that she was still adjusting to and wasn’t fully able to wrap her head around.

“I’m sorry. I thought I would be able to control it this time.”

She wasn’t used to her magic being so volatile, so temperamental. It had been difficult to master, sure, but it had never been wilful and rebellious like it was now. It had always obeyed her faithfully, and it was disconcerting to find herself suddenly struggling with keeping it in check. It was even more disconcerting to find herself being suddenly a public danger, with small blizzards or miniature infernos sprouting around her at random depending on her moods’ fluctuation. Everyone gave her a wide berth because of it, and it only made her feel worse about the whole thing.

Well, everyone except for one person.

Jaina couldn’t help but nuzzle into the crook of Sylvanas’ neck, enjoying the Warchief’s soothing scent of leather, flowers, and cold steel. She would have been appalled at herself for such an action before but, well, things were different now, and she was much too happy for the reprieve from her malfunctioning magic to truly care. Her whole body still hurt from the sudden explosion of mana that had burst from her, so she wasn’t in the mood to deprive herself from whatever small comforts she could find.

Sylvanas shook her head lightly and squeezed the mage’s body gently. “Can you stand?”

Jaina thought about this for a moment, attempted to stand, and hissed as a fresh bolt of pain lanced through all of her limbs at once, white hot and burning again. She faltered and almost fell, only to be caught by warm, strong arms again.

“That answers my question.” Sylvanas sighed and adjusted her grip in order to hold Jaina in a bridal carry. Doing her best not to jostle the stubborn woman, she slowly began to make her way back to the city, her steps light and careful. For someone that had likely rarely ever encountered snow in her life, she hardly had difficulty navigating the suddenly-snowfilled field and it was something that Jaina couldn’t help being surprised at.

A soft chuckle interrupted her musings. “Rangers train to be able to handle all kinds of terrains, Lady Proudmoore.” An amused, smug smirk parted Sylvanas’ lips. “It would be shameful if I were unable to traverse snow easily.”

Jaina blinked. Had she said that out loud?

“You did.” The Banshee answered again, proving that Jaina was, indeed, saying exactly what was on her mind at the moment. “You must have exhausted yourself quite thoroughly if you are unable to distinguish between your thoughts and what you speak aloud.”

Sylvanas blithely ignored the light glare she received for her words and continued making her way to the Royal Quarters of the newly-finished New Lordaeron Keep. She ignored the looks she received from her guards and servants, making her way through the long entrance hall, up the stairs, into the tower, and finally into her rooms. Gently, she laid Jaina down on her bed and made sure the other woman was as comfortable as possible before stepping away and beginning the tedious task of pulling ice spikes off her body. She forced herself to swallow back the grunts her throat wanted to release with each shard she removed, black ichor seeping sluggishly from the wounds left by the enchanted ice.

“I’m sorry.”

Sylvanas turned her head lightly, her burning red eyes making contact with icy blue ones that showed contrition and remorse, a wince contorting the mage’s face when she pulled a particularly long lance from her calf, the ice covered in black in its entirety. “Things like these are why I said that you should come find me if you began feeling as though your magic’s instability might reach a breaking point, Lady Proudmoore.” The Banshee sighed in relief as she ripped the final spike from her shoulder, the fact that it had managed to penetrate her pauldron and the jerkin she wore underneath a testament to the depth of Jaina’s power. “While I’m grateful that you chose to blink away from the centre of the city before you lost control, I would appreciate it if next time you would stop being quite so stubborn and ask for help in controlling your outbursts.”

The mage grimaced at those words, and she couldn’t help the way she curled in on herself in embarrassment when she thought about the damage she could have caused if she hadn’t felt the first pulses begin to become erratic and had made her way to the edge of the forest.

Seeing the sadness on Jaina’s face and how she averted her gaze in shame, Sylvanas softened and made her way back to the bed, gently lifting the other woman’s chin so that their eyes could meet again. “I understand that it is not easy. You are used to your magic obeying your every whim at the snap of your fingers, and that will be the case again in time. You simply need to become accustomed to the changes that being Forsaken brings with it, and you are doing very well for being only a few days old.”

And that was the core of the issue. This was why her magic was on the fritz, flaring up at random moments, bursting out of her without restraint, and why she was having so much difficulty getting a handle on it. Archmage Jaina Proudmoore, former leader of the Kirin Tor, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras and one of the bastions of the Alliance, was now a Forsaken Lich.

_______________________

Nothing had gone according to plan. The Naga had burst from the oceans unexpectedly, with numbers unmatched and strength fuelled by a hatred that had been amassing for over ten thousand years, vicious and relentless in their mission to burn everything to the ground. The minions of the Old Gods had also accompanied this vanguard, set on destroying the races of Azeroth to pave the way for Azshara and N’Zoth to rise again and rule over the ashes that would remain once their work was done.

Jaina had been in the thick of things, her eyes blazing a brilliant ice blue as her magic tore apart countless creatures in the blink of an eye. Fire and frost and arcane flew from her in equal measure, Naga Lords being incinerated to ash by her pyroblasts, Faceless Ones turned into mush as they were caught in her arcane explosions, lesser minions being cleaved in half by the might of her blizzards and ice lances. The battlefield surrounding her was a mess of blood and gore and ichor, the bodies of countless creatures from the depths littering everywhere as far as the eye could see, and with every moment that passed more and more bodies joined the piles of corpses.

Even still, their numbers hardly decreased, or so it seemed to the Archmage. Her enemies had noticed early on that she was able to demolish their numbers easily and had begun swarming her as soon as she destroyed the first behemoth without breaking a sweat. It was an endless tide of n’raqi and Naga Lords, brutes, assassins, sea witches, and myrmidons that was focused on trying to kill her, bringing both their weapons and their twisted form of magic to bear against her.

It was easy to lose track of time in a situation like this, and Jaina hadn’t been sure how long she had been fighting, but she was beginning to weaken. Whatever span of time it had been, it was starting to be too long. She was the most powerful sorceress in Azeroth, but she was hardly immortal and still only human. Her mana reserves were enormous, but even they had their limits, and her body could only hold on for so long before it began failing her.

For every one of them she burned to a crisp, turned into a pincushion with ice lances, or exploded in a burst of arcane, five more took its place. It was exhausting, but she was managing to hold them at bay, to distract them from the more vulnerable parts of the harbor. The only saving grace in the situation had been that Horde and Alliance officials had gathered to discuss a ceasefire in the face of the threat posed by N’Zoth, so both factions’ leaders were present along with a fair number of champions and other soldiers that had joined the fight as soon as the monsters of the deep had made their presence known. Their battlecries rang across the fields and reminded her of what she was fighting for, of why she couldn’t give up even though her exhaustion was beginning to show.

Sweat had long since drenched her completely, and she was starting to become short of breath. When would this end? Still, she persisted, her eyes narrowing and her magic pooling into her right hand when a giant aberration turned its might against her, spitting black goop and attempting to crush her under one of its massive claws. She blinked away from where the attacks would have landed and released a mighty cry as she created an immense ice spear and brought it down to pierce the abomination’s head. The creature screeched in an incomprehensible language and flailed its tentacle-like limbs as it fell, corpses flying about as they were impacted by the monster’s enormous strength.

Jaina didn’t wait to see if it had died; instead she conjured a vicious flame lance above the damned thing and with a gesture brought it down savagely to finish it off for good. Tides, she was tired, but there was no time to rest. More Naga began to swarm her, and she prepared to fight again when an arrow struck a myrmidon in the eye and stopped it in its tracks, the warrior’s trident falling from its grasp as it lay dying. It was soon followed by a bolt of dark magic that blew off a witch’s head, and Jaina couldn’t help but sigh in relief as a few champions jumped into the fray, having finally been able to make their way to her and were now lending her their strength. With the added support, she had taken a few moments to just breathe and then went back to demolishing the Old God’s minions in earnest.

It all went to hell when the sirens joined the Naga forces.

She hadn’t been able to see them at first, busy as she was dealing with a colossal C’Thrax that had crushed a champion underneath its’ foot and was taking all of their attention at the time. The air was saturated with mana overflow from her own spells, as well as the champions, the n’raqi, and the witches’ magic, and it was difficult for her to be able to tell who was casting what and in which direction. The ice barrier she kept up to protect her was usually enough to give her a good shield against most forms of spells that lesser mages might use against her, and so far very few of her enemies had managed to get within melee range before being obliterated, so the one thing that was most threatening to her at the moment was her own exhaustion as well as her dwindling mana reserves.

She hadn’t counted on the champions turning on her and beginning to attack her in earnest.

Jaina had just brought down the monstrous general and was wiping the sweat off her forehead when she felt lightning hitting her barrier. She was able to turn just in time to see a massive warhammer moving for her stomach and she was unable to move, dodge, or blink out of its path, instead being thrown back by the force of the hit.

The only reason she didn’t die from the blow was because of her ice barrier still holding strong and shielding her from most of the impact’s power, but she was still sent flying and crashed against a mountain of corpses, the bodies of the dead barely cushioning her from the fall she took. The air was driven from her lungs and she coughed heavily, blood and spit flying from her mouth as stars exploded in her eyes and she was made disoriented by the collision jostling her head terribly. Vaguely, she could hear sputtering from her right and she was barely able to register that her staff had broken, the focusing crystal on top shattering into useless pieces at her feet, before more and more attacks came her way.

Two arrows lodged themselves in her left shoulder in quick succession and a shadowbolt hit her midsection, Jaina not having enough breath left to cry out in pain and managing only a grunt as her body was pelted with blows from her former allies. She forced her eyes to clear through sheer willpower and immediately saw the source of the problem standing just behind the champions that were now attempting to kill her in earnest.

Naga Sirens had the ability to take control over people if they were strong and skilled enough in the dark arts, though their abilities tended to be directed at lesser creatures that were of weaker wills and thus easier to manipulate. To be able to take control of champions these sirens had to be some of the strongest in Azshara’s service, high-ranking priestesses carrying out their queen’s bidding as fanatically as the others of their race.

Jaina had to kill them if she didn’t want to die right then and there. Silently issuing an apology to the men and women that were being controlled against their will, she focused her magic and once again called on a vicious blizzard, the ice shards falling hard and fast, tearing anyone who was in its radius to ribbons. Had she been in a better state she would have been able to control the blizzard with pinpoint accuracy to rain the deadly shards on only the sirens, but she was much too weak and in too much pain to be capable of any fine-tuning, and she was forced to rely on brute strength to get the job done.

She only called off the rain of ice and snow when she was certain that nothing around her was alive, panting harshly as she tried to catch her breath. Tides, this was insane. How much longer would this assault continue? She couldn’t hear the sounds of battle over her own blood pulsing in her ears, and she prayed that the remaining champions and soldiers would be able to secure the harbor while she was like this. If she could recover for a little bit, she could teleport back to the city and find a healer that would-

Her thoughts were interrupted by the roar of the sea parting as a titanic creature emerged from beneath. Exhausted as she was, Jaina could only turn her head to see what new threat had decided to show up from the depths of the ocean and her eyes widened as she witnessed a truly gigantic kraken rise from the water.

The creature turned its four burning eyes on her and it began to speak in the same incomprehensible tongue that the other Faceless had been exclaiming in. This time, though, she felt whispers caressing her mind, something slimy and disgusting that called her attention and allowed her to understand the words kraken was saying.

Gaze into the void, little mage. Your resistance has killed many of our numbers, but you are nothing in the face of N’Zoth’s might, for we are endless and our power beyond reckoning. Once more, the twisted flesh-banners of the Old Gods will chitter and howl, and you will only know despair. Your fear drives us, your suffering strengthens us, and your agony sustains us. Your deaths shall sing of N’Zoth’s endless glory and your souls will serve to feed his endless hunger. All of you will bow before the Old Gods before being devoured!

It promptly lashed out with one of its tentacles and wound it around her body, lifting her toward itself. Its grip was tight enough to hurt immensely, Jaina could distinctly feel something in her spine moving in a way that it was not supposed to, but not enough to kill her yet for some reason.

Said reason became clear when it opened a gigantic maw and tried to stuff her in it.

Now you will serve as fuel for us. Ozumat will deliver you to N’Zoth so he may feast on your soul’s terror as you beg for mercy!

As if she would let that happen.

Jaina marshalled her strength and blinked back to land, her eyes once again glowing a brilliant ice blue as she drew on the very last of her magic. Mana gathered in her hands and shone so brightly that it was as if she held a miniature sun within them, the concentrated power so strong that it leaked and writhed, wanting to break free, wanting to be used.

“Tell your master that he’s next!” Jaina growled and released the spell, a hail of ice spears pinning the kraken in place before an enormous column of fire swallowed the creature whole only for a giant explosion of arcane to finish off anything within a ten-mile radius of where the stupid squid had been floating.

There was nothing left when the light cleared. Nothing remained of Ozumat or the Naga. Even the bodies that had piled up near where the kraken had emerged had been vaporized by the strength of her spell, leaving only a massive crater in its wake.

Unable to hold herself up any longer, Jaina collapsed to the ground unceremoniously, her limbs twitching and her lungs barely able to take in air. So exhausted was she that she didn’t even notice when the arrows in her shoulder lodged in even deeper. She was tired, so very tired, and her body ached horribly, her head pounding as though someone were taking a hammer to her skull and beating her relentlessly with it.

Her veins burned with an intensity that she had never felt before in her life, and she knew, without a doubt, that she had exhausted the entirety of her mana in this assault. She was bleeding from countless places and she was having difficulty breathing, her lungs stuttering as she did her best to give them the air they so desperately needed.

She was dying. She knew she was dying, and although she didn’t fear what was to come, she did harbour quite a few regrets. She wished she had been able to spend more time with her mother, wished she had been able to talk more with her brother, wished she could hug Anduin again…

But more than anything she regretted that she wouldn’t be able to fry N’Zoth’s face off like she had promised his stupid squid-minion that she would. Azeroth could have used her strength in the coming fight against the Old God, and she would not be there to give it. She had failed her family, her friends, her comrades, the champions that fought for the good of the world, and she couldn’t help the immense disappointment she felt in herself for not having been strong enough to withstand this much and make it out alive.

She was so busy mourning her perceived failures that she couldn’t hear the flapping of wings above her, nor the soft, uneven footsteps of someone that approached at a slow, stuttering pace.

“I’m surprised you’re still alive after all of this. How you didn’t kill yourself with that last spell of yours is something I will never know.”

That echoing, lilting voice belonged to only one person, and Jaina wondered as to why the Tides had made it so that Sylvanas Windrunner was the last person she would see before she embarked on the trip to the Next Shore.

Still, that statement demanded an answer, and she mustered what little strength she had left to reply. “I w-would never give t-that squid the satisfaction of dying at the same t-time as it.”

Sylvanas’ brow furrowed as she contemplated the crumpled mage before her. For all of her bravado, Jaina Proudmoore was clearly dying as they spoke. She could see it in the exhaustion that those usually-bright eyes carried within, she could see it in how difficult it was for her to breathe, and she could feel it in how the life flame that had burned so strongly in the woman’s chest was so utterly weak now.

Well, that was quite a problem. Jaina Proudmoore was the single most powerful mage in the world, and her abilities were essential to the survival of both factions. There was no better proof of this than the literal graveyard of lesser minions she had created almost single-handedly, and the way she had managed to obliterate many generals of N’Zoth after having fought for hours on end without respite. Disintegrating Ozumat in a single spell was no small feat either. Sylvanas was no mage, but she knew enough about magic to understand that there was absolutely no way such a ridiculous attack could have been conjured by anyone lesser than the woman before her. The entire thing had required so much power that it was a miracle Jaina hadn’t managed to completely wipe out everything around her…and burned her own insides with the amount of mana she had to have needed to channel for such a thing.

An inconvenience and a shame it might be, but it was only expected. For all of her power, Proudmoore was only human, and she had clearly bitten off more than she could chew this time. There was nothing that could be done about it.

“You can be proud of yourself, then. You managed to scare away the remaining Naga back to the depths from whence they came.” Sylvanas chose the least bloody spot close to the woman and forced herself not to wince or have any kind of reaction as her battered and half-broken body settled down beside the fading mage. The fight had not been kind to her either, but she was in much better shape than Proudmoore was, that was for sure. “They turned tail and fled as soon as the father of all krakens was obliterated by a single spell cast by a single mage. I’m sure they’ll be back sometime relatively soon, but you bought us enough time to fully muster our armies and begin readying a full-fledged assault.”

“An a-assault for which I will n-not be present.” Jaina wheezed, fighting still to stay conscious. The Next Shore called to her, but she did her best to ignore said call for now. Soon, but not yet. “And after I t-threatened to burn his stupid face off.”

Sylvanas shook her head. Why was she not surprised to hear that? “You threatened an Old God? You humans truly are impudent creatures, not that I think you’re wrong in this specific instance. Nice touch, even if you will not get to fulfill your threats.”

With effort, Jaina managed to turn her head toward Sylvanas, the pain that lanced through her body at the mere gesture almost making her wish for death’s arrival to come sooner. Almost. “Why are y-you being n-nice to me?”

The Banshee quirked an eyebrow at that. “You managed to single-handedly drive off an entire army of Naga after having completely obliterated one of the strongest creatures in an Old God’s service. I may dislike you Alliance fools, but I can respect the one that saved us all enough to not mock you as you die, Lady Proudmoore.”

That brought Jaina’s mood right back to morose and she redirected her gaze to the sky. She didn’t want to die yet. Oh, resting sounded like an excellent idea at the moment; her body ached terribly still from all of her wounds and how hammered she had been throughout the assault, her veins still burned from having channelled so much mana in such a brutal fashion, and there was something in her that was well and truly exhausted and longed for the fate that was not far off. Yet another, larger part of her rebelled at the idea and regretted not having been strong enough to remain standing so she could see the war against N’Zoth through to the end. Even if Sylvanas had arrived with an army of healers, she was well aware that they would have been unable to help her, for her injuries ran too deep.

There was no escaping this fate. Death came for them all, and there was no denying it when it chose to claim people into its domain. The only way would be if she were to be somehow made into an undead-

Jaina blinked as the thought crossed her mind. An undead. It was not something that she had ever thought about before, not something she had ever sought or wanted. Every one of her beliefs screamed against such an aberration of the natural order, such a defiance of what was a normal event that happened to all beings.

The undead were Light-forsaken beings that were not to be trusted. She knew this. She knew what they were capable of, had witnessed firsthand the type of creatures they were as Arthas raised his former people to serve as minions in his army to wage his pointless wars. Had seen the things they had done under the command of the woman that sat so calmly beside her right now, the atrocities they had committed. Even still, it would be a chance to keep fighting. A chance to be able to bring N’Zoth to heel, a chance for her people, for her friends, her family to have a chance. For them to be able to keep on living and smiling and being able to find happiness.

Am I really considering this? She questioned her own sanity as the idea began to truly take root in her mind. She had to be insane if she was even giving this a thought. Insane or dying…and I definitely am dying. If she was going to think about this, she needed to do it fast; her body would not hold out forever and she could feel herself slipping away as it was, the call of the Next Shore becoming stronger and stronger with every passing second.

Jaina had sacrificed a lot over the years for the sake of the world. She had always done her best to try and broker peace and to ensure that they, all of them, could prosper and thrive. Yet her efforts had never been quite enough, and her work had laid broken at her feet every single time, her efforts thwarted again and again because life had clearly deemed that she hadn’t done what was needed in order to ensure that her plans would come to fruition. She had failed because she hadn’t tried hard enough, she hadn’t been enough, and so here they were. Once again, Jaina had failed and was left contemplating what more she could have done, what decisions she might remake if she had the chance to ensure a different outcome.

What was her life in exchange for the good of everyone else? If weighed on a scale, a single person would never be more valuable than the fate of the whole world, and even though she wasn’t arrogant, Jaina was keenly aware that her power was vast. She knew the strength she could bring to bear against the Old Gods, and knew precisely how desperately Azeroth needed its champions and heroes to defend her, how much someone with her abilities could help and turn the tides of war in their favour. She knew that her dying here and now would severely hamper their efforts against N’Zoth and Azshara, that her passing would mean one less weapon in their arsenal against this latest threat to their world. In order to remain standing sacrifices had to be made, and this was something that she understood all too well. What was this but another sacrifice?

Tides, I truly am considering this. No, not considering. She had already decided, and was instead trying to convince the part of her that still screamed that this was a terrible idea to be quiet and go along with the plan, justifying to herself why this was not just the best but the only choice she had left.

But, well, all of her planning would be meaningless if she couldn’t convince the one that could actually do this to do it, wouldn’t it?

She opened her mouth to speak when a cough overtook her and made her face the suffering of the damned, her limbs screeching in protest as the movements inflamed her wounds and made her veins flare up in pain again. Her vision whited out and she had to struggle to hold onto consciousness once more, an annoying ringing taking over her hearing until the coughing stopped and she was slowly able to regain what little control of her body she still possessed.

“S-Syl…va…nas?” Jaina croaked out, her voice even fainter and weaker than before.

“Yes?” The Banshee answered promptly, her eyes turning back to the Lord Admiral.

“W-Would y-you…” She forced herself to drag the words from her mouth, doing her best to ignore the agony that still wracked her body and made her want to give up. “R-Raise me after I d-d-die?”

Sylvanas froze at the question, her eyes widening and her jaw falling open in disbelief, her ears pinned firmly against her skull in her surprise. She couldn’t possibly have heard right. “…Are you asking me if I’m waiting for you to die to Raise you, or are you asking me to do it?

“I’m a-asking y-you to d-d-do it.” Jaina prayed that the woman would answer fast; she didn’t know how much longer she could keep stalling the inevitable.

“You, Jaina Proudmoore, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras and the single most devoted member of the Alliance other than the boy-King and his flea-infested mongrel are asking me, the Warchief of the Horde if I would turn you into a Forsaken when you die?” Clearly Jaina had been knocked in the head way too many times before she’d begun bleeding out. This was ridiculous. “Is this some kind of ploy to get the Alliance to attack me? We were just going to have ceasefire negotiations today, yet you’re asking me to do something that will result in the incompetents in your faction launching a self-righteous crusade to avenge you and plunge us back into war again?”

It was absolutely out of the question. They didn’t have the time nor the resources to begin fighting amongst themselves again, not when Azshara and N’Zoth were still plotting to murder them all from the depths of the ocean floor. While perhaps tempting so that they could continue having Proudmoore as a weapon against those two, it was absolutely not worth the enormous stack of powder kegs that would light up if Sylvanas were to acquiesce to this utterly asinine request. Greymane would call for her head as usual and so would Whisperwind, but this time they would be joined by Katherine Proudmoore and likely the other leaders as well. The little lion would be undoubtedly inclined to hear their idiotic cries and want to put a sword to her himself, since he and Proudmoore shared a close bond and he would be unwilling to believe that it had been their precious Lord Admiral who had asked to be Raised instead of it being a decision Sylvanas took on her own.

They would blame her and they would open fire on her again. She had no doubt that her Horde would eventually be able to win, but at what cost? She would be severely weakened from having had to make the Alliance bleed, and then Azshara would swoop in and clean up what remained of her people, those that she had sworn to protect, easily and effortlessly once the conflict between the factions did most of her work for her.

No. Not even a Goblin would be foolish enough to go anywhere near that set of fireworks, and she was no fool.

“There is no way under the Sun that you could convince me to Raise you, Lady Proudmoore.” The Banshee growled.

“D-Damn you, S-Sylvanas, I don’t have much t-t-time!” Jaina wheezed angrily, ruthlessly shoving aside the burning in her chest as she tried to make the stubborn woman understand. “I n-need you t-to Raise me after I…after I die.”

“Do you have any idea of what it is you’re asking me to do?” She could barely believe this. What world was she living in that Jaina Proudmoore was asking her to Raise her as one of her own people and she was refusing to do it? Belore had the worst sense of humour possible for forcing her into this situation. “Let’s ignore all of the complications that doing something like that would bring to my doorstep from both your faction and mine, since I cannot see Bloodhoof and Saurfang letting this lie. Let’s ignore the headaches that bringing you back would give me and the innumerable amount of problems that I would have to deal with as a result of having the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras as a Forsaken.” Just thinking about all of it made her want to scream. “Even if we were to put all of that aside, do you have any idea what being a Forsaken is like? Any idea what it is you are agreeing to when asking me to do this?”

“I do.”

“No, you don’t.” Sylvanas ground out, her teeth gnashing in frustration. “Let me spell it out for you, since we don’t have time for you to realize on your own just how colossally stupid you are being right now. You will lose every single person that you love because they will not be able to understand or accept what you’ll become. They will reject you, turn their backs on you, and declare you a soulless monster that can only bring about destruction.”

Unbidden, Alleria and Vereesa’s faces came to the forefront of Sylvanas’ mind, but she ruthlessly shoved them back down into the very recesses of her mind. She was not going to think about them or about the pain she still carried with her at the betrayal by those she’d loved most in this world. She was not going to go into how much she still ached, how that loss still weighed like a boulder in her chest, even if she would never admit it out loud and could barely do so to herself. Absolutely not.

“Or even worse, a puppet bent to the will of the ‘evil Banshee’ that brought you back for her own purposes. I will have denied you the peace and rest that you deserve, and they will conclude that you must be destroyed because in their eyes you wouldn’t be ‘you’ anymore. To them you would be an empty vessel made to dance to a tune of my choosing, stripped of your free will and anything that made you the Jaina Proudmoore they knew and loved.” The fools would believe such things about her, but she was long accustomed to the Alliance mongrels thinking the worst of her and it didn’t bother her anymore; she just hated that she had to consider their stupidity at all. “They will fear you, they will revile you, and eyes that used to be full of warmth and love and happiness when they met yours will instead be filled with horror, suspicion, disdain, and loathing.

Sylvanas delicately turned the mage’s face to her, her burning red eyes boring into exhausted blue ones as she finished her impromptu speech. “That is the fate you are asking me for. That is what your future will be if I agree to this request of yours.”

“I’m aware of this.” Jaina croaked, praying that she would be able to get through to the stubborn woman soon enough. She was beginning to feel incredibly cold, and she could feel herself with one foot on the ship already. It was truly a miracle that she hadn’t been dragged in fully yet, but she had always been stubborn. “Still…it’s the o-only choice I h-have. T-The only choice w-we h-have.”

“Why are you so adamant about being Raised, Proudmoore?” Sylvanas asked tiredly. This was not what she had signed up for today. She had merely expected long and tedious negotiations with Wrynn’s cub, perhaps being able to snipe some at the old mutt and pointedly ignore Whisperwind, as they worked out the terms for a temporary ceasefire and organized their forces to fight against the latest in a parade of never-ending threats to Azeroth. She hadn’t anticipated having to fend off an assault by the Old God that lasted for hours on end and left them all the worse for wear, along with trying to play a guessing game with a dying Archmage to figure out why in blazes she was being asked to do something so antithetical to the woman’s worldview.

“You revile my kind, just like the rest of the Alliance. You think us irredeemable monsters, see us as evil incarnate, and a twisted mockery of who and what we used to be. You have no love for us, so why are you so insistent in becoming one of my own?” The Banshee couldn’t make heads or tails of it. What was the reasoning behind this?

It was a struggle for Jaina to prevent another coughing fit from overtaking her. She was sure that if she gave in, she genuinely would finally die. “I f-f-failed. I wasn’t…strong enough… But if I…if I’m like y-you…I could s-still f…ight.” Her head hurt, her lower body was completely numb, and she had begun to lose sensation in her fingers. She likely had only a few more minutes at best before she passed on. She forced herself to keep speaking. “M-My work…it isn’t done. I-I can st-still help them…I can…I can-“

“You can be a stupid martyr.” Sylvanas interrupted, sighing heavily. She should have known it would be something naively and idiotically ‘noble.’ Of course Proudmoore would somehow believe that all of Azeroth depended on her and would bravely and willingly shoulder that burden.

What galled Sylvanas was that the woman was not exactly wrong. Today was the best example of just how useful having an incredibly powerful Archmage around was when it came to fighting against the beasts from the depths. Really, Proudmoore had likely only fallen because of her humanity holding her back, her body tiring and her reflexes slowing down enough that she had finally been vanquished after having been worn down enough that she could no longer defend herself she had at first. But if she didn’t have those limitations…if her body didn’t need food or rest, if her power had been unfettered instead of being bound by the chains of flesh and life that kept it contained-

Sylvanas hissed at her own thoughts. No. She couldn’t be giving this serious thought. She had more than a million reasons to not accept, for why this was a terrible idea. And yet, the benefits of her remaining here, the power she possesses and how much of a nuisance she could prove against the Naga and the Faceless Ones, are important things to consider. Her loss really would be incredibly inconvenient. A slithering, traitorous voice whispered in her mind.

Pragmatism pulled at her from both sides. On the one hand, it was true that Raising Proudmoore would be a net benefit for the Horde and for Azeroth itself. The Alliance would reject her, so unless she wanted to be alone and isolated from everything and everyone (unlikely, given the need for coordination if they were to make a successful strike against the Old God and his minions) she would be forced to look to the Horde, just as Sylvanas had in the past. She would need guidance and time in order to make sense of her new existence, not to mention that the woman was strong now but she would grow even stronger and more terrifying if she were Forsaken. She would be the ballista that would punch a hole so deep and wide into N’Zoth and Azshara’s forces that it would allow them a real chance to win this war.

On the other hand, it would be a living nightmare to Raise the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras into her ranks. Nobody would believe for even a second that this was something Proudmoore herself had asked for, even if she were to tell them herself. They would decry it as a trick from Sylvanas, that she was either possessing or somehow controlling Proudmoore into saying what she wanted in order to ‘escape the consequences’ or some other such drivel. But the Alliance’s cries of her being a demonic witch would be the least of her problems, as it would be business as usual with regards to them.

The fracturing that this could cause within the Horde was what concerned Sylvanas most. Saurfang was toeing the line of treason and had been doing so since Teldrassil; Bloodhoof was beginning to question her as well and disagreed with many of her decisions what with his concerns for the Earth Mother and the damage that war caused to her, or some such. Both of them would object strenuously to this, and she couldn’t be sure if they would believe her if Proudmoore said that this had been her own choice. Rhokan would follow Bloodhoof’s lead, so that made three races within her ranks that might cause a schism within the Horde, something that she could not allow to happen if they were to survive. Sylvanas was a brilliant military tactician, but fighting both an internal and an external war, all over one woman, was not a challenge she relished undertaking.

Once again she was faced with impossible choices, and she could only sigh internally at the Goddess’ insistence on forcing her into these types of situations. Belore take her, these things always fell to her.

“C-Call me w-what y-y-you l-like.” Jaina murmured, her voice even fainter than before. Her vision was gone and she could hear the sounds of the ocean much closer than before. “W-Will you d-do it?”

“Call me curious, Proudmoore, but what guarantee do you have that I will not simply bend you to my will? What insurance do you have that I will not make you my pet Archmage, to do with as I wish, and point at whomever displeases me?” She wondered what the answer to this would be. Did the woman have some kind of leverage she was unaware of?

“I d-don’t have a-any.” The mage murmured again. She was beginning to feel weightless.

Sylvanas’ ears shot up and she looked at the prone woman in despair. You cannot be serious. “So you are asking me to Raise you into a Forsaken without any guarantees that I will not use you as I wish. No way to know whether I will make you into a slave or not. No way to do anything if I decide that I want you be nothing more than an arrow in my quiver, to abuse if I want and discard if I see fit?” Humans.

If she could have, Jaina would have shrugged. Since she couldn’t, she contented herself with a simple eyeroll. “It’s in y-your best interests f-for Azeroth to remain…to remain s-s-standing. Even if y-you were to…to enslave me, you would p-point me in the d-direction of t-t-the Old G-Gods and make me f-fight them for you. E-Either way, they’ll b-be defeated.”

Sylvanas growled at the nonchalant response. “And if after he and Azshara have both been turned into seafood as they deserve, I choose to point you in the direction of your precious Alliance and have you murder them? What if I decide that Stormwind is looking a little too warm and order you to blanket it in a blizzard that will cover the city until they surrender to me? Or how about if I think that Boralus’ shipyards are in need of thinning and I have you incinerate them all? What then? How will you stop me from doing that?”

“The f-fact you’re even a-asking these questions is p-proof that you wouldn’t…you wouldn’t m-make me d-do that.” Jaina wheezed. “I h-hear the w-whispers and r-r-rumors, Sylvanas. T-They say…They say you s-swore n-never to…to take a-anyone’s free will…from them.” She tried for a small smirk but it came out looking like a pained grimace instead. “Besides…I w-would l-like to…to see you t-try to control…me.”

Sylvanas snorted in disgust. “This is hardly the time for jokes, Proudmoore.”

“I’m dying.” The woman pointed out. “If not…if not now…when?”

Sylvanas was tempted to strangle the infuriating mage and be done with it. Only the knowledge that Jaina had very little left stayed her hand, but Goddess, she was tempted. “So you’re simply going to put your trust in rumors and hearsay and hope I will not turn you into an engine of destruction pointed at your former friends and loved ones at my will? I never knew you were so reckless, Lord Admiral.

“Des-Desperate times…call f-for…desperate…measures.” Her voice was so soft that it would have been impossible for humans to hear. This was it. She could fight no longer. The call of the Tides was too strong now, and she had to answer it as she always had. She had delayed too much as it was. “War…makes for…s-s-strange…bed…fellows. This…is my…last r-resort.”

With the very last of her strength, she turned her unseeing eyes and (hopefully) stared down the Banshee Queen. “Do it…Sylvanas.”

Those were the last words Jaina Proudmoore uttered in life. Her next exhale was her last, the life leaving her blue eyes and her trembling limbs falling limp at last.

Sylvanas leaned over to close the blank blue eyes that still stared straight into her own and then sat there for a while longer, contemplating the crumpled body of the woman known as Jaina Proudmoore and the insane request the mage had insisted on making with her very last breath.

Jaina had been absolutely right when she’d challenged Sylvanas’ questions on what if Sylvanas enslaved her were she to Raise the mage. Free will and the ability to make one’s own choices were things that were sacred to Sylvanas Windrunner. Arthas had deprived her of that when he’d first torn her soul from her body, when she had first been denied the clean death she had asked for and deserved. She had been made a slave, an unwilling participant in the godless bastard’s revenge against all living beings. He had forced her to commit atrocities against the very people she had given her everything to protect, against those to whom she had dedicated her whole life to. She had been forced to watch, beating at the inside of her own mind, as she was paraded around Silvermoon, a demonstration of what would happen to those that resisted, and a weapon turned against the ones she had attempted to shield from him in the first place.

Her freedom had been hard won, and she had sworn she would never be like him, that she would be exactly the opposite of him, in fact. Her own ordeal was the entire reason behind her freeing as many as she could from the yoke of the Lich King: she was well aware what it was like to be bound to the will of another without the ability to say no or do anything about it. She knew the meaning of having everything taken away from her, and she knew that there were others just like her. From this she had made the Forsaken. Her people, her new reason for carrying on even through the torment that her new existence brought to her at all moments. She had new charges to think about, people under her care for whom she needed to trudge on and find a new place in the world.

So no, Sylvanas would never enslave anyone or take their free will away. She was far too intimately familiar with such a thing to wish it on even her worst enemies. Not even Greymane deserved to go through that, and the animosity she held against the old mutt was very well-known.

Still, how hopeless must Jaina Proudmoore have been if she had chosen to throw caution to the wind and take the most insane gamble of her life by approaching Sylvanas and asking to be Raised without any form of leverage or insurance to guarantee that she would not be a puppet to be commanded at will? How heavy was the weight of her own perceived failures at the end that she had thought it was her only choice to do it? And how desperate must she have been to right her supposed wrongs if she had had resorted to asking for this, even in her dying breath? Her martyr complex was truly astounding, but there was a tragic sort of beauty to it that Sylvanas couldn’t help but admire.

They were similar, she and Proudmoore. The devotion that the woman had for her people, her relentless desire to do right by them, to help them, to ensure that they would have a future and would flourish regardless of what happened to her…she was like that as well. She recognized the drive to do whatever needed doing, that desperate acceptance of any sacrifice if it meant she could do more, if it would ensure her victory and protect those she had sworn to defend, and it made her like the woman in spite of her better judgement.

Sylvanas knew firsthand the value of the Alliance’s promises. She had experienced the betrayal in her own flesh when she had tried to reach out to her former allies and they had shut the gates in her face, declaring her an abomination and attempting to murder her and her followers. All for the sin of having been made into undead against their will. The hypocrisy of the so-called followers of the Light had been exposed to her that day, and it had only fuelled her rage further.

Even so…perhaps she had finally lost it, but there was something about the desperate certainty in Proudmoore’s request that made her want to take a chance on the woman as well. She may have been Alliance, but, well, at one point so had Sylvanas, hadn’t she? What was to say that Proudmoore couldn’t change too?

She took in a deep breath and made her choice.

“Aradne, Brynja.”

Two armor-clad women appeared at once, their wings flapping gently as they awaited their Lady’s command.

Sylvanas tilted her head in the direction of the still mage beside her and gave the order that would change the course of Azeroth forever. “Bring her back to me. I don’t care how long it takes, bring her back.

_______________________

“-you listening to a single word I am saying?”

Jaina was broken from her reminiscing and was brought back to the present by the sound of Sylvanas’ voice calling her attention.

She shook her head lightly and answered, the lower register and new echo in her voice still something that was a bit strange to her, even a few days in. “I’m sorry, I got distracted. What were you saying?”

Sylvanas only looked slightly amused, her eyebrows quirked and understanding in her eyes. “I was saying that it is normal for you to be unstable and unsteady still. It has only been four days since you awoke to your new existence, and it will be a little longer before you can regain mastery of your magic and how your body works now. You don’t have to rush or push yourself too hard.”

Jaina grimaced at that and shook her head fiercely. “No. I am a public danger as I am, and I will not cause the unnecessary deaths of anyone if I can help it. And I will help it.”

“So very stubborn.” Sylvanas chuckled softly, wiping the last of the ichor away. She would need to see to her wounds after she was done here, but they were nothing pressing and they would keep for now. “Adjustment to this unlife is not something that you can force, Lady Proudmoore. You are welcome to try, of course, but I reiterate again that nobody will blame you for needing time in order to find a new balance. And that if you ever feel yourself becoming unstable again, come and find me. No matter what I am doing at the moment, I will gladly help you in keeping your erratic magic under control.”

They had discovered early on that there was something about the magic in Sylvanas’ body that served to calm and redirect Jaina’s own when she was feeling unstable, an almost-resonance that served to soothe the maelstrom that raged within her and turned it back into a smooth, flowing current. It was a fascinating phenomenon, and one that she would need to figure out how it worked later, but for now she was simply grateful that there was a way for her random outbursts to be tamed, even if that did mean having to be held in the Warchief’s arms for a good long while.

It wasn’t that she minded being held by Sylvanas; the Banshee’s arms were strong and sure, and now that Jaina was Forsaken as well, they were the same temperature, so the embrace always felt warm to her. No, the problem is that so far, she had managed to burn the other woman’s left side, impaled her with ice twice, and dislocated her arm due to a small explosion bursting out of her at the wrong time.

To her credit, Sylvanas had never gotten angry or lost her temper. Every single time, she had merely weathered the storm and held her tightly to her own body, singing softly in Thalassian and rubbing her back gently until the wild mana flares ceased and Jaina was left exhausted and unable to move properly. Every time, Sylvanas had merely carried her back to the keep, into her own rooms, and deposited her gently on the bed before tending to the wounds that Jaina had unintentionally given her.

The kindness and attentiveness she displayed were very strange to Jaina. This was not what she had expected from Sylvanas when she’d awoken to her new unlife. Really, she hadn’t known exactly what to expect from being made Forsaken. She had been much too focused on her end goal of being able to bring an end to the threat of the Old Gods to care much about anything else, and she had accepted that there was a strong possibility she would be made into the Banshee Queen’s faithful dog if she was Raised, but she hadn’t cared. The good of their world outweighed whatever happened to her, and she had been prepared to accept all sorts of indignities and cruelties if it meant she could continue fighting for her people’s future.

Sylvanas had taken all of her expectations and terrible imaginings and thrown them right out the window. Contrary to her worst fears, the Warchief had been nothing but accommodating, gentle in a way she hadn’t imagined possible, and endlessly understanding of all of the mishaps that Jaina was involved in. She never lost patience with her, she never got angry, and she had never spoken harshly to her since she had been Raised. On the contrary, her voice was soothing and soft in a way that she had never heard from the Elf before, and it had both confused her and set her on edge in the beginning. Was she being lulled into a false sense of security?

It was only after she’d seen Sylvanas interact with the rest of the Forsaken that she had understood that this was simply how Sylvanas always was with her subjects. The harsh timbres and vicious edges that her voice usually carried on the battlefield were completely absent when speaking to her people. She was still firm, even stern on occasion, but there was an underlying almost-gentleness as she addressed her people that was so utterly obvious that Jaina had been completely stunned she had missed it before. The lilt in her voice was not mocking or dripping with the disdain she reserved for members of the Alliance; it was instead inviting and steady. This was a woman used to commanding the attention of the room when she wanted to, a woman used to being heard and obeyed, but she didn’t need to put on airs or posture in order to get that sort of reaction. It was simply her natural composure and confidence as one long-used to ruling others, as someone that could bear the burden of command and all it entailed, and she handled it with both grace and dignity.

It was something that she was still trying to get used to, along with many other things. Her preconceived notions were being steadily torn down one by one, and although many of them centred around the Horde, the Forsaken, and their dynamics, many of these were also centred around Sylvanas Windrunner herself.

“I will do that, next time.” Jaina said quietly. “You are not what I expected, you know?”

The Banshee chuffed quietly, her eyes still twinkling with amusement. “You expected me to be a vicious tyrant that ruled over the Horde with an iron fist, executing all those who disagreed with me? Yes, I know. The Alliance has always been fond of painting those they dislike as heartless monsters that need to be eliminated for some reason or another. It makes it easier to play up the propaganda when the enemy is an evil force that must be destroyed instead of simply another set of people trying to survive in this world.”

Jaina was beginning to discover just how true those words were, but that was not something she was ready to address yet, so she instead directed the conversation to a specific topic that had been bothering her since her awakening. “I mean I did not expect you to care quite so much about me. Why have you been so patient and understanding of my missteps? I’m grateful for it, but it’s strange either way.”

Sylvanas approached the bed once again and looked at her in a way that she wasn’t sure she could interpret, but amidst the myriad of emotions swirling in those eyes, she could see the same understanding that she’d just been asking about.

“Tell me this, would you blame a child for not being able to handle tasks requiring finesse with the same skill as an adult? Would you expect a soldier newly-released from a medical ward to fight with the same strength and tenacity as a soldier in perfect shape? Would you ask the same focus and precision from someone that had just woken from a long sleep than someone who was in the middle of their workday and had set a rhythm already?” The Elf shook her head, her ears twitching lightly as she did. “No, Lady Proudmoore. I do not blame you for your unsteadiness nor do I expect you to be perfect on your fourth day since having become Forsaken. As I have repeatedly said, you require time to become accustomed to how your body works and how the flows of mana have shifted within you. It would be both cruel and stupid on my part to expect you to have perfect control right now. Getting angry or blaming you for things that cannot be helped would be equally cruel and stupid.”

The lich almost said something when Sylvanas finished her thought. “You are a part of my people now, and you will be afforded the same dignity and respect that any of them are granted by virtue of being citizens under my rule.”

Jaina stared up at Sylvanas, a new epiphany hitting her over the head as those words registered in her mind. It hadn’t been stated outright, but she was perfectly capable of reading between the lines, and what she could see had left her speechless once again.

Sylvanas cared. Immensely and in a way that Jaina scarcely believed possible of the woman, but it she did. By mere virtue of having become Forsaken, of having become one of the Elf’s charges, Jaina was now someone that Sylvanas saw as someone to care for. Someone to worry about and encourage, someone that was deserving of respect and patience, someone that mattered just because she was one of Sylvanas’ people. Sylvanas had been silently letting her know all of this ever since she’d first woken up, showing how much she truly and genuinely cared in every one of her actions, in every gesture she made.

She showed it in the time she had taken from her duties to stand by Jaina, periodically asking to see how she was doing and never straying far unless she needed to; she showed it in the never-ending lenience for her blunders and in how she continuously told Jaina that they were not her fault and she would improve in time, even though the Warchief had been repeatedly injured in the process of trying to help; she showed it in the calm acceptance of Jaina’s questions about her new life, never tiring of answering even the littlest things, and she was showing it now, as those bright red eyes bore into her own not with malice or irritation or any other such emotion that might rightly be expected from someone that had been repeatedly impaled by large spikes of enchanted ice. Those eyes were instead filled with concern and sympathy, gazing into her own as if the Elf could see deeper, much deeper, into the very soul of her. As if she knew the confusion, the hurt, the anger, and all of the other emotions trampling over each other in her mind, threatening to drown her with their intensity.

The tempest within her only grew as she stared back at the Banshee. She felt adrift, this new discovery having thrown her off-balance completely, and her confused feelings pulled her in all directions. Something screamed desperately within her, but she didn’t know how to calm it on her own, so she reacted on instinct and reached for the one thing that had worked without fail since the beginning. She lifted her hands to Sylvanas’ pauldrons and pulled the woman on top of her.

Sylvanas allowed herself to fall, having seen it coming and accepting the gesture readily. However, she miscalculated the distance between them slightly and her fall was rather awkward, only made worse when she somehow ended up with her hands on either side of the lich’s head and her lips pressed to Jaina’s own.

The feeling of those soft, plush lips had been unexpected but not unwelcome. Where Jaina had only hoped to once again find comfort in Sylvanas’ embrace, she instead found herself reacting in a way that would have surely horrified her before.

Hunger.

A deep, burning hunger bloomed in her chest and lower, making tingles run through her fingers and up her spine. She hadn’t known that this was something she could still feel as a Forsaken, but she was not going to reject it now that it was here. She deepened the kiss, one of her hands making its way slowly down the Banshee’s arm in a soft caress, while the other one slowly traced the regal taper of Sylvanas’ ear, enjoying the way the other woman shuddered at her touch. A sharp, heady thrill bloomed in her chest at the way the Warchief of the Horde almost melted above her when that light tracing became firmer, at the way her fingers rubbing at the base of the twitching ear elicited a groan that only encouraged her further and made her want to pull more and more sounds like those from that delicate, lovely throat.

Suddenly, the kiss was broken and she found distance put between them. An annoyed almost-growl left her at that, the hunger within her demanding to be sated, the need to touch this beautiful woman almost overpowering.

Did Sylvanas not want this too?

Sylvanas shook her head, her red eyes burning with desire so strong that it stole the breath that Jaina no longer needed, but the infuriating woman wouldn’t let her close the distance. “You are overwhelmed still, and don’t know fully what you’re doing. You’ve had a long and trying day, and I will not bed you when you are like this, fragile and vulnerable and would likely accept anyone else who was interested.” The Banshee sighed and pulled away fully, blithely ignoring her body’s protests. “You are young and need to adjust to being Forsaken before you can make decisions about things like these without feeling terrible regrets after the fact.”

Jaina was annoyed with this answer, even though the rational part of her understood and agreed with it. “Do you think I don’t know my own mind?”

“I think you are overwhelmed by the change you’ve undergone and are looking for comfort.” Sylvanas pointed out. “You’re a beautiful woman, Lady Proudmoore, and I don’t doubt that you usually know your own mind very well. But I know more about being Forsaken than you, and I know how difficult everything is during those first few days and weeks after having been Raised, how easily your emotions jump from one to the next without rhyme or reason, and how fast you can be consumed by one desire or another as it takes over your mind and refuses to let go.” She shook her head again and rose from the bed. “Take this time to think and fully adjust to what you are now. If you still want me then, I will not stop you.”

“What about what you want? Should that not matter?”

Sylvanas shrugged unconcernedly. “What makes you think that I would not want what you are offering?”

Jaina blinked. “Wait, does that mean you do want me?”

“Sleep, Lady Proudmoore. I will see you in the morning.”

“I thought Forsaken didn’t need sleep.” Jaina snarked back, annoyed at her question being dodged, but not willing to push just yet. Her feelings were a mess.

“We don’t.” Another shrug. “But just because we don’t need sleep it doesn’t mean we are incapable of it. It is even more so the case with you, since you are a second-generation Forsaken. You may even be able to dream, though I wouldn’t know about such things.”

With that, Sylvanas exited her own room and left her on her bed. A bed that was saturated with the scent of leather, flowers, and cold steel, and made the yearning within her grow all the stronger.

Jaina groaned and fell face-first onto the pillows. Damn it all.