Two nights and a day, Sylvanas Windrunner threaded the razor-thin line between unconsciousness and death. Save for the marginal rise and fall of her chest, she showed no signs of life.
Two nights and a day, Jaina Proudmoore stayed by her side. When she could no longer endlessly adjust the bedsheets to be just right for her unconscious elven lover, she stared vacantly into the room, not wanting to look at Sylvanas’ unmoving body. Though sometimes, she stole a fleeting glance at her. How frail she looked now, a deathly pale shadow in the mountain of soft pillows and blankets. Near hazy, as if she was going to fade away when a single beam of light from beyond the room would hit her. It was nothing like the snide, arrogant undead she married so their factions wouldn’t tear the world apart. Jaina drew the burgundy blanket up higher, covering Sylvanas’ body snugly, save for her head. As she touched her cheek, a grain of hope fluttered within her chest.
There was still a heartbeat underneath the skin.
‘Sylvanas! Please, oh Tides, I beg you… please hold on!’
Jaina was holding her. Cradling her head while the world faded away. A vague taste of blood mixed with arcane in her mouth. Her head felt so heavy, rolling limply to the side as Jaina sobbed, arms trembling as she held Sylvanas. The altar was so cold, hard and unforgiving, underneath her.
Was it all over?
Had the ritual been completed?
Sylvanas didn’t truly know. As the Life-Binder’s hand slid up the skin of her neck and the dragon’s heavy voice said something indiscernible, she only knew that she was slowly slipping away.
(Amazing art by @dreamsofjoyfulbunnies on Tumblr!!)
Two days after the ritual, a great clangour in the living room shakes Jaina from her daze. She hears the curtain to the terrace be swept aside, someone walking into the room and a heavy thud of something being thrown onto the floor. Hastily, she makes her way out of the bedroom.
With quite a dramatic groan, Alleria Windrunner drops herself on the couch. ‘Finally, I’m home!’
She lies spread-angled on the lush red pillows for some time, eyes closed and a wide smile on her face, while Jaina stands stunned on the doorstep. Then the mage clears her throat.
‘Hi Alleria,’ she quietly says.
‘Oh, hey Jaina.’ The eldest Windrunner sister turns her head to the door, acknowledging Jaina with a tired grin. Then she reaches for her feet to undo the laces on her boots. ‘How are you? I hope everything went well… Gods, ’ she says, ‘Diplomacy is tiring, so I’m sorry for being late, but you can blame it on some dumb conflict between my people and the Nightborne. Their Arcanist doesn’t want to share her mana wells and is scared that we will corrupt them. Despite the fact that most of my void elves don’t even want to come anywhere near them. Anyways… where is Sylvanas? I don’t see her sulking around anywhere.’
Jaina, who had sat down next to the elf, tries to put on her best smile. Unfortunately, her ill attempted laugh sounds more akin to a dry sob. ‘S-she is… in the bedroom,’ she says.
‘Bedroom? It’s nearly afternoon. Sylvanas isn’t a heavy sleeper. Nor does she sleep at all, in her undead state.’ Alleria’s ears perk up, alarmed. A swirl of void darkens her skin, wavering on her face as her intensely blue eyes find Jaina’s. ‘Don’t… Jaina, don’t tell me she’s gone…’
‘Your sister is alive, my dear. Barely, after my rite, but she is alive. And currently resting, as Jaina said.’ Alexstrasza enters the living room from the kitchen, stopping by the curtain to the outside for a moment to pick up Alleria’s leather traveling bag.
The elf jumps up from the couch, near throwing herself into her lover’s arms. They share a few kisses, then Alleria plucks her bag out of the Life-Binder’s hands and briskly walks to their bedroom to drop it off. Alexstrasza watches her, somewhat bemused by her sudden speed. ‘It is good to have an additional lively spirit in this house,’ she muses. ‘Don't you think so, Jaina?’
Quietly nodding, Jaina hums in affirmation. Alleria seems so different from her state during the battle of Lordaeron. Naturally, the mage had noticed the differences during their nightly conversation in Kul Tiras. But in broad daylight, the healthy flush of the elf’s skin and her abundant energy were much more apparent. Alexstrasza however, had different thoughts. When Alleria returned, empty handed, her farstriders’ armor discarded in favour of a simpler, comfortable loose cotton shirt, the Dragon Queen pats her on the ribs.
‘You've gotten thin again,’ she notes. ‘I told you to care well for yourself while you were away.’
Apologetically smiling, Alleria says: ‘I'm sure you'll put it back on me.’
Jaina sneaks back to the bedroom. As busy as the lovers are with each other, she thinks she won't be missed. Nearly having reached the door, she hears Alleria call out: ‘Jaina! Make sure Sylvanas doesn't shrivel away into a corner when she knows I'm here.’
Halting on the doorstep, Jaina turns to the pair. ‘She might still think that you want to murder her.’
‘Would be a waste of my beloved’s magic, wouldn't it?’
‘I suppose so, yes.’
‘By the way, my heart.’ Alleria turns to Alexstrasza. ‘I delivered your invitation to the Silver Covenant. She wasn't all too keen on coming here, so maybe she won't… but it was worth a try. Despite the scalding looks I received.’
‘Vereesa is coming over here?’ Jaina is surprised.
‘Probably, maybe, perhaps. There is a slight chance.’ Shrugging, Alleria sighs slightly. ‘But keep that quiet, please. Sylvanas would dissolve into grey sludge if she heard it.’
Sylvanas already looks ready to evaporate, Jaina thinks by herself when she settles next to the bed on a small stool. Frail, sharp cheekbones and thin hair, all in stark contrast with the soft blankets she lies under. While her skin isn't the grey color it used to be, it stretches tautly over her narrow face. It looks as if the magic of the ritual has thinned her body.
Repressing a shiver, Jaina thinks back to the end of the ritual. After Sylvanas had collapsed, plumes of green smoke trailing from her mouth, nose and eyes, she had been certain, for a few terrible seconds, that she had perished. She had started weeping, cradling Sylvanas’ head and holding her. Yet before she could go completely mad, Alexstrasza had felt the elf’s neck, confirming that she had a weak pulse still. A flare of red, alighting the runes in the cave and the engraving of the Life-Binder in her dragon form, had startled Jaina. The ward sealing the cave had been opened, they had been free to go after the rite’s completion.
Alexstrasza had slipped into her robe, whisked the empty potion bottles back to the house with a wave of arcane and handed Jaina her coat. Then she had carried Sylvanas back to the house, like she had done with Alleria in the memory shown to Jaina. While walking out of the cavern, Jaina had covered Sylvanas with her coat, so the newly revived elf wouldn’t get cold.
After cleaning the worst of the blood off Sylvanas’ body and tucking the unconscious elf in, the Life-Binder had been able to throw a quick meal together, before retreating to her own bedroom to rest. The day after, she had said to Jaina that, while not having spent her powers completely, she found it a bad idea to try such a resurrection again. The mage had agreed, quite vehemently so.
Jaina removes a strand of hair from her lover’s face, tucking it behind a long ear. At once, the silky length trembles against her hand. Sylvanas gasps softly, a twitch traveling through the muscles of her face. The elf’s silver eyes open slowly.
‘ Mmm… Dalah’surfal ?’ she softly says, voice reedy.
‘Sylvanas!’ Jaina exclaims, slipping off the stool and kneeling on the floor to be on level with her wife’s face, cupping her cheek and softly turning her head towards herself.
‘Am I in the land of the living again?’
‘You are! Yes, you are.’
‘I am unsure whether I need to feel refreshed and reborn … but I do not. It feels more like I have been stuffed into a blight catapult and thrown against a castle’s walls. Repeatedly.’ With a groan, Sylvanas bends one of her knees underneath the blanket and sits up with her back against the headboard. She shivers, and quickly grasps the blanket to swaddle herself into it.
Sitting down next to her on the bed, Jaina leans in to press her face against her chest, where a soft heartbeat sounds. She widely smiles into Sylvanas’ nightclothes. Until a chuckle shakes the skin underneath her cheek. ‘What is it?’ she gently asks.
‘I'm very thirsty,’ Sylvanas says. ‘It feels as if I haven't drank in years - which, in fact, I have not. And I still taste blood.’
Still smiling broadly, Jaina hastily runs the to bathroom to get a glass of water. Barely being able to avoid spilling it over herself as she makes her way back to Sylvanas, she is surprised to see the elf languidly stretching her arms. She tucks her left arm into the soft pile of fabric again and gratefully takes the water with the right. Jaina keeps a close eye on her still weakened lover. Her uppermost ribs are most definitely more pronounced than before the ritual.
Sylvanas, not even noticing Jaina’s observant look, takes a harsh breath, having downed nearly half the water in one gulp. ‘I forgot my new need for breath,’ she pants.
She looks at her reflection in the cup, bringing a thumb to her cheek, stroking where burnt tears were once embedded into her skin. ‘Does it look better? Or merely strange?’ she asks Jaina.
‘It looks much better! Everything about you looks better! Of course, you already looked good, but… you’re just even more beautiful now,’ the mage trails of with a someward awkward grin. A blush rises to her cheeks.
When she looks up, Sylvanas is gazing down at her hands, entwined around the cup. She is blushing too. Only slightly, a light dusting of pink on her cheeks and in the points of her ears. To hide it, she quickly drinks the rest of the water, chasing a stray droplet in the corner of her mouth with her tongue.
Jaina feels the strong urge to kiss her. She takes the empty cup from Sylvanas’ hands, grasps her wrists softly and presses the palms to her jawline. They are warm. Warm skin, slightly shaky but so very much alive. Sylvanas pulls her close, small huffs of her breath tickling Jaina’s skin. The mage nearly falls onto the recovering elf from the sudden pull. She kicks with her legs for balance, searching for purchase on the soft blankets with her hands. Instead, she lands on Sylvanas’ legs underneath the covers, slips off them and falls forward on her face. Her left foot kicks against the bedside cabinet, rattling the drawers. Too late, Sylvanas lets go of Jaina’s face and makes a futile grab for the falling cup. It clatters onto the tiles, miraculously only chipping, not breaking.
A swish of the sole of a boot sounds outside the bedroom door. ‘Jaina, don’t tell me you’re making all of that noise on your own.’
Mortified, Sylvanas makes a distressed squeaking sound at the voice.
‘Ah no, of course not, dear sister mine,’ Alleria continues. She is standing very close to the door, even the rustle of her shirt is hearable to Jaina, who scrambles to her feet.
‘Stay out,’ Sylvanas grumbles, silver eyes trained on the doorknob. ‘Why are you here?’
‘I live here, with my betrothed.’ Unlike Jaina had expected, Alleria’s voice still sounds like she can barely contain a laugh. ‘Regardless, I am not coming in there. I don’t need, or want, to see your bedhead ever again. But feel free to join Alex and me on the terrace. We have food.’
‘Food… food is not enough to persuade-’ halting in her words, Sylvanas seeks Jaina’s eyes. The mage has trouble containing her own laugh and merely quirks her eyebrows. She is not willing to get into a debate with one, let alone two Windrunner sisters.
‘ - actually it might be…’
‘I bought a bunch of cured sausage with thyme before I came here. Your favourite, if I recall correctly. You even used to smuggle it to your bedroom for a midnight snack, back in the Spire-’
‘Alleria, piss off!’ Sylvanas shrieks. Turning to Jaina, she adds: ‘Go on, join them. I will be with you shortly.’
This will be a fun afternoon, Jaina thinks as she slowly shakes her head. Sylvanas scampers off to the bathroom, threading her hands through her silver-blond hair. When Jaina opens the door, the elf sprints out of sight, muttering a complaint about how cold the tiles are to her barely revived feet. Alleria’s laugh is a dry cough, barely hidden, as she watches her sister run off. Jaina turns back to look into the dark bedroom, seeing Sylvanas halt and shoot a scalding look at her sister. She hisses one Thalassian word, before vanishing into the bathroom.
‘Now, that’s not very polite of Sylvanas, suddenly calling people hawkstrider dung.’ Her sister holds the curtain to the terrace open for Jaina. ‘Come, join us outside.’
Laughing, Jaina says: ‘Actually, it might be better if I stay with Sylvanas for a moment longer. Just to make sure that she doesn’t dissolve out of shame.’
Sylvanas is leaning on the sink with her underarms, quietly seething. She looks up as Jaina approaches, ears flattened in her neck.
‘Does she bother you that much?’ The mage lays a hand on her beloved’s shoulder and rubs soft but firm circles on the skin. ‘I thought you wanted to speak with her?’
‘I do… I still do.’ Sylvanas rights herself up and pops her spine, making a small noise of satisfaction. ‘But being confronted by my sister right after waking up, and feeling like I’ve been mauled by a saber… was not the sort of reunion I had in mind. Alleria is insufferable, even more so since that dragon of hers seems to have talked her worries away.’
So you got mad and fled, Jaina thinks. Well, if that’s not typical for you. Her slight annoyance quickly fades when she sees how Sylvanas softly pulls on her own skin, testing its warmth, feeling how it’s not as pallid anymore. She sucks in a deep breath, sighing, ears perking up surprisedly when her breath makes a cloud of moisture on the mirror she is facing. A slight grin lights up her face. But as her eyes scan her own figure, only clad in her smallclothes, it quickly turns to a frown when she slowly traces the long, whitish scar on her stomach. It did not fade completely, though it is no longer blackened, and not as pronounced anymore.
Swiftly, Jaina covers the hand with her own and guides her to softly rub over her stomach. The skin gives in more than when the blood elf was still undead. ‘It’s okay. I don’t mind it,’ she says softly.
‘I am aware.’ Sylvanas tries to move the hand from her skin, but Jaina stubbornly keeps it there. She knows that it’s good to share warmth and assurance with the recovering elf, even if she does not need the first thing.
Leaning backwards slightly, Sylvanas concedes, and only slips her hand out from underneath Jaina’s, as to feel purely the mage’s touch. ‘It is an improvement, over my old state’, she murmurs, relaxing into the soft caress.
Jaina waits in the bedroom until her wife has washed and dressed. She takes out the necklace from her coat pocket and strokes the blue gem. The Thalassian inscription has faded slightly, but the sapphire still shimmers. Such a precious jewel, she thinks, I wonder why she kept it all this time… even when she was miles away from Alleria, mentally and physically.
Sylvanas takes the jewel with some hesitation, after Jaina has given it to her. It hangs somewhat forlornly in between her sharp collar bones, colouring weirdly with her burgundy vest. Jaina wishes that they had taken more clothing with them, their travelling gear seems to simple for the occasion. Luckily, both Alleria and her Queen are lounging in casual wear too. The Ruby Sanctum truly is a place of peace in between the world’s madness.
While she sits down, Jaina looks at Alexstrasza. The Life-Binder looks noticeably less tired than after the ritual. Her exact words “my power nearly turned against me in the last moments. An Aspect could harness such powers and use them well, I fear I am sadly not in the state to do so anymore”, still haunt Jaina slightly. For all of Alexstrasza’s goodwill, she had put herself in more danger than the mage had thought.
Unbothered by her thoughts, Alleria and her beloved Queen chatter merrily. They only break their conversation when Sylvanas shifts in the chair next to Jaina, so the legs scrape over the terrace tiles.
Eyebrows drawn up high, Alleria takes a deep breath and opens her mouth to speak. For a moment, Jaina is afraid that she will be witness to a bout of Thalassian insults from one Windrunner to the other. Then Alleria says: ‘ Hmm , you're still a bit grey. Not that grey anymore… not entirely peachy either. It's a nice mix.’
‘I did not ask for your judgement,’ Sylvanas coldly replies.
Jaina sighs, Alleria huffs.
Some parts of her will never change, the Lord Admiral thinks.
Then Alexstrasza tilts her horned head towards the waygate, a curious smile spreading over her features. ‘The wards let someone through. It seems like we have a late arrival,’ she says softly.
Two pairs of elf ears perk up.
‘Thought she’d never come,’ one Windrunner says.
‘Who?’ the other snaps.
Deciding that she does not want to be part of the looming conversation between the sisters, Jaina excuses herself, gets up from her chair and accompanies Alexstrasza to the cold chambers of Wyrmrest Temple.
Her insufferable sister will not tell her who has arrived. Sylvanas is sick of Alleria already. Because of her sister’s constant passive-aggressive comments and the stupid grin on her lips, she feels the strong urge to punch her in the face. Yet her slightly weakened body does not seem to agree. Her hands are still shaky, she feels a bit dizzy and when Jaina had tried to kiss her in the bedroom, the thunderous heartbeat in her chest had felt very alien. Somehow comforting, but still alien.
Staunchly, she waits with Alleria until Jaina and the Dragon Queen have returned with their guest. Hands behind her back, chin tilted up, she stiffly stands next to her sister. When she steals a quick look at Alleria, she finds her relaxedly stuffing her hands into her pockets. That slouchy posture, with the shoulders turned inwards and that smile, one corner of the mouth higher than the other. It is a sight she recognizes from her childhood. Alleria is at peace here, she realizes. So very far removed from the twitchy, angry, nervous wreck that had yelled at her in Lordaeron.
When the waygate shimmers, a third, slender figure follows the Life-Binders hulking stature and Jaina’s form.
Sylvanas recognizes it. Her. Vereesa.
She is so stunned that she zones out slightly, until her younger sister is only a few feet away.
Alleria turns her head to the side. ‘Go up in smoke now and I will smite you to the other end of the Sanctum.’
‘If I still possessed the ability, I’d take the risk,’ Sylvanas murmurs.
When Vereesa stands nose to nose with her, the former banshee swallows, a knot in her throat. A wave of emotion washes over her, threatening to bring tears to her silver eyes. She had hoped that Little Moon’s return would leave her indifferent, but alas. Yet before she can express any of the fear, spite, anxiety or even slight joy, Vereesa steps back a single foot.
And slaps her hard across the face.
Sylvanas reels back, clutching her cheek, gasping in surprise. ‘What was that for-’
‘How dare you?’ Vereesa shrieks. ‘How dare you stand there, like some statue! And how dare you-’ she furiously turns to Alleria. ‘ - write me a letter that seemed to spell out Sylvanas’ death?’
‘I didn’t write-’
‘You said “she has traveled to Wyrmrest Temple in search for release from her undead curse”!’
‘Meaning that my beloved could-’
‘You did not write that! ’ Vereesa fumes.
The youngest Windrunner sister prods Alleria thrice in the chest with a sharp finger, then turns to Sylvanas, who is still recovering from the slap.
‘I’m sorry… I-I know it was for secrecy’s sake but j-just…-’ tears well up in her eyes and she collides with Sylvanas, grabbing her shirt, sobbing into her shoulder as the middle sister slowly, hesitatingly, moves her arms to pat her on the back. ‘When King Anduin said that you were gone, on a journey, for your own good… I thought you’d throw away all the progress. Because you finally agreed to marry Jaina to seal a pact for peace, a-and then you didn’t even stay for a full year before vanishing with her.’
‘We should have thought it out better. How to announce it to the rest of the Horde and Alliance leaders,’ Sylvanas says to Jaina.
Her wife merely pinches the bridge of her nose. Then she curls her arms around herself and mouths hug her, you idiot.
With a deep breath, Sylvanas tries to relax in Vereesa’s hold. When her muscles no longer feel like steel cables and the feeling of revulsion at being embraced is more or less gone, she grabs Vereesa’s hand by the wrist. It had been punching her softly on the shoulder all the while, and she thinks that her newly revived skin is most definitely bruised now. Steadying her sister’s trembling form, she hugs her, even letting Vereesa snotter into her neck for a few seconds. ‘It’s alright now, Little Moon,’ she tries, though the words feel too saccharine in her mouth. ‘I’m fine, you see?’
Finally, Vereesa stops near strangling her. ‘Y-your eyes…’ she softly says. ‘They’re silver again.’
‘That they are, indeed.’
‘Hey, are you going to stand there all day or can we resume this great familial reunion on the terrace? I’m getting hungry.’ Alleria is halfway down the path to the house already.
When Jaina starts laughing, and her high, airy laugh is soon joined by Alexstrasza’s deeper one, Sylvanas huffs and slowly lets go of Vereesa’s hand.
Alleria turns on her heels, facing the rest of the group. ‘Rees’, please drop your armor off in a guestroom, it’s way too warm here to be wearing all that metal.’
When they have settled by the table again, with Jaina decidedly sitting in between Sylvanas and Vereesa, the latter asks: ‘So, what started all of this? How did you go from reluctantly marrying Sylvanas to risking life and limb to revive her proper, Jaina? And Alleria, why did you advise them to come to Wyrmrest Temple?’
Alleria shrugs. ‘You may blame Jaina for that. She can be really convincing, in what she wrote to me.’
‘If we’re blaming things, the old cookbook on Thalassian cuisine that I found in the library back in Boralus is at fault here,’ Jaina says, giving Sylvanas a long sideways glance.
‘That still does not explain why you wrote to Alleria.’ With a frown and an apologetic shrug, Vereesa turns to her old friend. ‘I’m sorry, Jaina, for being so ill at ease… I’m just a tad weary, suspicious… because of the things that happened between us three.’
The mage wants to move to assure her that it’s no matter, when Sylvanas speaks up, to her unabashed surprise.
‘That is understandable,’ she says, looking at her younger sister. Her mouth twitches, as if not being able to decide whether to wear a wry smile or a sneer. ‘It is hard to hide your innermost desires from someone who flaunted her living body in front of you all hours of the day.’
Sharply gasping, Jaina retorts: ‘I did not flaunt!’
‘You pressed me to try to enjoy life, with all my limitations and restrictions. It had the same effect.’
‘Destroying the wall of my rooms and storming off to simmer in your self-loathing?’
In the ensuing silence, Alleria takes a long drink from her glass. When no one has spoken after she wipes her mouth, she says, to no sister in particular. ‘Ooh, that is nothing new, now is it?’
Sylvanas rests her head in her hands, mumbling obscenities and sighing. In pity, Jaina pats her on the shoulder. ‘Perhaps you should tone it down a tad, Alleria. Do you really want her to get a headache on the first day that she’s able to?’
‘Maybe not.’ The eldest sister empties her glass and turns to Vereesa. ‘What else do you want to hear, Little Moon? Why I answered Jaina?’
Vereesa nods. ‘Yes, for a brief moment, I thought I’d be coming here for my sister’s funeral. I’d like to know how things turned out to be this way instead.’
A light shudder goes through Alleria. In an instant, Alexstrasza leans over and embraces her, cradling her head with one arm and taking her hand. ‘I’m alright, my love,’ Alleria softly says, then taps with a knuckle against her temple. ‘They’re not exactly agreeing, up here.’
‘Lies and slander, my sister. Don’t listen,’ Sylvanas brashly cuts in, though she looks on concernedly.
‘I know. Perhaps that is why I wrote to Jaina… there was quite an uproar of void in my brain when I got the letter. I knew it was important to defy them again.’ Reaching to roll up her right sleeve, Alleria uncovers a golden bracelet. Two entwined dragons, red and green gems speckled on the metal. She grasps it tightly, setting her mouth in a thin line and leaning back into Alexstrasza’s arms.
While Jaina had imagined what their relationship would be like, this impromptu demonstration of the Life-Binder’s unwavering love takes her aback, filling her with warmth at the same time. On impulse, she mimics her movements, grabbing Sylvanas’ hand, searching for closeness. The elf gives her a small squeeze in return, a ghost of a smile gracing her pale lips. After half a minute, in which Alleria slowly breathes in and out, in time with her Dragon Queen, the eldest Windrunner clears her throat. She sits up straight, though she keeps Alexstrasza’s arm firmly around her waist.
‘When the void takes you, you feel nothing. No pain, no joy, no anger, no fear. Just… everything turns cold. It’s the most frightening thing in the world. And you know I’m not easily scared.’
Vereesa quietly laughs, but nods in confirmation. Even Sylvanas snorts softly.
‘So I recognized that, when Jaina wrote about that someone wanted to feel alive . Very secretive, non-descriptive terms, but I knew who it was about. And like no other, I know the fear that comes with not feeling anything.’ She looked around the table, to each face. ‘How could I not help my sister, who was… taking baby steps towards peace, with her fears, that no one should know of, lest they discover a weakness of hers?’
‘Something she always hated,’ Vereesa chimes in.
‘I suppose the rest of the work was yours, beloved.’
At Alleria’s words, Alexstrasza nods. The Life-Binder crosses her legs and folds her hands on her lap. She too looks at every elf and human at the table. Jaina feels her bronze eyes linger and pause on her.
‘I am very grateful,’ she says to the former Aspect. Next to her, Sylvanas tenses and draws in a quick, sharp breath, as if remembering the pain of the rite.
‘I know, Jaina. But there is no need to express it. The sight of a pair of lovers, content with one another, is a reward of its own.’ The Life-Binder smiles warmly to her. ‘That said, I am glad to have succeeded… despite the troubles.’
‘You already saved two of us from death. Now there’s just Vereesa left.’ Alleria waves at her youngest sister, who pinches the bridge of her nose and opens her mouth to speak.
However, Alexstrasza is quicker. ‘You were not dead, beloved.’
To Jaina, it sounds as if she and Alleria have had this conversation before. Rolling her eyes, the void elf says: ‘I was there. I was right there on the edge and you pulled me back. Which does mean that I beat Sylvanas at “being unconscious after life-binding experiences”. I was out for nearly ten days.’
‘Why does talking with you two always deteriorate into either yelling or morose, unfunny competitions?’ Vereesa reaches for her glass and drinks, narrowing her eyes, glaring at both of her sisters over the rim. ‘But I think I can see the whole picture now. Can we talk about something fun?’
‘Fine,’ Sylvanas grits. She thinks really hard for a few seconds. ‘How is the weather?’
Jaina bursts out into laughter, clapping her wife on her shoulder. Sylvanas trying to be cheerful is one of the strangest, and funniest things to happen in the last few days.
Alleria quirks an eyebrow. ‘Very good,’ she deadpans. ‘It never rains here, since Alexstrasza’s magic is enough to keep all the plantlife fresh.’
‘A sure advantage of marrying a dragon,’ Sylvanas replies, nearly sounding interested.
Wagging a finger and smiling broadly, her sister glances fondly at the Dragon Queen. ‘Not yet, sister. Soon.’
After a nice dinner, something which Alexstrasza called Dragonbreath Chili, and lived up to its name, Sylvanas once again joins her family on the terrace outside. They stare at her when she enters. Knowing that she it would be good to make a witty comment, yet unsure, she looks at Jaina. She is smiling, but clenching her jaw oddly. Sylvanas thinks to know what ails her.
‘How is your tongue?’ she asks.
With a laugh, Jaina says: ‘Recovering… I did believe I could breathe fire for a moment, during dinner. How’s yours?’
‘We should go back to the cavern to revive it.’
‘You could do something else to revive it.’ Alleria giggles, a sound that Sylvanas hasn’t heard in much too long.
‘What in Belore’s name do you mean?’ she snaps to her sister, whose eyebrows draw up very quickly.
‘Oh, I think you know very well what I mean.’ Alleria leans back in her chair, satisfied.
‘Feel free to share-’
‘Feel free not to!’ Vereesa is growing increasingly red, glowering at both of her sisters. To her left, Jaina is suffering the same fate.
But as Sylvanas expected, her elder sister cannot resist a final quip. ‘Ah, just… a breath of life ,’ she says, blowing air through puckered lips.
Not surprisingly, Vereesa promptly punches her in the arm. ‘Alleria, shut up. Sylvanas, eat.’
Eat. Sylvanas looks at the after-dinner snacks on the table. Yes, she could eat now. The same feeling as she had weeks ago, when approaching the picture-perfect meal that Jaina had cooked for her, comes over her. Though this time, it feels more intimate. Not confined to her disembodied soul, swirling in the back of Jaina’s mind, possessing her body. No, this is free, warm and uplifting. Sitting in her chest like her personal little fire.
She takes in the sizable collection of food in front of her. Wedges of cheese, both creamy and hard. The cured sausage with thyme that Alleria had bought, its sharp, spicy smell a nice memory from her childhood. Three different kinds of bread. One white and fluffy, one dark with nuts in the dough and a third that is more like a kind of cracker. Plenty of oil to dip them in, too. A variety of fruit jams. And a glass bowl with enough honey to feed the three elves.
Her mouth waters, another long-lost sensation. Sylvanas sits down and reaches for a piece of cheese, but pauzes, doubting. She wants this to be perfect. Eventually, she picks a slice of cured sausage, easily peeling off the skin, as if the last time she did that was not decades ago, but mere hours. All eyes are on her, very expectedly staring her down. Her eyes flick from Jaina’s whitened hair to the large red gem on Vereesa’s necklace, matching her own blue. Alexstrasza’s calm exterior and Alleria eagerly leaning forward, perfectly complementary. Then she tosses the slice into her mouth and bites down.
There is no true way to describe the taste. Savoury, spicy, sending a wave of memories and emotion crashing down onto her. She closes her eyes, taking blissful deep breaths of fresh air. Tears prick in the corners of her eyes. Her own tears, finally able to flow, free from the restraints of undeath. And for this once, the former banshee does not force them down.
‘Oh, Sylvanas,’ Jaina softly says next to her. The mage’s warm hand comes to rest on the juncture of her neck and left shoulder.
Immediately, Sylvanas leans into it, sobbing openly. Another hand joins hers on the right shoulder, softly squeezing. Vereesa.
‘I’d come over there, but you’re sitting in the middle of the table and ‘Rees and Jaina are on either side of you and- okay okay I’m going.’
Sylvanas looks up to see Alexstrasza prod Alleria to join. She stands up and meets both of her sisters in the middle of the terrace. As with the moment they met by the waygate, Vereesa nearly strangles her in a hug. Though this time, Alleria comes to join them, rubbing her knuckles over her sisters’ heads until Sylvanas reaches up to pinch her ear sharply. Then the three of them relax and all Sylvanas could hear are their breaths.
‘Are we okay now?’ Vereesa asks.
‘Is that what you want most, Little Moon?’
Though Veresa doesn’t answer her, Sylvanas feels her nod against her shoulder.
‘We’re getting there… slowly.’
Disentangled from the bunch, Sylvanas looks at her sisters. Yes, they were getting somewhere now. She could not pretend that, however nice their shared time was here, it would immediately extent to every corner of Azeroth and their respective people they led, but it was a start. Though before she could sink into her thoughts too deeply, Alleria hisses “payback!” into her ear and pinches the tip. Sylvanas wheels around to hit her, but the void elf bounces back easily.
‘Your reflexes are sluggish, ‘Nas. Maybe you should start training again, since your perfect ranger muscles aren’t preserved in undeath anymore.’
Jaina watches the sisters laugh. The happy sight makes her smile contendly. When they have returned, Alexstrasza reaches behind her chair and shows them an instrument.
A flute, wrought out of a single straight piece of wood. Gilded engravings circle its length, curling and twisting around the instrument. Its mouth resembles a dragon’s head. The company eyes her curiously when she puts it to her mouth and blows a first note. Low, breathy, but not out of tune. With gracious movements of her fingers, she plays a little triller, slowly accelerating, then jumps up an interval and repeats the process, warming up the instrument.
Smiling, Jaina’s eyes are drawn to her elegant fingers, effortlessly transforming the practice melody into a cheery folk song. Its melody is a rolling string of notes, gliding from high to low, like a dragon in flight. She sways to the music, entranced by the relatively low sound of the flute. Then Alexstrasza stops playing, flicking her eyebrows at her lover.
‘Well, Alleria, are you going to dance? You are very good at it. I am sure your sisters would love to see. And you, Daughter of the Sea, can you keep a rhythm?’
Jaina gulps, growing slightly red in the face. Dancing and music aren’t exactly her forte. But she nods, wanting to join the fun. The Life-Binder shows her, tapping on the tiles with her heavy feet. Jaina takes over her rhythm with few difficulties. It is not very complicated. A stomp on every first and fourth beat of the six. She is even able to bring a little swing into the music, sometimes choosing to tap on the fifth and sixth beats as well.
Alleria walks up to the front of the terrace. For a few seconds, she just sways along to the music. Then she sweeps her foot over the floor, landing a sharp hit with the hard sole of her boot. A deeper thud from the heel follows. As Alexstrasza deftly plays on, she slowly speeds up and begins tapping in earnest. At first, she keeps her arms behind her back for stability, then, as the music continues, she suddenly snaps her heels together and holds out one hand to Vereesa. The youngest Windrunner follows in her sister’s footsteps without fault. Together, they twirl to the music in a folk dance. Vereesa’s lighter steps provide a pleasant contrast with Alleria’s lower ones, and Jaina is so enchanted that she nearly forgets to keep her rhythm.
The sisters dance outwards, away from one another. They perform the same snap of their heels as Alleria did on her own, though this time, they both stretch one arm towards Sylvanas. The newly revived elf shakes her head. The music stops.
‘Come on, ‘Nas! We can’t dance this part with just the two of us,’ Vereesa says pleadingly.
‘Don’t call me Nas,’ Sylvanas deflects.
‘Okay then, Lady Moon. Please, dance with us.’ Alleria hurriedly gestures for her sister to join in.
Sylvanas’ silver eyes drift to Jaina, who nods encouragingly. ‘It will look great!’ she says, blushing. Apart from a weird, stiff and awkward thing that couldn’t even be called a waltz, on their equally stiff and awkward wedding, she has yet to see Sylvanas dance. And she is very eager to see it.
And so, Sylvanas joins her sisters, grasping a hand of each. They twirl, tap and glide in their dance. To Jaina, who desperately tries to keep up with her rhythm, it looks truly exotic. Like a folk dance, as she knows from her childhood in the court, but also not quite. There is an elegance in the elven dance that she cannot express in words. How Vereesa performs dizzying pirouettes without falling. How Sylvanas jumps up high, crossing her legs over at least thrice while in the air. How Alleria shows off her tapping skills when her sisters give her the stage to do so, flanking her in perfect, still poses. How Alexstrasza effortlessly plays her swirling melody until three sharp taps from three pairs of feet signal the end.
Jaina is so absorbed into the performance that she misses the ending beats by half a second.
Sylvanas is out of breath. Another novel feeling long forgotten. As the evening progresses and the skies of the Sanctum darken, she finds herself discussing with Vereesa about a new training regimen for herself, telling Jaina about the elven folk dances and recounting various unpleasant experiences from the ritual to Alleria in gruesome detail. Pretending that everything is fine between the three of them seems to work well for the evening. And when they are about to head inside for some much needed rest, Sylvanas doesn’t know how much she is truly pretending anymore.
As Vereesa nimbly stands up and Jaina jawns deeply, the Dragon Queen remains immobile.
‘I fear I cannot get up… like this,’ she says, gesturing to Alleria, who has sprawled herself over two chairs and the Life-Binder’s lap. She is soundly asleep.
‘Bounce your knee,’ Sylvanas suggests, shrugging. ‘Alleria has always had a talent for falling asleep on… well-’
‘Everything,’ she and Vereesa say as one.
‘Literally everything,’ the youngest Windrunner continues. ‘Bottom of every single flight of stairs in the Spire, with her chest and head on a table in mother’s archery workshop, on the ground in front of the rangers’ barracks, on top of us before we could properly settle in bed.’
‘On the edge of the tub, while brushing her teeth. If she was particularly tired.’
‘Once she managed to fall asleep during morning chores. She just sort of… sunk half to her knees, smacking with her face into a wall.’
‘Wasn’t that when we had stayed up all night to watch a meteor shower?’
‘Yes, it was!’ Vereesa happily exclaims. ‘But you can just move and wake her, she won’t mind.’
Despite the sisters’ suggestions, Alexstrasza chooses a less rough option. Gentilly, she traces a line down the tattoo over Alleria’s eye. When the elf’s ears twitch and subconsciously perk up, she runs her finger down the lengths. Now she wakes, lifting her head from her Queen’s lap and steadying herself with a hand on the tabletop. ‘Did it happen again?’ she asks, somewhat sheepishly.
Alexstrasza chuckles before getting up too. ‘Yes, you really ought to sleep more.’
Next to Sylvanas, Jaina quirks her eyebrows as she looks at the couple. ‘Could we try-’
‘Don’t even think about it.’
The next morning, after having packed, eaten and made their way to the icy outside of Wyrmrest Temple, Sylvanas and Jaina say goodbye to Vereesa.
‘I shall see you soon again,’ she says, stepping through a portal of the Life-Binder’s making.
Looking on as her slender stature disappears, Sylvanas hesitates. She knows it would be good to embrace her as a goodbye, but in the cold, light snow, her body once again feels alien to her. And so she just waves, with Jaina, Alleria and Alexstrasza. The small smile that lights up Little Moon’s face is comforting to her. Yet as she said the evening prior, there is still much to be done between herself and her sisters.
‘That’s it, you’re both not invited to our wedding,’ Alleria sighs. ‘Jaina can come though, she’s not as incredibly awkward as the two of you.’
‘With who am I going to dance then, if both your sisters are banished from the party?’ the mage says, laughing so brightly that a slight smile finds its way onto Sylvanas’ face.
Alexstrasza closes the portal and turns to the rest. ‘Are you making plans for our wedding without me now?’
She laughs warmly, then asks to the other couple if they are ready to depart as well. After Jaina confirms this, the Dragon Queen takes a few steps back, to the top of the staircase. With a surge of magic, her human form is enveloped in light. Snowflakes spontaneously melt in the air as she spreads her wings in her truest form. Without hesitating, Alleria walks up to the dragon, who lifts her talon to provide an easy way for her to hop onto her back.
Sylvanas watches tensely as her elder sister settles comfortably behind Alexstrasza’s horns. The Life-Binder’s form now exudes power beyond even what she displayed during the ritual. The elf can feel waves of arcane radiating around her. Yet it is a warm kind of power, calming her mind and dispelling the traces of anxiety that had made themselves known. Slowly, she and Jaina approach the dragon, giving their luggage to Alleria, who arranges it in the space between Alexstrasza’s horns.
‘I hope you won’t get seasick up here,’ she says.
At once, Jaina flicks her eyebrows at Sylvanas.
Remembering the awful first hours of their sailboat journey, Sylvanas sighs. She remembers the tips Jaina gave her. Look at the horizon, don’t focus on moving things, wash the mouth with seawater. Hopefully, this trip won’t be quite as bad and her newly revived stomach will survive.
Still, when she sees Alleria’s insufferable grin, she can’t help but quip: ‘Let me sit behind you, sister. Then I can throw up over your shoulder should I feel like it.’
Riding a dragon is wild. As soon as they have left Wyrmrest Temple behind with a few powerful wing strokes, the icy air of Northrend envelops them fully. For a brief moment, Jaina is worried that Alexstrasza will fly so high that they will not be able to breathe. But the Life-Binder stays low enough to skim the mountain peaks. She flies quickly, traversing the mountain range in not much more than an hour. Mentally running calculations, Jaina still thinks that they won’t reach Kul Tiras before nightfall. She lets go of Sylvanas’ waist with one hand to tap Alleria on the shoulder, since the wind is nearly too loud to properly make herself heard.
‘She’ll make a portal soon! We just have to get out of the mountains, because big portals don’t match well with this terrain,’ Alleria says.
Soon enough, when the mighty peaks have faded to snow-covered hills, Alexstrasza slows down and rips the sky with a pulse of arcane before diving forward into the portal. The ease with which the dragon handles her magic surprises Jaina, especially while being in full flight. She hears Sylvanas suck in a quick breath, the elf’s stomach muscles tense underneath her hands. Mumbling something to herself, she leans into Jaina and lifts her gaze to presumably focus on the horizon.
The waves of Jaina’s homeland zip by quickly, as they fly closer to the islands. A few surprised cries come form sailboats scattered throughout the water. As Jaina admires the breathtaking view, time seems to pass too quickly. Before she knows it, the cityscape of Boralus looms on the horizon, Proudmoore Keep steadfast as she remembers.
‘Where shall I land?’ Alexstrasza asks, slowing down and starting a slow circle over the city.
‘You could try the city square. There is no market today, if I recall correctly.’
Indeed, the marketplace is largely empty. Boralus’ citizens are wise enough to stay clear of the dragon as she lands and crouches, so Jaina and Sylvanas can easily jump off her back. As the mage takes her wife’s hand and lands safely on the cobbles, she hears the Kul Tirans call out:
‘The Lord Admiral is back!’
‘Lady Jaina has returned!’
‘That's Alleria Windrunner! And who's that other elf?’
‘Silence!’ Katherine Proudmoore strides onto the square, flanked by Tandred and her guards. ‘What in Tides’ name is going on here?’
‘Ah, that’s our cue,’ Alleria says from atop her dragon. ‘I’ll see you soon, Nas!’
‘Don’t call me that!’ Sylvanas hisses. ‘But thanks… Life-Binder, thanks for everything you did for me. And thanks, Lady Sun, for initiating it.’
With a mighty wing stroke, Alexstrasza raises herself into the air. She hovers above the marketplace for a moment. ‘You are most welcome, Sylvanas, Jaina. I do look forward to seeing both of you again.’
Then she and Alleria take off, leaving most Kul Tirans dumbfounded below them.
‘Where did you go? Why did the Life-Binder grace us with a brief visit? And why in Tides’ name did your old sailboat suddenly appear in the harbour a few days ago?’ Katherine asks, marching up to her and staring her down with the sternest of motherly gazes. ‘You have a lot to explain, Jaina,’
Then she turns to Sylvanas, who near flinches under her glare. ‘And so do you… Sylvanas. You seem to have… changed. How come?’
Around them, the citizens of Boralus get increasingly curious, crowding around the returned Lord Admiral. Jaina looks at her wife, she observes that the elf looks to be quite uncomfortable. She is even starting to get a bit red in the face. As for herself, she feels ready to evaporate on the spot. With a grin, meant to look hopeful but coming out as an incredibly awkward chuckle, she suggests:
‘Shall we… talk about it over dinner?’