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Song of The Little Bird.

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Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

Another day finished. Valerica Glenmore exhaled slowly as she finally locked the front door to the shop and leant her back against it, smiling weakly at her equally exhausted brother. “Still not regretting sodding off somewhere?” Lucian swept his dirty blonde hair back, running the palm of the same hand down his face and putting the gloves he was holding on the anvil he was standing behind.

“Not a bit, if anything it’s nice to actually have some work for once.” He finished tying the last purse of the day and threw it in the large safe under the counter, making sure it was secure before scribbling something in the ledger that so far this year had been remarkably empty.

“We might be able to afford to pay our suppliers this month.” Valerica, or Val as she preferred to be called, patted his shoulder as she shambled past him. “Here’s hoping. Tea?” Lucian looked gratefully at her. “Please.” She could hear him flipping the pages that told them how little they had as she trudged up the stairs, fishing out the battered kettle and filling it with water from the basin on the dinner table.

“You got another letter this morning. It’s on the side.” Val was trying not to look at it, hooking the kettle on the fire and using her late father’s lighter to set the few logs on the hearth aflame. “I’ll read it later.” She could hear his sigh even from another floor. “You said that about the last three and all of them are still sealed.” She came to the top of the stairs to save her throat, giving him a dirty look.

“What I read is my own business brother. He knows I’m busy.” Lucian shook his head, hanging the last of his tools up and coming up with her. “And so is he Little Bird, yet he finds time to write to you. Give him a break for the love of the Light.” Val’s hands were shaking and she hated that they were. “I’ll read it later. Now leave it.” Before she could figure out what he was doing, Lucian snatched up the letter and broke the blue seal of Stormwind’s monarchy, unfolding it and clearing his throat, holding his arm up when she tried to snatch it back.

“Val, I’m tired of these games. Two years is long enough to indulge your little tantrum but now I’m putting my foot down. I know you’re hurt, truly I do, but I swear if I had known anything about the betrothal I would’ve stopped it at once. Ignoring me isn’t going to fix anything, so when you’re finally ready to put this to bed and move on with our lives you know where I am. If not, then I shan’t bother you again….have a nice life and know that you’re in my thoughts.”

He put his palm on the crown of her head to push her back, looking disapprovingly at his little sister. “Val, he sounds desperate now. Please just go and see him.” She straightened, folding her arms. “Why? There’s absolutely no reason for me to!” Lucian looked up to the ceiling and pleaded with the Light for strength.

“Val, he didn’t ask to be betrothed, if anything you should be furious at Llane, not him!” Val put the kettle on the fire and escaped into her room, flinging her shirt out of the door in a subtle attempt to tell him not to come in, and thankfully he realised. “I am furious at Llane, believe me, I am, but I can’t exactly scream at a king until I’m blue in the face, can I?”

She shoved a blue wool dress over her head after sticking her hand out of the window to gauge how cold it was (standing in front of a forge always made her think it was hot). Her brother snickered, getting a mug and teacup from the cupboard above the counter. “Why not, Papa did and lived to tell the tale.” Val sat on the edge of her bed, rolling a pair of stockings up her legs.

“That was because he had more charm in his pinky than I do in my entire body.” She stood up, pulling them over her backside and sweeping her hair into a messy ponytail. “No, I just have to stick to my guns on this and not relent. I can’t make him think that this is alright.” Lucian took the kettle off once it started whistling, taking over the drinks without even being asked to, as was the usual.

“He probably knows that already.” Her scarf was losing more and more fibres by the day but it still did its job as she wound it around her neck. “Since when were you the ‘defender of the prince?’” Lucian rolled his eyes, passing her tea to her as she came back out and sat down. “That’s just being immature Val. I’m not ‘defending’ anything or anyone, I’m just being realistic.”

Val blew some steam away, taking a small sip. “Why can’t everyone just let me get on with my life? It doesn’t revolve around Varian Wrynn you know, I do have other interests.” Lucian sat across from her, looking equally sympathetic and annoyed. “You made that bed when you told me to come back here Val. People aren’t just going to forget that you were engaged to a prince, that’s not how life works!”

Val shoved her chair back in a rather unusual act of childish pettiness, stomping down the stairs and feeling the walls start to move in on her by the time she had gotten to the door and snatched her coat from the hook. “Oh no, you’re not doing thi- Valerica Minerva get back-” The door closed on his ranting, with the blonde pounding it once and grumbling about his little sister’s childishness while she ventured off into the mild night.

She pulled her coat around her, taking in a long breath of air and letting her feet decide where they were going. “We should never have come back. What the hells were we thinking?” They had lived in Bloodstone for the past year, and merely two weeks after coming back to Stormwind she had realised what kept her away in the first place. The minute she’d stepped back onto Elwynn soil people had constantly asked her ‘have you seen the prince yet?’, or ‘does he know you’re back yet?’ and everytime it had taken every single cell in her body not to lash out at whoever had asked.

Everyone knew that she and Varian had separated, knew that she hadn’t spoken to him since then, but still there were those few who were hanging on to the past that she was trying to forget.

She knew he’d been writing to her, and every letter had sat unopened in fear of her giving in and writing back, telling him that despite everything…she still cared for him. Light how she hated finally admitting it but she needed to before she exploded, she really did. She had calmed herself a long time ago about the betrothal, convinced herself that it wasn’t his fault, but the longer silence had been out of sheer pride, pride that had kept her from reconciling with a man she could easily call her best friend, it was as sad as it was pathetic.

That wasn’t to say he hadn’t tried; she had chased many a messenger from the shop with threats to their lives once they’d brought her pleading letters of forgiveness, hid in her room when he’d come to the shop demanding to see her, all petty little things that by all accounts, he didn’t deserve but she felt she had to do.

She felt a sharp nudge to her side and sighed angrily, speeding her pace up a bit. “Oh come now, don’t be like that!” Val rolled her eyes, crossing the bridge into the city square. “Luce, I think it would probably suit everyone better if you leave me be for a bit.” He clearly didn’t listen, squeezing his arm through the small gap in hers and looping them whether she liked it or not. “If someone would just talk to me a little bit, I’d be able to know when I’m being a plank.”

Val fought a smirk, looking up with a groan. “Light blind me, you’re infuriating.” Lucian kissed her head, swinging her left and enjoying how it made her smile. “One drink for your infuriating brother?” She chuckled, shoving him in the side and unlooping their arms, rubbing her bare palms together.

“Not tonight Luce, I really don’t want to see people right now.” Lucian stuck his bottom lip out, threatening to make her laugh even more. “Stop it.” He bent to her level, making his eyes deliberately bigger. “Just one? I promise I’ll shut up about Varian?” Val held on for as long as she could but eventually she sighed, rocking on her heels. “Alright, but just one. I want to go to bed at some point.” Her brow furrowed in suspicion as Lucian went on slightly ahead.

“Wait, this isn’t just so you can flirt with Ruby all night, is it?” Lucian put a melodramatic hand on his heart and swooned. “Oh you wound me little sister, as if I would trick you in such a way!” He saw her face didn’t move and slumped. “Alright that has a tiny bit to do with it, but it’s mostly to spend time away from that damn shop. Come now Val, you have to be as sick of that place as I am?”

Val’s eyebrow cocked. “Lucian, we chose to come back here.” He gave her a dopey grin, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Oh don’t think I’m talking about Stormwind, I’m just talking about the shop…” His grin faded. “…it’s a little bit eerie being there again, don’t you think?” Val nodded despite not wanting to. “A little bit, yes. I keep thinking he’s going to be downstairs chiding us for sleeping in past seven.” Lucian mustered up a small smile. “I suppose it’ll just take some getting used to, won’t it?” She nodded, knowing exactly how he was feeling.

“We’ve only been back two weeks Luce, you can’t expect everything to be as it was. We’ll adjust, we always do.” He jerked his head back, towards the tavern that they had been meaning to visit since they returned. “Shall we start by drinking something that isn’t that gnat piss Cillian calls rum?” Val took his outstretched hand with a genuine grin. “Now that I will never object to.”

The place was already packed even though it was barely eight, with rowdy patrons boisterously laughing at tales of the day, workers finally getting off their feet and wenches balancing trays with enough drinks on them to astound Val as to how they did it; it was different than One-eyed Jack’s, it had the homely feel that she had been craving all the time that they’d been down south.

As soon as she and Lucian stepped through the door an almighty roar from those they knew boomed across the space between them and the bar. Instantly they were caught in whirlwind embraces and knocked almost flat by hardy thumps on their back, with Mickey, the landlord that seemed to have run the Nag’s Head for a millennia at this point, beckoning them over.

“We were starting to wonder when we’d be graced with your presences.” He put two tankards in front of them, arguing with Lucian for a solid minute when he fished his purse out, eventually winning and leaning on his elbows as the chatter started up again. “It’s good to have you back, and I mean that. It ain’t been right, seeing the shop closed up like that.”

Lucian gave him a strained smile as Val took her first few sips of Stormwindian ale, closing her eyes and reacquainting herself with the taste of it after over a year of nothing but rum and vodka. “Yes well, should everything stay as steady as we hope it does, it shan’t be like that again.” Mick patted his shoulder as he left them to serve another patron, letting Lucian smile down at his sister. “I suppose that answered our question of ‘did we do the right thing coming back?’.”

Val hated agreeing with him yet here she was clinking her tankard against his when he raised it. “I suppose it does. I don’t think Gramma would agree though.” Lucian grimaced in a parody of fear. “Ah, she never agrees with anything we do though, does she?” She chuckled, taking another long sip. “I think that’s just a grandparent’s job though. I’m sure we’ll be like it when we reach that age.”

Lucian snorted, chugging his own drink, clearly not caring about self control tonight. “Sweet Light, is that you predicting my future for me? I was hoping you’d just say I get disgustingly rich.” Val wrinkled her nose, choosing to take the same path and just drink like a normal human. “If I was able to tell the future, would I have accepted Varian’s proposal?”

Lucian put his tankard down and nudged her in the side, letting his smile get smaller but not letting it fade entirely. “It’s all life experience Little Bird, that’s how you have to look at it.” Val clearly didn’t agree. “It’s a mistake, we all make them and I’m sure I’ll move on at some point, but for now it’s still thrown in my face wherever I go, so I just have to put up with it.” Lucian sighed, knowing he probably wouldn’t win this particular argument .

“Do you think he knows you’re back?” Val shrugged, still feeling Varian’s letter in the pocket of her coat. “I’m not sure. The last letter was from when we had just left, and I haven’t gotten anything since, so either he doesn’t know, or he’s finally realised it’s not going to work.” He clucked his tongue and she had a vague idea of what was coming next.

“Maybe you should go and let him know.” There was a teasing tone to his voice that earned him a quick jab in the shin, but he wasn’t relenting at all apparently. “Come now little sister, doesn’t it make sense though?” Val’s brow wrinkled. “Doesn’t what make sense?” Lucian scrubbed a stain on the bar with his thumb, really thinking about how to put this since it was quite the sensitive subject. “Well, I was just contemplating…” Her eyebrow rose this time.

“Well that’s never a good sign. You and thinking have been mortal enemies for as long as I can remember.” He briefly narrowed his eyes, clearing his throat as the phrasing finally came to him. “What if…and hear me out on this, what if you and Varian had a fresh start now we’re back?” Val’s jaw tensed and he could swear she was holding her tankard hard enough to leave dents where her fingertips were.

“A what? Are you fucking hearing yourself right now? He’s betrothed Lucian, he’s getting married, how the fuck are we supposed to have a ‘fresh-” She glared at him as his hand went over her mouth. “Will you keep your voice down please? I would rather not everyone know our business. All I meant was the two of you starting over as friends. Come now, don’t you see now as the perfect time to just wipe the slate clean and enjoy each other’s company again?”

She frowned, taking his hand away and looking so sullen he was starting to regret ever suggesting it. “It’s not that easy Lucian. We let ourselves fall too deep…I don’t think it’s even possible to stay friends at this point.” He put an arm around her shoulders, giving her a tight squeeze.

“I’m obviously not going to force you into doing something you don’t want to, I just want you to think about it, alright?” She nodded, draining her drink and slamming the tankard down. “As long as you buy the next round.” Lucian sighed, digging his purse out once again. “Why do I feel like we won’t be opening tomorrow?”

His sister’s grin was so genuine he couldn’t be anything but happy; it had taken far too long to see her smile, and he wasn’t going to squander it now she’d chosen to grace him with its presence once again. “Oh give me some credit, I’ve worked with hangovers before.” He snorted, putting some coins on the bar. “Yes alright, and I’m the king of Stormwind.”

She needed to step outside for a small amount of fresh air after staying at the tavern a few more hours than she’d originally planned, patting her pockets for her cigar case and cursing when she realised it was still at the shop. She’d gotten Lucian’s key (turns out she’d forgotten hers- big surprise) and was attempting to cross the Trade District with a little bit of a giddy mood taking over, looking up and finding a face that she had not expected to see going the opposite way.

She hadn’t seen Varian since her return, and although he was a little more muscled than the last time she saw him, she could recognise him from an absolute mile away, and hear his laugh even further. He was with a few men she didn’t recognise, and Light blind her, she had no idea why she did it, but she wrung her hands, took a deep breath and licked her lips.

“Varian!” It wasn’t a loud call, or as desperate as she heard it to be, but nevertheless he stopped completely dead like she’d just used the one word to put him under her control, shooing his companions away with promises of his imminent arrival to the tavern they’d been heading towards and turning on his heel, cautiously taking a few steps towards her. “Val…I wasn’t-”

He started stumbling, which normally she’d find charming, but right now she needed cognitive conversation, and apparently he noticed, clearing his throat and standing completely upright, squaring his broadened shoulders. “I wasn’t aware you’d returned.” Val wanted to smile but knew she had to keep the tone serious. “Yes you were.” His shoulders faltered. “Alright, I was. But I was also under the impression that you wouldn’t want to see me.” Val slowly nodded.

“I didn’t. And In all honesty Varian, I’m still not sure whether I want to.” His eyebrow rose in confusion. “You’re the one that called me over here. Surely that means you wanted to talk?” Did she? She was standing here, three foot away from him and wanting to do nothing but run and hide for the rest of her life. But then on the other hand, she was actually feeling everything from the past two years ease a little with merely a sentence, so maybe her brother’s insane idea of a clean slate would work. Though the other side of that argument drove home to her how much she was standing here like a swooning maid wanting nothing but his embrace, it was infuriating.

“I- I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d make it this far, if I’m honest.” His expression softened at the quiver in her voice. “If you want me to leave you be Val, I’ll respect that. Just say the word and you won’t hear from me again.” To both his and her own shock she shook her head. “No, I don’t want that. In all honesty Varian, I’ve had alot of time to think while I was in the south.” Varian swallowed, not quite sure how to take that but letting her continue.

“I was thinking that it’s time I accepted the betrothal for what it is, and stop punishing you for it out of my own pride.” Varian clearly hadn’t been expecting her to say that and stared blankly for a few seconds, shaking it off and finally relaxing his posture. “I…well, I hadn’t anticipated my night going this way. But honestly Val, your reaction was warranted, with all things considered.”

His eyes glazed with what she could only assume was remorse, which she wasn’t sure she wanted. “I’m not going to ask your forgiveness.” Val’s head tilted slightly. “Why? Do you think you’re not worthy of it?” Both his eyebrows rose once again. “You think I am?” Val shrugged, really not sure where the conversation and whether she was handling this as maturely as was necessary. “I do, but from what you’ve been telling me, there’s no forgiveness needed.”

He took a tentative step closer, and she appreciated his gentle approach since she was shaking in her boots right now and she had no idea why. “Are you saying you believe that I had nothing to do with it?” Val kicked a stone lying in front of her boot. “I’m saying it doesn’t matter either way. It’s happened, it was crap timing but there’s nothing we can do about it, so why ruin a good friendship over it?” He looked stung by the term ‘friendship’, but nodded regardless.

“Exactly what my thoughts on the matter were.” Val felt a little ill from how quickly this was speeding along but really, it needed to happen this way; a quick, straight to the point conversation about it was probably the best method, and it was always the way they had done things, not beating around the bush in a rush of emotion, it wasn’t their style.

“So I’m willing to start again, If you are. I think coming back here has made me want my old life back…does that make a shred of sense?” He took a minute before folding his arms. “It does, and I totally agree. I think this has gone on for far too long.” She held her hand out, not really knowing what she was doing but going along with the madness regardless.

“Friends?”

Varian put his hand in hers a little too quickly to make her feel like whole ‘clean slate’ thing was going to work, paired with eyes that held the same longing she could feel start to pool in the bottom of her stomach, a longing she didn’t want to feel anymore but knew it was useless to argue against. His palm was rough where he’d started his military career just before their separation, but even though it was larger than hers it held it with such a gentleness that one wouldn’t expect from a man his size. He put her hand to his lips before he could stop himself, all but dropping it when he realised what he was doing. “Apologies, I just- sorry.” She wrinkled her nose, looking at the hand as she brought it back in a strange awe.

“No, it’s fine, I just think it’s better if you don’t do it again.” He reluctantly nodded, putting his hands behind his back like he was trying to stop himself. “Now, may I buy my friend a drink?” Val let herself smile, but it was an uneasy smile, and Varian noticed. “Or we can save the gossip by going back to the Keep through the tunnel?” Now relief flooded her face.

“If we could, that would be absolutely grand. I don’t really want to stoke the fire.” Varian inclined his head in understanding, nervously offering his arm and grinning as she took it, putting her scarf up so it covered her head and watching him do the same with the hood of his cloak as they started walking.

There was still a slight tension between them, but Val hadn’t expected anything more; the only thing that had wedged itself between them was the betrothal, their feelings hadn’t changed, and hells, the only reason their relationship had changed was because they had made it so. Why she had expected Varian to hate her was beyond her, and he knew exactly why she had felt hurt, so what conflict was there?

“Everything alright?”

She looked back up, cocking an eyebrow. “Well, don’t you think this is just a little bit surreal?” Varian watched his boots as he steered them down to the harbour, which held the tunnel that connected the docks to the Keep kitchens; they’d used it so many times to make sure they weren’t seen together that she didn’t feel any qualms on using it again, especially since she did not want people to get the wrong idea right now.

“Of course it is, but what do you want me to do? You just told me you want to speak to me again when that’s all I’ve been wanting since you stopped, I’m not exactly going to start an hour long discussion on a subject that I’d rather put behind us.” She furrowed her brow, wrinkling the skin between them. “But don’t you think it strange how we’re acting like it never happened?”

Varian shook his head. “It’s just the way we are Val, it will never change. We’re not ones for screaming matches or pettiness Val, we’ve said it’s done, so it’s done.” She bit the inside of her cheek. “So what, we just act like we did before this whole mess?” Varian looked as conflicted as she did.

“Well, not entirely. It’ll be hard, being ‘friends’ again after everything, but think about it…what was actually wrong with how we were? We didn’t separate because we realised we didn’t love each other, something happened that we couldn’t control, so really….yes, I think we can go back to how we were easily enough.” She couldn’t argue with that logic at all, it was rather sound with all things considered. “It’s like I never left then?”

Varian grimaced, taking a set of keys from his belt and using one he’d had made behind his father’s back to unlock the large double doors that blocked off the docker tunnel from the rest on Stormwind, taking her hand to steady her as they descended the ramp to the actual structure. “I wouldn’t go that far. Alot has changed since we last spoke.” Val couldn’t disagree with it as much as she hated the fact. Her pace slowed and Varian squeezed the hand he was holding.

“How are you?” The gentle sincerity in his voice told her he meant it just as she had when she’d asked him in the months after Taria had died. She bit her bottom lip, trying to think about her answer. “I’m doing better. I think time away from Stormwind actually helped a little.” He looked as if he knew exactly what she meant. “I understand completely. All I wanted to do when Mother passed was get away from it all.” She murmured an agreement. “Too many memories at once can drive someone mad.”

Varian grunted, glad that they’d kept the torches down here lit for a bit longer tonight otherwise he could guarantee that they’d end up crashing into the barrels, crates and boxes stacked from floor to ceiling either side of them. “Why do you think I signed up for the army as soon as humanly possible?” Val picked at her nails, realising that she was still holding his hand and taking hers away. “I know Varian, I was the one saying goodbye to you whenever you left.” Varian held her shoulder instead, glad that she had finally seen the light and was even speaking civilly to him.

It would be so hard to resist her now that he was regretting their little agreement already. For five years they had been lovers, not friends, and to just…erase that and go back to how they were before love was a factor would be the hardest battle of his life. Normally on nights like this, he would’ve gone to the shop an hour before the time they had all agreed to meet, intent on spending alone time with her and enjoying every second of her sweet kisses that always tasted like the honeyed tea she had throughout the day, her freshly washed sun-kissed skin under his fingertips…damn it, he was getting carried away already, he could feel it.

These past two years had been agonising for all involved, but so much more for the prince, who had so many things change in them that it nearly killed him. He was barely over losing his mother, a woman he had cherished as if she were a deity to him, and then he had to contend with the woman he loved telling him she never wanted to see him again and that he’d broken her heart…that had been the hardest blow. He had made a vow long ago to never hurt Val, and that’s exactly what he had done. He understood her assumption that he knew about the betrothal, but the truth was very much the opposite, for he had been as shocked and angry as she had been that night.

The days that followed were full of nothing but screaming matches with his father, telling Tiffin she wasn’t wanted in the bluntest way possible and trying every channel to get Val to at least speak to him. He had lost count of how many letters he had Wyll deliver in that time, begging her to give him a slim chance of reprieve, to let him explain, but she was as stubborn as he was, he knew this already, so hadn’t been that surprised when no reply fell into his lap. So having her walk with him and carry on a conversation tonight was a blessing he wouldn’t squander, hence how easily he’d chosen to erase any animosity and just carry on as if it were a normal day.

Most people would be heavily suspicious of how quickly they’d snapped from not speaking to becoming the best of friends, but really, it merely drove home how unnecessary the whole argument had been. “How’s Llane?” Varian shrugged with the most passive face she’d seen in a while. “I wouldn’t know, we barely see each other anymore.” Val’s brows drew down again.

“I hope that’s not because of me?” Varian gave her the respect she needed and shook his head instead of questioning her. “Not as much as you’re probably thinking. No, we just don’t see eye to eye on most things anymore.” She frowned, but he could see a hint of sympathy in it. “I’m sorry to hear it.” He shrugged as if it were nothing.

“Don’t be, it’s just the way things are. It’s probably better that way, seeing as we end up arguing pretty much everytime we do speak.” Val finally remembered her scarf was still on her head, pushing it down and fixing her hair.

“About what?” Varian grimaced and shook his head. “No, I don’t think it’s quite the conversation we should be having this early into our reconciliation, it might scare you off.” Val’s chide was evident on her face before she even opened her mouth. “Varian, no more secrets, they only cause more trouble than they’re worth, we of all people know that.” She nudged his side in a vain attempt to lighten to mood. “And since when have you managed to ever ‘scare me off’? If I can live with your snoring, nothing can frighten me anymore.”

He chose to ignore that, running a hand through his hair. “There’s going to be no dissuading you now, is there?” She shook her head and he couldn’t stop the sigh escaping his throat. “Technically we’re not supposed to be discussing this with anyone outside the Keep.” Val didn’t like the dark and tired tone his voice had suddenly taken.

“Well that sounds rather ominous.” He looked down at her, keeping her gaze a little too much for her liking. “There have been attacks at Westfall, Redridge and Brightwood. Devastating ones, with more casualties than I care to think about again.” Val’s brows snapped down and she absorbed the enormity of what he was saying. “Attacks? By who, bandits?” Varian suddenly looked rather exasperated. “I wish it were that simple. No, we’ve been going over the reports all afternoon, and they all point to the same race that came here a few years ago.”

To explain further, Varian pointed to his nose. “The one that did that.” Val suddenly felt rather sober. “They’ve come back?” He gravely nodded. “As far as we can tell. We don’t know exactly where they’re coming from but there’s more of them this time, they were first sighted about a year ago.”

Varian took her hand despite everything, starting to look up for the doors to the kitchens. “My father sent men to the one camp we know of to speak to them and see if we couldn’t just negotiate peace…it didn’t end well.” He ran a large hand down his face, looking strangely older. “He seems convinced that a defector is the answer to what we can do. A halfling called Garona has been giving him counsel on the matter.”Val tried her best to keep up.

“So what is he doing about them?” That’s when Varian just looked angry. “He’s sending out small forces to keep them at bay and has asked Medivh for help. Other than that, not a damn thing.” He grimaced as soon as he said it, like he was having an internal debate with himself. “That’s not entirely true. Sir Lothar has managed to thin their numbers considerably.”

Varian leant down a little just in case there were kitchen staff roaming about. “There are ‘talks’ that they’re making their way here.” Val started, turning quickly enough to almost kiss him and only just managing to not do it. “Do we know this for sure?” Varian shook his head.

“No, it’s all hearsay right now. This ‘Garona’ believes that they’ll go for the smaller villages first, so we’ve sent detachments to Goldshire and Moonbrook…that’s really all we can do for now. But expect more work in the coming days; there’s a recruitment rally in two days time for the army. I can easily get you and Lucian the contract for their weapons.”

Val wasn’t sure how to feel about that. “Sounds serious if the army is being brought in…” Varian put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “It’s just a precaution. They’d be fools to try and invade Stormwind, it’d be suicide for the lot of them.” Val could feel the ale she’d ingested in the past few hours attempt to make a second appearance. “Well, what a happy occasion this turned into.” Varian’s smile was tiny.

“That’s why I didn’t want to discuss it. But I suppose I should have known better than to think you’d leave it.” Val chuckled, hunching her shoulders against the chill and slipping her hand from his. “Then that was your mistake.” There was a strangely comfortable silence between them before Val broke it again. “So who were those men you were with? Will they mind you wandering off like this?” Varian shook his head, debating whether to give her his cloak or not. “Just a few from my regiment, that’s all. They probably won’t even notice I’m gone.”

Val flashed him a grin. “I’m shocked you weren’t with Arthas this close to New Year.” Varian chuckled himself, snatching a bottle from the barrel they passed, opening it and deeming it safe to drink, passing it to her once he’d taken a swig. “He’s too busy canoodling with Jaina nowadays. When he’s not doing that he’s got his nose stuck in a dusty old tome. I seem to make a habit of associating myself with bookworms.”

He huffed before she could even start her chide about his teasing when it came to how much she loved books. “He still reckons he’s going to end up a priest, can you imagine it? Our dear Arthas, wearing a dress for the rest of his days?” Now she frowned at him. “Varian, they’re robes for one thing, and if it’s what he believes his life calling is who are you to judge him?” He held both hands up, finding the doors to the kitchen already open and the hum of the staff seeping through to accompany the light coming through.

“I’m not judging him at all, I just didn’t see my partner in crime turning into a priest, that’s all.” She froze just before she went through the door, with Varian noticing and holding his hand out. “Val, it’s fine.” She shrank, clearly not fine at all. “Varian, they’re all going to think…” Varian snorted, thrusting his hand out again. “No they won’t, they don’t have the capacity to. Come, most of them want to see us back together, so it’s no problem.”

His face dropped as he realised what he had said and he cleared his throat. “That’s…not how I meant that.” Val gave him a small smile, taking his hand and figuring that one small room was still better than a whole city seeing them. “I know, it’s fine Varian, honestly.” She took a deep breath, ascending with him and swallowing at the death of all noise with bows meeting Varian and looks of utter surprise meeting Val, which didn’t help with her growing anxiety at all.

“Good evening Your Highness, we weren’t expecting you back so soon.” Varian waved a hand, already weaving Val through them and not meeting their eye. “Yes, well plans have changed. Have some food and drink brought up to my chambers would you?” Val squeezed his hand before they left the room. “Is Bess still here?” He nodded, turning on his heel and facing the bewildered staff again.

“And get Bessie to bring them up. Tell her nothing, understand?” A few frantic ‘Yes Your Highnesses’ were his answer and once again he took her through a side door leading to a narrow stairway, one that she knew went straight to the residential wing of the Keep. She was starting to regret her decision a little but knew it was necessary in order to heal. “We won’t go to my chambers, we’ll use the guest ones, that way we’re guaranteed some privacy.”

She hated how it seemed like he read her mind sometimes. “It’s almost like you planned all of this.” He looked utterly offended for a brief second before he realised that she was jesting with him. “Don’t do that. I can never tell when you’re joking or not.” She couldn’t help her smile, feeling the wall to gauge when the next step was since the only light sources were the small torches above her and she didn’t have the best balance. “It’s just because I’m a brilliant actress.”

She huffed without meaning to, letting her tongue run away with her. “I’ve been acting like I don’t love you for two years and convinced no one, so maybe I need to take a few more classes.” He stopped and she regretted ever opening her mouth, hanging her head so she didn’t have to look at him when he twisted around. “You still love me?” He sounded surprised, which she couldn’t blame him for, but a very public stairwell wasn’t really the place to have this discussion.

“Can we talk about it when we get to the chambers please?” His face held a million and one questions, but nevertheless he stiffly nodded, letting her duck under his arm once they reached the top and pointing to which door they were to venture towards. There was quite the awkward silence until Varian bolted the door, knowing already that Bess would knock when she arrived.

“You still love me?” The repetition didn’t make it any easier for Val to think of an answer, and apparently it was obvious on her face as she stared at her wringing hands. “I…does it matter if I do?” He lifted her chin even though she wanted him to do anything but, holding it so lightly that she could barely feel it. “It would be nice to know, since I can categorically tell you that I still love you.” She took his hand away with a small smile.

“It wouldn’t work Varian. Things are too different.” He looked as crushed as she felt but the fight had left his eyes. “I know, but I just want to get this conversation over and done with before I make a complete fool of myself.” She patted his chest, knowing exactly what he meant. “Then yes, I still love you, but I think we should leave it there and try to repress our urges as much as possible.”

Varian grumbled just as much as she thought he would, but she had to stick to her guns with this. “That’s very much easier said than done. All I want to do right now is take you to bed.” Val tutted, folding her arms. “Well call this a test of your self control then.” He clucked his tongue, looking around them. “May I make one request then?” She had a vague idea what he was about to propose and wasn’t sure whether she was fully on board with it.

“It depends whether I can keep my clothes on or not.” Varian’s eyes narrowed and all it did was make her snicker more, putting her hand in front of her mouth in a vain attempt to muffle it. “Sorry, please, continue.” He fought the urge to roll his eyes, instead clearing his throat and taking a long, deep breath.

“….as corny as it sounds….one last kiss? Just to scratch the itch a little?” Val didn’t look so sure. “It’s one hells of an itch Varian, do you honestly think one kiss will do anything to it?” His lip curled in annoyance. “No, but I would certainly like to at least try.” She stood on her toes and quickly pecked his cheek, laughing harder at his grimace as she lowered herself back down. “What? Did that not suffice?” Varian took her hands, lifting them to his lips and putting them back, cupping her cheeks this time.

“Stop mocking me.” And there was the pool of warmth forming in the pit of her stomach, and she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to encourage it or not. He was everything she had remembered him to be; he smelled like sandalwood and fresh orange, his palms were still rough but they didn’t feel harsh on her skin, his eyes, the same eyes she’d lost herself in countless times…it was like dangling a waterskin in front of a man who’d been in the desert for months, a horrible mockery of her plight, but she wanted it, Light how she wanted it.

“If you say no, I promise to leave it there.” She had always appreciated how much he wanted her to take the lead with everything, it made it surprisingly less awkward. “I do, but I’m thinking about afterwards.” The end of his nose brushed hers, and whether he meant to or not was beyond her. “I promise nothing will happen afterwards but two friends having a drink and meal together, it’ll be like we’re resetting an hourglass.”

She wrinkled her nose, pulling her face away a little bit. “Promise?” Varian gave her a smile, sweeping his lips over hers in the gentlest way possible, setting his jaw to make sure he didn’t get carried away and pulling back when he found his hands holding her waist.

Her eyes held a dreamy glaze as they both stopped to assess how they’d done, and her fingertips brushed tingling lips that didn’t fade as she swallowed. “I promise.” She couldn’t help smiling to herself, playing with the ends of her hair. “I’m really itchy.” Varian’s chuckle made her feel better about the fact that she was as flushed as was humanly possible. He beckoned them both to the armchairs next to the fireplace, shifting his a little closer and leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs.

“Would it help if I told you I was the same?” Val shook her head, still with a goofy grin on her face. “Not really, since that only makes me want it more.” She reached over and put her hand on his knee, making it jerk without meaning to. “It’ll have to do Varian. It’s too complicated if we started giving in now.” He sighed, knowing she was right but not wanting to acknowledge it. “I know that. I just want something simple for once I suppose, so forgive me for clinging a little.”

Val squeezed his leg, bringing her hand back. “All is forgiven.” Varian looked up, hearing the emphasis she was putting on her words. “Everything?” She nodded, to his utter delight. “Everything. I stopped being angry a while ago Varian, I think we can just admit that this whole charade was just me being as stubborn as you normally are.”

It took every bone in Varian’s body not to jump from the chair and dance a merry jig. To hear her say after two years that she didn’t despise him was more of a relief that he could ever convey, and he knew he looked pathetic running both hands down his face and grinning like a dope but quite frankly, he didn’t care. “Do you know how long I’ve been yearning to hear you say that?” Val nodded, leaning back in her chair.

“A year and ten months?” Varian held his hand out and took hers when she gave it to him, lazily swinging them in the space between the two chairs. “People are going to find it strange how quickly we’ve become ‘chummy’ again.” Val murmured an agreement, shucking off her boots since she was sure she was going to be here a while.

“I know.” His eyebrow rose, wondering if she was starting to slur out of relaxation or because of the booze she’d ingested. “You don’t seem as bothered by that as one would expect?” She shrugged, feeling the same apprehension at how easily she was accepting this.

“Your Court is toxic Varian, I don’t have to remind you of that fact, anything I say will be twisted in some way, so why get worked up about something I know is innocent?” He pulled a face of reluctant agreement, squeezing her hand. “You don’t find it strange though?” She shook her head with a smile. “No.” He leant his head back, not wanting to make his relief obvious.

“Oh good.” He wondered if she was falling asleep since she’d gone quiet, but in reality she was just staring into the fire with quite the vacant expression. “So…what was Bloodstone like?” Her nose wrinkled in what he could only assume was disgust, but it relaxed a second after, like she was inwardly debating with herself about her answer. “Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks, but it was still bad, if that makes any ounce of sense?” Varian grunted in affirmation, putting his chin on his hand as he turned himself to see her better.

“Perfectly. I’ll admit, all I’ve heard about it is the negative parts.” He suddenly turned rather coy and Val had a vague idea as to why, but didn’t really want to hear it for the sake of her own self control. “I couldn’t help but worry about you all the time you were down there.” Damn it all, there was the warmth again and this time it was fighting with Val’s pathetic excuse for resistance.

The genuine sincerity in his normally gruff voice was more enticing to her than any of the physical advances she’d been on receiving end of in the past year…granted, it wasn’t that many, but they had all been overly persistent and just downright creepy. “You know you don’t need to worry about me Varian, I can handle things.”

Varian laughed, but it sounded more like an amused huff. “I always worry about you Val, that’s not stopping any time soon.” Thankfully he realised he was pushing it and sat back once again. “Is it really as dirty as everyone says it is?”

Val tipped her hand, scrunching her face. “It is, but I think that’s because of the people that pass through, not so much the ones that live there. I’ll admit, everyone was really friendly once we’d been there a while.” His eyebrow rose in surprise. “Really? I heard that there’s nothing but brigands down there, I wouldn’t have taken them for the ‘friendly’ types.” Val snorted, cracking the smile that Varian would never, ever confess made his chest tight and his knees weak.

He absolutely detested how much of an effect she had on him sometimes, but would never not enjoy it in the same way he had done from the minute they’d started courting. There were days where her smile would be the only thing to get him through the day, particularly when he went on his tours of service and would be away from home for months on end.

“I think it depends on who you are. Most of the men down there knew my Grand-da so that automatically made me worthy of a small amount of respect.” Varian snapped from his trance and left his seat for a brief moment to throw another log on the slowly catching fire. “I’m going to take a guess and say Minnie’s not happy that you came back?” Val’s chuckle was like a breath of fresh air flying into his lungs after being caught in a smog, it was insane what a physical effect just being near her was having on him.

“Of course she isn’t. I swear if she could’ve shackled us to the house she would’ve.” She blew a stray hair from her face. “But it’s like Lucian told her, we’re adults and we need to go where we want.” Varian sniggered, wondering what the hells was keeping Bessie.

“But I thought you were always going to be her ‘darling baby girl’?” If looks could kill Varian would’ve burst into immediate flames with the one Val gave him. “I apparently am, but she can’t stop me getting on that ship.” Varian was nervous to ask his next question, but if he didn’t ask it he would be worrying about it for quite the while. “…Can I ask why you came back?” Val tensed for a brief second, but she soon relaxed again, shuffling in her seat.

“I was homesick I suppose.” She sighed, picking some fluff from her stockings. “And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t because I just wanted some familiarity back. I love my family, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel like I was at home.” Varian bent in front of her, putting a hand on her thigh and forgetting himself for a millisecond.

“And now?” She shrugged just to tease him, taking his hand away. “It’s only been two weeks, we’ll see I suppose.” Varian was trembling with his intense self control taking over from his needy heart, ignoring how it just wanted to kiss those plump, crimson painted lips once more. “You’re a terrible liar Val.” She flashed him a grin, brushing his bangs back and making him shiver just with the contact. “I’ll happily confess that it’s cleaner here, so that’s something I suppose.”

She started laughing at his sigh of exasperation, letting go of his hand so he could answer the door, letting his nursemaid turned personal cook Bessie in and taking the tray she was carrying from her. Val shrunk down into her seat a little so the ebony haired woman didn’t see her yet, rather convinced that Varian was trying to make her return to the Keep as much of a surprise for Bess as he could.

“Ah tell ya Varian, yer a pain in my rump when ya wanna be. Ah thought ye said you’d be out all night?” Varian poured two goblets from the jug she’d bought up, trying not to snicker and give himself away. “That was originally the plan, but the evening took a rather strange turn.” Bessie tutted, lighting the candles on the table since she could only presume he was just having a late dinner. “Jarvis go wanderin’ off again?” Varian chuckled this time, running a hand through his ponytail in a vain attempt to tidy himself up and inclining his head to the chair.

“No, I bumped into a lovely young lady and decided to bring her back, that’s all.” Now Bessie’s brows snapped down in instant anger. “Ye bloody what?! Varian Wrynn! Have ye no shame! Ye know Valerica’s back you no good rotten son of a -” Val couldn’t hold it in anymore and started laughing, swivelling herself around and getting on her knees, hanging onto the back of the chair.

“Hello Bess!” The dwarf nearly blew Varian’s head open with her loud shriek, practically bouncing over to Val and lifting her in a hug that he was sure was going to hurt in the morning. Once she’d been put down, Bessie cupped both of her cheeks with powerful hands, only making it harder for Varian to stop himself laughing at the boisterous greeting.

“Oh Lassie look at ye, still pretty as a picture, but my how ye’ve grown!” Val’s eyebrow rose the best it could with her face being squashed as it was. “Have I? I wasn’t aware…” Bessie let go of her, taking her hand and patting it. “Ah’m so glad to see ya back here lass. So tell me, did he grovel enough fer ye?” Val shared a smile with Varian, who came to join them, putting a hand on her shoulder and rubbing it affectionately with his thumb and trying to ignore how she’d stiffened.

He meant no harm with the gesture and wanted her to know it with these tiny acts. “Actually Bess, I’ll give him some credit, it was actually me who did the grovelling.” Varian’s brow crinkled as he gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I would hardly call saying hello to me grovelling Val.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “Either way, I made the first move.” Bessie looked like she was about to burst into joyful tears, squeezing her hand even more.

“Good, ah was this close to smacking both of yer heads together, really I was. Ah take it we’ll be seeing ya alot more?” The dwarf noticed both of them suddenly shrink, looking dumbly at each other and shifting uncomfortably. “Let’s not jump the gun just yet Bess. We’ll see how it goes, eh?” Bessie let go of her hand, thumping Varian’s back and flashing them both a ruddy grin.

“Then ah shall give ya a wee bit o privacy eh? Enjoy yer meal, yer highness.” Her teasing tone only made Varian want to laugh even more, but Val’s worried look made him swallow it down and take his hand away as Bess started for the door. “Actually Bess, we’re not back together…we’ve decided to remain friends.” The disappointment was evident on her face as she folded her arms. “Ah’m sorry ta hear tha’, truly I am. But if ye two insist, then ah’ll respect yer choice. Ah’ll quiet any gossip, don’t ye worry lad.”

Varian watched Val curl in on herself a little and gave Bessie a respectful nod. “Thank you Bess. And gratitude for the food. Goodnight.” Bessie returned it, giving Val a large smile. “Ah’m glad yer back lassie, ah hope ta see ya more.” Val managed a small smile with a wave that could be barely registered as one. “You too Bess, it was good to see you.”

As soon as the door closed Varian ran both hands down his face and kept them there. “Val, I am so sorry. I should have known better than to spring Bess on you before we’d come to terms with everything, I’m such an idiot.” Val waved a hand, starting to feel her late night hunger start to pull at her stomach now she saw the food sitting at the table in front of the guest bed, so she started wandering over in a not so subtle hint.

“It’s fine Varian, honestly. I was expecting it if I’m honest.” Varian stayed where he was for now, not wanting to suffocate her with being right beside her all night, even if that was exactly where he wanted to be. “I hope things aren’t too awkward now.” Val’s eyebrow rose, smiling as he pulled the chair out for her once he regained his wits.

“Why would it be awkward? It’s a big adjustment for everyone Varian, we’re going to get people assuming for the time being.” He sat across from her, only now realising how it looked now they were alone and wondering whether he should call Bessie back just to make Val a bit more comfortable. “That’s true enough I suppose.” He gave her a small smile, feeling the tension melt away with every passing second.

“I can see your training’s paying off.” Her mildly teasing tone made him chuckle, pulling apart some of the cheese that had been sent up and popping it in his mouth. “It should be, I’m doing enough of it.” He grimaced. “I’m supposed to be so serious about everything nowadays, including my training.” Val knew what he meant and made a vain attempt to lighten the mood. “Please don’t tell me he tried to put you on a special diet again?” Varian’s laugh turned a little too dirty for a prince, but he knew she didn’t mind it.

“He tried, and to my credit, I’ve mostly stuck with it.” Her eyebrow rose. “’Mostly’?” Varian made sure he didn’t choke between his laughter, putting a hand in front of his mouth to catch any unfortunate morsel that decided to fling itself there. “I might indulge in a slice of cake of every now and then, but not as often as Bessie makes out.” Val took another sip of her wine, trying to get herself used to the taste but not quite managing it.

She had drunk so much alcohol tonight that she had put herself in a state that could not quite be called ‘drunk’ anymore; honestly, how she was able to make cognitive conversation right now was beyond her. “I remember when we were little, sneaking down to the kitchens.” Varian’s smile was as wide as hers. “How we didn’t get caught was beyond me.” She shook her head, absent mindedly tearing a slice of ham into strips.

“No, what always astounded me was how no matter where she hid it, you’d always know where the cake was.” He tapped the side of his nose, feeling himself relax properly for the first time in years. “I have my ways Sweetheart.” Her smile dropped and he’d realised what he’d said. “Val, I’m sorry. It was a slip of the tongue, nothing more.” She quietly took another drink, trying not to catch his eye. “I know, it’s just alot to forget in such a small amount of time.”

She forced a wobbly smile onto her face. “Let’s not allow it to ruin our evening, shall we?” She leant forward, folding her arms. “Now catch me up on everything that’s happened.” Varian replicated that smile, draining the last of his wine. “We’re going to be here a while, I hope you don’t mind?” She moved her hair behind her, settling herself down. “I have nothing but time.”

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She had forgotten just how protective the Prince of Stormwind was until they’d gotten to the early hours of the morning and Val had reluctantly told him that it was time for her to go. She had to wonder what people would think if they’d walk in and find Varian with his hand on his hips and a scowl on his hips as he loomed over her. “Val, it is the middle of the night, I will not let you walk home by yourself!”She rolled her eyes, folding her arms and trying her best to look him in the eye even though he was nearly two feet taller.

“Varian, I’ve survived walking through Bloodstone, Stormwind is basically a nunnery in comparison. I’ll be fine.” He was already buttoning his coat, not listening in the slightest and stomping out into the cold night air. “Varian, there’s no need for you to come with me!” She groaned, quick-stepping to catch up with him and glaring as he barely glanced down.

“You’re impossible, you know that?” A shadow of a smile swept across his face as they matched each others pace. “Says the most infuriating girl I’ve ever known.” Val snorted, digging in her pockets for her gloves and grimacing at the holes in them, and apparently Varian noticed, snatching one hand and holding it despite her protests. “I can be alot more infuriating than telling you not to walk with me Varian, don’t exaggerate.”

She lost her footing for a split second, feeling slightly woozy and hanging onto him a bit more than she would’ve liked to. “Look at the state of you woman, I would wager you wouldn’t even know where the shop is right now.” She laughed too loudly and sharply to be considered sober anymore. “Oh please, I’ll always know where that shithole is, it’s burned in my damn memory by this point.” Varian squeezed her hand, bringing her attention back to him.

“I’m glad you chose to come back Val.” She gave him a playful nudge, scuffing the toe of her boot on the ground. “Despite how much I may rant, so am I. It didn’t feel right, not being here after everything.” Varian pulled her in front of him so they could both fit down the alley that cut straight to the corner where the shop sat, still holding her hand whether she wanted him to or not. “Well hopefully we can put this nasty business behind us and make life a bit easier for ourselves.”

She merely murmured an agreement, and the two fell into a comfortable silence until they got to the shop, who’s dark windows told Val that Lucian wasn’t there, and she could tell Varian had noticed too. “I don’t like the idea of you being here alone.” She patted his chest, appreciating the concern but not needing it.

“It won’t be for long. Go on, get yourself home, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She wasn’t shocked when he didn’t move, but she wasn’t planning on standing out here all night. “ Varian, honestly.” He still didn’t like the idea, she could see it on his face, but eventually he sighed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “You’re going to make me go grey quicker than age ever will, you do realise that don’t you?” She flashed him a grin, fishing her key out and hopping up the step, hanging onto the knocker and swinging on it.

“Of course I do, it’s why I do it half the time. Now go on, before your servants start wondering where you are.” His smile looked softer than his build would make people think he was capable of. “It was good to see you Val.” Val stopped, hopping back down and stretching to kiss his cheek. “Despite everything, it was good to see you too Varian. Put another place out for lunch tomorrow eh?” Varian chuckled, bending to return her gesture.

“Say, one o clock?” Val nodded, using every cell in her damn body not to kiss him properly like she used to, and apparently he felt the same way. “Sounds perfect. Night Varian.” He stayed where he was until the door closed behind her, just as she knew he would; he was like a guard dog, he had been for years, why did she think tonight would be any different? She waved out of the front window, drawing the curtains and trying to make sense of everything that had happened in the past few hours.

She was still thinking about it when she got upstairs, grimacing at her window sticking again but feeling it relax at the joyful whistling she could hear out of it, one that was unmistakeably Varian’s, and finding herself lying on her bed with a big, dopey grin on her face. “Light damn it Val, one day you won’t love him, but apparently it’s not today.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

She never thought she would find birds the most irritating creatures on the planet when Murlocs existed yet she found herself trying everything not to hurl the kettle she was holding through the window and straight at the little bastards the next morning. She always forgot that whilst her tolerance for rum had made her less likely to get drunk from it, that didn’t mean she didn’t have to endure the pounding headache that came the day after any less.

The smell of her brother’s coffee was making her gag, causing her to wonder whether pouring the tea she had already started making was worth it. “Stop grumbling, no one forced that drink down your throat.” She glared at him, spooning tea leaves into the metal infuser and dumping it in her cup, a small blue and white one that Varian had bought her three years ago for their engagement.

It had been the only thing he had given her that she hadn’t thrown at him when she ended their relationship, purely for the fact that she treasured it more than she could explain. “I’m blaming all of this on you. I was ready to leave, but someone made me stay at the damn tavern.” Lucian scrubbed both hands over his face after splashing it with water from their basin, still smiling at her like the arse he was.

“Oi, where’s my ‘thank you’ Missy? I did you a favour last night.” Val snorted, standing on her toes and opening the cupboard by her head, clawing for the bread and huffing as Lucian merely lifted his arm and gave it to her. “You did no such thing. I talked to Varian off my own back, it was nothing to do with you.” She dramatically sighed at his look. “Oh fine, I suppose you had a tiny hand in it.” Lucian grinned, pulling her in with one arm and kissing her head, making her push him away and grimace. “Far too early for your shit Luce.” Lucian nudged her instead, which wasn’t much better.

“So how’d it go?” Val smiled herself, buttering her bread. “Well, you’ll be pleased to know Varian and I settled our differences.” Lucian sat at their table, stealing a slice of hers and grinning when she noticed. “Meaning you forgave him.” Val sat opposite him, taking a good glug of her tea. “Yes. It was a lot easier to do than I thought it would be.” Lucian scoffed this time, brushing his crumb covered hands on his thighs. “Because he didn’t fucking do anything Little Bird! Light above, everyone knew that apart from you!” Val glared at him. “Do you want to know what happened or not?” Lucian threw his hands up, still grinning.

“Sorry! Please, continue.” She ignored his sarcastic tone and tried to remember what she had been saying. “And well, nothing else really, we agreed to just stay friends, went back to the tavern, he got absurdly drunk, then I came home.” She gave him the guiltiest of looks. “That reminds me….I’m going to need the afternoon off.” She could tell Lucian wasn’t happy about it, but he brother’s face softened once he realised why she had asked. “I take it you’re seeing Varian?”

She chewed her bottom lip and nodded coyly. “I promised him lunch to shut him up. I swear, I’ll be all yours tomorrow though.” Lucian groaned dramatically, leaning back in his seat. “Things I bloody do for you.” She got up moved around the table to put her arms around his neck and kiss his stubbled cheek. “You’re the best big brother ever.” Lucian chuckled, straightening and patting her arm. “I knew that already Little Bird. What time are you meeting him?”

Val sat on the table, swinging her legs as she thought about it. “Well, considering the state he was in last night, I would probably say about one?” She watched her feet, smiling to herself. “Apparently he kept everything of mine.” Lucian looked impressed. “Really? That’s actually quite decent of him.” Val’s smile got wider. “I know. He wants to choose one of the dresses he gave me to wear to New Year.” Lucian’s eyebrow rose that time.

“New Year? You mean at the Keep?” She nodded, understanding his concern. “I know, it’s probably a terrible idea, but Arthas and I both agreed last night that Tiffin’s not a demon I have to avoid. Think about Luce, I actually got on with her before all this, and if I make her realise Varian and I won’t do anything untoward that puts her standing in jeopardy, it’ll be less awkward.”

Lucian put his elbows on the table. “But Val, what if you and Varian can’t keep this ‘being friends’ lark up?” Val had been thinking about that as well and had come up with a semi-plausible plan. “Well, Varian and I talked about his betrothal last night, and all three of us pointed out that he merely has to make an heir with her, apart from that in theory he hasn’t even got to kiss her. So if we keep Tiffin in the loop and tell her the truth, then they can merely be ‘married friends’.”

Lucian’s brows snapped down. “And you become the mistress.” Val shook her head. “No, because nothing’s going to happen between Varian and I.” Her brother’s palm felt big on her leg. “Are you sure about that?” She nodded, hopping down and folding her arms. “More than sure. Don’t worry Luce, I know what I’m doing.”

She was going to be late at the rate she was going when half-past twelve came around and she was still sitting with a towel on her head and two dresses in front of her. “Luce!” She called down, hearing the banging stop for a second. “What? I’m a little busy!” She hung out of her door, trying not to go downstairs and let someone see her like this.

“Blue or purple?” She heard an annoyed sigh. “For what?!” She rolled her eyes, realising time was getting on. “My skirt!” She heard him huff and stomp over to the stairs. “Who cares?! It’s only Varian!” She felt her jaw tense. “Just fucking pick one!” He drummed his fingers on the wall. “Purple! Blue looks strange on our skin.”

She shouted down a quick ‘thanks’ and threw the blue one back in her wardrobe, taking the purple ankle-length skirt and shimmying the cotton up to her hips, un-puckering the two lines of stitching that broke the fabric up and made it look semi-layered on the white petticoat she had over her black hose, needing the layers since she could swear she saw a thin layer of snow when she had looked out of the window this morning. Her white off the shoulder chemise was tucked into the waistband as she pulled it on, fixing the cuffs of the flounce sleeves it had while she came down the stairs, snatching her shawl from the hook and throwing a goodbye his way.

“Towel on your head.” She turned to her brother with a confused look. “What the hells are you on about?” Lucian pointed at her head, clearly trying not to laugh. “You’ve left your bloody towel on you daft thing.” Val felt the top of her head and blanched, whipping it off and running a hand through her damp hair, running back upstairs, slathering cinnamon oil on her hands and coating the corkscrew curls in it before going back down, opening her arms for her brother’s opinion. “Perfect, now go on, before he thinks you’re not coming!”

Her shawl only just kept her warm enough as she realised that it had indeed snowed in Stormwind that morning, though she would be lying to herself if she didn’t love looking at the city when it was covered in the white powder; it looked like something from the many books she’d ‘borrowed’ from the Keep library that she couldn’t help but feel in awe. She got to the doors of the fortress and looked up, taking a deep breath and wondering whether she was actually doing the right thing.

She shook her head, knowing she was being rather silly and that her father would be ashamed of how she was getting knotted up about what other people thought when he had told her all throughout her life that it didn’t matter. She thanked the guards that opened the door and tentatively took a step inside, not liking how the click of her boot heel was the only noise as she made her way down the long hall leading to the Throne room.

Thankfully one helpful servant who apparently recognised her told her that Varian was feeling sorry for himself out in the grounds so she changed course, inhaling deeply and smiling at the mix of fragrant flowers and plants scattered across the vast courtyard, ones that filled her with a nostalgia that made her fingertips tingle.

Val practically tiptoed over to Varian’s still form once she found him sprawled on a bench, but she determined that he was thankfully still alive by the rise and fall of his chest. She bent over him, grinning as she poked his stomach, trying not to gush as how hard it was now because of his muscle. He twitched, lifting his arm and opening one eye. “Oh look who it is, the witch who made me suffer.” She laughed, moving his arm completely and sitting by his feet. “No one forced you to drink that much Varian, you have no one to blame but yourself.”

He sat up, looking like he had just come back from the dead with dishevelled hair and bleary eyes. “So…I take it we’re not doing lunch then?” He grinned, swinging his legs around and shuffling up so he was sitting next to her. “Of course we are, I just needed a few minutes. I may have been exaggerating how hungover I was to get more food out of Bess.”

He bent to her ear, making her squirm a little because of his hot breath. “But don’t tell her I said that.” Varian patted her knee, scrunching her skirt beneath his hand. “It’s nice not seeing you in that damn apron for once.” She gently took his hand away since it was just a little too close for comfort.

“It’s only for today I’m afraid, it’s back to the grindstone tomorrow.” She couldn’t stop his hand raking through her curls in time and soon his fingers were knotted in them. “I’ve missed your curls.” His soft musing made her smile but she untangled his hand regardless. “I only have them because I was running late.” Varian grimaced, putting his arm across the back of the bench.

“Val, are we alright? Did I do something wrong again?” She shook her head, patting his knee. “Not at all, I’m just trying to figure out what our new boundaries should be.” He looked visibly relieved. “Oh good, for a second there I was worried I’d pissed you off.” She cocked an eyebrow and leant back, letting him stroke her back a little since she’d already stopped him doing the other things, and if she were being frank, his fingertips tracing her spine felt absolutely amazing.

“Varian, you’d know by now if you’d pissed me off, give me some credit.” She looked around, turning and plucking a violet from the flowerbed behind her. “This place hasn’t changed.” Varian huffed, still running his hand up and down her back, not liking how underdressed she was for the weather.

“It’s too quiet nowadays.” He looked down, sorrow filling his eyes. “It has been since Mother.” Val embraced him, knowing exactly how he felt when it came to losing a parent that you absolutely adored. She couldn’t resist kissing his cheek and patting his back when they pulled away.

“Well I know all about that, don’t I?” Varian gave her a small smile. “You do, which is why you’re probably the only one I’d say that to.” He stood, offering her a hand and feeling a small tingle shoot through his palm when she accepted it. “So…about these boundaries…” Val grinned at him to reassure, still holding his hand since she’d genuinely forgot they were doing it. “Well, lovemaking is out completely for starters.” Varian nodded in agreement.

“I agree, it wouldn’t be right. Not for Tiffin’s sake, but ours.” She pulled her shawl up again since it was falling down her shoulder, puckering her mouth to think of the best way to put this. “I think we need to nix kisses as well. It’ll be too tempting. We were terrible for saying one more kiss and having it end up as lovemaking.” As reluctant as Varian was to do it, he nodded, opening the door to the smaller dining hall for her. Val noticed there was only the minimal number of staff in here, not keeping her hopes up about not tempting herself.

“That’s true. But…and don’t call me a soppy git for this…hugs are fine, right? I loved our hugs.” Val couldn’t help but gush at how genuinely worried he sounded, and as he pulled her chair out and let her sit down, taking her shawl off and putting it over the back, she grinned widely at him. “I’d be utterly insulted if we didn’t hug Varian. In fairness, I think kisses and lovemaking are the only two things we need to knock on the head.”

Varian linked his fingers together and his elbows on the table, furrowing his brow. “I think life will be a lot easier if we get out now our true feelings about everything. Just lay our cards flat on the table and wipe the slate clean.” Val didn’t look as sure as he did. “Varian…” He held a hand up. “No, Val, it’ll be fine, I promise.” He took a deep breath. “Can I go first?” She nodded, still not convinced this was a great idea. He swallowed, putting his hands on the table and looking her straight in the eye.

“I am still in love with you. To the point where it scares me. For the past two years, all I’ve wanted to do is lock you in my chambers and show you just how much I care for you. I’m only doing this whole ‘friends’ thing because it’s what you want, and I’d walk over hot coals if it made you happy. If it keeps you in my life, I’d go hand to hand with a rhino and you know that, so I’m willing to try it.”

He looked as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, but Val just felt like crying. She shakily took a gulp of the water the cook bringing their food in had given her (Varian had obviously told them to get the food ready for a certain time) and gave him the same respect of looking him in the eye.

“I didn’t realise.” Varian gave her the smallest but saddest of smiles. “I didn’t expect you to. I know I hurt you, Val, even if I didn’t mean to. But trust me when I say I truly don’t regret the five years that you were mine.” Val smiled despite herself. “Neither do I. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.” Varian looked glad to hear it, gesturing to her. “Now you have your say, it’s only fair.” Val shifted in her seat, not really knowing how to put this.

“Well, …you’ll probably be happy to hear that I still love you too.” His eyes lit up and she felt her hands begin to quake again, but this was her chance to unburden herself, he had already said that, so she did exactly that. “Even when I wanted to be angry at you, when I wanted to hate you, I couldn’t stop loving you. You were my first love Varian, my first kiss, my first…well, everything. That’s a bloody big deal.” She licked her lips to stop them drying out. “But I think with work, we can make a situation that will make us both happy. I thought staying away would make it easier to separate myself, but it didn’t really happen that way.” Varian took her hand, and this time she let him.

“Feel better now you’ve said it?” She tried not to smile since he already looked smug as anything. “Maybe…” She started laughing the second he did and wagged a chiding finger at him. “Don’t think this means I’ll let you get away with anything Varian Wrynn. I mean it when I say we’re not doing anything.” She let go of his hand, not quite knowing how he’d take this. “In fact, I asked Bess to arrange tea with Tiffin later so we can talk privately.” Varian looked suspicious already.

“ ‘We’? Who’s we?” Val took a mouthful of the duck salad that was in front of them, taking advantage of good food for once. “Tiffin and I. You have nothing to do with it.” Varian’s brows snapped down as he too started eating. “And you think that’s wise?” She snorted, giving him the cocky smirk she knew melted his heart. “She’s not exactly one to strangle people Varian, I think I’ll be fine.” Varian took a gulp of the ale he was poured. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea, Val.” Val kicked him underneath the table, making his ale go up his nose when he jolted and causing her to fall into fits of laughter.

Once they’d calmed down and she let him wipe his chin she popped another tomato in her mouth. “It will be by the time I’m done. And let’s be fair Varian, she will probably want to talk to someone about what it takes to rein you in.” Varian’s eyebrow rose rather too suggestively for her liking. “Oh? And you know how to do that?” She could feel her cheeks getting hot already. “Know what?” He had completely forgotten the past two minutes, she could tell by the glint in his eye.

“How to ‘rein me in’.” Val had to cross her ankles in an attempt to squeeze her legs together and not let her imagination run away with her, glaring at the Prince who was well aware of how flustered he was getting her. “Varian. That’s not fair.” He realised in an instant what he had done and looked genuinely remorseful. “Apologies, I’m just not used to the whole ‘friends’ thing yet.” He couldn’t help his smirk despite his apology. “There was a time when I’d clear this table and sit you on it.” Val snorted, pulling a strip of duck apart. “Remember when Wyll walked in on us?” Varian’s laugh was perhaps louder than was appropriate.

“I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack there and then.” Val’s eyebrow shot up as she pushed her empty plate away. “Yes well, it was your own fault for not locking the door.” Varian scoffed, brushing his hands off and waving a hand for cooks to take the utensils away. “Yes, because it had nothing to do with the fact that you were goading me by telling me you had no undergarments on.” Val snickered. “That’s nothing new Varian, I never wear them. After finding soot down my arse crack it put me off for life.” Varian ran a hand down his face, trying to stifle his chuckles.

“We can still talk like this, can’t we? You know, now we’re ‘friends’?” Val looked confused. “Like what? Oh, you mean the dirty reminiscing and somewhat witty banter?” Varian laughed again, pouring another ale for the both of them. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Every day I have to talk to councillors, servants and those who would lick my arsehole if it meant it gave them royal favour. I never have that with you. I’ve never felt like the prince with you Val, you know that, and I’d hate if it changed.”

Val couldn’t do anything but smile, rolling up the sleeves of her shirt once she saw how much gravy their next course (which of course, was the pie she had requested with crispy potatoes) was smothered in. “Well you don’t have to worry about that Varian, you’re not the prince when you’re with me, you never have been and never will.”

Varian exhaled in relief. “Good. Tiffin has been disciplined to be the perfect royal; all she knows is talking about royal affairs and treating me like I’m her superior.” He cracked a small smile. “I’m hoping when she sees how we act together, she’ll relax a little bit.”

Val was glad to see he had the same mindset as her. “I hope so as well. It can’t have been easy for her, being trained to love someone she has nothing in common with.” Varian wiped his mouth and frowned deeply. “Well, when you put it like that it just sounds like I’ve been an arsehole to her.” Val couldn’t help her raised eyebrow.

“Varian, you have been from what I hear, and if I manage to achieve anything it’s to convince you to be a bit nicer to her.” Varian didn’t look convinced. “Val, how can I be nice to her when instead of an intelligent conversation all I’ve gotten is fawning? If she shared the same sentiments as me over this betrothal why didn’t she say? Besides which, she knew you and I were a couple, so she could’ve been nicer about treating me like I was her husband already in front of you.”

Val had no retort to that since it had a certain amount of truth. Tiffin really had overdone it when it came to treating Varian like he was a god, but Val could also see why she did and sympathise. “Regardless, if you won’t listen to Arthas, I’m hoping you listen to me.” She swallowed, knowing he’d take this one badly. “And I want you to reconcile with Uncle Llane.” Varian’s jaw tightened and he shook his head stiffly. “No, not a chance.” Val tried not to sigh, she really did.

“Varian, he’s your Father.” Varian stabbed a carrot like he was imagining the King’s face on it. “He’s also the reason we’re in this mess Val. He betrothed his only child before I was out of the bloody cradle, ruining my life from the start, then watched as I fell in love knowing he was going to tear it away from me. How can I reconcile with him after that?” Val hated pulling this card but felt like she had no choice. “Taria would-” He raised a hand to cut her off.

“Don’t you dare use my Mother against me. No, I’ve made my mind up Val, I’ll reconcile with my Father the day pigs begin to soar past that window...too much has happened.” Val frowned despite feeling the same by a smaller fraction. “There’s no way I can convince you otherwise, is there?” Varian gave her a pained smile. “No, there’s not, so could we leave the subject of my Father, please? It’s bad enough I have to spend dinner with him later.” Val’s frown deepened.

“I take it they’re awkward as anything?” Varian shrugged, not really wanting to discuss this further. “Only when we can’t talk about these attacks anymore and have to actually think of a conversation that isn’t going to result in a shouting match.” Val wanted to know more about these ‘attacks’ so she latched onto the subject. “So what’s actually behind the attacks?” Varian drummed his long fingers on the table, thinking about how to put this without terrifying her.

“Well, do you remember a few years ago when I was called away with Lothar and Khadgar?” She nodded, also remembering how damn worried about him she had been. “Unfortunately yes.” Varian clucked his tongue, suddenly looking rather serious. “Well, it was the same group that razed Brightwood. Not exactly the same ones, we ‘dispatched’ those, but the same race, as it were.” But Val was still hanging on to the first part of the sentence. “Razed? Varian, you just said they were attacked.” Varian ran a hand down his face, knowing he’d already said too much.

“Because I didn’t want to scare you unnecessarily.” Val wasn’t that hungry anymore. “I’d rather you be honest with me.” Varian knew that and didn’t know exactly why he’d tried to pull the wool over her eyes in the first place. “Well then I’ll be honest; there was nothing left by the time we got there. We know the group that did it call themselves the ‘Horde’ and the race is ‘Orc’, and they’re not from this world. Their main goal at the moment as far as we can gather is to scaremonger us into submission.” Val tensed, wishing she hadn’t asked now.

“You told me last night that they’re coming here.” Varian shushed her, letting their plates be taken away before leaning in. “We don’t know that for sure yet Val. But the amount of attacks happening has prompted retaliation.” Varian hung his head a little. “It was one of the main reasons I was so desperate for us to be on good terms again. I leave in three days with a small force to Brightwood, our last troop and the citizens were taken hostage and I intend to get them back.”

Val’s heart sank at the implication of it. “You’ll be back though.” Varian didn’t even pretend to smile. “Val, these things are dangerous. From the few survivors we found, they’re not ones to be messed with.” She held his hand despite herself, and that managed to draw a smile from him. “Well then, I’ll just have to make you promise to come back then, won’t I?”

Varian chuckled, kissing her knuckles and leaving his lips there. “I suppose so.” Val’s brows drew down as she slowly recollected nuggets from the night before. “What was that you were saying about a contract last night?” Varian’s face went blank as he tried to remember himself, and after about twenty seconds he perked up, clearly recollecting.

“Oh! Yes, well, obviously since this is becoming more of a legitimate threat, we’re recruiting new bodies for the army. And those bodies will need armour and weapons. Now, the council want to cheap out and just use merchants.” Val looked annoyed already. “You mean those idiots who import their stuff and wonder why it breaks within a day?” Varian grinned, genuinely becoming excited.

“That would be it, yes. Well, I instead recommended the best smithies I know, and Father thought it a brilliant idea. So his chamberlain will be round in the next couple of days with a bag of gold and a work order.” Val looked slightly cynical. “And just what does this work order consist of?” Varian waved a hand of dismissal at the worry in her voice.

“Well, since it’s only a small force, two hundred swords and shield to start?” Val still didn’t look completely won over. “Over how long?” Varian gave her a lopsided smile. “Three weeks. Once my party gets back we’ll be marching on their main camp.” Val leant back, trying to work it out in her head. “We can’t do it with just two of us. I need a bigger forge, for one thing, ours is only a two blade.” Varian still didn’t lose his grin.

“Well, it just so happens I found a way around that as well. I know blades are more yours and Lucian’s speciality compared to armour, so Father looked elsewhere for reputable smithies in that respect. He wanted me to ask you if you would consider coming here and using the royal forge.” Val internally damned him for even tempting her with the idea.

The royal forge was a ten blade forge, meaning if she focused on the actual blade, Lucian could do the pommels, the hilts…it was possible, and a challenge, which was something she’d never turn down. “I feel like you planned all this to get me here more.” Varian finished his ale, folding his arms. “I’ll admit it’s a rather favourable side effect, but no, I’m thinking purely from a military- and monetary- standpoint.”

“Monetary?” Varian looked at her as if she had just asked what colour the sky was. “Val, you really think we won’t be paying you for this?” She shook her head, no matter how much she knew in her heart that anything would help her and her brother. “I can’t accept gold for doing my duty to the King, Varian.” Varian rolled his eyes, expecting this more than he wanted to. “Val, you don’t have a choice. I’ve already spoken about it with him, and ten thousand gold will be delivered to the shop in a few days.” Val nearly spat out her ale, putting her hand over her mouth to keep it in there seemed to be her only option.

“Ten thou-Varian, you can’t be serious! That’s far too much for blades!” Varian took a long, deep breath, keeping his arms folded. “I know. In truth, only five of it was for the work. The other half is from me, to say sorry for all I’ve put you through.” Val ran a hand through her hair, still trying to get her head around this. “Varian, I don’t need your money.” Varian looked pained as he met her eye. “That’s what your father told mine before he worked himself into the grave. I won’t let that happen a second time Val. Please, just take it and shut up.”

She narrowed her eyes, not backing down. “We’re not charity cases yet Varian.” Varian groaned, running a hand down his face. “Then call it a present, just fucking accept it and move on for the love of the Light.” Val pushed her chair back, putting her palms on the table as she stood. “I don’t need money I haven’t earned Varian!” Varian joined her, clearly ready for an argument. “You did earn it by putting up with my shit! Now stop fighting me!”

They were nose to nose now, and after a few seconds of staring each other down, Varian began to laugh. Val clearly wasn’t in on the joke and glared at him. “What’s so funny?” Varian straightened, still tittering. “Well, normally when we start arguing like that, my first instinct is to kiss you stupid, so I’m quite impressed that I didn’t.” She couldn’t help the small chuckle she answered him with.

“I suppose that was quite a big step for us.” She straightened as well, not quite sure whether to sit down again or not. “I still don’t feel right taking your money Varian.” He came around the table and ran both hands up her arms, not being able to look away from her parted lips. “Val, you’re not taking anything, I’m giving it to you. Please, just ease my mind and take it.” She wasn’t sure how to feel about the sincerity on his face and in his voice. “Oh alright fine, but this is the only time, understand? I will not become your little charity case, Varian, I mean it.” She pointed an angry finger at him.

“You know I’m not staying here during all this? I’ll be going home every night.” Varian shrugged as if it were nothing. “I’m not here anyway so I wouldn’t expect you to.” Something was on her mind, he could tell. “What’s wrong?” She looked up at him, not too sure herself. “it’s just a lot to take in, considering up until last night I was actually living what was considered a quiet life. Now I’m essentially participating in a war.” Varian knew how she felt and was only feeling more guilty for dragging her back into the world of politics, war and monarchy when she didn’t deserve it.

He had been thinking about it all morning; whether he actually wanted to smash his way back into her life or not. Of course, the fact that he loved her with every fibre of his being had overtaken everything and he had decided that yes, he did need her back in his life, but that only made him wonder if she needed him. She had told him not ten minutes ago that she loved him, he wouldn’t call her a deceiver on that front, but she was so independent now, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d just ruined it.

“Now’s your chance to run, you won’t get another one.” Val gave him her impish smirk, the reason he called her his ‘little pixie’, and he couldn’t help smiling back. “Oh I don’t know….there is ten thousand gold in it for me….” Varian’s eyebrow went up. “Oh really?! So that’s the only reason you’re staying here?” Val casually picked at her nails, inspecting them and trying not to laugh as she kept him hanging on for an answer. “…Yep. Can’t think of anything else.”

Varian looked like steam was about to come out of his ears as he stopped, folding his arms. “I’ll just fucking go then shall I?! Give you my fucking gold and sod off to the tavern?!” Val burst into a fit of giggles and embraced him, making his anger fade in an instant. It was only a simple hug but it felt absolutely amazing to someone who had done so much more with the girl whose arms were wrapped around his waist. She felt his chin on her head, making it abundantly clear how much taller than her he was, and smiled up at him.

“You missed me, didn’t you?” A soft groan was her answer as Varian’s own arms tightened. “Like you wouldn’t fucking believe.” The pulled apart as voices travelled down the corridor and Varian opened the door to the forge, letting her in and watching her frown as it was desolate.

“Well this isn’t good, a forge this big will need fire salts to get it lit up enough in time, I’ll pick some up on my way tomorrow.” She carried on muttering to herself as she practically danced around the large stone forge that was smack bang in the centre of the room, rubbing soot between her thumb and forefinger, turning on her heel to a highly amused Varian, who was leaning against the wall letting her get on with it.

“I’ll need it cleaned by the time I get here. This soot is old, it won’t light at this point. We need to start from absolute scratch. Pure coal and fire salts are what this beauty needs.” Varian made a mental note to send someone down here in the next twelve hours, nodding at her to tell her he was listening. “And I’m bringing my own tools.” Varian chuckled, watching her run a finger over the grindstone. “I wouldn’t assume any less.”

She put her hands on her hips, looking satisfied. “Alright then, you have my brother and I. Make sure everything’s ready by the time I get here and we’ll be grand.” Varian grinned at her, pushing himself from the wall. “I’m glad I can meet your standards.” Val had to lean her head back to look up at him once they were about an inch apart, and he could see her tongue sticking out between her teeth. “Oh Varian, you always exceeded them and you know that.”

He took her hands, linking their fingers, forgetting everything since they were finally and truly alone. “You’re making it very hard to resist you, Miss Glenmore.” Val felt her lips go dry as she realised she wasn’t stopping this. “Varian…” The prince couldn’t help his wolfish grin. “I used to love it when you said my name.” He froze as if he had just realised what he was doing and stepped back, looking utterly sheepish.

Clearing his throat into his hand he flushed red, which she didn’t expect. “Apologies….again.” He managed to look at her. “Val, I’ll be honest. After two years of not seeing or speaking to you, going straight to just ‘being friends’ when normally I’d have made love to you twice by now is hard…just bear with me.” Val patted his arm, knowing what he meant since she was feeling the exact same things.

“It’s fine Varian, I’m finding it difficult as well. Don’t worry, our dreams aren’t off limits.” Varian snorted, moving to lift a tool belt for her and feeling rather foolish when she did it herself. “oh good, I’ll go to bed early tonight then.” He felt an arse for even asking this but he did anyway. “Val…I haven’t spoilt love for you, have I?” She took a minute to think about what he meant but made a face of realization after a while. “Oh…no, why, do you think you have?” Varian shrugged, twirling a melting rod in his hands.

“I don’t know, but I just feel like I’ve taken so many milestones from you…milestones you could’ve shared with a man that deserved them.” Val sat on the edge of the forge, crossing one leg over the other. “And you didn’t deserve them?” Varian sat next to her, tapping his fingers on the rough stone. “At the time I did because I truly thought nothing would stop us. But now…now I feel like I’ve stolen them.” She bumped her shoulder against his arm, smiling reassuringly. “Well, I don’t.” His face brightened a little.

“Really? You don’t resent me?” Val started chewing her bottom lip, swinging her legs since hers didn’t touch the floor. “Not anymore I don’t.” His chuckle was quieter than she would’ve liked. “That’s something I suppose.” Val looked at him with that glint in her eye that always made him curious as to what she was up to. “…Fancy seeing who can get more conker pods in Arthas’ hair?” Varian grinned, helping her down. “I know exactly where the stickiest ones are, come, he won’t know what hit him!”

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A few hours and a furious Arthas later, Varian stopped outside Tiffin’s chambers with Val, who was straightening herself even though he’d told her she had no need to. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” She shushed him, rapping her knuckles on the door as lightly as possible. “Yes, now go, I’ll tell you what happens after.” Varian still didn’t look sure but had no choice but to leave her, making her laugh by walking as slowly as possible, which didn’t look good when the door opened and one of Tiffin’s ladies looked at Val as if she wanted her to combust there and then.

“Milady, Valerica Glenmore is here.” Val obviously knew the chambers the blonde was residing in already since they had been Taria’s, so didn’t look that uncomfortable as she came in, giving the smallest curtsy she could. There were about six ladies in the room, which made Val have to wonder what Tiffin actually did for herself, and it didn’t win the soon to be princess any favours in the smith’s eyes.

Tiffin stood, smiling far too widely for Val’s liking and strode over, putting her arms around her shoulders and kissing her cheeks. “It’s absolutely wonderful to see you Valerica. It’s been too long! Come, sit, I think we have a lot to catch up on.” Val would have been lying if she had said that was the reaction she had been expected. She sat down, not being able to help her rising suspicion since every other person in the room was glaring at her, clearly remembering her in relation to Varian.

“Bessie told me she’d seen you, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear it!” She offered her tea and Val politely declined with the insane notion that it was poisoned and this was her plan all along. “I’m surprised that you’re so happy to see me.” Tiffin tensed for just a split second before leaning back in her chair. “I’ll admit, I did have a flicker of concern. But Bessie assured me that’s not what you’re here for.”

Val folded her arms, trying not to look intimidating. “No, it’s not. Varian and I agreed earlier today that it wouldn’t be fair on any of us if we started our relationship again.” Tiffin was trying not to look so relieved. “It’s good that you two are talking again though, he missed you.” Val saw no reason to lie to her. “And I him.” Tiffin took a few sips from her cup, looking at her finally. “I take it you know he’s leaving in a few days?” Again, Val nodded. “I do. He’s also told me why he’s going.” That made a look of surprise wash over Tiffin’s calm demeanour.

“He has? Well, I’m glad to know that I’m not worthy enough.” Val wished she hadn’t said it now, but Tiffin clearly wasn’t done there. “….What did he tell you?” Val tactfully shook her head. “I’ll leave it to him to tell you, it’s not my place.” Tiffin’s jaw tensed. “I see. You two made up quite quickly then?” Val swallowed, wanting to go home that instant. “I didn’t really have a choice, my brother made me speak to him last night.”

“At the tavern?” There was an underlay of spite in her voice that made it hard for Val not to flinch. “Yes, at the tavern.” Tiffin looked pained as she looked at the small flames her fire held. “He always seems to be there nowadays.” Val couldn’t stop herself no matter how she tried. “Well, it has always been the norm that whenever Arthas is here Varian takes him drinking, it has been since he was of age.” Tiffin’s smile looked so forced Val could feel her own cheeks aching. “Ah, I see. I should know these things really.” She looked on the verge of tears.

“But how can I when every time I try and start a conversation with Varian all I get are death glares and ‘leave me be wench!’” Val reached over and patted her knee, looking utterly sympathetic. “I know, and I had strong words with him about the way he treats you, Tiffin. He was bitter because I wasn’t speaking to him, that’s all.” Tiffin’s face softened, but she still shook her head. “No, he was bitter because you two were to be wed and I ruined it.”

Val didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t expecting Tiffin to just come out with it. They sat in a small silence for a few seconds and Val decided the best way to approach this was to give the girl some respect. “We were to be wed, yes. But you didn’t ruin it.” Tiffin’s aqua eyes looked full of sorrow. “I should have said something earlier, warned you two about the betrothal, but I kept silence and let you two fall so deep in love that it ruined everything.”

She reached over and took Val’s hand, making her skin look pale compared to the tan of the smith’s. “I’m so sorry Valerica. I’m sorry for taking Varian away from you, I’m sorry for ruining your friendship, I’m-” Val raised a hand to cut her off. “Tiffin, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry about, it wasn’t anything in your control. Varian and I have talked it through, and we want to start again, but as friends this time, so we want to involve you in that.” Tiffin looked sceptical.

“That will be hard for the both of you to achieve Val. Varian still loves you.” Val exhaled slowly. “I know he does, and it’s only right that I’m honest with you. I love him too, but I’m sure you guessed that.” Tiffin nodded, but strangely she looked at peace with the fact. “I heard you two throwing conkers at Arthas earlier…it’s been a while since I’ve heard Varian laugh so much.” Val couldn’t help smiling, letting go of Tiffin’s hand.

“You’ll learn very quickly that he’s an overgrown man-child. Immaturity is the best route sometimes.” Tiffin shared her amusement at Varian’s humour. “Will we be seeing you a lot from now on?” Val nodded putting her elbows on her knees and realising how uncouth she looked sitting like this when Tiffin’s back was straight as a board and her knees were together, even her ankles were delicately crossed.

“Aye, Llane has asked my brother and I to work the Royal forge for a while.” Tiffin’s well-groomed brows drew down. “For what purpose?” Val had to be careful now she knew that Varian hadn’t informed her at all about the ‘Orcs’. “Just to earn a bit more, since having a bigger forge will mean we can make things quicker.” Tiffin’s face turned from caution to concern.

“Is your situation that bad then?” Val kicked her father’s spirit for having so many loud shouting matches with Llane about their money troubles. She decided to blag it, trusting that Varian would keep this lie up. “Yes, it is. We’re on the brink of losing the shop, so Varian suggested us working here to the King.” Tiffin looked sympathetic, making Val feel worse. “You poor thing.” Val snorted at that one though.

“That’s a fitting word for it.” She looked Tiffin in the eye, showing her the respect she felt she deserved. “Tiffin, will you be alright with Varian and I renewing our friendship?” Tiffin took a long, deep breath, and eventually nodded. “I am. It will mean he’s happy, so if it makes our lives a little bit easier, then so be it.” Now it was the blonde’s turn to meet her gaze. “Will you be alright though Val?” Val’s eyebrow rose.

“What do you mean?” Tiffin tried to think of a nice way to say this. “Watching him marry another woman. Our wedding’s in two months Val, surely he told you that?” From the way Val stiffened, Tiffin realised he hadn’t, and she had just put her foot right in it. The tanned woman took a shaky breath and linked her fingers around one knee. “No, he didn’t, but it’s fine. As I said, we’re going to try the friendship route. We’ve accepted that you two are getting married whether any of us like it or not.” Tiffin sighed, finally relaxing and shedding the image of a noblewoman.

“I’m glad someone else realises I’m as angry about this betrothal as Varian is.” She waved a hand, beckoning one of her ladies over, a young lady with mousy ringlets and a thin face. “Nan, go down to the kitchens and find us the most unhealthy cake Bessie has ready, with a bottle of rum and two glasses.” Val couldn’t help her raised eyebrow as the maid did what she was told.

“I wasn’t aware you drink rum?” Tiffin gave her a wry smile. “I don’t, but there’s a first time for everything.” Her smile dropped and she smoothed the skirt of her dress. “You say that you and Varian will try and be friends from now on…but where does that leave me? Will I merely be ‘the wife’?” Val shook her head. “No, I’ve already told Varian that he needs to make an effort with you to come to a mutual agreement about the state of things.” Her brow crinkled. “I believe the term Arthas used was ‘married friends’?”

Tiffin looked impressed that they had come up with all of this already. “I certainly hope so, it will make all of our lives easier. Once we have a child, in theory, we can just carry on as if we’re not chained to each other at all.” She gave Val a look and somehow the younger woman knew what she was about to say. “I know this might sound like I’m trying to tarnish your image, but Varian is so in love with you, I highly doubt he’d drop you if you were to become his official mistress.” Val bristled, trying to figure out if she was offended or not.

Really, Tiffin wasn’t wrong. But it was merely the implication of the term meaning that it was just sex that offended her. “I know that, but both Varian and I are dead against it. We’re both a lot more content just ending things and staying friends.” Tiffin nodded in understanding, passing her a glass of rum once Nan put them down on the table in the middle of them.

“I can respect that. If anything, it shows how much he loves you, that he’s more willing to end it than have people whisper.” Val gave her a smaller smile, wincing a little at the burn in her throat, forgetting that she was still recovering from yesterday. “We had too much of that when we first started courting; we should’ve realised that the whispers were from those who knew about the betrothal in the first place.” Tiffin sighed, thoroughly enjoying their candid talk. “At least you got to enjoy a few good years.” Val held her glass up, letting the blonde clink hers against it. “We did, and here’s to many more with all of us actually getting on for once.”

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“Wait, so you two actually talked civilly?” Val rolled her eyes for the millionth time as she and Varian went into the tunnel that led to the bridge between the two sections of the Trade District, wrapping her shawl around her even more since she could feel the cold starting to sting her arms. “Yes Varian, we talked civilly, and I for one enjoyed it. When push comes to shove, she’s in practically the same situation as us, so acknowledging that and moving on is probably going to make life easier for all of us.”

She poked him in the chest, putting the hand on her hip afterwards. “Which means, Varian Wrynn, that YOU need to be nicer to her. She knows full well that you don’t love her, and as much as it bruises your ego, she is not interested in you in the slightest.” He put a hand over his heart and leant dramatically back. “You wound me, Val, you really do. Actually, it’s quite a blessing that there are no feelings whatsoever, it makes things ten times less awkward.”

He grimaced, shuddering at the alternative scenario. “I don’t know how it would turn out if she was infatuated with me…” She patted his bicep, stopping a few yards away from the shop and rocking on the balls of her feet. “Yes well, thank the Light she’s not. So then, same time tomorrow?” Varian frowned, rubbing the back of his neck. “Unfortunately not. Drills all morning, council all afternoon.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “Dinner?” Val smiled, cupping his chin.

“Sounds brilliant, maybe invite Tiffin and Arthas?” Varian actually looked as if he were getting more excited by the second. "That sounds like a good idea, I’ll see you then!” He bent for a kiss, stopping himself before he got there and straightening with an awkward clear of his throat. “….what do we do to say goodbye now?” He knew it sounded stupid but it was a valid question, and Val chuckled softly. “Hug?” Varian didn’t need to be told twice and swept her up into his arms, taking a long, head lightening inhale of her cinnamon oil and feeling his mouth water like an insane fool.

“When do you leave again?” Varian kept his nose in her hair, keeping her off the ground with his embrace. “Three days. So we have tomorrow night, and maybe a few meetings the day after?” Val didn’t mind being held by him this long one bit. “It might not happen if Uncle Llane wants me to start working the day before.” Varian squeezed her, finally putting her down and putting his hands through her hair. “Well, then I’ll just have to fucking make time, won’t I? Light, you’re bloody infuriating.”

Val scoffed, kissing his chin before she even knew she was doing it and turning on her heel, ignoring how dazed she had left the Prince. “And yet you’re the one that wanted me back in your life! Night!” He dopily waved after her, rubbing his chin and smiling dreamily. “Night…you amazing little pixie.”

Lucian was just tidying up when she walked in, eyeing her suspiciously when she hung her shawl up, kissed his cheek and plonked herself on the counter. “Good day?” She grinned, throwing one leg over the other. “Productive would be a better way to put it. Everyone knows where they stand now, including Tiffin.” Lucian looked impressed as he wiped his hands and took his apron off. “Tiffin? She didn’t kill you on the spot then?”

Val looked like a cat that had got the cream as she leant back, flipping through the ledger knowing she’d be putting an obscene amount of money in it in the upcoming days. “No, we actually had a long, civil, and gratifying chat. Everything's out in the open, everything has it’s place, and we’re getting paid ten thousand gold by Uncle Llane to use the royal forge and equip the army! Life is good!” There was a clang as the hammer Lucian was hanging up slipped down his palm and hit the anvil it was normally housed above. Lucian turned to slowly face his sister, not quite believing what she had just said.

“I’m sorry- who is going to what for HOW MUCH?!”

Val couldn’t answer since she had collapsed in utter glee, complete with her back on the counter and her legs flying up, her laughter ringing out around the silence for a good while before sitting herself up and wiping her eyes. “Uncle Llane needs to equip the new recruits they’ve brought into the army, and Varian recommended us. We’re to be paid ten thousand gold and work in Stormwind Keep on their ten blade forge.” Lucian held two fingers up. “Hold on…why does he need to equip the army and why are there new recruits?”

She gave him a rather rushed explanation of what Varian had told her, right down to the last detail, watching his face change four times and finally settle on concern. “So that’s why we’ve slowly been getting more work…” She nodded, finally hopping down and folding her arms. “Aye, it means people are catching on to what’s happening. Varian told me there was nothing left when he went out to Brightwood and Redridge, so people probably know about it by now, relatives etc.”

Lucian’s palm didn’t feel as large as Varian’s did on her arm, but she still felt incredibly small compared to the two men when he did it. “And you’re alright with him going away?” She gave him a smile that looked like it hurt her face just putting it there. “I have to be, don’t I? He’s a prince that cares about his people, I couldn’t just expect him to sit back and watch town and villages burn, it would eat at him.” She started up the stairs, hearing him follow her once he locked and bolted the front door.

“Besides, it’s only for a few weeks, he’ll be back before I know it.” Lucian made a small noise of agreement, sifting through their small pantry and throwing what he could together for dinner since the two of them had been slightly lazy and didn’t go to market today. “Well, how about you take tomorrow off to spend with him then.” She shook her head for two reasons. “No, you need me here and he’s busy with training all day, there’d be no point.”

She put her elbows on the table, actually looking forward to the beef slices Lucian put on her plate with apple wedges, goats cheese and only slightly stale bread. “That’s never stopped you before, you used to sit in on his training all the time.” Val shrugged, dipping her bread in the cheese and coating it in. “It’s different now.” Lucian had a feeling he knew why and had no idea why he asked but here he was. “How is it different?” He finally sat with her, pouring two ales and digging in.

“Well, for one thing, whenever I sat in, it would normally end with me getting flustered and him carrying me upstairs.” Lucian snorted even though that probably wasn’t the appropriate response. “I thought as much. How you two did it as much as you did astounded Pa and I.” He chuckled, pulling some beef from the bigger piece. “I’m sure I heard him mumble ‘damn young bastards with their unlimited energy’ a few times.” Val wasn’t sure whether learning her love life was a subject her father and brother discussed was a good thing or not.

“Did you tell Gramma I’m not coming with you for New Year?” Lucian nodded, mopping up the last of his cheese. “I sent word this morning, so she should get it tomorrow.” His brows knitted and she instantly knew what he was going to ask. “Are you sure you want to go on your own? I know how you get in crowds Little Bird, especially when you’ve got it into your head that they’re talking about you.” Val frowned at him, putting her food down.

“My anxiety is my own beast to be slain Luce, nothing or no one will be able to do anything if it does kick in, so there’s no point you being there.” Lucian didn’t look convinced in the slightest. “So Varian will know when you’re having an attack?” Val rolled her eyes, draining her mug. “You know he does! Light, he’s seen me through enough of them!” She glared at him, putting both palms on the table.

“I haven't had an anxiety spell in over four years, Luce, I’ll be fine. But thanks for the confidence boost.” She stood, intent on having a bath before bed, but since she had to leave her room door open to let the steam out, Lucian was able to carry the conversation on as she filled the first kettle and let him lift the tub from the wall and carry it through.

“I just worry, that’s all. We both know how horrible that court of his can be to someone they find ‘unworthy’.” Val left the kettle hanging on the fire to warm and leant against the stone fireplace. “I know, but I promised I’d go, so that’s what I’m doing. Hopefully it’ll be easier now Tiffin and I are on good terms.” Lucian patted her arm as he went past, clearing their plates. “I hope so too Little Bird.” He laughed, putting their cutlery in the bowl to wash later.

“Gramma’s going to be pleased you and Varian have reconciled.” Val had no doubt about it; her Grandmother Minnie had been the one most outspoken about the absurdity of the betrothal and how it affected everyone, to the point where at one time Val truly thought her face would turn red for the rest of eternity. “I can almost hear her now. ‘Good! You two are well suited! He’s a good boy Valerica, just a bit of an idiot, like most men!’”

Lucian’s laughter rumbled through from his own room as he threw a towel to her, reminding her about the kettle and swiping it from its hook. “If anything, I think Harley will be the one that’s angry that you’re not there.” Val had completely forgotten that she had promised her three-year-old second cousin that she was coming but knew he’d forgive her eventually.

“Just give him some cake and tell him it’s from me, he’ll soon calm down.” Lucian refilled the kettle with her in a slog that they went through any time they wanted to be relatively clean; a few years ago she would’ve just gone to the Keep and asked Varian to use his, which had working taps and soaps she would literally sit there and sniff like a madwoman, they were so good.

She, in theory, could still do that, but she was feeling remarkably lazy tonight. “Speaking of which, did you see Bessie and Wyll?” She had to snicker at how the mention of food made him think of the dwarf, and started taking her boots and hose off, not really caring how much water she had tonight. “I saw Bess, but Wyll had a day off for once.”

“Was she glad to see you?” Val laughed harder, loosely tying her hair into a bun so it didn’t get wet. “You really just asked me that? I think her lungs were three seconds away from giving out with the screech she let loose.” She sat in the slowly rising water, feeling strangely thankful that their kettle was larger than most. “Varian will be alright…” She wasn’t sure whether she was trying to convince her brother or herself as she leant her head back, wondering if she was just a glutton for punishment at this point.

“What was that?” She realised she hadn’t been mumbling and turned around. “Nothing, just talking to myself again!” Lucian scoffed, clearly tidying the ‘house’ for the night. “The first sign of madness, that is.” She grinned, closing her eyes and letting the steam fill her nose. “All the best people are mad Luce, you should know that by now.”

She could still feel her lips tingling from Varian’s kiss earlier, running her fingertips over the bottom one and closing her eyes, savouring every second so she could hold onto it. She knew it was horrible to say, but maybe having a couple of weeks where they could only see each other a few days of them would help transition the two from lovers to friends easier.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

It was surprisingly sunny for a December morning the next day, though ‘sunny’ wouldn’t be the best word for Val’s mood as she came out of the bare pantry, hungry and frustrated. “Luce! There’s no damn food!” As was the norm whenever she bellowed down the stairs, Lucian answered with tempered annoyance.

“Then go get some! I’m not your wet nurse Little Bird, you know where the market is!” Val growled, snatching her black velvet dress coat that her Father’s ‘successor’ had given her, a man by the name of Cillian Beaufort, who was now sole owner of The Black Rose, Lokir’s pirate ship.

Val had only met him the times that they had gone south, and they got on rather well. He was charismatic, sarcastic and very much the smooth talker, but knew how to live a grounded life and just enjoy it for what it was, so Val could respect him for that. He had given her the coat last Winter Veil, and she had to admit she had loved it the minute she put it on, so was glad the weather permitted putting it on now.

She did up the ‘gold’ (knowing Cillian they were just painted tin) buttons that ran down the front and stomped down the stairs, sitting on the counter to put her boots on, glaring at her chuckling brother as she went past and opened the safe, taking a bag of gold and closing the door to the shop behind her, glad she had kept one of Varian’s shirts out of spite since it was thicker than hers, keeping her a bit warmer as she put the purse in the basket she had taken from the kitchen and strode towards the centre of the Trade District, already hearing the bellows and calls of the market traders on the other side of the tunnel.

She had less of an urge to go easy with her money since she knew they wouldn’t have any money troubles soon, so wandered over to the fish stall first, grinning at Lizette, the woman who ran it with her husband Michael. “Morning miss Val, anything for ya today?”

Val clucked her tongue as she looked at what was on offer, perching her basket on the stall and pulling the purse out. “Just a salmon today Liz, I’m feeling decadent.” The older woman laughed as she pulled some brown paper from a hook and started wrapping it for Val.

“Saw you with the Prince yesterday, patched everything up then?” Val tensed without meaning to, trying to read the wrinkled face before her. “Yes, we’ve decided it was petty to keep silence with each other.” Thankfully, Lizette smiled instead of sneered.

“Good. It was always lovely watching you two walk through here, I used to say to Mickey that you were an image of love’s young dream. That’s two silver and thirteen please dear.” She handed Val her fish, who put it in her basket and passed a small pile of coins back to her.

“Yes well, we’ve decided to remain friends from this day on.” Lizette looked strangely disappointed to hear it. “What a shame, I think you would’ve made a wonderful princess. One of the people.” She frowned, putting her elbows on the stall and leaning in. “That Tiffin’s nice enough, but she hardly comes down here. I’ll be surprised if she can name half of the shops.” Val drummed her fingers on her basket, looking deep in thought.

“Then it’s a good thing Varian does all he can at least.” Lizette brightened, pulling another sheet of brown paper down and wrapping a pile of oysters in them. “That’s good to hear. And with you back at his side, he’ll do just fine.” She handed the package to Val, who stared dumbly at it. “Take it dear, as a little gift to you and your brother for him fixing my gate last week.”

Val took them, smiling appreciatively. “Thanks, Liz. Have a good day, and give Mickey and the kids my love!” Lizette waved her away as she moved on to the fruit and vegetable stall, almost homing in on the red apples piled high in one compartment of the stand.

She was just handing the money over for the four large paper bags of apples, sprouts for dinner and oranges when two large hands jabbed her sides and she yelped loudly at the same time as jumping three feet in the air, recognising the baritone laugh behind her and turning around the slap Varian’s shoulder. “Damn it, Varian, don’t do that!” Varian ignored her, digging into his pockets and giving Martin a gold piece.

“I’ll pay for this my good man, with a little extra for the theatrics. Good day to you!” And before Val could protest, though after Martin gave his thanks, Varian took her basket from her, put his arm around hers and started dragging her towards Stormwind Park. “Am I even going to get a damn hello?!” He stopped, squeezed her, and carried on. “Hello! Salutations, greetings! There, you happy now?” She still looked in utter disbelief.

“I thought you had training this morning?” Varian shrugged, sitting her on a bench, flopping down and putting his head in her lap, making her nervous instantly. “Varian…” His face had a pleading look to it. “I’ve been up since five, please, just indulge me.” Val sighed, raking her fingers through his hair and watching his face relax in a millisecond. “Any particular reason you’ve been up since then?” He shook his head, opening one eye. “You’d think me stupid.”

Val smiled down at him until he did it back. “Come now, you can tell me anything and you know that Varian.” Varian scrunched his face, clearly in two minds about confessing. “I just moved my training so it started earlier, that’s all.” She tutted, knowing exactly why. “What, so you could come and see me? Varian, that’s ridiculous!” Varian opened his other eye and grinned charmingly. “It worked, didn’t it?! Now hush and enjoy my company!”

His flinch was mostly for dramatic effect when she slapped his forehead. “Varian, you shouldn’t lose sleep over me.” Varian looked sincerely up at her. “Val, that’s all I’ve been doing for the past two years. If anything, I finally had a peaceful night last night.”

Val took a handful of cherries from the basket and put one against his lips, putting it in once they opened and letting him sit up to spit the stone out, knowing his head would return to her lap, which it did. “Did you talk to Tiffin at all?” Varian closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation of her little but strong fingers raking his scalp again.

“I did, and surprisingly we actually had a slight laugh, it was strange.” Val looked pleased even though he couldn’t see it. “Good, it’s a first step Varian, a first step to making our lives a lot easier.” Varian started groaning and she stopped, tweaking his nose. “Don’t get hard on me now.” Varian gave her a sheepish grin. “…I can’t control my cock Val, If I could I’d be the god of all Azeroth.” Val’s smile was smaller.

“If it had been two years ago I would’ve said come back to the shop.” Varian frowned, leaving his head where it was. “I don’t like how much things have changed so quickly.” Val looked sympathetic since she was feeling the same. “Neither do I but it’s how it has to be now Varian. We’ll get used to it eventually.” Varian clearly wasn’t convinced. “Will we? Val, I’m sitting here using every muscle in my damn body not to kiss you like we used to right now.”

Val didn’t know what to say to make him feel any better. “I’m the same Varian, if that's any consolation?” He sat up, running a hand through his hair. “Not really, but thanks for trying.” He took her hand despite the overwhelming awkwardness. “We’ve done well so far though.” That made her chuckle. “Varian, it’s only been one day.” Varian scoffed as he leant back. “And for us, that’s bloody fantastic!” Val’s smile dropped and Varian looked at her questioningly.

“The stallholders have already noticed us.” Varian looked actually impressed with how quickly it had happened. “And that’s a bad thing?” Val took her hand away, playing with the hem of her coat instead. “I’m not sure, it depends what conclusions they’ve all come to.” She looked over in the direction of the Trade District. “Liz was actually disappointed that we hadn’t gotten back together.” Varian huffed, reaching over and taking another cherry.

“She’s not the only one.” Val felt like a mother telling her child off. “Varian.” His head rose but he didn’t look like he regretted saying it. “What, it’s true. We still love each other, hells, we should be married by now!” His face dropped at how pained she looked behind her eyes. “But I know we can’t, and I know I’m not making this easier for you. I’m just telling It how it is.”

“Varian, I still have my pride. It was wife or nothing, and now I can’t be your wife, we have no other choice.” Varian made a face like a petulant child. “I know that, but it’s still stupid.” Val actually found herself laughing at that one. “Well yes, I’m not denying that.” Varian grinned, clearly feeling better now they’d both said it. “Fancy getting our anger at the world out?” Val’s brows drew down. “Varian! What did I-” “No! I don’t mean that I meant a spar down in the armoury! You can show me if you remember anything I taught you! Then…” He looked utterly dismayed all of a sudden.

“Then, my Father’s invited you and Lucian to dinner to discuss the work order.” Val suddenly realised why Varian was in a bad mood. “Ah, so that’s what’s bothering you.” Varian threw the stone of his cherry like it had personally offended him, tightening his jaw. “It’s bad enough I have to sit with him by myself every night, I don’t want to sit there with him watching us like he’s trying to judge.” Val’s eyebrow quirked in scepticism.

“Varian, I hardly think that’s the case. He’ll probably do the normal Uncle catch up crap and then talk business, it’ll be fine.” She chewed her bottom lip, realising the King wanted to have dinner with her. “I think I’ll definitely pick up one of my dresses beforehand though.” Varian stood up, offering her a hand. “Well then. We’ll get it after I’ve proven to be a fantastic teacher.” Val snorted, taking his hand and letting him pull her up. “I doubt it, Varian, I haven’t kept my training up at all.” Varian still looked confident as they started their journey back to the Keep. “Oh, I’m sure you’re exaggerating. You’ll be fine, I’ll go easy on you.”

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To her credit, she was still upright. And right now, that had exceeded all expectations as to where this session was heading considering she was just about ready to die from exhaustion. It proved to her that even though her arms housed a considerable amount of strength from smithing all day every day, it didn’t matter in the slightest when it came to distributing that strength during combat.

They had been in the armoury a good few hours, but you wouldn’t think it from the thin layer of sweat on Varian’s brow compared to the buckets she had lost. As was expected he had insisted on using real blades and not practice ones, so she was convinced he was going to end up on trial for her accidental murder by the end of the day.

“You’re still not relaxing enough. The more you stiffen, the less effective your blade becomes.” Val glared at him, trying to do exactly that and eventually feeling her limbs loosen. “How the fuck can I relax when you’re swinging a sword straight at my head?!” Varian’s chuckle only annoyed her more as he went behind her, putting his sword down and lifting her arms. “That’s why there’s a thing called blocking Val. But remember when you block, try and use the flat of the blade to distribute the shock more.” He nudged one of her legs with his foot.

“Left foot in front of right. Forty-five degrees…” He stepped away. “And ready position.” Now that one she knew how to do, and couldn’t help the smug smile at his impressed one. “Oh good, so you have been listening.” He put his hands behind his back and paced around her, monitoring her form. “Now then, how many potential angles of attack are there?” Val felt like if she got this wrong he was going to throw a book at her head.

“Eight.” Varian gave her a wink, not helping her with the whole ‘not jumping his bones’ concept. He knew she always found him at his most alluring during a training session, and he was teasing her beyond comprehension…and the worst part was that she was loving it. She was enjoying watching him sweat, his muscles tighten whenever he started an attack, it was deliciously pleasant to watch, and he knew it.

“Good girl.” He swiped his sword up, stepping back in front of her. “Now show me a parry.” She only just managed to bring the sword up as he lunged, feeling the shock he had been talking about for the millionth time that morning and trying not to lose focus as she pushed back, knowing he was going easy on her and appreciating it more than she probably should have considering she was learning to defend herself from Light knew what.

She shoved his sword down, swinging hers in an overhead arch and stopping it just before it bit into his neck. Even though it could’ve gone horribly wrong, he was still grinning. She lowered her blade and he gave her a reassuring look. “Don’t look so disheartened, you’ve done really well. Val, remember, I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t expect you to become a master swords-woman in three hours. You can block, parry and have nearly killed me at least six times, that’s not bad.”

Varian chuckled, thinking of something that would cheer her up. “Alright, what if I said this next technique involved kicking me in the balls?” Val gave him a look of uncertainty. “Varian, Stormwind needs an heir whether you like it or not.” He waved a hand of dismissal, still looking confident. “I’ve got suitable protection, Val, don’t worry. I wasn’t lying when I said that I abandoned training to come and see you, I didn’t have time to take it all off.”

He gripped the pommel of his sword, an elven blade called Shalamayne that he had gotten at the beginning of his adolescence, from King Anasterian Sunstrider of the High Elves as a sign of goodwill when Stormwind had helped push back another invasion from the Amani Trolls to Quel'Thelas. It was a beautiful weapon, with two blades and a hilt made of solid gold and embedded rubies (though she had been shocked when she had lifted it and found it not absurdly heavy, putting it down to elven craftsmanship), but the most beautiful thing about it was the small orb of pure Light that sat between the two blades. She had no idea whether it was a slither of the Sunwell or what, but it was mesmerizing to anyone that looked at it, and Val felt incredibly jealous that she would probably never make anything half as beautiful.

“Now, this is called a feint. Firstly, you lift your sword above your head as if you’re telling your opponent to attack.” She followed his instruction, pointing her sword forward still and watching him stand in position ahead of her.

“This move is all about making your opponent complacent. It’s considered a dirty technique, but it’s gotten me out of a few scrapes before now. Starting off by raising your sword makes them think they have an open space to attack. You have to be quick otherwise you’re dead.” He lifted Shalamayne and grinned at her.

“Now…kick me as hard as you can.” Val was hesitant, and he saw it. “Varian, I really don’t think this is-” “Just kick me, woman! Damn it all if you did this on the battlefield you’d be de-”the last syllable was bitten off as she launched her foot right between his legs, thankfully feeling something that at least feigned protection there from the codpiece he wore during training, making him only flinch as opposed to crumple on the floor and writhe in agony, so that was a relief.

“Good. Again, but faster this time.” She gave him a cautious glance but saw that he wasn’t affected by it at all, so readied herself, lifting her sword, waiting for him to do the same, and swinging her foot up, cursing when he caught her foot and held on. “How will you get out of this Val? Remember, you’ve probably got about three seconds before you’re dead.” She swung downwards instead, stopping and resting the flat on the wrist holding her ankle.

“Chop off the hand?” Varian let her foot go, taking her blade from her and putting it on the rack, feeling the last six hours catching up with him. “Very good. If there’s one thing I need to emphasize and make you remember from this, it’s that speed is key, but you need to balance it with a calm mind.” Val had to laugh, rolling her shoulders to help stop them aching.

“You? A calm mind?” Varian put Shalamayne back in its scabbard and took off his cuirass, holding his hand out for hers afterwards. “It does happen sometimes you know.” He noticed how much they were both sweating since the fire had been on, and wondered how he could suggest this without sounding horribly desperate. “Maybe you should get ready for dinner here. I’ll have a bath run for you.” Val didn’t look sure at all.

“Varian, people will start talking…” Varian clearly disagreed with her caution and took her hand, leading them away from the armoury. “Does it really matter if they do? Val, the staff here start rumours if I walk wrong, there’s nothing we can do about them so we might as well ignore them. You, Tiffin and I know the truth, that’s all that matters.” Val still wasn’t convinced. “But a bath? That’s a bit risqué don’t you think?” He pointed to her sweat-stained shirt.

“Would you rather sit at a table with my Father looking like we’ve just had a rough lovemaking session?” Shit, he had her there. She sighed, moving the braid she had her hair in over her shoulder. “Alright, point taken. But you stay in your chambers, understand?” Varian laughed louder than he was probably meaning to.

“What do you take me for woman? A teenage boy watching a girl from the bush? I want you, but not enough to really get kicked in the groin.” Val couldn’t help the small patch of warmth on her cheeks, and of course, since it stood out on her brown skin, Varian noticed it instantly. “What? Am I not allowed to admit I still want you? I’m not ashamed of the fact.”

Val swallowed, suddenly feeling the heat again, and it wasn’t from exertion. “Varian, keep your voice down, for the love of the Light.” He knew she was conscious of the people around them who were clearly watching as they walked, already suspicious of the fact that they were both sweating, but he knew better than to become meek and mild for the sake of others, and was actually surprised by her doing it.

“Why? Nearly everyone here knows we were a couple at one point, even more of them know I feel nothing for Tiffin, so what’s the shocker? I’ll even say it louder if you like.” He took a dramatically large breath and Val had to jump to clap her hand over his mouth. “Don’t you even dare.” She took her hand away and shook her head, following him up the stairs almost automatically since she already knew the layout of the Keep like the back of her hand.

Varian started laughing as they got to the residential wing of the Keep, where the royal chambers were the only rooms occupying the long hallway. Varian nodded in greeting to the guard outside, who probably knew that he was a little useless considering Varian’s prowess for battle, but Val smiled at him anyway, not recognising him. Varian stopped and jabbed a thumb at Val.

“Jon, this is Valerica Glenmore. She has royal permission to wander these halls as she pleases, spread the word among the guard would you?” The tall soldier, who really didn’t look that much older than Varian nodded once, his black curls bouncing as he ran a hand down the small beard around his mouth. “Aye Highness, I’ll let them know.” Before Varian could disappear, Jon called him back, making Val laugh as the prince hung backwards holding onto the doorframe. “King Llane wanted me to remind you that you’re to attend evening meal with him.”

Varian huffed, straightened, and pulled Val into his chambers. “As if I can forget. Go fetch Tiffin for me whilst you’re standing there, then take your leave.” Val couldn’t help her confused look as he closed the door behind him. “Tiffin? Why do we need Tiffin?” Varian shrugged as if it were nothing. “I want you to feel comfortable, and maybe having another woman here would help. Besides, we arranged to have tea before dinner so we can all sort out where we stand.”

Val’s confusion changed to pleasant surprise. “So you two really did talk things through.” Varian couldn’t help his chuckle at the astonishment in her tone. “Don’t say it like it’s the biggest shock of your life. Yes, we did, and I think everything will be better for it. Now, I’ll run the bath, you stay here and relax for a bit.” Val put her hands on her hips.

“And just why would I want to do that?” Varian was laughing again, she could hear it from the washroom. “Because you’ll start feeling the past three hours like a hammer to the head soon enough, believe me.” She didn’t know how to feel about being in his chambers again, it was a mixed bag of oats. On one hand, she absolutely loved that they were friends again and could enjoy the luxury and privacy of the room, but they had done so much in here it left a sour taste of longing in her mouth.

They had their ‘first time’ in this room, she was looking at the damn bed with the luxurious wolf furs she had been laying on when she had given herself to him, it was a strange feeling of deja vu. “Val, you alright?” She turned to Varian, who was suddenly right behind her, blinking a few times to bring herself back to Azeroth. “Hm? Oh, yes, I’m fine…just thinking again.” She really wished he’d stop running his palms along her shoulders, it was only making things worse.

“Think about what?” He looked over, realised himself what she was going to say and his chest heaved with a sigh. “We can go to the guest chambers if you want?” Val shook her head, smiling despite her feelings. “No, I have to man up a little bit. The past is gone Varian, we can just look back on it fondly.” Varian drew her in, putting his chin on her head.

“I miss just being able to be ourselves.” Val closed her eyes and against her better judgement snuggled into his chest, feeling his arms tighten. “We still can be, just as we were before all that.” Varian sighed, feeling his mouth go dry as he resisted kissing her head.

“I can’t remember when I wasn’t in love with you.” Val patted his chest reassuringly. “Neither can I, don’t worry. But we have to for the sake of our sanity.” Varian pulled back before he did something neither of them would regret, gesturing to the washroom. “Bath’s ready when you are.” Val kissed his cheek, and to the day she dropped dead she would never be able to explain how she managed to turn one little peck into multiple soft kisses down his jaw, only realising what was happening when one arm roughly pulled her to him again and his nose was rubbing against hers with the intent on kissing her, but there was such a torn look in his eyes that Val couldn’t help the lump in her throat.

“Varian? Did you send for me?” Val hugged herself as Varian reluctantly let her go and opened the door, ushering Tiffin in, who looked at the both of them and couldn’t help her giggle. “I’m sorry, was I interrupting?” Varian glared at her, but Val couldn’t help her own laugh. “I never thought I’d hear you say that so nonchalantly.” Tiffin sat on the edge of the bed as Varian took his boots off, flinging them by his free standing mirror. “To be honest with you, I never did either. Yet here we are.” Varian stretched his back out, hearing a few pops.

“I take it you already know Val and Lucian are joining us and Father for dinner?” Tiffin nodded, pursing her lips. “I do, and I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea.” Varian huffed, moving the armchair so Val could face the two of them when she sat down. “It’s not. Father will just sit there and talk about a past he had a hand in ruining and it’ll be so awkward one of us will want to kill ourselves.” Tiffin shook her head, crossing one leg over the other. “No, I meant because you will do something Varian.” Varian looked offended whilst Val was inclined to agree.

“She’s right Varian…tonight’s the chance for you to get back on track with Uncle Llane, please don’t ruin it.” Varian’s jaw tightened and Val readied herself for a tirade. “Why should I?! Look what he’s done to all three of us Val!” Tiffin bit back before Val could, standing and putting her hands on her hips. “Varian Wrynn don’t be such an ungrateful arsehat!” Val had to admit, she was not expecting such a ‘delicate flower’ like Tiffin to curse, let alone chide a prince.

“Valerica doesn’t have her Father anymore to have dinner with, and mine is so far disconnected from me he actually called me by my sister’s name the other day! King Llane loves you despite this betrothal, so please Varian, stop this childish behaviour!” Val stood with her, never dreaming in a million years that she’d be arguing against Varian with Tiffin. “Varian, she’s right. He’s all you have now, do you really want to spend the rest of your life resenting him for something he could never have foreseen?”

She sat next to the clearly embattled prince, putting her hand on his shoulder. “I’m here, we’re getting on, we all know each other’s thoughts on the matter…what else is there to seethe over?” Varian ran both hands through his hair, sighing deeply and looking at the both of them. “Never in my life did I think I would have the two of you ganging up on me."

He held out a hand and Tiffin took it, connecting the three of them. “But if it will stop you two nagging me for the rest of time, I’ll….I’ll try. That’s all I can promise.” Val gave him a squeeze and Tiffin took her hand away, sitting on his other side. “That’s what we like to hear!” Varian put each of them under one arm, scaring himself with how chummy they all were suddenly. “But don’t expect miracles today, I’ll speak to him and that’s it.” He kissed Val’s cheek, pushing her up. “Go on, have your bath so I can get mine over with.” Val obeyed with a grin, waving to them both as she closed the door to the washroom.

Tiffin was staring at him and he was acutely aware as to why. “Before you ask, no we didn’t.” Tiffin looked strange to him when her face was full of sympathy. For the past two years all he’d seen of her was the perfect princess, the epitome of grace and poise…then last night they had shared what was probably their first candid conversation and he had enjoyed every second.

They had laid everything out clearly, voiced their views on their situations and actually realised they agreed on most things…and he had told her he still loved Val. He had no idea why he did it considering she was still to be his wife whether they liked it or not, but surprisingly she had taken it better than he ever dreamed her doing.

“You kissed though, I can tell. Varian, this isn’t fair on either of you.” Varian flopped back onto his bed, running both hands over his face. “I know that, but it’s so damn difficult trying to resist someone who was completely mine for all those years.” Tiffin’s fingers were obscenely soft compared to Val’s, but felt just as tiny as they ran through his hair. “I can always get a bugle and blast it in your ear whenever you look to be tempted.” He actually laughed at that one, linking his fingers on his stomach and trying to forget that Val was in his washroom.

“Please don’t, my hearing’s fucked as it is.” it was no secret that Varian was going half deaf in his left ear; once again, the Orcs of the Black Morass had seen to that, so he had a number of lifelong infirmities to thank the creatures for. That time they hadn’t taken a priest with them so it had been left too long to be healed, meaning it would only probably get worse as he got older, which was always fun to look forward to.

“I feel like I’ve woken up in a parallel dimension…if someone had told me that in the space of two days Val would be back in my life, we’d be talking civilly and I’d be preparing to forgive my Father I would’ve laughed straight at them.” Tiffin made a noise of agreement, watching him get up and start choosing what he was wearing for the occasion.

Wyll had been given his leave today in order to spend his anniversary with his wife Elsie at Varian’s insistence since he admired the couple for being married nearly fifty years already, so hadn’t hesitated to let him celebrate the event. So it was up to the prince to get himself ready, which he was absolutely fine with. “But doesn’t it feel better-having things this way?”

Varian threw a clean shirt on the bed, smiling at her. “Immensely. But then in other ways, it makes it slightly worse, so I suppose once we all find that balance, everything will fall into place.” He held up two doublets and Tiffin pointed to the blue one. “Exactly. We’ll get there, in the end, Varian, it’s only been a day.”

Varian pulled his boots from under the bed, finding the rag that Wyll always used to polish them and sitting on his bed, slipping one over his arm and scrubbing dried mud from the toe. “How was she when you told her about the wedding being in two months?” Tiffin bit her bottom lip. “How did you really expect her to be? Of course, she smiled to my face and told me that was fantastic, but her eyes told another story. She’s hurting Varian, and it’s not fair on one so young.” Varian put his boot down, sighing and putting his elbows on his knees.

“I’m ruining her life by bringing her back into mine, aren’t I?” Tiffin patted his back, shaking her head, much to his surprise. “Not at all. She enjoys just being around you Varian, she told me herself. She’s a big girl, if she felt like this was the wrong decision she’d say something.” Varian scoffed, picking up the other boot. “You clearly don’t know her that well then. Light above, she is the most stubborn, pig-headed woman I’ve ever met in my life, it’s frustrating as all hells.”

Tiffin started laughing, as she wandered over to the window, happy to see it snowing once again. “Oh well, who does that sound like then? Maybe you two are a perfect match after all.” Varian chuckled, getting up and grimacing as a few things popped where he hadn’t bathed straight after training like he always did. “I feel like you’re talking about me somehow.” He stood next to her and glared at the white flakes as if they’d personally offended him.

“Great, just what we need, more fucking snow.” Tiffin opened the window and went out onto the balcony, having to laugh at how angry he was about the weather. “And just what is wrong with a bit of snow Varian?” He folded his arms, leaning against the window frame of the open pane, not really wanting to add ‘freezing cold’ to his list of problems right now.

“It if sticks and stays for a couple of days, riding is going to become the biggest pain in my backside that I can think of.” Tiffin looked over the balcony, waving down to those who noticed her. “Oh you’ll be fine, Vigilance can handle a bit of snow.” She looked thoughtful, turning to him with a mischievous look on her face. “Does Valerica like snow?” Varian grimaced, looking to his washroom and wondering why she was taking so long.

“Please don’t call her ‘Valerica’. I think there are only about three people that do that nowadays. Just call her Val and be done with it.” He sighed, feeling awful for not being completely sure about his answer. “Yes, she does. Why?” Tiffin looked strangely whimsical. “I’m just thinking whilst you’re gone we can go for walks in the snow together.” Varian didn’t look so sure. “She probably won’t have time. She’ll be working for most of the day I should think.”

Tiffin’s smile dropped, but not enough to tell Varian she wasn’t happy. “Thank you for finally telling me why you’re going. It was awful, knowing you didn’t trust me that much.” Varian gave her a small smile of his own. “In fairness, I don’t trust that many people after my father’s bombshell. I only told Val since she’s technically involved in the war effort.” Tiffin didn’t mean to look so shocked but knew she did anyway. “It’s been declared a war now?” Varian shook his head.

“Not officially, but it’s only a matter of time.” Tiffin’s brows knitted together. “You don’t think that Garona will be at dinner, do you?” Varian’s face turned stony. “I certainly hope not, or everything I’ve just said about giving my father another chance will disappear in a cloud of anger. Why he seeks counsel from that she-demon I can’t fathom for the life of me.”

Tiffin made a nervous sound of agreement. “Every time I see her I have this shiver go up my spine.” Varian met her gaze and held it. “I don’t want you going anywhere near her alone. It’s either with me or nothing.” Tiffin nudged his stomach, starting to smile again. “It almost sounds like you’re concerned for my welfare.” His eyebrow quirked. “Or maybe I just have no faith in your ability to defend yourself.” He was grinning as he said it, turning it into a laugh when she swatted his shoulder.

“Light, I’ve missed taking baths in ther- it’s snowing?!” forgetting she was only wearing Varian’s robe since it had been the only item of clothing in there, Val ran onto the balcony, alarming the prince instantly. “Val, you’ll catch your damn death you idiot, get inside!” She waved an arm of dismissal even though he wasn’t wrong; her wet hair had already begun to send chills down her skin and her bare feet were probably frostbitten already.

“But it’s snowing! I love snow and you know I do!” Varian bent down, giving Tiffin an amused grin. “I don’t care, I won’t leave you sick, now get inside!” Tiffin’s laugh was as loud as Val’s yelp as Varian slung her over his shoulder and strode back into his chambers, with all three of them forgetting that a number of people had probably just seen the escapade. “You can play in the snow once you’re dried and dressed!” He unceremoniously plonked her on his bed and Tiffin only laughed harder at how much of a petulant child she looked.

“Would it be alright if we both got ready in here Varian?” Varian gave the blonde a smile. “Perfectly so. I’ll get some tea and ale sent up.” Val started chewing her bottom lip. “Can I have a hot chocolate, please? I haven’t had Bessie’s special one in ages.” Tiffin looked confused as she guided Val to the stool in front of the fire. “Bessie has a special hot chocolate?” Varian chuckled, pulling a braided rope by the door that signalled to the servants that he required them.

“That’s what she used to call it when we were children and couldn’t have any. The name stuck as we got older, but there’s nothing really that special about it.” Val started towelling her hair, enjoying the warmth from the hearth. “She puts mint liqueur in it.” Tiffin made a face of realization. “Ah, so obviously since it was boozy, you two couldn’t have it.” Varian tried not to look guilty as he opened the door and gave the boy standing there a list of what they wanted, seeing him off just as quickly.

“Well, …we weren’t supposed to. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t snatch a few sips when her back was turned.” Val snickered, debating whether to have curls or not tonight. “ ‘We’, he says. It was all him.” Tiffin hid her mouth behind her hand as she too started laughing, especially at Varian’s dirty look. “Why do I believe that?” Now it was her turn to receive a glare. “Oh trust me, she was no angel when we were small. There’s a reason I called her my mischievous little pixie.”

Val tried not to notice the pang in her chest at the name he hadn’t used for her in years and only just managed it as she swivelled to face him. “I never claimed to be one. But you were always the worst out of us two.” Varian flicked her shoulder as he went past, getting her a comb since she clearly needed one. “You are such a liar.” She stuck her tongue out at him, knowing that playful tiffs like this normally ended with a kiss, so not really wanting to carry it on, and apparently Tiffin could sense it since she swept over to Varian’s closet, disappearing for a few seconds and poking her head out.

“What colour would you like to wear tonight Val?” Varian answered before she could, but he wasn’t rude about it, if anything she could see his eyes soften. “Blue. She’s always suited blue.” He chuckled lightly, speaking before he could even think about his words. “Bessie always said she was trying to match my eyes.” Val fought every bone in her arm as it tried to reach out and take his hand. “Well she wasn’t wrong Varian, I’ve always loved them and you know that.” Once again, Tiffin diffused the ‘tension’ before it could get out of hand, which for once Val was grateful for.

“So a blue dress…hm, let me see.” She ducked back in, letting Varian open the door and accept their drinks, waving the boy away as he tried to enter with them, which the prince knew looked highly suspicious but he didn’t really care. He gave Val hers and she had to laugh at the chain of events that had taken place in the last hour or so.

Varian sat across from her and took a sip of his coffee, intrigued by her sudden good humour but knowing he needed to address something to soothe his own soul. “Val..about earlier.” She shook her head, wiping cream from the corners of her lips. “It’s best we forget it.” Varian wasn’t taking that for an answer. “Just tell me you enjoyed it and didn’t feel pressured, and I’ll leave it alone.” Val put her mug on her lap and gave him a small smile.

“I did. You could never pressure me, Varian, you know that.” Her smile turned to remorse. “But it can’t happen again.” Varian looked like he reluctantly agreed. “We’ll let that one be since we’re still adjusting, but from now on we have to respect each other enough to not indulge.” He chuckled, taking another long drink. “This will be a test of both our wills. But if it keeps you in my life, I’m willing to try.”

Val had that impish smile he loved so much and he knew she was about to ask him something inappropriate, so his smirk appeared before he could stop it. “What are you thinking about you pixie?” She looked him straight in the eye, swirling her hot chocolate. “Say we weren’t doing the whole ‘friends’ plan…would you have taken me just now?” Varian narrowed his eyes but kept his smile.

“You’re just doing this to torture me, aren’t you?” Nevertheless, he leant back in his seat and drummed the arm with his free hand. “Yes, of course, I would have had you. I would’ve done all the things I have before but with the desperation of a starving man finding a loaf of bread. There, feel better?” They shared a laugh at the mere thought, confident that the two of them were going to be alright with their arrangement the more candid they stayed with each other. “I do.”

“Alright Val, I found this one, it’s the simplest out of the lot…I want to keep the ornate one for New Year. Varian, you need to have your bath.” Tiffin slumped, clearly guessing what they had been talking about. “Oh Light, I interrupted again didn’t I?” Varian put his empty mug down and took his shirt off, throwing it to the floor as he obeyed the blonde, laughing all the while.

“You seem to have a knack for that.” Val got up too, taking the dress from Tiffin and letting her unfold the screen all chambers had to give her a bit of privacy while she got dressed. “I’m starting to think that will become an asset in the coming days.” Tiffin whined like a child, grimacing at the smell of Varian’s shirt when she picked it up to put in the basket for the laundress. “Oh, don’t say that, I feel awful now.” Varian's sharp bark of laughter echoed from the washroom since he’d kept the door open so they could all talk.

“Why? You’re only saving us from ourselves.” Val let Tiffin do the ribbons at the back of her blue silk gown, holding her hair up so it didn’t get caught. “So…how many servants do you reckon think we’re all in a relationship now we’re friends?” Tiffin blanched, hoping she was jesting. “Oh come now, they wouldn’t jump from thinking we hate each other to assuming a polyamorous arrangement is taking place…would they?”

Varian leant back, letting the steam fill his lungs as he finally soaked his aching muscles. “There’s absolutely no telling with our court, Tiffin; a word of advice I hope you take to your grave; nobody is your friend here if you pay them. They’ll stab you in the back quicker than you can ever think possible given the chance.” Tiffin steered Val down to the fire again, sitting her on a stool and opening drawer after drawer until she found Varian's brush.

She started sweeping it through a protesting Val’s hair, ignoring every single one of them and running her thin fingers through the chocolate brown corkscrew curls. “You have such lovely hair Val. That must be the Stranglethornian in you.” Val played with the ends, staring into the fire. “It’s just a shame my mother was the Stranglethornian.” Tiffin looked genuinely sorry for her.

“It must be hard with just you and your brother.” Val wouldn’t lie, she saw no reason to. “It has been, but we’re muddling through, we always do.” Tiffin knew Varian was listening but thought it prudent to know a little more about the woman he was clearly in love with. She had a distinct feeling that the plan they had of ‘staying friends’ wouldn’t last long, and was mentally preparing herself for the conversation they would inevitably be having at some point.

But strangely, she was alright with it. She had known love before the betrothal was announced, a boy from Westfall who did the same for her as Val did for Varian; given her a taste of what normality was like, and she had become as addicted to it as the prince had, but she lacked the strength Varian did when it came to holding onto that love.

She had let that boy go when Varian had done all he could to cling to what was his; day after day from the minute the betrothal had been announced she had watched him seethe and wear himself down over the fact that Val wasn’t speaking to him, feeling so guilty considering Varian blamed Tiffin for it when really it was out of their control.

Their talk yesterday had cleared the air and made her so much more confident for the future. Varian had sat across from her, looked her in the eye and told her that he knew the trials that had been thrown at the both of them was no one’s fault, and actually apologized for his brutish behaviour towards her. So to have him actually having a pleasant conversation with her now was still a little surreal, but an enlightening experience.

“Do you think you’ll stay a smithy?” Val’s brow furrowed as she thought about it. “I’m not sure. It seems to be the only thing I’m good at, but I suppose I would like to branch out and try something new.” Varian answered before Tiffin could with a hint of sarcasm. “I did suggest to someone that maybe the Stormwind Navy would suit her but all I got was backchat.” Val narrowed her eyes, letting Tiffin pin the top layer of her curls back.

“Varian, the past four hours have just proved how much I can’t use a sword!” She lowered her tone so she didn’t blow Tiffin’s eardrums. “I’m definitely better at making the damn things.” Tiffin found the whole exchange rather amusing and finished weaving the tight curls and pinning them together. “At least you can lift them, my arms hurt just looking at Shalamayne.” Val made a noise of agreement, smoothing her silk and forgetting how luxurious wearing a dress like this was until she realised she was sitting here having a princess-to-be get her ready for dinner with the King.

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She felt like every single pair of eyes were on them as Tiffin took her arm and the three of them made the journey from Varian’s chambers to the dining hall, with the prince walking behind the two women and glaring at absolutely everyone who was caught staring. “Varian, stop growling.” He huffed, shifting his shoulders so his brown leather doublet sat better. “I’m not growling.” Val glanced back, trying not to laugh at his stone hard face.

“You look like you’ve just been told there’s no cake left in the world. At least try and smile.” He pulled his lips from his teeth in an absurd parody of one, making her laugh even more, which in turn threatened to break his own bad mood. He sighed, running a bracer covered hand down his face. “I just wish they’d mind their own business.” Now it was Tiffin’s turn to look sternly at him. “It’s going to happen more and more if Val is to keep coming here Varian, so you’ll have to learn to live with it I’m afraid.” Varian merely grunted, making Val sigh at the same time Tiffin did.

Lucian was waiting in the main hall for them, looking surprisingly trussed up with an old tailcoat and his long hair pulled back into a neat ponytail instead of just in the messy bun he normally had in. Though what Val noticed was his slightly annoyed look as she hugged him. “I don’t remember saying you could have the day off today Little Bird.” Val looked genuinely apologetic as she held his shoulders. “It was for the greater good brother, I promise.” Lucian carried his steely gaze on for a few seconds before dramatically rolling his eyes. “I swear, one of these days…”

Varian shook Lucian’s hand and of course, the smith showed respect to Tiffin, with the quartet carrying on down a side corridor to the main dining hall, where they had been told the King was already waiting for them. “Any idea what you’re going to say to him, Varian?” Lucian quirked an eyebrow at his old friend, clearly surprised by his sister’s question. “I thought you weren’t talking to him?” Varian gave the blonde a look of disdain.

“I wasn’t, but these two conspired against me and made me promise to at least try with him tonight.” Tiffin pointed a chiding finger at the brunette. “That’s not what happened at all, don’t exaggerate. You said you wanted to fix things with him!” Varian looked as though she’d suggested that he wanted to take a troll to bed. “What?! I said no such damn thing!”

Now it was Val’s turn to look incredulous at him. “You are the worst kind of liar Varian.” Varian’s angry rantings at the pair were cut off as the door opened and they were all introduced to Llane, and Val had to admit that Varian hadn’t prepared her for how tired and…old he would be looking.

She knew he was well into his forties by this point, but he had bags under his eyes to rival any worker, and even his blue eyes were exhausted, and she had a vague idea as to why. His brown hair was tied back when she had only known it to be short and tidy, but she supposed after Taria fell ill he saw no reason for personal grooming in that respect.

The bushiness of his beard told her he had neglecting himself for a long while, and though Varian had told her that Wrynn men had a tendency to grey prematurely, she wasn’t ready for the large streak running down his head. He came forward as they showed him his due respect with low bows and a curtsy from Tiffin (Val had never been good at it so she stuck with a bow), beckoning them to rise. “I’m pleasantly surprised that all four of you came, but I shan’t squander it.” He held Val’s shoulders, looking like a proud uncle as he looked her up and down.

“Valerica, I have to start with my deepest apologies.” She shook her head, really noticing the lines on his face now he was this close. “There’s none needed Your Majesty. I’m at peace with the situation, so have no use for apologies.” Llane’s thick brows drew together. “There was a time you called me Uncle. I’d like that to be the norm again if possible?” Tiffin ended up elbowing Varian as he huffed, but thankfully Llane didn’t notice, or if he did he was good at hiding it.

Val gave the older man a warm smile, not seeing the point of holding on to past grudges anymore when really it was just exhausting them all. “If you so wish Uncle. It’s good to see you.” Llane cupped her chin, having forgotten just how much she looked like her father and missing Lokir more than he already did. Had the pirate been here and seen the situation, he would’ve given Llane a more direct route of counsel than anyone had given him in the days past.

“It’s good to see you too my dear, I hope to do it more in the days to come.” He kissed Tiffin’s hand, clasping Lucian’s arm and patting his other shoulder. “The head of the family. It makes an old man happy to see you stepping up Lucian, your father would be proud beyond belief.” Lucian gave him a lopsided grin, feeling as jarred as his sister did at how beaten down Llane looked. “I’m afraid I’m not doing that fantastic a job uncle. Turns out Father was better at struggling than I am.”

Llane gestured to the table under the assumption that Varian had no desire to greet him. “Then sit, and we’ll discuss what I called you both here for.” Three of them obeyed but Varian hung back, catching his father’s attention. “Varian, do you not wish to join us?” Varian caught Val’s eye, who silently begged him to do the right thing, and sighed heavily, putting his hands behind his back.

“Father, I…I wish to settle our differences once and for all.” Llane looked astonished at the fact but looked at the two women that were pleading imploringly at the prince and realised that they had obviously had a hand in this. But nevertheless, his son was speaking to him, that was a miracle of the Light by itself after two years of harsh resentment from the boy, so he would accept this wholeheartedly. “I see. May we sit down to do that? I fear my old bones won’t keep me upright for long.”

Varian nodded, taking the seat at the opposite end of the rather small table (for royal chambers at least), with Val on one side, Tiffin on the other and Lucian next to his sister. “We’re waiting on Anduin and Khadgar, then we may begin on the real reason for this dinner.” Llane looked his son in the eye. “But I think the need to resolve what has taken place surpasses everything at this particular moment. Go ahead my son, speak your mind candidly to me.”

Varian took a deep breath, putting his palms flat on the table. “First and foremost….I don’t forgive you for the betrothal.” Val’s eyes widened and Tiffin put her face in her hands, regretting ever suggesting this already. Varian’s fist curled and Val watched as Llane sat quietly, probably just grateful that his son finally felt he could speak to him. “I don’t forgive you for it at all. Three people at this table have been hurt and scorned by your actions when I was but a damn infant.”

Varian’s anger melted from his face. “But….you’re still my Father. I can’t go our whole lives openly punishing you for something that can’t be changed.” Llane rested his elbows on the table, linking his fingers. “I’m glad you came to the same conclusion I have son. I don’t expect you to forgive me.” He looked at all four faces, finishing back at his son. “I don’t expect any of you to be content with the situation as it is, but as I have told Varian, I cannot change what has transpired as much as I can’t change the stars in the sky.”

Tiffin cleared her throat and folded her hands, treading lightly despite the level of agreements that were taking place. “We have already taken the first steps to reconciliation with the idea, it will just need time to settle into our new roles.” Varian took Val’s hand and held it tight enough so that she couldn’t wrench it away despite how much she wanted to. “Varian…” Varian’s face was stony as he continued to stare at his Father.

“There’s no love between Tiffin and I Father, you have to understand that.” He squeezed Val’s hand as Llane nodded, which was good progress in their views. “I do. But a level of civility is all I ask between you two Varian.” The two in question looked at each other and shared the same content smile. “The past two days have been full of discussion about that very thing Your Majesty, and we like to think we’ve reached a consensus.” Lucian folded his arms and grinned at Varian.

“You can thank me whenever you want by the way.” Varian chuckled, especially at Llane’s raised eyebrow. “Lucian made communication between Val and I possible again.” Val huffed, taking the wine that Llane’s chamberlain gave her. “Against my will, if I may add.” Llane actually started laughing at that, A welcome sound to Varian’s ears since neither of them had shared so much as a smile for the past two years.

“Why is that not a surprise in the slightest? Do tell Lucian, how did you knock their heads together?” Lucian wiped the corners of his mouth and grinned at the King. “Well, it was actually quite well timed since she-” He jabbed a thumb at his little sister, who was already beetroot red. “-Was in the middle of telling me ‘I’m never talking to Varian again, he’s an arsehole blah blah blah!”

Val couldn’t help her mouth before she could kick her brain into gear. “Actually, I think I called him a Murloc licking cockwomble.” Varian and Llane showed how similar they were as they simultaneously spat their ales out and roared with laughter, and even Tiffin found herself giggling uncontrollably as Val put her burning face into her hands.

Varian pounded the table with a fist as if by some miracle it would calm him down, and thankfully he eventually managed it, wiping his eyes. “I feel like I should be offended but that’s so imaginative I can’t help but be impressed.” Tiffin had stop laughing alot sooner than the prince, steepling her fingers at the smith. “What exactly is a cockwomble Val?” Val shrugged, taking an apple from the fruit bowl in the middle of them all, handing it to Varian and grinning as he pulled it apart, giving her half and keeping the other.

“No idea, I just remember my Papa calling alot of people it when I was little.” Llane made a noise of disagreement. “No, no, I distinctly remember Lokir’s favourite insult being Gnoll shagging cuntfuck. I tell you, that crew of his gave him a plethora of curses I would never have dreamed existed. ” Varian’s laughter was muffled by the apple in his mouth as he fought not to choke to death, and miraculously he managed it. Llane gestured to Lucian with his goblet, looking amused and apologetic at the same time.

“Sorry lad, please, continue.” There were still titters of laughter as Lucian furrowed his brow as he tried to remember where he had been. “Ah! Yes, so she was bitching and moaning, then stormed off to go drink herself stupid.” He ruffled the top of Val’s hair, earning a glare from Tiffin for ruining how relatively neat it had been.

“So naturally, being the responsible big brother I am, I followed her, got her blind drunk and then let her get on with it when she bumped into him outside.” Llane was thoroughly enjoying having them all sitting together and getting on, Val could tell by the smile on his face. “The rest is pretty boring, to be honest Uncle.” Llane put his goblet down, wiping his beard.

“And what of Minnie? How is she nowadays?” Val was well aware that it had only been two years, but considering the king had known her Gramma since he was a young boy it made sense for him to be eager to catch up. Val let Lucian answer since she had discovered that she was thirstier than first thought and had a mouthful of wine.

“She’s her usual self, doing everything for everyone then moaning she’s doing too much.” Llane chuckled, staring into space. “Seeing her anytime soon?” Lucian nodded, helping himself to some grapes. “Tomorrow morning actually. I promised I’d go down to Bloodstone for two days.” He blanched, remembering why they were here. “Shit…I might have to cancel now though if you want me working then.” Llane shook his head, knowing this might have been a problem.

“No, go spend the occasion with your family, Light knows it’ll do you good to get a few days away. We’ll be fine until you get back.” Val put her hand on her older brother’s shoulder, leaning up and kissing his cheek. “I’ll be grand Luce, I won’t be the only smith there.” She turned to Llane to make sure. “Will I Uncle?” Llane shook his head, realising that Anduin and Khadgar were taking their sweet time and they had to get down to business quickly.

“No, I have smiths from across Elwynn to help, and Arthas has already arranged with me to send a few that they can spare from Stratholme. You’ll all be working at the forge here and we’ll hopefully have the numbers of how many weapons we need in a couple of days.” Varian could see the excitement on Val’s face already. “Your Majesty, wouldn’t you agree that until Lucian comes back, Val should stay here?” Even Varian looked at Tiffin as if she were mad at the suggestion; it had only been one day, and Val was already certain that they were the main topic of gossip, so why did she want to fuel the fire?

Llane was clearly thinking about it, that’s what made Val more nervous. “No, that won’t be necessary, if anything I’ll be glad of the peace and quiet.” Tiffin looked legitimately upset by this. “Are you sure? It’ll be so lonely in that shop by yourself.” Varian waved a hand of dismissal. “She’ll be fine Tiffin, stop fretting.” Lucian pointed a finger at Varian to tell him he was going to question him once his ale was swallowed.

“When do you leave again?” Varian didn’t really want to look at his Father’s worried face right now but had no choice. “Two days, so I’ll probably see you at some point tomorrow.” Llane leant back in his seat, clearly not happy that the only heir of Stormwind was going into the middle of a potentially fatal situation. “We have soldiers Varian, the prince has no need to endanger himself.” Varian shook his head defiantly, knowing deep in his heart his Father knew why he was going.

“I won’t rest easy knowing my people aren’t safe and I’m tucked up inside these walls. I’ll find more personal clarity actually getting out there and doing something useful.” Llane’s concern broke into a warm smile. “You definitely got your mother’s strength, my son. I suppose all I can do is wish you luck and thank the Light we reconciled beforehand.” Varian raised his goblet in a quick toast to his father. “Now that I will drink to.”

“Sir Anduin Lothar and Master Khadgar Your Majesty.” They all rose, showing the appropriate respect to a decorated Knight of Stormwind; although he was starting to get on in years, Anduin Lothar still stood a head above even Varian and held himself true to his standing in the kingdom. Khadgar, on the other hand, was the complete opposite; a young man in his twenties with jet black hair and the sparkle of curiosity and mischief in his eyes made him look worlds away from the military stance of Lothar.

Lothar and Llane embraced and Lothar swivelled around, looking visibly impressed at the attendance at the table as he sat down. “I didn’t expect to see you here Varian. Finally realised what a spoilt little shit you were being?” Varian’s jaw tensed and Val was convinced a fight was about to break out, but soon the two shared a tight smile.

Since Varian was technically below Lothar in terms of military rank, Anduin had made it clear from the start that was how he was treating him, which in fairness, was all Varian wanted, to be treated like a normal soldier, so it didn’t insult him at all.

“No, once again it took the silver tongue of a woman to win me round.” Lothar’s laugh was sharp as he took a swig of the ale he was given and Khadgar took the seat next to Lucian, still smiling despite the subject of the dinner. “You always did think with your cock.” Llane gave his old friend a disapproving look. “Anduin, please. His father doesn’t need to hear that.”Khadgar leant forward, thanking the chamberlain for his drink and bouncing in his seat.

“So then, what have we missed?” Val couldn’t help but share the mage’s continuous energy. “We were actually just talking about our next move.” Lothar slammed his tankard down, pointing an accusatory finger at Llane. “I still think you’ve gone soft in the head for wanting to involve Medivh. This is war, not a fairy story, the best plan is to storm that damn portal and take them out in one fell swoop.”

Llane pinched the bridge of his nose, sick to death of hearing the same argument. “And lose half of our army? Giving them just cause to annihilate us? Anduin, I’m sick to death of having this argument, Khadgar will be going to Karazhan with Garona tomorrow and not coming back until he finds out who opened that portal and what we’re dealing with. You will be accompanying Varian on his rescue of our civilians.” Varian was the one to clench his teeth now. “Father, I really don’t like how much you’re involving that Orc.”

Llane looked like all he wanted to do is sigh. “Varian, Garona has proved a valuable asset during this whole thing.” Varian was trying hard not to argue with him straight after telling him he wanted to reconcile. “So she can collect information to stab us in the back with. Mark my words Father, she’s going to prove her disloyalty sooner than you think if you keep involving her. I don’t like it one bit.” Llane rubbed his temple, letting his first course be put down in front of him as they all gradually received their soups.

“Duly noted my son.” Khadgar shifted in his seat, noticing the tension. “I’m sure between us Medivh and I will find some answers as to how that portal opened.” Val blew on her spoon and took a mouthful, letting the creamy potato and tarragon warm her throat. “How long exactly has it been open?” Lothar huffed, taking another long swig of his ale. “Too long my girl, too long.” Varian squeezed her hand again. “About four and a half years, but this is the first time an army came through.” Tiffin looked like she was about to cry.

“So we’re at war then?” Llane looked apprehensive about making it ‘official' at the dinner table, but nodded nevertheless. “Aye my girl, we are. So we all have to do our part.” He looked at the five youthful faces focused on his, then at himself and Anduin, feeling sorrow flood his heart for their future now this threat was getting bigger. “Now then, shall we make sure we all know what we’re doing?”

Their meal had been finished a good while by the time Lucian and Val left the Keep, with laughter ringing down the corridor from the open door of the dining hall. Lothar clapped both hands together, eagerly telling a story of his youth with Llane whether they had heard it already or not. He was almost finished when Varian noticed Val yawn into the back of her hand and put a hand on he shoulder. “Tired Sweetheart?” She frowned at his use of the pet name again, taking his hand away and nodding groggily.

“It’s been a very strange few days.” Llane must have felt the same way since he stood, prompting them all to follow. “Now then, we are all informed on the next steps of our efforts against the Orcs. Varian, take tomorrow to pack and ready yourself for your journey. Valerica, Lucian, go and get some sleep, I expect you here at seven tomorrow my dear, no later.” Val and Lucian bowed, grateful for the permission to go home and get their heads around what was happening.

It was daunting to the both of them to think they would be working with smiths that had been doing this for decades compared to them but had to trust Llane’s judgement and just do what they could. Varian leant against the wall outside the Keep, giving her one last hug before she dropped where she stood. “Well then, I’ll see you tomorrow hopefully.” She patted his arm, smiling weakly. “To say goodbye.” Varian ran his knuckles down her cheek, forgetting himself for a brief moment.

“It won’t be for long. We can have some fun beforehand.” She knew he meant the New Year ball, which was taking place tomorrow night. “Of course we can, we always do. I’ll see you tomorrow Varian.” Varian waved her off, letting Lucian loop their arms and lead her away from the Keep to their humble abode. “How are you getting to Booty Bay?” Lucian smiled down at her, intent on getting home and to bed as soon as possible. “I managed to persuade Ruby’s sister to make me a portal there, that’s why I left it till New Year's Eve this year.” Val chuckled, still having a million thoughts running through her head.

“I suppose it pays a boon to be courting the sister of a mage.” He made a noise of agreement, running his spare hand over the wall of the bridge that led to Cathedral Square. “I’m just lucky someone’s courting me at all…I was starting to think I didn’t have time for it.” Val leant against him, feeling guilty for his exhaustion to a certain extent.

“You don’t have to stay in Stormwind because of me Luce. Technically, the Black Rose is yours, you can go anywhere you like.” Lucian shook his head the minute she opened her mouth, not having enough energy to start this argument again. “No, I’m not going anywhere Little Bird. Stormwind’s my home, it always has been.” He nudged her with his shoulder, looking up at the Cathedral of Light with fondness. “I couldn’t leave you if I tried. We’re all that’s left of our family Val, I’m not making it even smaller.”

They got the shop and Lucian waved her upstairs, locking up and making sure everything was ready for them to come back once this job was done. “Have you packed?” Lucian chuckled as he finally ascended the stairs, running a hand down his face. “Of course I have, what do you take me for?” Val leant against her door, undoing her hair and running her fingers through it. “Then if I don’t see you, tell Gramma I said hello and sorry.” Lucian kissed her forehead, closing her door for her as she finally went in, taking her dress off and letting out a groan of contentment as her pillow folded over her head and her eyes closed.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author. 

 

Lucian was already gone by the time she left the shop at about half-past six, and she couldn’t help but damn Llane for making her get up this early as she trudged through the doors of the Keep, not really expecting to see Varian yet since Bolvar had told him he could have a day off from training today, so she just turned straight to the corridor leading to the forge, where she could already hear a mix of different voices, thankfully some of them were females so at least she wouldn’t be the only woman there.

 

She put her satchel down on the free anvil, claiming it as hers, and heard a loud ‘come ere lass, sit for a while!” She vaguely recognised the owner of the gruff voice, a tall man with a black bushy beard and round face, he was the blacksmith of Goldshire, she had met him a couple of times. He patted her arm as she came to join the rabble, which mostly consisted of tall, well-built men with a few stocky women, waving a small hello as she felt her anxiety creeping up on her as she sat down.

 

Most of them looked older than her by a considerable amount, and she couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated. “You don’t remember me, do you, my girl? I don’t expect you to really, I haven’t seen you for years.” Val shook her head, but probably not for the reasons he thought.

 

“No, I remember you perfectly. Granthil, wasn’t it?” He held out a beefy hand and enveloped hers with it, shaking it firmly. “Aye Lass, but it’s easier to just call me Grant.” The woman sat next to him, a stout blonde with sharp features scoffed, punching his knee.

 

“Or just say ‘oi bastard’! That’s what I do.” There was a wave of laughter, with Granthil pointing to the speaker. “This would be my darling wife Annette. Ignore everything she says, I do.” Val could feel the creeping nervousness that had been making it’s way up her spine ebb at how casual they were, and eventually she was introduced to everyone; besides Granthil and Annette there was Richard from Northshire and his son Bobby, and finally Chantelle and her Sister Ruth from Stratholme.

 

Richard was old for a smith, and Val had to wonder if his crinkled, skinny arms were still capable of holding a hammer and manage to swing it, but Bobby, who was thankfully the same height as her and not a giant like most men she knew, insisted that he still had it in him. Val had to wonder whether Richard’s wispy white hair had once been the same shade of copper that Bobby proudly had tied low on his head, but didn’t feel quite comfortable enough to ask yet.

 

The Stratholme sisters were both black haired with freckles dotting along their nose, making Val feel a bit stupid for not realising when Chantelle pointed out that they were twins since it was obvious once you knew. Even down to the same stocky body type as Annette, making her wonder if that’s how she really looked to other people.

 

If she did, it made the fact that Varian found her attractive more confusing since, and Ruth even admitted this as they sat there and talked with pints of ale in their hands, that they looked more akin to dwarves, and Varian had made it clear on many occasions that as much as he enjoyed Dwarven company, he felt nothing romantic towards them.

 

“So, how long have you been smithing?” Val felt rather foolish, looking down and saying “six years” as quietly as she could. She was expecting to be teased for it by these obvious veterans but felt pleasantly surprised when she got smiles of encouragement. “That’s nothing to sneeze at, we all started somewhere. Who taught you?” Chantelle’s question was answered by Granthil before Val could even open her mouth, with a loud guffaw and a smile that made his cheeks rounder than they already were.

 

“Her Father had been doing it for bloody decades when I met ‘im, so I bloody hope it was him!” Val chuckled, putting her tankard down on the floor between her feet. “He was, taught me absolutely everything I know before he died, and then my brother took over afterwards.”

 

Annette’s thin eyebrows drew down. “Where is that brother of yours? Surely Llane told him he was needed as well?” Val leant back on the crate she was sitting on, putting her weight on her hands. “He’s gone to Bloodstone for New Year. I would’ve gone as well but I promised someone I’d come here instead.” Bobby’s smirk made him look like he was a troublemaker already.

 

“Was that Prince Varian by any chance?” Oh Light, here we go. Val took a deep breath, feeling her cheeks get hot. “Does it matter if it was?” Richard swatted his son’s shoulder, clearly sensing Val’s discomfort. “Mind your own business my boy.” Val shook her head despite herself.

 

“No, it’s fine…I have been friends with Prince Varian for years, since we were children. But that doesn’t mean he’s treated me better than anyone else in Stormwind.” Granthil’s dark eyes brimmed with nostalgia. “I remember coming to see your Father and finding you two scamps sitting on the floor with toy soldiers and horses…seems a lifetime ago now.”

 

He looked curiously at Val, who was regretting ever saying anything since it made her the centre of attention, and once again her breath was starting to catch and her eyes couldn’t focus on one face at one time. “Last I heard, you two were engaged to be married!” Val shook her head harshly this time, feeling her palms become moist.

 

“No! No, he’s engaged to Lady Ellerian. We’re not anything past friends…” Annette could probably sense that she was starting to panic and stood, holding Val’s shoulders firmly but smiling down at her, making the lines on her face look deeper, especially with such short hair, they really stood out. “How about we quit the gabbin’ and start working eh? Otherwise, we’ll never get this work order done, and in forty years I’ve never missed a deadline, I don’t plan to now.”

 

Her sharp, Gilnean accent whipped everybody from the subject of Val and back to the task at hand, and Val herself gave Annette an appreciative nod as she went to her satchel, pulling her apron, gloves and goggles out, putting her tool-belt across the stool next to it. Granthil put his large hands on his hips. “Right then, we’ll rotate the smelter to make sure we don’t pass out, and then we’ll decide who’s doing what.” Chantelle raised her hand since she knew the Goldshire native was older than her and it was the most respectful way to get his attention.

 

“Ruth and I are on Great-swords, it’s what we specialize in.” Bobby made a noise of agreement. “We’ll do shields and spears.” Granthil looked impressed as Val folded her arms. “Lucian and I already discussed that we’d do the smaller blades.” The dark haired man clapped her shoulder, looking proud already. “Then you’re with Annette and I today then my girl since we’re doing the same thing.”

 

Richard offered to do smelting first, and strode over to the large forge, pulling a chain and watching the flames roar to life. “I’m surprised there’s not a Fletcher here. Archers will be needed if we’re going to a battlefield.” Val shrugged, wondering that herself now she thought about it. Asher Morton, the fletcher she had been trading with for about six years now, would’ve jumped at a chance like this. “I suppose there’s not really a fletching station here that warrants them coming from the city.” the smell of warming steel filled Val’s nostril and she pulled her gloves on, feeling right at home with these people already.

 

“Gives us more room to work. I swear, this room is bigger than my whole shop.” Val looked up at Chantelle, grinning at the older girl. “I think you’ll find every room in this damn Keep is huge, you should see the library.” Bobby looked impressed as the clang of all their tools filled the small silence. “You can read?” Val knew not to be offended by the blunt question, no matter how much Richard glared at his offspring.

 

“Yes, reading’s one of my favourite things to do. It’s…calming for the headache doing this job brings.” Bobby gave her a lopsided grin. “I’ve not met another smith who enjoys reading, how refreshing.” Granthil couldn’t help his chortle. “And just what is that supposed to mean boy?” His jolly demeanour made Bobby realise he wasn’t insulted at all, and merely shrugged, tightening his ponytail as the heat from the forge got more overwhelming, meaning that their steel would be ready soon.

 

“I just meant that everyone thinks all us smiths do to wind down is drink when that’s not the case.” Chantelle snorted, pointing her tongs at her sister. “Reminds me of the time you took up knitting.” Ruth’s face flushed red and she angrily shushed the raven-haired woman. “That was for a month at most, leave it be!” Annette poured everyone another drink since they were already on the subject, passing them around and smirking as she gave Bobby his.

 

“Not a big drinker then?” Bobby made a face, taking a sip. “Well, I am, just not one to get absolutely plastered every night.” Granthil passed Val a pommel mould, letting her lay it by her anvil. “Give it a few years lad, and you’ll end up like all smiths. An iron hammer equals-” Val beamed, finishing it for him. “-An iron liver! My Papa used to say that all the time!” Granthil clapped his hands together, laughing loudly. “That’s because it’s true my girl!” He turned to the forge.

 

“Got any blades for us yet Rich?!” Richard let Bobby help him lift the cast iron mould that had ten slots for blades on it, all liquefied for the moment until Val pulled a pouch from her satchel, went over and made sure the two of them had it steady before pulling the snow salts out in a clump and blowing on them, making a layer of snow appear above the blades and fall gently on the molten metal, hardening it instantly and giving the basic shape of a sword blade.

 

Granthil took them out, letting Richard put the mould back on the forge for the next lot whilst Chantelle and Ruth took large sheets of steel that had already been rolled and started marking which parts would be used for the suits of armour they would be making. Val was given five blades, and Granthil the others, letting Annette sit patiently at the grindstone.

 

Val took one of them and held it in both hands, looking up at the large sketches that had been put up around the forge and calculating how to make the two things match. “Anyone got a match I could have?” Granthil threw her a matchbook and she lit the small gas burner at the end of her anvil, a gnomish addition to the more traditional way of smithing, but an entirely appreciated one.

 

It meant she could heat her blade as many times as she wanted without even leaving her station, so it was incredibly convenient. There was a comfortable silence as they all started working, with the only noise being the screech of metal being cut and the whoosh of the forge as the flames were pumped every now and then.

 

Val held the blade she was focusing on over the flame until it was at a yellow heat, laying it on the anvil afterwards and laying the flat of her hammer at the side, quickly gauging what she needed to before swinging along the edges of the blade, knowing it would have to be heated quite a few times before Annette could grind it to the proper blade shape.

 

It took about four heats to get it exactly right and by the time she gave it to Annette to grind, she already had another one on the go, looking back up at the sketches and squinting a little since she wasn’t that close to them. “What bevels are we using?” Granthil frowned, inspecting the blade he’d just finished and putting it on the pile for his wife. “Diamond apparently. Ask me, I think hexagonal would be better, but what can you do?”

 

Chantelle huffed, pulling a great-sword from the mould she was carrying. “Idiots don’t know what they’re talking about. This steel is awful!” Bobby made a small noise of agreement. “I feel like King Llane cheaped out a little.” Val jumped to the King’s defence. “It’s only because the mines were hit by the Orcs first. There’s no time to dig out the better steel, so this will have to do for now.” Richard shook his head, turning from the forge for a brief moment and folding his spindly arms.

 

“Orcs, sounds insane, doesn’t it? From another world, some people are saying.” Granthil huffed, drumming his calloused fingertips on the cooler part of the anvil. “Hardly, it’s not like we haven’t gotten our share of fantastical beings in our time. The Night Elves alone astound me.”

 

Annette stopped the grinder for a second. “It doesn’t shock me in the slightest that the Trolls have already allied with them.” Bobby’s flaming red brows drew down. “Where did you hear that?”Annette swivelled on the seat of the grindstone, crossing one leg over the other. “A couple of soldiers that were stopping in the Lion’s Pride. Told me that the Amani have already pledged their allegiance to this ‘Horde’.” Ruth shivered, looking up from the cuirass she was shaping.

 

“Horde…it just sounds evil, doesn’t it?” Granthil grunted, losing his humour the more they all spoke. “They’ve already proven that they’re not here to be friends with us my girl; those poor bastards in Brightwood must be at their wit's end waiting for rescue.” Val finished shaping another sword and put it down on the ever-growing pile that Annette got back to grinding.

 

“That’s why the Prince is going tomorrow, he’s leading the party.” Bobby looked surprised by this information. “Really? And the King’s alright with that?” Val had to accept that from now on she would have to work as the one who knew information before the rest and nodded. “Obviously as a father, he doesn’t want him to go, but Varian was adamant he was going himself. He’s always seen himself as more of a soldier than a prince.”

 

Granthil’s good mood returned somewhat as he turned his burner back on. “And that’s what is going to make that boy a great King one day.” Ruth looked confused at the older man. “I don’t follow. How is risking his neck for something the army can do going to make him a great king?” Val knew where Granthil was going with this and was just glad that someone else shared her thoughts on Varian’s involvement with his people.

 

It was no secret that the prince had itchy feet when it came to getting out there and dealing with things himself, and the people only loved him more for it since it broke the barrier of class that perhaps some kings would have easily thrown up. Llane had been the same in his youth even though it had been considered quite a peaceful time, only slowing down when his body did, so it was only fitting that Varian did the same thing.

 

“Because it means that boy cares, that’s why! He could be sitting on his arse having beautiful girls feed him grapes and rub his feet, (Val’s laughter at that was far too loud but she didn’t care) but he’s actually getting off it and aiding those who matter most. That’s what will make him a great King.” Richard looked nervously around the room, particularly at the guards stationed by the door.

 

“Hush your mouth Grant, it’s treason to wish the King’s life away.” Granthil rolled his eyes as the older man, taking a glug of his drink. “Maybe fifty years ago Rich. I treasure Llane as my king as much as the next man, I’m merely saying that Varian will be just as good at it.” Val couldn’t stop her sigh before it left her mouth. “I wish Varian thought the same.” Chantelle looked up this time from her own grindstone.

 

“Don’t tell me he doesn’t see himself worthy of praise? From what I heard, he deserves every bit he gets.” Val nodded, pulling her goggles up so she could see better. “Varian doesn’t show his inner feelings well. While some people see him as this bold and brash Prince who throws himself into danger, he’s actually quite the sweet man. He never thinks he’s good enough, which I suppose is why he pushes himself the way he does.”

 

Annette must have noticed the faraway look in her eyes as she said it, smiling the smile that mothers gave their children when they were both proud and curious. “You sound like you know him better than anyone.” Val frowned, realising she’d said far too much and clearing her throat. “Not to the extent you’re thinking. We had no choice but to be friends, it was only natural that I saw the real him.” She slammed another out of shape blade on her anvil, not wanting to carry this conversation on. “Let’s just get this shit done so we can go home, eh?”

 

 

Halfway through the day, they’d stopped for a spot of lunch when Jon (she had to remember he was Varian’s guard now since she had been used to Bolvar doing it before his promotion to general of the army) swept in and smiled sheepishly. “Miss Glenmore?” Val stood, passing her plate to Annette and stepping over Bobby’s long legs, not sure what to make of Jon’s blank face. “Aye, I’m here, what is it?” Jon held out a folded parchment, giving it to her and clearing his throat.

 

“You are formally invited to dine with Prince Varian tonight and attend the New Year Ball with he and Lady Ellerian as favoured guest…I’m supposed to say with no arguments but I’m not sure whether I want to.” She chuckled at the last part but felt her face betray her and flush, especially with the low whistle Granthil gave at her. She shuffled on both feet, knowing the man expected an answer. “You may tell Prince Varian that I accept his invitation and will join him presently once my work day is done.” Jon put both hands behind his back, squaring his shoulders.

 

“The Prince expects you at four, no later Miss. He was quite adamant that you finish early.” Val looked back at the group that she could confidently say she was getting on with enough to call her friends, feeling utterly guilt-ridden until Annette nodded at her and Granthil stood, taking her shoulders. “Then four o’clock it will be lad, we’ll make sure she’s there on time, don’t you worry. Off you go now, tell the prince the good news.”

 

 Jon inclined his head, turning on his heel and leaving the seven of them alone once again. Val could feel her cheeks burning as Granthil tousled her hair. “Dinner with the prince, look at you Lady Muck!” Val put her face in her hands and Chantelle’s brows drew down. “Val, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, if anything it gives you bragging rights.” Val looked as if she were about to cry.

 

“I told him not to do this…” Granthil's firm pat on her back felt strangely reassuring and she managed a small smile. “Please don’t think me as a privileged bitch now.” Laughter was her answer as she sat back down and took her food, pulling some cheese from the wedge she’d been given.

 

“We couldn’t if we tried my girl, the fact that you’re angry at him for doing it means you’re not privileged.” Val’s eyebrow quirked at Richard’s attempt to make her feel better. “Hardly, a friend of the prince who’s just been invited to dinner with him hardly sounds like the most humble of lives.” Ruth shrugged as if it were no big deal. “He’s still a person, no matter what his station. He’s entitled to friends of all classes.” Chantelle carried on for her sister.

 

“And we’ve been with you all morning, and never once thought you stuck up. So don’t worry about it, you’re fine.” Granthil chuckled, bumping his shoulder against hers. “Just grab us some of the grub whilst you’re there!” Bobby brushed his hands off once his laughter died down, getting up and grabbing his gloves from the chair he’d been sitting against.

 

“Well then, since we’re losing one at four, we should crack on so we can go home before sundown.” Ruth leapt up, swivelling on her heel and wandering towards the forge. “I’ll smelt this time!” They all separated to their stations again, but Annette hung back, putting her arm around a clearly bothered Val’s shoulders and gently squeezing her. “Don’t worry about the prince thing my girl, we meant it when we said it didn’t matter.” Val folded her arms, letting the older woman steer her back to her anvil. “I’m just bewildered by how quickly everything’s changed in the past few days, that’s all.”

 

She huffed, kicking a stray coal that had rolled onto the floor away. “A few days ago I wasn’t even speaking to him, now he’s inviting me to dinner, have a laugh.” Annette patted her shoulder, passing her a tankard that she’d just filled. “Well, make the most of it chick, not all of us get a second chance like this.”

 

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Half past three came around a little too quickly for her liking, and she only realised the time since Granthil tapped her shoulder. “Go on girl, you can’t be late now!” Annette caught her as she packed up, wiping her face with a cackle. “You can’t go with muck all over you! Hold still!” The room was filled with laughter as Val squirmed, ducking under her arm to free herself.

 

“Alright Mother, I’ll go wash my hands as well shall I?!” Annette gave her a chiding look, still chuckling. “You better! Now go on, off with you.” She shouted a goodbye to her new friends and took a deep breath, hopping up the stairs and waving to Jon. “I take it this was where Varian wanted me?” Jon nodded, opening the door and poking his head in.

 

“Miss Glenmore, Your Highness.” He flashed her a smile, letting her duck under his arm and the door close behind her. She looked around, confused as to why the room was empty. “Varian?” she heard something in the washroom and made her way over, smelling bath oils already and finding the prince quite occupied by making sure he didn’t cut his face open with the straight razor he had in his hand, but he paused and smiled at her, beckoning her in.

 

She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to since he was literally standing there in nothing but rolled up breeches, but she had to swallow her pride (and her lust, if she were honest) and sat next to the steaming bath, taking her boots off and putting her feet in, knowing he wouldn’t mind and trying not to moan at how damn good it felt after being on them all day. “Hard day?”

 

She opened her eyes again and smiled wryly at him. “I’m supposed to still be downstairs Varian, it’s only because you sent your errand boy to get me that I’m not.” Varian shrugged, wiping his face with the towel lying next to him and joining her, lifting his head so she could make sure he’d got it all. Once she gave him her seal of approval he leant back on hands.

 

“Well, I’m sorry if I wanted to spend a little time with you before I’m swamped by puffballs later.” She knew that ‘puffballs’ meant the House of Nobles, a group of men and women that Varian had made no secret of absolutely despising due to their miserly natures, no concern for anyone but themselves and the fact that they always put on an act whenever he spoke to them; one of his pet hates in life was fake people, and the King’s council was full of nothing but.

 

“You shouldn’t be ‘spending time’ with me Varian, it doesn’t look good.”He sighed, putting his forehead on his knee. “Val, please, not today. Can’t we just be how we used to for tonight? It’ll be bad enough plastering a smile on my face as it is.” She felt guilty as all hells but had to tell him the truth. “We can’t Varian and you know that. I’m merely a guest tonight, that’s it.” He grunted angrily, standing up and making her face flush once again as he pulled his breeches off.

 

“Varian, what the fuck?!” He jumped in the bath, dunking his head under and coming back up, wiping water from his eyes. “What? I needed to wash before it got cold, that’s all, calm yourself, woman.” He snickered, taking the soap from the side as Val looked straight at the floor, wondering if this had been his plan all along.“Oh come now Val, you’re acting as if you’ve never seen me bare before. What happened to being mature about this?”

 

 Val stuck her middle finger at him, still looking down. “This is not fair Varian. You’re not being fair.” She heard the water slosh and felt his wet hand lift her chin. “And you’re not being realistic. We can’t just turn our feelings off on a whim Val. I still love you, you already know that.” Val couldn’t help her smile. “I love you too, but Varian-” A large finger went over her lips. “No, no ‘but Varian’.” He sighed, taking his finger away.

 

“Forgive me, it’s just a lot to adjust to. I am trying, you have to believe me when I say it.” Val kicked him back, chuckling despite herself. “Well, I hate to say it Varian, but I think we’ve finally found something you’re shit at.” He was laughing too, running the soap he’d lathered on both palms through his hair. “Oh, I’m sure there are plenty more. I’ve never claimed to be perfect Val and you know that.” Val handed him the jug he was clearly groping for and took her feet out, towelling them dry. “I know, it’s probably why we got on so well.” Varian rinsed his hair and turned to face her, making her glad the water was waist height.

 

“Can’t we just ditch the ball and go to the forest, have a night of hunting as we did back then?” Val shook her head even though the idea sounded heavenly. “You’re the Prince, you have to go.” She smirked at him, knowing she was going to annoy him but still doing it. “I, on the other hand, can go whenever I please…in fact, I think I might just do that.” Varian’s brows snapped down faster than even she expected them to.

 

“If you do, I swear I will hunt you down and-” He noticed how hard she was trying not to laugh and cut himself off, glaring at her. “Don’t even jest about things like that Val, it’s not funny in any way shape or form.” Varian waded over, putting her hair behind her ear and smiling wistfully.

 

“Even covered in grime you’re still the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” She felt a lump in her throat and closed her eyes. “Varian please…” He kissed her before she had time to react, though what surprised her more was that she let him carry on. Maybe it was the fact that he was going away tomorrow with no ironclad promise of him coming back.

 

Maybe it was just the exhaustion that even just a few days of keeping this charade up finally taking its toll, but after sitting there telling everyone downstairs that she felt nothing for Varian anymore, she felt like a liar, and hated every minute of it. Varian let her lips go and instead peppered her cheeks and chin, and only when he pressed his scarred mouth against her neck did she shuffle backwards at the speed of light, not as angry as she should have been, but still feeling awful.

 

“Varian, that was wrong.” His face was stony as he held her gaze. “No it wasn’t Val, it was two people who have openly said they love each other showing it. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Val threw both hands up in exasperation. “Varian, three days ago you agreed that we can’t do things like that anymore!” He shook his head. “No, I told you I didn’t agree. I told you I was doing it to make you happy. And are you?”

 

Val was thoroughly astounded with the turn the day had taken. “Am I what?” Varian ran a hand down his face, still staying in the bath. “Happy Val, are you happy? Because I’m bloody not. I know it sounds utterly shameful and hilarious that I’ve only lasted three days, but this is killing me.” She crossed her legs, trying to think of a rational solution to this and coming up with nothing.

 

“Varian, you’re to be married. There’s nothing we can do about that.” Varian reached a hand out and she took it, knowing exactly what he was going through. “And Tiffin’s already given us her blessing. We all know where we stand and what we want, so don’t think it will offend if we just let ourselves love each other.” She felt weak as she sat there and actually considered what he was saying.

 

She had spent two years trying to forget him, trying not to yearn for his kiss, and failed miserably. “People will talk.” Varian’s teeth gritted and his grip on her hand got tighter. “Fuck them. The only three people who matter in this situation are you, Tiffin and I. Tiffin knows I love you, she’s encouraged me to love you, and more importantly, you know I love you.”

 

Val took a long minute of silence, closing her eyes and gathering her thoughts. “I need time, Varian. Let me think about what I want to do. You’re leaving tomorrow, and I’m going to be swamped night and day. Besides, it’s only been three days, we’re still getting used to all of this.” Varian brightened, which she wasn’t sure was a good thing or not. “Then I’ll give you time. I won’t pressure you, Val, you know that.” Val sighed, standing up and motioning to the bath. “Just hurry up so I can take one, I’m bloody filthy.”

 

“So we’re alright?” She poured herself an ale from the main chamber, eyeing his closet since he already told her that the dresses she had left were in there, and it wouldn’t seem very prudent to go to a New Year ball in a filthy shirt and breeches. “Yes Varian, we’re alright. Just try to calm yourself a little bit.” She heard a huff, smiling already even though he hadn’t spoken. “I wish this was the one time I could use my title to get what I want.” She made a noise of agreement, leaning against the table and taking a sip. “You don’t mean that.” Another angry grunt.

 

“Don’t I? Three days in and I’m already begging, that doesn’t bode well.” Val rolled her eyes, already finding the trunks she recognised as hers in his closet and starting to open them one by one. “It’s still early days Varian, I’m sure you’ll get better in time. Maybe these few weeks away will do some good.” “Trying to get rid of me already?” Val heard his voice get louder, assuming he was out of the bath. “Not at all, I’m just trying to be optimistic.”

 

 She chose a gown she didn’t even remember owning, a navy blue halter-neck with a black corset and silver filigree on the hems, making it a dress that was far too regal for someone like her. “You’d look gorgeous in it, I can tell without you even having it on.” She squirmed at his breath making her ear hot, aimlessly waving a hand behind her in hopes of making contact with his shoulder.

 

“Can you take at least three steps back please?” He obeyed, still grinning cockily as he helped her up, noticing her uncertainty. “Val, wear it, you deserve to.” Val’s eyebrow quirked. “Do I? Varian, I have no title, no lands, hells, I hardly have a copper to my name and here I am playing dress up to go to the ball…does this not seem false to you?” Varian’s hands curled around hers, enveloping the fabric in them. “

 

If it was anyone else I would say yes. But Val, all I’ve done is watch you work for the gains of other people. And if fate hadn’t bent us over, you would be-” He cleared his throat, clearly not wanting to say it. “I’m telling you to wear it and enjoy it, end of story.” She sighed as he grabbed a purple doublet from the rack, put it over his arm, slung a shirt over it and stormed out of the closet, leaving her to get dressed without the temptation of having him in the same room, and she couldn’t decide whether that was a blessing or a curse.

 

Thankfully Tiffin had arrived not long after the exchange, sensing the tension and trying her damnedest to coax what had happened out of the pair, but so far neither of them were budging as they sat in a borderline awkward silence. “It looks like a good turnout tonight.” All she got was a grunt and small ‘hm’ as a response, making her lose the will to live already. “and it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain, so we can have the fireworks.” Another grunt, but no ‘hm’ this time. Tiffin huffed, throwing her hairbrush down.

 

“Alright, will one of you please tell me what the hells has happened? We can’t go downstairs like this, it’s absurd!” Varian looked so pained it made Val want to flinch. “Val is under the impression that she’s not worth our time.” Val’s brow furrowed as she put the last stud in her ear. “That’s not what I said at all! I merely pointed out that I will most likely be one of the only commoners there tonight and it doesn’t feel right going!” Tiffin looked crestfallen as her arms dropped lamely by her side.

 

“Val…you haven’t changed your mind have you?” Val swept a hand in the air in front of herself, looking at Tiffin as if she had just asked if the grass was green. “I wouldn’t be wearing this if I had, would I?” She had put the dress on in the end, almost feeling like she had no choice in the matter, and had to admit, whilst it was very pretty, the fact that she was wearing it made it lose its ‘sparkle’ a little bit.

 

Tiffin looked more confused then ever, looking between them as if by some miracle their faces would help her come to a conclusion. “So what’s the problem?” Val spoke before she could think, clenching her fists. “Varian’s sulking because I wouldn’t fuck him earlier.” Varian’s boot fell from his hand with a thud and he stared open-mouthed at her. “Is that what you- WHAT?! When in any of our conversation did I even mention bedding you?! All I did was kiss you!”

 

Tiffin only looked more lost. “You two kissed again? I thought you were doing the ‘friends thing’?” Varian growled, picking the boot back up and yanking it onto his stocking covered foot. “I never fucking said I wanted to, but to make someone happy I went along with it!” Val ran both hands over her face, threatening to smudge her face paint.

 

“Varian, I’m not going over this again. If we get back together now, it just makes things more complicated than they already are, Is that what you want?” Varian ran both hands through his loose hair, trying not to pull it out. “YES…no, I don’t know anymore Val. At first, I was just bloody grateful that you were even speaking to me, so forgive me for jumping too fast, but I just want to bundle you in my arms and kiss you stupid.” He turned to Tiffin. “Apologies, this can’t be easy to hear.” Tiffin gave him a warm smile, shaking her head.

 

“Not at all, I think it’s incredibly sweet. But I have to side with Valerica for a minute Varian. Not only are you going away for three weeks after tonight…We’re marrying in two months. You can’t have two wives so Val will be unfairly labelled.” Val looked strangely triumphant, but Tiffin held a hand up. “But…Val, if you were really worried about what people would think, you wouldn’t have come in here without me present.”

 

Fuck. She had her there. Now she thought about it, numerous people must’ve seen her come up here earlier, so no doubt people were already talking, so why would it really…damn, damn damn it all! Varian looked so smug she wanted to smack him as he folded his arms. “See Sweetheart…either way we’re the subject of gossip. Most people already knew about us when we were publicly courting, and they haven’t forgotten how much I bragged to everyone about you.”

 

 His face softened and he strode over, taking her shoulders as gently as he could and swept his hands down them, taking hers and kissing her knuckles. “Let them talk. We can enjoy listening to the far-fetched stories they conjure. But behind closed doors, I can love you as I want.” Tiffin came between them, smiling encouragingly at Val. “I know I can’t speak from experience, but becoming the mistress of the man you love and who loves the bones of you can’t be all bad a title to have, can it?” Val had to agree, as much as she didn’t want to. Maybe she was going on information about past mistresses that had been merely playthings for the princes and kings they gave themselves to.

 

But then, why did any of that matter? She herself had said to Varian countless times to not care what people thought, and if the three of them were content, why did it matter? She took a deep, long breath, finally reaching some sort of clarity. “Well, I suppose when you put it like that, what’s the harm in trying?” Varian looked as if he were about to explode with happiness as he tightened his grip on her hands. “You know it won’t be as seedy as the title foretells.”

 

Val wrinkled her nose, not really wanting to think too much into this. “Can we stop talking about titles and the like? We three know what the situation is, can we just do what we want?” Tiffin put both hands on one of Val’s shoulders and rested her head on it. “She’s right Varian; let’s not over-think this. Outside we are a prince and princess, our duty comes first. In here we are just three people making the best out a situation.” She grinned at him, moving away.

 

“Now kiss her, you lovestruck fool.” Varian didn’t need telling twice as he bent and merely pecked Val’s lips, not wanting to push his luck just yet. But he felt how much more relaxed she was compared to even an hour ago now this was all in the open, and couldn’t help but prolong the second attempt, sighing in relief when her arms went around his neck. She pulled away first, keeping her arms where they were and exactly where he believed they belonged, just as he did around her waist.

 

“Thank you for putting up with all of this Sweetheart. I know it’s a huge ask of you, and would understand completely if you want to run.” Val couldn’t resist teasing him and took his arms away, stepping back and smirking. “Oh thank the Light, I was worried about my many lovers.” Tiffin ruined it by laughing first, making an inwardly raging Varian realise he was being had and run a hand down his face. “Just what the hells have I gotten myself into?” Tiffin knew her choice of segue would be considered hilarious but she needed to say it just to nicely tie everything together.

 

“Speaking of which, if you two require a private moment tonight I could probably distract the guests enough.” As deliciously tempting as that was, Val shook her head. “No, I’d rather stay a little bit cautious for now and see whether we all fit into this new situation alright.” Varian kissed her forehead now he was allowed to, cupping her cheek and running his thumb over it.

 

“We’ll follow your lead entirely on this Sweetheart.” Val appreciated it, she really did, and surprisingly she was content with how this was going. “Can I suggest having dinner then? I plan on drinking plenty of alcohol tonight.” Varian chuckled, letting Tiffin pull the rope by the door so he could use that brief moment to embrace Val. “Everything's falling into place.”

 

She strangely shared his sentiments and put her head on his chest, closing her eyes as he swayed with her like he always had when they were like this. “Either that or we’ve gone completely insane and this is just our fantasy world.” Varian’s laugh made his chest vibrate against her head. “If it is Sweetheart, may I never be cured.” Val sighed, whether it was a happy one or not Varian had yet to decide. “To think, it’s only been three days. Shows us how much patience and willpower we have, doesn’t it?”

 

Varian was already smiling more, and the brightness had returned to his face, making her think more and more that this was the best scenario they could have chosen. “To be fair, I thought three days was quite good.” Tiffin started picking out her own dress, not quite deciding between colours. “Considering on the first I told you to tell her you still loved her, I was quite impressed that you stood your ground.”

 

Val let Varian answer the door whilst she helped Tiffin choose, thinking the soft pink would look better on the blonde and leaning to her ear. “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” Tiffin didn’t even miss a beat before nodding. “It’s what you’d be doing if he wasn’t being forced into a marriage neither of us want. That’s how I would like to keep things.” She kissed her cheek, making sure Varian was distracted by getting dinner sent up.

 

“But only if you feel comfortable doing it Val. If you don’t, tell me now.” Val looked thoughtful for all of thirty seconds before giving her a small smile. “I’ve wanted him to kiss me again for two damn years, I’d be a fool to turn down this chance.” Varian watched the both of them talk in hushed voices and had to chuckle. “Not five minutes and you two are already conspiring against me.” Val huffed in fake offence. “Not every conversation I have is about you Varian. I do have my own mind.”

 

Tiffin went behind the screen to get dressed, letting Val flop down on Varian’s armchair once the blonde had insisted on doing the smith’s hair once she was done. “I haven’t even asked you how your day has been yet, some partner I’m turning out to be.” She tried not to blush at the term ‘partner’ but couldn’t manage it, waving a hand of dismissal. “This conversation was much more important.” Varian sat opposite her, choosing to take his time with getting ready.

 

“Well, now we have five minutes. So, how was your day love?” Val propped her feet on the stool in front of her, leaning back into the plush velvet and realising how tired she actually was. “Really bloody good. That group your father got together are some of the most grounded and funny people I’ve ever met.” Her brow furrowed. “Well actually, that’s a lie, I already knew Granthil, but that was years ago.” She gave him a grin. “He was saying about how he used to come to our shop and find you and I playing on the floor.” Varian smiled at the memory.

 

“Me with my soldiers that Lokir made me, and you with that damn doll.” Val narrowed her eyes at him, kicking his leg. “Oi, don’t you slander Claudette.” Claudette was a doll that Lokir had made his daughter for her third birthday, and though he’d merely sketched the face and given it to the toy maker, the body was completely his own creation, so obviously, Val treasured it. Varian had plenty of memories of walking around Stormwind with Val pushing Claudette in a small carriage that Taria had bought her to take the blonde doll around in.

 

“I still have her.” Varian’s smile was gentle. “I didn’t think otherwise. You’ve never let yourself grow up completely.” Val couldn’t disagree with it. “Growing up is boring Varian, you taught me that.” Varian ran his fingers through his hair, remembering to tie it before they went downstairs.

 

“When did I say I didn’t enjoy it?” He yearned to just let her sit with him like he used to, but wanted to respect her wishes, so restrained himself for the moment. “So how much work did you actually get done Val?” Tiffin’s teasing tone told Val she was just jesting, so she looked over to the screen, feeling a little lazy all of a sudden.

 

“More than my damn brother, that’s for sure! I swear, my arms are killing me after having such an influx when I’m used to practically doing nothing nowadays.” She blanched, remembering she would have to tell Lucian all about this when he got back. “Is it too much for you?” Val shook her head, taking the ale Varian poured since he had to get up and tie Tiffin’s dress for her anyway.

 

“Not at all, if anything it makes me feel useful, and that’s all I want in this life.” He kissed her cheek, daring to peck her lips afterwards and grinning into it as she kept it going, cupping his cheeks as he put both hands on the arms of the chair and relished kissing her again after two years of knowing she was furious at him. He only pulled back to take a breath, furrowing his brow just enough for her to see it. “That wasn’t too much, was it?”

 

She put his hair behind his ear and shook her head. “No, but let’s keep it at that level for now. Just until we get back into the swing of things.” Varian kissed her one more time before straightening, answering the small knock on the door and letting their dinner be brought in.“Tiffin, are you almost ready?” The blonde appeared from behind the screen, doing the clasp on her necklace and nodding. “I just have to do mine and Val’s hair.” Varian sent the cook away and gestured to the table. “Then let us eat first, otherwise we won’t have time and we’ll regret it in a few hours.”

 

The party was already in full swing by the time Val slipped downstairs, weaving her way through the sea of bodies until she was well within the crowd, looking around for any familiar faces and finding Jaina at the drinks table, waving madly at her. Val made her way over and the two embraced, holding onto each other's hands to make sure they didn’t get separated. “Arthas told me you were coming but I didn’t believe him! It’s so good to see you back here Val, I missed you.”

 

Val chuckled, letting go of her hands and swiping up two goblets of wine, giving one to Jaina and clinking them. “You just couldn’t handle being the only girl, be honest Jaina.” The blonde scoffed, fixing the lavender mask that matched her dress, which was thankfully as simple as Val’s was so she didn’t feel too out of place.

 

“Oh please, you were practically one of the damn boys Val, I always felt like the only girl.” Val looked around, not recognising anyone else apart from Arthas, who had unfortunately been snagged by the council members in attendance, gathered around the prince like the buzzards they were, clearly trying to appeal to the young royal’s regal nature, but forgetting that he already knew their game since Varian had complained about them enough times.

 

“Arthas said you and Varian are on good terms again.” Val looped their arms, feeling her head throb already from a mix of music and dull hum of chatter and needing to get away from it since it was hard to hear a word the mage was saying. She steered Jaina to the doors leading to the grounds, exhaling in relief once cold air whipped her face and a pleasant quiet welcomed her.

 

“Yes, we’ve decided to restart our friendship. We had a long and surprisingly mature chat and realised we can’t change anything that’s happened so we might as well go with it and make the best of a shitty situation.” She decided it would probably be best not to mention what had transpired in the past few hours just in case Jaina opened her mouth to the wrong person or didn’t approve, spoiling their friendship forever.

 

Jaina’s smile couldn’t be wider, and she turned briefly to the door to hear the announcement of Varian’s arrival, but soon turned back. “Good, he’s been so damn angry at everyone and everything over this, here’s hoping he’ll be a bit calmer now.”Oh Jaina, you have no idea. “Varian’s a teddy bear when people stop hounding him and let him be himself, you of all people know that Jaina.”

 

“Yes, I suppose I do.” The blonde was clearly agitated by something, and Val had to admit, it was strange seeing her away from Arthas at a gathering like this, add that to how quiet her voice had gotten and she was worried. “Jaina…what’s happened?” And without warning the mage started to weep, letting Val put their drinks on the wall and hold her close. “Jaina, wha-”

 

“Arthas broke it off.”

 

Now Val felt ten times better about not telling her that she and Varian had gotten back together. “Why?! You two seemed so happy!” Jaina furiously wiped her eyes like the tears in them offended her. “I pushed him too hard. I thought he’d be like Varian was with you, eager to marry, excited at the prospect of being a father…I was wrong, horribly wrong. At the Winter Veil ball, he ended things, saying ‘I’m not ready, we’re too young.’ He’s been so preoccupied with his Paladin training-” Val cut her off even though she didn’t mean to.

 

“Paladin? I thought he wanted to be a Priest?” Once again she shook her head. “No, ever since the first Orc attacks, he begged Sir Uther to let him join this new group of warrior-priests he was leading and was accepted. That was about four, five years ago now. He didn’t want anyone to know until his ascension…you know how he doubts himself Val, imagine if it ended up not happening and everyone knew, it would devastate him.” Val patted Jaina’s shoulder, keeping her hand there. “And let me guess, he wants to focus on that more than he does settling down.”

 

Jaina solemnly nodded, taking her hand away. “I can’t hate him for it; if he’s not ready, I can’t force it. But he’s hardly spoken to me since, that’s what’s bothering me.” She looked sheepishly at the brunette. “I came tonight because I knew he’d be here, so I wanted one last chance to finally lay things to rest. But I should’ve known better, he’s a prince, I won’t get five seconds with him.”

 

Val drummed her fingertips on her arm, looking back into the ballroom. “I can talk to Varian if you want?” Jaina thought about it but ended up shaking her head. “No, I don’t want Arthas to think I’m being clingy. Maybe it’s better if we just pretend we never knew each other.” Val felt a horrible sense of deja-vu since this was exactly the approach she had taken with Varian two years ago. “Yeah, that’s always how it starts. You just need to keep yourself busy Jaina, that’s what I did.”

 

Jaina chuckled, motioning behind them. “And yet here we are with Varian staring at you like he was when you two were courting. I’m so jealous of you two sometimes.” Val spun to see what she meant and had to laugh as Varian instantly looked elsewhere, attempting to look nonchalant and failing since she could see his lips twitching.

 

“There’s nothing to be jealous of Jaina, it’s just a man-ape finding out what humanity is, and it’s my job to integrate him as much as I can.” Jaina nearly had to spit her wine back into her goblet but only just managed to swallow it down, wiping the corners of her mouth. “Damn it, stop trying to cheer me up, I’m attempting to be miserable.” Val slung an arm across her shoulders, walking down the grounds with her, glad that only a few people recognised her underneath her simple mask, so only a select few were watching her make off with the mage.

 

 “Please don’t, I’m dreading how much tonight will depress me as it is, I need someone to be as chipper as I am.” She leant in with an impish smile on her face. “I’ve been invited for drinks over at the Nag’s Head if you want to leave.” Jaina’s eyebrow rose.

 

“By who?” Val’s smile made Jaina think these weren’t just ‘drinks’. “Just a few of the smiths I worked with today.” Jaina looked confused. “Why were you working with other smiths?” Val sat down on the side of the large fountain in the middle of the Keep gardens, crossing one leg over the other and patting the spot next to her.

 

“I take it Arthas hasn’t told you anything concerning the war?” Jaina’s jaw tensed as she stared into space. “As I said, it’s only been since Winter Veil that we haven’t been together, so I know everything that’s happened up until then.” Val clucked her tongue, trying to piece it all together in her own head before she said completely the wrong thing.

 

She filled her in as much as she was able to, watching the blonde’s face change about four times. “So that’s where Varian’s going tomorrow…” Val knew what she was going to ask as soon as the concern showed on her face. “Is Arthas…?” Val shook her head. “No, he’s been called back to Lordaeron.” Jaina looked down at her folded hands.

 

“And how do you feel about Varian leaving?” Val’s brow furrowed. “The same as I always do when he leaves for battle; worried, but confident he’ll be alright.” She chose not to divulge that they were once again parting as lovers, it didn’t feel right now. “The orcs are nothing to sneeze at Val.” Val couldn’t help her cocky smile.

 

“And neither is Varian, in case you haven’t noticed.” Jaina peered at the darker skinned woman, finally realising what was niggling at her. “Val..are you and Varian…?” Val saw no reason to lie to her now she’d figured it out. “To a certain extent, yes.” She tried hard not to laugh at the shock on Jaina’s face. “But Val, he…Tiffin…Val.” Val’s shoulders were shaking with repressed glee as she put a hand over her mouth.

 

“Jaina, hush. No one else knows yet.” Jaina’s brows snapped down. “Does Tiffin know?” Val wasn’t sure whether she expected her to nod her head. “She suggested it. We’ve all been talking Jaina, and she realises how Varian and I feel about each other.” She put a hand up when Jaina opened her mouth. “I know, they’re getting married, but it’s a political marriage, it means nothing.” Jaina’s lips thinned.

 

“So you’re Varian’s mistress?” Val shook her head. “Not as far as the three of us are concerned, but if that’s what people call me once they cotton on, then so be it.” Jaina stayed silent for a long minute and eventually she mustered up a smile. “But you’re happy?” Val chuckled, leaning back on her hands, feeling the spray of the fountain hit the back of her arms and making her realise how cold it was. “So far, yes.” Jaina put a hand on her thigh, patting it lightly. “Then what else can I say other than ‘good luck’?” Val snickered, running a hand through the loose part of her hair.

 

“How about ‘I’ll go get us another drink’?” Jaina squeezed her hand as she got up, figuring a few drinks would make tonight better. Val took advantage of the quiet, leaning back further and exhaling, watching her breath crystallise above her. She hated saying it, but right now she was regretting telling Tiffin not to snag some private time for her and Varian. She watched him now, looking so much more relaxed than he did before their little talk, smiling and animatedly chatting with the man in front of him with Tiffin by his side.

 

She knew that would be a recurring event but didn’t care in the slightest, she knew Varian was hers, more importantly, Tiffin respected that he was hers, and life would be so much easier from now on. She could feel the cold piercing her skin so she went inside to meet Jaina, sliding through the sea of bodies until she was stopped by a blonde man, and from the shade of his eyes, she had the sinking feeling that this was Tiffin’s father.

 

“Pardon me, but might I have two seconds of your time?” She nodded, still not quite sure whether she wanted to or not, especially since his voice had dropped to a slightly threatening whisper. “Yes, of course, lord…?” His jaw tensed and he straightened his back. “Lord Joseph Ellerian, father of the Princess-to-be. And I know exactly who you are Miss Glenmore. I was just inquiring as to what you’re intentions are now you’ve decided to suddenly come back to Court.”

 

Tiffin had already warned Val about her father before they came down, and had implored her not to say a word to him about the situation, for he had ‘ a knack for twisting everything’, so talking about Varian was probably like kicking an angry horse. “If you must know my Lord, I was summoned personally by King Llane to do my part for the war effort.”

 

A scoff was her answer and it took everything in her not to punch him in the face already. “What can a silly little girl like you do for the war effort? Bat your eyelashes at the Horde and hope they enjoy?” Val took a long inhale through her nose and clenched a fist. “I’m probably doing a lot more for Stormwind than you have you puffed up ars-” “Val! I was wondering where you were!” Tiffin swept to Val’s side like a wisp, taking Val’s shoulders and turning her.

 

“Excuse us Father, us ladies have to talk about things men shouldn’t have to hear, pardon me!” She pushed Val towards a waiting Varian, letting go of her shoulders as they stood in a small huddle, waving Jaina over since she was clearly looking for Val. “Val, I told you not to let him get to you!” Val huffed, taking her drink from Jaina and doing her best not to look petulant.

 

“I tried, but Light above, he makes you want to smash his head in instantly!” Varian sneered, glaring at the man over Val’s shoulder as he drank his ale. “You don’t have to convince us of that. Money grabbing slime would be the best way to describe him.” Tiffin gave Varian a chiding look. “That’s not entirely accurate. He’s just very much stuck in the old ways of women being meek housewives and men ruling the world.” Jaina’s eyebrow rose.

 

“Sounds like a dream to have grown up with.” Tiffin actually gave her an amused grin. “Why do you think I was so excited for the betrothal?” Jaina ducked behind Varian as she said it and Val knew why. “Jaina, you have to see him at some point.” Varian looked utterly bewildered as the mage stayed behind him. “Care to enlighten us as to why the fuck you’re using me as a hiding spot Jaina?” Val said it since she knew Jaina wouldn’t.

 

“Arthas ended things.” Varian’s jaw dropped and he pulled Jaina out from her spot as the prince in question started making his way towards them. “What? When?!” Jaina sighed, looking at her feet. “Winter Veil. Please, Varian, don’t say anything.” Arthas patted Tiffin’s shoulder, kissed Val’s cheek and clapped arms with Varian, nodding in greeting to Jaina. “Jaina.” She swallowed, clearly not wanting to be here anymore. “Arthas.” Val could see Varian's face going red with the need to speak but she gave him a look that shut him up.

 

“It’s good to see you here Val, a nice slice of normality at these parties is always welcomed.” Varian's anger died down and he ended up snickering. “There’s nothing normal about Val, you should know that by now Arty.” Arthas looked up to the ceiling in exasperation. “Again with the damn ‘Arty’.” Tiffin noticed her Father still watching them and leant in.

 

“What exactly did he say to you Val?” Val shrugged, tapping the side of her glass goblet. “He literally asked me what the fuck I was doing here. And when I told him the truth, that I was here to smith, he called me a ‘silly little girl’.” Arthas’ eyebrow rose. “Sounds like a charming gentleman.” Val snorted, finishing her wine. “I was in the midst of calling him a puffed up arse licker but Tiffin spoilt it for me.” Jaina was clearly uncomfortable, and it was confirmed when she tapped Varian’s arm.

 

“I’m going to get an early night, I’ve been studying until dawn for about a week. Happy new year to you all.” And before Varian could even say a word she disappeared in a swirl of gentle light, letting the brunette prince face the blonde one, who looked as if he already knew what he was about to say. “Varian, don’t start.” But that wasn’t going to deter him. “Why did you end it with her Arthas? It’s been years, we thought you two were happy.”

 

Arthas exhaled slowly, not really wanting to discuss this. “We were, but we want different things in life, that’s all. I have my path, she has hers and unfortunately, they’re not merging anytime soon. Now leave me be.” Varian clearly wasn’t done but knew it would be useless to try and drag it out of his friend. “Let’s just enjoy our night, shall we? We have until midnight, how about we have some fun until then?”

 

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 Val was ready to drop by the time midnight actually came around. She was half asleep as it was, though the drinks she had thrown down her gullet certainly hadn’t helped. They were all gathered out in the grounds waiting for the fireworks to go off that signalled the start of the new year, and since it was mercifully pitch black where the torches had been extinguished, Varian’s arm was around her waist, and she was loving the kisses he would snatch every now and then.

 

She hated to admit it, but she’d actually managed to have a good time tonight despite knowing that tomorrow Varian was going away, she would begin work again and the war would be very much a real thing once more, but tonight she had managed to put all that aside and actually enjoy herself a little. “It can’t be much longer, surely? I can’t feel my fingers.”

 

Val couldn’t see Tiffin but laughed nonetheless. “Sounds like someone’s getting impatient.” Varian chuckled, still with his arm around her. “I’m sure there’s not long left to go.” And as if on cue, the Cathedral bell tolled in a higher pitch then normal, telling them all that the countdown had begun and a New Year was upon them.

 

Varian looked down at Val, thanking the Light and gods above that she had forgiven him, given him a chance and was now letting him hold her like she used to, and before the fireworks drowned him out he bent to her ear.

 

“I love you, Sweetheart.” Val turned, smiling widely at him. “I love you too Varian. Here’s to a new start, eh?” He pecked her cheek since they were lit up by the abundance of colours and lights, taking his arm away but taking her hand instead, knowing it wouldn’t be seen as well. “A new start indeed, and hopefully one that carries on.”

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

She was barely awake when the sun came up, and she wasn’t sure whether she’d be totally functioning at any point today. She was just splashing milk into her tea when the door was knocked, and she didn’t even bother to let go of the cup as she trudged down the stairs. “We’re closed! Come back in about a month!” She had no idea what time it even was, so she could’ve been wrong but sod it.

“Val, it’s me, open up.”

Varian's whisper made her brain set itself into something alluding to cognition and she put her tea down, unbolting and unlocking the door, and ushering him in. He took the scarf that was covering the bottom half of his face off along with the hooded cloak, having to laugh at the state of her. “Just rolled out of bed?”

She stuck her finger up at him and actually started drinking her tea. “What the hells are you doing here so early Varian?” Varian rubbed his hands together, looking around with a furrowed brow. “Val, it’s freezing in here, please tell me you’ve had the fire on.” She inwardly sighed, taking another sip. “Varian, I’ve hardly had time to fart this morning, so just answer the damn question.”

Varian looked sheepish. “Well, I leave in about an hour and I know a public goodbye between us won’t be possible, so I came here instead. Sorry if I woke you up.” She waved a hand of dismissal, putting her cup down and opening her arms, letting him scoop her up into what was probably the warmest hug she’d had in a long while.

“You didn’t, I’m used to getting up early.” He still smelled the same; a mix of leather, sandalwood and lemon-grass, it used to excite her back then and it turned out it was still the case as she took a long inhale. “I’m so glad you said I could love you again. That whole ‘friends’ idea was starting to drive me insane.” He finally put her down, still holding her closer than she honestly thought she’d let him, but not caring anymore about the past two years.

“Three days Varian. It had only been three days.” Varian softly chuckled, sweeping her loose hair back so he could see her face properly. “Yes, and they were the most infuriating three days of my life! It’s like you live to test me.” She played with the ties on his shirt, snorting quietly since she wasn’t sure the acute hangover she had would appreciate anything louder.

“If I was testing you, Varian, I can tell you categorically that you failed miserably.” His kiss was soft, something she was grateful for, but there was still a hint of need as his arms tightened around her waist and pressed her to him. Their height difference meant he was slightly hunched over, so she wasn’t surprised when he straightened and she went with him, flexing her feet as they left the ground. “You’re almost making me not want to leave today.”

She flicked his cheek, which only made him wrinkle his nose for a split second. “You have your duty Varian, besides, I’m actually planning on doing a full day’s work, since someone made me finish early yesterday.” Varian sat her down on the shop’s counter, which meant they’d be at relatively the same height, making it easier to talk without straining either of their necks.

He put his palms either side of her so he could lean in without making her uncomfortable. “Stop acting like you weren’t happy about spending more time with me.” His grin as he said it made her realise instantly that he was jesting, ending with a light kick on his shin and a chiding look. “It’s a shame about Arthas and Jaina.” Varian sighed, kissing her forehead since the whole situation between the two blondes had only made him realise how lucky he was that Val had given them a second chance.

“Aye, it is. But what can we do? They’ve made their decisions, we can’t meddle.” Val ran her hands up and down his bare forearms (he very rarely wore his shirts with the sleeves down unless he had something over it), watching his eye close and hearing his chest rumble as her nails gently scratched.
“I know, but it was just so out of nowhere, I wasn’t sure I’d heard Jaina right when she told me.” Varian put his forehead on her shoulder, finally groaning when she ended up raking the hairs at the back of his neck.

“Damn it, woman, what are you trying to do to me?” She kissed the side of his head, finding it quite insane how easily she had slipped back into showing him affection after declaring to the Light that she never would again. She wasn’t complaining since she was immensely enjoying it, but had to wonder if they were a little too comfortable already. “Trying to relax you, you’re bloody tense Varian, more than usual.”

He nuzzled his face into her shoulder, clearly taking advantage of the quiet moment they had alone. “Can you blame me? Val if this mission goes wrong people will die because of me.” Val shushed him without meaning to, still scratching the nape of his neck. “You can do this Varian. Just be smart about it and I can almost guarantee that you’ll come back victorious.” She slipped her hand away from his neck, ignoring his whine and instead kneaded his shoulders, feeling her own get warm as his breaths got quicker. “I forgot how good at this you were.”

Val smiled, carrying on regardless. “I think it’s because my hands are hard, they press better.” Varian made a noise of affirmation, putting an arm around her and wedging his fingers underneath the shirt she was wearing, digging the tips into her skin. “I hate to speak ill of Tiffin, but where she’s been slightly pampered, she could never do it hard enough.” Val frowned even though he couldn’t see it, warily noticing his fingers moving upwards.

“That’s not her fault Varian.” He finally raised his head, pecking her lips. “I didn’t say it was, I’m merely stating a fact.” Val’s eyebrow rose as she thought of something. “Does Tiffin know you’re here?” Varian nodded, to her relief. “I saw no reason to keep it from her. If anything she encouraged it.” Val let go of his shoulders, taking his hand away and hopping down, content with him just holding her for now, which he did without an ounce of hesitation.

“I hate leaving you so soon after reconciling.” She played with ends of his ponytail, twisting it around a finger. “It’ll just help you miss me.” Varian bent down for another kiss, gripping both of her hips and pulling her closer. Her eyebrow couldn’t help raising as she felt him rub against her, so breaking away she let him kiss her cheeks and jaw instead. “I have a proposition for you.” Varian looked half intrigued, half cautious as he brought his head back up.

“Oh? And what would that be?” She had to laugh at the suspicion in his voice. “It’s nothing bad, I promise.” She once again took his hands away, holding them instead. “When you get back, I’ll make Lucian piss off for the night and we can spend it here like we used to.”

Varian tried to hold in his grin, linking their fingers together. “Are you sure? I don’t want to make you feel pressured into anything…” She stood on her toes and kissed the cleft of his chin, brushing her lips along the light stubble. “Don’t be a fool Varian, when have I ever said no to you?” Varian smiled warmly down at her, still not quite believing that this was actually happening.

He thought it would take weeks, if not months to hear her say she wanted him, though he supposed two years was rather long enough for her to think about what she wanted, so really they weren’t rushing at all, merely picking up where they left off, which was fine by him, and almost as importantly, fine by Tiffin. He had to commend the girl in how gracefully and dignified she was taking all of this.

Most women who were to be married would have lost their minds at the thought of letting their soon to be husbands carry on a relationship that wasn’t with them, but thankfully Tiffin shared his views, his woes, and his thoughts on the betrothal, so it made life ten times easier. It meant he could stand here holding Val as he was with no fear of repercussion from anyone that actually mattered, it was a tad intoxicating to the prince, who for the last two years had felt suffocated by absolutely everyone.

“Then I suppose I can be open to negotiating.” He started laughing at her look, cupping her chin with one hand. “As soon as I’m back, I promise I’ll come straight here.” His brows drew down. “Please don’t spend all your time worrying whilst I’m gone.” Val kissed his palm, feeling only slightly more awake than she did when he arrived. “It’s my job to worry about you Varian. I’m your wife in all but ceremony, remember?” Varian thought for a split second that he actually felt his heart lift in his chest. “I didn’t think you’d want to be called that anymore.” She shrugged as if telling him she would still marry him given the chance wasn’t a big thing when really it made the prince want to dance a merry jig and shout from the rooftops.

“Doesn’t mean I didn’t think it. I might have been angry at you Varian, but I didn’t love you any less than I did. If anything, that was what made me even angrier.” He could understand and respect that, of course he could. “You still want me then?” Val’s smile held encouragement as well as love, though it turned into a cheek filled grin when she reached up and tweaked his nose.

“Yes, you big oaf, I still want you, despite how infuriating you are.” Varian scoffed as she slipped from his grasp and went over to the coat hanging on a hook by the door, fishing in her pockets for her cigar case (normally she couldn’t afford them, but her aunt had sent her a case for Winter Veil) sticking one in her mouth and lighting it.

“Says the most annoying little pixie in Azeroth. That’s rich Val, truly it is.” Val looked positively offended finishing her first drag before taking it from her mouth. “Fuck off, I’m not annoying!” Varian’s laughter only got louder as he decided he couldn’t take it anymore and threw some logs in the small hearth that sat next to the forge, swiping her lighter from her and rubbing his palms once they took hold.

“You are Val, don’t even try and deny it.” She huffed, clearly pretending to be petulant as she turned away from him, and before Varian could even realise what he was doing he came behind her, moved her hair back and kissed up her neck, only snapping from his trance when she started moaning softly.

He pulled away, cursing himself for not being able to stay in control of this one damn thing when in others he prided himself on it. In combat, regal matters, everything that required discipline he was a dab hand at but Val…damn it, he turned into a lovesick puppy around her, it was infuriating as much as it was invigorating. “Val, I’m sorry. I know you literally just said don’t do that…”

She swivelled on her heel and took another drag, shaking her head. “No, Varian it’s fine. If anything I’m the one being harsh by making you wait.” Varian’s cocked eyebrow made her laugh, ruining her attempt at being serious. “Val, I’d wait for the rest of my life if you wanted me to. Don’t insult me so Sweetheart.” Val kissed his cheek, noticing the time from the clock on the wall.

“It’s fun watching you get angry sometimes, especially when you go red.” She patted his shoulder, conscious that she had to get moving as well as him. “Right you, go on, it takes bloody ages to get that armour of yours on, and you’ll end up late if you stay here any longer.” Varian sighed, letting her put the cigar down in the ashtray that sat on the counter and embracing her again, holding the back of her head and tangling his fingers in her waves (her curls had been flattened with a hot comb last night by Tiffin, something he was in no way happy about).

“Be careful Varian, please.” He kissed the crown of her head, doing the same thing she did earlier and inhaling the cinnamon oil she used on herself, trying to trap it in his nose so he didn’t lose it whilst he was away. “I probably won’t be sending letters, but I’ll see you the minute I get back, I promise.” She ran a hand down his cheek once he pulled back, smiling weakly like she only just now realised he was going into danger again. “You better, or I’ll hunt you down myself Varian Wrynn.” His chuckle partnered with a pained smile.

“Well then, what other choice do I have but to succeed?” One more kiss. “Stay well Sweetheart.” She could feel her eyes watering and she had no idea why, this was a simple bout he was going to, he would probably be fine. “Stay safe my love.” She watched him go, debating whether to be part of the crowd that saw him off and deciding that she had to be really to make sure he knew she supported his military endeavours.

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She got the Keep not long after Varian had left Stormwind, thundering on Vigilance with the men who had volunteered to join him in the rescue attempt, not to return for what would probably be weeks on end. She tried not to look too sorrowful as she waved to Tiffin, embracing her when they met in the Throne Room. “I know you have to get to work, but I just wanted to make sure you’re alright.” Val patted her back, adjusting her satchel on her shoulder.

“I’m fine, it’s not the first time I’ve seen him off to battle. I have faith that he’ll be fine.” Tiffin squeezed her hand. “Join me for prayer in the cathedral later? It’s not fun doing it by one’s self.” Val nodded before she could really think about it. She wasn’t the most devout follower of the Light in Azeroth, but she didn’t berate those who did, so she didn’t mind, either way, if that was how Tiffin needed to cope, she would help any way she could.

“Alright, I finish about five, so I’ll meet you there.” Tiffin bit her bottom lip. “I’m astounded that you can hide your worry so well, I feel like crying my eyes out.” Tiffin and Varian had gotten on well before the betrothal was announced, so it was no shock that she was worried about him.
“As I said, I’ve been here before and so has Varian. He’s perfectly capable of looking after himself. Is Llane getting daily reports?” Tiffin nodded, gesturing to Nan, the lady that Val had encountered before.

“I’ll have Nan give you a copy each day so you know what’s going on.” Val’s ‘thank you’ was cut off by a shout down the hall, making the brunettes eyebrows draw down. “What was that?” Tiffin sighed, looking in the same direction.

“Probably Sir Lothar. Garona’s trying to tell King Llane that once the Brightwood campaign is over the Horde will retaliate, but Anduin insists that the loss won’t be high on Doomhammer’s priorities…he didn’t take her counsel well.”

She looked absolutely torn. “Varian was telling me last night that Llane is getting sick from the stress of all this.” Val put her hands on her hips, tensing her jaw. “That doesn’t shock me really. I thought yesterday that he looked older.” Tiffin shrugged, not really knowing what to say about the whole thing. “I just pray it all ends well. Now go, I’m holding you up.” Val patted her shoulder as she left her, trying to get her head around this whole damn thing and failing miserably.

As expected, everyone was there already, but not one of them looked disgruntled as she scurried in, putting her satchel down and unpacking it at lightning speeds. “Well, look what the cat finally dragged in. Good night last night lass?” Val’s cheeks burned as she looked up at an already snickering Granthil, who had his arms folded as he leant against his anvil. All eyes were on her and she could feel that familiar fear creeping up her spine.

“It was alright. A bit boring until the fireworks, but I had fun.” Annette nudged her as she went past, taking more blades from the forge, ready to be cut and sharpened. They would spend a few days just making the blades themselves, then focus on the pommels, hilts and things like that afterwards, just to make life a bit easier.

“How was Prince Varian?” Val’s cheeks were a deep crimson, which wasn’t a good look for someone with her skin tone. “He was fine.” Her mumble wasn’t lost on Bobby, who wiped his forehead with the back of his gloved hand. “Someone’s going shy!” Val wanted the ground to swallow her whole right this second.

“Robert, pack it in!” Richard’s chide was welcomed by Val, who was looking at the blade Annette had given her as she turned her burner on and heated the steel like it was the most interesting thing ever. “He’s just left for Brightwood ain’t he?” Though she looked up when Ruth asked a question that all things considered, she shouldn’t have known.

“Aye, he has, that’s partly why I’m late.” Richard gave her his toothy grin, which was rather a funny way to put it since some were missing. “We thought as much, think nothing of it, my girl, if we had the chance we’d see him off as well.” Chantelle snorted, pulling the chain on the smelter that it was her turn to man today. “Ruth was annoyed that she didn’t see Prince Arthas yesterday.”

Ruth glared at her twin. “Shut it you.” Val’s eyebrow rose as she carried on hammering. “You know him then?” Ruth timidly shook her head, and true to form, her sister filled Val in. “No, but she’d love to. She’s fancied him for years.” Ruth threw both hands in the air as the expected laughter filled into the room. “Can you blame me?! The hair alone is swoon-worthy!” Chantelle shook her head, clearly disagreeing.

“It’s nowhere near as majestic as Prince Varian’s. That’s the ponytail of a warrior! Arthas looks like a woman, having it down all the time.” Val had to take a few steps back from her anvil so she could bend over in the midst of the giggles that had overtaken her. “Give over both of you and get to work before you kill Val!” Val had to admit the exchange had made her spirits rise a little, and she couldn’t help smiling as she pulled herself together and picked up her hammer, knowing Varian would be alright.

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It would be four weeks before she heard of his return, and she was utterly exhausted by this point. With more attacks taking in place near Goldshire and Jasperlode Mine, their work order had been extended and made more urgent, meaning they had to finish it quicker. Thankfully two hundred blades had been finished in pretty good time so they were making good progress, but it didn’t mean that she had any motivation to get out of bed today.

It was only because Lucian pulled her curtains open that she even woke up, shielding her eyes and groaning in fake pain. “Come on you, rise and shine.” Val pulled her covers over her head. “I don’t want to work today…” Her childish whining only made her brother laugh as he yanked the covers off, sitting on the end of her bed.

“Then you’ll be pleased to hear that we’re not going to the Keep today.” Val was glad as much as confused to hear it. Ruth and Chantelle had gone home a few days ago and Bobby had to tend to Richard, who had fallen ill since flu season was well and truly here, so it had only been the two of them, Granthil and Annette for the past two days, which was not a sufficient workforce for what Llane was asking of them.

“Where are we going then?” Lucian got up and poured her some water, stretching out his back. “Well, let’s say a friend of ours got here this morning and is waiting downstairs for you.” Instantly and rather foolishly Val thought he meant Varian, so she practically leapt from her bed and threw some semi-decent clothes on, pulling her blue breeches over her shirt and bounding down the stairs, only to realise it wasn’t Varian, but instead Cillian Beaufort sat at her counter with a glass in his hand and a cocky smirk on his face.

“Mornin’ Lass.” Val couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, but a the same time she was immensely glad that the captain was here; she hadn’t seen him in months and found herself actually missing the pirate. She embraced him, letting his calloused palm pat her back. “I missed you too Lass, truly I did.”

Cillian was probably the only person in Azeroth that she let call her that, all the others she had screamed at for essentially calling her a little girl, but she knew it was merely in the tanned man’s core nature to call every woman he knew ‘lass’ or ‘love’ at least once in every sentence, so she let him get on with it.

“What are you doing here Cil?” Cillian threw both hands up with a semi-innocent smile on his face, one that made the thin black moustache on his top lip curl. It matched the stubble that covered his chin and the perfectly combed and coiffed hair, making him look a lot cleaner and well groomed compared to the other pirates down on Booty Bay.

His sea green (she had made fun of that fact for years) eyes always held a glint of mischief, no matter what he was doing, be it playing card games or merely wandering down a street, he was always up to something, and that’s what Val loved about him. He was dressed as he always was whenever she saw him, in a black shirt and matching leather trousers, made to look ‘sophisticated’ by the red waistcoat he had buttoned up under a long, jet black leather overcoat with oversized sleeves and stiff collar.

Add that to the six earrings, the two necklaces and jewels on every finger and he didn’t blend in with Stormwind society at all. In fact, Val was more than sure Llane had to pardon the git a few times when he had visited at Lokir’s behest since the ship and its captain weren’t exactly subtle about what kind of ‘traders’ they were.

“Well, I’m actually playing messenger, my girl. I’m here to take you home.” Val couldn’t help her look of confusion as she poured herself some of the tea that was thankfully on the fire already. “The hells do you mean, ‘take me home’? I am home, we’ve only just gotten back.” Cillian ran a ring covered hand down his face, looking to Lucian for help as he came down, but the blond merely shrugged. Cillian swirled the rum in his glass, really thinking about how to say this.

“Minnie believes that Stormwind isn’t safe. She wants you to come to Bloodstone until the war’s over.” Val swivelled on her heel, already looking like she was about to combust. “Is she for real? Light I love my Gramma, but that’s ridiculous.” Cillian held a hand up in defence. “That’s what I told her but she wouldn’t have it. Stubborn bitches, you Glenmore women, I tell ya.”

He started laughing at Val’s swat to his shoulder, draining the rest of his rum and standing, leaning against the counter instead. “Obviously I’m not going to force you, but it’s my bollocks on the line Lass, just remember that.” Val sighed, knowing her answer was already no but looking at her brother anyway. “Luce, what d’you think?” Lucian looked as torn as she did. “I can see where she’s coming from, but at the same time, we’re not children, we can sort ourselves out.”

Cillian took his coat off, throwing it on the counter and reaching up his sleeve, motioning with one finger for Val to turn around. “Got a late Winter Veil present for you lass.” Val held her hair up, letting Cillian put the small silver chain around it and the scallop shell locket fall neatly on the hollow of her throat. Val smiled dopely at it, but that soon turned to a look of suspicion.

“And just where did you get this?” Cillian put his hands on his hips, looking thoroughly offended. “Can I not get my favourite girl a present from time to time without her interrogating me?” Val’s eyebrow only rose higher and Cillian dramatically sighed. “If you must know, I got it cheap from a friend of mine in Boralus.” Val shook her head in disbelief.

“So it’s stolen?” Cillian gave Lucian a look that only made the smith laugh more. “Bloody hells bells girl, just say ‘thank you’! Bloody women these days, never pleased!” Val rubbed the pendant between thumb and forefinger to see whether it was literally just a painted shell, impressed when there wasn’t any silver on her fingertips afterwards. “Alright, alright, thank you Cillian, I love it.” She wasn’t lying; she had mentioned to him last time she was in Bloodstone that she wanted a locket of some sort but couldn’t find one she really liked, so to have one that was a constant reminder of the sea she loved so much was an added bonus.

She kissed his whiskered cheek, sweeping his hair back. “How long do we have to say no then?” Cillian chuckled, folding his arms. “About two weeks was Minnie’s limit.” Lucian handed her a letter that the captain had obviously brought with him, unfolding it and frowning. “How the hell does she know all this? We’ve been trying to keep it quiet.”

Cillian poured himself another rum, pulling a cigar from his breast pocket and cutting the end off. “Oh you know your Gramma love, she has spies everywhere.” Val snorted, actually starting to wake up now. “Including you?” Cillian merely gave her a cocky grin. “Man’s got to live lass, and that takes gold. When she’s willing to give it to me for doing her dirty work, I’m hardly going to say no.”

Val started to look more excitable as the minutes went on. “Does that mean you brought the Rose?” Cillian’s eyebrow rose, making the gap where a scar sat stretch. “No Lass, I fucking walked. Of course I brought the Rose!” The Black Rose was the ship that Tobias had acquired nearly thirty years ago, and had been passed from him to Lokir, and finally to Cillian, Lokir’s old cabin boy who had proven himself worthy.

“Is that you saying you want to go to the docks?” Val nodded hard enough to make the pirate dizzy, snatching up his coat and holding out an arm once she’d put her own on, letting Lucian make sure everything valuable was away before the three of them set off.

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The Black Rose wasn’t the prettiest ship ever, not anymore; when it was in its prime Val would think it was a beauty and a half, but now it had been so many years that the bottom was crusted with barnacles and green with algae that hadn’t come off when scrubbed, and the jet paint was starting to chip. Though Val didn’t care a fig as she patted the hull during her ascent up the gangplank, looking up at the eight sails and network of rigging and debating for the millionth time in her life whether she just wanted to stay on the old girl and go.

And as usual she shook herself to dismiss the thought, waving a hearty hello to the crew members and becoming swamped in hugs and back thumps. “Look at you lass, still pretty as a picture.” Orazio Smithe, the Rose’s First Mate since her Grandfather’s days, kissed her cheek, making her wrinkle her nose at the sensation of his grey mutton chops scratching her skin. “Probably worth as much as one too!”

Jacoby, a middle-aged man with black shaggy hair and a smile that was missing a few teeth earned a swat from the girl as she grew reacquainted with them, sighing happily. “It’s good to see you all too. Apologies for not coming to Bloodstone for New Year.” Orazio patted her shoulder, smiling like a proud father. “Ah, think nothing of it, dearie, we’ve always got your birthday coming up.”

Titch, a gnome that only came up to her knees with a bald head and small braided beard bumped her calf. “Besides, we hear you were in much finer company than us.” Val had a feeling they had already been told by Lucian where she had been, so she sat on a crate Dino, a scraggly man with one eye and a wonky nose pulled along for her, drumming it with her knuckles.

“And so what if I was?” They all sat down in a circle with Cillian on one side of her and Lucian on the other so they could all catch up. “Well, we was under the impression that you and Princey boy weren’t speaking.” Val tried not to look too annoyed at Morris, an overweight, greasy little man that she had to admit, she wasn’t that fond of.

“He has a name Morris. And we…sorted everything.” Cillian snorted, taking the last drag of his cigar and stubbing it out. “Which means they’re fucking.” Now it was Cillian’s turn to receive a death glare. “No! We’ve just decided to let old grudges die.” Cillian nudged Orazio. “Translation: fucking.” Val kicked him, nearly toppling from her seat, but Lucian’s stony face made her realise she’d contradicted herself.

Of course, she had told him immediately about the ‘agreement’ between her, Varian and Tiffin. He had gotten angry at first, telling her that it would end badly, that she was only setting herself up for trouble, but once Val had sat with him for Light knew how many hours he eventually reached her wavelength, sighing loudly and asking her outright if Varian seemed genuine about her.

When she had said yes he had been silent for a minute and watched his sister’s face, realising that this was probably the only way to make sure she was happy from now on, he couldn’t do anything. She was a grown adult, if it all went wrong, all he could do was be there if he was needed. If anything he always thought Varian and Val suited each other, but the situation was so complicated now that it made him cynical.

“Well, we haven’t fucked yet…” Cillian looked impressed. “So you’re back together then?” Titch looked perplexed, which to be honest wasn’t that hard, but it was warranted this time. “Isn’t he getting married?… You ain’t his whore, are you lass?” Val shook her head, making her brother respect her even more when she kept her calm.

“No, don’t worry, it’s all in hand, just don’t say anything to anyone.” Jacoby’s laugh sounded raspy from years of cigars and rum. “Like anyone here is going to talk to us.” Orazio ran a hand down his face. “It took all of Cillian’s persuasion to get Llane to tell his guards to leave us alone. I doubt we’ll be socialising anytime soon.”Lucian put a hand on his thigh, leaning forward.

“Cil told us why you’re here.” Again Orazio sighed. “We know it’s very unlikely that anythin’ will happen, but you have to understand it from Minnie’s point of view. Every day we hear of those damn orcs wrecking another village.” Cillian made a noise of agreement, fiddling with the cuffs of his coat.

“They’ve gone for us a few times.” That caught Val’s attention. “They have ships?” Cillian gave her a look that said she wasn’t going to like what he said. “Aye, they’re nowhere near these waters though.” Val clucked her tongue, not really sure what to think about it.

“I’ll tell Varian when I see him.” Lucian put a hand on her shoulder. “Have you heard from him?” She shook her head, not really wanting to discuss it. “No, but he told me not to expect any letters, so I’m not worried.” Orazio could tell she was getting upset, he had known her since she was a babe, so he had learnt her little ways over the years, and if they carried on talking about the Prince she would burst into tears, so he slapped his thighs, standing and rummaging in one of the barrels scattered around the deck.

“Before we all get too depressed, how about we make up for Val’s absence the other week by having a drink?” A hearty cheer was his answer, and he started passing around the bottle, which Val had a sneaking suspicion wasn’t going to be the last.

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It was midday when she had gone back to the Keep to check on Tiffin, which she did every day since Varian had left. The two had enjoyed each others company a lot over the past weeks, and Val thought it only right that she let Cillian and Lucian catch up by seeing to the blonde.

They were on their second cup of tea and third game of chess, though Val had to admit she was the absolute worst at the game and knew for a fact that the blonde was merely humouring her by pretending to be worried about which move to make next.

“Will you just put me out of my damn misery please?” Tiffin laughed, taking her last pawn with her knight. “You’ll get better Val, it’s all about practice.” Val felt like an army general strategizing a troop of idiots as she peered at her pieces, trying not to laugh since Tiffin was doing it. She moved her bishop two spots to the right, though it turned out to be a bad idea as Tiffin’s knight moved again.

“You know, if we were playing Hearthstone I’d be wiping the floor with you right now.” Tiffin’s eyebrow rose as Nan, who was actually beginning to warm to Val and vice versa, poured them some more wine. “You’re a little old for Hearthstone, aren’t you?” Val shook her head without hesitation, leaning back in her chair and slinging one leg over the other.

“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I got my cousin a board for Winter Veil last year and I swear, I enjoyed it more than he did.” Tiffin couldn’t help her smirk. “I take it Varian doesn’t agree?” Val chuckled, moving whatever piece didn’t look completely doomed. “No, he’s always said it’s ‘too fantastical for his tastes’”. She had to smile at the memory.

“Though I think that’s because he kept losing.” Tiffin chuckled, moving again. “So, the pirate who was here earlier said he knew you?” Val nodded, taking a small sip. “He’s my Father’s ‘successor.’” Tiffin looked intrigued. “He’s very…exotic.” She smirked. “And handsome. I’m surprised he hasn’t got a gaggle of women around him.” Val bounced one knee, putting her goblet down.

“He probably does down in Bloodstone. I think Stormwind women are a little frightened of all that leather.” Tiffin laughed again, taking another of her damn pieces. “You’ve known him for a long time then?” Val nodded. “Since I was a child, he’s in charge of ferrying me to and from Bloodstone.” Tiffin swapped her wine for the tea next to it.

“You should invite him to dinner once Varian gets back, I’d like to get to know him and his adventures.” Val looked uneasy about the idea and Tiffin didn’t understand why. “Varian….doesn’t really like Cillian. I’m actually dreading when he comes back a little.” Tiffin’s brows drew in. “Why? What did he do?” Val chewed her bottom lip, wondering how to put this.

“He didn’t do anything, Varian’s just…well, he has a bit of a jealous streak sometimes. He feels Cillian’s too ‘pretty and flirtatious’ for his liking.” Tiffin looked as surprised as she expected her to. “I never saw Varian as the jealous type, especially when it came to you.” Val shrugged.

“He’s not possessive or angry about it, but his self-confidence is so low that anyone he thinks is remotely better looking than him and in my company is considered a ‘threat’. He goes into this mood of ‘you can do better’ and ‘I’m so ugly’ blah blah blah. It’s infuriating but a little sweet at the same time.” Tiffin was laughing as much as she was.

“Well then, maybe my idea of dinner isn’t a very good one.” Val moved her remaining rook, realising too late that it was an awful move as Tiffin took it. “Checkmate.” Val grumbled incoherently, making Tiffin merely giggle. “Light, sometimes I think you and Varian are really twins.” Val made a face, uncrossing her legs.

“Tiffin Ellerian, incest is frowned upon by anyone with more than two brain cells, I’m surprised at you.” Val was very conscious of the fact that every time she’d seen Tiffin was in her chambers, so she stood up, holding her hand out and remembering what Liz had said that day. “Fancy coming to the tavern with me?” Tiffin didn’t look sure.

“Val…I don’t know if any of Stormwind’s people even like me…” Val stayed defiant as always and merely shrugged. “Well now’s a chance to change that, come, you’re to be their princess, you need to at least know what they’re drinking.” Tiffin was still hesitant. “We’ll take the guard if that makes you feel better?” Finally, the blonde conceded. “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?” Val starting grinning again. “Nope, now grab your cloak.”

Tiffin clearly felt out of place in amongst the crowds, but as they got to the Trade District she started to relax a little, being particularly drawn to the flower stall by the fountain, which had small baskets sampling the blooms that sat in the shop by the canals to entice people to go there. She found pink roses and waved Val over from her own spot at the fruit stall, filling her own basket with strawberries and peaches.

“Val, do you think these would look nice in my chambers?” The brunette clucked her tongue, not really feeling anything for how pink the blooms were but finding them pretty regardless. “Of course.” She looked at the girl running the stall, familiar with her already since Val had made it a rule in the shop to have at least one vase of fresh flowers in it at all times. “How much for ten Felicia?” The red-haired woman gave her a smile.

“Two silver and five coppers Val.” Tiffin fished the money out, giving her more than was asked for and refusing the change, much to Val’s pride. Tiffin gave the flowers to Jon, smiling to herself. “I forgot how much fun wandering around a market was. I haven’t been here in so long.”

Val patted her shoulder, passing her one of the strawberries and grinning as she took a bite. “Well, we should make this a regular thing. I’m always here whenever I have a few coins.” Tiffin looked at the tavern with nervousness etched on her features. “I’m still not sure about this Val.” Val looped her arm around hers, gave Jon a smirk and tightened her grip. “Fancy a drink, Jon?” Jon laughed, very much glad that his lady had company like Val.

“Aye, you know what, I do.” Cillian and Lucian were there already and waved them over, ignoring the small dip in noise once Tiffin came through the door and watching Val practically drag her to the table they were sitting at. Well, they were sitting but as the two women came closer they stood, with Val gesturing between Tiffin and Cillian.

“Tiffin, this is Cillian Beaufort, captain of the Black Rose. Cillian, this is Tiffin Ellerian, future Princess of Stormwind.” Cillian lifted Tiffin’s hand and kissed her knuckles, turning up his charm offensive to hilarious levels. “A pleasure to meet you Lady Ellerian.” Tiffin smiled at him, taking her hand away and letting Lucian kiss it instead. “And this is Jon, Varian’s guard.”

They exchanged handshakes, though Cillian couldn’t help snickering as they sat down. “Light that must be a boring job.” Jon snorted, taking his gauntlets off. “Like you wouldn’t believe. Why he actually hired me is beyond me.” Tiffin patted his arm affectionately. “Well, you’ve been doing a marvellous job regardless.”Lucian offered to get them drinks and Tiffin furrowed her brow in thought. “Well, Varian raves about beer all the time…”

Cillian’s eyebrow rose. “I really don’t think you’ll enjoy it, lass.” Val shrugged, happy that the blonde wanted to at least try it. “The worst that can happen is she needs another drink. I’ll have a rum please Luce.” The older Glenmore went to the bar once he got all their orders, with Tiffin looking nervously around her.

“I feel like everyone’s watching me to see if I turn my nose up.” Val bumped her shoulder reassuringly. “Then prove them all wrong. We’re just here for a quiet drink.” Cillian gave her a quick wink. “It probably doesn’t help that two beautiful women are sitting over here.” Jon chuckled, running a hand through his curls. “Subtle Captain, very subtle. Don’t worry Milady, if any of them say or try anything, I’ll deal with them.”

Cillian snorted, leaning back in his seat and tapping the table with one of the rings from his fingers that he was playing with. “Val will probably get there first mate, I don’t know whether you’ve seen her pissed off yet?” Jon shook his head, but Val narrowed her eyes at the Deadstonian. “You make it sound like I turn into a bloody monster or something.” Cillian merely grinned. “That’s not too far off though, is it lass?”

Lucian came back and passed them their drinks before Val could slap him, not meaning to watch Tiffin take her first sip, but doing so none the less. The blonde pursed her lips for a second before raising both eyebrows. “That’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be.” Cillian laughed, clinking his rum with Val’s. “Well now I’m glad I didn’t place a bet on it, you would have made a loser out of me.” Tiffin smiled at him, taking another few sips and putting her tankard down, linking her fingers.

“Val tells me you’re here for a couple of weeks Captain?” Cillian nodded, offering Val a cigar from his case and cutting it for her. “Cillian, please lass. And aye, I am.” Tiffin was strangely intrigued by the pirate. “And then where will you go?” Cillian grinned, putting his lighter in his breast pocket.

“Why, planning on running away Milady?” Val visibly retched as Tiffin chuckled, taking another sip. “No, I’m just curious as to what a pirate does with their spare time.” Cillian leant forward with his elbows on the table. “Well I thought I might go across to Samarkand, spend a few weeks in the sun.” Tiffin was one more sentence away from swooning, Val could tell.

“Alright for some then. I have a month of wedding plans I don’t care about in front of me.” Val couldn’t stop her mouth before it opened. “That’s if Varian gets back in time.” Lucian’s smile dropped. “Has anyone heard from him?” Tiffin nodded, still looking downcast. “We received a report last week saying they've cleared a few camps along the way, that’s why they’ve taken so long. I’m sure he’s fine.”

She changed the subject, not wanting to dwell on something so negative. “We need to get your dress for the ball in the next couple of days Val.” Val’s brows knitted together, especially at Cillian’s snort. “I have a dress already Tiffin, I don’t need another one.” The blonde shook her head, clearly not agreeing with her.

“No, you deserve something brand new, and the partner of the prince deserves a dress befitting her.” Val opened her mouth but Tiffin put a defiant hand up. “No! I won’t hear objections, we’ll go to the seamstress this afternoon!” Val slammed her head on the table harder than she meant to, making both of the men across from her nearly fall down laughing.

They spent a good few hours in the tavern, and Val had to admit she had more fun than she hoped she was going to. The quintet was spread out around the shop and all laughing at the stories that Cillian was telling; though whether they were true or not remained to be seen. “I’m shocked you haven’t been arrested in every kingdom yet Cillian.”

Cillian crossed his ankles on the stool in front of the one he was sitting on, giving Tiffin a cocky grin. “I still have plenty of years in me lass, I’m sure I’ll manage it.” Lucian rolled his eyes, filling out an order form for the next day since Llane had paid them a couple of days ago and they were running low on steel.

“Why the hells do I associate with you Cil?” The captain put a hand over his heart. “Love you too Luce, truly I do.” Jon was conscious of the time as he glanced out of the window, begrudgingly grimacing at Tiffin. “Apologies Milady, but it’s time to get back.”

Tiffin looked disappointed but knew that Varian had left the boy with strict instructions for her own safety, so she stood, kissing Val’s cheek, embracing Lucian and letting Cillian kiss her hand once again, visibly blushing, which made Val laugh even more than she already was at the pair.

Once she was gone, Cillian made a face at Val. “So…since when have you two been best mates?” Val waved a hand of dismissal, clearing up the tankards left scattered around the room. “Don’t start Cil. She’s a nice girl when she’s not being forced to pretend that Varian’s the love of her life.” Cillian put both of his hands up in surrender.

“I’m not starting anything, I quite liked her!” Lucian snickered, signing the end of the parchment. “Yes, we got that impression. How Jon didn’t stab you is beyond me.” Cillian snorted, catching Val as she went past and pulling her back into a hug that she gratefully accepted. “That little boy couldn’t even flick me mate, he’s a child.”

Val patted his silk covered arm, smelling tobacco, sea salt and lemon emanating from the pirate’s cologne. “A child who’s been put in charge of guarding the Prince, so he must be a bloody good fighter.” Cillian kissed the back of her head, not caring that Varian would probably kill him should he find out about it.

“Aye, but I have a gun lass.” She couldn’t help laughing, pulling away from him and sitting opposite instead. “Well, that’s fair in a sword fight, isn’t it?” Cillian gave her a cocky grin. “You won’t be saying that when I give you yours tomorrow love.”

Lucian looked up in horror, his baby blue eyes widening. “No! Cil…please tell me that was a jest and you haven’t really gotten my sister a gun!” Cillian’s snicker only made Lucian put his face in his hands. “Oh sweet Light above…” Val, on the other hand, was bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Can we practice with it?!”

Cillian put his hands on her shoulders, laughing with her. “Tomorrow lass, tomorrow I promise we’ll spend the whole day shooting, deal?” Val whooped in joy, giving the pirate one more hug, letting him squeeze her. “Alright, alright. Before you become a master shooter little sister, how about we get dinner started?”

Val checked the clock briefly once she and Cillian wandered outside later on, with the pirate deciding it was finally too late to fight his lethargy and embracing her. “Be good Lass. I’ll probably pop over tomorrow.” She gave him a grin, folding her arms against the chilly night like it would help in some way. “I’m always good, what are you on about?”

Cillian’s snort told her that he didn’t believe her for a second, stepping back and putting his hands in his pockets. “if you’re always good lass, then I’m a fucking saint. Night love.” She waved him off, lighting the lamp by the side of their door and fishing her cigar case from her trouser pocket, leaving the front door open and watching Cillian until the slight fog swallowed him.

“Shall we start placing bets on when he tries it with Tiffin?” Val grimaced, lighting the cut narcotic and taking her first drag to keep it burning. “Can we not? I hardly think Stormwind’s nobility will take kindly to a pirate wooing their future queen.” Lucian leant against the doorframe with his own battered wool coat on, choosing cigarettes over the chunky cigars his sister preferred, wanting to keep his lungs at least a little bit longer .

“And yet a pirate’s daughter is wooing the future king instead.” Val’s eyebrow rose and she blew her smoke away. “I’m hardly a ‘pirate’s daughter’, Papa gave it up before I was even born.” Lucian gave her a smirk. “You don’t have to tell me Little Bird, I was there remember?” Val knew Lucian didn’t really like discussing the few years he’d spent permanently living on the Rose, but that didn’t stop her being curious. “Do you miss living at sea?”

Of course he shook his head, just as she had expected him to. “Not in the slightest, I much prefer lying in my own bed without thirteen other people snoring and shouting.” He flicked some of his ash away, bending down and brushing it from his boot. “Do you think we’ve made the right choice?” He straightened, furrowing his brow. “About what?” She wrinkled her nose, thinking about how to put this. “About staying here.” Lucian grimaced, trying to concoct a placating answer that wasn’t patronizing.

“Well, I can’t say yes or no until something happens, I suppose.” Val chuckled, taking another drag. “That’s reassuring.” Lucian waved to a few men that shouted over to him as they crossed the bridge, stopping where they were and inviting him to the tavern with them. He gave Val a reluctant look but she waved him off. “Go, have fun. I wouldn’t say no to time by myself anyway.”

He ducked back inside, presumably to get one of the purses in the safe, and came back out with his cigarette hanging out of his mouth and his coat being shoved on, pulling it out and kissing her cheek. “Sure you don’t want to come?” Val shook her head, throwing her cigar on the floor and stomping on it.

“No thanks, I’ve had enough of drinking for a while, New Year was not kind to me.” She went back inside without bothering to see him off completely, bolting the door and attempting to clean up some of the mess that people always accumulated when they had visitors; glasses, bottles and everything that showed the outside world that a good time had been partook in, taking them upstairs and dumping them in the basin to wash tomorrow, not feeling bothered to do it tonight.

It was past midnight and all she wanted to do was go to bed at this point, so she lit her bedside candle and stood for far too long in front of her bookshelf when she inevitably chose the same book she’d been reading all month, shimmying her breeches off and lounging on her bed, intent on only reading a few chapters before she fell asleep, but somehow knowing she would end up with the book imprinted on her face like she always did.

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She would once again be right and only notice that she hadn’t even gotten into bed properly when a knock from downstairs startled her awake. She knew instantly that it wasn’t Lucian since she was more than sure he’d made a point of showing her his key before he’d left, and if he was drunk enough to not know how to use it he’d merely stay at the tavern. She had always envied that no matter how drunk her brother got, he always stayed in control, when she’d probably be a completely different person by this point.

She fumbled in the dark since her candle had gone out, telling her how long she’d been asleep, and eventually found her watch as the door carried on banging, making her stomach drop, since only certain people turned up to someone’s house at two in the morning, and Val didn’t like either scenario.

Fearing someone had finally come for the small debts that she and Lucian had she crept downstairs, snatching up a hammer and twisting her fingers around the handle, knowing they weren’t going away anytime soon since their knocking hadn’t let up. She opened the door with the hammer ready, lifting it with all intentions to swing before Varian threw both hands up.

“Whoa, easy there Sweetheart, it’s only me.” She glared at him, putting the hammer down and beckoning him inside, closing and bolting the door behind him. “Don’t fucking do that Varian, you scared the life out of me.” His eyebrow rose. “Why, what’s so scary about a door being knocked?” Val put her hands on her hips, realising that she would’ve looked doubly ridiculous if it had indeed been a bailiff since she had nothing on her bottom half and looked very much as if she’d just rolled out of bed.

“Everything when it’s at two o’clock in the morning and I’m by myself Varian.” That’s when his face dropped and he fished his own watch from his pocket. “Light, I didn’t realise it was so late. I’ve only just got back, so I didn’t think about it.” She could feel her anger fading with each passing second, and eventually a smile crept onto her face. “It’s alright, just try not to make a habit of it.” He opened his arms with a lop sided smile.

“Can we start again?” She nodded, walking into his embrace and squealing as she was lifted from the ground and squeezed. She hated when he lifted her like this since their height difference meant her feet merely reached his knees, so escape wasn’t an option no matter how tightly he was holding her. “Welcome back Your Highness.”

Varian kissed the side of her head, putting her down and wagging a finger at her. “Less of the titles or I’ll just go straight home.” His brow furrowed at how quiet it was. “Are you really by yourself? Val…you know I don’t like that.” She shrugged, hunting for the matches to light a few candles so she could see him properly. “Lucian’s friends invited him out and I didn’t fancy going, it’s not a crime.” She tapped his chest with the match tin.

“And now I’m not alone, so you don’t have anything to worry about.” She noticed how battered he was now she had a source of light; a painful looking black eye made his normally unblemished skin purple and swollen, she could see grooves in his knuckles that told her he’d punched someone with his gauntlet on and it had gone wrong, partnered with how he winced when he breathed too hard and Val was very much concerned.

“Varian, you should’ve seen the healers before coming here.” He shook his head, just as she expected him to. “For a few knocks? No, I would rather just let them heal themselves than have people poking me.” She couldn’t help her snicker, beckoning him up the stairs. “Did you at least win?” He didn’t bother creeping now he had been informed of Lucian’s absence, swinging on the banister as he got to the second floor and reluctantly following her instruction to sit down at the table, knowing she was about to mother him against his will.

She poured some water into the basin and took the cloth from the hook, simultaneously filling the kettle and hooking it on the fire, lighting it before moving a chair in front of him and holding her hand out for his, cocking an eyebrow when he refused and trying not to laugh when he sighed loudly and obeyed.

Dabbing at his cuts and ignoring his hisses she repeated her question, trying to read his face. “We did, in a way. There weren’t as many hostages left as we’d initially been told about, but we managed to get who was there out alright.” Val’s honey eyes were full of concern. “How many are we talking about?” Varian shook his head.

“I didn’t come here to discuss these things with you Val.” He winced as she poked raw flesh, apologising when she did it and putting the cloth down, leaving him briefly to open the top cupboard and stretching up to reach the tin that held the bandages, glaring at Varian as he barely had to stretch to get it when she was practically climbing on the sideboard.

He gave it to her and they both took their seats again, this time with Val probably going overboard with the strapping as she wrapped his hand up. “Then why did you come here?” The hand she was tending took hers and gave her no choice but to stop. She looked up and found Varian giving her a tiny but profound smile. “To see you, you foolish girl.” She let him have a small kiss, leaving him hungry for more but not wanting to ignore the kettle, or the annoying whistle it was making. “Coffee?” Varian shook himself to bring himself back to Azeroth, clearing his throat in a feeble attempt as composure.

“Yes, thank you, I haven’t had a decent one since I left.” She got to work on it, noticing he’d gone quiet. “Are you sure you’re alright?” Varian blinked a few times, embarrassingly wrenching his gaze away from how her shirt rose with the slightest movement, showing him teasingly small glimpses of her backside without her probably even knowing it. “Yes, just tired, that’s all. I wasn’t jesting when I said I’ve just gotten back.”

Val stirred the milk in her tea, knowing he had his coffee black as the night and turned, seeing the slightly red tinge to his cheeks. “Varian, do you need to go home and rest?” she put the drinks down and cupped his cheek, looking genuinely concerned when really, the culprit was Varian’s libido suddenly acting like he was a teenager again when normally he could keep himself in check.

“No, sweetheart, honestly, I’m fine.” A comfortable silence fell over the pair as they took the first few sips, and Varian put his mug down first, trying to ignore how her calf was brushing his since he was more than sure she didn’t mean to do it. “I hope you’ve been keeping yourself busy?” Val’s smile told him that she had. “Working all day, sleeping all night, nothing too exciting.”

She knew getting this out of the way was best so drummed the table. “Had a visitor this morning as well, so that was nice.” Varian’s genuine curiosity wasn’t going to be there long and she knew that full well. “Oh? Anyone I know?” The way she was worrying her bottom lip didn’t fill him with confidence.

“Yes, it was Cillian, he docked last night, remember him?” The pure loathing on Varian’s face said it all. “And just why has he suddenly decided to visit?” Val knew he wouldn’t be happy about the pirate’s appearance, and for the life of her she’d never understand the jealousy that the prince had towards him, but it had slowly been escalating since Cillian had made his most recent appearance in Stormwind a few years ago when normally, it was Val going to him.

“You can blame my Gramma for it if you want; he’s come on her behalf.” She sighed, putting her cup down. “She wants Lucian and I to move to Bloodstone permanently.” Varian grimaced, shifting his chair closer to hers and feeling dread creep up his spine. “Well that’s not what I expected to hear you say the minute I got back.” She shrugged, not realising that brushing her fingertips over his thigh was probably the worst thing she could do right now. “If it eases your heart at all, we told her it’s not going to happen in a million years.”

That earned her a smile, and she thankfully took her hand away once she noticed how it was tensing. She didn’t want to bring up how he was clearly aroused lest it embarrass him, but that didn’t stop her glancing at it every now and then, which only made her own tingles worse but she seemed to be a glutton for punishment. “Good. Any particular reason she wants you to move away after all this time?”

Val gave him a dry look. “Oh come now Varian, you really thought she wouldn’t find out about the orc attacks?” His hand felt larger than usual curling around her forearm. “No, but I’m surprised she heard this quickly. How much does she know?” Val shrugged, gently scratching his wrist just to keep her fingers occupied and watching his jaw set.

“No idea, Cillian wouldn’t tell us, which makes me think she hasn’t told him much either.” There was a shade of worry draped over his bruised face. “And you’re sure you don’t want to go?” Even her smile was making him start to quiver, this was insanity in its highest form.

“I’m sure. As much as I talk about loving my family, I couldn’t live with them all again.” He chuckled at the same time she did, knowing exactly what she meant. Glenmore Grove had over seven people excluding the children living there, so to say it was claustrophobic would be an understatement. “I’m glad to hear it. I would be sorely disappointed if you left just after forgiving me.” Her eyes had taken a dreamy look and Varian knew for a fact that it was the same look he had right now.

“Well, you don’t have to worry.” One kiss. “I’m staying-” another kiss, and her small palms on his cheeks, inviting him to put his on the dips of her waist. “-right here.” Her chair went backwards with a loud clatter that made Varian wince as he pulled Val forward, putting his arms around her waist to steady her and groaning in relief, pressing his lips as hard as he could against hers.

It must have been the cemented privacy of being in her own house, or maybe it was the familiarity of the place, but Val was alot more relaxed than she had been for the past couple of months, digging her fingers in his hair and draping her legs either side of him, making it worse for Varian since he could feel her arousal seep through the cotton of his breeches, making him yearn to move this along when what his heart wanted to do was take this as slowly as possible to assess how far she wanted to go.

She eventually pulled back, putting her palms on his chest and not breaking their stare. “I don’t think I have to tell you that I missed you.” She grinned, feeling her cheeks go red as she said it. “I think I can feel it.”

His hips rolled before he could stop it, pressing his hardness against her and letting him watch her eyelids flutter and hear a pretty little sigh leave her lips. “You must think me rather promiscuous, getting like this after five minutes.” Val shook her head, fighting not to bite her lower lip when one of his already powerful hands cupped the underside of her thigh and the other stayed around her waist.

“Not really, considering how much I’ve been denying you. I’m impressed you’ve been this patient with me.” She half expected his serious look. “Waiting until you were ready wasn’t me being patient, it was me being a decent human being.” Val bent again, carefully running a thumb over his cheek and feeling her heart ache at the bump it covered.

“I should really let you rest…” Varian answered her with another kiss. “Val, I’m fine. Trust me.” She climbed from him, picking the chair up and feeling a strange apprehension; they hadn’t done this is over three years, it was almost like they were having the first all over again, it was a little disorienting. “Come to bed with me?” Varian’s happiness at the mere invitation made his whole face light up as he carefully stood with her.

“If you want me to.” Her smile held a nervousness, one he wanted to kiss away. “I do.” The door closing was louder than it should have been since the two of them stayed in silence, with Val switching her candle to one that still had a wick and lighting it even though Varian knew his way around this room like the back of his hand by this point.

“It’s still the same in here.” Val murmured an agreement, standing awkwardly on the other side of the bed from him. “I didn’t feel the need to change anything. Although I think there’s a few more chips in the paint.” She picked up her book from earlier, putting it back on the bookshelf and feeling the silence on her like a lead weight.

“I’m sorry about how cold it is, the window gets stuck every now and then, and it lets the chill in.” Varian flashed her a apprehensive smile. “It’s fine. I’ve been in camps for three weeks, I’m used to it.” He held a hand out, making the first move like she had expected him to, and she suddenly felt rather foolish for how nervous she was being when Varian was probably the one person on Azeroth that she could be completely comfortable with.

“Don’t be scared Sweetheart.” She put her arms around his waist and let him merely hold her for a minute. “I’m not scared, I just…hope I don’t ruin how I remember it.” Varian’s quiet chuckle sent pleasant vibrations through her. “I’m sure you’ll be as good as you were back then….now I on the other hand, apologise in advance.”

She looked up at him, giving him silent permission to bend and initiate what in truth they had both wanted since the day they’d reconciled, and to his credit, Varian’s urgency didn’t show in his kiss, or indeed in the ones he trailed down her cheeks and along her jaw.

What astounded her was how his hand was shaking while it moved her loose hair back over her shoulder, resting on the back of her neck as his eyes flicked upwards and found hers closed, meaning she wasn’t against anything he was doing, which was always a relief.

“Tell me if I do this too hard.” A shadow of a smile curved her lips. “You know I enjoy it.” He did, but that didn’t stop him kissing her neck as a bizarre way of preparing it for his gentle bite, hearing her gasp in a way he had only dreamed of for three years and feeling his groin twitch like it’d been hit by the noise, with her arms going around his shoulders and holding on just as he remembered it.

With a need that he was only just managing to contain, he pressed his teeth deeper into her soft skin and letting the fingers of his other hand dance down her spine until he got to the hem of her shirt and stopped, not wanting to overstep this early on when a few weeks ago she had refused to even kiss him properly.

He brought his head up, brushing her nose with his and struggling to get his breathing under control. “Light, I want you so badly Val…it’s hurting me.” She cupped his cheeks, her eyes swimming with remorse. “I don’t want that Varian.” He looked strangely at peace despite what he’d just told her, keeping one hand on her back and the other holding one of her cheeks as tenderly as she was doing with his. “It’s a pain I’ll gladly endure if it means you’re content. I’ll go at your pace, no slower and no faster.” And now she relaxed, and he was glad of it.

The olive tone to her skin came back to her cheeks and she exhaled slowly, putting her face in her hands. “I’m being ridiculous.” Varian kissed the crown of her head, taking her hands away and squeezing them. “No you’re not.” Her face didn’t look as nervous as her voice made her out to be. “Don’t mistake me Varian, I do want this…holy hells do I want this.” Varian put her hair behind her ear. “There’s no rush Sweetheart, we have all the time in the world.”

That made her laugh, which was something. “Not really, Lucian will be back tomorrow.” She took a deep breath, putting both palms first on the waistband of his breeches, then moved them up, lifting his shirt and exposing more of his chest until her height hindered her, with Varian’s hands touching hers as he took over and pulled the garment over his head, letting it fall lamely next to him.

He gave her a minute to reacquaint herself, smiling in amusement at how her fingers traced every one of his muscles like she was astounded he had them. “That training’s been paying off.” Now it was his turn to laugh. “I should certainly hope so, I’ve been doing enough of it.” She was being deliberately delicate, using the very tips of her fingers instead of her palms this time, traversing the spray of hair he’d had since he practically became a man, one that travelled down his abdomen and down into his breeches.

Her fingertips kept brushing the small scars dotted here and there, the small rose tattoo only she knew about that he’d gotten as a dare for her birthday resting just under his pectoral, she felt like a blind woman feeling it for the first time and finally started to feel the warmth in the pit of her stomach pull and tug until it was in her chest and flowing into her hips and intimates, it was invigorating.

She kissed what she could reach, wrapped in a gorgeous cocoon of nostalgia at the way his skin felt, how he smelled, everything. She stepped back, closing her eyes as she took her own shirt off and carrying on backwards, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Join me?” Varian took his boots off, instinctively pulling his breeches down but stopping with them halfway down his backside, freezing and meeting her gaze. “No, it’s fine, take them off. I think it’s better that way.”

He understood what she meant and carried on, feeling the chill she’d warned him about once he was bare, sitting next to her when she got herself comfortable against the pillow, lying on their sides facing each other and merely exploring, with his rough palm cupping her breast and running a thumb over a nipple, or her fingers raking across his strong thigh, it was satisfying enough for the two of them to merely sit here and touch one another.

Val saw how pained he was by the redness of his head, merely placing the butt of her hand on his tip and feeling it twitch like she’d just shocked him, his hips grinding against air and his breaths becoming laboured. She took her hand away and he eventually calmed, looking rather sheepish. “It’s been a long time.” Val slowly nodded, running her knuckles down his cheek. “Yes…it has.”

She leant over and he met her in the middle, holding her hip as they kissed and groaning in contentment when she pressed her chest against his, letting her body meld to it like she used to. “I love you so much…” She shushed him, sensing his overwhelming emotions. “I know. I know I haven’t been the best partner over the past month, but I’ve loved you just as much as I did Varian, I promise.”

Varian swept her hair back with both hands, ever so gently parting her legs and nestling in between them. “No, no, you’ve been as perfect as you’ve always been. I hurt you Val, I realise that, and I swear, I’ll never do it again.” Her nose bumped against his as she looked down at how they were lain, like she couldn’t quite believe it. “You didn’t hurt me.” Just to hear it with such sincerity eased Varian’s conscience and he planted lazy, soft kisses along her shoulders.

“Varian?” He pushed himself onto his elbows. “Yes love?” Val swallowed, giving him a small yet profound smile. “I’m ready if you are.” Varian felt an elation wash over him and he nodded, positioning himself and keeping her gaze, holding one of her hands to the side of them and holding her thigh as he nudged his head in, stopping the second she started hissing.

“Val?” She opened her eyes, releasing the pressure her nails were putting into his back. “I’m fine, you might just have to go slower this time.” She gave him a grin. “You’re rather big Varian, I’ve always told you that.” It seemed the filter in front of Varian’s mouth had disappeared, and he blurted “and you’ve always been a tight little thing” before he could stop it, earning a pout.

“You always told me you loved it.” Varian’s brow furrowed as he slid another inch in, bringing it out and feeling her start to adjust already. “I do, but that doesn’t mean it makes knowing I’m hurting you any better.” Val arched her back a little, feeling her breaths grow jagged with just the sensation of having him inside her again when she had sworn it would never happen, it was a delicious ecstasy that made little spots appear in front of her eyes already. “More…more Varian.”

Light, he’d missed her voice changing whenever they made love; her normally sharp tones would slow down to merely a purr, and all it did was make him want to rush when really, that would just ruin everything. “Patience Sweetheart.” Her nervousness seemed to have dissipated, which he was thankful for, and soon her legs were wrapped around his waist like they had been in days long past, helpfully opening her up a little and letting him push in further, filling his ear with moans and gasps that made his head light. “I want to be full of you again…” Varian kissed her cheeks, her nose, her eyes, everything he could, gritting his teeth and holding her far too tightly. “And you will be, just a little more my love.”

She knew he wouldn’t last long, but neither of them cared. In all honesty, this was merely a means for their bodies to reacquaint themselves, the long love making bouts they were used to could come later. She bit her lip hard enough to bleed as finally, after a month long self inflicted abstinence, She felt Varian’s entire length fill her, with his swollen testicles resting against her entrance and his thick length brushing every nerve she had, sending shocks all over her body and threatening to paralyse her.

Varian was shaking with need and she nestled her head in his shoulder, kissing his already salty skin. “How does it feel?” She didn’t know exactly why she asked him that but didn’t feel too ridiculous doing it as Varian starting panting to get his voice to work. “So…damn…good…you’re amazing…”

Val kissed his temple. “I’m ready Varian, don’t worry about hurting me, it’s fine.” His fingertips would be imprinted in her thigh for a good while he suspected as he began moving his hips, drinking in every sounds she made, her smell that he would know absolutely anywhere, the feeling of her skin against his. “Val…Val.” She was finally his again, and he couldn’t be more happier about the fact. He’d been so lost without her it had nearly killed him, and he had no intentions of getting there again.

Val didn’t have time to tell him to pull out when she felt him swell both inside and outside of her wet folds, merely clinging to him and choking out a laugh of relief as he pumped warm seed into her, coating her walls and making her feel like she had died and the Light had taken her, squeezing his hips and kissing his face all the way through his bellow of utter relief, relief at finally releasing what had been brewing for so long it had started to constantly agonise him.

Once he was done his head flopped lamely next to hers and neither of them made an attempt to move, merely soaking in what had just happened and wondering if the other regretted it at all. “Apologies…I couldn’t stop myself in time.” Val shushed his worried tone, brushing sweat slick hair back from his face. “It’s fine, honestly.” Varian’s kiss was full of exhaustion, and only then did she remember he had literally arrived home from a battlefield. “You should get some sleep.” He murmured an agreement, pushing himself up and raising an eyebrow when she pulled him back down. “I didn’t say you had to leave.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

Val wasn’t used to waking up beside anyone nowadays, so felt a pang of slight fear when her elbow met flesh, opening her eyes and exhaling in relief when Varian’s nose met hers. Her bed was against the wall and only built for one person, so they had no choice but to lie as closely as they could and resist stretching out.

She had to smile, since for a horrible second she was convinced last night hadn’t happened and she’d dreamt it, yet the prince snoring next to her with utter contentment on his face contradicted that theory and made her realise it hadn’t been a dream, he had come last night and they had finally made love again after dancing around the idea for far too long.

A familiar stickiness on her thighs made everything that much more real, and she felt rather foolish enjoying it as much as she did. “Varian?” His eyelids twitched but he didn’t wake up, letting Val slide from the bed and creep over to her vanity and pull a handkerchief from one of the drawers, sitting on the rickety stool and cleaning herself up.

He eventually stirred, earning her smile as he pushed himself onto one elbow, clearly wondering where she was. “Morning.” Scratching his stomach he rolled onto his back, shimmying up and blinking a few times. “I feel strangely hungover...” She wiped the rest of her thigh, opening her small pot of cocoa butter and rubbing her elbows. “So do I, but I can guarantee we didn’t drink last night.”

She felt a certain nervousness that she couldn’t shake or understand, and apparently he noticed since his eyebrow rose as if to silently ask her what was wrong. “Do you have any regrets?” He barely waited a second before shaking his head. “Not in the slightest.” His brows drew down instead. “Do you then?” Val bit her bottom lip, rubbing a small scoop of butter onto her knees instead.

“No, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to keep my hands off you now.” His chuckle was thick with broken sleep and he beckoned her over, shifting up as much as he could and kissing her knees as she sat with them bent, running his hand up her calf. “I don’t recall telling you that you had to.”

His lips were as dry as hers but it didn’t matter as she leant her head back and lazily accepted his kiss. “I keep thinking it was just a beautiful dream.” Varian pecked her temple, stroking her thigh now, just needing to touch her in some way. “What if I told you that for once, your dream has come true?” the stubble on his neck scratched her but she didn’t care, she kissed it anyway.

“I wouldn’t believe you.” He craned his head back, yanking her covers from where they had fallen down between the bed and wall and throwing them over their legs. “Don’t do that, I might go to sleep again.” Their entwined hand fell into her lap.

“And is that such a bad thing?” Val bit her bottom lip, bringing her knees up a bit more. “Yes, because we actually have things to do today.” She hated closing her eyes when he kissed her jaw yet here she was, becoming more relaxed than she had in a long while. “Do we? I wasn’t aware of anything.” Val poked his nose, watching his hand let hers go and slowly inch down her belly. “You have council and I have work.”

Varian scoffed, pressing a fingertip to her sweet spot and keeping it there as her back arched and her thighs squeezed his wrist. “Those things can easily wait Sweetheart.” Val felt her belly start to contract and relax with her jagged breaths. “Not really, your father-” a firmer press cut her off and her thighs started to quiver. “Can wait. Please Val, this is the first morning you’ve let me wake up to you, allow me to enjoy it.”

She took his hand away so she could at least try and stay cognitive so they could talk. “Fine, but no more teasing, it’s too early.” Concern was etched in his features. “Are you sore?” She nodded, glad she hadn't had to say it. It had hardly happened in the years they’d been together, but she supposed the long hiatus had made it so her body had to readjust to having him take her again.

“How badly?” She gave him a small smile. “Not as much as you’re probably thinking. I’ll take a bath soon, that should sort it.” He still looked disgruntled, putting his head on her shoulder and making her wonder if it felt as uncomfortable as it looked to her. “I hate hurting you.”

Val looped an arm up and ran her fingers through his hair. “Would it help if I told you I bloody enjoyed it though?” His chuckle warmed her shoulder. “Maybe a little bit.” He lifted his head again, putting one hand on her other side and twisting so his top half was above hers.

“Did you really enjoy it?” Val grinned, putting her arms around his neck. “You know I did.” Varian must’ve known she enjoyed slow kisses, hanging onto her lip for a few seconds once he was done. “I’m sorry it wasn’t that long.” Val chewed her bottom lip, completely forgetting the slight burn between her legs and opening them anyway.

Varian got the hint and to be perfectly honest, was alot more comfortable once he was nestled in between her thighs, wrapping one of his long legs around hers and gently bringing himself down so her could put his arms under her armpits and hold her by her shoulders. “I’m sure we can make up for it.” She kissed him again, sweeping his hair back and holding onto him, wincing when his head brushed her swollen folds and praying he didn’t notice.

“Maybe we should hold off this morning?” She sighed, berating herself for even entertaining the thought that he wouldn’t see it. “I don’t want to hold off.” Varian kissed her temple, gently sweeping two fingers along her folds and gauging her reaction, shaking his head as she screwed her face up.

“No, we’ll skip it this morning.” He chuckled, seeing that she clearly didn’t agree with him. “Don’t pout Sweetheart, we’ll have other opportunities.” Val didn’t look convinced. “We’ll be too busy.” Varian rolled his eyes, latching onto her neck to placate her, waiting until her breaths were stunted and she was practically pulling his hair out before bringing his head back up, kissing her cheek and trying not to smile at her annoyed look.

“Val, I promise you, now that I know you want me to make love to you again, I will make time.”And there was the half amused, half intrigued eyebrow. “Oh will you now?” Varian was careful not to rub against her as he shifted up, unlatching his arms and cradling her head instead.

“You know damn well I will.” He nudged her cheek with the tip of his nose. “You know I’d always put you above everything else, if anything I’m actually insulted that you doubt me.” Val twisted the ends of his hair around her finger. “Maybe I just don’t think highly enough of myself to believe it.” Varian ran his nose through her hair now, taking deep breaths and enjoying her scent wafting up his nose fart too much.

“Well you should, since I plan to stick to it.” Val wrinkled her own nose, really hating to have to be the one to say this. “Varian, we need to start getting ready. People will be wondering where you are and you still haven’t seen the medics. I don’t want to be responsible for the Prince of Stormwind walking around with cracked ribs.”

Varian huffed, trying not to look at her. “My ribs are just fine woman, stop worrying about me.” Val’s eyebrow rose and she fought the urge to snicker. “Varian, that’s all I’ve been doing for three weeks, I can’t just switch it off like a tap, what kind of person would I be then?” Varian stayed silent for a good minute and she began to wonder if he’d actually gone back to sleep just to spite her, but eventually his sigh told her that he was still conscious, which was a start.

“Fine, but once councils over, we do what I want alright?” She murmured an agreement, but his curse cut it off. “What?” Varian’s face wasn’t the most reassuring it had ever been. “I promised Father I’d take lunch with him today.” He gave her a small smile.

“Will you join us? I know he won’t mind.” Val thought it over for all of two seconds. “I don’t see why not. What time?” Varian shifted so he was back on his side, letting them talk better since she stayed on her back, making it more comfortable for the both of them. “About one? I’m hoping council doesn’t run over today, but there’s no telling since we’ll inevitably start arguing about the orcs.” Val played with his chest hair, putting one arm under her head to lift it. “Don’t start fights with everyone in there Varian, it’s not worth it.”

Varian started drawing little patterns on her belly with his fingertip. “I can’t make promises that I can’t keep Sweetheart.” She swatted his chest and tried not to join in with his laughter but failing miserably. “You’re such an arse.” Varian lifted her head kissing her neck and holding her tighter. “You love my arse though, so I win really, don’t I?” Val’s hips ground at air and her eyes screwed themselves shut. “Varian, don’t tease me…” That only goaded him on, with him leaning over and kissing her hips instead.

Though a knock on her door stopped the both of them in their tracks, with Val clapping a hand over Varian’s mouth as he came back up since they would both inevitably start laughing out of habit. “When the hells did you get back?” Varian held her closer, trying to subtly touch her when subtlety was his weakest trait. “About ten minutes ago, I stayed at Georges’. Can I come in so I don’t have to shout? My head is banging.”

Val swallowed, trying to ignore Varian stroking her waist. “No, I’m not dressed. Give me five minutes and I’ll be right out.” Varian gave her a look that said just tell him I’m here, and stupidly she shushed him despite no noise coming from his mouth. “Did you just shush yourself?” Val rolled her eyes at the snickering Varian, sitting up properly and cursing him as he started kissing her shoulders instead.

“Luce, I said I’ll be out in a minute, could you piss off please?” Her brother’s laugh made her stomach plummet. “Alright, well, tell Varian there’s bacon on the go if he wants any.” Varian’s snort sent a blast of heat to her shoulder and she jerked it upwards in an attempt to smack him with it. “When in any of this conversation have I mentioned Varian?”

Another laugh. “I’m not completely stupid little sister; you said you’re naked, you won’t let me in and it’s the talk of the city that Varian’s back from Brightwood. So just clean up and come eat, the both of you.” Val shoved Varian’s face away as the prince started creasing in laughter, getting up and throwing his breeches at him, feeling her face flush and grumbling to herself as the day started rather differently to how she had expected it to last night.

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Val was engrossed in sharpening a dagger someone had commissioned when Lucian tapped her shoulder later that morning, startling her and nearly getting his arm sliced open as she turned. “Bloody hell, you must’ve been a million miles away.” Val tapped the half-finished blade against the grindstone, clearly perturbed by something. “I’m just thinking about this whole ‘Orc’ situation.” Lucian’s brow furrowed as he pulled a stool towards him and sat next to her.

“It’s mad, isn’t it?” Val took her goggles off and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Stormwind has always been the safe city, the place where feeling like you’re in danger was never a thing. Now there’s an army probably making its way here and I feel like nothing’s being done about it.” She sighed, taking her hand away. “Maybe we should take Cil’s offer…”

Lucian's eyebrow rose and he put a hand on his thigh. “You’ve changed your tune all of a sudden.” Val’s look told him she wasn’t serious about going with the pirate. “Varian’s face when he came here last night Luce, I’ve seen him battered a little before but that was something else. His ribs were bruised and he’d looked like he’d gone ten rounds with an Elekk.” Lucian tried to look reassuring.

“Varian can take it, he’s a strong lad.” He nudged her, trying to coax a smile. “And he’s got a woman that’s willing to argue the toss with him when she thinks he’s going too far, so that’s something, eh?” that made his sister smirk despite herself. “You think he’s scared of me?” Lucian chuckled, patting her shoulder. “Oh, I don’t doubt that he’s terrified of you.” Val laughed, standing up and taking her apron off after a quick glance at the clock. “I better get a move on before he thinks I’ve stood him up.” Lucian caught her gloves as she threw them at him, taking his own off since he needed lunch as much as her.

“Just remember what I said earlier; if that Garona is there, don’t let her figure out that you and Varian are a couple.” Val’s sceptical look only made his face stonier. “Val, I mean it. I don’t trust that green bitch as much as Varian, and if Light forbid she is a spy and goes back to Doomhammer telling him you’re Varian’s woman, what’s the first thing he’ll do?” Val rolled her eyes, undoing her hair and bounding upstairs to grab something clean to wear.

“You are such a worry wart brother. Blackhand is not going to bother kidnapping and ransoming a blacksmith. Besides, Varian would probably rip his heart out before he could even get me out of the gates! Stop fretting!” She could hear his angry sigh from her bedroom. “I’m your brother, it’s my job to fret! Now hurry up before you’re late!”

She knew today was going to be great fun as soon as she stepped into the Keep, trying in vain to fix the stiff collar of her powder blue jerkin and failing miserably since her fingers were larger from the brown gloves she had on with it. Thankfully her shirt was clean for once so she had no qualms about traversing the halls until she saw Bessie coming towards her. “Oh Lassie, thank the Light yer here! Prince Varian’s in a terrible humour, I was actually about to send for ye!”

Val could feel her headache creeping up on her already as she put a reassuring hand on Bessie’s shoulder. “What’s happened to piss him off so?” Bessie pointed to another figure coming down the hall, and it took Val all of two seconds to realise that the green skin meant that this was ‘Garona’.

She looked oddly human considering the sketches Arthas had shown her of other orcs during his time in Stormwind, so she couldn’t help but stare as she went past. “I take it she was at the meeting?” Bessie nodded her head, joining the younger woman in watching the Orc walk away. “Aye, and apparently all she did was damn Varian, he’s nae happy about it.” A door slammed behind them and Varian stomped over, grabbing the top of Val’s arm and turning her.

“Did that pig say anything to you?! Tell me if she so much as looked at you, I need a reason to cut her open!” Val shook her head, taking his hand away. “Varian, calm down! She said nothing to us. Now, what’s happened to get you so riled up?” Varian waved a hand to beckon an exhausted-looking Tiffin over, not turning his anger filled gaze from the Orc as she lingered in the throne room.

“That stupid bitch told my Father that it was a mistake to go to Brightwood and that I’ve just damned the whole of Stormwind. She says retaliation is a given and it’s all my fault.” Bessie put her hands on her hips. “But they had our citizens captive! What else were ye supposed ta do?” Varian finally looked down at the dwarf, with white-hot rage still lingering in his eyes.

“I know that Bess, you know that, but I’ll be damned if my Father will listen to me. He….he actually agreed with her.” Val let Tiffin embrace her, keeping her arm around the blonde. “Is this true?” Tiffin looked torn beyond belief. “Well, he didn’t outright say that he agreed, he merely said that it may prove true and that we need to be ready.” Varian huffed like an angry bull.

“That’s the same thing!” Val let her arm drop, instead taking Varian’s outstretched hand. “So how is this all down to you specifically?” Varian ran his spare hand down his face. “Because I’m the one that took down Blackhand’s second in command, and the ones that managed to flee saw that it was me.” Val squeezed his hand despite their difference in strength meaning he barely felt it. “You did the right thing, Varian.” Tiffin nodded in agreement.

“She’s right Varian, they started this by taking our people in the first place. You merely showed them that it won’t be taken lying down.” Val knew she needed to say something to cheer him up and quickly, so smiled the best she could. “I’m seeing Cillian later to tell him my answer is definitely no.” Varian looked visibly relieved.

“Good, it would’ve killed me to lose you now. Though a voice in the back of my mind is telling you that Minnie has the right idea after that debacle.” Tiffin knew they were all being listened to, so took Varian’s arm whilst Val said her goodbyes to Bessie. “How about we discuss this in private, hm? Your Father’s expecting us.”

Val took his other arm before remembering what Lucian had said, and even though she believed him to be paranoid, she heeded it, earning a raised eyebrow from the prince as the three of them made a beeline for the dining hall, with Jon and Nan waiting for their respective charges. “Lucian thinks I might get abducted if the orcs find out how close we are.” Varian’s face turned thunderous in an instant. “If they even tried I’d kill them all with my bare hands.”

Val kissed his bicep now they were on their own in the corridor. “I know you would, but I’ll make your life a bit easier by not giving you another job.” Varian finally chuckled, making Val feel a little smug. “Well then, thank you for thinking of me like that Sweetheart.” Tiffin leant forward to talk to Val as if Varian weren’t there. “So how was last night? I noticed Varian coming back this morning.” Val could feel her cheeks burn as Varian lightly tutted.

“Tiffin Ellerian you nosy mare.” Tiffin couldn’t resist adding. “I noticed he was a lot more relaxed as well, so it must’ve been a good night.” Val went a deeper red and Varian’s laughter only got louder. “Not that it’s any of your concern, but yes, it was. Now hush, I don’t really want Lothar hearing the details of my sex life.”

Tiffin made a noise of agreement as Val broke away from the two, letting them all be announced as Jon let them in and bowing/curtseying to King Llane, who was already there with the usual faces; Anduin Lothar looked angrier than Val had seen him be for a long while, Khadgar looked…tired, and Bolvar Fordragon was clearly in the middle of a rant since his face was almost as red as his hair. “Sit, all of you, so I can carry on arguing with Highlord Fordragon.”

On any other occasion Val would’ve laughed at the sarcasm in the King’s voice but today she knew better as they took their seats…well, she and Tiffin did, Varian, however, remained standing with his palms on the table. “If I may interject already Father? I need to get this off of my chest before I explode.” Llane sighed, presumably knowing what was coming but waving a hand of permission regardless.

“You shamed me in front of the enemy in that council chamber just now. You let that damn…monster slander me and stood silent!” Llane’s jaw clenched and he stopped Varian there. “I did nothing of the sort my son! It is my duty to listen to all reasoning put in front of me!” Bolvar let out a sharp laugh that held no humour.

“You let that witch talk for near on half an hour Llane! I’m starting to think you’ve lost your damn mind! We have the Orcs right where we want them! Blackhand has been betrayed from within! The Horde is in disarray! We should strike whilst the iron is hot!” Val felt rather stupid but she spoke anyway. “Blackhand’s been killed?” Varian gave her a stiff nod, not taking his eyes from his Father.

“Providing it’s even true! Once again all we have is the word of that green-skinned half breed!” Lothar’s words made Khadgar link his fingers. “But what if she is telling the truth? If Blackhand has been killed and Orgrim Doomhammer now leads the Horde, surely there are two possibilities to end this war?” Lothar groaned, looking like he was about to punch the first face that happened to get in the way of his gauntlet covered fist.

“If you say the word ‘negotiation’ so help me Light I’ll get those robes and stuff them-” “Enough! Anduin, Varian, Bolvar, I know you don’t trust Garona, you’ve made it perfectly clear, but she is here in good faith! She has given us valuable information time and time again!” Varian’s fist pounded on the table.

“While at the same time probably doing the exact same thing for the Horde!” Bolvar looked as if he was in total agreement, making Tiffin and Val seem rather lost right now, so they quietly and patiently sat and watched the argument erupt, ready to calm the prince when it became absolutely necessary.

“Your Majesty, how else would the Horde have known we’d be patrolling Elwynn and ambush us? We lost good men that day!” Lothar waved a hand of dismissal. “That’s not the point we’re trying to make! The people are starting to notice her around the city, normally stuck up your arse Llane! They’re going to start thinking she’s the next bloody Queen!” Llane and Varian both paled in horror. “Don’t you dare. You overstep Anduin, to ridiculous degrees.”

Varian was close to either tears or violence, and Val couldn’t tell which one it was going to be, something that scared her as she stood. “You need to step back from her Father. She’s poison, pure and simple. We intend to hit the Horde where it hurts and we can’t do that when there’s a spy in our midst. Send her back to her own kind.” Llane sighed, a tired, sullen sound that made the hairs on Val’s arms stand up.

“She’s not wanted by them either Varian, don’t you see? She has no home, and haven’t I always said that Stormwind is open to those who seek sanctuary?” Bolvar’s voice was thankfully quieter. “We will have droves of our own people flooding to our gates if we let the Horde carry on pillaging and burning our towns.” Val frowned, letting Varian put his arm around her.

“There’s already so many more beggars than before.” Llane hung his head. “I know, I’ve seen them. The army is on the brink of finishing their training, the weapons have been made and distributed, now we just need the perfect time to strike the main Orc settlement.” Tiffin stood since she realised she was the only one sitting.

“Do we have any idea where it is?” Khadgar nodded, glad that the conversation had calmed down. “It’s sitting by the portal, supposedly to make sure we can’t get to it and they can get more troops through.” Varian took a long, deep breath. “Sign the order for the building of a Keep on the other side of the Blasted Lands. Let us send troops there, troops we can actually trust and place them behind the mountains, out of sight. Gather intelligence through them, and then we can strike whilst the fury is there.” Llane looked his only child straight in the eye.

“And you’re to manage and lead this Keep, I presume?” Varian straightened his back, glancing at Val with apologetic eyes. “If it protects those I love, I would stay there until my bones were too old to move.” Llane eyed Tiffin this time. “And what of Stormwind, should Light forbid I fall? You have no heir, so you’d have to return.” Varian’s eyes narrowed. “Then move the welcome party and wedding forward so I can rectify that and defend my people.”

Val and Tiffin both gave him incredulous stares. “And just when were you thinking of my son?” Varian stayed silent, mentally arguing and eventually agreeing with both women. “Next week.” Llane looked sceptical. “We can’t pull together an entire wedding in a week Varian.” Tiffin swallowed. “The wedding has been planned for two years, we have only to put things in motion. A week will suffice.” Varian tensed his shoulders.

“Especially since it’s a sham anyway.” Val hadn’t said a word and Khadgar of all people had noticed. “Miss Glenmore? What do you think?” Val let Varian squeeze her hand, putting a smile on her face. “If it helps Stormwind, I’m all for it.” Lothar looked impressed. “There are different sorts of bravery my girl, and you’ve just proved that you’re bloody brave.” Varian’s small smile was laced with pride. “Braver than me, I’ll happily admit.” He turned back to his Father.

“Well? Do we have a deal, Father? I go through with the wedding if you build the Keep. Then Lothar and I will take forces down to the portal, storm the place and get rid of those barbarians for good.” Llane was silent for a long minute, clearly debating what the exact response would be that pacified everyone. He saw the determination in his son’s eye, the same one Taria would have when faced with a challenge, the one he would admit he had lost over the last few years.

“Fine. But I am still your father as well as your king Varian, and if I deem it too risky, you are to obey me without question, understand?” Varian thumped a fist on his chest in salute and bowed, looking more relaxed. “Completely. Thank you for giving me a chance to prove myself.” Llane’s attention fell to Khadgar. “Go tomorrow to Karazhan with Garona, find out all you can about the portal and how to close it. Work closely with Medivh and hopefully, we can cut the rest of their army off.” Lothar looked smug as he finally sat down, taking a large swig from his tankard.

“Thank the Light, I was starting to think we’d never start this bloody war, let alone finish it.” Llane invited them all to sit down now the confrontation was over, rubbing his temples. “Anduin, cockiness will get us nowhere. I’ll send regiments to Goldshire and the surrounding areas to fix what damage has been done and prevent further bloodshed.” Now Val was lost again. “Goldshire was hit as well?” Varian’s look was grim.

“I was going to tell you later when we had some privacy. Your friend Granthil was killed in the attack, his wife’s in the cathedral with the other refugees for now.” Val felt a sting of pain through her chest as the enormity of all this finally crashed on top of her. She had only seen Granthil last week; he had invited her and Lucian down for dinner, they had met his children….and now he was gone? It hit far too close for the smith, who barely felt Tiffin’s small hand on her shoulder. “I-I’ll go and see her later. He was a good man.” Bolvar ran a hand down his thick moustache.

“We’ve lost too many good men and women in this damn war.” Llane steepled his fingers, feeling as old as he probably felt. “Then let us hope your plan works Varian. If we can close the portal and plan this properly, this war could be over in a matter of weeks.” Their first course was served and Llane’s face lifted.

“But for now, let us focus on the wedding, something to distract us from the grim reality of war.” Varian’s face matched Val’s, both silently saying that the subject change wasn’t that much better but they would go with it, both taking long drinks and praying there would be more of it to get them through this slog.

Once dinner was over Varian requested time alone with Val, which Tiffin gladly gave to them, and soon enough they were both sitting opposite each other in the armchairs next to his fire, not knowing quite what to say with each other. “So…a week.” Varian sighed, leaning his head on one fist. “I regret choosing that short an amount of time if I’m honest. I just wanted him to agree to my plan.” Val picked some dirt from under her nail, watching the action intentionally.

“You know I won’t be coming?” Varian’s face remained passive. “I anticipated you saying it. I wouldn’t want to put you through that anyway.” She stared into the fire instead. “At least it will finally be over with.” Varian made a noise of agreement, reaching over and taking her hand.

“You do believe me when I say it means nothing, don’t you? Given the chance Val, I’d make you my wife in a second.” Val gave him the smallest of smiles. “I do believe you Varian, but it’s such a strange situation that it’ll take a while to adjust to.” Varian lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. “You don’t need to convince me of that.”

He had a funny feeling that it wasn’t the wedding she was upset about. “You can always come with me to the Keep once it’s finished. We’ll need a smithy.” Val took her hand away, propping her feet on the edge of the stool that sat between them. “I couldn’t leave Luce on his own Varian, you know that.” Varian couldn’t help his soft chuckle.

“Is living with me that daunting a concept?” She lightly kicked his leg, sticking her tongue out at him. “Are you joking? It’s all I’ve ever wanted.” She waved a hand of dismissal. “Regardless, Keeps aren’t built in a day, you’ll be here for a good while yet.” She made a face, earning another raised eyebrow. “Do I really have to come to another fucking ball?”

Varian laughed, getting up and flopping down onto his bed, holding onto her as she joined him, feeling like he could hear his back cry out in thanks. “Well, you don’t have to attend, but it would make me rather happy if you did…” She let him shuffle to his pillow so he could sit up a little to save his neck, straddling him so she didn’t have to strain herself, linking their fingers when he took both of her hands, holding her steady.

“There’d better be free drinks.” Varian chuckled, bending his legs so she could lean back onto them. “Of course.” Val felt him running his palms up and down her legs already. “And I’m bringing someone with me.” She made a thoughtful face. “Actually, two people.” Varian’s brows snapped down. “You better not be talking about that smooth talking, smartarse, pretty son of a bitch-”

He noticed her folded arms and pursed lips. “….does it have to be him? I’d rather you bring an actual ass.” Val’s look didn’t waver. “Varian, Cillian’s my friend, and the sooner you accept that the easier your life will be.” Varian’s own frown only deepened. “He’s trying to bed you, anyone can see it.” Val rolled her eyes, trying not to laugh.

“No, he’s not Varian.” Varian sat up straighter, forgetting all about how he had been touching her. “Val, he couldn’t make it more obvious if he tried! He does it to infuriate me!” Val put her hand over her mouth and it only made Varian angrier. “It’s not funny! He’s charming enough to actually do it!” Val bit her knuckle, thoroughly amused by how irate he was getting.

“Varian, I do have my own mind you know, and none of it wants to run away with Cillian. Stop feeling so threatened by him.” Varian huffed. “I’m not threatened by that leather covered, smug-faced cunt.” Val could tell her face was going red with held in laughter but knew the minute she started giggling was when he got absolutely furious at her.

“Sure you’re not. Not at all, In any way, shape or form are you threatened by the man you’ve called about ten names in the past minute.” She was more than sure a vein would appear from Varian’s neck any minute now. “Fine, bring him, see if I care. But if I see him so much as touch you in a way I don’t like, I will snap his neck faster than he can flash that stupid smile of his.” Val snuggled down, putting her head on his chest. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

Varian started running his fingers through her hair and kissed the crown of her head. “Are you sure you’re not angry at me for moving the wedding forward?” She was glad he couldn’t see her face since it was etched in a deep frown. “I have no reason to be unhappy about it, we all know it’s not a real marriage.” Varian had probably noticed how tense she’d gotten.

“You’re concerned about the heir part of it.” It wasn’t a question, merely a statement of fact, and Val hated how he knew exactly what was bothering her. “You’re going to have sex with another woman Varian, of course, I’m concerned.” His fingers stopped and he twisted her hair around them. “Not necessarily.” Val’s head hurt too much for such vagueness.

“Explain.” Varian chuckled at her curt answer, still playing with the curls he loved so much. “There are other ways of conceiving Val. Tiffin’s been doing some research and we found a few that might work.” She snorted and he knew exactly why. “Yes, it does involve me touching myself.” Val looked thoughtful again.

“I think I know what way you’re talking about…I’m sure that Bernadette from the florists did it to get pregnant. Is it the one with the syringe?” Varian really wasn’t sure how to feel about how they were talking so candidly about the fact that he was to have a child with a woman that wasn’t her, but appreciated how mature and calm she was being.

He, on the other hand, was shaking in his boots about absolutely everything and had no idea how to tell her that he was terrified of the next few weeks without making her doubt him. “Yes, that would be it. Tiffin respects that laying with her is the last thing on Azeroth that I want to do, so we compromised.”

“Sounds like it’s all been planned out.” Varian tightened his arms out of habit, wishing they could stay like this. “Only the parts you didn’t need to know about. I tried sparing your feelings a little.” Val smiled despite herself. “It takes a lot to hurt my feelings, Varian, you know this already.” His fingers stopped and she looked to see the pained expression on his face. “What is it?” Varian’s brow furrowed. “I can’t help but feel as if that’s all I’m doing right now.”

Val lifted her head. “I don’t follow.” Varian cupped her chin, kissing her cheek. “Hurting you. I know how desperate I was for us to reconcile, but now all this with the war, the wedding…I just see it as causing you unnecessary pain.” Val took his hand away, holding it tightly.

“Varian, if I felt that way about anything I’d tell you. I’m content with how things are right now, and like you said, being married to Tiffin changes practically nothing, so what’s there to get upset about?” He still looked uncertain. “You better not just be saying this to placate me, Val.” She tweaked his nose, laughing at his grimace.

“Since when have I said things just to make you feel better? Give me a little bit more credit than that Varian, I am a grown woman, I can decide things for myself.” Varian kissed her forehead once she nestled back onto his shoulder, tracing her spine with one fingertip and enjoying the little sighs it made bubble from her lips. “I know you can, but it’s my job to make sure you’re the happiest you can be, so forgive me if I come across as a little overbearing.”

She had buried her head in the crook of his neck since in his haze he’d started sliding his hand under her shirt and along her chest. “Well, I am the happiest woman in all of Azeroth right now.” Varian scoffed, gently squeezing her breast and rolling it in his palm. “Well, now I know you’re outright lying.” Her kisses felt as light as butterfly wings on his neck, but that didn’t mean they felt any less divine than if she’d pressed as hard as she could, letting Varian finally relax properly and lean his head back, trying to quell the groans building in his throat as she carried on down to the small patch of chest his shirt gave her a glimpse of.

She pulled the hems up, pouting childishly until he chuckled and sat up, yanking it over his head and laying back once again, truly impressed with how she still enjoyed kissing his chest when two-thirds of it was covered with thick dark hair.

He would never let any other woman see him exposed like this, it made him feel vulnerable, and she knew this, trying to calm him with the smallest of kisses, the gentlest of brushes with her calloused fingertips until eventually he relaxed and closed his eyes, grimacing when she kissed a particularly sore spot and not being able to stop his flinch.

She stopped, brushing his hair back. “Too much?” He didn’t bother opening his eyes. “No, just a little tender.” She traced an outline around the spot, stroking the line of hair that led into his breeches. “Just that bit?”

He nodded appreciatively and she took heed, wedging one hand under the waistband and stroking him, not that surprised at the fact that he was already erect. “We never did finish earlier.” He made a small noise of acknowledgement, becoming too preoccupied with turning his groans to pants in a vain attempt to quiet himself at her touch.

He noticed then she’d stopped and opened his eyes, finding her bolting the door and shedding her clothes, which in all honesty, he hadn’t expected. “What happened to making sure no one heard us?” Val shrugged, climbing under his furs and waiting for him to join her, which he did as soon as his breeches were thrown onto the floor. She always loved how powerful his arms felt when they encased her, and tonight was no exception.

She merely stayed in his arms for a good while, closing her eyes in satisfaction. “Let them hear. I’m sick of worrying about other peoples feelings all the time, it’s bloody exhausting.” He would admit he was a little thrown by the sudden mood shift, but it was a pleasant one nonetheless. He hated biting his tongue whenever she would put herself down for other peoples’ benefits, or deem herself unworthy of him to please others, it was infuriating, so to hear she didn’t care anymore was a relief to say the least.

He told her he totally agreed with a kiss that had all of his strength behind it, rolling over slowly enough for her to open her legs and have him fall neatly between them as her neck was peppered with sloppy, need laced kisses. “Stay here tonight.” Val was dying to say yes but remembered she had already made plans. “I can’t, not all night.”

She had realised early on into their lovemaking that Varian had a particular affinity for her breasts, and he would spend most of the time before he actually had her; kissing, sucking and biting them in every which way he could manage, and this occasion was no different as he left the outline of his mouth on her tanned skin. “Don’t make me beg.” She made a sound that was a mix of a chuckle and a moan, feeling her breath catch with every kiss.

“Varian, don’t be petulant.” He pushed himself up onto his hands and gave her one final kiss, scraping her bottom lip between his teeth as he pulled away, lifted her legs and gave himself to her, groaning into her hair with such contentment that she couldn’t help but feel her thighs get slicker. “Damn, you’re still so bloody tight…” Val kissed the side of his temple, wincing as he attempted to loosen her with quicker thrusts than earlier. “I’m sure you’ll see to that.”

A small nibble on her earlobe and a choked “did I say I didn’t like it?” only made her cling to him without meaning to, letting him use one forearm to prop himself up, leaving the other to hold a thigh as he made good on his promise to finish what was so rudely interrupted earlier, closing his eyes and merely enjoying every moan, hiss, pant, any noise that came from her mouth that meant she wanted to be here as much as he did and was content with a man that, in his own opinion, didn’t deserve having her in his arms like this.

He knew she’d merely roll her eyes and chide him if he said it, but Varian truly thanked the Light for a second chance to make things right with her. He knew he should’ve spoken to her before moving the wedding forward, but she’d forgive him in time, she always did whenever he did something stupid like that.“Concentrate Wrynn, I don’t want to find out I’m pregnant because you were in la la land.”

He smacked her backside harder than he meant to and opened his mouth to apologize, becoming pleasantly surprised at the loud, happy squeak she let out. “Do that again.” Varian’s pace slowed as his eyebrow rose. “Are you being serious?” Val nodded, biting her bottom lip.“Just once more.” He still wasn’t quite sure about it, but picked his pace up once more, getting her to a point where she was beginning to tighten where he was brushing every single nerve she had nestled within her walls, kissing her to sweeten her up before snapping his palm again on the same side as the first, pushing up so she could arch her back comfortably as her peak was reached.

She ignored Varian's slightly pained groan all the while she squeezed his length every time her hips rolled their way through a delicious climax, one that left her breathless and seeing small dots dancing in her eyes once she finished, feeling a small kiss on her cheek and smiling gratefully at him since even though it brought him to an impossible point, he had carried on with small, slow thrusts during it all. “All done?” She wound her arms around his neck tighter, putting her forehead on his and catching her breath and nodding, kissing him to let him know he could carry on.

To his credit, he lasted a lot longer than he had the day before, and even in the throes of absolute ecstasy, he managed to pull away in time. Val was waiting for him to come out from the washroom, looking out of his window at the snow that had decided it was time to fall in late January with his furs covering her modesty just in case someone decided to just walk in or climb up to Varian’s balcony and look in.

The glass was pleasantly cool on her forehead, counteracted by the warmth of Varian’s kiss on her shoulder, making her wonder how exactly she missed him coming in, but forgetting that thought as his thumbs dug into the back of her neck. “Are you sure you can’t stay?” Val chuckled, knowing he was only asking again to wind her up.

“I told Cillian I’d meet him and the crew for drinks. Do you want to make a liar out of me?” He took her scrunched hand away from his furs, letting them pool on the floor and turned her, smirking at the ‘fuck’ she emitted once her back hit the frosted glass.

“Varian, someone will see us…” Varian put his arm above her head to steady himself, with the other around her waist as he bent for another kiss. “There’s a balcony between us and them Val, stop fretting.” He sighed, hunching over so his forehead was on hers. “I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye every damn day.” She played with his chest hair since he was as bare as she was, following the small grooves of his muscles.

“We’ll probably see each other tomorrow Varian, it’s not that long a time.” Varian huffed, running a thumb over a bit mark on the underside of her breast. “It’s always too long. I don’t know what damn spell you’ve put me under woman, but I can’t go a few hours without craving to see you.” Val’s nose wrinkled in amusement.

“Varian stop exaggerating for Light sake.” Varian quickly tapped her ticklish spot, making her squirm and the glass behind her squeak. “I’m doing no such thing, Val.” Val still looked like she didn’t believe him and Varian knew it was because she shared the same insecurities he did, despite the hard faces and confidence they gave everyone during the day, together like this they could be completely themselves, it was intoxicating to a prince who felt like he was living out a damn masquerade every day of his life.

“Well you’ll have to live without me for one more night, I need to get a move on.” Varian’s arm got tighter but Val fought it, pushing herself from the window and twisting him as she made for the small pile of clothes she had put on the chair. “Let go you oaf.” Varian’s other arm joined it and lifted her from the ground, spinning her and dumping her back on his bed.

“Varian! I’m not staying!” His furs blocked out the candlelight as they swamped her like a net over a woodland critter, muffling his laughs as she scrambled to find her way out, poking her head from the wolf pelt like a mouse coming from its den. “You are such an immature idiot.” She looked and found her clothes had suddenly disappeared from the chair. “Really? We’re doing this? Varian, give me my clothes.”

He was lounging casually in the armchair opposite, feigning ignorance and mocking her even more by donning his trousers again. “I haven’t done anything with your clothes Sweetheart, where did you leave them?” She glared at him, not really wanting to get down from his bed since it was freezing cold. “Varian, fuck off and give me my damn clothes!” Varian pointed to the balcony. “They seem to have mysteriously found themselves outside…I can’t think how that happened.” She really wanted to laugh as much as she wanted to get angry.

“You son of a bitch.” He merely laughed, folding his arms. “I thought you had to go? Can’t keep Cillian waiting Sweetheart.” She groaned angrily, pulling his furs around her shoulders, running to the door and pulling it, finding it to be well and truly locked. “Varian!” Varian looked like he was about to fall from his chair with his gleeful laughter, slapping the arm and snorting as he tried to speak. “Well, I suppose you want the key then?”

Val was hopping from foot to foot to stop them getting frostbite from the stone floor. “Give it to me right now Varian or I swear to the Light I’ll cut off both your balls and end the Wrynn line!” He was twirling it in his fingers, and she knew the second she lunged for them he’d find some absurd way to stop her from achieving her goal. But her feet were already moving as she ran and snatched thin air, feeling the thud of the chair as she hit it and Varian got up, holding it above his head, which was high enough to make it impossible for her to grab.

She attempted it anyway, jumping on her toes and stretching as far as she could, wanting to punch his smug face as he dangled the silver key just out of her grasp. “Almost got it, Sweetheart, just a little further!” His laughter was making the idea of punching him deliciously tempting, but if she was perfectly honest, she was just glad she could make him laugh still after all the time they’d known each other. One of her biggest fears was that one day Varian would grow bored of her company and move on, so to still be able to make him this jovial was a blessing as much as it was annoying.

And it was very, very annoying. “Varian….give me the damn key.” Varian’s face softened. “One kiss and then I’ll consider it.” She sighed angrily, giving in and letting him lift her into a kiss that lasted longer than it really should have. “Varian, you can put me down now.” Varian looked a million miles away as he kissed her again. “I know, but that doesn’t mean I want to.” She poked his nose, trying not to laugh at how he wrinkled it.

“Varian. Stop it.” Varian huffed, putting her down, giving her the key and watching her dart out of the door, curse loudly at how damn cold it was, snatch up her clothes and glare at him as she got dressed. “Stop looking at me like that woman, it was merely a bit of fun.” Her face relaxed and she actually found herself laughing with him.

“You’re such a bastard.” He handed her her cloak, clenching his fists so he didn’t tie it and look like he was mothering her. He held the door open and walked her to the entrance of the Keep, not liking how dark it was. “Let me come with you to the Rose at least.”

She shook her head, appreciating the offer. “No, it’s a two-minute walk, I’ll be fine.” She looked behind him and quickly pecked him, laughing at his disgruntled look when she pulled back. “Stop pouting, it doesn’t become you.” Varian exaggerated his smile instead, making him look like he was passing a particularly painful batch of wind. She finished laughing and turned on her heel, waving goodbye once more before mustering up the willpower to actually leave the Keep and inhale the crisp night air, feeling outrageously tempted to turn back and re think Varian’s offer.

She loved Stormwind during the winter nights. The snow falling onto her only made her feel more at ease as she dodged puddles and leaves on the path leading from Stormwind Keep to Cathedral Square, adjusting her sight to the dim lamplight that escorted her to the beautiful house of the Light, with the stained glass windows illuminated as they always were and transfixing Val, who would happily admit she was still in the dream-like haze making love with Varian always brought with it, no matter how long it had been since the actual deed.

She put her hood down, wanting to be covered in the small white flakes and feel the tiny nips of cold they brought with them. It was already starting to stick to the green of the park, making her giddier as she went down the stairs to the harbour, where her good mood faded somewhat at the sight of army supplies, weapons caches and catapults scattered all over the shipyard, with warships replacing those of merchants.

She wasn’t looking forward to Varian leaving again but knew it was necessary. She would never, ever begrudge him doing his duty, but would always remind him that he wasn’t invincible, nor was he immortal, so charging headfirst into every battle that arose wasn’t the greatest idea….though he never listened so she wondered why exactly she bothered sometimes.

“Over here, Lass! We were starting to wonder if you were ever turning up!” Val threw Cillian a smile, trying to think of any other reason she’d be late without telling him ‘Varian hid my clothes so I couldn’t leave his chambers’. The dark haired man rubbed her shoulders, clearly not enjoying the snow as much as she was. “Bloody hells bells you’re freezing love.” Val shrugged, taking his arm and ascending the gangplank with him. “I honestly feel fine. How much have I missed?”

Cillian chuckled, letting her take a seat in the circle they had made around the small lamp sitting in the centre. “Not much of worth. Mostly Titch trying to convince us he wouldn’t get drop kicked by the first Orc he meets.” Titch stood on the stool he was sitting on, still only coming up to Val’s thigh. “I’ll have you know we gnomes are an asset to any battlefield!” Jacoby scoffed, running a hand down his whiskers.

“Aye, to crawl through peoples’ legs and pick up anything they drop! Your punches feel like I’m being hit by a bloody baby!” Val crossed one leg over the other, clearly not invested in the argument that broke out between the two pirates, and of course, Orazio noticed, patting her knee. “What’s troublin’ you, my girl?” The Kul Tiran’s voice was gentle, a stark contrast to his large, stocky frame, but Val saw no reason to lie to him.

“Someone I know has been killed by the orcs, down in Goldshire.” His hefty hand felt oddly comforting on her shoulder this time as it squeezed. “Oh lass, I’m so sorry.” His brows drew down as he registered exactly what she had said. “Goldshire? That’s not that far from here, is it?” Val shook her head, trying so hard not to cry it was actually making her chest hurt.

“No, it’s not.” Orazio had never had a daughter, but Val had been the closest thing to one over the years, so to see her hurting like this broke the older man’s heart. He pulled her in, hearing her voice finally crack and sobs of grief, fear and anger took hold and the ship fell silent once they all noticed.
Cillian felt heavily conflicted as to whether he should carry out the task given to him by the Glenmore matriarch, who was adamant that her two grandchildren were going to Bloodstone whether they chose to or not. He couldn’t hogtie the girl and take her back, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that Stormwind was no longer the safe haven everyone thought it to be.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

A week went by too damn fast for Val’s liking. In what seemed like no time at all Stormwind was buzzing with news of the upcoming wedding, the war, all things she would much rather forget about but couldn’t escape. Lucian had suggested that she was angrier due to the fact that she’d hardly seen Varian in the past seven days, and though she was loathed to admit it, he was probably right.

Varian had been caught up in a whirlwind of training, scouting parties and meetings, whilst she had more work than ever now people were catching on to the threat that was upon them and demanded protection from it, so they simply hadn’t found a quiet moment to spend together.

Tiffin had been the one to decide that she needed a break on the eighth day, coming personally to the shop with Jon and pulling her aside. “Val, you look like you’re about to drop!” Val yawned as if she were waiting for the cue to, taking her gloves off and running a hand down her face. “Did you literally just come here to tell me I look like shit Tiffin?”

The blonde put her hands on her hips. “When did I say that? I merely pointed out that you look exhausted.” She swallowed, knowing she was about to have a fight on her hands. “I have need of you today anyway, so go and get some clean clothes on.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “Why…where are we going?” She realised as soon as she said it what day it was and withered.

“No! Tiffin, please, no more damn fittings!” She had protested heavily when Tiffin had informed her that she was to have a new gown for the welcome ball, and even though she had grumbled and cursed her way through it, she had managed to actually find one she relatively liked. But she was not prepared to stand on that bloody podium anymore.

“No, it’s nothing to do with the ball. I’m taking Varian on a hunt to clear his thoughts before tonight and you’re coming with us.” Val was pleasantly surprised by the suggestion since nearly every conversation the two had during the past week had either been about the ball or the wedding itself, so this was a good change. “Erm, alright then, just let me get dressed, I’m sure I have a clean shirt somewhere.”

Tiffin motioned to Jon, who passed her a package, and she, in turn, gave it to Val. “It’s all in hand, go put this on, I insist.” Val looked dubious, taking the package as if it were about to explode. “Just go and get dressed, we leave in twenty minutes!” Val had to admit, she was starting to realise that Tiffin had an eye for her tastes when it came to clothing.

Thankfully there wasn’t a frill or pearl in sight as she stood in front of her mirror, but it was still a little grand for her liking. She didn’t look at all like herself in crisp grey breeches, a new shirt that was made of silk instead of her normal cotton ones, and a cream leather overcoat with studs along the hems.

She fixed the large belt that came with it around her hips, stuffing the gloves she had been given in it and tying her hair, bounding down the stairs and looking uncertain at Tiffin. “I look above my station.” Tiffin shook her head, clearly disagreeing. “No, you look like the partner of a prince, which is exactly what you are.” She adjusted the shoulders of the younger woman’s jacket, turning to Lucian. “What say you, Lucian? She looks wonderful doesn’t she?”

Her brother gave her a wide, reassuring smile, wiping his brow with the back of his arm. “She always does Tiffin. But yes, I will admit, you look like a proper royal Little Bird.” Val withered somewhat. “At least let me give you some money for this…” Tiffin rolled her eyes, practically pushing her out of the door. “Nonsense! Come, Varian thinks I’m at the florist's and is probably wondering where I am. Ta-ta Lucian!”

Val gave her a confused look as she was pretty much dragged through to the Trade District. “Wait, does Varian not know I’m coming?” Tiffin grinned, looping their arms and picking up her pace, waving to those who greeted her. “No, and I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he realises you are. He’s been so damn stressed this past week, I thought a day in the forest would serve him well. I remembered what you said about him feeling most like himself away from the city, so I had a hunt arranged.”

Val’s brow furrowed. “You didn’t invite half the court like some kings, did you? Varian prefers to hunt alone.” Tiffin gave her arm a reassuring squeeze. “No, I made a point of it just being us three-” She glanced at Jon. “-four of us.” Jon chuckled, easily falling into step with his charge. “Thanks for remembering me so fondly Madame.”

Val had found out quite quickly that she was really starting to warm to the guard, who was down to earth but still mindful of his position and duty, but with a humour very similar to hers, it was a pleasant change to some of the others in Stormwind Keep whose mind was on their job all day every day. “Is Cillian still here then?” Val nodded, trying her best to ignore the people watching them as they wandered down to the stables that were situated just outside the city gates.

“He’s loading up to go as we speak actually. I think he’s trying to put off going back to my Gramma without me as long as possible.” Tiffin looked strange to Val in her own shirt and breeches, she was so used to seeing her in exquisite gowns, so walking next to her in practically the same outfit for once (She had a blue tailcoat on instead of a small overcoat) was a little jarring, as was her un-ladylike laugh as they reached the small building. “I take it his arse is literally on the line?”

Val nodded, slowing their pace. “Aye, that would be true enough. I don’t think Lucian and I will escape her wrath either, so we’ve both decided to not open any letters we get for the next year.” Tiffin laughed again, catching Varian’s attention and turning it away from saddling Vigilance. Tiffin waved over, enjoying how quickly a smile graced his face once he saw who was with her.

“Look who I found! I’ve managed to persuade our little workaholic here to take a day off!” Varian was already bounding over, embracing Val and kissing the top of her head. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around much these past few days Sweetheart.” Val waved a hand of dismissal, staying under his arm since they had to get going if they were going to get a few good hours of hunting in before the ball.

“To be fair to you, I haven’t exactly made the best effort. We’ve both been busy, it was out of our control.” Varian gave Tiffin an amused look as he helped her onto her horse. “I take it this was your plan all along?” Tiffin’s grin made it impossible for Val not to smile with her. “It might’ve been. But then again, can you blame me for wanting to make sure you stopped pining for one day?”

Varian huffed, lifting Val despite her protests and plonking her on her own mare. “I wasn’t pining.” Tiffin shared a knowing smile with Val, one that said “yes he was,” and Val’s laughter only made Varian narrow his eyes as they finally kicked off.

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Once they’d gotten a good distance into Elwynn they dismounted and tied their horses next to the small lake that Varian and Val had found years ago, with the prince handing her a bow and quiver since he knew she didn’t own one. “So is everything ready for tomorrow?” Varian grunted, already checking the wind direction. “Do I really need to answer that? You’ve seen the damn city, Val, it looks like a box of Winter Veil decorations exploded.”

Tiffin frowned, picking up some twigs on the ground in case they needed a fire later. “I told you, Varian, we know it’s a sham, but the people don’t. They are under the impression that we’re going to become happily married tomorrow.” Val made a face, letting Varian tighten the strap of her quiver for her. “Not all, but I will admit I’ve had so many people come into the shop and gush about the dress or the ball.” Varian knelt, brushing the grass to try and look for tracks.

“Twenty four hours and all this lunacy will be over, and I can get back to focusing on the protection of my people.” Tiffin tied her cloak around her neck, kicking up some snow. “King Llane gave the go-ahead for the building of the Keep this morning.” Val looked pleasantly surprised. “That’s good. So when will construction start?”

Varian held a finger up for her to wait, hearing deer not too far east from them. “As soon as possible. I had a meeting with the chief architect this morning, we’re making it as simple as we can so it shouldn’t take long.” Tiffin looked dubious. “And shouldn’t be loud enough for them to realise what you’re doing.” Varian started through the brush, nocking his arrow pre-emptively.

“Peace Tiffin, the Stonemasons know their trade well enough to do it discreetly.” Val stiffened and Varian realised what he’d said, visibly cringing. “Fuck.” Val took a deep breath. “The Stonemasons? Why them?” Tiffin looked utterly lost. “Why is that a problem?” Val sighed, waving a hand at Varian and carrying on down the trail of hoof marks.

“You tell her, I can’t be arsed with it all.” Varian knew she would miss his apologetic look since her back was now to him, and Tiffin picked up on it as they fell in step with one another. “Val’s mother, if you call her that, run off with a stonemason when Val was three.” Tiffin didn’t look as shocked as Val presumed she would be.

“I did wonder why she’s never mentioned…but surely you can’t hate all of them for it?” Val swiped at a tall bush with her arrow, completely forgetting that they were supposed to be quiet during a hunt. “I don’t, but I just don’t want to associate with them in case Light forbid I see her smug face again, that’s all.” Tiffin trod lightly since she saw how much the subject clearly annoyed Val.

“It must’ve been hard when she left.” Val stopped and slumped onto the ground, bending one leg, letting the two of them sit either side of her and putting her head on Varian’s arm. “It was at first, but then we got into the swing of things with just the three of us.” Varian mustered a smile. “If anything, it was the reason we’re as close as we are.” Tiffin was enjoying Val actually opening up to her now they were all getting along, it was much more refreshing than the reserved distrust she’d gotten in the run-up to the betrothal.

“Oh? How so?” Val kissed the bicep she was leaning against, putting her forehead on it instead. “My Father was swamped with work back then because of the Troll attacks, so he found it hard to juggle looking after me and trying to finish orders at the same time. It was different with Lucian, he was already old enough to help around the shop, but Uncle Llane suggested that I go to the Keep during the day and come home at night…Bess became my sort of nursemaid.”

“So you two became playmates?” Varian snorted. “Not at first. I absolutely hated the idea of having to play with a girl. In fact, if I could go back in time, I’d beat the shit out of myself for how I was.” Val however, wrinkled her nose in disagreement. “To be fair Varian, you were used to my brother and Arthas, then suddenly I was plonked in front of you with the command of ‘occupy this human’.”

Varian smiled down at her, really not fussed about tracking the deer much anymore. He was just happy to get some fresh air in his lungs, be with two people that didn’t expect him to be perfect, and enjoy the peace and tranquillity the trees surrounding them brought. Val had teased him countless times for his love of the forest, asking if he really was a wolf in disguise, but underneath she understood his need for freedom sometimes.

There would be days when everything just got too much and he would simply leave, get her from the shop and ride as far out as they could go. They’d been down to Brightwood on many an occasion, camped by Stone Cairn for the night more times than he could count, sometimes for longer. He knew it wasn’t right for a prince to abandon everything like that, but it was nice having someone he wasn’t the prince with.

The last time they had gone to Stone Cairn they had sat by the water drawing up plans for the lake-house they would build, and there was nothing sweeter than hearing Val decide what flowers would be in the garden, making sure they picked the right spot for children to run around as much as they liked, it had been so deliciously gratifying that it only added to the heartbreak the two of them felt when it was taken away. Yet here they were, not able to fulfil all of their dreams but here as a couple once again, he would take that for now. “We got along just fine once I realised you were more interested in mud than dolls.” To prove his point, Val stretched her legs out, knocking her already caked boots together.

“Speaking of which, shall we see if we can get something for the feast later?” Varian heaved himself up, holding a hand out for each of them and actually enjoying the fact that he could share this with Tiffin as well as Val. Balancing the two women in his life had been easier than he thought (As seedy as that sounded to those who had no clue on the situation) but the fact that they were all getting on now was a massive weight from his shoulders.

They had barely picked their bows back up when deeper howls and ominous bangs rang across the trees, making the hairs on Val’s arms stand up. “Varian…what was that?” Varian waved a hand of dismissal, brushing his backside off. “Just wolves Val, think nothing of it. If we leave them alone chances are they won’t even come near us.”

Tiffin looked concerned as she looked into the thicket. “They sounded like very big wolves…” Varian turned her by the shoulders, pointing the opposite way. “Yes well, it’s a good thing the deer are this way then. Come, before half the days gone.”

Val was skinning a medium-sized rabbit Tiffin had shot when Varian finally loosed his last arrow on an unsuspecting doe grazing nearby a few hours later. “Oh Varian, it’s still alive!” Val tried not to laugh at Tiffin’s distress as the prince got up and pulled his knife from the back of his belt. “Calm yourself, it won’t be suffering for long.” Tiffin covered her eyes, really regretting suggesting this hunt in the first place. “Oh Light that’s utterly disgusting.”

She flinched at the last croaked cry the animal gave before Varian finished putting it out of its misery, wiping his blade on his breeches. “Have you dressed that rabbit yet Val? I could use a hand.” Val grimaced as she pulled the last stubborn part of the small pelt off, throwing it on the floor to put in the bag tied to her horse’s saddle once she’d washed it in the lake. “Aw, is big strong Varian Wrynn too tired to carry a deer?” She laughed before her sentence even finished at how quickly his eyes narrowed.

Just to prove his point he heaved the animal onto his shoulders, earning another chide from Tiffin, who had dared to uncover her eyes. “Varian! You’re going to get blood all over you!” Varian shrugged, only making it worse as the doe flopped onto his saddle and he tied the legs together, fastening them to the leather. “I really hate to say this, but I think it’s time we got back.” Tiffin made a noise of agreement, getting up from her spot on the ground and wiping her breeches. “Varian, we can’t put this off forever.” He grunted, telling them that was exactly what he was attempting to do.

“I hate balls, you know this.” Tiffin shared a grin with Val as she finished cleaning the pelt. “What, and you think we enjoy them? We’re the ones that have to act with the utmost grace whilst trying to breathe properly and walk without breaking our ankles, Varian.” Val looked slightly horrified. “I’m more than sure the dress I chose doesn’t have a corset.”

But now she thought about it, maybe the seamstress had snuck one in there in an attempt to make her more ladylike, she’d have to check before she put the fucker on. Varian huffed, taking the handkerchief Tiffin handed him to wipe his hands. “I will never understand why women put themselves through that crap just to please people.” Tiffin gave him a tight smile.

“It’s just the way it’s always been Varian, and I doubt anything I will do will change that any time soon.” Val snorted, wrapping her coat around her more. “We just have to wait for all the old bastards of the council to die off, then we can start changing things.” Varian still looked annoyed that as much as he tried there was always something stopping him from making his own mark on the way things were done.

If he had his way, women wouldn’t have to go through all the trials they did just to make men who they weren’t even connected to approve of them, it was insane to him. Val patted his arm as they all got back onto their horses, squeezing it as he lifted her onto her own. “Don’t fret about it too much Varian, it’s just the way things are for now.” He was still grumbling as he kicked off, clearly not convinced.

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“Are you ready yet?! Light above, the ball will be over by the time we get there!” Val growled, fixing the gold satin shawl that matched her dress and looking in the mirror. “I look like a Winter Veil ornament!” She heard his pained groan as once again she turned around, trying not to smile at the garment regardless of her grumbles about it. Tiffin hadn’t been that wrong when she said that gold would suit the smith, but that didn’t make Val any less thankful that the colour had been dulled a little per her request.

She knew Tiffin would notice and chide her for it but she didn’t care. It was made of silk that she considered far too fine for her, but once again Tiffin had protested, intent on making her into quite the Lady tonight. Val had pointed out her broad shoulders to the seamstress, who accommodated them by changing the neckline to an off the shoulder, and with her hair only pinned at the top, it meant they were covered enough not to need flashy baubles.

It would have been considered quite a plain dress had it not been for the beaded filigree covering the top of her chest, so overall Val was happy with it. Though the petticoat and slippers she could’ve done without. She watched her feet as she came down the stairs, trying not to go flying and end up breaking something because of a pair of shoes. She spread her arms a little to let Lucian get a good look and had to commend her brother on just how he’d tried to blend in.

Again, Tiffin had insisted on getting him an outfit since he was ‘one’ of her escorts (Varian still wasn’t happy that she was bringing Cillian, but he would have to lump it if he wanted her there at all) and looked quite the part in a black tailcoat, grey breeches and boots that didn’t have a scuff on them.

His hair had actually been brushed back instead of sloppily tied like it always was, and he was giving her the same look she was more than likely giving him, one of reluctant pride. “You look like a princess my girl.” Val sighed, taking his arm so they could meet Cillian outside the cathedral and all get there together. “Please don’t tell me that.” Lucian locked up behind them as they got outside, putting her arm through his again and holding on tight.

“Are you sure you want to go? We can always stay here.” Val nodded despite herself, waving over to Lizette and Mick as they called her. “No, I told Varian I’d come, and it’s not the Glenmore way to go back on our word Luce. I’ll be fine once I get a few drinks in me, don’t worry.” Her brother didn’t look too sure, but any doubt he had was cut off with Val’s “Light above Cil, I wanted to blend in tonight!”

He stuck a bejewelled middle finger at her, adjusting the ruffs poking out of the arms belonging to his crimson dresscoat, looking more flamboyant than usual with a matching jabot tucked into the collar, but thankfully it was only a thin one and not one that made him look like a damn peacock. She took his arm, trying not to sigh. “Oh come now Lass, if I hadn’t made an effort all I’d be getting is grief, you can’t have it both ways.”

Val stuck her tongue out at him, realising quite quickly as they got to the buzzing Keep that the pirate didn’t look that ridiculous after all. “Light above, we really have to deal with these people all night?” Lucian gave the darker skinned man a withering look. “Apparently so. Things we bloody do for you little bird.” Val glared at both of them, letting Lucian pull their invitation from his pocket and give it to Jon, who flashed her a smile and handed it back.

“You’re looking lovely tonight Miss. Go right in, the Prince will be down shortly.” Val chuckled, staying back for a few seconds. “Careful Sir Leighton, people might misconstrue a simple compliment.” Jon laughed heartily, waving her in and holding his hand out for the next couple. “And I wouldn’t be offended in the slightest if they did! Have a good night Miss Glenmore!”

As soon as the surname was called, people started looking around, and Cillian noticed her shrink a little. “Don’t worry about ‘em lass, they’re no better than us.” Val huffed, using the image of the drinks table to get her through the hallway quicker. “Try telling them that.” Cillian pulled a face, holding tighter to Val’s left arm. “We’re not going tomorrow, are we?” Val shook her head, much to his relief. He didn’t want to sit through a wedding that would clearly hurt her, it would break his own heart. “No, Varian respects me enough to understand why I’m not going, even if it is a sham.”

Once again Lucian gave the chamberlain at the door the small sheet of parchment that meant they were allowed in, horrifying Val as he went in and bellowed their names as loudly as he could, making everyone realise who they were, more importantly who she was, and probably why they were here. Cillian made sure she was at least inside the ballroom since he could see her seizing up like she always did when an anxiety attack kicked in, exaggerating his breaths to make her mimic him whilst Lucian went to get some water for her.

“Come on lass, deep breaths, that’s it. Don’t fret about this lot, they’re nothing. They can’t do anything, they don’t know the situation, let them talk.” Val could feel her throat tightening. “Everyone’s looking at me…” Cillian shook his head, firmly holding her shoulders. “No they’re not, and if they are it's because they're jealous that we don’t have to go in the sun to look this good.”

She managed a tiny, choked laugh. “Shut up Cil.” She tried to get her breathing under control, feeling ridiculous already and it’d only been five minutes. “I can do this.” Cillian gave her arm a reassuring pat. “Aye, you can.” He took her arm and tucked it tightly in his. “Now here’s the plan, we’re going to go find that brother of yours, get some drinks in, and then we’ll nab a nice corner and wait there until Varian and Tiffin get here, deal?” Val swallowed, still looking at the floor and feeling the strange chill that always came when she got like this.

“Deal.” Lucian handed her a goblet, kissing her forehead. “Better?” She took a long sip of the water, calming down the more she stood here and realised not everyone was hounding her. “Yes, sorry.” Lucian shook his head as Cillian let her go and rubbed her back. “No, don’t be, it’s stifling in here for me, so Light only knows what it’s like for you.” Val gave him a weak smile, finding a familiar face bound over and stretch up for a hug.

“Oh, Lassie ya look a picture!” Bessie pinched both of Lucian’s cheeks at once, gushing as hard as Val expected a ‘mother figure’ to do. “And you Lucian, och, I’m so shocked you haven’t got girls lining up!” She clocked Cillian and her face turned stony. “Beaufort.” Cillian folded his arms with a huff. “Bess.” It took maybe a millisecond for the two of them to crease, shaking hands and kissing each other's cheeks. “Good to see ya laddie. Ah’ll admit, it’s better you than that Da of yours.” Cillian snorted, taking the wine Lucian handed him.

“I wasn’t aware my father was still alive, someone’s not doing their job properly.” Bessie guffawed, slapping the pirate’s thigh. “Oh stop, ye don’t half jest sometimes!” She leant in, beckoning the three of them down. “Have ye spoken ta Varian in tha past few hours lass?” Val shook her head, not really liking the serious tone the dwarf had suddenly adopted. “No, why, what’s happened?” Bessie looked around and waved them on. “Not here, outside.”

Once they were in the grounds the four of them sat at one of the many tables that had been put outside for the occasion. “Th’ King’s found out who opened the portal.” Val straightened, not sure why that was such a bad thing. “That’s good, isn’t it? Now we can stop them!” Bessie shook her head, borrowing Cillian’s lighter to light her pipe, which looked out of place since she had a green gown on. “Not tha simple lassie. Turns out it was Medivh.”

Cillian’s shaved eyebrow rose and he turned to a now shocked Val. “Who?” Val licked her suddenly dry lips. “The Guardian. But Bess, his very existence is to protect Azeroth, why would-” Bessie shushed her, watching a group of guests go past then leaning in further. “Speak to Varian later lass, he knows more about it. But ah thought ya oughtta know.”

They heard the horns announcing Varian and Llane’s arrival, finding themselves at the back of the crowd enough for Val to find the need to climb up onto the pedestal that one of the large lion statues sat upon by the door just to see. Tiffin met her eye and smiled widely, clearly happy about the fact that Val actually wore the dress after so many protestations. The blonde herself was in a cream quilted linen gown that matched Varian’s kilted doublet, with her tresses secured in an elegant chignon and finished with a small tiara.

What made Val laugh was the fact that Varian had chosen to wear his hair loose tonight, and before they had even begun to speak, people were talking about it. Some were saying he looked scruffy, but Val counted just how many jewels adorned his fingers, the chain of office hanging around his neck….she had no idea how the fuck they came to that conclusion.

Llane raised his hands for quiet and the ‘couple’ stepped forward, already snickering since Val had kept up the tradition of theirs to make as many stupid faces she could during a speech to see if she could throw Varian off. She’d been doing it for years and wasn’t going to stop now, no matter what the occasion was. Lucian hissed a half-hearted “stop it” at her but Cillian only egged her on with his laughter, making her eventually get down to stop her brother combusting.

“My honoured guests, it warms my heart to see you here tonight in order to celebrate my wedding to Lady Ellerian; I know it was a bit last minute-” He let the fake laughter die down, still watching his lady smile at the back. “-But It only makes us appreciate your presence more. Tonight isn't just about us; it's about Stormwind, and the new beginning our union brings with it. So please, eat, drink, be merry tonight, for I know that I will be for the rest of my life with this lovely jewel.”

Tiffin looked up at him, clearly impressed with how smoothly he said it, gripping his hand tighter. Val felt Cillian do the same to her shoulder but brushed it off, not wanting to be cuddled right now. Varian, however, felt a sour taste on his tongue no matter how much he reminded himself that this was all a façade, not being able to help the stony look on his face as his father came next to them with a goblet in his hand.

“To Varian and Tiffin, may they live long in love and joy!” A flurry of cheers arose and Tiffin held onto Varian's arm, silently congratulating him for getting through even that since she was convinced before the night was through he would either snap or disappear. The party resumed, with Varian patting his Father’s shoulder as Tiffin made a beeline for Val.

“Father, if you need to go…” Llane shook his head despite the sorrow in his eyes. “What has come to pass will soon be remedied. Khadgar and Anduin have assured me that they will find out why Medivh has done this to us, and bring him to justice appropriately.” Llane sighed, a heavy, sad sound. “Another one I called a good friend gone. Soon I fear it’ll only be Anduin and I left of our merry group.” He cleared his throat, waving an arm.

“Go, my son, you need to be involved tonight despite everything we are going through. Have some fun before I have to say goodbye to you next week.” Varian embraced him quickly, which came as a shock to the King since he had unwillingly made peace with the idea of Varian carrying on their ‘feud’ for the rest of their days. Llane thumped his back, withering as Lord Ellerian caught his gaze and came striding over.

Tiffin playfully poked Val’s arm, wrinkling her nose. “You little mischievous pixie! Now I know why Varian calls you that!” Val laughed, passing the bride-to-be a goblet from the table behind them. “Oh come now, I call it a test of your resolve. You have a duty to stay focused no matter what, I’m just making sure you can do that.” Cillian let out a low whistle, pulling out his flask and pouring himself a rum in his wine goblet.

“You look the picture of a princess Lady Ellerian.” Cillian knew already that he could make Tiffin blush like a maid without even trying, and he was proved right once again. “Why thank you, Captain.” She ran a palm up the sleeve of his coat. “Is this real velvet?” Lucian snorted, keeping a close eye on his sister, who was clearly uncomfortable. “If it is, that means he stole it.” Cillian threw a glare his way. “I’ll have you know It is real, AND it’s mine, so shut your mouth.”

Tiffin looked back at Varian and Llane, folding her arms. “Do any of you know the latest yet?” Bessie nodded solemnly. “Aye lassie, ah told them. Terrible news, that is.” Tiffin looked how Val felt. “I just had no idea it was this bad. The Guardian was always hailed as Azeroth’s protector, the last line of defence…and he’s betrayed us. It makes you question everything really, doesn’t it?” Val put her empty goblet down, eyeing the oyster tray and finally remembering that she hadn’t eaten much today. “How did Varian take it?”

Tiffin’s brow furrowed. “He went absolutely ballistic. I don’t think it helped that it was Garona who figured it all out.” Lucian leant in a little. “Where’s Garona now?” Tiffin’s jaw set. “That’s the thing. She and Khadgar came back from Karazhan a few hours ago, then she just…disappeared. She said something about ‘needing to leave’ and then just went.” Bessie clucked her tongue. “Well that sounds nothing but suspicious.”

Val shushed her, not wanting to rile Varian up more as he came to join them, sneaking a lingering kiss on Val’s cheek. “You look exquisite, Sweetheart.” Val squirmed as his breath heated her ear, giving him a smile as he pulled back. “Thank you, Your Highness. You don’t scrub up half bad yourself.” Varian grimaced, looking down at himself. “I feel like a bloody ponce.” Val sputtered. “It could be worse Varian. They could’ve made you wear hose instead of breeches.” Varian’s top lip rose in disgust. “I think I would rather have a flaming hot poker stuffed up my arse.”

Val laughed properly now, making Cillian notice how her nervousness evaporated instantly now she was in the company of the prince. “Well, I can arrange that if it’s really what you want Varian.” Tiffin looped her arm around Varian’s, keeping up appearances enough to make them all relax until she actually started talking. “I was just telling them about Garona disappearing.” Val was trying to avoid the subject, but now it was out there they had no choice but to talk about it. Varian’s jaw tightened and he drained his drink.

“Good riddance, I say. I’m hoping she never comes back.” His look was grim. “Lothar and Khadgar have just departed for Karazhan themselves, so hopefully they’ll manage to draw a way to close the portal from Medivh before they do anything.” Cillian raised his eyebrow. “Any idea why he did it?” Varian for once didn’t bristle at the thought of speaking to the Captain. “None whatsoever that we can find. Even Khadgar, who studied with the man for years, is shocked. Though I suppose you’d have to be good at hiding something like this.”

Tiffin grimaced. “Medivh has access to magic we can’t even begin to fathom. I suppose possessing that much power makes people careless.” Bessie huffed, folding her arms. “Well, here’s hopin’ it means a quick end to this war.” Varian raised his empty goblet to that. “Hear, hear. The sooner that portals closed the sooner I can take what’s left of the army and wipe the bastards out.” Val stiffened and Varian knew why.

“Sweetheart, I can’t sit idle and let other people do it for me.” She frowned. “I know that, but I can’t help being worried.” Lucian waved a hand of dismissal, snatching up a crab-stick from the table. “Oh please, Varian’s ‘The Warrior Prince’! They’ll sing songs of how he single-handedly destroyed the Horde and managed to still squeeze in a drink or two!” Varian laughed heartily at that one, realising how hungry he was himself. “Oh, I certainly hope not. The bards in this city have a lot to be desired in terms of talent.”

Val looked as if she disagreed. “Oh I don’t know, the boy that’s in the Nag’s Head on a Thursday is quite good…Oh, what was his name?” Lucian made a noise of realization. “Oh wait, Benny boy?” Val nodded excitedly, already irking Varian, who finally realised just how ridiculous his jealousy was sometimes. Though what didn’t help was Tiffin’s squeak of joy.

“The one with the red curls, who was singing the day we went? Oh Light, he was good….and very handsome.” Cillian nudged Val, who was dreading his next sentence since she could already see Varian’s jaw tighten.

“He liked Val at least; kept buying her drinks all day, I don’t think she paid for one the whole time we were there.” Varian swallowed down any curses upon this ‘Benny Boy’ and smirked. “Yes well, can you blame him? Val’s a lady very much worth pursuing.” Cillian answered with his own smirk. “Yes, and I bet she took you for a ride when you two first started, eh?”

Varian relaxed, chuckling softly since he knew others were probably listening. “Indeed she did. I never thought I’d have to woo someone I’d known for years, but she was adamant we were doing it properly.” Val could feel a small blush on her cheeks. “I used to get a bouquet of roses every week, without fail.” Tiffin looked remarkably impressed, lightly swatting the prince’s chest. “I didn’t take you as a romantic, I merely assumed you told her you were courting and that was that.”

Lucian nearly had ale fly up his nose as he tried in vain to stifle his laughter, and thankfully Cillian spoke for him. “My dear Lady, I think you’ll find Val very much wears the breeches in this relationship.” Val’s brow wrinkled. “No, I don’t! We’re on an equal footing, aren’t we Varian?” Just to wind her up Varian grit his teeth into a smile.

“Yes dear, of course we are dear.” Lucian didn’t know who was laughing harder out of he and Tiffin, and that laughter only subsided with the blonde looking around and noticing no one was dancing yet. “Oh, Varian, I think they want us to dance first.”

Varian looked where she was and felt his chest tighten as he realised she was right. “Just keep reminding me that this is for the good of my people…I really hate dancing.” Tiffin gave Val an apologetic look but the brunette shook her head. “No, this is your night as far as everyone knows, appearances must be kept.” Tiffin kissed her cheek as the pair excused themselves, leaving the quartet of commoners to watch the crowd part and the music swell already.

“Anyone up for going outside again?” Val took one look around at how joyous everyone was to see the two of them dance and defiantly shook her head at her brother. “No. I said I’d support him, and that’s what I’m doing. It’s just a dance Luce.” She looked over at the food table again. “Though I wouldn’t say no to some food.”

Val hated the fact that she was having fun after a few hours of being at the Keep. Thankfully the music had changed from regimented waltzes to merely fun violins and drums, meaning Cillian had an excuse to pull Val away from the food table and to the middle of the ballroom with a plethora of other dancers, despite how much she protested.Varian saw her seize up and thought it only right that he and Tiffin join them to ease her fears, and soon Lucian was sitting at a table with Bessie and Wyll watching his sister start to relax, it was a refreshing sight.

Cillian twirled her, making her squeak when the pirate let go and a strong, familiar hand caught hers, pulling her to a beaming Varian, whose other arm went around her waist as he lead them in the peculiar circle all the pairs had caused.

“Varian, everyone’s watching…” His eyes had glazed over a little. “I don’t care, and neither should you.” They had danced together in private so many times that their feet knew what to do already, and despite his size, Varian had never once stepped on her toes, so she felt completely safe right now. Most of the guests around them would have only seen dancing this ‘uncouth’ in a tavern, but the prince was absolutely content with it as Val ducked under his arm and clapped her hands with him, making Tiffin snatch her away with a grin.

“She’s all mine now!” Varian hadn’t anticipated laughing this much tonight at all, but here he was nearly bent over, gathering both women under his arms and kissing the heads of the two of them. “We’re going to be just fine, aren’t we?” Val patted his chest, forgetting that all eyes were on them. “I think so. Tiffin?” The blonde didn’t hesitate to nod. “Oh absolutely! Just try and keep up Varian!” Tiffin pulled Val to dance more, but Val shook her head, feeling her throat burn from shouting over the music.

“Not until I’ve had another drink. Varian?” He had already started steering her over to drinks table, letting Tiffin dance with Cillian again, much to her delight. “Do you get a distinct feeling that Tiffin enjoys our dear pirate’s company?” Varian made a face of indignation. “I certainly hope not. I don’t think I could stomach seeing his mug every day.” Val gave him a chiding look.

“Varian, she has to look at me, why can’t she be entitled to the same happiness?” Varian grunted, passing her an ale and clinking their chalices. “Because you’re not a slimy, smirking son of a-” He stopped himself at her look. “…I just don’t think they’re a good match, that’s all.” Val snorted into her drink. “Neither are we when you really think about it.” His brows snapped down and he fought to keep his voice down.

“And just what the hells is that supposed to mean?” She shrugged as if she hadn’t just offended him. “Well, think about it; you’re a prince, I’m a commoner, you’re a fighter, I’m a crafter…really, we’re two completely different people.” Varian gave her a smile regardless. “And I think that’s what makes us work. We balance each other out.” Val resisted the temptation to kiss him, patting his arm instead. “I’m glad we share the same opinion on it.”

Varian’s brow wrinkled again. “I wish the word ‘commoner’ didn’t exist. We should all be equal no matter our birth.” Val pursed her lips. “That’s a fight I don’t think even you can win Varian. But the fact that you’re so involved is blurring the line already, surely that counts for something?” He made a face that said he reluctantly agreed with her.

“That’s true I suppose, I’m just sitting here hoping I’m doing all I can to make it happen.” Val gave him a small nudge, draining the last of her drink. “I’m sure you will eventually Varian, since when have you been one for backing down from a fight?” She grimaced, realising that she’d brought herself to a rather sore subject, but one that needed to be brought up. “So what happens now?” Thankfully Varian realised what she was talking about from her tone, stiffening his face.

“We start preparing the city. Something in my bones tell me that stopping Medivh won’t be the end of it, so I’ve begged father to start strongholding the place.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “You really think the orcs will come here?” Varian looked down at her with such a steely expression she had to wonder if his face was ever to move again.

“I’m not sure what to think anymore. All we can do is try to prepare ourselves behind closed doors and carry on as normally as we can. I don’t want to cause a panic, but we need to up our defences now.” Val put her goblet down and folded her arms.

“And what does Llane think about this?” Varian’s brow furrowed. “He suggested an evacuation, but Anduin and I both told him that it would be jumping the gun a little. We don’t know whether the Horde will even come here yet, we don’t want to disrupt people when it’s not necessary.” She pulled a face, shifting from foot to foot. “So it’s a waiting game?” Varian nodded a little bit too slowly for her liking. “Aye, it’s just a waiting game now.”

He took her hand, squeezing it too tightly. “Do me a favour?” Val gave him a small smile. “I’ll write to Gramma and tell her to get our rooms ready, and tell Cillian to stay here a bit longer.” The relief was obvious on his face. “Thank you. I know it’s over the top-” She shook her head. “No, it’s fine. There’s no need to worry about me Varian, I’ll deal with that.” His lips thinned as he reluctantly let go of her hand. “It’s taking everything in me not to kiss you right now.” Val chuckled, standing on her toes.

“I wouldn’t if I were you, I’ve been eating shellfish all night.” Varian snorted, folding his own arms across his broad chest. “Oh yes, because that’s ever stopped me.” She swatted his chest, taking his hand and dragging a groaning prince to the dancers again. “Oh Val, no, not again.” Val narrowed her eyes with a childish pout on her face.

“You promised me that I could have whatever I wanted if I let you announce the engagement.” Varian’s eyebrow cocked and all he did was sigh. “I promised no such thing, but I get the distinct feeling that doesn’t matter anymore.” Now she flashed him a grin. “Damn straight, now get ready for aching feet, I plan on staying here a while!”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

The wait would only be four days, seven hours and thirteen minutes.

Stormwind had been on total lockdown, with the doors to the city closing the morning after the ball and barricades being built on the other side, with soldiers swarming the ramparts and ships being constantly stocked in the bustling harbour.

A notice telling everyone why the precautions were being put in place had been put up in the town square, and those who had probably more sense than Val and Lucian had already left their homes in order to keep safe, with more and more doors being boarded up everytime Val looked at them.

“Has Varian actually gotten any news yet?” Val started lighting the forge, tying up her apron and her hair. “You’ve asked me that every day and I give you the same answer.” Lucian opened the front door to flip the shop sign, watching the latest patrol go past and sighing, bolting it behind him and leaning on it. It was only eleven in the morning, but business had spiked in the past few days with those staying in the city wanting to defend themselves, so they had to catch up. “Cillian’s not going to stay here much longer.”

Val was trying not to lose it with him, but tensions were so high everywhere that everyone and their mothers were snapping at each other, so he’d forgive her for it eventually. “I know he’s not, but what do you honestly expect me to do, go to the Horde and ask politely when they’re coming to kill us all?” Lucian’s brow furrowed and he all but slammed his gloves on the counter, forgetting that he was actually putting them on.

“Less of the attitude please! I know you’re wound up, trust me little sister so am I, but that doesn’t mean that sarcasm suddenly flies around here.” She knew that, of course she did, and she felt awful for biting when he was merely pointing out the obvious. “Look, I’ll go to the docks in a minute and tell Cillian to cast off tomorrow.” Lucian’s eyebrow rose. “With us on the Rose, I presume? Otherwise we need to ready the spare bed for Gramma.”

Val wanted to laugh at that, since it was essentially the truth; Minnie had already replied to her missive with the condition that Cillian was not to return to either Booty Bay or Glenmore Grove without the two of them, so if they did indeed send the pirate back on his own, she could guarantee her Gramma would be in Stormwind before she could even blink, dragging them both by their ears to the ship whether they wanted to go or not.

“I don’t think we have any other choice but to go with him.” The defeat in her voice made all thoughts of his previous anger fizzle out and a sympathy that only a brother could feel swell in his chest. “We best start packing up then.” Val solemnly nodded, glad that he hadn’t drawn the conversation on longer than was necessary; Lucian always had a knack for getting straight to the point and not worry about the unnecessary details of a plan whenever they made one, he just wanted to know where he needed to be, what he needed to do and how he was going to do it.

“Aye, we should. Do we have any trunks left?” He clucked his tongue, looking around them and assessing how much they had before answering her. “We have those two that are big enough to smuggle a person in, the rest will have to go in satchels.” Val looked at the ceiling, opening the windows to let some of the smoke out.

“I’ll do upstairs now while you finish those axes, then we can do down here tonight.” Lucian slowly nodded, not quite sure what to think of how calmly she was taking this. “I would think there’s a few people you’d want to tell first?” There was, but how could she do that? Not two days ago Varian had been in here and she’d told him categorically that she wasn’t going, so how could she go and essentially confess that it’d been a lie? “We won’t be going forever Little Bird, just until this shit with the Horde blows over.”

Val huffed, not placated by that at all. “We don’t even know if it will ‘blow over’. I’m more than sure the docks will close as some point if this damn waiting carries on, so we won’t even be able to get back.” Lucian knew this indecision was to go on for a long while, so let her get her rant out before even attempting to reply.

“We’ll figure something out, we always do. Go on, you go and find Varian, tell him what’s going on and I’ll make a start here.” Val was conflicted about it, he could see it on her face, so putting a coin purse he’d been spending the best part of an hour counting out down once again he cupped her cheek, earning a smile whether she wanted to give him one or not. “Go on, it’s for the best.” Val sighed, whipping her apron off as quickly as she’d put it on.

“Give me ten minutes to clean up first, I might as well make an effort to tell him that I’m leaving him again.” Lucian grimaced as she all but flew up the stairs. He started gathering everything around the counter up to pack later, attempting in vain to ignore the dull roar outside that told him that the few mages Stormwind had were putting up the daily wards that practically imprisoned them in their own city.

He recognised that they were supposed to keep the Horde out, but to the city that hadn’t seen hide nor hair of them, it just seemed to be there to keep them in. “You’re not leaving him Val, you’re keeping yourself safe, which is all Varian should want.” Val started putting her clothes on the bed to pack them up when she got back, wanting to get this over with so she had motivation to actually carry through with their plan.

“He’ll see it as running away.” Lucian rolled his eyes. “No he won’t. You’re not a soldier, why the hells would you want to stay here and be practically defenceless?” Val snorted, shoving her wool dress over her head. “You make me sound like such a weakling, thanks brother.” She pulled her boots on and hopped down the stairs, trying to get everything straight in her head.

“I’ll see Cillian first, then Varian. It’ll sound more like we know what the hells we’re doing if I put everything in place first.” He patted her arm, trying to muster up a smile for her. “Want me to come with you?” She shook her head, appreciating it regardless and kissing his cheek, taking her coat from the hook. “No, it’ll be easier if I do it by myself. You start packing.” Now he chuckled, sweeping his loose hair back. “Oh I see how it is. I’ll do mine first, eh? Leave yours for you, Light knows what you have up there.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, giving him another quick goodbye and hopping down the stairs, not noticing how quiet it was until she started walking the streets and kept seeing boards nailed onto nearly half the windows and doors around her, barely any market traders in the main square…it felt like a ghost town.

Even the cathedral bell had stilled, with Benedictus being ordered by Llane not to ring it unless an attack was in motion and the people needed warning, so to say it was eerie as she hurried through to the Keep was an understatement. The guard leading up to the fortress had doubled, with all eyes on her as she sped up the steps, hunching over and praying she found someone she knew soon. At first she wasn’t so lucky, but after a few minutes of awkwardly standing by the throne a very familiar voice met her ear.

“I were nae expectin’ to see ye today lassie!” Val bent to give Bessie the embrace that the hearty dwarf had opened her arms for, steeling herself for the large thumps she got on her back but still wincing a little when the blows actually landed. “Believe it or not Bess, I was actually planning on spending the day at home today.” Bessie clucked her tongue, already ushering her to the kitchens before Val could even begin to protest.

“Aye, alright lass, ah’ll believe that when tha sky falls down, shall I?” Val couldn’t stop the snort before it left her mouth, starting to unbutton her coat. “No, I mean it, I had no intentions of seeing Varian today…” Her face fell and she knew how obvious it made the tone of her impromptu visit to the cook, but she honestly couldn’t help it.

 

“Ah. So when ye going?” Val stiffened, trying to count the number of guards as they went past in a vain attempt to distract herself from answering until she really had to.

“Tomorrow probably. I don’t think Cillian’s going to stay docked for much longer, it’s not fair to effectively hold him hostage like this.” Bessie chortled, which in all fairness had been the last reaction Val had been expecting considering she’d just told her that she was leaving Stormwind, possibly for a long while. “What’s so funny?” Bessie shrugged, waving her into the kitchens and preparing tea before Val could even sit down.

“Ah just donnae think ‘hostage’ is the right word fer someone who clearly wants ta be here.” Val shrugged her coat off, plopping it beside her and realising that even half the Keep staff had mysteriously vanished. “And what brought you to that conclusion?” Bessie pursed her lips, but her cheeks puffed in a parody of a grin. “Oh lass, donnae act like ye have nae seen how tha boy looks at ye.” Val groaned before she’d even finished her sentence, putting her head on the table. “So it is you that keeps putting that insane idea in Varian’s head!”

She lifted her head back up and glared at the dwarf who was merrily pouring two cups of tea and slicing a cake bigger than Val’s head. “Cillian doesn’t fancy me Bess.” Now she got a haughty snort as an answer. “Aye, he does lass, he’s just too nice ta say it.” She sat down opposite Val and pushed a plate towards her, watching as she pulled off a piece and let the carrot cake melt in her mouth as it usually did.

“Ye would have ta be deaf, dumb and blind not ta see how much tha lad cares for ya.” Bessie smirked as she spoke, taking a sip of her tea. “Though, I could be talkin’ about Varian as well. Ah lass, you should see him these past few weeks, it’s like he’s a new man.” Val kept swirling her spoon in her cup, watching it like it was actually going to hypnotize her.

“I doubt he’ll be that jolly by the time I leave this Keep.” She didn’t exactly know what she had expected the ruddy dwarf to do, but shrug like it was nothing had been pretty damn low on the list. “Nae, I donnae think that at all lass. If anything he’ll be glad yer gettin’ to a place of safety.” Val snorted this time, taking another bite of her cake and cursing herself for not being able to ever resist Bessie’s sweet treats.

“Bloodstone is hardly ‘a place of safety’ Bess.” Bushy brows drew down and all it did was make her want to laugh despite everything. “Regardless, Varian knows that times are gettin’ more fretful, and it’s nae like yer disappearin’ off the face of Azeroth this time.” Val didn’t appreciate the reminder of how she nearly left Stormwind for good once before. “That was different Bess, my father has just died, we had a reason to go. This time it just feels like we’re running away for no reason.” Bessie didn’t look as if she agreed at all.

“Judgin’ by the amount of soldiers everywhere, I would say ye have every reason ta be wary. Ye ask me, ah think you getting away will be a load off Varian’s mind.” Val tapped the side of her cup with a nail, still not convinced, and Bessie had an inkling as to why. “Yer allowed ta admit tha ye would miss him lass, there’s no shame in it.”

Val’s coy smile told the older woman that she’d hit the nail on the head, but she was doing her best to conceal it. “It would’ve been so much easier had we not reconciled so recently. If I was still refusing to speak to him I’d have no qualms about just packing up and getting on that ship, hells, I’d probably be gone by now. But now we’ve reconnected…I don’t have the heart to leave him Bess, it just makes it ten times more difficult, does that make sense?” Bess’ smile had a teasing wrinkle to it as she dramatically swooned.

“Oh wha’ a quandary, nae being able ta smooch like lovesick doves all day every day!” She started cackling at Val’s half-hearted swat, almost falling backwards as she laughed at her own joke. “You know what I mean! There’s only so much letters can do, you know?” Bessie calmed herself despite her snickers, putting a thick braid over her shoulder.

“O’ course ah do lassie, Ah’m only having ye. But it won’t be forever, you’ll see him at some point.” Val hated how much she was reverting back to a lovesick puppy dog, yet here she was wrinkling her nose and squirming in her seat. “That’s not the point though.” As Bessie started snickering once again, Val swiftly changed the topic, keeping it on Varian but steering the conversation away from her pining, since that was truly what it was.

She would never openly admit it, but since their reconciliation, and even more since they’d made love again, she found herself as addicted to Varian’s company as she had been all those years ago, constantly feeling herself itch for his touches, his little kisses and sweet honeyed words, it was as ridiculous as it was invigorating.

“Where is Varian?” Bessie’s frown didn’t fill her with confidence. “Council, hence why ah brought ye here instead o takin’ ye to his chambers.” Val answered with her own grimace. “I take it he’s going to be a while?” Bessie nodded, wiping the corners of her mouth. “Aye, the meetings have gotten longer and longer since Anduin came back from Karazhan.”

Val took a long sip of her tea, trying to rationalise everything in her head. “Maybe I should come back later.” Bessie waved a hand, looking as cheery as she always did. “Nae, knowin’ our Varian he’ll storm out halfway through.” Val couldn’t help laughing again, pouring herself another cup from the large teapot sitting in between them. “So does Cillian actually know that he’s leavin’ on the morrow?” Val cursed to herself, slapping her forehead.

“Shit, I was supposed to see him before I came, it’s no worry, I’m sure he’ll be alright with the short notice. Hells, the whole reason he came here in the first place was to take us ‘home’.”

It felt rather disorienting, knowing that at some point in the next few days she’d be abandoning her home and making another in a city she’d told Varian time and time again was a cesspool, with thieves, prostitutes, brigands, and any other scumbag you could think of living there.

She still had no idea why Minnie was there now Tobias had died, but she could suppose it was just her Grandmother being used to it after all this time when Val was more suited to the Stormwindian life. She huffed, giving Bessie the best pleading look she could.

“Don’t suppose you want to come and help us pack everything?” The corners of Bessie’s mouth rose once again. “Ah think I’d rather clean Varian’s sheets.” Val nearly sprayed the dwarf with tea, choosing to take an unfortunately timed sip just as she said what she did and not knowing whether to feel amused or disgusted at it.

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She sat with Bessie for what seemed like a while, occupying her hands with menial tasks like peeling carrots and potatoes so her mind was free to wander a bit. She was in her own little world when someone came to the kitchens asking if Bessie had any coffee to hand, and instantly the dwarf knew who it was for, since the prince was the only person in the Keep who actually drank the stuff.

“How he swallows it black as he does ah’ll never know, but go on lassie, you take it to ‘im, save me a job.” Val had obviously agreed, walking at quite the snail’s pace to make sure she didn’t end up tossing the beverage all over herself, really not caring about the strange looks she got for it and lightly rapping on Varian’s door once she finally got there.

“It’s open.” Even she was shocked at how smoothly she managed to open the door without spilling a drop, nudging it closed and giving his back a smile, not used to seeing him hunched over his writing desk with such stiffness.

“Morning.” It could probably be called ‘afternoon’ at this point but she knew he wouldn’t care. He straightened, twisting around and leaning on the back of his chair with a grin. “Well if you’re not a sight for sore eyes, I don’t know who is.”

She put his mug down, perching herself on the edge of his desk, knowing the thick mahogany could take her weight perfectly fine. “Are you talking to me, or the coffee?” He chuckled, taking the hand that was on her lap and lightly squeezing it. “Would you be mightily offended if I said both?” Val’s nose wrinkled. “That bad a morning eh?”

The exasperation flooded back onto Varian’s face as he lounged back and picked up the papers he’d been working on, slapping the pile with the back of his other hand. “More and more reports of the Horde moving, with sightings of camps in Elwynn that don’t seem to be doing anything. We can’t send troops to deal with those camps in case they’re merely a distraction, but I can’t leave them be either. It’s like they’re mocking us at this point.” She let go of his hand to rub his arm, gently scratching it and enjoying how his face relaxed in response.

“I take it there’s been no sighting of Garona either?” His brows drew in again. “No, and it makes me wonder what that bitch is up to. She swears fealty to my father than vanishes from the face of the earth, yet I’m the only one even remotely suspicious of it.”

She crossed one leg over the other, tapping her boot against the table. “Oh I doubt that’s the case Varian. King Llane probably just wants to lick his wounds quietly on the whole affair with her, that’s all.” His grimace made his feelings clear. “Could you not use that word please? There’s already rumours of it flying around this gossip hovel, I’d rather not think about it if I don’t have to.”

She gave him a quick apology, getting up with him and giving him the embrace he was clearly asking for, not feeling as guarded as she had been about the level of affection he showed her when they were in private like this. “Enough about this, it’s only making my head hurt. How are you doing?” She looked up at him, trying to decide whether the eased in or blunt approach was better and more respectful to him. “Could be better, could be worse I suppose.” He put some hair behind her ear, raising an eyebrow.

“Well if that wasn’t avoiding the question, I don’t know what was.” Val was well aware that she’d made it far too obvious that she wasn’t here for a frivolous visit, and decided to just rip the bandage off quickly. “…Lucian and I aren’t staying in Stormwind, Varian.” His face stayed annoyingly straight, but his throat kept contracting, telling her that he was probably trying to think of a response but kept swallowing it down to save her what was most likely his wrath.

“I see.” He let go of her, sat on the end of his bed and patted the spot next to him. She sat down and realised he actually had a look of relief on his face that she hadn’t been expecting at all. “What changed your mind?” She plucked the wool of her skirt, trying to think hard about how she was to put this. “Cillian’s leaving tomorrow, and I don’t think I have to tell you how furious Gramma will be if we don’t go with him.” His shudder meant he already knew, and it was all the reason he needed.

“You don’t seem as angry as I thought you’d be.” Varian gave her the smallest of smiles, running a palm down her leg. “I should be, I know that, but if it keeps you safe, then I’m all for it.” There was defeat in his eyes and she shifted closer, putting her head on his arm since his shoulder was too high.

“The Horde are practically at our doorstep Val. We’ve managed to push back a few smaller attacks, but something is telling me that it won’t end there. I’d rather you be somewhere where I can make sure you’re protected so I can focus on the Horde.” He kissed her forehead, putting his there afterwards. “But that doesn’t mean I like it.” Val linked her fingers with him, catching his lips for a brief second. “I take it that’s code for ‘I’m going to miss you?’”

Varian kissed her again, brushing his lips along her jaw. “I didn’t think I had to say it. Tell me you’ll miss me a little bit at least?” Val put her head on his chest and her arms around his torso, content to just sit there and listen to his heartbeat. “Nope, not at all. Why on Azeroth would I miss you?” She didn’t even need to open her eyes to know that his jaw was set and his eyes were narrowed. “Ha ha, you’re bloody hilarious.”

Val snuggled into him, suddenly not wanting to leave at all, just as she feared would happen. “Of course I’ll miss you, you big oaf. But it won’t be forever.” His fingers started raking through her hair and it was nearly enough to put her back to sleep even though in reality she hadn’t been up that long. “You say that Val, but I have no idea how long this stand off with the Horde’s going to take. There’s rumours of them gathering reinforcements, so Light knows what will happen and when it will end.” He held her cheeks and lifted her face, brushing her nose with his loose hair.

“I have no clue when I’ll end up seeing you again.” Val inhaled slowly, trying not to make this too emotional when really, it didn’t need to be. “We’ll do it at some point though, that’s what we have to hold on to. Until then we have letters.” Varian huffed, running his knuckles down her cheekbone with the gentleness of a feather. “That’s not the same. We’ve barely gotten things back on track, and here we are separating again.”

She held his hand with both of hers. “We’re not separating Varian. Not this time.” She gave him the wobbliest smile she could. “We’ll just have to get each other excited about seeing the other one, that’s all. Constant contact will keep us going.” Varian flopped backwards, bringing her with him and ignoring her squeals. “There’s no point trying to convince me that this will be enjoyable Val.” She rolled onto her stomach and propped herself up on her elbows.

“I’m not trying to, I’m just making sure we both know what’s happening.” She looked out of the window, earning his curiosity. “What are you thinking?” She furrowed her brow and he regretted ever asking, somehow knowing that his ‘I don’t want to talk about that’ wasn’t going to be heeded at all. “So what’s the current situation?” Varian didn’t want to scare her, so he shook his head. “It doesn’t matter right now.”

He cursed his inability to make anything sound not serious, trying not to catch her eye as her gaze bore into him. “Varian. That means it’s bad. Tell me.” He ran a hand down his face, trying to put this in the best way possible. “Only if you promise not to panic.” Val pursed her lips. “Varian, just fucking tell me.” He beckoned her to him, needing comfort while he essentially broke the worst news imaginable to her.

“The Horde are at the edge of Elwynn. That’s why I’m so content with you going; if anything, I want you to go as soon as humanly possible. Our armies are pushing them back as much as they can but if they fail, the Horde will be at our gates in a matter of hours.” He could feel her start to quiver, but she stayed silent, which he wasn’t sure he liked. “So what happens if they end up getting here?” Varian stared at his canopy.

“We’ve already sent soldiers out to the Trade District to knock on doors of those who are too near the gates, telling them to move into the cathedral for now until we can assess whether they’ll get into the actual city or not. If they do, we’ll start a full evacuation. I don’t want people to leave the city until it’s absolutely necessary.” Val didn’t want to admit that she was terrified at the news, but it wasn’t like no-one had seen it coming; the threat of an invasion had been looming over their heads for months now, so if anything she was actually glad that it was all finally looking to be over. “And when will we know when they’re here?”

That’s when Varian grimaced. “That’s the thing, if they push through our lines, all we’ll get is a half an hour window from where they can be spotted by the gate guards. So listen out for the bells today, I have a horrible feeling they’ll be run before the sun goes down.” Val sighed, not really wanting to leave but not having much of a choice.

“Then I better get back and start packing. I still need to tell Cillian we’re going yet-” Varian lightly grabbed her arm as she sat up, following suit and kissing the side of her temple. “I can have you to myself for at least a little bit longer, can’t I?” She was thoroughly tempted, and he could tell. “You can, but it can’t be too long. We have to be prepared Varian.” He was halfway on the floor, turning so he was leaning on his hands either side of her and catching her in a kiss that by all admittance, she’d been wanting all day.

“I’m surprised you’re not down there leading the charge.” His angry huff warmed her neck. “I would be, had it not been a direct order from Anduin not to leave this damn Keep. Something about ‘A prince’s duty is to stay with his people’.” Val knew he wouldn’t like it but smirked anyway. “He does have a point though Varian.” She as a little jarred by how little noise she was hearing out of the window considering it was the middle of the day and wide open.

“It looks like you’ve started the evacuation already. Where is everyone?” Varian kept his nose buried in her hair, automatically swaying with her without actually meaning to. “Already gone. Tiffin went first.” Val’s brow furrowed. “Where did you send her?” Varian grunted, telling her all it had to. “I didn’t, it was my father. He’s gotten in contact with Terenas and sent her to Lordaeron until this is done.” Val couldn’t stop her small snicker, choosing herself to lean back and give him more skin to pepper his kisses down.

“Don’t sound too upset about that, will you?” Varian’s chuckle tickled her chest, sending little shocks with it that were growing rather hard to ignore. “I’m not upset in the slightest. She’s safe and one less problem that I have to deal with, that’s all I care about.” Val’s brow furrowed. “Varian, what happened to getting along with her?” Varian stopped, putting his chin on her belly.

“I’m doing my damnedest to try, but I can’t forget the fact that I’m being forced to spend the rest of my life with her that easily Val, it sours all thoughts of being friendly with her a bit.” She raked his hair back, hearing genuine sincerity in his voice and finding it difficult to be disgruntled at his stand offish nature with the future princess. “I know, and if it helps, you’re doing alot better than I thought you would.” Varian snorted, taking her hands and pulling her up.

“High praise indeed. Just rest assured that I’m trying Val, truly I am. It’s just hard when people constantly remind me that I have no say in what goes on with my life anymore.” He pulled the furs back, letting her gaze follow him as he closed the window and drew the curtains, giving her a clear indication of how their morning was about to go. Varian’s need for privacy was one she was very much familiar with, so she didn’t feel intimidated or confused by the acts, pulling off her boots and pulling her dress over her head, sweeping her hair back and starting to fold it, chuckling when his chest met her back and his hands settled on her hips.

“I feel a little bit guilty doing this while we’re waiting to be attacked.” Varian rolled the hem of her linen underskirt up, brushing his fingertips on the inside of her thigh. “I think that calls to be selfish for a small moment, don’t you think?” She wanted to say ‘no, we have alot more urgent things to deal with’, yet here she was leaning back into him, playing with the ends of her hair just to keep her hands occupied.

“I suppose it’s a little poetic.” Varian’s jaw fit almost too well in the crook of her neck, kissing and nuzzling until Val’s knees started to buckle along with her chest, making each breath short and jagged. “If that’s how you want to look at it Sweetheart.”She turned around, putting her arms around his neck and feeling an out of nowhere lump of emotion in her throat. “Promise me you’ll stay safe.” A soft kiss did nothing to placate her.

“You know I have no control of that Val.” She thumped his chest for all the good it would do, fully aware that it would barely leave a mark. “Then lie to me, just this once.” He wasn’t used to hearing such blatant fear in her voice, and he couldn’t help but fear a strange tingle of his own fear slither down his spine, making him merely hold her tighter and kiss as much of her head as humanly possible.

“I promise that I’ll be alright. I’ll come and find you after this is all done and all will be well.” He felt dirty even saying it, since there was of course the chance that it would end the opposite way and all would be lost instead of well, but if she needed him to comfort her with honeyed words and white lies then so be it. Apparently it worked, since no sooner had he finished his sentence, he felt her sigh of fake relief on his chest.

“Thank you. I needed to hear that.” Varian lifted her chin, tasting sugar on her lips and not wanting to ever stop the sensation on his own once he pulled away. “I’m glad I could help.” Val hated even saying this considering what was going on around them, but he was right, being selfish was looking deliciously inviting. She let go of him but kept her grip on his hand, telling him without even opening her mouth what she wanted him to do.

“I take it we’re done talking?” She sat him down, letting him untie his breeches and open them enough to make the contact she clearly wanted all the while she rolled the hem of her underskirt up and straddled him, already shuddering even though they hadn’t actually done anything yet.

He kept her steady with a one hand on her thigh and the other arm around her waist, digging his fingers in once her hips started to move and she rubbed herself against him. “We don’t have enough time to sit here talking.” She put her arms around his neck and her forehead against his, feeling him harden the more she ground her hips and trying not to whimper at the sensation. It would be probably the second time that they’d made love since reconciling and to say she was more ‘sensitive’ than usual would be an understatement.

“Write to me when you get there.” She hastily nodded, briefly letting go to pull at the laces of her vest, inhaling sharply and holding his head when it buried itself in her chest, kissing whatever inch of skin was accessible to him. “Of course I will. And every couple of days afterwards.” He was hard enough now that his head was brushing her folds and she had to lift her backside a little so she didn’t hurt him.

“I’ll come as soon as I can. I’ll bring you home myself.” She angled herself as she came forward again, letting him slide smoothly inside her and compete with her as to who made the loudest noise, with his groan battling her shuddering moans. “I wouldn’t expect anything else.” Varian needed a brief moment to unscramble his thoughts, laying his head on her chest and clenching his thighs, not realising how good she felt around him until he’d buried himself deep enough to feel her tighten, making his head go light.

“Are you alright?” He lifted his head, starting off with slow, strong thrusts, muffling her with kisses that threatened to take her breath away. “I’ve never felt better.” She scratched the back of his neck, kissing his chin once his head went back. “We’re saying goodbye properly this time.” Varian looked her straight in the eye, lolling his head forward and stopping his hips for a moment.

“If this is our goodbye, I’ll take it with hope that we’ll be saying ‘hello’ soon enough.” One more kiss before she let him have what he was clearly craving. “I love you Varian.” His breath hitched and she watched him swallow harder than usual. “I love you too Val.”

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Val was halfway through taking her things down to the prepared Black Rose when the bells signalling the Horde’s arrival sounded, and like nearly everyone else, she was in no way ready for it. She had just finished closing one of the last trunks when they rang, and Lucian was at her doorframe in seconds.

“Val-” She abandoned her work, not quite sure what to do but feeling an unfamiliar panic creeping up her spine. “I know, I know. What’s happening, do we know?” Lucian took her hand, not caring that they still had half a room to move and hurting her wrist with his pulls as he led her down the stairs. “The crier’s in the town square telling everyone exactly that.”

She didn’t even have time to put her shoes on, but she wouldn’t dare complain of the cobbles pressing into her stocking covered feet as the two of them all but sprinted down the road and over the bridge, already hearing the low roars of battle coming from the west. “Fuck, they really are here, aren’t they?” Lucian refrained from looking back at her, keeping his pace up and his face annoyingly straight. “Aye, they are, and now we have to deal with it.”

The crier was already bellowing by the time they got there, so they really had to concentrate to determine what they’d missed, nudging into the already panicking crowd and trying not to get hit by stray elbows where people were throwing their arms up. “What is King Llane doing about this? Where is he?!” That was the one she was hearing most, and it wasn’t helping her concentration at all. The poor crier was trying to make his voice heard but it wasn’t working.

What did work however, was the thundering of hooves coming from the eastern side of the District, with the prince she knew and loved heading the charge, just as she feared he would be. His voice was more powerful in both volume and station, so the crowd’s loud yells became a low hum of murmurs and mutterings as he stopped his horse in front of them.

“The Horde has come to claim Stormwind for its own! But if you heed my words, it won’t be this day! All of you, go back to your homes, lock the doors and barricade yourselves as much as you can!” He pointed behind him to the spire of the cathedral. “When the bell tolls three times, you’ll know that our defence of the gates has been unsuccessful. If the bells ring, leave your homes, possessions, anything that will slow you down, and flee to the cathedral, where General Fordragon will start the evacuation!”

Already people started running back to the buildings, with Lucian yanking Val to him, looking over his shoulder at the flaming boulders that were only just bouncing off the wards that steadfast mages were fighting to keep up on the ramparts above their heads. “You heard what he said Val.” She wasn’t too sure. “Maybe we should just go to Cillian?”

Lucian shook his head, following her gaze as the gates were opened by the smallest margin, with Varian and the soldiers that had been behind him all looking like they were stepping through a portal, with the wall of magic bent around them as they thundered through, cut off when the gates slammed shut and the huge wooden beams that she was well aware had hardly been used fall into place and essentially trap them in the city.

“No, we’re to do what Varian instructed and go home, Cillian’s probably already there waiting for us.” Something in her mind had told her that Lucian had already told the captain to come to the house should all hells break loose, so she supposed their only option was to go home. The roar of the battle got louder, and she found herself jostled and shoved by people desperate to get back to their sanctuaries, making her loose her footing and in need of Lucian pulling her back to her feet, not helping the stinging in her wrist in the slightest.

It wasn’t just Cillian waiting for them once they managed to break from the surging crowds, which Val would never admit out loud she was grateful for; there were very few times when she would accept help, and this was one of them. The captain ushered them forward despite the fact that they were moving as quickly as was possible with circumstances how they were, putting a protective arm around Val as Lucian opened the door, letting them all in and slamming it shut behind them.

“We heard the bells and came straight here. What’s the plan?” Lucian cleared the counter, which in reality was really just a sturdy table, starting to push it with the help of Orazio and Morris, who’d come with Cillian as well as Lily, a flame haired Kul Tiran who was just as strong if not stronger than the rest of the crew.

Val was emptying cabinets with both her and Cillian so they would be easier to topple and use to block the door, trying not to give in to the overwhelming fright that was spreading from her chest to the ends of her limbs. It had been mere hours since Varian had told her that the Orcs were at the edge of the forest, if they had gotten here so quickly, how did Stormwind stand a chance?

“So far, it’s just stay in here until we know whether they’ve gotten into the city.” Cillian clearly wasn’t on board with that idea. “So what, we’re just to become sitting targets?” Lucian shook his head, noticing how his sister had gone quiet and shaking off his own uneasiness to take relative control of the situation.

“No. It only becomes a problem if they get through the gates, which right now, doesn’t look as if it’s happening.” Lily cleared her throat, putting the trunks they’d been packing with tools on the table once it was against the door. “It will only be a matter of time. Those wards won’t hold that long, I can tell you that now.”

Val didn’t mean to snap but tensions were unbelievably high and everyone knew it; having an army not one hundred feet away that was ready to kill everyone in sight wasn’t the most reassuring of situations, and the fact that Varian had gone out there after promising her he wouldn’t was only making things ten times worse. “Thank you Lil, that made me feel so much better, knowing we’re probably going to die in the next twenty four hours, cheers for that!”Cillian patted her back, obviously seeing the hysteria on her face that was threatening to break loose and ruin what little composure she still had left.

“Now then lass, no one said anything about dying.” He held his hand out and Orazio passed him a silver pistol with a dark oak grip, pressing the weapon in her hand and either not noticing or choosing to ignore how she started to shake. “D’you remember how to use this?” She nodded despite her head wanting to do the opposite.

“Very vaguely.” Cillian kissed her forehead, sitting with her while the others continued to block the door. “We’ve already done the windows, it’s just down here we have to take care of.” Val started to let her knee bounce, telling Cillian she was getting agitated. “He’ll be alright lass, he’s tougher than you think.”

She absolutely detested how obvious she was, running a thumb over the gun barrels just to occupy her hands as she sat here praying that Varian would come out of this alive. “He lets his anger do the thinking for him Cil, it’s his biggest flaw. He’ll go running in with ideas of heroism in his head and all it’ll do is get him killed.”

Orazio was the one to shake his head now, finishing the barricade and swiping his own gun from its holster on the side of he belt, making sure it had ammunition and trying not to flinch at the noise outside. “Varian’s a smart lad lass, smarter than anyone gives him credit for. He’ll be alright.” Cillian’s grimace did nothing to soothe Val in any way, shape or form. “Starting to wish we’d left yesterday, we would’ve been in Bloodstone by now.”

Val shrugged, practising her aiming for all the good it would do. She hadn’t seen an orc up close yet, but from what Varian had told her, they were eight foot high, three foot wide and stronger than anything he’d ever witnessed, so she had no clue just what she expected to do when and if they broke down that door. Of course if asked she’d cockily say “protect those I love” but in reality, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing and it would be abundantly obvious to any of the Orcs that she wasn’t trained enough to make good on that promise.

“I wouldn’t have gone with you yesterday, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.” Morris scratched his large belly, tapping his cutlass against his leg. “What did Varian say when you told ‘im you were going?” Val took the drink Lily had poured her, quickly toasting to them getting out of this alive with the rest of them and downing it a little bit too fast.

“I went in there thinking he was going to argue the complete toss with me and make it into a screaming match, I’d been preparing myself for one.” She frowned, refilling her cup. “But once again that man surprised me. I told him outright what was happening and he said ‘I agree. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss you, but I think you should go.’”

Lucian pulled a face, not really liking how this was the first he was hearing about it. Val had barely spoken since she’d gotten back from the Keep, and the odious task of packing their whole lives into a few boxes had made starting a serious conversation difficult to say the least.

“That’s surprisingly mature of him.” Val flinched as an almighty boom shook the floor underneath their feet, and she had the stomach churning inkling that they were trying to merely tear the walls down in their efforts to get in. She only just stopped herself covering her ears, looking at her brother like she was the toddler he used to sit on the stairs with when their parents were at each other’s throats, needing comfort as much as she did back then.

“He’s mature when he wants to be, you and I both know that.” Lily glanced out the window, letting a low whistle out. “One of the mages has been taken out.” Orazio’s bushy brows drew down as he moved her away, using his spare hand to guide both her and Val to the back of the room. Lucian held his sister with one arm, his other hand clenched around the axe that he’d normally take to the outskirts of Elwynn and chop a few logs with to get them through the winter…she never dreamed he’d have to use it as a defence for the both of them.

“How exactly do you know the mage is gone, lass?” Lily slid onto the floor, bending her legs and putting her chin on them. “There was a hole in the wards, a big chunk of it’s missing.” Now Lucian’s large palms went over Val’s ears whether she wanted them there or not; it had always been a reflex of his to block out anything scary or too much for her, and usually it worked quite well, but Val could feel her chest beginning to tighten and her head start to pound as she unwillingly started to give in to her fear. “It’ll be alright Little Bird, we’ll be alright.”

Nothing was alright, and she was convinced it wouldn’t be again.

Almost inevitably, the orcs had crashed through the outer gate and killed the mages keeping them out, pounding into the city and sending its residents running as the bells did their duty and rang three times in a horrific countdown to their destruction. There was a horrible mess of soldier, citizen and orc in the Trade District square, with people not having time for what Val supposed was to have been an orderly evacuation, so it had rapidly turned into a surge of mass hysteria.

The Horde had pushed through before they could all move to the Cathedral, making those who had lost their wits to their panic start to block the way in their scramble to get over the small bridges connecting the mass to the rest of Stormwind, causing those who were further back to become embroiled in the firing line.

Lucian, Val and the others had stayed behind a little longer, knowing they wouldn’t get through even if they tried, so it was best that they helped those who didn’t have the means to run, using Cillian and his crew to guide them.

There had been casualties already, and what frightened Val more than the actual deed was how unsurprised she was by it. They had already taken out Goldshire, Northshire, all places she had known growing up, and Varian had told her that hardly any of the citizens of those villages had survived, so why did she expect the capital to be any different?

She ducked as another ball of flame soared over their heads, feeling the heat wash over her and the blinding flash of more structures crumbling with the impact, showering everyone with debris and soot that was in her eyes, lungs and mouth, making it ten times harder to take note of what her brother was saying to her where her ears had popped, leaving nothing but a loud whine in her ears.

“Stay low and close to me!” She nodded, taking his hand and fighting to keep her feet moving, turning when roars behind them got louder and the snapping of jaws caught her attention.

The orcs had released their wolves, gigantic beasts ten times the size of the wolves she and Varian had hunted over the years, and with teeth powerful enough to snatch up those around them as Lucian abandoned his initial command and dragged her forward, making her already aching feet hurt even more with the speed in which they hit the blood soaked cobbles.

She slipped, catching her brother’s shoulder as she went down and slamming them both to the ground, with Lucian scrambling up and throwing her forward, feeling the whisper of teeth barely graze his leg.

Thankfully some of those who had gone on ahead were attempting to distract the beasts long enough for the remaining soldiers to use the heavy crossbows dotted around the ramparts and skewer the things, including the one that pursued Val and her brother, much to her utter relief.

She ducked her head as more explosions rang out around her, with the smell of burning wood and something she could only assume was flesh flying up her nostrils as the areas around where the boulders were hitting set aflame, threatening to engulf the whole city.

Cries for help were all she could hear, and Lucian, to his credit, didn’t stop to help every single one as she had expected him to do. She held his hand as tightly as she could, struggling to keep pace with him and apparently he realised, stopped briefly and bending down, letting her climb onto his back as she had done when they were children, not adding that much weight and clinging to his neck instead as they made a beeline for Cathedral Square.

They were one of the lucky few who actually made it there, slipping through the slowly closing gates and disengaging from each other, with Lucian cupping her cheeks and kissing her head. “We’re doing alright Little Bird. Just stay with me.” She nodded, holding his hands. “Cil down at the ship?” Lucian grunted an affirmation, not wanting to listen at how the soldiers holding the doors were talking about closing them in thirty seconds no matter who was left outside.

“Yes, I sent them on ahead, the Rose is ready to take whoever it can.” Despite everything, Val found herself shakily laughing. “I would never have dreamed we’d be using that hunk of crap as a rescue ship.” Lucian held her to him as more explosions went off outside the borders of the square, getting louder with every passing second. They both watched in horror as the gates were shut, with children, men and women screaming at the guards about loved ones still outside and being essentially ignored, it was horrific considering how idyllic their lives had been up until this point.

They’d had the odd skirmish with the Stranglethorn Trolls who got too brave sometimes, granted, but there was never a battle on this scale. She had known nothing of war, but after this she was very much certain that would change.

“All those who made it are to make their way to the harbour, where ships are waiting to transport you to Lordaeron!” Bolvar’s voice was deep enough to demand attention, but not quiet, which she highly suspected he knew already.

This was all moving far too fast for Val’s liking; not two hours ago they had merely been talking about the potential attack, yet here they were with a city that was slowly turning into a fireball. The flames had caught and spread faster and thicker than she suspected anyone had anticipated, hence the growing panic, multiple bodies were littering the streets already, hells, she had tripped over them enough times on their journey here.

What made it even worse for peoples’ hopes was the monarchy that was nowhere to be found and people fighting to actually leave their ‘safe space’ so they could go to the loved ones admirably screeching on the other side of the gates in the hopes of the guards that were standing against them would open them again when Val was sure everyone already knew they wouldn’t.

Those people would all be dead within a matter of minutes, she didn’t need to be a scholar to know that, the orcs’ roars and the howls of their infernal wolves were growing louder by the second. Lucian’s hands went over her ears again but Val didn’t really understand why he bothered when the noise was actually decreasing.

One by one the panicked bellows of those left outside ceased with the whistle of a weapon and a disgusting squelch that made Val’s stomach wish to eject itself completely from her body, it was abominable to even think about what had been done with them.

Lucian pulled on her arm, steeling himself a little too well to the explosions going off around them, but she supposed that was from years of listening to cannon fire on the Rose. They had started letting a certain number of people through the southern gate, herding them towards the frantic harbour, but Val noticed the crowd stalling every now and then. “What’s taking so long?” Lucian shrugged, trying to use his height as much as possible. “I have no idea, but they want to hurry up.”

“Let us through!” “You can’t keep us here!”

“Women and children first! You’ll all get to the ships, we promise you!” Another hand grabbed Val’s arm and she turned to the guard that had obviously been pointed her way. “Come miss, we’ll get you to safety.” Val wrenched her arm away, breathing heavily as she held on to Lucian. “No, I’m not going anywhere without my brother.”

Apparently she wasn’t the only one not happy with the arrangement; people hard started shoving their way past and actually brawling with one another for a spot at the front of the crowd, making the guards occupy themselves enough to not notice the gates begin to buckle, or the four fireballs soaring overhead. Once people did realise the projectiles were about to make impact, panic took over again and everyone started running in every direction, jostling Val enough to make her hand slip from Lucian’s.

“The cathedral!” How she heard the one scream that told her what was about to happen she’d never know, but it was like Val had frozen, she couldn’t move, all she could do was watch the large ball of flame and terror scream down towards the house of the Light, and thankfully her brother had more cognition and tackled her to the ground once it hit its target, engulfing everyone within a half a mile radius in the unrepentant flame and killing most of them in a shower of heat and shards of the beautiful stained glass that had always welcomed anyone who wished to see it up close, it was as heartbreaking as it was horrifying.

Loud shouts were nothing but muffled gibberish to Val, who could no longer feel her brother’s weight on her, but instead a white hot agony that threatened to make her throat hoarse enough to never work again with her screams. When asked after all this was over what she remembered from those few moments she could only say ‘not much’ and actually mean it.

All she remembered were flashes: large hands grabbing her after batting her with something, lifting her like a bride being taken to her new home and causing nothing but more pain, then earning her wrath as she finally found Lucian laying charred and mangled where she had just been, clearly dead and getting smaller as she was carried away.

Whoever had a hold of her was doing a tremendous job ignoring her roars to go back, and resisting her struggles to get to her brother, her life, she wasn’t going to leave him without a fight, but the amount of that fight that she had left was draining quicker than a bucket with a hole in the bottom, and the pain taking over like a cocoon wrapping itself around a caterpillar and making white fuzz creep into her vision.

No, she wouldn’t leave him, not like this, she was all he had in the world and he was her rock, she wouldn’t just leave him there to die by himself! The orcs left her no choice as they broke through the gate, causing her nothing but more pain with one kicking the bodies to the side like they were sacks of flour, making her lose sight of Lucian and her mind focus on nothing but the burning pain overtaking every other sense. Eventually they got the best of her and she fell limp, letting her vision turn black in her body’s bid to shut itself down against the pain.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

By the time she woke up, she could smell salt, greenery and blood. It was a curious combination, but one that told her she was somewhere else as her eyes snapped open and she felt air launch itself back into her lungs. She looked around, finding nothing but unhelpful sky that was marred with smoke, large plumes that looked like the clouds themselves.

She tried to sit up but all it did was cause a numbing agony to shoot through her, and a croaked cry leave her bone dry throat, slumping back and instead using her hands to try and see what it was she was lying on, with scrambling fingers slipping on damp…wood? She was on a ship then, that’s the only explanation for it, and turning her head a fraction to her left she found familiar black sails billowing in the evening air. The Rose, she was on the Rose. But how did she get here?

Why wasn’t she still in Stormwind? Where was…oh Light, Lucian. She prayed her memory was assaulting her with falsehoods, telling her that the sweet brother she’d worshipped for her whole life was gone and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. He had died protecting her, all she could hope was that it was quick-

She felt bile burn her already raw throat, choking her enough to make it necessary to turn over and let it loose on the deck that she was lying on, letting the cloth folded on her head drop and finally catching Cillian’s attention, turning it from the boy who thus far had been entertained by the crude card tricks he knew off hand.

The captain turned her back over and swiped his handkerchief from his breast pocket, wiping her mouth and kissing her forehead with a tenderness that she would gladly admit she was craving right now. “Glad to see you’re still with us lass.”

A few harsh, hacking coughs cleared what was left in her windpipe and she took a few deep breaths to gear herself up for actually speaking. “Luc-” She screwed her face in frustration, ignoring Cillian’s sticky palm rubbing her arm. “Take your time love.” She tried again, lifting her head. “L-Lucian?” Cillian respected her enough to stay silent and merely shake his head, telling her all it had to; she hadn’t imagined it, it had been cruelly real, her brother was dead.

A man that only this morning she’d been cracking jokes and sniping with, a man who had stayed in Stormwind to help her after their father had died…the last shoulder she had to lean on…gone, in the blink of an eye. It seemed too awful to be true. “Where?” Cillian’s frown didn’t fill her with optimism. “We don’t know lass. Back in the city, I should think.” She bit her bottom lip so hard it bled, holding a shaking hand up for Cillian to take and help her sit up with, cringing himself at every gasp and hiss.

“How get here?” She crudely pointed to herself first then to the deck, and thankfully Cillian understood what she meant. “They evacuated Cathedral Square faster than a goblin running after a purse as soon as the church went up lass. Some bastard in plate went to take you to one of the other ships but I told him I was under order by Prince Varian to take you myself.

He didn’t believe me but once I pointed a gun at him he handed you over. We got you seen to and you’ve been out ever since.” Val had a thousand thoughts running through her head, half of them were about her brother, half were trying to piece together the fuzzy, muddled puzzle flying around in her memory bank. “Stormwind?” Cillian frowned, not liking how much she wanted to get up even though she had no clue of the state she was in.

He looped an arm over his neck and lifted her to her feet, stopping when she needed to take a few deep lungfuls of air and time to straighten herself, not understanding the tight pull on her spine and not really wanting to know what it was. “Show me.” As she shuffled across the deck she managed to look around and see the huddles of people, weeping for those lost, covered in soot, blood and Light knew what else, all shaking like leaves and as dazed as she was.

She had to adjust her vision once she realised just how far from Stormwind they were, it was merely a spot in the distance now; but it was bright orange, and she could only assume that was from the fires that had claimed so much and so many in the short time that they’d been burning.

“It’s all gone…” Cillian squeezed the hand nearest to him on the polished pine, not quite knowing what to say; when they’d brought her on board barely alive he hadn’t known what to do, this wasn’t something that had ever happened to him before, so words of comfort were of course going to be difficult, especially with her personal loss.

She was the type to not listen to any honeyed words once grief had taken a hold of her, they’d all learnt that the hard way when Lokir had left them, so really, staying quiet and just letting her get on with it was probably the best option. “We knew the orcs were a threat, but I didn’t realise just how destructive they were…we’ve done nothing to them. What kind of barbarian race comes to a new world and does this?”

She noticed that there weren’t that many ships dotted about them and only felt her heart clench more. “We’ve lost so many…” Cillian lifted her hand and kissed the back, scratching it with the whiskers of his beard. “Aye, but we’re still here lass, which means we can do something.” Val knew he was trying to help but really didn’t want it right now, she just- well, she had no idea what she wanted right now.

She wanted her brother, she wanted to turn the ship around and go home, she wanted an explanation for the abundance of bandages wrapped around her torso, or why her head was so cold….and above all she wanted Varian. She knew it was selfish to be craving his embrace but right now it was all she wanted. “Varian alive?” She was so glad Cillian could understand her short sentences, but what made her spirits fall even more was his small shrug.

“No idea Lass. All I heard is that Llane’s dead, didn’t hear anything about the prince.” Val’s knuckles grew white with her tightened grip as her legs buckled, with Cillian only just catching her and apologising when it sent more pain through her already aching body. “Llane dead?” That meant so much from just two words; it meant that there was a chance Varian had suffered the same fate, and if he hadn’t…he was king.

They had both known that from a young age Varian had been vetted to become King, it was an inevitability, but it was so different to the freedoms and responsibilities of a prince that she wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to handle it yet. He wasn’t known for his political prowess, but more for his battle skill, which if he was now king, would have to swap roles, and Val knew it would be extremely hard for Varian to achieve without help.

“King.” Cillian’s eyebrow rose. “Pardon?” Val’s lips were starting to crack but she pulled them apart anyway. “He’s king now. Not prince.” Somehow, despite everything else being painfully dry, her eyes managed to water. “If he’s even alive.” She looked down at herself, finally plucking up the courage to ask him what had been bugging her ever since she woke up. “What happened to me?” She lamely pointed to the bandages, really not enjoying Cillian’s pained look.

“When they brought you on board Val…Light above I wasn’t sure you were even alive. You must’ve gotten caught in the blast, your whole back was like a bubbling bloody cauldron.” Val slowly nodded, wondering if this was too blasé a reaction or not. “Burns?” His face said it all. “Permanent?” He sighed, opening his flask and passing it to her.

“Probably. There’s no priest on board so we relied on herbs.” She took a generous gulp, passing it back and merely staring at the city. “Fantastic.” His shaved eyebrow rose and she knew what was coming, but let him air his concerns anyway. “You don’t sound too alarmed by that.” Val shrugged, looking down instead to the churning foam below them.

“Why would I be? In case you haven’t noticed Cil, I have quite a few other problems to worry about than a few scars.” Cillian was reluctantly impressed, she could see it on his face. “That’s probably the most adult thing to ever come out of your mouth.” She tried her hardest to muster a smile, really she did, but it’s like she’d forgotten how to do it.

“I suppose I’m just full of surprises.” She looked up again, really assessing how small Stormwind was in the distance. “How long to Lordaeron?” Cillian drummed his slim fingers on the wood. “Depending on whether we run into trouble or not? About four days.” Val hung her head, feeling it go light again. “Great, so I have four days before I find out if Varian’s alive or not.” Cillian patted her shoulder, carefully making sure he didn’t touch any part of her still bandaged.

He was no healer or medicine man, but even he knew her skin was still raw under all the dressings she’d been subjected to. She was taking it well now, but he was convinced that once they came off she wouldn’t be so nonchalant about it all, and he wasn’t sure whether this was just the initial shock of it all kicking in or what, but her lack of emotion was starting to worry him to no end. He’d be there when the floodgates finally burst whether Varian wanted him to be or not, so all he could do right now was give her the small comforts that she was allowing.

“You can’t stress about it Lass, it’ll drive you mad.” She clearly didn’t agree. “I think I’ll go mad either way Cil.” She turned around, not wanting to stare blankly at her burning city anymore, all it did was threaten to depress her to the point of no return, and Light knew she didn’t want to fall into that pit. “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do now. Part of me wants to just get on with things but the other just wants to fall on the floor and cry until my eyes burst.”

Cillian took her hand again, giving it an affectionate squeeze. “You do whatever you need to love.” Val snatched her hand away, not meaning to come across as cold but she needed to think hard about things right now and having a even a small amount of suffocation from human contact wasn’t going to help with that. “First things first, I need my things. Lucian and I practically packed the whole house, where is it?”

Cillian lightly stamped on the deck. “Down in the brig Lass. We had to make as much room as we can.” Val was already heading for the quarter deck, swinging open the door next to the one that led to Cillian’s cabin and hearing nothing but the hollow slap of her still shoeless feet against the stairs, only accompanied by Cillian’s heavy boots when he came in after her. “You know Minnie’s going to know about this sooner or later.”

She grunted her answer, only realising now the adrenaline had died out how painful it was to walk on feet that had been through the ringer in the past few hours. “I know, and no doubt she’ll demand that I go ‘home’.”She had never understood when people talked about the power of words before tonight, but just saying the word ‘home’ made her chest start to hurt and her legs stop, leaning against a beam holding the room up and needing to take multiple deep breaths to get herself back in check.

Cillian knew it was best not to coddle her but that didn’t stop him bending a little so she was looking at him. “Tell me what to do lass.” Val eventually straightened, running a hand down her face and wincing at the grazes that being thrown to the floor must’ve left on her cheeks. “Get a message to her, tell her I’m fine, but I’m not going ho- to Bloodstone. I need to get to Southshore and see who else made it out.”

Cillian slowly nodded, letting her sit on the floor and pull the first trunk that held everything she owned on Azeroth in it, planting himself next to her and helping her shaking hands unlock the thing and push the lid open. “She’s going to hate me.” Cillian’s eyebrow rose. “And just why would she do that?” Val started rummaging at a snail’s pace, running her fingers over everything of her brother’s and debating whether to lock it away for good or actually use it as a strange memento. Things like his shirts, the small bottle of cologne that he’d gotten as a Winter Veil present two years ago and only used on special occasions, little things she had taken for granted. “It’s my fault he’s dead.”

And there was the rush of unwanted sympathy on Cillian’s tanned face, one she didn’t want in the slightest but knew she’d get just by stating the truth. “Oh come now lass, that’s not the case and you know it.” She shook her head, finding her doll Claudette and holding her like she had when she was three, squeezing the wooden neck enough to nearly snap it as she curled in on herself, feeling as small as she was back then.

“It’s like you said Cil, if we had left yesterday, or the day before, or hells, when you’d first fucking arrived- we would be in Bloodstone by now living merrily. He would still be alive and I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering what I’m going to do without him.” Fat, hot tears that she didn’t consent to at all left little marks on the floor as they ran off her chin, welling faster than the butt of her hand could wipe them away.

Cillian’s arm went around her shoulders and he put his forehead on her temple. “It’ll be alright Lass, I promise. We’ll help you every step of the way.” Val swallowed down another throat blocking breath, leaning into him even though everything in her stubborn brain was telling her not to let her weakness show, especially now when really she didn’t deserve any sympathy.

“I don’t even have an idea of what the first step is Cil, let alone those after it. I’m going to Southshore with no money, no family within arm’s reach, no prospects…I’m starting from square one and I feel like even that is going to fall out from under me.” Cillian squeezed her again, sweeping his fingers through her hair, which had needed to be shorn in order for Lily to see to her, so it was now as short as his, not helping how much change was hitting them all already. “You have a support network Val. You have us.” He wiped her eyes with his thumbs, not really sure if this was entirely appropriate but she needed every bit of comfort she could get.

“You can always stay here.” She slumped back onto her bottom, stretching her legs out and feeling her neck start to hurt again. “Cillian…” He patted her thigh, sitting next to her. “No Lass, I mean it. This ship technically still belongs to your family, no matter who the captain is. You have a home here, with people that love ya, that’s all I’m saying.” Val couldn’t believe she was smirking at a time like this, whether it was a strange coping mechanism or not she’d never know but she did it anyway.

“Bit of a strange time for a declaration of love, isn’t it Cil?” He narrowed his eyes and all it did was make her inappropriately laugh. “Ha fucking ha. You know what I meant.” Val’s smile dropped and she meekly nodded, bending her knees and hugging them. “Can I have a minute please?” He didn’t look as agreeable as she had first expected him to be.

“Lass-” She cupped his cheek, stroking it with a thumb. “I appreciate it Cil, but I just need some time alone, to get my head around everything.” Cillian was clearly at war with himself about the idea, but could see the need for solitude in her eyes, and it was as he said, she held authority over everyone on this ship no matter how much she protested to the fact. He got up, brushing himself down and clearing his throat, trying to think about how to put this tactfully.

“If you need me, you come and get me, straight away, understand?” Val nodded, normally irked by his slightly condescending tone but understanding why he did it this time, giving him a small wave as he left and then wanting him back as soon as the door closed. She sighed, a long, sad sound, leaning back on the pole and looking down at the golden haired doll staring blankly up at her.

“There was a time when I’d ask you what I should do. What a fool I was eh? Taking advice from a doll.” She put her down, bringing her knees back up and closing her eyes. “It was either you, Luce or Varian…Lucian’s dead, Varian, I have absolutely no idea about and quite honestly don’t want to know at this point, and you…” She nudged Claudette, hearing nothing but the knocking of her knuckles against the wooden head.

“Aren’t real. So I’m absolutely fucked.” She was crying again, but she let them fall now that she was on her own, lamely flopping an arm into the trunk next to her and fishing around until she found the small compact mirror that Varian had gotten her for a birthday long past, counting to five and exhaling slowly as she opened it and took a good look at herself.

She ran her fingers through her hair and felt them tremble as they were barely buried, when it was common knowledge that she’d been actively trying to grow it out over the years, so to see it gone was a little jarring to say the least. And yet she snickered, trying to curl a lock around her finger and not managing it. “Papa would be pleased, if he were here.”

She had no idea why she was suddenly thinking about her father, but the short hair had always been a goal of the man’s once he had taken all he could with long hairs shedding everywhere and Val catching her ponytail under a hammer once or twice.

So many times in her life he had threatened to frog march her to a barber but he hadn’t meant it once, it was almost a running joke in the shop…a shop that probably wasn’t there anymore. She hadn’t been given time to see what state it was in, and if she chose to tell herself the harsh truths of it all, it was most likely gone with the rest of them.

The glow of the fire could be seen from this far away it meant that nearly everything was in flames, why would the Horde leave one little building out of all those sitting there for the taking? Her home for nearly twenty years was gone and there was nothing she could do, those were the facts and she’d have to start accepting them sooner or later. If anything it made her more grateful for the two trunks sitting either side of her. They held everything she had in Azeroth, it was a slightly comforting thought as well as an equally horrifying one.

She held the mirror up a little but angled it down, brushing her fingers over the bandage covering one side of her neck and not being able to stop herself gently peeling the end away, blinking rapidly as her eyes watered and sucking in breath after breath until even a slither of the damage was visible, making her instantly wish she’d never done it.

She understood that it would heal in time and this wasn’t the best it was going to look, but right now she was convinced that even if Varian were alive, he’d be absolutely disgusted with what she was looking at. “All the way down…” She remembered that Cillian had told her that the burns went down wherever there were bandages, and since they ended just above her backside, that wasn’t a comforting thought at all. Granted, she was being a little self centred when really, it could have been alot worse, but that didn’t mean she would deny herself a small moment to try and comprehend that she’d be scarred for the rest of her life, which in the best scenario, would be for quite a long time yet.

She’d burned herself before, hells, she was a liability with an anvil the first few times, but never had she seen wounds like this; her skin was black around the edges, but the middle was pink, raw flesh that stuck to the bandage enough to make her toes curl when she had taken it off.

She half heartedly patted the linen back down, not wanting to look at it anymore and curling up on herself, staring blankly at the grazed, dirty face in the mirror and wondering whether she’d ever get back to form at this rate. She supposed she’d find out once she got to Southshore. Until then, she would just sit here for a while, surrounded by memories of a life that had been shattered into a million pieces; she’d pick those pieces up later, but they weren’t going anywhere, not as long as she was still alive to keep them safe.

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Four days passed far too slowly, but eventually the small fishing village of Southshore was in sight, with Cillian ringing the bell sitting on the quarter deck to tell them all and the place itself that they were there. Almost at once a crowd gathered, consisting of who she could only assume were the other Stormwindians (there were ships bearing its emblem docked already), and all she wanted to do was hide as soon as she saw them.

Cillian’s hand on her shoulder was hardly a comfort, and all she could do was blankly watch the gangplank be brought down and the ship empty save her and the crew. “Come lass, we won’t find him up here.” Val shook her head despite knowing he was right. “I can’t see him anywhere.” Cillian nearly patted her back again, forgetting that it was still healing despite making a lot of progress over the days that they’d spent at sea; the herbs that they’d put on it had slight magical properties and were reforming the skin layer by layer, but it was nowhere near completely fixed yet.

“You think a king would be out here with everyone else? Come, we’ll ask around.” Val swallowed, pulling her coat around her a little bit and shifting from foot to foot. As if by the Light itself, one of the trunks she’d loaded on the ship held a small amount of both hers and Lucian’s clothes, so she was standing here in one of his shirts, breeches, and her feet were actually covered by a spare pair of Lily’s boots, strangely feeling more comforted now she looked more like herself.

She and Cillian aided everyone in getting off the ship, lifting those who couldn’t walk despite the captain’s aired concerns to her, but one little boy was still sitting on deck, the one Val had come to know rather well over the past few days. “Thomas, don’t you want to go with the others?” The five year old shook his head, clutching the old bear he’d been thrown on board with and curling up more.

Val got onto her knees in front of him while Cillian sat next to him, finding a kinship with the lad, who’d asked him questions about everything to do with his life; the ship, the crew, how he’d become a pirate, all things Cillian had been convinced that children wouldn’t care about, yet the boy had followed him like a lost puppy since they’d left Stormwind.

“Why not lad? Don’t you want to get back on dry land?” Another shake of the head, with floppy ebony locks brushing the captain’s arm as he burrowed into his side. “Ah, I see. You’ve got nobody, have you?” Val wasn’t sure she agreed with his blunt assessment, but it seemed to work as Thomas’ head lifted. “I don’t know anyone here, they’re just going to throw me in another orphanage.” He looked up at Cillian with eyes bigger than saucers.

“Can I stay here?” Val grimaced, really not liking the idea. “Tom, a pirate ship isn’t the best place for a child.” Thomas clearly disagreed, throwing his bear down and sitting bolt upright. “I can help out! I’m a fast learner, Captain, really I am! Please let me stay, I won’t be any trouble, I promise!” Cillian looked at Val for what she supposed was advice, but really, she didn’t have any.

She was actually a little jealous of the fact that such a young boy already had a firm idea of what he wanted to do now they were displaced, when really, she hadn’t been able to scrabble anything together in the time it had taken to get from Stormwind to Lordaeron. “Tom…” He looked like he was on the verge of tears. “Please Miss Val. I like it here. I don’t want to go to another orphanage.” Cillian sighed, running a hand down his face.

“Alright, compromise. I’ll have a word with Val’s Grammy, talk to her about having you when I go travellin’ to somewhere dangerous. All the other times, you can stay here and fill in the position of cabin boy. Light knows we can’t keep passing Titch off as a child.” Thomas didn’t look too sure. “Is Val’s Grammy nice?” Val grinned, reaching over and squeezing his knee. “Only if you behave yourself.” Thomas grimaced. “I don’t want to go.”

Cillian’s laugh was one that Val was familiar with, and once again it was hard to resist joining in. “Alright lad, if you’re that bloody adamant, go on and help Orazio take stock of our supplies. I’m not promising anything mind.” She’d never seen a child move so fast in her life, letting Cillian pull her to her feet. “You were very easily swayed.”

The dark haired man put his hands in the pockets of his coat, merely shrugging as they watched the animated child inform the older man of the task that had been put to him, earning a pat on the head and Orazio handing over a board with the list of food and water they had on board, which admittedly wasn’t much now. “I need as many hands as I can get, and if he wants it that badly, who am I to stop him? He’s not the only one staying on board lass.”

Val couldn’t argue with that, she’d been there when some of the refugees had come to Cillian’s quarters and petitioned to become part of his crew, realising they had nothing left and any pathway was open to them now. He’d accepted most, sympathising with those who just wanted to get on with things and live a little now they’d all been shocked into realising how short life was, but some he’d rejected, not liking how they talked about nothing but making the Horde pay, even after a few ‘gentle’ reminders from Cillian that this wasn’t a warship and would have nothing to do with the conflict had it not been for Val (which she wasn’t sure she appreciated, but had to respect the truth in it). “He’s so young though. He doesn’t know what he wants.”

Cillian’s nose wrinkled. “Aye, but if you want to follow that argument, some of us are alot older and still don’t know what we want.” Val’s brows drew down, really not wanting to admit he was right. “That’s not the point. He has no idea what your life entails.” Cillian put an arm around her shoulders, pecking her temple.

“Oh stop worrying so much lass, he’ll be fine and you know it.” A throat clearing behind them snatched their attention and they both swivelled on their heel to a young man holding a board with parchment tacked to it. “Excuse me, but may I speak to the captain of this vessel?” Val pointed to Cillian, whose hands went on his hips and a suspicious glint was in his eye. “Aye, that would be me. Who wants me?” He got a small smile and Val could feel her own anxiety on why someone was interested in them fade away.

“I’m just here to log what ships have come from Stormwind, so we can lay the numbers out for the king.” Val’s chest tightened again and she found her quivering. “King Terenas?” A nonchalant shake of the head as he scribbled something down only made her eyes want to water again.

“No, no, King Varian, Miss-” His response was cut off with a loud whoop and squeal coming from the two seemingly mad people in front of him, with the woman throwing herself into the captain’s arms and letting him squeeze her in a way that was borderline inappropriate.

“I’m sorry, did I miss something?” Val figured he must have been new, or maybe it was her changed appearance (she still had cuts and scrapes over her face, and working out on deck had browned her a little more), but she’d forgive him for not recognising her, or why she’d be so ecstatic to hear that King Varian had sent him.

“Hear that lass? I told you he’d be fine!” Val pressed her hands together, pointing her fingertips at the boy. “Where is he? The king?” All she got was a bewildered stare. “Erm, the town hall, he’s the Marshal’s guest…” Val’s brows drew down. “And that is where exactly?” A quill was pointed to the man’s left. “Past the tavern and left of the bookshop miss. But I warn you, King Varian isn’t taking any visitors.”

Val shrugged, letting Cillian sweep his fingers through her hair and tidy her up a bit. “Oh call it a hunch, but I think he’ll be glad to see me.” Cillian playfully pinched her cheek, earning a swat that still accompanied a grin. “Go on, before he thinks you’re not coming and puts himself in a state.” She kissed his whisker covered cheek, taking one more deep breath and choosing not to sprint like she desperately wanted to, but instead actually listening to her body and instead deciding to take a moderate pace, one that wasn’t so harsh on her back but quick enough to cross the village at a good pace.

There were people absolutely everywhere and Val was having a hard time navigating around them all, recognising some of them as Stormwind citizens that she had actually known, but all had the same aura of confused sadness. None of them quite new what to do with themselves, including Val, who had no idea what she was actually going to say to Varian when she got there, how she was going to tell him about Lucian, what happens next, it was all a jumble that she wasn’t sure she would untangle anytime soon.

It seemed that sending Tiffin to Lordaeron with warnings for King Terenas had paid off, and tents had already been erected to house them all, with priests, medics and good Samaritans flitting about tending to them. She found the town hall, swallowing hard and nodding to the guards outside, one of which put a hand out to stop her.

“Apologies miss, but Marshal Redpath isn’t taking petitions today.” Val tried to put on a genuine smile but it just looked awkward as all hells. “I’m not here to see Marshal Redpath, I’m here to see King Varian.” She got a frown in response. “I apologise again miss, but King-” “It’s alright James, I know who this is. Let her through.”

Val ducked under the arm that hadn’t been given time to be put back by the guard’s side, accepting Jon’s hearty embrace and quickly pulling back before his hand could thump her back. “Not a good idea. Don’t do that. Burns, bad ones.” Apparently Jon understood her verbal vomit and folded his hands in front of him instead. “Apologies, I didn’t know. It’s good to see you alive and- ahem…well.” Val put a hand on his arm with a wide smile. “It’s good to see you too Jon.”

She looked behind him, not meaning to be so impatient but she needed privacy with the one man that knew exactly how to bring her the comfort she’d been craving over the past four days. Cillian’s help and affection was greatly appreciated, but it wasn’t the same as being with who was essentially her soulmate. She would normally sigh in exasperation to anyone who used that term but after nearly getting herself killed and losing everything she was cutting herself some slack this once.

“How is he?” Jon’s brows drew down and he swivelled on his heel, offering her an arm. “It’s probably easier for you to just see for yourself miss. Light knows he’s been waiting for you.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “He can’t have been here that long though, surely?” Jon chuckled, falling into step with her.

“No, but he’s supposed to be on his way to the capital by now; he absolutely refused until he heard news of you.” She grimaced, watching her boots as they continued down the hall. “I heard about Llane.” Fury washed over Jon’s face so quickly that she couldn’t even pinpoint the second it got there. “I take it you know how it happened?” She shook her head and even Jon’s sigh held anger in it. “He was murdered by the halfling.”

Val stopped in her tracks with both eyebrows shooting up. “Garona? Garona killed Llane?” Jon slowly nodded, running a hand through his unruly curls. “Aye, she did. Then she maimed King Varian and fled.” Now bile was threatening to choke her again. “’Maimed’? What do you mean?” Jon blanched, reminding himself to keep his tongue in his head better and pointed to the door in front of them. “You’ll know as soon as you see him. I’ll tell the others to give you some time.”

Val gave him a small nod, not quite sure what to expect and feeling unease twist her stomach a little, made worse by the fact that once Jon had left she was quite alone. ‘Maimed’….well, that could mean absolutely anything, she could go in there and find him with only one leg, or an eye missing, there was a never ending list of possibilities and she wasn’t sure whether she liked any of them.

But as soon as the doubt crept up her spine it was batted away by remorse at just how shallow she was being when really, it would still be Varian, so what did it matter? All she could do was continue to make herself abundantly grateful that he was alive at all when people outside had lost absolutely everyone they cherished. She exhaled like it would expel all of her worries, raising a hand to knock but stopping it just before, choosing instead to go in without announcement and hope that he was even awake.

She didn’t know exactly what time it was, but the sun hadn’t been up long, so it can’t have been past twelve at any rate. She of all people knew that Varian was notorious for sleeping in, but the room was surprisingly bright and airy when she opened the door; there was a pungent cloud of incense in the air, making her nostrils itch as it flew up them. She closed the door, looking around for Varian and finding him hunched over a table in the corner.

“I thought I said I was to receive no one? You’re shaping up to be a rather shabby chamberlain already.” Val felt the smile growing on her face and put her hands behind her back. “I wasn’t aware that I’d gotten the job?” His chair fell backwards with such speed that she had to wonder if she’d seen the transition at all, and with two short strides (well, short for him at least) he’d scooped her up, not noticing the pained grimace as he did.

She wouldn’t chide him for it, not now, she was too overwhelmed to even acknowledge the pain after a while. “Thank the Light…I honestly thought…no, it doesn’t matter, you’re here, that’s what matters.” He finally put her down, clocking the bandages on her neck and brushing them as softly as he could. “You’re hurt…” She looked down at it, holding his hand.

“It’s nothing that won’t get better in time. What about you? Jon said yo-” And instantly she knew what ‘maimed’ had meant. She reached up, trying not to touch the two angry, red gashes on his face, but paired with the black thread holding the skin together, she couldn’t help but find it absolutely horrifying. Apparently Varian noticed this, hanging his head and closing his eyes.

“I was hoping they would’ve healed by the time you arrived.” Val willed herself to recover the human skill of speech, putting a palm on his cheek. “Garona did this?” Varian’s head came up, but his brows drew down. “How did you- Jon. Yes, she did, I won’t even try and lie to you. She murdered my father and did this to me when I refused to let her escape.”

And there was the long, sad sigh. “But she managed it anyway because I was careless.” Strangely, she wasn’t as shocked at his state than she had believed she would’ve. Two scars on his face didn’t make him suddenly repulsive to her, she had deeper feelings for him than that, nothing as superficial as a wound would turn her away, not after all this time. “You still look like my Varian.” There had only been a few times when she’d seen Varian on the verge of tears in their lifetime, and it seemed that today would be added to that list.

“I look nothing like him. How you’re even managing to look at me right now astounds me.” She stood on her toes, kissing the skin just under the cut running across his nose, wincing as she came down and silently apologising to her back for putting it through it. “With my eyes, icebrain. Did you really think something as unimportant as a wound would turn me away?” Varian ran both of his hands up her arms, wrinkling his nose and hissing when he did, fighting the urge to rub it.

“Well no, but you have to admit, it looks bloody awful.” Val would always be astounded at how easily the two of them could slip right back into normal, everyday banter despite what had happened to them; she supposed it was their coping mechanism, to keep everything as normal as humanly possible and laying the cards of their situation on the table so they could come up with a plan.

It was the way it had always been and she was sure that wasn’t going to change anytime soon, and to be perfectly frank…she was fine with that. Calm discussion was ten times more effective and less harrowing than dramatically falling into each others arms and weeping like old widows while blurting out vital information to be forgotten in an instant, and she was glad that she was with a man who felt the same way. “Oh I’m not saying otherwise, I’m just pointing out that you can’t be classed as disfigured just yet Varian.”

He chuckled despite himself, letting his relief finally show and starting to relax now he was certain she wasn’t going to go screaming and running away from him. “I suppose I should cancel that order for an organ then?” She didn’t laugh, but she smiled, that was enough. “Aye, you should.” Varian touched the end of her bandage with concern written all over his face and all she could do was mentally prepare how she was going to explain this.

“Bad?” She of all people could appreciate the small sentences of an overwhelmed mind and merely nodded. “For now it is, yes.” His breaths drew out a little longer. “What happened?” Val bit her bottom lip and decided showing was better than telling, screwing her face as she peeled the strip of linen back and opening her eyes, seeing his own pool with panic and wishing she’d never done it. “What in the hell-”

She stuck it back down before he accidently touched it, taking the hand that was hovering near her shoulder. “We were in Cathedral Square when it was hit with the bombs.” Varian took a few steps backwards , breathing a little too heavily for her liking, even more so when she pushed his shoulders and it took barely anything to sit him down on the chair in front of his desk. “Val…I…I had no idea-” She shushed him, brushing his loose hair back.

“Varian, don’t work yourself into a state, I’m here, I’m going to be fine. My burns are healing already, it’ll just take time-” His eyebrows shot up. “Burns? Burns?” He stood, holding her shoulders a little. “Show me.” Val wasn’t completely certain that was the right route. “Varian-” “Val, show me.” She sighed, recognising that tone and knowing she couldn’t argue with it, unbuttoning her coat, slinging it on the small bed near his desk and pulling her shirt over her head, turning around and wincing at his sharp inhale.

“Light blind me…” She swallowed, feeling so out of her comfort zone even though she was normally fine with Varian. “It could’ve been worse. Lucian got the brunt of it.” She put her shirt back on, not bothering with the coat and swivelling, suddenly unable to catch her breath.

“He didn’t make it. I had to leave him there. He was all alone while I ran like a coward…” And there were the arms she had been craving, holding her as gently as possible while still telling her that he was here, he was alive, everything would be just a little bit better now, and Light damn it all, it worked again, allowing her to relax enough to shed tears she hadn’t even been sure she had the strength to conjure stain his tunic and make her eyes burn with grief that would probably never go away.

“Hush now love, it wasn’t your fault.” She felt rather pathetic clinging to him like she was, but she couldn’t help it; he’d been her shoulder to lean on since they were children, that wasn’t going to change now he was king…at least, she sincerely hoped it wouldn’t.

“But it was. If I hadn’t have been so stubborn, if we had left earlier…” He hadn’t said a word about her hair yet, which in all honesty she was surprised at, but she supposed it wasn’t the most drastic change either of them had gone through, so he felt no qualms about running his fingers through it and kissing her forehead over and over.

“We can’t sit here thinking about the ‘what ifs’ Val, we’ll both go mad. I could’ve been more firm with my father about Garona, we could’ve evacuated earlier, there’s a never ending list of possibilities that would’ve potentially ended this differently. Yet here we are with the cards that the Light has dealt us, and this is what we need to work with from now on.” He put her forehead against his, not giving her a chance to reply and argue with him over what was essentially, a very good point.

“It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t my fault. I need you with me now so I can make sense of this shit show.” Val nodded, giving him the briefest of kisses just to indulge her selfish need, bringing a small amount of comfort to herself and wiping her eyes as she pulled back. “So what do we do now?”

Varian ran his thumbs over her cheeks, intent on ridding them of every tear or trace of one, wanting to cry tears of happiness himself at how she was safe and here, with him, within arms reach, it was all he’d wanted for the half a day he’d been here. “You and I will depart for the capital soon, we need to get a meeting with Terenas as quickly as possible so we can sort this whole mess.” Val looked to the window with a small frown. “And the people?” Varian gave her a reassuring smile.

“Will be cared for. Thankfully the arrangements we made before the attack made things alot smoother. I’ll come back down once my business with Terenas is done and see to their comfort myself, don’t worry, but for now Marshal Redpath has graciously given them refuge and everything they need.”

She supposed it wasn’t really required of a king to actually be here in person in order to look after his people, so she couldn’t exactly feel irked by the notion. “Then what?” Varian looked as lost as she did at that one. “Then…I don’t exactly know, but I’m sure I can attempt to make it up as I go along.” Val sat down on his bed, putting her hands in her lap.

“I suppose that’s all we can do.” He lamely plonked himself next to her, with the both of them blankly staring forward. “I dread to ask, but who else did we lose on your end?” Varian’s hair hid his face as his head flopped forward and a angry sigh left his lips. “Bess.” Val sat up, not expecting that one. “Bess? But how- Varian…”He lifted his head, still looking forward.

“How do you think? We were overrun Val, there was no way to determine anything from the pandemonium.” He grimaced, realising how much his voice had grown in volume. “Apologies, it’s just…I had no idea where the hells she was, so I wouldn’t know. I just know that she wasn’t on any of the ships that got here, and I’m sure you would’ve told me if she were on the Rose by now.” She made a noise of affirmation, putting her head on his shoulder. “Wyll and Elsie?” She got a nod this time. “They’re in the camp. Smoke inhalation has hit them hard.” Now he looked at her.

“Cillian?” She tried to muster a smile. “Who’d you think brought me here. What about Anduin and Khadgar?” Varian shrugged, kissing her head once it sunk down again. “I’m assuming that Anduin will meet us at the capital.” He groped for her hand and once he had it he linked their fingers tight enough to hurt, but she didn’t care, it meant that she wasn’t imagining this and he was here, so she’d take any amount of pinpricked pain.

“This seems too insane to be real, doesn’t it?” Val closed her eyes, not bothering to lift her head from where it was. “I keep thinking this is just a fever dream and I’ll wake up in a minute with everything as it was.” Varian’s laugh could barely register as one to anyone else, but she managed to catch it. “I would pinch you, but the last time I did I distinctly remember getting a slap.”

Val’s eyebrow cocked. “That’s because you don’t know your own strength sometimes.” Varian grimaced, choosing to give in and put his head on hers. “Yes well, I’ve found in the past few days that what physical strength I possess is one hundred percent compensation for the mental strength I sorely lack.” Val brought her head up, blowing a stray lock of hair from her face.

“Varian, you and I both know that’s not true.” He wasn’t convinced in the slightest. “Isn’t it? Val, I’m king now, I have responsibilities and authority, yet all my mind is telling me to do is just to dive under those covers, hide for a thousand years and let someone else do it.” She knocked her knee against his with a hopefully comforting smile.

“It’s only the first few days Varian, you’re allowed to be nervous.” Varian’s face turned annoyingly straight. “But that’s the thing Val, I’m not. I should know all of this already,It’s not like I haven’t been given twenty two years of preparation- oh wait, yes I have!” He ran a hand over his face, putting his elbow on his thigh.

“I should’ve listened when my father would chide that I was too careless. I thought he was just being a killjoy, telling me to take more interest in the political elements, but in reality he was trying to help me, and my stubborn arse decided to squander it. A fine leader I’m going to shape up to be.” She put her elbow on his shoulder and rubbed his cheek with a crooked finger, making sure not to go too close to the cute going across the bridge of his nose.

“Varian, what did you literally just say about not dwelling on what could have been?” He looked at her without moving his head, obviously trying not to smile, she could see the corners of his mouth twitching. “This is a bit different.” She swivelled on her backside, draping her legs over his lap and appreciating how he automatically caught them so she could steady herself.

“Is it though? In case you haven’t noticed Varian, everyone needs to adjust to a new life, new roles. So you’re not exactly alone in the ‘being a bit lost with yourself’ point in your day.” Varian’s grimaced remained no matter how she tried to soothe him. “Val, I’ll say it again, this is a bit different.” He jabbed a thumb behind him at the window.

“Those people can do whatever they want now; they can stay here, go off and do their own thing, they have the freedom to do so…I on the other hand, do not. I have a purpose, a clear path, one that I’m not sure I’m going to be very good at going down.” She kissed his cheek, holding on to his shoulders and putting her head back down. “That’s why you’ll have us to help. Between Tiffin and I we should be able to keep you on the right track.”

He apparently admitted defeat, letting his shoulders sag and turning his head so he could kiss her nose. “You’re going to get sick to death of me.” She almost returned his gesture, stopping herself at the very last second and pecking the cleft of his chin instead. “Varian, if I were going to get sick of you, it would’ve happened years ago.” His eyebrow cocked.

“Then you best be ready for alot of stressing, anger, and overall misery.” She snorted before she could stop herself. “So it’ll be like we’re married?” She realised the error of her quip as soon as she said it and his face fell. “Varian…” He let go of her legs and flopped back, linking his fingers on his stomach and only managing a tiny smile when she turned onto her side, lay down beside him and brushed his hair from his face.

“I suppose things will have to be fast tracked now, won’t they? Coronation…wedding…war…kiss goodbye any spare time for the foreseeable future, since I doubt we’ll get anything.” Val rested her head on one hand, curling his thick locks around one finger. “It’s just the initial chaos, I’m sure things will smooth over eventually.”

Varian’s frown told her that he was about to ask the same question Cillian had for the past four days, one she had no answer to and wasn’t that sure she would do. “Do you have any ideas on what you’re going to do?” She shook her head, which was all she really could do right now. “Not a single one. I want to be useful somehow, I know that much, but how I’m going to achieve that is still a mystery to me.”

Her smile held a strain that was as obvious as the nose on her face. “I’m sure I’ll think of something eventually.” Varian held a hand up, squeezing hers in reassurance. “It’s not just all about me from this point onward Val, you know that, don’t you? I’m here to help as much as I can.” Val knew that, but that didn’t make the task any easier, and she was sure it wouldn’t be for quite a while yet.

“Thank you.” He looked surprised at her lack of argument, but knew he wasn’t to push it by questioning her, so he let his face relax again. “Everything changes from this point…are you as unprepared as I am?” She smiled down at him, seeing the humour in his tone. “Oh you know I am. So let’s go and flounder together eh?”

Varian reached up and cupped her cheek, thanking whoever or whatever was watching that she’d made it to him in relatively one piece. “And you definitely want to come with me? You can roam if you want Val, I wouldn’t begrudge you the chance you’ve been given to finally do it at all.” Her nose scrunched and thankfully he gave her a minute to properly think about it. He hated admitting that her fingertips brushing his forehead and catching the roots of his hair was threatening to lull him to sleep, which of course, was something he hadn’t gotten in nearly five long days.

“I think I’ll let the dust settle first. I don’t want to muddy our losses by sauntering off on a jolly jaunt straight away.” She pecked his head. “I would have no idea where to start anyway, so unfortunately you’re stuck with me.” Varian sat up in a futile attempt to wake himself, blinking a few times to get the bleariness to fade. “’Stuck with’ is never a way I would describe having you by my side Val, don’t even go there.”

There was a knock on the door and Jon poked his head in with a regretful smile. “Sorry Your Majesty, but your transport to the capital isn’t planning on hanging around much longer. What shall I tell them?” Varian sighed, sliding from the bed and helping Val to her feet. “Tell them I’ll be out shortly, I just need a moment to make sure I have everything with me.”

Jon nodded and mercifully closed the door behind him, showing them the respect for their privacy that by all accounts, they shouldn’t have gotten considering the circumstances. He was now king, she was still a commoner, and staying away from everyone in a secluded room didn’t exactly paint the picture of innocence. She knew it didn’t bother Varian half as much as it did her so she didn’t bring it up in conversation, but the thought was always there, like a lingering odour she couldn’t shake, it was as annoying as it was headache inducing.

“Transport? That sounds official.” Varian’s eyebrow cocked as he shrugged his battered coat on. “Well I didn’t exactly have time to bring a horse with me on the ship Val, what else was I supposed to do, walk there?” She snorted, ruffling her own hair to try and make it sit properly, slinging her own coat over her arm.

“With you being the stubborn oaf you are? It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.” He adjusted his cuffs with a sneer that she knew he didn’t mean. “Oh ha-ha. Unfortunately I must disappoint you.” She scratched the skin just around her bandage, wondering if it should still be itching at this point. “Just don’t berate me if I fall asleep. Light knows I haven’t been getting any lately.” Varian kissed her forehead, offering his arm. “Neither have I, so I won’t mind at all. Come, let’s get the ball rolling.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

Varian wasn’t surprised in the slightest that she did indeed sleep for most of the tedious carriage ride to the capital. It was horrendously slow, and ended up taking another three days that he couldn’t afford to waste to get there, and by the time they were let out at the gates to the behemoth city, Varian was in what could only be described as the foulest of moods.

He helped Val down, making his humour even worse by attempting to put her hair behind her ears before her hood went up and forgetting it wasn’t possible anymore. He didn’t put his up just yet, finding the spray of rain blowing at them rather refreshing considering he’d essentially been trapped in a box for the last day or so, but wasn’t about to subject her to the chill, he didn’t have time to look after her should she fall ill, no matter how much she’d protest at the very idea.

“Grumpy sod.” He snapped his head down, realising she was standing there quietly laughing to herself. “The hells are you on about?” Val reached up and poked the end of his nose as much as she could, glad that he would be getting the stitches removed as soon as they got to the Keep. “You look as stony as a damn gargoyle Varian, you could at least try and smile.”

Varian huffed, putting his large palm on her back and pushing her forward, not keen of staying out in this no matter how nice it felt on his stifled skin. “What’s there to smile about? I’m here to determine the fate of my kingdom Val, not tea and cake.” She put her hood down to see him better, swatting his hand away when he attempted to put it back up.

“I know, but you need to go in there with at least a slither of optimism Varian. Terenas isn’t -and I really hate to say this- isn’t as much of a pushover as Llane was, he’ll want to get this done as quickly as you.”

Varian’s frown could be seen even through the thin blanket of fog that the rain had brought with it. “I hate that I agree with you.” Val’s brows drew down and she reached up, tugging on his hood this time. “Should you really be getting your face wet?” Varian thankfully knew the layout of Lordaeron’s capital city quite well so felt no qualms about looking at her instead of where he was going.

“I have absolutely no idea, but it’s ruined either way, so why should I care?” Now she just looked irked with him, and if he said he hadn’t been expecting it he’d be nothing but a liar. “Varian, you’re supposed to be looking after it. The more you do, the less harsh the scar will be.” He sighed, yanking his hood up and trying not to return her delighted smile as she took his arm. “I’m not sure how to feel about this being my first time here.” Varian blanched, having completely forgotten that fact but feeling it hit him in the face like a brick.

“Oh well, now I just feel awful that I’m practically dragging you straight to the keep.” She shrugged with a smile, but it didn’t placate him in any way. “It’s like you said, I’ll have time to explore once all this with Terenas is done, so don’t feel too bad about it.” Just as she said it she pivoted on her heel. “Oh! Look at the size of that bookshop!” Varian’s laughter was muffled by the rain but it still caught her attention again, or rather her confusion.

“What’s so funny?” He let his chuckles pitter out, lifting his hood for a brief second to slick his damp hair back. “Apart from the fact that you have the attention span of a gnat? Not much.” She folded her arms in an act of pure petulance. “My attention span is better than that Varian!” She grabbed his arm when it went around her shoulders, falling into step with him.

“Granted, it’s not much better, but my point still stands.” His lips felt cold and uncomfortably wet on her temple but she didn’t care, any instance where he kissed her was welcomed. “And I wouldn’t have you any other way Sweetheart.” She forced the sickliest, sweetest look she could muster onto her face, batting her eyelashes and only making him laugh more.

“Promise?” He shook his head in amusement, linking his fingers with her. “Just as long as you swear to me you’ll never do that with your eyes again, it was rather horrific to say the least.” She snorted, glad that he was at least pretending that her bad humour was making his mood better, it made all the difference sometimes. “I’ll see what I can do, that’s all I can guarantee.” She could already see the Keep from here, and all it did was make her yearn for the one she was used to.

It was a most heartbreaking idea, not seeing Stormwind Keep again, but it was one she wouldn’t voice out loud for fear of making Varian feel even worse than he already did. He hadn’t slept at all during their journey, she wasn’t stupid, she could see the large bags underneath his eyes, and his mood in the past few days could be described as ‘touchy’ at best, and ‘downright abysmal’ at it’s worst.

She could completely understand why, so out of respect for the man staring stonily ahead as he walked beside her, she wouldn’t berate him for the occasional snap. “Are you alright?” He carried on looking ahead, with his face turning into a mask before her very eyes. “Aye…I think. I just don’t know what to expect when we get in there, that’s all. I don’t even know if Anduin’s here yet.”

She took his arm from her shoulders and held his hand instead, giving him a small smile of reassurance as the guards took one look, realised who it was and stood aside with condolences that Varian in all honesty didn’t want or need right now. He was focused on merely speaking to Terenas, putting a solid plan in place and figuring out what they were both to do now their lives had flipped so rapidly.

The Throne Room was a colossal structure that stretched higher than Val could possibly see, and felt strangely warm considering it was made of polished marble. They could already hear voices as they approached the throne, and thankfully one of them belonged to Anduin, who was partaking in quite the heated argument with the King and his son.

The old soldier looked relieved to see Varian when they established themselves in the room, striding over and embracing the younger man, thumping his back. “Thank the Light you survived lad.” He stepped back, turning Varian’s chin and inspecting his face. “I take it this was Garona’s parting gift?” Varian knocked his hand away. “Aye, and Bolvar told me she escaped.”

Lothar’s jaw tightened. “She did, but we’ll focus on getting her later, right now we have to act swiftly. The Orcs will not have long to bask in their ‘victory’.” He leant in, not quite wanting the Menethils to hear him.

“Be forewarned, he’s a stubborn old goat. You’ve got a job ahead of you.” Arthas obviously couldn’t leave it anymore, bounding over and swiftly embracing the two of them.“Varian, I have no idea what to say…This is surreal…” Varian shrugged, letting Lothar wait for them.

“We knew they’d attack at some point Arthas, it was just unfortunate that they chose when we were vulnerable.” Varian swallowed. “I take it you’ve heard about my father?” Arthas nodded. “Aye, and my heart aches for you brother. At least you two reconciled beforehand.”

Varian looked a fraction brighter. “I thank the Light that I got my head out of my arse in time. But now I have to look to the future, and how to get my people home.” Arthas regained his Princely dignity, straightening his back. “Of course, my Father and I have been waiting for you.” Terenas had a face of sympathy as their party knelt, rising and letting Varian take over.

“Your Majesty.” Terenas inclined his head. “Your Majesty.” Val was glad he had addressed Varian with his proper title, it gave the King of Stormwind a little bit more confidence that he would be taken seriously by a man that had been on the throne longer than any of them had been alive (excepting Lothar, of course).

“I assume you’ve already been told why we’ve suddenly arrived on your shores?” Terenas nodded, drumming his fingers on the arm of the throne whilst Arthas stood diligently at his side. “I have. It is a terrible tragedy, and one that will not be easily forgotten. Your father was a friend and ally, his loss is well felt in these lands.” Varian appreciated the kind words, but a glance between he and Lothar told Terenas that they weren’t there for condolences.

“Your Majesty, the Horde won’t stop with Stormwind. They will make their way to every kingdom they feel they can get their hands on, including here. I wish to discuss a battle plan with-” The older man raised a hand and Varian stopped, wary of the interruption.

“We shall do that and more my boy, but first, let me send word to and summon my fellow rulers. This war has been contained thus far, but I agree with your assessment that it could easily come here and to any other kingdom in Azeroth. We shall hold council, and strategize accordingly. Until then, since you are of age, we shall arrange your coronation. A secure king will provide comforting familiarity to your people during their time here. Supplies and workers shall be sent down to Southshore in order to provide suitable shelter and attend their needs.”

Varian clearly wanted to argue that war came first, but knew he was right. As he had told himself numerous times in the past few hours, he was a monarch before he was a soldier. “Very well. But I ask humbly to be involved in this council.” Terenas rose, coming down the few steps leading to his throne and putting a firm hand on Varian’s shoulder.

“You will be, but heed my counsel when I say becoming King ahead of it will make all the difference as to how you are viewed by certain individuals. I will make all the necessary arrangements and one week from now we shall crown you King of Stormwind. Until then, use this time to recover and see to your people.” Val cleared her throat, accepting Arthas’ embrace next.

“We assume Lady Tiffin is still here?” Terenas nodded, extending an arm behind him. “Yes my dear, her chambers are next to yours. Please, let me call the healers to see to you both before we discuss this any further.” Varian couldn’t exactly argue with him; he was their gracious host, and Val’s bandages hadn’t been changed in nearly a day, so it was the only option they had really.

“Very well, then we’ll discuss the Horde?” Terenas could obviously appreciate his urgency, but Anduin was the one to put a hand on Varian’s shoulder. “Patience lad, we’ll not forget the subject anytime soon, get yourself sorted then we can do what we can.” Varian sighed, and taking it as surrender, Terenas nodded to his son. “Arthas, would you take them to their chambers and get Kenn to send for Doctor Hemill please?” Arthas gave him a smile, waving them both forward.

“Of course Father. Come, both of you.” The blonde prince could see the annoyance on Varian’s face as they traversed the halls, opening a door and surprising both of them by declaring them to be ‘their’ chambers instead of merely Varian’s. “If I’m being perfectly frank, I don’t think anyone cares about your love life right now Varian, so merely enjoy it.” He closed the door behind him, pouring them all drinks from the table by the fire.

“I’ll have your things collected from the Rose at once Val, apologies for not doing it when you arrived but we weren’t sure you had any.” Val wandered aimlessly around the large room, not feeling the comforting familiarity that she did with Varian’s old chambers. “It’s only by blind luck that I do Arty.” She noticed that he didn’t snipe about the nickname this time, only driving home the seriousness of the situation. “Regardless, there’s a purse and gratitude awaiting Captain Beaufort. Will he be staying in port long?” Val shrugged, not quite knowing Cillian’s business, as was normally their way.

“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.” Varian leant on the back of one of the armchairs, saying nothing and staring straight ahead. “You know you two have a home here, if you would so like?” the brunette man huffed. “We have a home already. One I intend to get back.”

Arthas didn’t mean to burst Varian’s bloodthirsty bubble, but someone had to be realistic, and once again it fell to him. “Varian, this might take time. You can’t just wander in case you do get Stormwind back, it might not happen for years. You need to get yourself settled enough to make your head straight enough to lead properly.”

Although he was annoyingly right, Varian found himself growling at him. “Don’t act like you have any idea about how I’m feeling Arthas. We have lost absolutely everything and everyone. You have no clue what that’s like.” Arthas took it with as much dignity as Val had expected, straightening his back and squaring his shoulders.

“No, I don’t, and I thank the Light for that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you recover from it all. Stop being stubborn for once in your life Varian and let someone help you. You don’t have to be the warrior king straight away, no-one will begrudge you some time to get your head straight.” The two stared each other down for a long minute, and thankfully it was Varian who slumped first.

“I- apologies. To say I’m touchy right now would be an understatement.” Arthas folded his arms with a look of genuine sympathy on his face. “And I completely understand, you know that Varian, but there’s only so much sniping I’m willing to put up with.” He gave Val her drink, peeking underneath her collar.

“Would you be more comfortable with me healing you Val?” She hated to admit it, but she had been dreading a stranger working on her body when Varian had dutifully been doing it for the past two days. “Would you mind? I know it sounds ridiculous…”Arthas patted he shoulder, quickly glancing at Varian for permission even though he knew he didn’t need it. “Don’t be absurd, it’s the least I can do.” He let her go to get undressed behind the screen in the far corner, tilting his head at Varian’s grimace. “Are you alright?” Varian’s jaw tensed.

“I’d just rather not see it again.” Arthas managed a small smile. “If it’s any help, it’s going to look alot better once I’m finished.” Varian looked only a fraction placated. “Still, it’s not my favourite part of the day.” They heard a snort from behind the screen. “It’s not exactly a walk through the woods for me either Varian.” The King of Stormwind ignored Arthas’ chuckle ad narrowed his eyes at her as she came back around.

“That’s not the point and you know it.” Arthas’ hands were as soft as she had expected them to be as they gently took he bandage off, winding it around his fingers and letting her catch her breath while he threw them in the crackling fire blazing in the hearth. Even Varian noticed that while still raw, her burns looked ten times better than they had when she’d first shown them to him.

“You understand that because I’m a novice, they’ll still probably scar?” Val nodded, leaning her elbows on the table and appreciating that Varian went to the other side to keep her focused on something other than the borderline unbearable sting of the Light snaking its way from the blonde’s palm into her back. “I can handle it.” She met Varian’s eye and he instantly glared at her.

“Don’t you dare even ask what I think you’re going to.” She couldn’t help laughing, holding one hand out and linking their fingers when he put his in it. “Stop being so touchy all the time Varian.” He grumbled, of course, making it hard for Arthas to stifle his own mirth. “I’ll be as touchy as I want thank you.” She stretched a finger out, hovering it too near his face for his liking. “Stop it or I’ll poke you.” He batted her hand away, sighing as he slouched again.

“This is going to be a whirlwind of shit, isn’t it?” Arthas’ eyebrow rose. “It depends which part you’re talking about?” Varian barely looked up at him. “All of it. I won’t be able to take the stress of it all, I just know it.” Arthas answered on Val's behalf since she’d started biting her lip to stop herself cursing too much in front of the appreciative paladin.

“You make it sound like you’ll be completely by yourself Varian, when it’s hardly the case. Val, Tiffin and I are all here to support you, all you have to do is accept the help when it’s offered and not be a….what is you call him Val?” She briefly lifted her head. “A stubborn cuntfuck.” Arthas gestured to her with his free hand, slowly watching the skin start to reappear on Val’s back.

“Exactly.” Varian couldn’t help chuckling, kissing the hand he was holding and straightening to see who had knocked as not to break Arthas’ concentration. “While I’m appreciative, I’m not entirely sure what exactly you’ll be able to do.” He opened it to a tearful blonde who he had only had a second or two to catch in his embrace, with a firm palm rubbing Tiffin’s back.

“Why are you getting so upset woman, we’re here aren’t we? Calm yourself!” Tiffin pushed him back, thumping his chest. “Don’t you chide me Varian Wrynn! I had to sit here and wait to be told that my city had burned down and you two were nowhere to be seen! I-” She faltered, clenching her fists by her sides. “I never thought in my life that I’d be happy to hear your teasing.” Varian took her hands, giving them both a reassuring squeeze.

“We’re both absolutely fine Tiffin, please don’t fret, it’s not needed.” Tiffin took one of her hands away, lightly brushing Varian's wounds and making him feel rather grateful that they weren’t at their worst now. “I wouldn’t call this ‘absolutely fine’ Varian.” He waved a hand of dismissal, gently taking her hand away and leading her inside, closing the door behind her.

“The stitches are coming out today, so it’s well on its way to fixing itself.” Tiffin’s attention turned instead to Val, sweeping over and recoiling at what was by all accounts, quite a decent healing job by Arthas. “Oh Val…” The brunette grimaced, wishing she could turn around but settled for craning her neck. “It looks alot worse than it is Tiffin, trust me.” That clearly wasn’t a good enough explanation. “How did it happen?”

Arthas answered for them when a painful silence hung in the air for about a minute. “Fire, from the exploding cathedral. Her brother used himself as a human shield, so it could have been alot worse.” Tiffin choked on her own breath a little, touching Val’s arm in a manner most sincere but unwanted. “I’m so sorry Val…is there anything I can do?” Val huffed, letting Arthas straighten her a little so he could reach certain patches.

“Not really, unless you can somehow turn back time and just haven’t told us.” Tiffin’s remorse only made her want to laugh since it seemed genuine. “Not possible I’m afraid.” She hated asking this when things were still so raw but she had to know. “How bad was the damage?” Varian’s face fell and he slumped back onto the end of the bed, picking at his nails just so his hands had something to do and didn’t fly at the nearest wall.

“I think an easier question would be ‘what’s left’ so I can say not much. From what I remember before Jon dragged me to the harbour was fire and not much else.” Tiffin sat next to him, leaning her head on his arm. “So what happens now?” Varian shrugged, apologising when she shrugged. “I have no clue.” Thankfully Arthas did as he finished up, helping Val lift her arms to make sure the scarred skin wasn’t hindering her movement.

“Father will get in touch with the rulers of the surrounding kingdoms in the next day or so summoning them here for a continent wide council. At that council it will be decided what our next course of action is, but between us and us only, I can sincerely see it being a short one, since they’ve probably all heard about Stormwind by now and all think the same on the matter.” Varian’s face grew a little paler. “Oh Light, he hasn’t contacted Greymane, has he?”

Arthas shrugged, not really knowing much more than them. “I’m presuming so.” He instructed Val to raise her arms, patting her shoulder once she did and telling her that she could get dressed again. “How does it feel?” Val rolled her shoulders, slipping her vest over her head and breathing a sigh of relief when it didn’t irritate her back at all. “It still pulls a little, but other than that it feels so much better.”

She knew if they were in public or in the church she would get disapproving looks as she embraced the prince, not feeling any discomfort as he affectionately rubbed her back. “That pulling should fade over time, just try not to strain it too much.” Varian got up, running his fingers along the ‘repaired’ skin and kissing her forehead. “It looks so much less painful Sweetheart.” Arthas pointed to his face, wishing he could deal with it himself.

“Now we just have to get your mug looked at, and then we can focus on everything else.” Varian slowly nodded, still trying to get everything straight in his head and failing miserably at doing so. “I need to gather what's left of the Stormwind council and brief them on what’s happening…I don’t suppose any of them have turned up?” Arthas gave him a remorseful nod. “I think you only lost two. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that they got themselves out first.” Tiffin came to Varian’s other side, looking as concerned as Val did.

“Varian…there’s one more thing we need to discuss before you go to speak to the council. The marriage.” Varian had in all honesty been trying to avoid the subject entirely, but he supposed that had been a futile endeavour from the start, and while he was thankful that Tiffin had brought it up first, he was not looking forward to the conversation.

“I’ve been thinking about it thoroughly, don’t worry. And although you two might hate me for this…I think we need to go ahead with it.” They both looked as furious as he had expected them to. “What?! Varian, are you hearing yourself right now?” Tiffin made a sharp noise of agreement with Val. “We have a chance to be free, why on Azeroth would you want to squander it?!”

Varian rubbed the back of his neck, realising that this was probably the most hypocritical he’d ever been in his life. “We need to boost morale with our people Tiffin. Contrary to what you may believe, alot of them like you, and if they saw their King sticking to something that he in no ways likes…” Val realised that it did make sense as much as it was a gut punch. “Then it shows commitment and respect for Llane’s way of ruling, the old way. Shit, you’re right.” Tiffin didn’t look convinced. “But you’ll be miserable.” Varian gave her a pained look.

“I don’t think it’s possible for me to become more miserable than I already am Tiffin. I recognise that you don’t want this as much as I do, but I feel like it’s what needs to be done.” Val sat next to him, letting his arm rest on her shoulders and pull her in. “So we should enjoy these next few months with the freedom we have.”
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They spent a good few hours together before Tiffin decided she needed some time alone to think, which Varian understood completely. The past week had been insane, it was only right of him to grant her some respite from it all. He and Arthas had just left council, where Varian had stood there trying to convince men as infuriating as the ones his father had surrounded himself with that the threat was very much real and it was more than likely Lordaeron would be hit next. Thankfully they’d come to their senses sooner rather than later and accepted that the Horde wasn’t merely a small force anymore and that Terenas’ council of rulers needed to go ahead.

Some of his people had already started to break away from Southshore the minute he left for the capital, with loved ones writing and telling them to stay with them, so Varian felt his heart ease with the fact that they were starting to come to terms with Stormwind not being their city anymore, which gave him hope that he could do the same thing.

He opened the door to his new chambers after bidding his brother in all but blood farewell, closing it behind him and finding a clearly weeping Val. She tried to hide her tears but he always knew when she’d been crying, it was like a sixth sense he had been gifted with,wiping her cheeks with his thumbs and noticing the letter in her hands. “Minnie?” She nodded, giving it to him for him to read.

“She wants me to go to Bloodstone as soon as humanly possible.” Varian finished the plea of a frightened grandmother and scrunched it in one hand. “And do you want to go?” She looked completely torn, not making his fear subside. “No, yes…I don’t know. All I want right now is my family, but they’re so far away, and it means leaving you…I don’t want to leave you in the lurch.” His palm felt comfortingly warm on her shoulder.

“Val, if you want to go home for a while I won’t stop you.” Val deflated, just needing his embrace right now, and thankfully he already guessed it and put her against his chest. “It’s not home though, is it? Nowhere is now.” Varian couldn’t comfort her no matter how much he tried since she was right, they technically had no home anymore.

Stormwind had been their sanctuary since their births, they didn’t know anything else. Lordaeron would never be considered ‘home’ no matter how long they were here, and he knew that’s how she saw it as well. “If anything it gives you more freedom.” He forced a smile on his face. “You can finally go to Ironforge.” She pushed back the spark of excitement the idea brought with it.

“I don’t think I even want to smith anymore if I’m being completely honest Varian.” Varian couldn’t help his incredulous look. “For what reason? You’re damn good at it Val, you shouldn’t waste a talent like that.” Val shrugged as if she hadn’t just told him she was considering giving up something she’d been doing practically all of her life.

“It just…I wouldn’t feel right doing it without Papa or Lucian.” Varian kissed her head, really not wanting her to go down this route of grief where she just dropped everything that mattered to her. “And you really think they’d want you to stop?” She gave a small snort. “Are you joking? Papa would probably slap me for even thinking of it.” She sighed, enjoying how tightly he was holding her.

“I’m not setting anything in stone yet, I’m just weighing up my options. There may not be many of them but I need to think about them all.” She pulled away from him, feeling utterly drained. “How was council?” He steered her to the bed, feeling as weary as she did, taking his boots off and flopping backwards. “Not unlike pulling teeth with a spoon.”

Val sat crossed legged by his head and lifted it onto her lap so she could play with his hair, something that always comforted her. Apparently he shared that sentiment since his eyes closed and a low purr rumbled in his throat, a noise only she would hear in their lifetimes. “Surely it wasn’t that bad. Did they at least agree to war?” He nodded, not opening his eyes but fighting to stay awake. “Aye, they did, but think about this; I had to deal with not only Terenas’ council, but ours. As if the Light couldn’t bend me over enough, most of my councillors survived.”

Val made a face, forgetting that he wasn’t looking at her. “Seriously?” She frowned. “Actually, that doesn’t shock me.” Both she and Varian knew that the nobility would’ve probably gotten priority over some of the people they would much rather have escaped, it was one of those things that Varian would probably never be able to change no matter how much he tried.

“It didn’t make them any less infuriating.But eventually we all came to an agreement about the council of rulers needing to be called.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Terenas is putting a call to arms up tomorrow. We have practically no army left but we have knowledge of the Orcs’ battle tactics, which makes us useful at least. If we can get Uther’s paladins on board we’ll fare much better.” He opened his eyes at how she’d gone quiet.

“Sweetheart?” She licked her lips, still not listening and clearly deep in thought. A firm jab to her thigh brought her back to him and she looked down, looking like she’d just woken up from a coma. “Hm? Sorry, I was just thinking.” Varian let himself chuckle after a day of keeping his face straight.

“Well, yes, I gathered that much.”His brow furrowed as he realised exactly what she had been thinking about. “No, absolutely not.” Val didn’t need to explain to him what she had been pondering since he clearly knew anyway. “And why not?” He sat up, seriously considering the possibility that she had gone mad. “You have no army experience whatsoever! You’re a smith, not a soldier!”

Val rolled her eyes, really not wanting to have this conversation right now. “That’s why there’s this thing called ‘training’ Varian. You really think everyone that’s going to sign that call will be a weathered veteran? I won’t be the only newbie there.” Varian looked like he was about to combust. “No! You are not putting yourself in danger like that!I won’t let you!” Val stood, using every ounce of strength she had not to stomp her foot.

“Oh, so you’re going to stop me? I didn’t realise I was your pet Varian!” Varian slowly exhaled, standing with her and running both hands up her arms despite her squirms. “Apologies Sweetheart, but I just…think about it alright? Take a week or two and see whether it’s definitely what you want to do. I might not like it, but I can’t stop you, you’re right.”

Val’s face relaxed and she let her folded arms drop. “I might not even do it yet, I was merely thinking about it.” Varian kissed her forehead, realising what an ass he’d been. “I know, I’m just all over the place today and got too worked up, too quickly. Forgive me?” Val poked him between the ribs. “Consider yourself forgiven.” She wrinkled her nose, making her indeed look like a little faerie to him. “It was just a passing thought anyway.”

Varian ran his fingertips under her shirt and up her back, delicately tracing every ridge and bump. “Well, keep it close in case you choose to pursue it. I can understand your need to fight after all this love, trust me, I’m feeling it as well. But remember you’ve never been in battle before, so it’ll be a little overwhelming.” Val shrugged cockily.

“Yes well, I’ll just have to go easy on them, won’t I?” Varian laughed at her bravado, kissing her cheeks. “I just need to feel useful Varian.” Varian lifted her chin with his spare hand. “I know that Sweetheart, and right now just having you here with me is getting me through this hell. So I formally appoint you the King’s confidante.”

Val grinned into their kiss. “Well that’s a job I’ll gladly accept.” She let him lift her, putting her arms around his neck.“We’ll be alright, won’t we Varian?” Varian didn’t lie to her, he respected her too much to even try.

“If we can gather enough support to take the Horde down directly, then yes. If not we’ll have to adapt to becoming Lordaeron citizens.” Val felt her eyes getting heavy already even though it was the middle of the afternoon. The two of them had gotten very little sleep and Varian knew he couldn’t function much longer without it.

He pulled the furs over the both of them and held her close. “I’m holding out hope that once we have allies we can clear Stormwind quickly and get our people home. Than we’ll make the Horde pay for what they’ve done.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

Dawn and dusk were the only times Varian and Val would have to properly see each other over the next week, and it was beginning to really grate the soon to be king. He woke the day before his coronation with his love beside him as he had every morning, laying on his chest and sound asleep, making him slightly jealous of how easy she could lose herself to her dreams when his had tormented him for seven nights straight.

His head was already pounding and it’d been barely ten minutes, so it only made him dread what the rest of the day would be like. “Val?” She barely stirred, making him slide out from under her as slowly and quietly as he could, bending so he could move her hair back and kiss her forehead as she whined, clearly noticing he had left their bed.

One of the ornate silk shirts Arthas had graciously ordered for him along with a closet full of new clothes (Val and Tiffin got the same treatment, naturally) was swiped from the chair it was draped over and put onto the disgruntled king as Varian left Val to her slumber, intent on moving things along since they had come to an infuriating standstill.

Reports had come in from the scouts Terenas had sent to Stormwind that it had been pillaged after and the few remaining survivors rounded up, tortured and Light knew what else, it was gut wrenching to Varian, who was itching to pick up Shalamayne (which had miraculously been found by Bolvar before he fled) storm the city with what little men he had and taking down every single Orc he came across when that just wasn’t possible.

Val had signed the call to arms as soon as it had gone up, which only made his anxiety worse. They had talked at length about whether she was sure she wanted to do this and she had looked him in the eye and told him it was what she had decided. “I can’t just sit here and smith in a warm building whilst my city is ravaged. I’ve already smithed for a war effort, now it’s time I fight. Please, just let me help clear Stormwind then I’ll come back.”

What else could he possibly do except embrace her and tell her he supported her? His mind told him to lock the door to their chambers and throw away the key, but she wasn’t his wife or his sister, he had no control over her life. He would worry, of course he would, but she had two months of intense training ahead of her, so she would be prepared to a certain extent. He was glad he had given her the few training sessions he had insisted upon back in Stormwind, she wasn’t going in totally in the dark, but he would still worry.

The other leaders had already started arriving when he got to the war room, with Genn Greymane’s booming voice making his spirits die where they were. “We cannot take the word of a boy as gospel Terenas! This, ‘Horde’ as he calls it are nothing more than a band of renegades that Stormwind wasn’t prepared for, whereas Gilneas is!” Liam, his son, noticed Varian first and silently left his father’s side, clapping arms with Varian.“It’s good to see you my friend. I can’t imagine what horrors you’ve seen.”

Varian appreciated the kind words and the unsubtle jab at his father as Varian inclined his head to Genn, who watched his every move as he walked to the map table, looked at how many markers there were for the Horde and grabbed four more. “The Horde is growing day by day. Whatever world the Orcs are coming from, it has soldiers at the ready to come through that portal and decimate us all. If you disbelieve anything I’ve told good Terenas Genn, I can personally escort you down to the ruins of my Kingdom.”

Genn huffed, glaring briefly at his son. “I already know why we’ve been called here boy. You ask for aid, yet there is nothing you can contribute to the battle save untrained fighters and a few soldiers. It is alot to ask from a man that hasn’t even been crowned yet.” Terenas eyed Genn wearily. “By this time tomorrow all will be official and rightly attended. Varian will be King and will receive our aid as a fellow king.”

Varian looked Genn in the eye, not really wanting to continue this conversation on at an unofficial capacity. “I’m not asking you to like me Genn, just understand the threat is to us all, not just Stormwind.” Genn straightened, trying to intimidate with his age. “We shall see if the other rulers share your sentiments, boy. You are young, and are wet behind the ears when it comes to ruling properly. I have yet to decide whether I find you capable.” Varian’s face didn’t move. “Then allow me to prove it to you.” Genn didn’t say a word back, merely bowed to Terenas and left the room, leaving an exasperated Liam in his wake.

Varian finally let his face relax and watched the redhead run a hand down his. “How in the living hells do you live with him every day?” Liam snorted with a grin. “I don’t, that’s my secret. I actually thank the Light that he’s one of those parents that only sees their child at mealtimes.” Terenas chuckled, clapping the shoulders of both younger men.

“I’’ll allow you two to catch up. Liam, I take it you’re staying for the duration?” Liam nodded, crossing his arms. “Aye, someone has to translate my father into actual Common, if that’s alright of course?” Terenas didn’t hesitate to nod. “Undoubtedly, I’ll see that you have chambers made up.” Liam grinned again, showing his teeth.

“If you could make them at the opposite end to my father’s that would be lovely.” Varian had to chuckle himself at Terenas’ laugh as he left the room with a ‘I’ll see you two at supper’, letting them finally breathe without their elders down their necks. “So, how have things been with you?” Liam looked surprised at the casual question as he picked up the coffee he’d been nursing for a while. “Well, pretty boring in all honesty.”

Varian knew he had to tread lightly now lest Genn be listening, so he beckoned Liam to walk with him and leant in. “And your other…’endeavour’?” Liam clearly appreciated his vagueness and grimaced. “I haven't been able to see her this month. Everytime I go to leave father just appears out of damn nowhere.”

He sighed, wrapping his thick wool coat around him more since a biting chill was still in the air when they got to the grounds. “But as far as I know she’s fine. Tessy said she’ll give it a go whilst we’re away, so that’s something at least.” Varian fell into step with him, feeling the utmost sympathy. “Well I have to commend you on putting up with it this long.” Liam stuffed his hands into his pockets to find his gloves. “It’s just one of the many perks of being a royal, isn’t it? Putting up with crap most people wouldn’t.” He knew it was a strange segue but said it anyway.

“I heard you and Val started speaking again.” Varian spoke before he could realise how much he was revealing. “It’s a little bit more than that by this point, but yes, we have.” Liam’s eyebrow rose as they wandered aimlessly, enjoying the freedom before the chaos that tomorrow would bring. “Despite the betrothal?” Varian nodded.

“We both made the decision to speak with Tiffin and all come to a consensus about the situation. I’m not sure how many people would believe me if I told them the woman I was marrying encourages my relationship with one I actually love, but we know what we’re doing.” His smile was small but said everything it needed to.

“We’ve been given our own chambers and I tell you, it’s been bliss waking up to her every day.” Liam’s eyes said he knew exactly what he meant. “It’s actually quite impressive how you managed to get her back on side.” Varian rolled his eyes.

“It was a two year slog, I wouldn’t exactly call that impressive. It was only because her brother knocked our heads together that we spoke at all.” Liam nudged him, still smiling. “Worked out alright in the end though, didn’t It?” Varian didn’t hesitate to nod. “I truly thought at one point she’d realise what a house of madness I’m bringing her into, but so far she’s handled it well.”

Varian’s brow furrowed. “I just wish she’d reconsider her decision to join the army.” Liam’s eyebrows both rose. “She’s joined the army? I didn’t see her as a soldier.” Varian’s jaw tightened.

“She’s not, but she has her heart set on completing her training and going to clear Stormwind at the very least. What else can I tell her apart from that I’m proud?” Liam made an uncertain face. “And are you?” Varian looked slightly confused. “Am I what? Proud?” Liam nodded and Varian swallowed down whatever negativity he had on the subject as he took a minute to think about his answer. “Yes, of course I am. Will I worry? Oh yes, without a doubt. Will I beg her to come home the minute she tells me she so much as scraped her knee? Probably. But will I ever not be proud of how she’s taking control of her life after we’ve lost everything and I’m wandering aimlessly? Not a chance.” Liam started laughing, pulling his glove on once he found it.

“Alright, alright, I only asked if you’re proud, I didn’t ask for a sonnet.” He ducked to avoid Varian’s swat and the redhead folded his arms. “Light…you becoming King, Val joining the army, Arty ascending next month…everything’s changing too quickly.” Varian grimaced. “Far too quickly. It’s been two weeks already since I lost my father and it merely feels like a day. Though I suppose everything has to move quickly right now.”

Liam waved over to Arthas, who had clearly already finished his morning training since his hair was tied back and his face sheened with recently wiped sweat. “It’ll all become routine soon enough, it always does. Once you’re coronated tomorrow we can get on with getting you home.” Varian made a noise of agreement. “Maybe that’s what it is. Everything will hopefully fall into place once we get back to Stormwind and I can focus on my people and only my people.” Arthas clapped arms with the both of them, frowning already.

“Have you actually looked at the guest list for tomorrow Varian? Hardly anyone we know is on there.” Varian shrugged as if it were nothing. “To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the party if I tried. The minute that crown touches my head, I’m starting plans of my own.” Liam chewed his bottom lip. “That brings up something I’ve been meaning to ask. is there actually a crown to put on your head tomorrow? Or are we talking metaphorical?”

Varian sat down with the two of them at one of the tables, with Arthas sending his groom Kenn to get them all fresh drinks. “There is, Magni had his smiths whip one up. It’ll look the same as my father’s.” Arthas was trying not to smile, Varian could tell.

“What are you planning Menethil?” The blonde shook his head. “No, I’ve been sworn to secrecy upon pain of death.” Liam chuckled, intrigued just as much as Varian was. “Oh come now Arty, we’ll protect you from whoever this death-bringer is.” Arthas clenched his fist, closed his eyes and counted to ten. “Can we just make a pact now to never call me that again? I am sick to death of hearing it.”

Liam snickered. “Never going to happen, Arty. Now spill, who was it and what are they planning?” Arthas argued with them for another minute or so before pinching the bridge of his nose. “Fine, fine! Val’s made you something with some of the smiths she knows up here for your coronation! Now may it be on your conscience if she murders me.”

Varian leant back, thanking Kenn for his coffee and taking a long sip with a furrowed brow. “’Made something’? What kind of something?” Arthas fervently shook his head. “No, I’ve told you enough, I like my head where it is thank you.” Liam poured cups of tea for both he and Arthas from the pot that had been left, dropping a sugar cube into his. “It’ll be strange, having your coronation in the Monastery instead of Stormwind Cathedral.”

Varian made a noise of agreement. “If I had my way I wouldn’t be coronated at all.” He sighed, putting his mug down. “How can I expect the people to have faith in me when we don’t even have a home?” Arthas gave him a sympathetic look. “Varian, your people will be behind you no matter where on Azeroth you call home. They’ve already shown their support by staying here.” Varian wasn’t convinced.

“I can’t even guarantee we ever will go home, it’s infuriating how little I can do for them right now.” Liam pursed his lips. “Yes well, after tomorrow the ball will be rolling enough for you to do much more, won’t it? Stormwind isn’t lost Varian, it can be rebuilt to its former glory.” Arthas nodded in agreement.

“This is your opportunity to build your peoples’ faith in you. A clean slate, if you will. We know you can do it.” Liam grinned. “And if you don’t, we’ll just kick you up the backside until you do!” Varian had to appreciate their optimism, even if he didn’t share it. This would be a tiring, uphill battle, but one he was willing to fight despite the outcome, whatever that may be.

Val was surprisingly still asleep when he said his goodbyes to the two of them and headed back to his chambers, looking the picture of serenity as she buried her face in her pillow, opening one eye as if she sensed his presence. “I was starting to wonder whether I’d dreamed sharing a bed. Where have you been?”

The croaky tone to her voice told him she had only just woke up, so he said nothing, sitting by her legs and bending over, planting small kisses down her back, making a sleep heavy purr become the only noise in the room. “I was merely speaking with Arthas and Liam, that’s all. Why, did you miss me?” Val chuckled, attempting to turn over but finding it not possible since he was holding her hips, continuing his kisses on her back and shoulders.

“Not at all, if anything I was enjoying having the bed to myself.” He settled himself next to her, putting one arm over and pulling her back, kissing her cheeks this time. “Genn doesn’t believe in me.” Val snorted, linking their fingers as she wrapped her arm around his. “You expected any different? That man has such a large stick up his arse I’m surprised it doesn’t come out of his mouth.”

Varian had to admit, the one good thing about her short hair was whenever he held her like this now he didn’t risk either swallowing half of it or suffocating, instead he could comfortably put his chin on her shoulder. “I know, but it makes me wonder what the other rulers think.” Val was well aware that the day was getting on but made no attempt to move.

“And why does that matter? Varian, you have to do things the way you feel best concerning your kingdom, no one else’s.” He absent mindedly kissed her neck, staring into space. “I have to please them to a certain degree Val, especially because I’m asking for their help. We won’t win their support in getting Stormwind back if they think I’m in over my head….or ‘wet behind the ears’.” Val groaned, turning around and kissing the hollow of his throat.

“Is that really what Greymane called you?” Varian propped himself up onto an elbow. “Aye, like I was a damn child who hasn’t protected his people a million times.” She scratched the bottom of his stubbled chin, laughing when he scrunched his face.

“I’m not your damn dog Val.” That time a smirk spread across her slowly brightening face. “Oh really? Last night would prove that to be a lie.” Varian clucked his tongue, looking away from her. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, Sweetheart.” Val finally took the furs off so she didn’t drift off again, sitting up and trying to tidy her tousled hair.

“You know you can take me like that more often if it takes your fancy.” Varian got up to pass her robe to her, letting her dig into the pockets and pull out her cigar case. “I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll happily admit, it was nice to just fuck you for once instead of make love…does that make sense?” Val nodded, opening the window and leaning her back against the doorframe.

“Perfectly.” She saw his look and beckoned him over once she’d cut and lit her cigar. “You’re worried about tomorrow.” She didn’t have to question him on it, she knew it already. “Can you blame me?” She took his hand as he stood across from her.“No, but I will do my best to reassure you.” Varian watched the snow starting to fall outside.

“I didn’t think I’d be king for years yet. It all just seems a little bit rushed, I was saying it to Liam earlier.” Val looked sympathetic as she blew her smoke into the cold air.“Things will calm down soon, it’s just to stabilise everything that we’re powering through the formalities.” She gave him a smile. “I’m going down to Southshore in the next couple of hours, come with me.” Varian sighed, letting go of her hand and folding his arms. “I can’t, I’m needed here. I have-” She gave him the smile that told him he was up to something.

“Meetings? Because you haven’t been having those for the past week.” Resting her cigar in the goblet she’d re-labelled as an ashtray, she all but sidled toward him and ran her nails under his shirt, making his resolve crumble instantly, but he feigned control the best he could. “You’re the prince for one more day, let me take the fall if anyone starts.”

Varian screwed his eyes shut since one hand had ‘inexplicably’ fallen into his breeches, letting her know exactly how much he was enjoying her teasing. “Damn it woman, one day I’ll say no to you…” She stood on her toes, letting him taste the ale they had been drinking the night before.

“So is that a yes?” Varian drummed his fingertips on her hip, opening his eyes and sighing loudly. “Not all day, I have things I need to attend to. But I will admit, a few hours respite does sound inviting.” Val whooped like a child, pecking his cheek and running to their closet. “Good, because I already told Cil you were coming! Just let me get dressed.” Varian’s good mood dropped a few rungs. “Cillian? He’s still here?” Val was rolling her eyes, he could tell.

“He wanted to make sure Thomas was serious about joining the crew….plus he’s had a few more ‘applicants’ since we got here so he’s had to load up again.” Varian felt like teasing her as much as she just did him. “Then I’ve changed my mind, have fun without me.” Her crushed look made him regret it instantly. “Seriously?! You’re not coming to spend the day with me because Cillian’s there?”

Varian cursed his stupid sense of humour since she looked like she was about to genuinely cry. “No Sweetheart, it was just a stupid jest.” Val’s jaw clenched and she threw the green hooded tunic she was planning on putting on down. “Well I can never tell with you, you’ve made it so clear in the past that you hate him, how was I meant to know!”

She huffed, dodging his kisses. “You’re such a prick sometimes.” Varian squished her cheeks together with a thumb and forefinger, kissing her despite the hilarious shape her lips were in. “Can we just both agree that I should never try and be funny? It always seems to backfire horrifically.”

Val rubbed her cheeks once he let them go, laughing regardless. “No, since it’s not true, you always make me laugh, it’s just the jealousy thing I can’t stand.” Varian grumbled once she’d kissed his cheek and finished getting dressed, tossing his black velvet jerkin to him. “For the last time, I am not jealous of that damn pirate! It’s just the way he brazenly flirts with you, it riles me up.”

“Well don’t let it! You know where my heart lies Varian, just be smug that it’s with you and move on.” Varian snorted, sweeping some oil in his hair. “Oh believe me, I intend to.” He wanted to steer the subject enough not to mar her good mood, so leant against the wall next to the closet. “So Thomas is staying with him then?” Val shrugged, pulling her boot on.

“As far as I know. The boy’s taken a real interest in the Rose, and Cillian’s always had a soft spot for children.” Varian’s eyebrow rose even though she wasn’t even looking at him. “Cillian Beaufort, the drinking, smoking, murderous gambler, has a soft spot for children?” Val’s annoyed look made him chuckle as she came out.

“Yes, because he’s a human regardless of what you bloody think of him Varian. He’s decided to give the lad a home, you should be commending him for it, not making fun.” Varian pulled her to him by the waist, kissing her deeply to sweeten her up and carrying on until his face was in the crook of her neck. “You can get all your frustration about him out later if that helps?” Varian groaned into her skin, nibbling her bottom lip. “It would yes. So, ready to go?”

Val opened the drawer of her bedside cabinet flipping a hearthstone that she had been given by Terenas, one that matched Varian’s and gave them the means to go to his people when they needed to. “Tiffin?” Val shook her head. “Not today, she’s at the seamstresses all day.” Once Varian got his, they kissed each other for good luck even though they didn’t need it, but Varian had never fully trusted magic, so it eased his fears somewhat.

But that didn’t mean neither of them felt a little nauseous when they appeared in Southshore to a village that all things considered was known to be quiet, but was now the exact opposite with a loud hum of activity greeting the two of them. “King Varian!” Varian had hoped to not be recognised so quickly but should’ve really known better as he was met with bows and well wishes no matter how many times he told them to rise.

Once the formalities were over however people carried on as they were, much to his inner relief. He noticed that the camp the people of Stormwind were being housed in for now wasn’t as full as he remembered, making him thank human decency since it meant some had been taken in by others or felt confident enough to roam themselves.

Marcus Redpath came to meet him, shaking his hand and kissing Val’s despite her lack of title, but out of respect since he and many others knew that she was the King’s true lady, which pleased Varian greatly as much as it made Val blush. “How goes everything here Marcus? I hope my people aren’t causing too much trouble?” The older man laughed, beckoning them to walk with him.

“Well, I would be lying if I told you there weren’t a few scraps every now and then, but I put that down to the stress of the situation. All in all, I feel the people of Stormwind have adapted rather well.” Varian put his hands behind his back, letting Val run over to a waiting Cillian since he didn’t want to bore her with royal affairs after promising to take a day off from them.

“Good. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you feel someone is outstaying their welcome. I regret that I can’t be here more.” Marcus waved a hand of dismissal. “I don’t need to tell you that a significant number of Stormwind folk have already left. It seems alot of them already have ties to Lordaeron.” Varian nodded as they stopped, watching the crowds.

“We’ve also received word that the army will be deploying soon to clear the city?” Again, Varian nodded. “Aye, they start training tomorrow, and we’re hoping to have them leave in about two months. If all goes well Stormwind should be ours again by the end of the year.” Marcus’ brow furrowed. “And what then?” Varian didn’t really know how to answer him, but did his best regardless.

“I’ve managed to get back in contact with the group of workers I had build Nethergarde, and their ‘leader’ has agreed to come here and work with our architects to start the rebuild as soon as the city is fortified.” Marcus looked impressed. “So everything is progressing quite nicely then?” Varian clenched his jaw. “Not as quickly as I would like, but the quickest the situation allows, yes. Again, I thank you for your generosity Marshal. My people and I are forever in your debt.” Marcus shook his head.

“No, there’s no debt to be had when it comes to human decency Your Majesty.” He chuckled. “Though I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of Stormwind ale once the rebuild is done. It’s better than the swill they make up here.” Varian knew he’d neglected Val enough this past week, so patted Marcus’ shoulder and excused himself, which was met with no arguments.

Val had already gone up onto the Rose, greeting the crew like they were her old friends, which now she thought about it, they were. The whole crew wasn’t here, some had stayed behind in Bloodstone when Cillian had travelled to Stormwind under the impression that it would only be a quick trip, and where it had obviously taken alot longer, Val had started to feel a little guilty. “I can’t believe you’re still here Cil. I would’ve thought you’d be miles away by now.”Cillian put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple.

“I couldn’t leave you lass, not until I’ve seen you off at least.” Jacoby snorted as he passed them, actually doing his job as ship cook for once. “He’s not here just for you either lass.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “Oh? Found someone you like?” Cillian rolled his eyes, steering her towards the makeshift training dummy Medo had graciously made her when she’d told them she’d signed up for the army.

“No, despite what these idiots will tell you, I haven’t found anyone. I’m happy on my own thanks.” Val turned on the spot, noticing someone missing. “Where’s Thomas?” Orazio pointed to the large group of children by the city fountain. “Playing lass, which we’re glad to see.” Val took her gun from him and inwardly gushed at just having the weapon in her possession.

“I was going to wait until your birthday, but if you’re going to battle, you better have it now.” She hadn’t argued, she was much more interested in learning to shoot properly. Her father had a gun that used to sit under the counter of the shop, and no matter how many times he told her never to touch it she always found herself running her finger over the barrel, but only for the five seconds she had the chance before Lokir would catch her.

So to have her own finally was a treat she would happily admit that she was loving. The butt had small roses carved into the varnished walnut, melding into the solid silver of the four barrels, which all carried on the rose motif (She knew it was deliberate that Cillian chose that particular flower when he knew she loved all plant life).

It had her childhood nickname of ‘Little Bird’ engraved on one of the barrels to make sure the weapon couldn’t be stolen and passed off as someone else’s, and that’s what she’d decided to call the gun itself after Cillian told her it was a tradition of sorts to dub it something. “Someone’s eager.”

Val was already loading the powder in, opening a small leather patch on her belt and dropping in a ball bullet, pushing it down with the small metal rod she slid back into the same pouch she held her lock-picks in (another present from Cillian that Varian highly disapproved of).

“I haven’t got long before my training, I want them to see that I’m not a complete novice with everything.” Cillian could see Varian’s dirty look when the King came up the gangplank to find him standing behind Val making sure her arm was in the right position.

“Another shooting lesson?” Val nodded, trying to hide her excitement. “I’m getting really good at it!” Cillian chuckled, stepping back before Varian ripped his head off. “Right, so tell me Lass; why do we hold the gun away from us?” Val snorted, knowing it was a ridiculously easy question. “To avoid recoil.” Cillian nodded in approval. “Fine then, present.”

Val was glad Varian was finally here to watch her, since it would hopefully quell his fear about her having no knowledge of how to defend herself whatsoever. Orazio passed the King an ale and leant next to him, knowing the look Varian was giving his love.

“Growing up too fast, ain’t she?” Varian chuckled, putting his tankard on a nearby barrel. “Too damn fast. It feels like yesterday that we were children pretending to be soldiers.” Orazio ran his hand down his mutton chops.

“I remember you as a bright eyed boy as well, it’s not just Val who’s changed beyond belief.” Varian’s face hardened. “I can’t remember those times; even though it was merely a few weeks ago that I was running around Elwynn and Brightwood doing whatever I wanted, it feels like a lifetime.” Orazio still had that sunny outlook he was known for on his face.

“Ah, I’m sure that boy’s still in there somewhere. Once all this mess is over you can breathe a bit can’t ya.” Varian certainly hoped so. He watched the woman who had been merely a girl when they had met fire a gun that she should never have had to wield; she was a crafter, not a destroyer, and Varian felt like he had a part in her decision to change from smith to soldier.

“You don’t think she’s doing all of this to impress me, do you?” Orazio’s sharp laugh threatened to make Varian smile himself. The old man had always fascinated him; he was a criminal, wanted in Light knew how many cities, had no family save the crew and no gold to his name that he didn’t share with everyone else, but he was always deliriously happy, like nothing could ever make him miserable.

Varian would kill to have that outlook on life, and made it his personal goal to achieve that same happiness as he stood there watching him guffaw without a care in the world. “No lad, I don’t, as much as it bruises your ego. Val has always done things her way, and only if she wants to. Come on, you should know that by now.”

Varian did, he just needed someone else to convince him that he wasn’t lying to himself. “I do, it’s just a thought that sits in the back of my mind every now and then.” The look of glee on Val’s face made him relax more, and soon he found himself laughing with her as she practised. “So who’s this woman you’re after Cil?”

The pirate grumbled, opening the barrel next to him and getting an apple out. “There is no woman.” Varian however was the one who snorted. “I know who it is.” Val swivelled to face him despite Cillian’s protests. “You do?! How the fuck do you know?” Varian looked more mischievous than she’d seen him in a long while. “Because I do.” Val was clearly getting irritated. “Do I know them?” Cillian’s pained groan only egged Varian on more. “Lass, there is no woman! How many more fucking times do I have to say it?!”

Val put her hands on her hips. “So it’s a bloke?!” The colour drained from Cillian’s tanned face as Varian started laughing harder. “NO! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but no! Will you just bugger off!” Varian bent down as he passed Val to get to the ale bottle. “It’s Tiffin.” His whisper made her gasp loud enough for Cillian to want to shoot himself there and then.

“You sly dog! When did this happen?!” Cillian had never gone red before, and Varian would be lying through his teeth if he said he wasn’t basking in making him squirm. He knew they’d only shared a few drinks and maybe one kiss, so it couldn’t be counted as courting per se.

But, he also knew that Cillian wanted Val, so he couldn’t resist wiping the smirk from his smug face. He didn’t know what it was about the pirate since there were probably a number of men who had fancied her at any point in their lives; she was gorgeous (to him at least, she would always deny it), funny, hard working, self-sufficient, it made sense.

But he had never loathed any ‘suitor’ more than Cillian. Actually, that was a strong word, it was more of a dislike, and he knew it was ridiculous, he was just being a jealous baby, he realised this very early on, but he couldn’t help but become possessive whenever the Stranglethornian went near her. He didn’t distrust the both of them or thought that they’d stray together, but he was still a threat in Varian’s eyes.

Thankfully Thomas saved Cillian from any further humiliation by running up the gangplank and grabbing a cup of water, downing it quickly and beginning to run off again had it not been for Cillian grabbing the back of his shirt. “Oi, where are your manners lad! At least say hello!”

Thomas looked genuinely confused until he noticed Varian and Val. He quickly bowed to Varian, sweeping his hair back. “Hello Your Majesty, hello Miss Val.” Varian grimaced. “Just Varian will do lad, there’s no need for ‘Your Majesty’.” Thomas apparently didn’t notice the distaste Varian had in his voice.

“If you’re sure? We’ve always been told you get your head lopped off if you disrespect a King.” Cillian pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation, but Varian actually found it quite amusing. “Oh really? And who told you that?” Thomas wasn’t one to be coy, he had showed Varian that in the past week. He hated admitting it but the crew of the Rose really did seem the best ‘family’ for the headstrong, outspoken boy. He was clearly street wise, and itching to travel, so really, he had his prayers answered in the form of the captain.

He gave Varian a lop sided grin. “That was matron, and she didn’t like me anyway.” Val finished cleaning Little Bird and looked up. “Why, what did you do?” Thomas rocked on his heels. “Everything I could to annoy her.” Varian knew he was encouraging the wrong behaviour by laughing, but the confidence that the five year old was giving off made it impossible not to.

“Well, you know that shits not going to fly here lad, you do as you’re told or I leave you on the nearest landmass I can find.” Thomas gave him a smaller smile. “Yes, Da.” Cillian started, making Val realize that was probably the first time his new charge had called him that. “What did you just say lad?” Thomas’ little eyebrows rose.

“What, too soon? You did adopt me, I only thought it right.” Val looked impressed, letting Varian put his arm around her shoulders. “Lad’s got a point Cil. You did technically adopt him.” Cillian’s face softened and he put a hand on his knee. “I know that, it’s just strange to hear someone calling me that, that’s all.”

He extended an arm and Thomas hesitantly moved into it, warming Val’s heart as she noticed Varian’s grip get tighter. “Are you sure you want me to be your Da, lad? Last chance to change your mind.” Thomas hugged the pirate, feeling a bejewelled hand pat his back and telling him all he needed to. “Then welcome to the crew mate.”

Varian and Val spent far too long in Southshore, and Varian found himself already ten minutes late for his final rehearsal for tomorrow, so after pecking Val’s cheek at the stables once they got back to the capital he thundered away, not seeing her wave at his back. Val wasn’t disappointed though, she had plans of her own that she was late for, so she went at a gentle jog through to the palace, waving at Calia and Arthas. “Your guests are upstairs. It looks really good Val, he’s going to love it.” Val grinned, running on the spot since she wanted to get as much ‘training’ in as possible.

“I bloody hope so, I worked hard enough on it. I promise I’ll pay you back soon Arthas.” He waved a hand of dismissal, putting his hands in his pockets. “Don’t worry about it, he needed it, and you were the best one to make it. Are you joining us for dinner?” Val nodded. “Varian and I will be there!” She went to her chambers, kissing Tiffin’s cheek as she got up to greet her.

“Sorry I’m late, Varian and I got caught up in a game of ‘escape the bear king’ with Poppy.” Tiffin laughed, letting Val embrace Chantelle and Ruth, who eagerly bounded over and patted her back, clearly as giddy as she was. “And who did Varian play?” Val knew Tiffin was jesting and accepted the wine she handed her. “I didn’t take Pri- King Varian as the type of man to play with children.” Val’s smile was so genuine Tiffin couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

“Contrary to belief, Varian is smitten with every child he meets. He’s always wanted plenty of his own.” She gave Tiffin a teasing grin. “Sorry about that.” Tiffin snorted hard enough to make her wine bubble, making Val laugh herself. “So, is it ready?” Chantelle patted the sheet covered mannequin that stood in the middle of the room, looking rightfully smug. “Aye, and I tell you Val, it’s a bloody marvel to look at.” Ruth huffed, helping herself to the biscuits Nan had put out.

“I still say you made the pauldrons too damn big.” Val folded her arms and shook her head, disagreeing entirely. “Varian’s a big bloke, he can handle it. It’d look too comical if they were smaller.” Tiffin crossed one leg over the other. “I’m sure he’ll love it either way. Is he at his rehearsal?” Val nodded this time, taking her boots off with the intent of at least washing if she couldn’t have a bath.

“He should be back for dinner but I make no promises. I think he’s been putting it all off as much as he can.” Ruth moved her thick ponytail so it hung over her shoulder. “Can you blame him? Standing in front of all those people, sod that with a stick.” Tiffin made a noise of agreement. “From what I’ve seen, Varian abhors crowds, especially when he feels they’re suffocating him.”

Val splashed her face, scrubbing it with both hands. “He’ll be fine, it’s a ceremony, not an execution.” Chantelle chuckled, still not quite believing she was in chambers casually having wine and food with a queen-to-be. “It’s the party afterwards you have to be worried about. Are you going Val?” Val made a face, so Tiffin answered before she could inevitably protest.

“Yes, she is. Her dress came this morning.” Ruth, the arguably more feminine out of the two of them, finished polishing a spot on Varian’s gift that she found. “Let’s see it then!” Val groaned, not having the energy for this. “Do I really have to?” Tiffin tittered again. “What, come to the party? Or show them the dress?” Val didn’t hesitate to shout “both!” earning a chiding look from the blonde. “Val, Varian will want to see you there. Tomorrow will be hard enough for him, we don’t want to add your absence to the mix.” Val was already in the closet finding the damn thing when Tiffin started to berate her.

“Fine, but if anyone says one damn word to me…” Tiffin grimaced, pouring fresh tea into her cup. “Forgive me for being blunt Val, but I doubt they will.” She brightened, swivelling in her seat. “Bring Cillian! He always makes you a bit chirpier.” Val started snickering and the twins were eager to know why. “What’s tickled you all of a sudden?” Val poked her head out, hanging on to the doorframe.

“Are you sure you want me to bring Cillian for my benefit, dearest Tiffin?” Tiffin clearly knew what she meant since she stiffened, trying to hide her smile. “Of course, why else would I suggest it? He can bring little Thomas, it’s time I met him.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “Tiffin, Varian told me.” Tiffin was going red, everyone could see it.

“Told you what? I don’t understand what you’re on about Valerica.” Val came out with her dress in both hands, flinging it on the bed. “Oh Tiffin Ellerian, don’t lie to me! How long have you and Cil been ‘courting’?” Ruth had to laugh at how Nan looked incredulous at her mistress, as if she couldn’t believe such a thing to be true. “We are most certainly not courting! It was merely a kiss, nothing more.”

Val finally knew how much fun her brother must have had teasing her about Varian for all these years; this was hilarious to her, and Tiffin knew it. “Oh hush you! Nothing will come of it, it was merely a moment of madness!” Val bent over her chair, looking like a child that had managed to get all the sweeties on Hallow’s End. “Was he a good kisser? It must’ve stunk of rum and cigars!”

Tiffin couldn’t stop her mouth before it opened. “Actually he smelled quite nice, that sea salt oil of his is lovely…” She flushed brighter as even Nan failed to resist a chuckle, with Val practically bouncing in glee. “Do you think it will go any further?” Tiffin shook her head. “No, I regret to say. I’m not as strong as Varian and Val are; once we’re married I don’t want to do anything that will cause scandal.”

Val huffed, undoing the package that held the umpteenth gown she’d had to wear in the past few months. It was a midnight blue off the shoulder, made of silk that she really didn’t feel worthy of wearing. “And yet you’re sitting in here with a woman who to everyone else is your husband’s mistress.”

Tiffin pursed her lips, clearly not happy with the retort. “Yes well, to those who matter, you’re anything but. The only thing that annoys me about the whole thing is that everyone pities me for it.” Ruth crossed her legs as she sat on the floor, holding her knees.“So why didn’t you and Varian just break the betrothal off when you got to Lordaeron?”

Tiffin put an elbow on the arm of her chair. “Because Varian rightly pointed out that if we undid everything Llane put in place within two seconds of Varian being King, then everyone would lose faith in us immediately. Our people don’t need change right now, they need stability.”

She sank deeper into her chair. “Whether we like how they achieve that stability doesn’t matter. We have a duty, and it comes before anything else.” Chantelle wrinkled her small nose. “You’re more patient than I am then, I would’ve dissolved it instantly.” Ruth playfully tugged her sister’s hair as she went past, running a thumb over the scars on the back of Val’s neck.

“How are these feeling now?” Val shrugged, not really that comfortable with someone who wasn’t Varian (who was probably the only person in Azeroth that she trusted completely nowadays) touching the ridges and folds, but swallowed her discomfort down. “Not that bad, when I pull too much it aches but I don’t notice it half the time.”

Tiffin looked round at her, frowning sympathetically. “Varian feels so guilty over what happened to you…” Val hardened her face. “That doesn’t shock me in the slightest, but there was nothing he could’ve done, so next time he mentions it, tell him to stop.” Tiffin gave her a small smile. “Oh come now, you know that’s like telling the rain to stop falling and expecting it to listen.” Chantelle stretched her legs in front of her. “I always saw King Varian as a protective sort…” Val rolled her eyes, sitting by Tiffin’s feet. “That is the understatement of the damn millennia.” She smiled fondly, nostalgia glazing her eyes. “I remember I was sick when we were little, it was just stomach flu but Varian wouldn’t leave my side.”

She chuckled. “He actually bit Bolvar when he tried to take him home.” Tiffin laughed along with her, taking one of the little cakes on the tray next to her. “Why does that not shock me in the slightest?”
She looked strangely disappointed. “I wish I could’ve seen him with the children today, I bet it was delightful to watch.” Val threw a pear to Chantelle, putting the back of her head on Tiffin’s chair. “It was, I won’t lie. He becomes a completely different person when he’s with children, it’s like all his worries just disappear, it’s so refreshing to see.”

She snorted.“Though I’ll admit, he makes a great bear king.” Ruth spoke before she thought once again, flopping next to her sister. “Val, can I ask you some inappropriate questions about King Varian?” Tiffin was expecting Val to say no, so couldn’t help her look of surprise when she nodded.“Go for it, I’ve nothing to hide. As long as it doesn’t leave this room.” Ruth clucked her tongue. “…on the subject of bears, how hairy is he?” Val’s nose wrinkled and even Tiffin laughed since she knew the answer she was about to give the dark haired woman.

“Really hairy. From about the age of fifteen he just turned into this man ape, it was quite surreal really.” Chantelle had initially disapproved of the subject but now she was drawn in as well. “Where is he the hairiest?” Val wrinkled her nose as she thought about it.“Either his legs or his chest…I can’t decide which ones hairier.” She gave them both a look.

“Satisfied now?” Ruth scoffed, taking her wine down from the table. “Fuck no. I’m just getting started.” Val looked up at Tiffin. “Are you alright with this?” Tiffin’s eyebrow cocked. “Why wouldn’t I be? I have no feelings for Varian, you know this.” Val shrugged, turning to Nan. “Can you go and get some more wine Nan? We might be here a while.”

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By the time the twins had gone home and Tiffin left to get ready for dinner, Val was more than sure she had told them far too much, but in all honesty, she was just glad to have people to talk to that didn’t look down on her or disapprove of hers and Varian’s relationship, it made life ten times easier.

She was sitting on the bed with the latest book she had pilfered from the royal library, a first hand account of the War of the Ancients, sipping the hot chocolate Wyll had graciously brought up for her. He had gotten over his recent bout of illness (smoke inhalation was a nasty business, she had found that out herself over the past week or so) and returned to his duty, thoroughly pleased to see Varian and Val together, but lamenting that Bessie couldn’t see it.

Tonight there was to be a memorial service at the monastery since Varian deemed a week sufficient time to give those who had been ‘missing’ in order for them to send word to their loved ones, and though it meant the harsh reality of most of the people on the list attached to the city notice board not coming back, he felt some sort of recognition was needed.

Val wasn’t looking forward to it at all; the last funeral she had gone to was her father’s, and even though she had practically sleepwalked through it, she remembered the stifling feeling of loss in the room and absolutely hating it, and wasn’t too keen on feeling that again. Varian had told her that she didn’t need to go if she didn’t want to, but she knew she’d feel worse if she didn’t, so she was getting as much relaxation in as she could before the slog.

“Please tell me you didn’t drink all the ale.” She had to laugh at Varian’s ‘greeting’, turning over and keeping a grip on her book to keep her place. “I got Kenn to find some of Terenas’ brandy for you.” Varian bent and kissed her, keeping his forehead there. “What did I do to deserve a woman like you?” Val chuckled, pointing him in the direction of the spirit and finding where she was again.

“Well, if I knew it’d only take a bottle of brandy to win your affections I would have done it years ago. How was it?” Varian put a finger up as he emptied his glass, smacking his lips together afterwards. “As boring a slog as I predicted it to be. I’ll be glad when it’s all over.” He eyed the sheet seemingly standing upright in the middle of the room and pointed to it with a raised eyebrow. “What’s that?” She saw no reason not to tell him yet, so she got up and kissed him again first.

“Well, I thought you could wear something a bit more…you tomorrow. So I’ve been scheming with the Burbridge twins, remember them?” Varian racked his brains for a good few seconds. “Black hair, mouthy, like beer?” She nodded with a grin. “That’s them.” She lifted the bottom of the sheet so she could sweep it off.

“We’ve been working on this for the past week or so, I hope you like it.” Varian was thoroughly intrigued, folding his arms and watching intently as she pulled the sheet away and showed him what she had been dying to all day. To say he was flabbergasted would be an understatement as he stared in disbelief, letting his arms drop lamely.

On the stand sat a brand new, gleaming set of armour, which he had already suspected was the big ‘surprise’ Arthas had been talking about, but it hadn’t prepared him for just how damn gorgeous it was. The cuirass was polished enough to see his face as he went towards it and ran his fingers over as lightly as he could so he didn’t smear it.

Two pauldrons sat next to it, one with a eagle head, one with a lion’s, it should’ve looked flashy or ridiculous, and maybe it was because he loved the woman who had made it so much but he thought they were fantastic. Two heavy greaves with lion’s head cuffs and gauntlets made of smooth leather covered in solid plate completed the set along with a thick cotton blue tasset and mail shirt, all finished with a red velvet wolf fur trimmed cloak.

“Obviously I didn’t make that, that was Tiffin’s expertise, but I designed everything and did the cuirass and pauldrons.” She shuffled her feet, looking at her bare instep. “…do you like it?” He slowly turned, but his face was annoyingly unreadable, so she couldn’t decide how he actually felt about her present. His long legs allowed him to cross over to her in only two strides, lift her and kiss her deep enough to take her breath away. He put her down once he was done, cupping her cheeks and smiling dreamily. “I…Sweetheart, I don’t know what to say…it’s amazing…”

Val put her hands on his, not being able to help looking smug. “So you’ll wear it tomorrow?” Varian ruffled her hair, putting his arm around her waist and squeezing her. “Of course I will, and whenever I get the damn chance. Honestly Val, this is not what I was expecting at all but I love it.” He kissed her temple, leaving his lips there. “Your talents are wasted woman, I swear.” Val shrugged, not quite agreeing. “I wouldn’t go that far Varian, they’re mediocre at best.”

Varian looked down at her with his brow furrowed. “Can you just take the damn compliment?!” Val ducked out of his grasp, trying not to bounce over to his new armour. “Not when it’s a lie Varian.” Before he could even begin to argue she tapped the cuirass. “Want to try it on?” Varian felt like a child that had just received a puppy for Winter Veil.

“We really should be getting ready for dinner…” He smirked despite his musings. “Fuck it, let’s see if it fits.” Val gave him a dirty look as she lifted the first pauldron off and handed it to him to put on the bed. “Excuse me, I know your size well enough by now to make sure it will fit.”

Once he had it on, Val had to admit that the three women had done a damn good job with the suit, and it fit pretty well considering she had been lying through her teeth when she’d told him she knew his size, it had been a complete guess. Varian shifted the pauldrons, which were surprisingly light considering their size, straightening his back and looking himself up and down.

“You wanted the people to realize that you’re a soldier as well as their king. Well, this is one step towards doing that.” Varian looked down at her, encasing her small hands in his plated ones. “Thank you for not trying to change my mind on that Sweetheart. It soothes my mind to know at least one person believes I can be both.” Val patted his arm, realizing how much older he looked since Stormwind’s fall. “Tomorrow you become the King, but to me you’ll always be the man Varian. Never forget that.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

Val felt like such an outcast sitting in the second row of the Monastery the next morning. Cillian noticed her fidgeting and put his hand on her thigh, holding it firmly enough to still it. “Stop it, you look like you need a piss.” She tried not to laugh since the most prestigious members of Varian’s court were sitting in front of her and probably listening to every little noise she made, but smiled nonetheless.

“I look ridiculous.” His shaved eyebrow rose. “No you don’t, pack it in.” He looked down at himself, regretting saying yes to Tiffin when she insisted on getting he and Thomas new outfits so they could attend and blend in for Val’s sake. He was used to loose garments he could move freely in, a doublet was anything but, and he could tell his ‘son’ felt the same since he kept pulling the collar of his.

“Varian better appreciate this shit.” Val gave him a smirk. “Now who’s grumbling too much?” Cillian nudged Thomas as he started tittering. “Quiet you.” The boy looked around at Val, clearly getting impatient. “How long until King Varian gets here?” Val didn’t have any pockets on her gown so it was up to Cillian to fish in his and pull out his pocket-watch.

“About ten minutes lad, so not much longer.” Val sighed, leaning back. “I wish I could’ve seen him beforehand.” Cillian squeezed her thigh. “He’ll be fine lass, he’s got Tiffin to fill in until you can sort him out at the party.” Thomas started swinging his legs. “Are we going to that Da?”

Cillian still wasn’t used to being called that, but Val noticed he was taking it in his stride better than she ever dreamed he would. “Aye lad, we’ve been invited by King Varian.” Val tried not to snicker at the disdain in his voice as he said it. “I never thought in my life that I’d be going to a ball with kings and queens.” Cillian softened, ruffling the five year old’s hair.

“Well get used to it my boy, as long as Auntie Val’s in Varian’s good books, I suspect we’ll be going to alot more.” Val gave them both a smile. “Since when have I been ‘Auntie Val’?” Cillian motioned to Thomas. “You tell her lad, it’s only right.” Thomas leant in so he didn’t have to shout over the din. “Well, you and Da are really close, aren’t you? And he told me it’s respectful to call good friends of your parents ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’.”

He looked sheepish and Val had a vague idea why. “Though I don’t think I should do it to King Varian since, you know, he’s the king.” Val reached over and pushed his hair from his eyes, mentally reminding herself that the boy needed a trip to the barbers soon. “Well, can I let you in to a little secret?” Thomas nodded, looking slightly confused at her grin.

“I think Varian would absolutely love to be your Uncle, Sweetheart. I tell you what, we’ll both talk to him about it at the ball, eh?” Thomas brightened and nodded instantly. “I would love to!” Cillian gave Val a grateful smile. “Thank you for helping me with this whole parenting lark lass, it’s much appreciated.” Val snorted as quietly as she could manage.

“You make it sound like I know what I’m doing.” Cillian frowned, bumping his shoulder against hers. “Are you sure you’ll be alright with not having your own now?” Val nodded despite herself, fighting to keep her face blank. “Aye, I have things to occupy my time.” Cillian knew he’d upset her so changed the subject.“Ready for tomorrow?”

Val smiled again, fixing the long black gloves she was wearing. “Aye, I just need to make sure I’m up on time.” Cillian chuckled, folding his arms. “Meaning: ‘Varian better let me out of that bed’.” Val slapped his shoulder as they both started laughing. “What’s so funny?” Val shook her head at the inquisitive boy. “Don’t worry about it mate, just your Da being an idiot.”

Cillian drummed his arm. “Don’t suppose you told Minnie you’ve joined the army?” Val grimaced. “I did…and I think you can guess the reply I got.” Cillian haughtily huffed. “Did it contain multiple curses, threats upon yours and Varian’s person, and a vow to come and drag you to Bloodstone herself?” Val bit her finger to stifle her laughter. “However did you know?” Cillian’s eyebrow rose once again. “Because I know your Gramma too damn well….and I might have been on the receiving end of her wrath more times than I care to count.”

Val shook her head, turning briefly as the crowd outside got louder, meaning Varian had arrived. “Yes well, she’s going to have to lump it. I promised to visit after my tour is over, so that will have to do.” A portly older man stood by the doors of the monastery and cleared his throat. “All rise for the King!” It took Val a second so she could move around her dress, standing with Cillian and feeling his hand quickly squeeze hers. The trumpets practically deafened her as the doors swung open and Varian came in with his party, with Tiffin holding his arm and Jon in front. The councillors were all behind, but they would stand either side of the Throne once Varian’s arse was firmly on it.

They watched him stare stonily ahead, keeping his eyes front until they passed and Tiffin waved, making his eyes move and the corners of his lips curve to see Val even there. Thomas waved back, earning a smile from his ‘auntie’, who was trying to stay the picture of grace even though she didn’t have any.

Once Varian had taken his seat and Tiffin had kissed his hand despite his look, she sat in front of Val, making the smith lightly tap her shoulder as the council took their places and they all sat back down. “Why aren’t you up there?” Tiffin didn’t turn, but spoke from the side of her mouth. “We’re not married yet, so I can’t be crowned. Mine will come later.” Thomas grimaced.
“We don’t have to come to that one as well, do we?” Tiffin tittered, turning her head so Thomas knew she was talking to him. “We purposely arranged it for when Val’s away my boy, so I doubt it.” Cillian caught Tiffin’s eye and smiled sadly at her. “We’ll probably be home by then, I’ve been away too long as it is.Thomas was craning his neck trying to get a good look at Varian, who Val was very much pleased to find was in the armour she had made him, listening to the opening prayer with as much interest as she was.
He caught her eye for a brief second and they shared a sweet but knowing smile, wondering if she was going to make funny faces or rude noises, but somehow they both realized that wasn’t allowed anymore. This was the moment where they had to grow up, it was a little hard for them to take but it’s what had to be done.
She merely stared as Archbishop Alonsus Faol bowed his head to the new King of Stormwind, who gave the clergyman the respect he deserved by returning the gesture. Faol was always a kind man, and could obviously see the anguish on Varian’s face, since he kept his voice steady enough to reassure. “Fondest greetings to you all. We welcome in this house of the Light those who have come to bear witness to the coronation of good King Varian.”

Val was already feeling nervous on Varian’s behalf; she knew that he was the same as her when it came to crowds, especially ones that were focused on him. He absolutely abhorred too much attention, so this must have been absolutely torturous for him, if anything it proved to those who doubted just what he was willing to do for his people when in reality he’d spoken about abdication more times than she could count. He’d never wanted the crowd, and yet here he was humbly accepting it for the good of Stormwind, it was something to be admired for Val.

“Council of Stormwind, I present to you all your undoubted King Varian Barathen Wrynn, first of his name. Do you doubt his claim?” Val couldn’t help closing her eyes since she knew there were at least two men on the council that really didn’t want Varian on the throne, but thankfully all eight of them declared that they had no doubt and accepted him as their monarch. She opened her eyes, leaning back in her seat.

“King Varian Wrynn, do you solemnly swear to govern the people of Stormwind as those have done before you, with compassion, integrity and fair mindedness?” Varian’s knuckles were white underneath his gauntlets and he swallowed to wet his throat. “I do so promise and swear.” Faol carried on despite how clearly nervous Varian was. “Will you uphold the laws of your Kingdom?” Varian nodded solemnly. “I will.”

Cillian leant in to speak to Tiffin, who was only half engaged as they were. “They’re speeding through this a bit ain’t they?” Tiffin nodded, trying not to turn around. “It’s just a formality really, we know Varian’s king but it needs to be made official. The ceremony itself doesn’t actually last that long.” Thomas earned a swat around the head for his muttered “thank the Light”, threatening to make Val laugh, which would be so inappropriate right now that she had to bite her finger to stop it. Of course Varian noticed and was clearly trying not to smile, though thankfully he had alot more discipline and kept his face straight.

“Will you nurture your people, keep the faith of the Light in Stormwind, and guide them into prosperity?” Varian once again nodded, sincerity swimming in his blue eyes. “All this I promise to do. The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me Light.” Faol raised a bony hand and rested it on the crown of Varian’s head, making the brunette close his eyes with the rest of the witnesses.

Val knew Cillian wouldn’t partake in the prayer since he felt it would make him a hypocrite; he had made it clear on many an occasion that he didn’t respect the Light at all, he acknowledged that it was real and didn’t accuse it of being imaginary, but had no faith in its abilities whatsoever...which unfortunately was where she stood in terms of worship nowadays.

Growing up she hadn’t been the most devout of worshippers, but had asked the Light for help many times, and the few occasions she had received an answer had driven that faith on when really, it should’ve stopped years ago. Then her father died and it was lost completely from that point on. She had trudged through the service he was honoured with, but had decided then that she would never seek counsel or guidance from the deity again, a fact that had saddened those around her, but thankfully they had all respected her decision and not forced her into anything.

“Holy Light, we ask that you guide King Varian to the path of righteousness, and not let him forget his people, or his duty. Forgive his trespasses and show compassion whenever he asks. May the Light bless me…”

Val barely heard herself whisper “and may I serve the Light”, and apparently Cillian noticed how quiet she’d gone, nudging her side. “You alright?” She nodded despite herself, realizing that Tiffin had been right; the ceremony was almost over already and it had only felt like five minutes had passed, it was a little jarring. “I just need a drink, that’s all.”

Cillian squeezed her hand, linking their fingers. “You and me both lass. We’ll get one before anything else, I promise.” Cillian held her hand all the while Faol lifted Varian’s newly forged crown above her beloved’s head, clearing his throat. “With this crown, I pronounce you King Varian Barathen Wrynn, first of his name and sovereign lord of Stormwind. Long may you reign.”

And just like that, it was over. Llane was all but forgotten, a figment of the past, and Varian was the new ruler of Stormwind. Cillian helped Thomas stand as cheers of “Light bless the King” rang out and Varian stood, looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He bowed to Faol and stepped down, away from the throne that looked more like a torture device to him, down to the altar in front of it, made of beautifully carved stone with a candle in the middle, one Varian lit and bent in front of, saying goodbye to the previous monarch as so many had done before him.

“Esteemed guests of His Majesty are invited to Lordaeron Keep for celebration of King Varian’s ascension to the throne. On behalf of King Varian I thank you all for attending and wish you pleasant journey to those who will not be joining us.”

Arthas’ voice was strong across the room, and Val felt awful not realizing he was even here since he and Terenas had their own royal box beside the throne, but knew the blonde wouldn’t mind in the slightest. Arthas knew how hard the next few occasions would be on them all, so had given them some elbow room when it came to their emotions.

Varian held his arm out for Tiffin, who took it and smiled reassuringly, walking with him as he tried not to run out of the building, as much as his legs were aching to. He quickly and firmly grabbed Val’s hand as he went past (which explained to her why Tiffin had insisted she choose the aisle seat), squeezing it and leaving indents from his gauntlet joints on her gloves once he let go.

“What happens now Da?” Cillian shrugged, not quite knowing himself. “I presume we just wait until he’s gone then start making our way back.” Val wasn’t listening to either of them, she was too busy watching Varian’s back like it was the most interesting thing in the world. “Auntie Val, are you alright?” She wished people would stop asking her that.

It wasn’t that she was ungrateful for the concern, far from it, but it was quite the useless question considering everything that had happened. Thomas had the resilience of a child, this hadn’t affected him that much, but Val was still trying to wrap her head around the fact that Stormwind was gone, Varian was now king and her brother was dead…

It had all happened in the space of a month, it was a wonder that she hadn’t gone mad yet. She finally turned to the boy, realizing she was holding those who had been seated next to them up and taking his hand, practically pulling the five year old from the building with Cillian having to quicken his stride to catch up. “Yes darling, I am absolutely fine. I’m just a little worried about Uncle Varian, that’s all.”

Cillian pulled his cigar case out, realizing the carriage Arthas had assigned them would wait since the driver was doing the same thing. “Varian’s a big boy lass, he can handle this.” Val cut the end off hers and let him light it, blowing the smoke away from Thomas as they merely stood outside. “I don’t think he can Cil, that’s what’s worrying me. He’s not as mentally strong as everyone thinks he is.”

Cillian leant against the wall of the monastery, watching the throngs of people still gathered as if Varian hadn’t just left. “The people support him, you can’t deny that.” Val had to agree. “I didn’t think they would, if I’m completely honest. Llane was so beloved, it’s hard for some to accept change.” Cillian took another drag, resting a palm on Thomas’ head.

“They knew he had to become King eventually Val, it wasn’t as if it were up for debate. Llane wasn’t immortal, people knew that.” Val pinched the bridge of her nose in a vain attempt to stop the headache that was threatening to appear. “Shouldn’t we be going?” Val threw her cigar on the ground, knowing the boy was right but really not wanting to go if she were honest.

To her it was another event where she and Varian had to put on masks and pretend they were enjoying not being able to even hug without people condemning them, it was infuriating. Cillian helped her into the carriage, banging the ceiling twice when they were all sitting down and lounging back as it started moving. “Never thought I’d be riding in one of these.”

Val didn’t mean to be pessimistic yet here she was. “Well my horse burned with Stormwind, so this will have to do for now.” Thomas got onto his knees and leant out of the window causing Cillian to grab the back of his shirt. “Get your arse back in here now boy before you fall out that window and break your neck!” Thomas only obeyed a little, still sticking his head out instead.

“Are you sure the army is what you want lass? There’s still a place for you on the Rose.” That made Thomas’ head swoop back in. “Oh please come with us Auntie Val! It’ll be so great!” Val laughed at his enthusiasm, shaking her head and smoothing her skirt. “No little lad, I’m staying here. I have my training tomorrow, I need to get ready.” She turned her attention back to Cillian.

“And yes, it is what I want. I need to get myself busy again Cil.” Cillian didn’t look convinced. “What, and the army is the only way to do that?” Val scrunched her nose. “No, but it’s the only one that appeals to me. I…I want to go home Cil. Lordaeron is lovely, and Terenas has been a brilliant host…but I’m homesick. If I can help clear Stormwind quicker then I’ll do what I can.”

Cillian leaned forward, still holding on to his son’s shirt since the road was getting bumpy. “Then all I can say is good luck, stay safe and if you want to quit and come home, you say the word and I’ll be in Westfall harbour faster than you can fart.” She took his hand, feeling him squeeze it. “Thank you Cil. It’s nice to have one person not arguing with me about this.”

Cillian sat back, really hating how his stomach was threatening to leap from his mouth with the way he was being bounced up and down. “I have no interest in arguing with anyone love, it wastes far too much time I could be using productively.” Thomas let Val smooth his hair once he sat down properly and closed the window of the carriage, sitting next to his ‘auntie’ and leaning on her.

“Who’s going to be at the ball Auntie?” Val shrugged, stroking his head. “I have no clue. I know Genn and Liam Greymane are here, and I’m assuming the leaders of Kul Tiras and Alterac.” Cillian put his foot on their seat. “I saw the King of Samarkand in there.” Val’s brow furrowed, trying to remember if she had seen anyone looking remotely Samarkandan.

Samarkand was a small but bountiful island to the south east of the mainland, it was considered a desert island yet the people prospered due to the ancient magicks found there giving them the means to survive without any interference from other kingdoms. They had started trade with Stormwind after Lothar had quashed a troll invasion that was heading for the country and felt a debt had to be paid, so the silks, spices and other ‘exotic’ treasures that would come to Stormwind were always fascinating to Val, who would spend hours choosing which shell she wanted for her chambers. She had a great interest in Samarkand, and was actually excited to meet them now Cillian had said it.

“Did you? Which one was he?” Cillian snorted, letting Thomas climb onto his lap since he was reclining enough to make it comfortable. “You honestly didn’t see him? Dark tan, coiffed hair, gold robes?” That actually managed to jog Val’s memory a little.

She vaguely remembered seeing a tall man fitting that description sitting across from them with Genn, Liam and the other leaders, and now she really thought about it, he was covered in enough jewels to make it blindingly obvious where he came from. Gold was Samarkand’s best export, and the capital, Bonan, was known as the city of gold, so it stood to reason that its ruler would be dripping in the stuff.

“He looked like a thief’s wet dream.” Cillian chuckled, settling into his seat more. “I won’t lie, I did stare a little too long at those rocks on his fingers.” He smirked, making sure Thomas hadn’t fallen asleep. “His wife isn’t bad either.” Val took a glove off so she could itch her eye without smudging her face paint, laughing all the same.

“I wouldn’t know.” Cillian bit off a yawn, realizing how boring carriage rides were. “Oh trust me, you will once we get there. Hard to believe she’s had sixteen kids already.” Val couldn’t help her look of shock, whether Cillian deliberately said it to shock her was debatable. “Sixteen? Fuck that with a stick.” She involuntarily shivered.

“I couldn’t imagine having sixteen children.” Cillian shrugged, sitting up more to wake himself up. “That’s normal over there love, why do you think their population keeps shooting up?” Val played with the glove she still hadn’t put back on. “Do you think he’ll agree to this ‘alliance’ Terenas is on about?” The pirate clucked his tongue as he thought about his answer.

“I have absolutely no clue lass. It’s not that they don’t have the men- he’s renowned for his army- but he’s very, how do I put this?…he’s proud. Varian will need to come up with a damn good argument to get him on board.” Thomas looked in from his spot at the window again.

“Surely the orcs are enough of an argument, Da?” Val could see what Cillian meant and she wasn’t sure whether that was good or not. “No lad, he’ll see it as something confined to the mainland and essentially not his problem. Varian will have to convince him that everyone, regardless of geography is in danger.” Cillian bumped a downcast Thomas’ chin.

“But Lothar and Khadgar will be there to fight his corner, so it’s highly unlikely that he will say no.” Val pinched the bridge of her nose. “Greymane on the other hand…” Cillian rolled his eyes, keeping a good grip on his son. “Why the hells Terenas even invited him I have no clue. He brings nothing but arrogance to the table.” Val’s eyebrow rose in amusement.

“For a pirate you know an awful lot about politics.” Cillian gave her a dirty look. “Lass, I kind of need to know about the politics of places I’m planning on pillaging to sort out whether it’s worth it or not. And in case you haven’t noticed, the Horde are as much a threat to me as everyone else. The sooner we get rid of them the better.”

Val leant her elbow on the window frame, resting her chin on her palm. “Varian told me that more of them have come through the portal.” Cillian rightly frowned. “So, are you and your army mates storming the thing after Stormwind’s cleared?” Val nodded despite the morbid nature of the conversation.

“Most likely.” Cillian huffed in amusement. “I take it I’ll only be wasting my breath if I say ‘be careful’?” Val nodded with her own smile. “Varian gave up a few days ago.” She chuckled to herself. “You should’ve seen him when I told him I’m staying in the barracks.” Cillian laughed heartily, knowing full well how the king must’ve reacted.

“Where are they?” Val gave him a wry smile. “Brill, so I’ll be away from the city.” Cillian didn’t stop grinning. “I take it he didn’t appreciate that?” Val scrunched her nose. “We had an hour long shouting match about it. It was only because Tiffin came back and pulled us apart that we didn’t kill each other.”

Thomas waved to those they were passing as if he were royalty himself. “But he’s alright with it, isn’t he?” Val patted the boys backside, making him come back into the carriage so she could close the window, not really wanting anyone else to hear this. “He is, but he isn’t, if that makes any sense? He knows he can’t stop me, but would if he could.” Cillian started laughing to himself. “And lo, the king locked the humble smithy in a tower for the rest of her days…” Val kicked his leg, despite laughing herself. “Let’s not go too far shall we? Varian’s not a psychopath.”

Thomas huffed, slamming down on the seat. “Are we there yet?” Cillian’s eyebrows both went up. “Does it look like we’re fucking there?” Val knew how the boy felt; although it was probably only an hour’s journey at most from the monastery back to the capital but it felt like it was taking forever. “I need to go.” Cillian furrowed his brow.

“Go where?” The coin dropped for both adults at once. “Ah…can you hold it?” Thomas shook his head, making Cillian groan in annoyance and bang the ceiling. “Stop for a sec mate!” The carriage slowed and as the pirate lifted the boy out and took him over to the trees dotting the sides of the road, Val could only think about whether she was indeed making the right decision.

Varian would come to terms with it eventually, hells, he was already practically there, but she knew she was only making him worry more when really he didn’t need it right now. He would always support her, but she would still feel a little guilty about making the decision without him when all their lives they’d consulted each other on practically everything. Maybe she was thinking too much. Maybe she was underestimating Varian’s resilience, and he was perfectly fine with how everything was going in terms of ‘them’. She would soon find out she supposed.

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Thomas’ little stop delayed their short journey, added to the rain that had started just as they got to the gates of the city and they were well and truly late by this point. Val wiped her shoulders to at least try and dry them as they finally made it to the palace, with Cillian using his cloak to rub on Thomas’ hair. Val was already making her way to the ballroom, anxiously waiting for Cillian to give their invitation to the doorman, hoping to the Light that the braziers were on so she could stand next to one and warm up.

“Mister Cillian Beaufort, Miss Valerica Glenmore and Master Thomas Beaufort!” Val didn’t even care that everyone was looking at this at this point; she had been in this situation so many times that it was water off of a duck’s back now. Tiffin clocked her first and came striding over, kissing her cold cheeks. “We were starting to wonder where you were! What happened?” Thomas let the blonde lift him and kiss his forehead, not liking how chilled the boy was. Cillian went to get them some drink whilst Val filled her in, making Tiffin end up laughing and holding Thomas tighter.

“Oh you poor lamb. Oh well, you’re here now aren’t you, that’s all that matters.” Val looked around, not seeing Varian anywhere. “Tiffin, where’s Varian?” Tiffin’s lips drew into a line. “Outside, he’s not really in the mood to socialize. I was actually hoping you could talk some sense into him.” Val patted her shoulder, pointing to the door on the other side of the room and earning a nod. “Right, give me five minutes.” She waved to Arthas, who obviously knew where she was going and wouldn’t stop her.

She knew instantly that Varian was agitated when she found him pacing, with the only noises in the courtyard being the small clinks of the rain hitting his armour and his incoherent grumbles. She gave him a second before clearing her throat. “Your Majesty is getting rather wet out here.” Varian's chuckle betrayed his bad mood, turning on his heel to face her, but soon straightening his face and looking concerned.

“Where have you been? The ball started half an hour ago.” Val waved a hand with a smile on her face. “Thomas needed a piss, nothing more. Well, that and we kind of stopped for a breath before we came.” Varian was glad he’d come out here since everyone had gone inside, giving them an unintentional private moment. He slicked back her damp hair, kissing her cheeks. “I wish I had that luxury. All I’ve had today are people stuffed up my arse.” Val folded her arms, showing him the goose-pimples on them. “And here was me thinking you enjoyed the attention.” Varian’s dirty look made her laugh before she even finished her sentence. “I would think you know me better than that Sweetheart.” He sighed, ushering her indoors.

“I know it’s all part of becoming King, but there’s been so many fake well wishers today that I’m starting to think this is just a fever dream I can’t wake up from.” Val waited for him to close the door, very much conscious of the fact that everyone had seen her with him since they had stopped and bowed to Varian, only standing once they were satisfied that he had acknowledged them. Varian put her arm in his, ignoring her pleading look as he led her to the small group of royals standing by the platform that the king’s table sat on. “It’s only for today Varian then you can carry on with the war effort. Be a typical royal just for today and I bet you’ll be thanked for it.”

Arthas made a noise of agreement as the first plates were picked at, platters full of sweetmeats, roasted beasts, potatoes, seafood, everything Val could think of was sitting waiting to be eaten by those gathered. Thomas, being quite the polite little boy when he wanted to be, asked Tiffin permission to start eating and was gladly given it.

“She’s right Varian, just grin and bear it, that’s the best you can do.” Val was glad that faces she knew were in the huddle; Liam, Tiffin and Arthas would have to put up with her practically sticking to them if Varian was called away, since she knew absolutely no one else here apart from Lothar and Khadgar, who were nowhere to be found.

“Where’s Anduin?” Varian’s jaw clenched. “He’s making final preparations for deploying what little army we already have tomorrow. They’ll go to Stormwind, assess the threat and search for any survivors.” Val’s brow furrowed, wondering if she had missed her training already in a cruel twist of fate.“But they won’t engage?”

Varian shook his head to her relief. “No, not yet. They’ll be discreet and try to give us a clear picture of what we’re dealing with.” Liam gave her a grin. “So don’t worry, you can still go and kick some arse Val.” A quiet laughter was his response, and Val turned around, noticing the music had started up again. “It looks like things are really in full swing already.” Thomas looked sheepish when he came back holding a plate piled with food.

“Sorry we were late, that was my fault.” Varian ruffled his hair, sweeping the damp locks back. “Don’t worry about it lad, you really didn’t miss much.” Val thanked Arthas for the wine he passed her and took a generous gulp. “So who’s here that we should know about?” Varian clenched his jaw. “Well, Daelin Proudmoore is with Genn, meaning that he probably feels the same about the Horde as he does.”

Liam gave him a chiding look. “Varian, we don’t know that, don’t assume.” Tiffin carried on for Varian since she could tell his bad mood was coming back. “King Trollbane and King Perenolde didn’t turn up, yet they assure they’ll be here for the meeting tomorrow.” Tiffin couldn’t help her small smile. “King Nizaar’s son is very eager for an alliance.”

Val tried not to look too eager to meet the Samarkandan. “Where is he?” Varian's eyebrow cocked in amusement. “He’s with Terenas by the drinks table.” She found him and realized what Cillian had meant by the grandeur of the man. His golden robes were tied over the silkiest shirt she had ever seen, with enough jewels to make her question whether some were even real. But what jarred her more was his wife.

She hadn’t really used the word ‘stunning’ for anyone in her life, but she found herself questioning just what in the Light’s good grace Varian saw in her knowing there were women like this wandering Azeroth. Tall, lithe and beautiful were the three words she could conjure to describe the Queen, and all it did was make her remember her own faults and wither.

“Sweetheart? What’s the matter?” Val snapped from her trance, looking up at Varian and trying not to look too obvious. “…what the fuck do you see in me Varian?” He looked utterly stunned at the out of nowhere question, but Tiffin put a supportive hand on her shoulder.

“Disgusting, isn’t she? I thought the same when I saw her. Queen Mekare, probably the most good looking woman in all of Azeroth.” Varian came to his senses as he realized what had prompted the- in his mind- stupid question. “Oh Val, don’t even start with that shit Sweetheart. I didn’t even notice her.” Val scratched her scars, feeling them pull as if they knew she was thinking about them.

“But I’m so-” Varian’s large palm covered her mouth, making their group laugh more than they should of. “Enough,” he whispered. “I will not hear another word of self-deprecation come from those plump little lips of yours. Come to my chambers later and I’ll show you what I see in you.”

Her cheeks turned a brilliant crimson, and she swatted his arm once he let her go. She had swapped chambers with Tiffin yesterday after talking to her about it, with the both of them agreeing that since Varian would officially be king today it was no longer good form for Val to share his chambers with him. It was a disheartening realisation but one that had been looming for the week they’d enjoyed what they had been doing.

Thankfully Arthas had sympathised and had a little workaround installed; a door in the wall that separated the two rooms, so Tiffin and Val could enter through their own doors then swap chambers instantly so no one would see Val go in with Varian, it was simple yet brilliant. So Varian’s invitation to go to his chambers tonight was one that Val could easily fulfil.

“So is everyone going to the meeting tomorrow that was invited?” Arthas grimaced at the Captain. “Yes, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.” Liam was ever the optimistic one. “We all know the threat is real, we know it can’t be faced by one Kingdom alone, everyone will reach a consensus, I’m sure of it.” Varian pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just don’t hold it against me if I murder your father.” Liam snorted, giving his empty goblet to Nan.

“I bloody well will, since that means I’m king if you do, you bastard.” A small, black haired man that looked older than Varian interrupted them by sliding between the king and Val, leaning up to his ear. “Your Majesty, it’s becoming apparent around the ball that you haven’t announced your wedding date yet, may I suggest you do so now to quiet any unrest? They’re wondering whether they should call Lady Tiffin Her Majesty or not.”

Varian’s lip curled in annoyance and he waved the man away. “Fine, fine. Give me a minute’s peace Gregor, for Light sake.” The man bowed and backed away, ignoring their looks of confusion. “Your Majesty.” Once he’d gone Cillian pointed in his direction. “So…who the fuck was that?” Varian exhaled slowly through his nose. “His name is Gregor, and he has just been appointed my chamberlain. Expect to see him alot more.”

Liam’s eyebrow rose as he stole one of Thomas’ prawns and popped it into his mouth, ruffling his hair at the loud ‘oi’ he received, even though the both of them were grinning. “Well he seems a charming fellow. Not King five minutes and he’s wanting you to declare the wedding.”

Varian shared a guilty look with Tiffin. “Val, we’re sorry, but we have no choice apparently…” Val shrugged as if it were nothing. “Sooner it’s over with, the better. Go on, before they start baying for blood.” Varian took Tiffin’s hand and Cillian’s arm went around Val’s waist as the two stood in front of the King’s table and Varian cleared his throat for quiet. “As already said, I thank you all for joining us tonight.

Lady Tiffin and I would like to start by joyously declaring that contrary to what has befallen us, we still have every intention to marry. In two months time, i will make this jewel my Queen, to be crowned as I have today.” The applause was practically deafening and Cillian merely tightened his grip on Val as Varian gave her a sad smile. “Once again, thank you, and enjoy our good King Terenas’ gracious hospitality.”

Apparently that was the elder royal’s cue to come and join them all since Terenas, Nizaar, Mekare and who Val could only assume was the Prince of Samarkand exchange bows with those in their little circle who deserved it. Nizaar set his jaw at Cillian, who looked like a child had been caught with sweeties. “Cillian Beaufort, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting to see you at this kind of event.” Val gave Cillian a dirty look.

“What did you do?” Cillian threw both of his hands up. “Whoa, why do you automatically assume I did something?” Varian was giving him the same look Val was. “Because normally you have, now answer the question.” Cillian chuckled, putting his hands on his hips. “I did a bit of…. ‘work’ for His Majesty years ago, alright?” He noticed that they still looked suspicious.

“Oi, not all I do is steal thank you!” Now Varian looked at a laughing Nizaar, not quite believing it. “What kind of work?” Nizaar stopped laughing and folded his arms. “Cillian and his crew had a debt to pay to me and I needed someone taken care of, that’s all.”

Thomas looked up at his father, though Varian really didn’t like how impressed he was. “Did you kill someone, Da?” Liam and Arthas both snorted at his childish bluntness, but Cillian shushed the boy, ruffling his hair. “As far as any law-man knows, no I didn’t.”

Mekare gestured to Thomas, but strangely she was focusing on Val. “Your son is an absolute delight Miss Glenmore.” Val started, wondering if she’d actually heard her correctly. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Even Mekare’s laugh sounded pretty, it was actually quite sickening. “Your son, he’s a wonderful little boy.” Her forehead creased, though Val was sure only one line appeared. “Thomas is your son, is he not?” Val heard Varian growling and quickly shook her head.

“Oh! No, no, Thomas isn’t mine, I don’t have any children! He’s Cillian’s!” Arthas was trying so hard not to laugh at the misunderstanding that his face resembled a cherry, and even Terenas was chuckling to himself. Mekare clearly wasn’t done there and gestured to Cillian. “I just assumed because he looks like you and Captain Beaufort that he’d finally gotten off of his backside and asked you to marry him.”

Varian's teeth were grinding to the point where both Val and Tiffin were convinced they were about to fall out. Cillian thankfully didn’t make it worse by jesting, instead he set the Queen straight. “No my Malika, I can categorically tell you now that Thomas is actually neither of ours, he is one hundred percent adopted, and I have absolutely no intentions of marrying Val, so I don’t know where you got that from. She’s with Varian for Light sake!”

And instantly, he shut up, realizing he’d put his boot right in it. Val felt that bastard anxiety creeping up on her as even Terenas looked like he didn’t know what to say. Varian cleared his throat, knowing there was no point trying to cover it up, and in all honesty, he didn’t want to. “Cillian speaks the truth my friends; Val and I are together, we have been for years.”

Nizaar’s son spoke first, making Val worry at how straight his face was. “…And? Why is that a problem?” He started laughing at the blank stares the couple gave him. “You…you’re not concerned that he’s marrying in two months but just told you we’re together?”Mekare waved a hand of dismissal, nearly blinding Tiffin with her jewels. “Arranged marriages are the bane of our existence as Royals, and half the time there is no love between the people involved. Nizaar and I married for love, we were lucky, but we do not condemn those who aren’t so.” Val was sure that she was about to cry. “I could actually kiss you right now.”

The whole circle laughed at that one, and Mekare swept Val’s hair back affectionately. “You two should be telling everyone about your love, not hiding it like this.” Tiffin grimaced, wringing her hands. “I’m afraid Stormwind society isn’t as relaxed as Samarkand. There are alot of people in this room that would die to know their king doesn’t worship the woman he’s being forced to marry.”Terenas looked grave.

“I tried to push a marriage onto my daughter a few years ago and all it did was break her heart. I’ve never forgiven myself for it.” Arthas put a reassuring hand on his father’s bony shoulder. “She however forgave you for it long ago father. Everything works itself out in the end, you just have to have faith.” Liam saw that as a good segue into a conversation that wasn’t about political marriage, something his own father had been playing around with in his head, and something he was very much against.

“Speaking of faith, isn’t your ascension coming up Arty?” Arthas’ eye twitched at the prolonged use of that abhorrent nickname, but since he knew it would be improper to strangle the Gilnean prince, he merely nodded. “A month’s time, my friend. I’ll admit, I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be.” Tiffin frowned. “It’s just a shame you can’t have it in the cathedral of Light.”

Arthas shrugged as if it were nothing. “As long as I can have it, I’m not going to grumble about where it is. I just pray Sir Uther hasn’t suddenly changed his mind about me.” Liam showed how long he’d been out of the loop with his next question. “And will Jaina be attending? I noticed she’s not here tonight with her father.”

Val bent to the redhead’s ear, explaining that Arthas, who had turned stony, and Jaina weren’t a couple anymore and Liam’s cheeks went as red as his small sideburns. “Oh, my greatest apologies Arthas!” Arthas shook his head, clearly not wanting to show how affected he still was by it. He too had noticed that Daelin Proudmoore had come alone, lamenting that Jaina couldn’t even bear to see him anymore.

It was made worse when he had to sit here and watch couples left and right that shouldn’t have worked but did, it made him regret everything he had said to her that night. “No, there’s no apologies necessary old friend. You didn’t know, I can’t condemn you for that.”

Nizaar’s son, who introduced himself as Adil, cleared his throat, looking to Varian. “Your Majesty, would it offend if I snatched Miss Glenmore away for a dance?” Varian chuckled, draining the last of his drink. “I’m not her father, nor her keeper; she does what she wants, I don’t control that.” Val kissed his arm, giving Adil her hand.“And I want to dance, since a certain king always kicks up a stink when I ask him to.”

Arthas snorted at Varian’s look of indignation. “I can’t dance, I’ve accepted that fact, why would I want to make an arse of myself?” Val was laughing as the two of them joined the other dancers, and even though it was the most boring of dances taking place, she was far too intrigued by who she was dancing with to care.

His dark skin, short black hair and sharp features were so different to any man in Stormwind -or Lordaeron for that matter- that she couldn’t stop looking at him. He had amber coloured eyes and a think chinstrap beard accompanied by a finely trimmed moustache, and it seemed his mouth was in a permanent smirk as they turned together. “You look as if you have a million questions.” She glanced over to Varian, who looked…sad? That was odd.

He had nothing to lament over, she was still his regardless of who she danced with…and then it hit her that dancing without him was the exact problem. Not the act itself, he had made it clear a million times over that he absolutely detested dancing and wouldn’t do it if someone had a sword to his throat, but the fact that such an intimate gesture was denied for them if they were being completely honest with themselves, it was a little disheartening.

She knew he would be alright, so turned her attention back to her partner as they separated, spun with two other guests and were put back together. “And would you mind if I asked merely a couple?” Adil laughed, a velvety sound that she was starting to think all Samarkandans possessed. “Ask however many you want, as long as you don’t mind me doing the same with Stormwind?” Val tried not to flinch at the idea, nodding despite herself.

“Of course. I take it you didn’t go there often?” Adil shook his head, somehow staying in time with the music better than she was. “Unfortunately no. Which leads to my first question. Apparently it was surrounded by trees? A forest?” Val nodded fondly, missing Elwynn all the more. “It was, they would stretch for absolute miles. Varian and I would spend all day in there sometimes.”

She chuckled, clapping half heartedly as the song ended and one that sounded exactly the same (to her at least) started up, letting Adil hold her. “We even stayed overnight at points, it used to infuriate our fathers.” He grinned, obviously seeing the twinkle in her eyes. “I take it you disobeyed them often?” Val scrunched her nose. “Not all the time, but frequently enough to make them go a little bit grey, yes.” Adil twirled her, not helping how much she strangely wanted to swoon. “And your father is a lord? I assume that’s why you knew King Varian in the first place?”

Val shook her head, finding it quite impressive how they were carrying on a conversation whilst doing this.“No, my Father was a smith, as am I.” Adil’s face dropped a little. “Apologies, I didn’t know he had passed.” Val shrugged, not really feeling anything about it. “It’s fine, honestly. He’s been gone for long enough that I can’t find the energy to cry anymore.” Adil’s smile returned. “But I can see King Varian loves you despite your lack of title, it’s refreshing to see.”

Val’s eyebrow rose. “Oh? How can you tell that? You’ve only known him three minutes.” Adil’s smile widened. “Well, a good sign is that he hasn’t taken his eyes off you this whole time.” He turned Val so she could see what he meant, and in the brief second she saw Varian she felt her heart flutter at his dopey smile, it was her favourite thing in the world to see and apparently Adil noticed.

“It’s such a shame you two cannot marry.” Val still smiled at him despite the subject. “That doesn’t matter to us. We know where our hearts belong, that’s all that counts.” She poked his chest, still turning with him. “Now, didn’t you promise me a few questions?” Adil bowed his head. “I did. Go ahead, I will answer what I can.” Val couldn’t help her snicker.

“First off, how old is Queen Mekare?” Adil laughed, taking her across the floor. “Would you believe me if I said fifty two?” Val’s jaw hung open. “Are you fucking serious? Light damn her, honestly!” Adil’s laughter was attracting attention but neither of them cared. “Well if I knew her secret I would indulge you, but I think it might just be the amount of time she’s in the sun that does it.”

That led to Val’s next question. “Is it always hot in Samarkand then?” Adil slowly nodded, taking her by the waist. “We have a few days of rain a month, but mostly sunshine, yes.” Val let out a little jealous sigh. “I would love to be in the sun right now, Lordaeron in winter isn’t the most fun in Azeroth.” Adil thought for a second before smiling again.

“Well maybe you can come to Bonan one day?” Val shook her head. “No, I have my duties here. If by the Light’s grace I get time I might though, from what I’ve read it’s a marvel to behold.” She noticed the runes on Adil’s arm. “Is it true that over half of the population are mages?” He nodded, rolling the sleeve of his bronze coloured robes up and showing her fully.

“Thoth has blessed my kingdom with his ancient magicks, passed on from generation to generation.” She stopped dancing, running her fingers over the glowing symbols in slight awe. “Through the yearly festival of Thoth?” Adil grinned. “I see you have been reading up on Samarkand. Indeed, a festival to thank him is held every year, with the blood of a king offered as tribute.” Val’s brow furrowed. “But a king doesn’t die every year, does he?” Adil quickly shook his head. “No! No, it’s just a cut across the hand. I don’t even know if it works, but I’m too scared to question it in-case it pisses Thoth off.” Val’s laugh was cut short by a firm hand on her shoulder.

“Apologies my friend, but I have need of Miss Glenmore.” Adil grinned at Varian, bowing low. “She’s all yours, Your Majesty. And can I speak plainly?” Varian waved a hand of permission, still holding onto Val’s shoulder. “Miss Glenmore is truly a woman to hold onto. A curious jewel. I’ll admit it’s refreshing to actually have a woman ask questions instead of just stay silent until they are spoken to.” Varian’s smile already told the man that he agreed.

“I won’t argue with the truth. She’s always had her own mind, and I respect her greatly for it. Now if you excuse us?” Adil took his leave and Val looked quizzingly at Varian. “Where are we going?” Varian took her hand, putting his other on the bump of her hip. “Nowhere. Now hush and enjoy this, it’ll probably be the only time it happens for a very long while.” Val’s eyebrow rose and the other one joined it as the new king brazenly danced with a woman that everyone here knew was not to become his wife. “Varian, are you insane?” Her hiss only made him smirk, watching everyone else cautiously dance around them as he twirled her.

“Maybe, is that a problem?” Val could feel her limbs stiffening but he squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about them Sweetheart, they don’t know anything.” Val wasn’t convinced, and no amount of smiles from Tiffin soothed her. “Everyone’s looking.” Varian merely carried on smiling. “No they’re not. Look closer Sweetheart, no one is even bothered.” Val took his instruction and looked around, realising that in a way…he was right. Of course there were the select few who were watching them, mostly consisting of his councillors, but other than that, the only people who seemed remotely interested were their friends.

It was a pleasant surprise, and made Val realize that when Varian was a prince, people thought they had more sway over what he did or said, so inserted themselves into his business more. Now he was king…well, no one could speak against anything. Any power they believed to have had over him had dissipated and no one wanted to provoke the ruling monarch. “Holy Light you’re right…” The pure joy in Varian’s laugh made it impossible not to mimic.

“See? It’s just a dance Val, we can enjoy that.” Val shrugged in resolution. “I suppose you’re not the first king in their eyes to have a mistress.” Varian lifted her, sweeping her in an arc like the rest of the men were doing with their partners and putting her back down. “True. As much as we don’t like calling you it, I suppose that’s all people see when they look at us, then they stop caring.” Val grinned as he pulled her in again, only just resisting the urge to kiss them. “Then let’s enjoy the last night we have before chaos begins again, Your Majesty.”

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By the time the ball had started winding down, Val was ready to drop. She had grossly underestimated just how much dancing she would partake in tonight, added to the energy of a five year old who’d never been to a party like this and she was exhausted by eleven. She embraced Mekare and kissed her cheek, letting Adil brush his lips over her knuckles and bowing to Varian even though it wasn’t necessary. The king bent to her ear, kissing the lobe when he deemed it safe to. “Give me about half an hour, then I’m all yours.” Val gave him a smile, folding her arms.

“I’m going to have a bath and change anyway, so take your time. Night Your Majesty.” Varian ruffled her hair, laughing at her swats and protests, letting her go with Cillian to the front doors of the palace and trying not to react to the kiss on her cheek that he gave her.

“I didn’t think I’d actually see you smile today.” He looked down at Tiffin, who was trying not to look smug but failing spectacularly. She took his arm since they’d already given his closing speech, giving them the freedom to retreat to their chambers.

“Maybe it wasn’t as abysmal as I first anticipated it to be.” Tiffin’s smile looked genuine. “It was lovely seeing Val finally relax. Watching you two dance filled me with such…well, I suppose the correct word would be ‘hope’.” Varian couldn’t do anything but agree.

“I think she’s finally come to terms with the fact that everything changes now I’m king, and things aren’t as scandalous as they should be. At least not vocally.” Tiffin went in first, letting him close the door behind him. “I think she was just worried that she’d get abuse to her face about it all. She does seem a very anxious young woman.” Varian sighed, undoing his doublet.

“She’s suffered from anxiety attacks since we were young. If she’s in a situation where there’s either a crowd she doesn’t know or people whispering she goes into panic mode and freezes. I do what I can but when it happens there’s not alot that helps.” Tiffin let her hair down, running her fingers through it and massaging her aching scalp.

“That’s awful, and very unexpected in such a confident person. I would never have guessed she suffered so.” Varian waved a hand of dismissal, putting his jewels away and closing the drawer that held the key. “She’s not suffering Tiffin, it doesn’t happen that often. She didn’t have an attack tonight, don’t worry about her.”

Tiffin looked to the door that led to Val’s chambers. “I take it you’re abandoning me soon?” Her grin and giggles made him realize she was jesting and he narrowed his eyes. “You’re quite the bloody trickster, aren’t you Lady Ellerian?” Nevertheless he squared his shoulders. “And if it’s agreeable with you, I probably will be spending the night with Val.”

Tiffin gave him a sure smile. “And why exactly wouldn’t I be agreeable?” Varian looked strangely sheepish. “I don’t know, In all honesty I keep expecting you to suddenly turn and tell me it’s an atrocity that I keep leaving you.” Tiffin’s laugh reassured him that it wasn’t the case. “I fear you’ve been thinking too much Varian. I honestly don’t care that you go, if anything I’m quite excited to have the night to myself.” She tapped the book she’d picked up.

“Val introduced me to ‘The Fae King’ last night and I swear I haven’t been able to put it down.” Varian rolled his eyes, remembering what Val had said about needing some time to herself before he barged in there. “Great, another one obsessed with faerie tales. As if one wasn’t enough.” Tiffin childishly stuck her tongue out at him, taking her adornments off.

“Just because you don’t enjoy them Varian doesn’t mean other people can’t.” Varian waved a hand of instant dismissal. “I never understood how someone can sit still that long and read about things that don’t exist, it sounds like the most boring activity in the world to me.”

Tiffin tutted, not that shocked by the king’s stance. “Varian, it provides distraction from the problems of life, surely that’s a little bit tempting?” Varian shook his head, recollecting that he had the same argument with Val more times than he would care to count. “No, distractions like that are absolutely pointless, and you’ll never see me indulging in it as long as I live.”

Tiffin put her hands on her hips. “Alright, so we have a child and they ask you to read them a story at bedtime, will you refuse them?” Varian narrowed his eyes. “That’s different and you know it. Adults that use the same distractions as children for themselves are the ones I will never get on board with.” Tiffin was trying so hard not to laugh at how passionate he was getting about this.

“And yet you choose to be with the biggest child we know.” Now Varian was chuckling. “Yes well, It’s adorable when she does it, and she’s learned not to even try and get me on the same page as her about mythical nonsense anymore, so I let her get on with it.” Tiffin’s face turned passive. “It’s not healthy to be serious all the time Varian. We’re all entitled to a bit of fantasy.”

Varian splashed his face and ran both hands down it. “Maybe I’m just incapable of it. All my life I’ve known duty, practicality and regimentation…maybe it hindered exactly what I believed in, I don’t know. But I’m perfectly happy the way I am, so stop fretting.”

Tiffin didn’t look convinced. “Are you though? Varian you haven’t been sleeping, Val told me.” Varian huffed, pouring himself an ale. “I’ve been sleeping just fine.” Tiffin knew he was lying since he said it through gritted teeth. “So you haven’t been having night terrors?” Varian’s hand tightened on the handle of the jug. “That’s none of your business.”

Tiffin carefully put a hand on his arm, remembering what Val had told her about approaching an angry Varian as one would a growling dog. “I just want to help.” Varian huffed, slamming his empty chalice down. “I don’t need help, so unless you’re a sorceress and just haven’t told me, leave me be.”

Tiffin squeezed his arm. “You know you can talk to me Varian. I won’t discuss it with anyone.” Varian mustered up a pained smile. “I know that, and appreciate it, but honestly, I’ll be alright.” He kissed her forehead, making his way towards the door.“Sleep well Tiffin, I’ll see you at breakfast.” She knew there was no point trying to continue their conversation, he’d clearly decided it was ending there and then. “Same to you Varian. At least talk to Val about it?” Varian took a deep breath, finally opening it. “I’ll think about it, does that satisfy?” She nodded, smiling at him. “It does. Goodnight Varian.”

A jovial singing from the wash room told Varian where Val was immediately, and he couldn’t help closing the door quietly so it didn’t stop it, merely enjoying the sound as he crept towards the doorframe. “And throughout the land, the people sang, their joyous cries did ring. From that day on, that lovely song, of the maiden and her king.”

It warmed his heart to see her happy again after what they’d gone through in the past month. With too many changes and the amount of upheavals had threatened to tear them asunder despite all of their efforts to stay united, it had been a troubling thought for the King. So to find her singing, smiling and looking her old self again was refreshingly uplifting. “Well, if that’s not a relevant little ditty, I don’t know what is.” Her smile turned into a grin and she propped her elbows on the side of the bath that was nearest to him, beckoning him over.

“And since when have you been into spying on me while I bathe?” Varian kissed her, passing her the towel she gestured to and giving her a hand stepping out. “Don’t treat me like a teenage boy Val, I don’t ‘spy’, I merely observe.” Val’s laugh broke his growing melancholy and she rubbed at her hair, thanking him when he offered to dry her back, patting gently as she leant on the table the towels were folded on.

“I actually had fun tonight.” Varian smiled, glad to hear it. “Good, I’ll admit I was worried you wouldn’t. I know balls aren’t the most fun activity ever.” Val wrapped the linen around her since it was rather cold tonight, jerking her head towards the door and telling him that she was going to her main chamber.

“Don’t fret so much, I enjoyed myself and it was all down to you.” Varian sat on the end of her bed, holding on as she occupied his lap. “Oh? And what exactly did I do?” Val brushed his hair back, still smiling. “You finally convinced me not to worry about those stiffs. I actually got to dance with you tonight and not panic that anyone was looking, or that they were whispering about me.” Varian kissed the bottom of her jaw, pressing harder on her neck.

“You don’t know how damn proud I am to hear that Sweetheart.” His lips came back wet after pecking her chest, which only make her laugh more since he couldn’t resist nipping her thumb as it wiped them. “But that doesn’t mean we can flaunt everything in front of everyone Varian.” Varian kissed the inside of her forearm, becoming utterly distracted.

“Of course not, I won’t put you in the spotlight unless you want me to love.” She merely laughed again. “Although I can’t really say anything since you’re spending your first night as king with me.” Varian’s eyebrow rose as he carried on kissing droplets from her shoulders.

“I can leave if you want, just say the word.” He playfully hissed at her swat, flopping back and holding his arm as if in great pain. “Assault on the king! Who would’ve thought it from you Val! OW!” He carried on simply because it was making her laugh. If acting childish achieved the sound that made him happiest, he would be glad to potentially embarrass himself.

“Oh shut up Varian that was barely a flick!” He opened one eye, still clutching the limb in question. “No, that’s it, I see no other way to come back from this except amputation. Look what you’ve done you vicious monster!”

He was trying to ignore how she straddled him but it was becoming increasingly difficult. “Varian, stop being such a big baby.” She tweaked his nose, putting a hand on his chest to steady herself. “You’re a terrible actor.” Varian ran both palms up her thighs since the moment of jest had passed, thankful for his core strength so he didn’t need them as he sat up with her.

“Then it’s a good thing I have no desire to be one.” Val’s amused grin faded for merely a second to peck his smoothed cheek (He always preferred a small amount of stubble to the clean shaven look, but Wyll had insisted he look presentable for today) but came back when she pulled away.

“Aw, and here’s me thinking we could make some money from it.” Even though the skin was marred his fingertips tracing her back still felt amazing. “You looked so beautiful today Sweetheart.” She of course, shook her head, just as he expected her to. “I looked plain, which suits me fine.” Varian held her closer, closing his eyes and drinking in the smell of her perfume like it was actively giving him strength.

“There’s nothing plain about you Val.” Her retort was cut short by the small knock on the door and she hopped from his lap. “Expecting anyone?” Val nodded, putting her robe on and opening it to Nan, who handed her a tray with two steaming mugs on it.

“We didn’t have any mint, so I just put some more cream on it.” Val thanked her, using her elbow to close the door and skipping over to the table, handing Varian a hot chocolate, and even though he wasn’t a huge fan of the beverage he took a long sip, sitting by the fire and letting her shuffle back between his legs.“Any idea what you’re going to say tomorrow?”

Varian huffed, wiping cream from his top lip. “Not in the slightest. Lothar has agreed to attend, but I think that will just cause more harm than good.” Val craned her neck back to look up at him. “He’s a military veteran Varian, if anything it might make this more solid in terms of arguing the case for the Alliance.”

Varian kissed the crown of her head, wrinkling his nose when her hair tickled it. “I know that, but they’re kings Val, they won’t listen to a soldier, they’ll be looking to me.” She drummed his knee, still looking optimistic. “You’ll be fine. They all know the Horde is a threat, it won’t take much convincing.” Varian sent delicate kisses down her neck, taking her mug away and putting it on the table next to them. “Can we not talk about this anymore? It’s all I’ve been thinking about today.” Val leant her head back, nipping his earlobe. “And what would you rather talk about?”

He was already untying her robe, pulling it down and kissing her shoulders. “Talking doesn’t interest me right now.” She turned around, climbing onto his lap and sighing when his fingers gripped her backside. “I’d love to know what does then…” It didn’t take much for him to flip them, pulling his shirt over his head and already yanking his breeches to his knees.

“I’ll be honest, I was really considering snatching you away earlier and bringing you up here.” Val chuckled, running the tips of her nails along the lines on his abdomen, making him growl involuntarily. “Can we at least get into bed before you lose it? I’m not getting rug burns just so you can have me Varian.”

She knew he was going to lift her, but that didn’t stop her squeak when it actually happened. Instinctively she wrapped her legs around him, inadvertently rubbing and making him snarl with impatience. “How the hells do you do this to me woman?” Val kissed him before he finished, tangling her fingers in his hair and thoroughly enjoying the groans it drew from his throat. Before she knew what was happening her back slammed against the stone wall, with an instant apology tumbling from Varian’s mouth, but in all honesty Val really didn’t care about it right now, she was far too occupied kissing the broad shoulders of the man she would happily admit she was madly in love with, whether he be prince or king, it didn’t matter to her in the slightest.

“Are you sure you’re alright Sweetheart?” She nodded, beginning to get as flustered as he clearly was. She was actually impressed that his speech was as cognitive as it was right now since it seemed all the blood had flooded to his shaft, which was starting to twitch with anticipation and looked by all accounts rather painful. “I’m fine, honestly. Keep going.” His strength was something to admire since it meant he had no need to lean against the wall when he kissed the underside of her breast, sucking on her like his life depended on it. She appreciated him easing her into it, but it was far past that point right now. “Varian please…”

His chuckle made her regret even saying it. “Eager, are we?” Val opened her closed eyes and tried to muster a smile through her hisses and pants. “You’ve looked bloody delicious all day, you can’t tease in the slightest.” Varian did exactly that, swiping two long fingers along her folds, licking them off after and looking impressed. “You weren’t joking, it’s been a while since you’ve been that excited.” Val answered with her own impish smirk, lazily running a hand down her breast and watching his eyes never leave her hand.

“That’s just because we haven’t made love that much since we got back together. I’m sure you’ll be seeing it alot more.” Varian jolted her so she sat higher against the wall and pressed against her, realising that this might be the last private moment they got for a while. “Do you still want me Sweetheart?” Val could feel herself tightening more with every brush against her. “Y-yes, yes my love. I’ll always want you.”

She knew it was soppy, but he understood that she meant it everytime she said it, and sheathed himself inside her quickly enough to take her breath away. His thrusts started off slow, like he was merely enjoying how tight she was, how she felt like she was made for him, it was all intoxicating to Varian and his fingers dug into her thighs hard enough to push Val over the edge instantly, with wave after wave of invigorating climax clenching around him, making it a personal mission of his own not to join her so quickly considering they’d only just started.

She had finished far too easily for his liking, and a wide smirk covered his face as he figured out what
must have taken place. “You started yourself off in the bath, didn’t you?” She took a gulp of air and
choked out one last moan before answering, linking her fingers on the back of his neck. “I might have…” It only made his hips move faster. “Wanted me that much, did you?” She cursed him, tightening her legs.

“I bet you’d love it if I said yes, wouldn’t you?” Her neck stung with his bite, but he didn’t relent on his grip; he knew this was the best way to make her thighs slick. Since they had first started making love he’d realised that she was quite the little dark horse, with one of her biggest enjoyments coming from biting whatever patch of skin he could find, whether it be her neck, her breast, her thigh, she didn’t care as long as it involved his teeth.

Varian was only too happy to oblige no matter what chides he’d receive from her the next day for leaving too obvious a mark, so he carried on as if his life depended on it, careful not to break her skin but still leaving a red ring where his mouth had been once he pulled away with a rather wanton sounding ‘pop’.

He could feel himself tightening in his own way, meaning this was going to end sooner rather than his preferred later, but he didn’t care, Val was clearly enjoying herself, the moans paired with the sweat on her brow and the wetness of her thighs told him that, so he had no qualms of lifting her from the wall and stumbling over to the bed, quelling her protests with kisses while he let go of her legs and put her down, confident that she wouldn’t care how rough he was planning on getting.

Before she could even question him, he had already bent her over, making her grateful that he couldn’t see just how giddy she was getting, chewing her bottom lip in anticipation and already scrunching the furs underneath her chest. His fingers occupied her folds and he pushed himself in with incredible ease now she’d climaxed, making her belly contract and her hips buck already. Her breast looked tiny when it was cupped by his large hand, with his other palm flat on the small of her back as he slammed himself into her, grunting like a wild animal with one breath and groaning with the other.

He felt himself begin to swell and cursed the world, disconnecting them despite her whines and letting one last satisfied groan fill the silence as he finished, managing to catch most of it and quickly leaving her to wash his hand, joining her in bed since she had taken that brief moment to climb in before the warmth their love making had brought wore off. Soon enough she was just where he wanted her, lying on his chest with a small, sleepy smile on her face.

“I think we need to attend balls more often.” Varian chuckled, tracing little shapes on her back with one arm behind his head. “Or we could just have our own in here every night. That way I don’t have to share you.” Val looked up at him, knowing exactly why he’d said it. “I can still come here some nights Varian, I’m not confined to Brill. I should be getting my own horse, so I’ll be coming frequently.” He sighed, staring in front of him. “I’m just…no, it’s ridiculous.”

Val squeezed him, seeing that something was clearly bothering him. “Tell me.” Her voice was gentle enough to make him want to discuss it, and for a good moment he managed to not open his mouth, but eventually ran a hand down his face. “I’m just not looking forward to sleeping alone, that’s all. It’s childish, I know.” Val sat up, cupping his cheek.

“Varian…you’ll be just fine without me. I’ll have leave at some point and we can spend the whole of it in bed if you want.” He appreciated her sincerity, but still felt a fool for it. “I’m a grown man Val, I shouldn’t be scared of going to sleep.” Val stroked his cheek with her thumb. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of though Varian. I would suspect you’re not the only one nowadays that can’t sleep.” Varian’s smile held no mirth.

“It’s not the actual sleeping that worries me, it’s staying that way.” She snuggled back down, pulling on his arms until he gave in and lay down with her. “Well for tonight I‘m still here, so try and get some sleep. If you wake up, I can join you and all will be right with the world.” Varian chuckled despite his mood. “You make it sound so simple.”

Her little fingers were in his hair, and he couldn’t help but worry about the fact that she was essentially going to war without him soon when it had always been the other way around. That thought in turn made him feel incredibly guilty since he finally realised how she had felt all those times it had been him leaving her, It was a truly horrible feeling and he didn’t like it one bit.

“Not everything has to be complicated Varian.” His face scrunched despite how nice her strokes on his head felt. “Really? That all it seems to be nowadays.” He opened his eyes and clenched his jaw. “Even loving you used to be simple.” She poked the tip of his nose. “We’re still here though.” He knew that, and wouldn’t waste this second chance they’d been given.“I know Sweetheart, and I don’t plan on letting you go anytime soon. They’d have to pry you from my cold dead hands.”

Val kissed his forehead, still playing with his hair. “If your hands were dead and cold Varian, mine wouldn’t be far behind them and you know that.” He did, and wasn’t sure whether he liked what she was implying or not. He held her closer, burying his nose in her hair.

“I love you.” Val wriggled under the furs once he pulled them up, watching him close his own eyes before she did. “I love you too.” Her gentle singing lulled him to sleep no matter how much he dreaded it, keeping his grip on her tight enough to reassure himself she was still there.

“And throughout the land, the people sang, their joyous cries did ring. From that day on, that lovely song, of the maiden and her king.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

Waking at five in the morning wasn’t completely unheard of to Val, but she would begrudgingly admit that she had become lazy since getting to Lordaeron, and felt rather sluggish the next morning, though that might have had something to do with the copious amounts of brandy she and Varian had shared.

He was still holding onto her even though neither of them were in the position they had started with last night, she was now on her stomach and he’d rolled onto his side next to her, with one arm over her hips and the other under his pillow, which had scrunched to hide half of his face.

She half heartedly pushed his arm away, stretching her mouth to crack the dry spit that had accumulated from the surprisingly decent sleep. Varian hadn’t awoken last night as far as she knew, so that was a sure sign that he’d managed to get a restful night as well, which was always gratifying.

Arching upwards like one of the cats that roamed the city, she cringed at the small pop her back gave, watching Varian’s face and smiling at how serene he finally looked, though that smile faded as she realized she was to ruin it by leaving the bed that was oh so very tempting to stay in.

Varian’s arm still hadn’t moved despite her attempt, so she saw no other option then to run her fingers through his hair, watching his eyebrows twitch and hearing a deep purr that was exclusive to her ears only rumble from his chest. Eventually one eye opened and looked up at her guilty face. “You’re not leaving already?”

She shook her head, knowing she wasn’t supposed to notice his arm pulling her to him again. “Not right this second. But I have to soon.” Both of Varian’s eyes opened and he frowned like she knew he would. “I still think this is a terrible idea.” Val smiled despite what he had said, still stroking his head.

“Only because you can’t come with me.” He huffed, warming her wrist as she begrudgingly lay back down. “Damn right. I’m supposed to keep you safe Val, I can’t do that-” She put a finger on his lips, rightly thinking it was too early for the argument they had already finished.Though she found it impossibly sweet that he wanted to look after her, she was a big girl and he wasn’t her husband, she needed to do something with her life that didn’t involve him for once, as much as she loved him.

“Varian, what did we say about this?” He sighed, taking her hand away and kissing her palm. “That I need to stop fussing and trust you, and I do Val, it’s just everyone else that I don’t trust at all.” Val linked their fingers, fully intending on getting out of bed in the next minute or so. “Then trust that I know who to trust and who isn’t worth trusting.”

Varian put a hand over his eyes. “Ugh, it’s far too early for your antics woman.” Val swung her legs out, ignoring Varian’s angry grunts and attempts to grab her, fishing out the green tunic she had grown quite fond of and throwing it over her head. “Do you have any idea what you’re in for?” Val shook her head, fixing the hood and smoothing her hair.

“No, but I’m very interested to find out. I’m sure I can handle it.” Varian’s haughty snort only made her smirk as she rolled her black breeches up her legs. “You’re cramming years of training into two months. Say goodbye to any feeling you have in every part of your body.” She turned, looking for the satchel she had packed the night before.

“Well it’s a good thing I have a certain King to help me relax every now and then, isn’t it?” Varian didn’t look as excited about the prospect as she thought he would be. “That’s if I end up having time Sweetheart. We’re both tackling our duties from now on remember.” Val put the strap over her shoulder, trying not to look glum about it. “I know, I just think optimism is always good to have.”

Varian heaved himself onto his feet, snatching his robe up and tying the belt, opening his arms and kissing her head once she was nestled in them. “Just be careful and don’t push yourself too hard.” He gave her a smile. “I’ll come up in a few days; I’ll make up some bollocks about assessing the troops.” She wrinkled her nose, flicking his bottom lip. “Check up on me you mean.” Varian’s brow furrowed. “What kind of husband would I be if I didn’t make sure you were alright?” Her face dropped and she played with the lapels of the blue quilted silk.

“You’re not my husband though, are you?” Varian’s blue eyes flooded with anguish. “No…no, I suppose I’m not.” His grip got tighter but loosened straight after, stepping back and clearing his throat. “Good luck Sweetheart. Despite my protests, I think you’ll do great. Just don’t take too much shit from anyone.”

She gave him a smile even though neither of them could shake the awkwardness in the air. “Thank you Varian. I’ll write as soon as I can.” Varian motioned to the door. “Go on, before I forbid you from going.” Val chuckled, giving him one last kiss before spinning on her heel and leaving the palace behind her.

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The encampment was just outside the small town of Brill, and although it was early in the morning, Val could already see that it was absolutely rammed. She thanked the boy that helped her from the wagon their little group had been brought here on, looking around and letting out a low whistle. “I had heard there were alot of applicants, but this is insane.”

The boy (she shouldn’t really have called him that since he looked the same age as her, but he had a baby face to die for) made a noise of agreement, handing her satchel to her and stretching to see where the sign in tent was.

“Tell me about it. I suppose most of them are from Stormwind.” Val couldn’t argue with that, in fact she was seeing faces she already knew, but most of them had been merchants or guards, not soldiers. “We better get a move on before they start thinking we’re not coming.”

Val was already way ahead of him, weaving in and out of bodies before she got to the line in front of the Stormwind banner, watching the boy go to the line that Uther Lightbringer himself was presiding over.

“He must be a Priest…” She murmured to herself, and chose to occupy the wait with actually getting a good look at her new surroundings. Tents were absolutely everywhere, in all sizes and every single one occupied. Varian had warned her that everyone’s induction was today so she had expected crowds, but the sheer number of people was a little overwhelming.

She swallowed down her fear and waited patiently until the man seeing to everyone waved her forward, a weary looking older man with a thin nose, steely eyes and a square jaw. “Name?” Val cleared her throat. “Valerica Glenmore Sir.” He looked down a list that was probably as long as her, scratching it with his quill and pulling another sheet of parchment from the pile, one that had her name emblazoned at the top. “Age?” Val didn’t hesitate to say “Nineteen.”

“Occupation?” Val swallowed, wondering why she was so suddenly nervous. “Blacksmith sir.” A salt and pepper eyebrow rose. “And you’re sure that you’re here to train and not be quartermaster?” She nodded. “I am sir. I have no interest in smithing for the moment sir.” he looked impressed. “Any previous training?”

She really didn’t want to mention that she knew Varian, since by the sheer fact that he hadn’t said anything made her think he didn’t know. “A little sir. A friend of mine is a knight of the Stormwind Guard.” He nodded slowly, motioning behind him. “Report to Captain Dayton Garside, tent three.” he gave her a quick smile. “Welcome to the Stormwind Army Miss Glenmore. Light be with you.”

She thanked him, knowing she had to get a move on, and scanned the plethora of white tents for the one that was signposted ‘Regiment 3’. she tried to look the picture of confidence when really all she wanted to do was run back to Varian and dive under their furs never to emerge again. “You can do this Val, have faith in yourself.”

Her voice was shaking as she said it, and when she eventually reached her new temporary home (she had enough of them by now) she straightened her back to the man that was clearly Captain Garside, a behemoth of a man with shaved black hair on his head, but a bushy beard on his chin.

His blue eyes held a stern undertone that she had expected in someone of his standing, but a smirk pulled at his lips as she clapped arms with him. “I’m impressed with how many women have answered the call. Name?” Val knew he didn’t mean it the way it sounded (at least she bloody well hoped he didn’t), so merely kept her face straight. “Glenmore sir.” Dayton nodded curtly. “And the one your mother gave you?” Val couldn’t help her snap before it flew from her mouth.

“My mother didn’t give me shit. My Father named me Valerica.” His brows snapped down and she realized she had just spoken back to a commanding officer, cringing and thinking that she was about to be dismissed already. “Sir, I didn’t mean-” He held a hand up. “Don’t mention the mother, duly noted. It seems you have spirit Glenmore, channel it properly and I’ll be interested to see where you go.” He bent as she entered the tent.

“Just keep that gob of yours for the orcs and we’ll all be grand.” He followed her in, standing in front of the twenty something people crammed into the space. “I’ll give you all ten minutes to make introduction and catch your breath, then it’s to the smith for your armour and weapons. Training starts at midday.” Val couldn’t help her smile as she realized that she’d be wearing the armour and not making it for once, it was an oddly satisfying feeling.

She put her satchel down to the first available bedroll, smiling at the man next to her as he did the same thing. “Your first day as well?” She nodded, holding her hand out. “Val, pleasure to meet you.” He shook it with a dopey grin on his boyish face. “Arin, Arin Holton.” He looked down, pushing his brown hair back from his eyes when he brought his head back up. “Looks like we’re going to be neighbours from now on.”

Val couldn’t help her chuckle. “Just tell me you don’t snore and we’ll get along just fine.” He laughed, looking strangely happy considering they were readying for war. “You say that like it’s from experience?” Val nodded, sitting down and crossing her legs, letting him do the same. “Va- my partner snores like a congested boar. It’s not his fault bless him, but after five years of sleeping next to it, you start to go a bit mad.”

Arin looked sympathetic. “I know the feeling, I was sharing with three of my brothers before I came here.” Val saw others unpacking what little they had brought so started doing the same. “Do you have many of them?” Arin shook his head. “I did, but the twins, Sam and George, they were down in Stormwind when it was attacked.” Val's face dropped. “I’m so sorry.”

Arin gave her a pained smile. “My mum didn’t want me coming here, but I couldn’t sit on my arse and do nothing, not after that.” Val furrowed her brow. “Mum?…You’re Gilnean?” He looked impressed. “You could tell just by that one word?” He chuckled at her nod. “Aye, I am.” He looked around, listening to the many voices surrounding them.

“Though I have to admit, I don’t think there’s many of us here.” Val made a noise of begrudged agreement. “I think that’s because of King Greymane if I’m honest.” Arin made a face. “That bloody wall of his has ruined our good city’s reputation. Everyone now thinks we’re pompous arseholes when really we’re not.” Val gave him a reassuring smile. “At least Prince Liam seems to have his head screwed on.” Arin’s eyebrow rose.

“You’ve met him?” Val shook her head faster than she probably meant to. “No, but I did see him after King Varian’s coronation yesterday…I was in the crowd.” Arin’s grin reappeared. “So was I, I won’t lie. King Varian is just…well, he’s bloody massive ain’t he! I’m shocked he’s not coming with us.” Val had to tread lightly to avoid him realizing the truth, at least for now.

She was adamant that these people would get to know her on her own merits before she even began to tell them of her romantic endeavours. “I think he needs to get used to the role of ruler for a while.” Arin leant back on his hands. “I feel sorry for Lady Tiffin.” Val’s brows snapped down. “Why?” Arin looked like a naughty child.

“Well, imagine having that brick shit-house on top of you every night! The poor woman’s going to have a dust column for a spine before long!” Val laughed far too loudly for far too long. Arin joined in purely because she was doing it, and waited patiently for her to finish before looking at her questioningly. “Well, I didn’t think you’d be so easily tickled.” Val wiped her eyes, taking a deep breath.

“No, I’m just wondering whether I should tell you that my husband’s pretty much the same size as King Varian and I’m just fine.” Arin’s brow wrinkled. “Husband? But you said partner before…” Val swallowed, trying to conjure up a lie. “Well, he’s not my husband yet, but I just like calling him it, you know?” Arin surprisingly smiled dopely. “That’s adorable. Any idea when you will be married?” Val shook her head, feeling guilty as hells for lying so much.

“No idea. We probably never will at this rate, but that doesn’t matter too much.” She gestured to him, trying to shift the attention. “How about you?” A small blush crept onto his cheeks as he shifted his shoulders. “I may have a girl at home…”

Val gave him the same grilling he’d given her. “Oh really? How long have you two been together?” Arin’s eyes looked faraway. “A couple of years. Shockingly she was the only one fully on board with me joining the army. And when we heard that King Greymane was coming to the capital to discuss an alliance, I took my chance and came with the rest of the Gilneans who actually want to help.

” Val folded her arms. “Does she have a name? This girl of yours?” Arin nodded, picking his nails. “Gwen. She works at the florist, and I must have looked a complete idiot going there every week.” Val chuckled. “Please tell me you at least bought something each time?” Arin snorted.

“I did; honestly, our house smelled like a bloody perfumery for the six months it took me to finally pluck up the courage to ask her to dinner.” He let their laugh die down before leaning in. “How did you meet your husband?” Val saw no reason to lie about this one, just merely tweak a few details. “We’ve known each other since we were small, our fathers were friends.”

Arin made a small ‘aw’. “So you grew up together?” She nodded, regretting bringing Varian up since it only made her worry about his stress levels today. “It was hard leaving him. There’s been very few occasions that we’ve been apart so long.” She lightly laughed. “Normally he’s the one going to war.” Arin’s head tilted. “He’s a soldier?”

She nodded, not expecting his next question. “So why didn’t he sign up?” Val swallowed, thinking of a semi truthful answer. “He has things to do up in the capital. It didn’t make sense for both of us to be here.” Arin slowly nodded as he thought about it. “Any children?” Val shook her head. “No, and I don’t expect there to be now.”

“Regiment 3 to the smiths! Step lively!”

Arin helped her up once he heaved himself onto his feet, putting his hands in the pockets of his trousers. “Would you want children at some point though?” Val shrugged, fixing the cuff of her tunic. “We’ll have to see how this campaign goes, won’t we?” She started laughing and it only made Arin more curious. “I’m just thinking how much I’m going to annoy this poor smith by nitpicking.” Arin still looked lost.

“Why would you be nitpicking?” She got in line with him, already grimacing at how basic the infantry armour was and itching to go back to the capital, use the forge there and modify it. “Because I’ve been a smith for nearly ten years, and that’s made me a bit of a snob as much as I don’t like admitting it.”

Arin looked impressed. “I wouldn’t have put you down as a smith.” Val cocked an eyebrow as she looked back at him. “What, because I’m a woman?” Arin hastily shook his head. “No! No, I meant because you’re small.” Val was very much aware that at five foot four she seemed tiny compared to some of the others here, hells, some of the other women were taller than her, but she certainly wasn’t little enough for it to be a teasing subject.

“I’m not that little.” Arin had to chuckle at her disdain. “How tall is your husband?” Val sputtered, fighting and failing to hold her face still. “….Six seven.” His laughter made her ear hot. “How in the fuck do you…?” Val’s face was going red from held in laughter.

“With alot of practice.” He wasn’t as skilled at resisting the jovial guffaws that were hidden behind his palm, and she looked back at him to find his face puce and tears welling in his eyes. “And yes, he does go on top. Most of the time, actually.” Arin shook his head, still with his hand clamped to his mouth. “No, shut up, I can’t take anymore without looking a right idiot.”

Val was glad she had hit it off with someone right away; loneliness had been one of her big fears since she had signed the call to arms, so to have someone laughing ‘with’ and not ‘at’ her was confidence boosting indeed. She decided to spare him more pain and folded her arms, patiently waiting her turn and wondering if there was any chance she knew the quartermaster here.

She didn’t, which she supposed was a blessing really since it meant her life story wouldn’t be shouted to absolutely everyone, and almost too quickly she was fitted into a suit of standard armour, with a cuirass that fit nicely on her considering most people assumed women needed special casings for their chests, which was utterly ridiculous (she had argued the toss with too many people saying it was a must have on their amour to count) matched with small pauldrons, greaves and gauntlets, and finished with blue leggings, a helm and brown leather boots.

All in all it was a very plain set, and the smith in her was itching to make it her own, but she knew she’d have to ask Captain Dayton. She was directed over to the weapon-smith and he took a good look at her. “What did you do before this lass?” Val’s smile held an ounce of confidence this time. “Blacksmith Sir.”

She put her boots, leggings and helm down, shifting uncomfortably as he inspected her. “Been doing it a while?” She nodded. “Six years sir.” He turned, bent, and handed her a one handed war-hammer. It had a leather covered wooden grip and a wrist strap at the end, with a head made of what she could tell was thick iron instantly.

From the weight of it as she turned it in one hand, it wasn’t hollow, but it was indeed heavy enough to make her feel her wrist aching already. “How does it feel?” Val smiled up at him. “I like it. It doesn’t feel too heavy.” He put his hands on his hips. “Any experience with other weapons?” Val nodded. “Pistol sir.” “And who taught you how to use that?” Val looked apprehensive. “…A pirate sir.” The grey haired man’s loud chortle made her want to jump.

“Well, I suppose they’re the best people to. Have you a gun on you?” Val shook her head. “No, it’s back at my lodgings in the capital.” He looked strangely disappointed. “Go and get it at the earliest convenience.” She firmly nodded. “Yes sir.” He waved her on, not seeing her look of glee as she scooped her things up and looked at the war-hammer that still sat in her hand, feeling more alive than she had in months. She was actually doing this, and she didn’t regret it at all.

Varian however, was regretting even getting out of bed this morning. The King of Stormwind knew he looked ridiculous standing here in front of his mirror with a face ‘like a slapped arse’ as Val would put it, shifting with every button of his dresscoat, but he didn’t care. “Gentlemen, I have brought you here today to discuss the dangers of the H-horde…Light damn it that sounds stupid Varian.”

Tiffin looked up from her sewing, frowning and putting it down to come behind him and squeeze his arms since she couldn’t reach his shoulders. “Calm yourself Varian, you can’t go down there shaking like a leaf.” Varian didn’t mean to snap but he did it anyway. “I’m not shaking!” Tiffin gave him a look and he sighed, looking at himself and thinking that no one down there was going to take him seriously in the slightest.

“This is probably the most important meeting of my life, and I have absolutely no idea what to say…I’m a useless piece of shit.” Tiffin had to laugh, doing his buttons for him since his quaking hands couldn’t put them through the roped loops. “No you’re not, you’re just having a crisis of confidence. I bet the second you walk into that council chamber everything will just flow freely.” Varian huffed, running a hand through his hair. “I know something that will be flowing freely, and I can categorically tell you it will not be my words.”

Tiffin retched, knowing exactly what he was talking about. “Thank you for that lovely image Varian.” The king however gave her a quick grin. “What? I was merely talking about ale.” She swatted his arm, passing him his newly made chain of office.

“I wonder how Val’s getting on.” Varian took a deep breath to calm his heart. “You had to pick the one subject that agitates me further, didn’t you?” Tiffin picked her sewing back up, leaning back in her chair while he put his boots on.

“It shouldn’t agitate you Varian, she’s doing what she wants, isn’t that a good thing?” He calmed himself before he snapped the comb he’d picked up. “Yes, but at the same time, this is entirely new to her, she doesn’t know what she’s in for and it’s my job-”

“To let her find out for herself whether she can handle it and be there as a support if she realizes she can’t.” Varian narrowed his eyes at her. “Is not what I was about to say, but yes I suppose you’re correct.” Tiffin’s grin annoyed him less than it probably should of since she was of course, right.

“Stop worrying so much Varian, she doesn’t need you to. She’s training, not running straight into battle.” Varian smoothed his hair, rubbing the back of his neck.

“…I’m being foolish, aren’t I?” Tiffin nodded, making him fight his own smile. “It’s quite sweet really, but at the same time Varian, you have to stop babying her. She’s a grown woman, not a child.” Varian snorted before he could stop it. “I bloody hope she is or I’m in big trouble.” Tiffin’s groan finally made him laugh, barely feeling her swat.

“How long until the meeting starts?” Varian fished in his pocket for the watch Val had given him for his last birthday (he always wore it, hence why it survived Stormwind) pulling the chain to it’s full length in order to read it. His eye may still be working but the cut Garona had left there had weakened it by a small enough margin just to be annoying.

“Really, I should be going down now.” Tiffin looked like she was scolding a child. “Then why aren’t you?” Varian tightened his jaw. “I was, I’m just…Damn it all, if this doesn’t work we never get Stormwind back, doesn’t that worry you in slightest?” She tried to look optimistic. “Varian, this will work. There’s no debate to be had anymore on whether the Horde are worth warring against, so what’s the worry?”

Varian twisted his Father’s signet ring, biting his bottom lip. “They’re not going to take me seriously.” Tiffin carried on sewing. “Yes they will, you’re the king, they have no choice.” She bit off the stitch and held up the tiny white gown, making Varian smile. “It’s wonderful.”

His smile straightened. “And you’re sure you want to do this now?” Tiffin looked to the bronze syringe sitting in a basin on the opposite side of the room. “The sooner we do, the happier we will all be.” She frowned despite how civil they were being. “You will love them, won’t you?”

Varian looked greatly insulted. “Of course I will! Don’t assume I wouldn’t simply because of who their mother is!” Tiffin stood, embracing him and feeling a small kiss on her head. “Any child of mine will be adored and you know it.” Tiffin sighed, letting him go. “I just needed to make sure. Now go on, before you’re late.” Varian patted her shoulder, slinging the blue aramis cape he snatched up over his own as he opened the door, turning around and opening his arms.

“Yes, you look fine, now go!” Jon was waiting against the wall for him, following when Varian beckoned him. “Ready Majesty?” Varian scoffed, slightly unnerved by how silent the palace was. “Not in the bloody slightest. Let’s just get this over with so I can drink myself to death.” Jon’s chuckle threatened to make him smile, something he wasn’t keen on doing right now.

“Ah I’m sure you’ll be fine Majesty.” Everyone else was naturally already there by the time Varian plucked up the courage to walk into the large council chamber, where a plethora of guards were standing behind their relevant charges and all staring at him as he made his way around the table, clasped Terenas’ hand and took a breath, facing his guests.

Of course he already knew The Greymanes, King Nevrakis and Lord Proudmoore were all in attendance, he’d seen them yesterday, and was thankful that King Trollbane and Perenolde had kept good on their promise to attend despite their absence from his coronation. He noticed Khadgar staring at the older man across from him and deemed him to be Archmage Antonidas of the nearby city of Dalaran, which in all honesty, he was surprised at.

The Kirin Tor had never really involved themselves in the affairs of their neighbouring kingdoms, it had earned them a less than unblemished reputation but Varian respected that he was here and bowed his head to the wizard, straightening and looking to Lothar, silently asking to be caught up.

“I’ve merely told our esteemed guests the backbone of why we’re here lad, I was waiting for you.” The utter disdain in the older man’s voice echoed how Varian felt about this whole thing, taking his seat as not to look as if he felt he was above everyone else here.

Arthas gave him a pained smile to his left while Terenas sat on his right, so at least he wasn’t within punching distance of Greymane, (Which, now he thought about it, was probably a deliberate move on the Menethil’s part). “Gentlemen, I trust you already know the urgency of this matter.” Nizaar was proving himself a great asset to both Varian’s kingdom and his sanity as he nodded first.

“We have all grown lazy since war has never properly come to our homes. Now it has, and we are all weak standing alone.” Varian gave the dark skinned man a grateful look. “Thank you Your Majesty. Nizaar speaks the truth, we all have become complacent. My father possibly most of all. We can’t afford to stay the way we are if we are to survive.” Arthas carried on before anyone could argue.

“We are already getting reports that the Horde is moving north, so it’s only a matter of time before each one of us is attacked. They don’t care who rules where, they just have one goal in mind, to conquer.” Lothar took his cue. “They want to wipe us out and claim Azeroth for themselves. The longer that portal stays open, they have troops, and they will bring through as many as they can.”

Varian wasn’t surprised at the one face that looked defiant. “They have Stormwind, which gives them the south. Why would they risk coming north now we know their ways?” Varian pinched the bridge of his nose, thanking Gregor for the ale he put in front of him and fearing it wasn’t going to be the only one he drank today. “Because they believe they have broken us by destroying Stormwind when we weren’t prepared for it. They are arrogant, they wish to strike at our lowest.”

Daelin ran a hand down his face. “You said they are on their way here, can that be confirmed?” Arthas nodded, passing him the same missive he had received and giving the man that at one point was to be his father-in-law a minute to read it. Varian’s eyes flickered to the blonde and he mouthed “are you alright?” as subtly as was possible for Varian to achieve.

Arthas’ stiff nod didn’t fill him with confidence, and not only did it tell him Jaina still refused to speak to him in a haunting echo of what had happened between he and Val, it told him that Daelin held contempt for the boy, making it a little awkward for those who knew what had transpired.

“I see nothing about ships, how are they travelling?” Lothar folded his arms, making his armour squeak. “They have wolves twice the size of men, they can probably cover a good distance in a matter of days.” Thoras looked to the map of the continent that lay in the middle of the table. “That would mean traversing Khaz Modan.” Terenas nodded. “Yes, so that gives us a small amount of time to prepare. We’ve heard nothing from the dwarves, so it’s safe to assume they haven’t arrived in the mountains yet.”

Varian met Daelin’s eye. “How ready is your navy Lord Admiral?” The moustached older man chuckled. “It’s been ready since you were in your cradle lad. We can easily change merchant ships to battle ones if need be.” Arthas begrudged speaking to him but knew it was necessary. “And will you provide ships to transport our soldiers down to Westfall once their training is complete?” Varian noticed that Proudmoore looked at him instead of the blonde when he answered.

“Aye. I believe this alliance you speak of Terenas will prove fruitful in the end.” Nizaar made a noise of agreement. “I have over ten thousand soldiers waiting for my command to sail to join them. We have already had our home threatened by the Trolls, I will not risk doing the same thing with the Orcs.”
He ran a jewelled hand down his face. “Especially since we have learned that they have made contact with each other.” Varian looked more surprised than he probably should have. “When was this?” Adil, who sat next to his Father, passed another missive down to the King of Stormwind.

“The Amani have repealed their assault on our northern shores, quite out of nowhere. We sent scouts to investigate why and they told us they found them in the Black Morass- by the portal. It’s only safe to assume that they’ve realized they have a common enemy…us.” Liam ran a hand through his hair. “So now we have them both to contend with, wonderful.” Genn shot his son a glare. “I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, they are aware that we know their ways, they’d be absolute fools to come here!” Varian pounded a fist on the table to quiet the rabble. “And we’d be fools to assume they wouldn’t!” His face fell into one of despair.

“Two hours. That’s all it took them to destroy Stormwind. Two measly hours.” He looked around at all of them. “Meaning they could raze all of our capitals in the space of a day…does that not scare any of you?” Liam bent his head, a deep sigh rocking his shoulders. “Father, Tess, mummy and I have all told you to come here and listen. So please, listen to what Varian is saying. We will all suffer if we segregate ourselves.” Genn didn’t look convinced in the slightest.

“Listen to a boy? Absurd. Tell me, if this is to be an ‘alliance’, why is King Varian acting like he’s lord of the bloody manor and above us all?” Terenas spoke before Varian could since he could see the brunette was close to exploding. “Varian has more knowledge of the Orcs than anyone at this table, so is the most fitting to instruct us on what to do.”

Varian gave Lothar a pleading look, and the old soldier put a hand on his shoulder. “Varian will be under my counsel when it concerns the war.” Genn huffed, making Liam cringe. “A war we have no business risking my people with.” Proudmoore ran a hand over his moustache. “Why did you come here Genn? Since you clearly don’t wish to help.” Genn put both elbows on the table. “I came in good faith and out of respect for good Terenas, but all I’ve heard so far is hogwash.”

Perenolde, a quiet, contemplative man, put a hand up. “What if war is not our only option?” He noticed the cautious looks. “Think about it, they came here to find what- just enemies to slay?” Khadgar chose his words carefully to not fuel Varian’s anger further.“The informant we employed in Stormwind told us that the orcs came here because their world was destroyed.”

Perenolde steepled his fingers. “So they need a home, somewhere to live in peace.” Nizaar put his head in one hand. “He’s not seriously suggesting this…” Varian felt the same as the Samarkandan King, but chose to hear Perenolde out in case Light forbid he wouldn’t go the route he was perceived to be going with.“What if we merely tried to speak to the leader of the Horde and see if we cannot negotiate a truce with them in exchange for the things they want?” Lothar’s jaw tensed. “We tried that and were sent back our men in pieces.” Varian clenched both fists.

“None of you are recognizing the danger we are all in. Countless lives are on the table and only three of you have acknowledged that fighting back is our only option.” Genn straightened his back, clearly not done ripping Varian’s patience apart. “And after we help you get Stormwind back, what then? You’ll be the only southern Kingdom again, you’ll be of no use to us.” Varian stood so quickly his chair was flung backwards. “I will do whatever I have to in order to stop the Horde, don’t call me a coward Genn or I swear I-”

“Enough.” Khadgar noticed that even Genn fell silent at the smooth but commanding voice of Archmage Antonidas, with Varian sitting back down once his chair was righted by Gregor. The old man looked at every face and folded his hands. “For years, the Kirin Tor have received messages of requested aid against the orcs. But we did not listen. We thought the orcs a trivial problem, nothing to be fearful of. I concede today that we were wrong, terribly wrong.” He met Varian’s gaze. “I vowed not to make that mistake again, and that is exactly what denying the threat of the Horde is, a mistake.”

Genn, for once, said exactly what Varian was thinking. “And what reason did you have to think so little of their threat? If you were refusing calls of aid then, how can we trust you’ll answer them now?” Antonidas didn’t even flinch at the scathing accusation. “For every sorcerer we had, they had thirty more. Their magic use is potent and unknown, making it too much of a risk.”

Lothar looked gravely at them all. “This is not a matter of who is stronger than who. We either work together or we die, it’s that simple.” Varian took a deep breath and flattened his palms on the table. “I don’t think any of us would be here if we didn’t want the same goal. Let’s use the limited time we have to discuss how each of us could benefit this new alliance and what our next plan of action is. Are we all agreed?” A small, pregnant pause was his answer until Liam nodded.

“Gilneas is with you Varian. I formally pledge our allegiance to Stormwind and Lordaeron.” Genn threw his son a dirty look, but nevertheless nodded. Nizaar and Adil gave him both their wide smiles. “Samarkand is yours.” A small chorus of pledges made Varian’s hopes rise more than he dreamed they would. The foundations were lain, now all they needed to do was act upon them.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------

Val could feel every inch of her legs and chest burning. Her regiment hadn’t even finished their second two mile run of the day, but she was more than ready to just drop onto the floor.

“If this is the first day, I’m dreading the weeks ahead.” Thankfully Arin had kept pace with her and to their credit, they were still with the rest of the group, so they were doing well all things considered. Val laughed despite herself, glad that they hadn’t suited up for this and were all in tunics and linen breeches.

“At least we’re working off our Winter Veil bellies, imagine how we’re going to look in two months!” She nudged him, surging ahead and grinning as he came to meet her and Carson Eastcroft, another man from their regiment that Val had become quite friendly with as they all had lunch together earlier.

As was the norm here he was a tall, well built man with short, spiky dark hair and stubble on his chin and cheeks. “Come on Holton keep up!” Arin flipped him the bird, seeing their destination in sight. “Go fuck yourself, this is the most I’ve run in my life! I was actually quite proud!”

Although the air had the biting chill of February on it, they were all dripping with sweat, and by the time Val’s boots hit the sand that marked the end of their run she had to run both hands down her face and take a large gulp of air. Carson rolled his shoulders, clearly no stranger to this, clapping hands with Hemming, a skinnier blonde who looked more like a bard than a soldier. Arin bent over with his hands on his knees, trying to get his breathing under control.

“By the time our training is up we’ll run that in five minutes with our eyes shut!” Arin laughed but it held no humour. “Speak for yourself you prick, I plan on surviving.” Val felt strangely invigorated considering she was as tired as Arin, practically bouncing on the spot as the Captain came over.

“Regiment three, fall in!” she was impressed by how quickly they all formed two lines with about forty people, and put her hands behind her back and her feet apart, trying not to smile at how quickly she had picked these little details up considering it had only been about six hours. Carson glanced down at her with a smirk, looking forward when his name was called.

“All of you, drop.” Arin was biting back a groan as Val sprung forward, catching herself on both palms and pushing up onto her toes. “Thirty rises, you have a minute, go.” The moment of bliss finally finishing their run had brought faded completely as her thighs protested with all their might, but Val was determined not to fuck up, not on her first day.

“Damn, that husband of yours must be one happy man if you can move that fast.” Val sputtered, looking over at Carson after making sure Captain Garside wasn’t watching. “Shut the fuck up.” All he did was throw her a wink and she couldn’t help but laugh to herself, since if the man ever found out exactly who Val was with, he would hopefully turn the flirting down a few notches.

Carson was a very cocky man, she had realized this within five minutes of meeting him, but it was the kind of cocky she was used to from going to Bloodstone on a regular basis, so she wouldn’t find herself getting flustered and panicked at harmless flirtation. He helped her up once they were all done, sweeping a hand through his short hair. “How you enjoying military life so far?” Val’s grin was genuine. “I’m absolutely loving it.”

“Glenmore, Eastcroft, stop making soppy eyes at each other and fall in!” Arin huffed as they once again lined up, eyeing the taller man. “You know she’s married, don’t you?” Carson scoffed. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be nice Holton, calm your tits.” Arin looked half amused, half disgusted. “’Nice’. If that’s your nice I’d hate to see what your ‘really nice’ is.”

Carson chuckled, a deep, rumbling sound that reminded Val of Varian, making her miss him even though it’d only been a day.“I’m not into that Holton, sorry.” Val was fighting to keep her laugh in her chest, especially since Captain Garside was sweeping the line. “This is only a taste of what’s to come in the next couple of months, and a piece of piss compared to what you’ll face with the Horde. Those who feel they’re not up to it, leave now and stop wasting my time.”

Val was pleased to see that she, Arin, Carson and Hemming all stayed where they were. About four people left the group to her surprise, but Carson looked as if he’d seen this before. “Good, means they won’t get in our way.” Garside took a deep breath. “Today has shown me what you’re all capable of physically. Tomorrow we start combat training. To the mess tent with all of you, lights out in two hours. Dismissed.”

Arin and Val both sighed in relief at the same time, making the other laugh. Carson put his arm over Val’s shoulders, and even though she knew it was inappropriate, she was far too exhausted to try and get it off. “Have you two had any combat experience?” Val nodded. “My husband trained me with a blade briefly, and taught me the basics of archery.” Arin cocked an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say a pirate taught you to shoot a gun as well?” Carson looked impressed. “A gun? That’s not very ladylike.” Val shrugged, barely moving his arm.

“You’ll find out soon that I’m anything but a lady.” Carson scoffed. “Good, I’d fucking hate having a puffball by my side through this slog.” He looked to Arin. “And you?” Arin shrugged as if it were nothing. “Father was a carpenter, mother was a seamstress, so basically nothing, but I’m willing to learn.”

Surprisingly, Carson nodded. “But you can use your hands, so that’s a start.” Arin gave him a bashful smile. “Thanks, I appreciate it.” Once they were settled with their food- a small bowl of Westfall stew- Hemming, who had a thin face that looked slightly intimidating, smiled and put Val at ease about him. “So, who’s waiting for you lot when you go home?” Kaylie Thorpe, a stern looking woman with tied back black hair and a pale complexion shrugged.

“Absolutely no one. Lost them all when Northshire fell.” Carson swallowed his mouthful, grunting angrily. “Fucking tragedy, that was.” Val looked up at him since she was sitting on the floor and he was perched on a box. “Where do you hail from then Car?” He huffed.

“Kul Tiras. Started off in the navy, came over to Lordaeron.” Arin played with his spoon. “You got anyone?” Carson shook his head, but Val noticed his eyes turn steely. “Did once. Little bitch ran off the minute I left for service.” Hemming looked sympathetic, which Val suspected wasn’t what Carson wanted.

“That’s awful.” Carson shrugged, like it didn’t matter to him anymore. “Means I get to do whatever I want without worrying what she’s going to think, so I’m grand.” He gave Arin a teasing smile. “What about you? Surely some girl loves that baby face of yours?” Arin’s face went red and it only egged the older man on. “There is, isn’t there! Come, spill your guts, who is she?” Arin’s smile was a dopey one that told Val just how much he cared for Gwen.

“Just a girl back home, that’s all.” Hemming put his empty bowl on the ground. “Are you married?” Arin shook his head. “No, we’ve barely started courting. I plan on doing it one day though.” Kaylie nudged Val. “You’ve barely told us about this husband of yours Glenmore, give us the details, how did you meet?” Val had to tread carefully since she knew Kaylie was from Elwynn.

“Our parents were friends, we’ve known each other for years.” Carson brushed the crumbs that the bread they’d been given from his palms, clucking his tongue. “You haven’t even told us his name yet! I’m starting to think he’s not real!” Val knew Varian would forgive her for this eventually, so shakily she blurted. “Vincent. His name’s Vincent.” Arin made a small ‘aw’. “That’s adorable that you both have the same letter.”

Val snickered, feeling her forehead start to get sweaty.“Yes well, blame our parents for that one.” Hemming carried on the interrogation. “And how long have you been married?” Val swallowed. “Well, we’re technically not yet, it’s just when you’ve been with someone so long it’s practically marriage by this point, you know?” Thankfully he nodded, but she had noticed Kaylie peering at her since she had given Varian’s ‘name’.

“Any particular reason you’re staring at the girl Kay?” The black haired woman shook her head. “No, sorry, I was just convinced I’d seen you in Stormwind before it got destroyed.” Val felt her throat tighten. “You stayed in Stormwind after Northshire then?” Kaylie nodded, still narrowing her eyes. “I could swear you were with the Prince.”Carson’s laugh was loud enough to make Val jump.

“No way in all hells Kay. I’ve seen the king’s wife to be, and those two are the complete opposite of each other. Are you sure you passed the sight test?” Thankfully laughter broke out, making Val relax as Kay squeezed her shoulder. “Sorry, I just get a bit muddled every now and then.” Val patted her hand, drinking from the flask that Carson was passing around.

“So do I, trust me. Everything’s been so up in the air since Stormwind fell, I haven’t known my left from my right.” Arin’s face turned worryingly serious. “Did you lose anyone in the attack?” Val slowly nodded, feeling her eyes hurt with impending tears. “My brother...he went to save some trapped people and the place was bombed.”

She twisted so they could see her back, reaching behind her and pulling the neck of her tunic down, getting a low whistle from Carson. “That’s when I got these.” She felt the older man’s thick fingers running over the small patch he could see, exhaling as he pulled back. “Fuck…you must’ve gone right up to scar like that.” Val made a noise of affirmation.

“I did. I was wearing a silk dress at the time so it caught instantly. It’s only because a friend of mine was with me that I got put out.” Hemming frowned, lighting a cigar he shouldn’t really have brought with him and offering it to everyone to share. “Do you miss him?” Kaylie gave him a dirty look. “What kind of fucking question is that?!”

He held both hands up, trying to ignore Carson’s snickers. “Well you never know, they might’ve hated each other!” Surprisingly, Val was laughing along with them despite the painful subject. “Well, you’ll be happy to know that I loved him beyond measure. He was all I had for the past three years.”

Kaylie looked as glum as she felt. “It’s so hard, having them there one day, and then having to adjust to life without them the next.” Carson ran a hand down his face, taking a drag of Hemming’s cigar and giving it to Val after she reached for it. “Then it’s a good thing we’re here to make sure those bastards don’t kill anymore.” Arin nodded in agreement.

“Westfall first, then down to Stormwind…anyone else terrified?” Val and Kaylie raised their hands at the same time, making each other laugh. Carson gave them a grin and put a hand on his knee. “Ah, don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” Hemming cocked an eyebrow. “And just how do you know that?” Carson was laughing before he even spoke.

“Why, because I’m here of course!” They all burst into a fit of giggles at his false bravado, with Val kicking his calf. “Light, I thought my old man was a cocky git.” Kaylie put her head on Val’s shoulder, feeling the day catch up with her. “What’s he like though, your husband?” Val’s smile took a dreamy turn that made Arin grin himself.

“He’s brash, he grumbles about everything, and I’ve called him a man ape more times than I can count…” Her eyes glassed over as she stared into space. “But then in the next breath, he’s the most gentle, loving, caring human being on Azeroth. It’s as if he can just sense if I’m upset about something, and without a word he’ll just hold me for as long as it takes…”

Kay sighed happily, but the romantic atmosphere her little speech had made was broken by Carson’s loud fake retch, making Val reach over and swat him again. “Carson! Let the girl have her moment!” The large man rolled his eyes. “Oh please, that lovey dovey crap is the most ridiculous shit I’ve ever heard!” Arin glared at him, clearly not agreeing. “Everyone is entitled to feel love Car, it’s not unheard of.” Carson huffed, standing up and brushing his backside down.

“In this place love is a hindrance above everything. We may not be coming back to that husband of yours, or that girl of yours. Face facts, all you’re doing is hurting them.” And with that any sense of a jovial mood dissipated and was replaced with melancholy enough that Val wanted to see Varian more than ever even though it had been a day.

She was readying her bedroll when lights out came along, with Kay’s ponytail tickling her shoulder as she bent behind her and whispered. “Val…I have to ask…you are the woman I saw with the king, aren’t you?” Val turned enough to tell the older woman that she was listening.

“…please, for the love of the Light don’t tell anyone.” Kay came in front of her and crossed her legs, hugging her knees. “Why? What’s the problem?” Val was grateful that she kept her voice down, since Carson was snoring in the bedroll above where her head would be, and Arin was reading in the one next to her.

“Think about it Kay, if everyone knows I’m with Varian, I’ll be known as the slut that sleeps with a king, they’ll rip me a new one for it.” Kay took a long minute to think about it but eventually nodded. “Fine, I won’t say a word.” She smiled, letting her knees down.

“I think what threw me is the hair. When I saw you last it was really long.” Val’s hand instinctively went to her head, running her fingers through it. “You can blame the fire for that one. I’ll admit, I panicked when you said about knowing me earlier.” Kay shrugged as if it were no big deal. “I just wanted to know whether I was going mad or not.”

“Thorpe, Glenmore, back to your beds.”

Val shared a small laugh with Kay as the raven haired woman patted her shoulder, going to the other side of the tent. Val took her boots off, slid under the fur flap of her bedroll and poked Arin’s back, trying to hold in her laughter as they both laid down to feign sleep, facing each other. “So, what did you think of today?” Val gave him a small smile. “It actually went alot better than expected. What about you?” Arin looked slightly apprehensive. “I think once I get into the swing of things I’ll feel better about it.”

They both looked at Carson as he let out a particularly loud snore, both chuckling to each other. “So….feel like home?” Val grinned, snuggling down more. “What, with a snoring beast of a man lying next to me? It’s like I never left.” Arin bit a knuckle to muffle his laughter, taking a deep breath. “I suppose we should really get some sleep.” Val made a tiny noise of agreement. “Night Arin.” He smiled at her, closing his green eyes. “Night Val.”

Val let him drift off, staring into space and thinking about the past day and whether she was impressed with herself or not. It was only the first day, she had to remember that, and in fairness to herself, she hadn’t cried, or said anything about quitting, or actually done the deed, so that was something at least. She finally closed her eyes, feeling her muscles start to ache now she was relaxing them.

She soon opened her eyes again and looked up, furrowing her brow and using the same remedy she did when Varian was snoring too loud, reaching up and sharply slapping Carson’s forehead, whipping her arm back and closing her eyes as he woke with a grunt, laughing as quietly as she could. “Fucking bitch.” She carried on laughing until she fell asleep, hoping she could find a bit of time to see Varian at some point in the coming days before they left for Westfall.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

Tiffin could tell Varian was in a foul mood the minute she let Wyll in with their breakfast and all the king did was growl and grunt at him. She knew why he was this angry, of course she did, but it didn’t warrant his abuse of the man. He was still in bed, refusing to move and fully intending to vegetate for as long as possible.

She sat by the lump that was Varian, folding his arms. “Varian, get up, this is ridiculous.” She would give him credit, he obeyed, but albeit incredibly childishly, with huffing and a scowl etched across his face all the while he threw the covers away and snatched up his clothes. “Varian…”

“Two months. Nearly two damn months since I’ve seen Val! This is driving me insane!” Tiffin frowned, crossing one leg over the other. “Varian, she’s probably busy! It’s not like she’s gone to Brill for a jolly jaunt, she’s probably exhausted of an evening and training during the day!” Wyll carried on serving their meal, looking highly amused at how petulant his master was being. “Besides which, she’s sent letters, what else do you want from her?”

As if it were his cue, Wyll cleared his throat, handing Varian the latest missive from his sweetheart. “Thank you Wyll. Apologies for snapping at you old friend.” Wyll chuckled, pouring coffee for him and tea for her. “It’s water from a duck’s back at this point Your Majesty.” Varian opened her letter, relieved to hear that in the past forty eight hours since her last one that nothing had happened, as ridiculous as even he knew that sounded.

“Well? Is she alright?” Varian glared at Tiffin’s amused tone, passing her the parchment. “Yes, she is.” He sighed, running a hand through his loose hair and taking a long sip of his drink. “It’s just frustrating knowing she’s not that far away but it wouldn’t be considered appropriate to go and see her.” Wyll finished making their bed (as much as they always told him he didn’t need to), looking up at the king.

“Well it has been nearly two months Your Majesty, maybe it’s time you inspected the troop?” Varian couldn’t help his own smirk at the groom. “Wyll Benton, are you suggesting I go under false pretences?” Wyll put his hands behind his back. “Not at all, I’m merely suggesting you take an opportunity since it’s there.” Varian met Tiffin’s eye.

“What do you think?” Tiffin shrugged, carrying on with her latest sewing project. “Why would I object? If it makes you less of a pain to live with, go for it.” She had started laughing before her sentence had even finished, especially at his dirty look. “I’m going to ban you from seeing that damn pirate before long Tiffin, he’s rubbing off on you in all the wrong ways.”

Tiffin was still smiling despite the veiled threat. “You can’t tell me who I see as much as I can tell you not to love Val, Varian. But nice try.” Varian deliberated for a minute more before clapping Wyll’s bony shoulder. “Take your leave for the day Wyll, I’ll depart for Brill after breakfast.” Tiffin waved the loyal old servant off, appreciating Varian’s affectionate kiss on the cheek.

“Any signs yet?” She shook her head, squeezing his hands. “If there were Varian, I would have told you by now. Have patience, it’ll happen when it wants to.” She noticed his guilty look. “What’s wrong?” Varian hated how transparent he was sometimes.“I just feel bad getting excited about a child when- and please don’t take this the wrong way- when it’s with the wrong woman.”

Tiffin sympathized entirely, cupping his stubbled cheek. “Val understands why it has to be done Varian.”He straightened, opening his drawers and finding the underclothes he kept specifically to go under his armour. “I know that, but it still makes me feel guilty as all hells.” Tiffin put her sewing down and folded her hands.

“She would want you to be the best father you can be, not to feel guilty over it. We all know where we stand, isn’t that what matters?” He exhaled slowly, throwing the pile he’d accumulated onto the bed. “I know that, I’m just being ridiculous, ignore me.” Tiffin stood, squeezing his arm. “You’re doing what you need to for your people Varian, there was never any other choice. The only thing for us to do is make the best of it.” She smiled up at him. “Besides, Cillian’s already told me that Val is more than excited to spoil our little one.”

Varian grimaced, but not out of guilt this time. “I swear, if she overspends on silly presents I’m going to lose my temper with her.” Tiffin tutted, opening their curtains now he was up and about. “Varian, let her have her fun for Light’s sake, it’s the least we can do.” Varian’s stony look didn’t move despite the smile that was threatening to crack it. “So…you and Captain Beaufort…”

Tiffin’s look told him that she knew exactly why he’d used his title and not his name. “Are none of your business.” Varian huffed, folding his arms. “It is one hundred percent my business if I have to look at you two canoodling all day every day.” Tiffin laughed, speaking before she really thought about what she was saying.

“So now you know what it’s like watching you and Val.” Varian’s face dropped and she cursed herself instantly. “Varian, that’s not what I-” He was already in the washroom, slamming the door behind him. Against her better judgement she leant on the door, knocking softly. “Varian, I didn’t mean it that way.”Varian splashed his face, not really wanting to listen.

He was greatly offended at the comparison between the two ‘couples’; he knew she and Cillian wouldn’t last more than a week, that wasn’t the pirate’s way, so to insinuate that he and Val were anything close to a fling was deeply insulting.

He didn’t want to remind Tiffin that if things had gone his way, he and Val would be celebrating their third wedding anniversary by now, so there was no way Tiffin could even allude to the four of them being equal. He needed to see her, this clinched it. He dried his face, opening the door and not caring that Tiffin was right there. “Varian, I’m sorry.” He looked down at her, trying not to lose it. “I’ll be back in a couple of days at most. I plan on getting some training of my own done whilst I’m there. I need to get involved more.”

Tiffin knew not to even attempt arguing with him when he used that tone and merely nodded. “I’ll pack you a bag.” Varian shook his head. “No, I’ll make do. I want to leave as soon as possible.” Tiffin sighed, knowing she’d really put her foot in it this time. “Varian, I really am-” He put a hand up. “Sorry, yes, you said. You know where I am if you need me.”

Tiffin watched in silence as he donned his armour, helping him fix some of it even though he clearly didn’t want it. “Tell Val I said hello, and stay safe.” He grunted, strapping his gauntlet on. “That’s if I even see her. There’s probably about seventy thousand people there.” Tiffin was glad he was merely talking to her again, so didn’t stop there.

“Surely you can find out what regiment she’s in?” Varian’s jaw was tighter than a miser’s purse. “I could. And probably will.” Tiffin did her best not to flinch, but her eyes screwed shut at the bite in his voice. “Then I’ll see you when you get back.” His hand faltered on the doorknob and he turned to her. “I’ll see you soon.” That was the best she was getting, she could tell, and merely waved him off, jumping at the bang of the door.

Varian instructed Jon to stay at the palace and keep an eye on Tiffin, feeling no qualms about telling him that Cillian was not to go into her chambers, no matter how much protestations he received. Tiffin wouldn’t like it but he didn’t care, the pirate was trouble and he didn’t want him hanging around like a bad stink. Thankfully the prick was going back to Bloodstone tomorrow, so it would be one less problem for him to deal with, but until then he would not encourage such a ridiculous liaison.

“Are you alright Majesty?” Varian ran both hands down his face. “I will be when I get out of this damn building….why is it so quiet?” Jon shrugged, not quite noticing it until it was pointed out. “I’m sure there’s a simple explanation.” Varian didn’t like the silence of the place, and after bidding Jon farewell, went to investigate, finding his first line of questioning in the form of Arthas’ sister, who thankfully crossed his path as he crossed the throne room.

“Calia, where is everybody?” She looked grave, with her thin blonde brows drawing down.“I was actually just sent to come and get you. Father has need of you in the council chamber.” It was as if Varian could feel his very soul wither. “What, now?” Calia nodded, already turning. “Yes, now. Apparently it’s important.” Varian inwardly cursed the world. “Fine, fine, I’ll leave later.” Calia looked confused as he went past her. “Leave? Where are you going?” Varian huffed, hating today already. “Apparently nowhere!”

He soon found out why the palace itself was so quiet; everyone of import was gathered in the council chamber, including Lothar and Terenas, who were standing at the centre of the table with the rest of the leaders, all making more noise than the other. Arthas noticed his appearance and came to meet him, clapping arms. “What’s happened?”

Arthas gestured over to his Father, and Varian finally realized that King Magni Bronzebeard was standing with him, telling him all it needed to. “Khaz Modan has been hit.” Arthas started walking back and Varian joined him. “Ironforge and Gnomeregan still stand, for now. It seems Doomhammer underestimated just how steadfast the dwarves and gnomes are, but he took down the rest of the settlements like they were paper.” Varian bowed to Magni, who showed him the same respect.

“My condolences to you Your Majesty.” Magni slowly nodded. “Aye, and mine ta ya as well lad. Ah wish we didn’t have ta meet under these circumstances.” Varian and the Dwarven King had only met a handful of times, but the King of Stormwind respected Magni greatly, since not only was he a great ruler, but he was one of the nicest men Varian had the pleasure of knowing.

“What’s the current situation?” Magni ran a large hand down his knee length beard. “Doomhammer tried ta break down our gates, but after wha’ happened ta Stormwind we prepared in advance. After collapsing the main underground tunnels, we reinforced tha gates and he called off his assault after nearly a month of tryin’ and failin’. Ah have ta commend them for their persistence.”

Varian looked to Lothar. “That means he’ll head north to take us on faster than we thought.” Lothar gravely nodded. “Aye, so I’ll be taking the troops down to Hillsbrad to hold the border.” Varian attempted and failed miserably to hide his worry. “How soon?” Terenas put a hand on his shoulder, not reassuring him at all. “As soon as possible, the next few days even.” Varian felt his chest tighten. “Give me a day to prepare and I’ll come with you. I can’t sit here idle anymore.”

Terenas shook his head. “You have a wedding to prepare for.” Varian was losing it with every mention of the damn thing. “I can come back for it! Lothar, I am the King of absolutely nothing already, let me at least protect the people who still need me.” Terenas and Lothar shared the look of two parents trying to decide whether they would let their child go outside and play or not, it was absolutely infuriating.

“I’m young, but I’m still your King, Anduin. I’m not budging on this. Everything that takes place in the north, I want to be a part of. End of story.” Magni was the one who eventually chuckled. “Nice ta see ya have-nae lost yer spirit laddie.” He looked up at a clearly nervous Terenas. “He’s up fer it Terenas. What else can we say except yes?” Lothar wasn’t convinced.

“If you die, Stormwind is without a king.” Varian straightened his back. “And if I don’t give what I can, a king is without Stormwind. Which would you prefer?” Lothar looked hard at the boy he’d watched grow into a man in the space of two months, debating in his head whether he was holding him back, or saving his life.

“Fine. But you don’t leave Lordaeron. When -and if- we go to Stormwind, or the Black Morass, you stay here. No buts.” Varian held his hand out and the two shook on it, with their faces not moving. “All of you, sit, please. The council is about to begin.” They took Terenas’ instruction, watching Liam and Genn Greymane come in with the Nevrakis’ and sit down with the rest of the kings and leaders.

“This had better be important Terenas.” Magni stood, clearly knowing already that getting to the point straight away would be the best option. “Khaz Modan has been a victim of the Horde, and ah am here ta ask for your aid in clearing the orcs and rebuilding my towns and villages.”

Genn instantly looked furious. “We have already pledged every resource and body we have to the Alliance! We have nothing to spare for the dwarves!” Terenas stood with Magni, raising a hand. “Peace Genn. I have already discussed that very problem with Magni and come to a solution that benefits all.” Genn looked skeptical, but a glare from a clearly exasperated Liam made him stay quiet.

“We have discussed the potential decision to bring the dwarves and gnomes of Dun Morogh into the alliance.” Varian closed his eyes as the murmur kicked up instantly, with the men around the table all deliberating separately on what the best solution was. Eventually Nizaar and Adil clucked their tongues. “What have you left for the war effort, my friend? Your…’bargaining chip’?” Magni didn’t seem offended by the question, and rolled his large shoulders.

“My smiths are waiting to strengthen your weapons, and with the gnomes help, we can make war machines that the Horde wouldn’t even dream of having.” Nizaar looked impressed. “I have heard great things of the smiths of Ironforge. We say aye without hesitation.”Antonidas nodded his head, steepling his long fingers.

“The more help we can acquire, the easier our task will be.” Magni’s face softened as around the table the word ‘aye’ rang out- excepting two, one of which Varian was already expecting. “If we give equal power to all of us for the continent…why bother having kings at all?”

Perenolde’s voice was quiet, and Varian had to strain to hear it. Genn huffed haughtily, gesturing to the king of Alterac. “He’s right, I didn’t work to make my kingdom respect me just to have every other Tom, Dick and Harry move in and lay down their rules. We will be stretched too thin helping every case that comes begging for aid until we shoot ourselves in the foot.” Liam put his head on the table, clearly at his breaking point, lifting it and throwing both hands up.

“You know what Father, I’m done. I am sick to bloody death of your stubbornness, it’s doing nothing but putting Gilneas in danger! I have a million and one other things I could be doing right now, people I could be seeing, but instead I’m sitting here listen to you condemn our people.” He stood, clearly with the intention to leave. “Liam, sit down.”

Varian’s voice was unnervingly calm. The redhead cocked his eyebrow. “Why when he’s-” He pointed to his seething father, “-wasting my time?” Varian took a long, deep breath in through his nose, putting his chin on his linked fingers. “Because I told you to sit down and trust me.” Liam still looked reluctant, but hesitantly took his seat again.

“Lad?” Magni had no idea what turn Varian was taking with this, but let him take the centre stage for now. “How many are in Gilneas, at this very moment?” Genn looked surprised by the simple question. “Why does it-” Varian lifted a finger. “Answer the question Genn.” Genn ran a hand down his moustache and over his beard.“Three hundred thousand. Why?” Varian put his hands down and motioned to Turalyon, Lordaeron’s head priest.

“Exarch. Can you do something for me please?” the blonde nodded with uncertainty. “Can you build me three hundred thousand caskets and have them delivered to Gilneas?” There was a unanimous look of horror, but Genn looked as if he were to explode as he pounded a fist on the table. “How dare you!-” Varian leant back, like Liam he had better things he could be doing when it was an obvious choice to make.

“Since you clearly think you can hold your own Genn, be my guest, but when your kingdom is in ruins and your people dead, you will come crawling back to us with apologies on your lips, you don’t need to be a clairvoyant to see that. Magni is offering us more for our armies, more resources, resources we are sorely lacking. You can either doom your people to die, or get your head out of your arse for once and seize a good deal when it’s waved in front of your face, your choice.”

Varian looked at all of them. “I will not repeat myself. The only way we will all survive this is to work together and become a unified force. Alone we fail, together we have the chance to succeed. All those in favour of inducting the Dwarven and gnomish races to the Alliance say aye.”

He must have finally gotten through to the Gilnean king, since, and albeit reluctantly, he pushed the word ‘aye’ from his throat. Magni clapped Varian’s shoulder as the younger man rose, giving him a sincere smile. “Now gentlemen, if you excuse me, I did actually have plans today.”

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Val had never felt so alive as she did right that minute. The past two months had been tough, but she had worked her arse off, knuckled down, and she could safely say she was very much in the mindset of a soldier by this point. The training had been intense and exhausting, but she found every second of it invigorating. She was used to getting up before the sun, so that didn’t bother her, and then a wash in the lake, two mile run, drills that finished at ten, five minute break, hand to hand before lunch and weapons training until the sun went down.

She had adapted to her routine better than she expected to, and it showed just looking at her. Her hair was getting longer by the day (she’d actually had to steal Kay’s hairbrush a few times), her muscle tone was more prominent than it’d ever been, she was more alert….it was like she’d been struck by lightening and was running on full cylinders again, it was a glorious feeling.

Even her love for smithing had been reignited; as soon as she could have she gained permission from Garside to use the quartermasters anvil at night, working her arse off and re introducing herself to how much she loved making armour. Slowly but surely she had replaced her standard Stormwind Infantry armour with pieces she had made, not meaning to be smug about it when she had shown the others earlier, but not being able to help grinning like a Cheshire cat. Two moulded roses sat on her shoulders.

The flower had followed her through her life; from her father’s ship to a present she had received from Varian more times than she could count, so they felt right sitting on her shoulders. A leather blue kilt sat underneath her tasset and more roses were engraved onto her gauntlets, and the fingers had been cut from the leather gloves underneath to give her better grip on the hammer that had become her best friend in the time she’d been here.

Though she would be lying if she told anyone that she was the best with it. She was decent, capable enough to not be screamed at for it, so that was a good sign in her eyes…it was just martial combat that she was a total arsehat with. Even now, Carson was helping her up from the sanded area that other pairs were going hand to hand in, with that stupid grin on his face and a laugh from his throat at how annoyed she looked.

“It’s because you’re little Tinkerbell, you’ll have a growth spurt eventually.” She punched his gut as hard as she could, only winding him slightly, glaring at how he kept on laughing. “How many damn times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that?” They got into position again since Garside was at the side watching them, making her regret immensely not choosing Kay as a sparring partner this time when the offer had been put in front of her.

She had been cocky, trying to prove to herself that she wasn’t utter shite when it came to actually swinging her fists at someone that wasn’t an inebriated sailor at One-Eyed Jack’s down in Bloodstone (Varian would never know about those brawls as long as she lived) and to her credit, she’d floored him at least a couple of times, but tallied against how many times her arse had hit the sand it was nothing to write home about. She had learned that she was definitely better with some sort of weapon in her hands.

She was better against those of her size, but in her mind she knew the orcs were huge, so she’d have to get used to opposing bigger bodies than her, making her more determined. But in all honesty, it didn’t help that Carson had turned his charm offensive up to the highest notch over the past couple of months, so it made him more annoying and therefore easier to want to beat the shit out of, as much as she really liked him and considered them friends.

Every day she could probably count on both hands how many times he’d complimented her with that glint in his eye, flirted with her or said something inappropriate, and although it was grating on Val, she couldn’t exactly stop him. She had barely spoken about ‘Vincent’ since that night, and though their little group already knew that she was sending letters and getting them back every two days, she hadn’t divulged anything about him past his name, how they’d met, and how long they’d been together.

Of course, Kay knew why, but so far, the others didn’t, so it was fully understandable why Carson didn’t take her ‘relationship’ seriously enough to stop his flirting, so she couldn’t punish him for it. Though that didn’t stop her hammering his gut with punches once he gave her an opening, bringing her left arm up to hook over his and hold it down, doing the same with the opposite and using the time she had whilst he brought them up to smack her knuckles against his chin, making his head go back and end that current session.

She stepped back, letting him move his jaw to get feeling back into it and grin down at her. “Not bad Tinkerbell. A few more and you might actually start to hurt me.” She huffed, putting her feet apart again. “Oh believe me you pig headed bastard, I have plenty left in me.” “Stand down and break for lunch, all of you.” Carson’s laugh started up again, with one of his large arms hooking around her head and bringing it in, ruffling her hair with his other fist and making her muffled shouts louder until he let her go.

“You are such an arsehole!” Carson waved a hand of dismissal, clapping arms with Hemming and Arin since their quintet always sat together for meals now. They had all grown to become good friends over the past two months, but Val didn’t know whether that was because they had to see each other every day and had no choice but to get along to a certain extent, or whether it was genuine friendship, but at least in Val’s view, it was nice not being secluded during all of this.

She and Carson got their bowls, grimacing as once again it was Westfall stew. “Light, I am so fucking sick of this crap.” Val shrugged, turning on her heel and weaving through the crowd to get to a waving Arin. “At least it’s food. Stop your grumbling and eat it.” She snickered, settling next to Kay on the floor. “If you don’t want it, I’ll have it.”

Arin looked ridiculously excited considering the amount of training they still had today; they were three days away from finishing the two month period they had and would be boarding ships to Westfall in the upcoming weeks, it was a daunting thought considering Val felt like it had only been two hours compared to two months.

“What are you fucking grinning about Holton? I saw you get your arse kicked back there.” Arin sneered at him before motioning behind him. “You’ll never guess who got here about an hour ago.” Kay rolled her eyes, in no mood for guessing games.“Is it the muffin man?” Arin clenched his jaw in a mockery of anger. “No, it’s even better.” Hemming made a noise of disagreement.

“I don’t know Arin, a chocolate muffin does sound bloody good right now.” Val shook her head, laughing at how swiftly they changed the subject. “Fuck no, blueberry all the way.” Carson retched, throwing his bread at her. “Coffee and cinnamon is the best, you can’t deny it.” Val shuddered, pulling crumbs from her hair.

“Coffee is the most disgusting thing ever created. My old man drinks that shit all the time and how I manage to kiss him afterwards is beyond me.” Arin ran both hands down his face, trying not to laugh. “Will you lot just let me bloody tell you who it is?” Carson didn’t miss a beat before saying “Who what is?” and making them all laugh louder.

Hemming patted the younger man’s shoulder, swallowing his mirth down. “Go on Arin, we’re all listening. Who’s here?” Arin took a brief second to make sure they weren’t laughing again (which in all honesty just made Val snort despite herself), and smacked his lips together. “I saw King Varian talking to Lord Fordragon about ten minutes ago.”

Val felt her chest lift and a smile cement itself onto her face instantly, and Kay’s pat on her back didn’t help with her excitement. “Really? Are you sure it was him?” Arin’s eyebrow rose at her enthusiasm at the same time Carson’s did, making her realize her error.

“Yes…why? What’s so great about him?” Thankfully Kay saved her explaining, squeezing her with the arm that was around her shoulders. “Are you joking? King Varian was known as a great soldier when he was still a Prince! That and he’s very good looking.” Carson looked at Arin and Hemming with exasperation.

“Women eh? She’s married, and she’s not into blokes, but they still fawn all over whatever men they can find.” Kay threw both hands up. “I might not like men, but I can appreciate when one’s good looking Car. And King Varian is, trust me. Have you ever seen him before?” Carson and Hemming shook their heads. Val could feel the blush rising on her cheeks. “Then you have no room to even start judging.” Carson scoffed, clearly not agreeing.

“I’ll judge all I want, I swear, women all turn into bimbos over a little muscle.” Kay launched her spoon at his head. “Are you saying Val and I are bimbos?!” Carson gave her a cheek filled wink. “Only one…I’ll let you two argue over who it is.” Val rolled her eyes, trying to calm her racing mind as she left the two of them to start a heated debate on misogyny to really think about this.

She hadn’t seen Varian since she had left to come here, they had both been too busy to make it happen, so to hear he was within walking distance was beyond exciting. She knew at some point she’d either seek him out or vice versa, but there was no possible way right now to go and see him without everyone questioning her, so she had to keep her arse planted where it was-

“Alright then smart arse, let’s go and see this ‘very good looking’ man shall we? If it shuts you up I’m willing to look fey.” -or not.

Val knew her face was a bright crimson, and apparently Arin noticed. “Val, you alright, you’ve gone a bit flush…” Val fanned her face in a useless attempt to cool it down, and for probably the first time since they’d met, Carson’s inappropriate remark was welcome since it took the attention away from her.

“I thought I was the only one to get you like that Tinkerbell, I’m actually insulted.” Val glared at him, finishing her last mouthful and wishing she were taller to hit him upside the head. “Don’t flatter yourself Murloc fucker.” Carson grinned at her, taking his cue.

“Sheep sucker.” Hemming looked utterly disgusted but Arin only egged them on with his snickers. “Fart eater.” Hemming threw his almost empty bowl down. “Light damn it, will you two shut up? I intended on eating something today!”

Carson huffed, getting up and helping Val regardless of whether she needed his help or not. “I’m sure we’ll have the same thing for dinner mate, come on, let’s go and see this fantastical King you two keep talking about.” Val watched the floor as they all started walking, not quite sure what to do once they got to Varian. Did she wave? Even smile? Or would just catching his eye suffice until they hopefully got a private moment?

He wouldn’t be here long, that’s what saddened her; she knew this was probably a flying visit, and opportunities to actually speak to one another would be scarce since really, they had no connection here… “Why are we all being dragged along to this? I really don’t care what King Wrynn looks like.” Kay subtly nudged Val, giving Hemming a smile. “Because you all need to know his face. He’s a leader of the Alliance, he deserves to be recognized.” Arin noticed Garside speaking with the other captains and frowned. “We’ll have to make it quick, I think our break’s up soon.” Kay waved it off as if it were nothing. “We have time, it’s fine.”

Val forgot just how big the encampment was until they had to traverse half of it to get to the spot where Arin claimed to have seen Varian, and after a few false alarms she was starting to think he had gotten it wrong, but eventually he pointed, making them all stop. And lo and behold, there he was, the man she loved more than anything and hadn’t seen in nearly two months, talking to Lord Fordragon intently. “Fuck…he’s massive…” She looked up at Carson, fighting the urge to smile. “Feeling intimidated Car?” He scoffed, folding his arms. “Light no, I could take him on easily.” Hemming snorted.

“Oh please, he’d snap you like a twig.” Val was only half listening as the two of them carried on, barely feeling Kay’s hand on her shoulder. “You should go talk to him.” Val shook her head, feeling happy that he hadn’t seen her yet in a strange way since it gave her time to see just how relaxed he looked in this environment than he did in the palace.

His shoulders weren’t tensed like they always were, and his face looked lighter than she’d seen it in a while. She knew he would love to join them in the fight, but this would have to do him for the time being.

“HOW ABOUT FUCK YOU, I WOULD BEAT HIS ARSE EASILY!”

And instantly all eyes were on them. Val turned briefly to glare at Carson for being so damn loud, but once she turned back she saw the grin on Varian’s face, the one that told her ‘yes, I’ve seen you, and I’m bloody happy to see you’. It was annoyingly sweet. She gave him the tiniest of waves, trying to make it so she sent the same message, but the moment was ruined by Garside’s bellow for them to resume their training. “At least you’ve seen him…” Val smiled sadly at Kay as they obviously obeyed their captain and trudged back over to their little section of the encampment.

“I suppose that’s something. He did look well, so that was a good sign.” Carson huffed from his spot in front of them. “I still don’t see the appeal.” Arin stifled a laugh. “Feeling jealous that Val clearly fancies him more than she does you?” Val couldn’t help her sharp laugh, making Carson spin on his heel.

“You don’t really fancy him, do you?” Val shrugged, taking her armour from the stand with her name on it once they got to the ‘armoury’ (really it was just another large tent that was more heavily guarded than the others). “I might do, why does it matter?”

Hemming started strapping his gauntlets on, furrowing his brow. “But you’ve already got someone Val.” Kay gave the blonde a sarcastic look after lifting her arms for Arin to buckle her cuirass. “Doesn’t mean she’s not allowed to like other men Hemming. Women have needs you know.” Carson snorted and Val somehow knew what he was going to say before he said it, so she tried to concentrate on putting her pauldrons on, wincing at how much her shoulders ached already. “So do men, yet here we are. I was promised whores yet I haven’t seen one this whole time.”

Once their armour was on Val took her hammer, kissing the side of Captain’s Might (a name she had promised to dub the weapon after Thomas had seen it a few weeks before) and flexing her fingers on the blade, catching Carson’s eye as he strapped his great-sword to his back. “No, hell no. I’m pairing with Kay this time.” He moaned childishly, making her laugh regardless.

“And here’s me thinking you loved me!” Val’s laughter abruptly stopped as she and the Northshire native stood across from each other, waiting for the signal that meant they could start. “You bloody wish Carson.” Kay grimaced, bringing her sword up. “Don’t give him ammunition Val, for the love of the Light.”

“Begin!” Val swung upward, with Kay only just blocking her hammer’s head with the side of her blade. “Well, here’s hoping you can see him before he goes back to the capital.” Val parried, ducking a swing that would’ve taken her scalp off. “I highly doubt it, all eyes are on us every minute of the day.” Val spun, hitting Kay’s wrist and making the black haired woman’s bones vibrate enough to make her stumble. “I’ve seen him before we leave, that’s what matters.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

There was someone in their tent, Val could feel it. Lights out had been a few hours ago (she assumed from how dark it was) and she sat bolt upright, looking around for who or whatever had made the hairs on her arms stand up, finding a young boy that looked barely out of his teens knelt next to her.

“Miss Glenmore?” She sleepily nodded, still wondering what the fuck was going on. “If you could put the knife away miss?” She barely registered his whisper, and realized at the same time as he said it that she had the dagger she kept under her bedroll in her hand,slipping it back under the fur and relaxing her fingers.

“What do you want from me?” The young lad swallowed, eyeing Carson, whose hand was on the top of her bedroll like a protective dog. “You are to come with me, with no question or argument. I’ve been given strict orders to fetch you.” Val dug the butt of her hand in her eye, still sleep heavy. “By who?”

A shake of the head was her answer. “I can’t say. Just follow me.” He started to leave and Val had no choice but to drag her legs from her bedroll and haphazardly pull her boots on, putting a shirt over the linen vest she always wore to bed and groggily standing. Once they had both stepped over the sleeping forms and hit the night air Val folded her arms.

“So where exactly are we going?” A small smile. “I’m not allowed to tell you miss. But don’t worry, it’s nothing bad.” Val huffed, wishing she’d put her coat on. “’Nothing bad’, he says dragging me outside in the middle of the night.” This time it was a laugh. “He said you would grumble.”

Val’s brows snapped down as she hugged herself, relishing the small amounts of warmth the torches gave her as they passed them. “Who said I would grumble?” This time he tapped his nose, making her huff. “Fine, but whenever I find out who the hells wants me up this time of night, be ready to say goodbye to them.”

They stopped after a good while and he bowed, annoying her further and lifting the flap of the tent they were in front of. “Miss Glenmore.” Val still looked suspicious as she went in, adjusting her eyes to the dim candlelight and smiling when she did, finding Varian lounging on a fur rug by a small brazier with a book in one hand and the other on his bent knee. He was only in a shirt and breeches with the tops of both already untied.

“Varian.” He looked up, snapped his book shut, and sprang to his feet, only taking three strides before scooping her up and holding her tighter than she had felt him do in a long time.

“I’m sorry for the cloak and dagger Sweetheart, but I didn’t want you followed.” She squeezed him, taking a long inhale of his scent. “Don’t worry about it, I don’t really sleep that well anyway.” He finally put her down, cupping her cheeks and looking dreamily at her.

“I’ve missed you.” Val put her hands on his, feeling quite emotional for no reason at all.“I’ve missed you too, I’m sorry I haven’t come to see you.” He shook his head from the second the word ‘sorry’ left her lips. “No, no, I’m the one that needs to apologize. I should’ve cleared a day and come sooner than this. I just…Light, today's been such a damn disaster I couldn’t think of anything else but holding you.” Val looked sympathetic, forgetting how tired she was now she was here.

“What happened?” He again shook his head. “Later. Just let me enjoy having you in my arms again.” Val ran her fingertips up his chest as he spoke, resting them there. “You make it sound like I’ve been away for ages.” He huffed, kissing her forehead. “You have been Val. Far,” He kissed a cheek. “far,” he kissed the other one. “Too long. It was torture.”

Val couldn’t help her chuckle as his stubble tickled her cheeks. “You don’t half like to exaggerate, don’t you?” Varian started laughing as well, taking her hands instead. “If it gets my point across, yes, yes I do.” He frowned, obviously feeling how cold she was. “I see you haven’t learned the fine art of common sense since you left. Where’s your coat?”

She narrowed her eyes at him, realizing that her state of sleepiness made him turn into a mess of colours and opening them again. “Well to be fair Varian, a coat wasn’t the foremost thing on my mind when someone I didn’t know woke me up in the middle of the night telling me I needed to go with them.”

He was already gently pulling her towards the same brazier he’d just been sitting by, letting her stand there while he snatched his cloak from the table and put it on her shoulders. He knew she was either half asleep or freezing since she didn’t even object, it was oddly refreshing not having to argue with her.

“I saw you earlier.” He smiled, rubbing one of her hands between both palms of his. “I noticed. In fact I think the whole camp noticed. Who was that loud-mouth that was with you?” A shadow of a grin crossed his face. “And who’s arse can he beat easily? It made me curious.”

Val was laughing like a naughty child, it was such a relieving sound to hear after listening to everybody else today, Varian couldn’t help feeling slightly high from it. “That was Carson, our resident monkey. As for the arse thing..well, let’s say he doesn’t like you and leave it at that.”

Varian’s eyebrow rose as he briefly left her to pour them both an ale. “Me? What did I do?” Val was still laughing, making it slightly less worrying that someone he’d never met had decided they didn’t like him. Not that he actually cared that much, but it was always a little off putting knowing people were that quick to judge. “He’s just jealous that’s all. He thought it was ridiculous how much Kay and I were ‘fawning’.” Varian snickered, passing her goblet to her.

“And were you?” Val was clearly still tired since she looked blankly at him. “Was I what?” Varian leant back onto the map table his tent housed. “Fawning.” Val’s nose wrinkled. “Varian, when have I ever been known to fawn over you?” He still looked highly amused by the concept, swirling his ale. “So why did that warrant jealousy?” Val tapped her nails against the glass as she thought about how to put it.

“It’s just small man syndrome, that’s all. He’s threatened by any man that hinders his chances of getting a leg over with someone.” It seemed that no matter how much deliberate humour she painted her voice with, he was bemused no matter what, she could tell from the speed that his brows snapped down.

“He’s tried it with you, has he?” Val shrugged, trying to play it off as harmlessly as possible. “He tries it with everyone Varian. Credit where it’s due though, once you say no he backs off to merely playful flirting.” Varian’s jaw clenched as she cursed her loose tongue. “There’s no such thing as ‘playful flirting’ Val. Do I need to have a word with this ‘Carson’?”

Val shook her head as soon as he finished talking, putting her drink down on the table. “No, no, that’s not necessary Varian. All it would do is cause me more grief.” Varian wasn’t convinced in the slightest. “Surely he has more respect for you than to pursue something when he knows you’re not available.” His face dropped.

“…He does know that, doesn’t he?” Val felt a pang in her chest at how quiet he’d gotten and stood on her toes, cupping his cheek. “Yes, he does.” His look of relief was evident,but he didn’t like how she was chewing her lip, sighing when he realized why she was doing it. “…What story have you concocted?” Val gave him a pointed look.

“Varian, what did you seriously expect me to do? Tell everyone here that I’m with the King of Stormwind, who’s getting married in a week’s time? I’d be the camp whore in a millisecond, you of all people know that.”He exhaled through his nose, knowing she was right but hating it all the same. One of his arms went around her waist to reassure her that he wasn’t angry at her, but instead he was angry at the world and the way their lives had gone all over again.

“I know, I know, it’s just infuriating, that’s all. So go on, who and what am I?” Val couldn’t help her grin as she leant against him, finding his chest far more comfortable than any bedroll. “Well, for starters your name’s Vincent.” Varian snorted. “Why thank you Sweetheart, I do believe you gave me the stupidest moniker you could.”

She thumped his chest, only hiccuping his laughter. “I panicked alright! I just picked the first name beginning with ‘V’ that I could think of!” Varian ran his fingers through her hair, even if it was a little bit awkward, he still relished that he could do it now.“I’ve decided to grow it out again. I know Tiffin said she liked it short, but I hate it.” He made a noise of agreement, kissing the crown of her head. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but all it does is remind me of what happened to you.”

He didn’t want to dampen the mood, so he steered the conversation back to his new alias. “Is there anything you’ve kept the same?” Val nodded, to his absolute relief. “Basically everything apart from your name and job. I made you a knight in the King’s guard, so it wasn’t too far fetched.” Varian couldn’t help his grimace. “So nobody here excepting Bolvar knows about us?”

Val surprised him by shaking her head. “No, Kay does.” His eyebrow rose. “And Kay is…?” Val gave him a grin. “A woman from my regiment that I’ve actually come to really like. She’s from Northshire, so she obviously saw us when she fled to Stormwind.”

Varian didn’t look too shocked by that. “I suppose we didn’t try and hide our relationship that much, even towards the end.” Val snorted, putting her chin on his chest so she could look at him. “I don’t think we even attempted it once.”

His palm starting rubbing up and down her back, making her fight to stop purring like a contented kitten. “And yet, I don’t regret it one ounce.” She leant up, annoyed that they hadn’t kissed properly yet, and from how quickly he bent to meet her, he felt exactly the same.“I don’t have long Varian…” He kissed along the underside of her jaw, holding her closer. “I know, but I don’t want to rush, we’ll have many a chance to see each other in the coming days.” Val’s brows knitted together.

“No we haven’t. Surely you’ll be going back to the capital in a few days at most?” Varian swallowed hard, preparing himself for her inevitable onslaught. “Alright, you know I said today’s been a disaster?” She cautiously nodded. “Yes…”

Varian took her hands from his chest and pushed her back so he could look at her properly. “There’s been a change of plans with your deployment. I plan on having Lothar tell all of you tomorrow, but I would rather tell you now.” Val looked more concerned than he meant for her to.

“’Change of plans’? What kind of change? We’re still going to Stormwind, aren’t we?” Varian let go of one of her hands to hold his up. “Peace Val, let me explain. Yes, you and the rest of the army will be going to Stormwind. Just not yet. This morning we were all called to an emergency meeting.” Val folded her arms, feeling suddenly more alert. “Why, what’s happened?” Varian looked grave. “We were right to predict the Horde would move north. Khaz Modan was hit in the past month. Magni held out as long as he could but he came here this morning to ask for aid.”

His smile returned by the tiniest sliver. “On the plus side, we all finally agreed to become an official Alliance, with the dwarves and gnomes joining our ranks.” Val’s own face brightened. “So that’s more manpower to drive the Horde back.” Varian was glad she got it quickly. “Exactly…now, in regards to your deployment. You won’t be going to Stormwind just yet, instead we’ll be going to Hillsbrad to set a perimeter, ready to meet the Horde and drive them back south so we can minimize the civilian casualties.” Val slowly nodded.

“That sounds like the best thing to do, especially if you know they’re coming this way, it’ll be better to intercept them than wait for them to come to the capital.” Varian stayed silent until her face changed, meaning she’d realized the little nugget of a hint he’d put in there. “’We’? Varian, who’s we?” Varian took a deep breath, holding her shoulders and looking her straight in the eye. “I will lead the charge the day after my wedding Val. I talked to Tiffin, and I can’t sit idle anymore, I need to-”

She threw his hands off, showing him in a small gesture how much strength she’d gained. “Are you fucking- Damn it Varian! You couldn’t just, oh you bastard!” Varian let her turn on the spot, pace for a bit and rant before speaking. “Val, I hate to offend you but-” She looked absolutely furious with him, and he could feel his headache from this morning returning. “You couldn’t let me just have this one thing, could you! You promised me Varian, you promised that this would be my own thing, that I could live my life for a bit!”

She put her hands on her hips with her jaw clenched. “Are you doing this to check up on me?” Varian fought the urge to roll his eyes. “No Val, contrary to what you believe about me, I didn’t even think about you when I made the decision.” She didn’t look any more placated. “This is such a you thing Varian! You don’t trust me around humans with penises so you have to be my shadow! You came here to keep an eye on me, don’t even deny it!” Varian pushed himself from the table.

“I do deny it…partly. My main reason for coming here is to do my duty as king- making sure you’re safe is just an fortunate side effect! Val please, I’ve had people arguing with me all fucking day, can we not do this?” She looked absolutely betrayed. “Varian, I don’t think we’ll be able to do this together. Not for as long as it takes to get to Stormwind.” Varian took her hand, holding on despite her wriggles. “I’m not going to Stormwind. Lothar and I agreed that I only participate in the fight of the north, then I go back to being just the king. I promise you Sweetheart, I’ll be leaving you alone for most of the day.”

He kissed her forehead, which only made her eyes narrow more. “We can snatch a few minutes every night like this but I’ll be just as busy as you. I know you have this idea that I’ll be stuck up your arse, but I won’t.” She stayed silent for a few more minutes, staring him down before sighing. “I suppose I can’t be that shocked that you couldn’t stay away.” Varian looked visibly relieved at the stemming of their argument before it really even started.

“What can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment as much as you are.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling his head pound. “Please don’t resent me for this. I was telling the truth when I said you weren’t that big a factor in my thinking.” Val pulled her hand away and stepped back so she could look him in the eye better. “And you swear that you won’t interfere with anything?”

He put one hand up. “On my honour, I won’t even speak to you if you don’t wish me to. I’m not here to become your wet-nurse Val, as much as you think I am. I’m here to help with stopping the Horde, nothing more.” She shifted from one foot to the other, clearly thinking everything over.

“And you’ll send for me every night?” Varian finally smiled, pouring himself another drink. “If that’s what you want.” Val bit her bottom lip. “It would positively affect our morale, I suppose.” Varian made a soft noise of agreement. “It would, yes.” She sighed, sweeping a hand through her hair. “Can I just insult you one more time?” Varian chuckled, throwing another log on the brazier, thankful for the fireproof nature of these tents. “Fire away.” Val took a long deep breath. “You son of a fucking Murloc licking arsehole of a cunt.” Varian kissed her head, putting one arm over her shoulders. “Better?” She looked rather sheepish as thankfully she leant into him. “I’m sorry I went off on you.”

Varian squeezed her, stroking her shoulder with a thumb. “No, I completely understand why you did, even if I didn’t appreciate it.” His brow furrowed, making her dread his next question before he even asked it. “…Am I really so controlling that it was the first thought you had?” Val shook her head a little too slowly for his liking.

“No, it’s just…oh come now Varian, even you have to admit your jealousy goes overboard sometimes.” He would, and that’s what worried him. He had to sit and really look at his behaviour some days, wondering why the hells Val put up with it for all these years when any other woman would’ve ran for the hills by this point.

He did admit he had a tendency to look at every other man that came within a close range of her and assess them as a threat, but Val understood that it was merely his own insecurities coming into play, especially now with his face looking like it did, it only made things worse.She knew already that he would probably never think he was good enough for her as long as they lived, and she sympathised since in all honesty she felt the same way, ignoring the fact he was a monarch was hard enough since it meant every woman in his immediate vicinity swooning hard enough to make any narcissist happy, but the fact she had always seen herself as far too…well plain was the wrong word, but unappealing wasn’t far off.

Her hands weren’t soft like most women’s, she was prone to spots because of the oils in her skin, and she could guarantee at some point in the day her hair would turn into a frizzy mess, so it made her wonder what the fuck Varian saw in her.

Time and time again they had the same argument, telling each other that these insecurities and doubts were ridiculous and would swear they wouldn’t heed them again, but then in the next second a slightly good looking man would pass Val and say hello, or a pretty girl would wave to Varian and it would all crumble apart.

“Alright, yes, my jealousy does get the better of me sometimes.” He nudged her cheek with his nose. “But surely it’s considered some sort of compliment?” She knew he was genuinely upset about this, he always was, so smiled to ease his worries.“It is, but at the same time it’s highly annoying.” She motioned to the tent flap with her head. “About seventy percent of my regiment alone are men Varian, are you going to be able to handle that?”

Her laugh gave her teasing away and Varian ruffled her hair, knowing it annoyed her to no end, cementing that the argument was done once he started laughing along. “You know damn well I can, as long as they all stay ten feet back.” Val scoffed, putting her hands on her hips. “And just how do you suppose to implement that condition Your Majesty?”

He snickered, holding both hands away from her hips. “I was thinking maybe two large metal spikes right here actually. In my opinion it’s what would work best.” She swatted his hands away, putting her arms around his neck. “Fuck you Varian.” He tried so hard not to show his amusement at how dreamily she said it, pulling her in by the hips.

“I was actually thinking the same thing, how strange a coincidence…” And once again, their ‘tiff’ ended the same as all the others, with a joke, an insult, and then a deep kiss that made Val’s toes curl and her hands tighten in his hair, just the way Varian liked it. “I’d be lying if I said the thought of seeing you every night didn’t excite me.”

Varian grinned into their kiss, sitting her on the edge of the map table. “That sounds more like it Sweetheart.” He kissed the spot behind her ear as tantalizingly slow as he could, feeling his cheek warm with her gasps. “It’s been agony, not having you in my bed.”

Val was always amazed at how quickly the mood could switch; one minute they’d be arguing until they were blue in the face, the next they’d be teasing each other to the point of agonising pleasure, it was a curious thing, but one that she was never going to complain about. “Oh I’m sure you made the best of it.” His low chuckle told her he did, kissing the tip of her nose. “I think this will be a much better arrangement than you first perceived it to be Sweetheart.”

She didn’t mean to pout yet here she was.“I still stand by my argument of ‘you can’t interfere’, Varian.” A smirk soon appeared on her face again. “Besides which, isn’t fucking your soldiers frowned upon, Your Majesty?” Varian ran both of his palms along her thighs, digging the butts of his hands in as he did and making her eyes close.

“Val, this is probably the only time I will ever say this in my life…but I’m the king, I can do what I want.” He roughly pulled her hips forward, but she didn’t fall, his were already there to meet her. “This is still scandalous Varian.” He lifted her chin by kissing her throat, still cockily grinning.

“I know, fun isn’t it?” Val was trying not to laugh, he could tell by how tense she was. “…Maybe.” Even rubbing her through her breeches proved to be enough to stimulate her; Varian could feel her arousal seep through the cotton, and had no qualms about making it worse.

“If only I had you all night, I’d show you just how much I’ve missed you.” Damn it, she hated that he knew every trick to push her towards the edge sometimes. Varian knew full well that it was working as well, rubbing harder and poking his fingertips through the thin material blocking him from what by all accounts was rightfully his. “Right here on the table,what do you think?” Val swallowed a gulpful of air, putting her forehead on his shoulder. “Varian please, not tonight…” His small nibble on her earlobe did nothing to alleviate the pressure that was building in the pit of her stomach.

“Still angry at me?” Val shook her head, making the only noises in the room become her panting and the swish of his shirt. “No, not for that at least.” Varian’s eyebrow rose as he added another finger to the two he was already using against her, making Val’s nails pierce his back. “Oh? What have I done now?”

Val bit his shoulder as she tumbled over the edge, squeezing his hand between her thighs and whimpering more than she really would’ve liked to since all it was doing was giving him more ammunition. “It’s what you- fuck, what you haven’t-” a sharp prod in just the right spot cut her off. “Oh, I see.”

Val really didn’t like his tone as he bent again, making sure his mouth was right on her ear. “You want me to have you, is that it?” She used whatever willpower she had to choke out a “Light yes!” and Varian, to her utter disdain, merely chuckled. “Well maybe I don’t feel like having you tonight. Maybe I’m enjoying this for now.” Normally she would love him taking control and manipulating the situation to his advantage, but after two months of not seeing each other it was just plain mean.

“You son of a-” Again, he cut her off with a well placed thumb. “Don’t call my mother names Val, it doesn’t become you.” His fingers were walking up her abdomen, tracing the more defined lines across them that she had painstakingly worked for over the weeks.

“I see your training’s paying off.” She went to grab the buttons he was taking far too long undoing, but he caught her wrist. “Ah, now that’s just being impatient. Calm yourself, we have time.” Val muttered curse after curse on the King, and all it did was egg him on more. “We don’t Varian, I have to get back…” one button.

“Woman, I know the runnings of a barracks like the back of my hand, no one is going to notice a member of the auxiliary going missing for a couple of hours.” Val felt like such a common harlot, sitting here panting and whimpering for his touch, but he knew exactly how to get her to that point, and he knew full well that he was in total control right now, and loving every second of that fact.

To give him a sense of the infuriation she had building in her stomach she grabbed him through his own trousers, only growing more excited at his surprised growl. A few firm squeezes and strokes were all it took for her second button to land on the table with a small clang and bounce where it had been torn from it’s spot in Varian’s haste to outdo her and wedge all four fingers underneath her waistband and down to her soaking, trembling sex.

“Now how the hells am I going to explain that?” Varian traced his fingers along her folds, drinking in her twitches and jerks, burying his face in the crook of her neck and biting down, using how she leant back to slip two fingers inside of her, splaying one hand between her shoulder blades to keep her steady. “I’m sure you’ll think of something Sweetheart.”

Val was thoroughly loving his bites, but was hit with the realization that his bites always left marks. “Varian, let go.” Her neck stung as he bit harder, making her have no choice but to pinch his ear and twist it, which always worked whenever he lost too much control, and now was no exception as he finally unlatched himself.

“I thought you loved me biting you?” Val put her hand back down so she could play with him, needing to exert some of her own pressure by essentially transferring it to him. “I do, but I really don’t want the interrogation that comes with teeth marks.”

He licked the small indents he’d left with the smallest of flicks, taking his hand away from her back and gripping the edge of the table, bucking his hips into her small but firm palm. “I’d wear them with pride my love.” Val grabbed the front of his shirt and yanked him forward, peppering kisses on his neck, which she could only reach since he was hunched over. “Is that a challenge?” Varian’s jaw locked with his breaths getting more jagged.

“I call it invitation.” His neck was warm with her own exhales. “Varian…” the pleading tone to her voice only made Varian’s hips move faster, and before long he felt himself gearing up to finish, with Val’s own tightening around his fingers making it worse. “Val-” Val took his hand away from her as much as it pained her need, bringing him close, wrapping her legs around him and pumping harder.

She kissed his shoulder where his shirt had slipped down and sighed in her own relief at his pleasure as he loosed his seed on her hand, with a rumbling groan leaving his chest and his arms practically crushing her in his needy embrace. “I love you.” She murmured into his hair, feeling his slow, lazy kisses on her temple.

“I love you too Sweetheart. More than you will probably ever believe.” He rested his forehead on hers, both not too fussed about cleaning up just yet. “Our first war, not many couples can brag about that.” She laughed, but even that sounded like she had to muster it up.

“Just promise me we’ll do dinner and a show afterwards. Something normal for once.” Varian chuckled, sweeping her hair back. “Deal. Just no ballets, those things bore the hells out of me.” Val shook her head, brushing their noses. “I don’t care if they make you go to sleep, you’re doing what I want.” She looked down, grimacing a little. “I think we should probably do something about the mess.” Varian made a noise of agreement, reluctantly letting her go and leaving her to soak a rag in his basin. “Do you think we’ll win this?” Varian knew she would be asking that at some point, but it didn’t make it any easier to answer.

“We’ve been caught off guard, but I don’t think it will hinder us enough to put our efforts in jeopardy.” She cleaned her hand off, looking at her boots. “One of us might die Varian.” His heart clenched at the very thought, especially if it wasn’t him that fell. He cupped her cheeks, lifting her head and looking her straight in the eye.

“I won’t let that happen. They’d have to torture me until I can barely breathe before they even get their filthy hands on you.” He helped her down, tucking himself back into his breeches and waiting until she had finished sorting herself out before holding her close.

“I won’t lose you, not to anything. I’d rather I die and you know that.” Val swallowed, taking a long inhale of his cologne. “Please don’t make me think about that.” He managed a small smile. “Then at least let me walk you back so we can talk about trivial things.” Val took his arm once he’d put his cloak on, laughing when he bundled her in it as well.

“Trivial things are my speciality.” Varian kissed her for far too long outside her tent, and to be honest he only stopped because she shoved him backwards with a grin on her face. “Goodnight Your Majesty.” Varian gave her a reluctant smile, clenching a fist and attempting to move even though all he did was slide backwards a little.

“Goodnight Private Glenmore.” She made the first move towards separating by lifting the flap and ducking under it, watching him as she put it down and trying to navigate the still thankfully sleeping bodies around her. Somehow she managed to slip into her bedroll without making too much noise, covering herself with the wolf fur and wishing to the Light she could share Varian’s bed tonight.

“Where the hells have you been?” She looked up at Carson, finding his look of concern rather sweet. “It was nothing, something about smithing that they wanted me to look at.” He didn’t look convinced, reaching over and squeezing her hand. “But you’re alright?” She nodded with a grin.

“I’m just fine. Go back to sleep.” Carson kept hold of her hand, furrowing his brow when she tried to take it away. “Can…can I just have it for a while? It makes the darkness seem less terrifying.” She had to admit, she hadn’t been expecting him to be that candid about how he was scared to her so easily.
She had learnt with Varian long ago that the biggest, brashest men could be hiding fears they wanted no one to see, so it didn’t seem too far fetched that Carson would be in that group. She linked their fingers, smiling up at him. “Fine, but don’t get any funny ideas.” He chuckled, closing his eyes again. “Night Val.” Val wasn’t sure she was going to sleep tonight, but closed her eyes anyway. “Night.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

She felt like she’d only slept an hour when the horn sounded for them to get up, stretching her fingers once Carson finally let go of her to try and get some feeling back into them. He helped her up, brushing her down.

“So, are you going to tell me where you went last night or am I doomed to forever guess?” She put a finger to her lips, smiling impishly at him. “Am I not allowed secrets of my own? I’m safe, that’s all you need to know.” He chuckled, running a hand through his hair. “Looks like we’re deploying today.” Val understood how he came to that conclusion; there were crates and trunks everywhere, and already the tents that had been home for the past two months were being collapsed and packed away.

“Seems like it. Are you as nervous about it as I am?” He scoffed, just as she suspected he would. “Not in the slightest. I’ve been gearing up for this for weeks, I’m just glad we’re finally doing something.” Hemming yawned, raising his arms above his head as he stretched. “We have a week long trip by boat ahead of us Car, don’t get too excited just yet.”

Kay let the blonde practically hold her up as she and Arin joined them, with the group going towards the mess tent as if it were imprinted on their brains by this point. Val wasn’t sure whether to tell them what Varian had last night about not boarding the ships but going to Hillsbrad instead. She worried that if she started that conversation it would turn into one she was really trying to avoid.

“A week? I thought it took a couple of days to get to Westfall.” Hemming shook his head. “Normally it does, but I heard Garside and King Varian talking last night, and he said that we’re taking the long way around to avoid alerting the Horde.” Kay looked less than pleased to hear it. “That means we’ll be going through Elven waters.”

Arin looked quizzingly at her. “Is that a problem?” Kay made a face. “Well, not a problem per say, but honestly, when was the last time you heard of the elves being accommodating to the humans?” Carson couldn’t argue with it. “Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen one elf the whole time we’ve been here.”

Hemming shrugged as they got in line for their breakfast. “Quel’thalas has been walled off from human kind for centuries, it makes sense that the high elves would see no need to meddle in our affairs.” Carson huffed at him.“How the hell do you know so much about everything Hem?” Blonde brows snapped down. “Firstly, don’t ever call me that again. Secondly, you know I went to university Car.” Arin looked thoroughly shocked. “Where on Azeroth is there a bloody university?”

Kay followed him up. “And how the hells did you pay for that?!” Val couldn’t help but join in. “You dark horse! You’ve never mentioned this!” Hemming’s cheeks flushed a soft pink as they all took their bowls to the one sunny patch just outside the tent. “There’s one in the capital, surely you’ve all seen it?” A plethora of shook heads was his answer. “I didn’t get time to look around.” Kay made a noise of agreement with Val. “I didn’t leave Southshore when we got here.” Arin shrugged.“And I was always in Gilneas.”

Hemming’s face dropped. “Oh, well it’s not obscenely big, but I went there for three years studying history.” Carson narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t answer Kay’s question. How did you pay for it? Only the richest of the rich send their children to university.” Hemming swallowed. “My family aren’t rich per say, but we were well off enough.”

Carson’s lip curled. “You’re a nobleman?” Hemming shook his head. “No, not at all. My father’s a lawyer, that’s all.” Arin nudged Carson with a smile on his face. “Bet you’ve known a few of those in your time.” Carson swatted his head, but by now Arin came to expect it and ducked in time, laughing all the while.

“I’ll have you know I’ve not been arrested once in my life!” Kay clearly didn’t believe that. “Not even for harassment of innocent women?” Carson made the rudest gesture he could manage with one hand. “You’re bloody hilarious.”

He pointed his spoon at Val. “How about you Tinkerbell? Ever gotten in trouble with the law-men?” Val wrinkled her nose, stirring her honeyed oats. “Well, not me at least, but my father was arrested a few times in his life.” Kay swallowed her mouthful. “What for?” Val smirked, looking at her lap.

“Piracy.” Carson laughed first, putting his empty bowl down. “Why does that not surprise me in the slightest?” Arin looked absolutely intrigued. “But you said your Father was a smith!” Val nodded despite the contradiction. “He was, but before that he was a pirate. He got arrested in Stormwind and King Llane showed mercy, making him give back to society instead of stealing from it.”

Hemming didn’t look fazed at all. “That explains how a pirate showed you how to shoot.” Kay made a face of agreement. “Light, there’s more and more shit coming out about us, isn’t there?” Carson chuckled. “I think it’s good that we’re not all perfect.” Arin once again snickered.

“You even more so, eh Car?” Another swat that was dodged. “When the hells did you get so brave Holton?” Arin shrugged. “Maybe it’s you lot rubbing off on me.” Kay took the second the two men took to argue, leaning in and grinning. “Did you see him last night?” Val nodded, chewing her bottom lip. “I did. He sent for me in the middle of the night.”

“Ha! So that’s where you went! Go on then Val, who sent for you?!” Val’s face drained of colour as she realised that Carson had heard her and latched on to the conversation, eagerly leaning in and bouncing one leg. “No one, no one sent for me!” Hemming put a hand on his chin. “But you literally just told Kay that someone did.” He turned to Carson.

“Not that it’s any of his business.” Carson waved a hand of dismissal. “Oh come now Val, we’re all mates here, you can tell us.” Arin pulled the collar of his shirt. “We noticed your little….’mark’ as well.” Val cursed Varian to the ends of the earth for his lack of self control, feeling her face flush. “Can we please leave it?” Kay rubbed her back, hearing the fright in her voice.

“Just tell them Val, we won’t think any less of you for it.” Val thought about it for a long minute, exhaling slowly and raising her head. “King Varian. King Varian sent for me and did that.” She pointed to her neck, appreciating how Carson’s hand clapped over Arin’s mouth as he started making a loud noise of realisation.

“So you’re having sex with the King of Stormwind? How in all hells does that start? How long have you been doing it?” Val shushed Hemming, who was being a little too loud for her liking. “….I’ve known Varian for years. Our fathers were best friends, that’s why he was shown mercy after his arrest. Varian and I grew up together.” She sighed. “We fell in love, which everybody but us saw coming apparently. We’ve been together since I was fourteen.”

Carson still looked beyond confused. “But isn’t he getting married?” She meekly nodded. “It’s a betrothal, he didn’t want it. It was announced three months after we secretly started planning our own wedding. I didn’t speak to him until a few months ago, then all this shit with Stormwind happened and we just thought sod it and restarted our relationship.”

Arin was chewing his lip nervously. “Does Lady Tiffin know?” Val nodded, albeit a little too confidently. “She fully supports us. We all spend time together regularly.” She grimaced, realizing how this sounded. “Please, please don’t think any different about me now you know. I didn’t use Varian's title to join the army, if anything he was dead set against me doing it.”

Carson merely blinked, still not quite understanding. “So..you’re his mistress?” She shook her head. “No, at least not officially, I haven’t been introduced as one. So far we’re keeping this relatively secret.” Arin went against every belief he had asking her this, but knew he had to. “But you’re happy?” Val gave him a small smile. “Aye, I am. And so is he. Like I said, just don’t think me a slut or anything like that.”

Carson finally spoke, running a hand through his hair. “Well then…I better stop pushing my luck, shouldn’t I?” Hemming snorted. “Is that you admitting you can’t take him on?” Carson sneered at him. “I never said that!” Arin snickered. “So shall we tell King Varian how you’ve been flirting with his woman?” Val found herself laughing along, appreciating Kay’s reasurring squeeze. “See, I told you it’d be fine.” She patted the older woman’s hand, kissing her cheek. “I know, I’m just so careful with who I trust nowadays, that’s all.” Kay nodded in total understanding.

“I get it, really I do. After Northshire I just couldn’t be myself around anyone anymore.” Val knew exactly how Kay felt. The sense of loss made even the most trusting of people cautious, she had learned that the hard way. “So when are you seeing him again?” Val turned back to Hemming, who as always, took things calmly and tried to rationalize. “Well that’s the thing, he’s sending for me again tonight if he can. And then-"

“All soldiers report to General Lothar! Move it!”

Arin got up first, helping Kay and Val. “This is it, our first day of real battle.” Hemming’s brows knitted. “Well, the journey towards our first day, yes.” Carson chuckled, folding his arms as they all followed the crowds. “You always have to have the last fucking word, don’t you Hem?” A pained groan filled the air. “Will you bugger off with that damn nickname?! My name is stupid already, I accept this, don’t make it worse.”

Val found herself laughing too. “You sound exactly like Varian and Arthas.” Hemming made a face of excited realisation. “I forget that means you’ve met practically everyone there is to know! Tell me, what was Stormwind Court like?” Val shrugged, feeling guilty that she couldn’t give him what he clearly wanted to know.

“To be frank, Varian and I didn’t really spend that much time at court when we were together. As we got older I started working more and he was taking his duty more seriously, so whenever we did meet he was adamant about getting away from the city.” Arin’s head popped from Carson’s other side. “Is it true he can crush a man’s windpipe with one hand?”

Val laughed harder than she meant to. “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen him do it!” Carson snorted, popping his knuckles. “Bet he’s done it to you a few times though.” Hemming glared at him. “You have to bring the tone of every single conversation down, don’t you?” Carson scoffed this time.

“When it’s a boring one, yes! There’s you, the scholar, asking about bloody court when what we really want to know are the gory details!” Val felt her heart sink. “’Gory details?” Hemming raised a hand. “You don’t have to answer anything this depraved horn-dog asks Val, please don’t feel obliged to.” Kay however was starting to giggle.

“Did he really bite you that hard?” Val could feel her cheeks burning. “Kaylie Thorpe I expected better of you!” Hemming’s chide was lost on Kay, who was too busy looping her arm with Val’s. “He must’ve really been enjoying himself.”

The fact that she whispered it didn’t make it any less flustering for Val, who just wanted the ground to swallow her. “So you’re seeing him tonight then?” Though she was grateful that Hemming remembered her shushing him earlier so this time his voice was low compared to Kay’s volume when she’d asked earlier. “I don’t know, it depends what we’re all doing.” She couldn’t help her small smile. “I hope so though.”

Carson put his hands on both women’s backs as he brought up the rear of their group once they joined the others to find Lothar, Varian, Uther and Khadgar all standing in a line at the front. “Well, their faces don’t look good.” Val murmured an agreement with Hemming, who was on her other side. “Here’s hoping it’s not as bad as we think.”

Lothar stepped forward and held his hands up for quiet, getting it instantly. “Hear me, for what I have to tell you is of the utmost import. I know you are all under the impression that you’ll be travelling to the shipyard with Westfall as your destination. We are standing before you telling you that is not the case anymore.” A murmur started up immediately.

“Khaz Modan has been pillaged by the orcs and they are nearing the border to the north as we speak. Starting today we are sending you all to Hillsbrad to hold the fort and push them back. All of you, be ready to move out in two hours!” And in a split second after he finished speaking, a flurry of activity erupted, and Carson held onto her shoulders. “Well, looks like we’ll be skipping the crap and getting straight to work then!” Garside bellowed for their regiment to join him, and Val couldn't help the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach as she only half listened.

This was it. She was going to war, with no guarantees that she would be coming back. She saw Varian, but he was so busy in the hive of bodies that there would be no way to even catch his attention. It was the first time in two months where she had felt completely in over her head, it was enough to make her chest tighten.

“Now all of you, suit up and grab your weapons, we don’t know what we’re in for once we get there!” Carson grabbed her shoulders and steered her towards their armour, though she didn’t even register what she was putting on, it was already an automatic response.

“Are you alright Val?” She nodded, buckling her bracers. “It’s just a bit overwhelming, that’s all.” Carson looked genuinely concerned, which didn’t really help with her nerves. “I keep forgetting this is your first.” Val gave him a pained smile. “Well here’s hoping it’s not my last.” Hemming looked deep in thought as he pulled his greaves into place. “They can’t be coming from just anywhere though, they have no ships.”

Kay made a swift noise of agreement, twisting her hair into a tight bun. “So Hillsbrad will be perfectly in line with their route towards the capital.” Arin put his helm under his arm, sweeping his hair back. “Is anyone else concerned with how quickly they’re taking the Eastern Kingdoms over?” Val knew it had to be asked, but it didn’t make the question any less harsh.

“That’s why we’re here Holton, to make sure they don’t finish what they started.” Hemming strapped his sword to his back, muttering a quick prayer and holding Arin’s shoulder as he joined in.“Miss Glenmore?” Val exhaled, turning to the same boy from last night, who handed her a letter. “Is this who I think it’s from?” He nodded, stepping back.

“Yes miss. Good luck and Light be with you.” Val waved him off, turning back and appreciating how Carson stood closer to shield her. “Val, Meet me at my tent in five minutes. I need to say goodbye properly in case we get there and all hell breaks loose before I can. Come alone.”

She put her last pauldron on, showing Carson the letter and strapping the large belt with her hammer and pistol on. “Go, I’ll grab your shield and cover for you if you’re late.” She opened her arms, letting him lift her just as easily as Varian could and squeeze, putting her down and lightly pushing her. “Go on, before you’re noticed.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -

She had to weave her way through a sea of bodies before reaching Varian’s tent, and even then she had no choice but to stop and listen, noticing that there was someone already in there, and it would raise far too many questions if she just barrelled inside. “We have no idea where they’re coming from Anduin, are you sure Hillsbrad is the best idea?”

Lothar’s voice sounded so gruff compared to Varian’s that Val struggled to understand half of what he was saying most of the time, but she knew this was important so forced herself to hear everything. “It’s a central point my lad, so if Light forbid we’re wrong about the route they’re taking we can get moving as soon as possible and reach all available attack points. Trust me Varian, this isn’t my first war.”

“Do you think our troops are ready? Honestly?” Val sighed, realizing that she needed to know the same thing. Two months in reality wasn’t a long time to train for something as heavy handed as this, and personally, she felt like there was so much she needed to improve on, even if others like Carson told her that she was doing well, it would take alot more to convince herself of that.

Anduin’s sigh didn’t fill her with confidence. “We’ve done the best with what we have. They can hold their own, but there are some that still brazenly underestimate the Orc’s strength. Those are the ones I believe we’ll be bringing back in boxes.” She stepped back, letting Anduin pass her with a pained smile. “It’s good to see you stuck to your guns my girl. Good luck.”

She returned his smile, feeling her cheeks ache as they protested. “You too Anduin.” He patted her shoulder, lightly sighing and carrying on, letting Val slip in, clearing her throat to get Varian’s attention since his back was to her.

He turned, beckoning her forward. “Well, this scraps our plan a little, doesn’t it?” Varian didn’t answer, merely putting his arms around her and holding tight. “Everything in me is telling me to send you back to the capital.” Val sighed before she could stop it. “Varian…” He kissed the crown of her head, lingering there. “Apologies, I just had to say it.” He pushed her back to look at her. “It’s so strange, seeing you in armour...It feels wrong.”

She frowned, deliberately acting as if she was offended. “You don’t like it?” He folded his arms, catching on to her tone. “That’s not funny Val, I’m in no mood to make jokes.” Val leant backwards, holding on to the same table she’d been sitting on the night before. “Varian, we knew this was coming, don’t act like it’s a surprise. I think two months has been more than sufficient to come to terms with it.”

Varian’s eyebrow cocked. “Why the sudden hostility? I’m merely saying that I’m worried, why does that warrant sarcasm and spite?” Val took a deep breath. “Because I’m sick of trying to prove myself to you.” Varian had to admit, that was the last answer he had been expecting.“I’ve never asked you to.” Her smile was small and full of sadness.

“I know, but it’s just how I perceive all this. Everytime I do something remotely out of the norm all I hear is how worried about me you are and how you don’t want me doing it; it makes me believe that you don’t have that much faith in me.” She always noticed how much bigger than her he was when he held her shoulders, and right now was no exception.

“Val, it’s the complete opposite. I know you’re capable of doing this, but it’s just…please don’t make me admit I’m scared, my masculinity is shrinking just thinking about it.” That made her laugh, just as he knew it would. “You’re scared?” Against his better judgement he nodded, rubbing her arms.“You could’ve just said that.”

This time he shook his head. “No, my fears are my own, I don’t want everyone knowing them.” She ran her fingertips down his cheek. “Varian, I know you don’t trust easy anymore, but you can’t suffer in silence either.” Her smile got a little bigger.

“I thought my job as your wife was to listen to your problems?” Varian couldn’t help his chuckle despite how he was filled with dread about the upcoming battle. “I hate it when you pull the ‘wife’ card on me, it always ruins my bad mood.” She could reach his chin from her perch, so she stretched up and kissed it, putting her arms around his neck.

“Good, maybe I should do it alot more.” Varian put his forehead on hers, just enjoying the warmth of her skin. “I can’t protect you when we get onto that battlefield, that’s what scares me. All my life I’ve bragged about how I put the ones I love before anything, how I make sure they’re safe…and the past few months have shown me that was a colossal lie. My father, your brother, everyone’s slipping away…”

She swept his hair back from where it’d fallen from it’s tie. “I’m not.” Varian’s blue eyes were brimming with anguish. “You can’t say that for certain Val. These things have killed so many already, who knows what will happen to any of us.” Val took his hand, ignoring how cold his gauntlet was.

“Varian, none of us know what will ever happen in our lifetimes. Hells, we could survive the battle and then I die by a, I don’t know, a rock to the head or something. There’s no point dwelling on the what ifs, we of all people know that.” Varian couldn’t help his minuscule snort. “What a stupid way to die.” Val latched on to the small slither of humour he was showing.

“I know, that’s why I said it. But do you see the point I’m trying to make?” Varian sighed, nodding despite himself. “Yes, I do, but that doesn’t stop me worrying.” Val hopped down, patting his cuirass covered chest. “I know Varian, but I’ll do my best to help, you know I will.” She folded her arms. “I suppose this is goodbye until we get to Hillsbrad then?”

Varian solemnly nodded. “Yes, unfortunately there’s only so many horses, otherwise I’d have you riding with me in a heartbeat.” Val couldn’t help her smirk. “Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, since we’d just end up racing each other.” Varian’s own smile was full of nostalgia. “I wish it were one of those days where we could just ride to the forest and escape.” Val softly laughed.

“We would stay out until someone was sent to look for us, do you remember?” Varian’s eyebrow rose as he held his hand out for her to take, pulling her in when she did. “Remember? They’re some of the most treasured memories I have. I don’t think I’ll ever forget them, even if someone tortured me to within an inch of my life.” His smile disappeared.

“It makes me that much more grateful that we reconciled when we did.” Val’s brow furrowed. “That’s true, I think everyday what would’ve happened if we hadn’t.” He gently squeezed her, kissing her temple. “What did you just say to me about thinking too much?” Val poked the tip of his nose. “Completely different things Varian.” She swallowed, tracing the ridges of his cuirass with a fingertip. “I told my friends about us.” Varian couldn’t help his look of surprise. “Really? That seems unlike you.”

Val narrowed her eyes at him, moving the collar of the blue high necked tunic she wore underneath her armour, showing him the evidence of their ‘liaison’. “I had little choice Varian. Since someone got carried away last night, questions were asked.” All that did was make him bend and kiss it, thoroughly enjoying the sharp gasp that blanketed his ear, and the way her fingers dug into his hair, pulling it just the right amount.

“Varian, really, now?” He merely carried on, leaving his face where it was and backing her against the table again. “I’m merely kissing you Val, stop assuming I always want more.” He didn’t even need to look at her since he already knew her eyes were narrowed.

“Varian, I’ve known you for far too long to believe that for even a second.” She snickered, catching his lips. “Do you remember the carriage?” Varian’s chuckle was husky, meaning he did. “That was entirely your fault. I was merely enjoying the ride.” Val laughed harder and Varian realized what he had said, running a hand down his face.

“Do you think we’ll ever be mature enough to not laugh at innuendos?” She shook her head without hesitation, taking his hair down, turning him and sitting on the edge of the table with him between her legs and leaning him back so she could reach the back of his head, running her fingers through and gathering the long brown locks together.

“Probably not, but be honest, would you want to be?” He caught her arm, kissing the inside of it. “Not in a million years. There’s hardly anyone I can share a laugh with nowadays Val, I don’t want to lose the one I treasure most.”

She twisted the ends of his hair around her fingers, knowing they had to get a move on but not really wanting to do it. “Hopefully once this war’s over we’ll be laughing alot more.” He squeezed the hand he was holding. “I’m hoping that’s sooner rather than later.” She sighed, finally tying his hair up properly high on his head.

“I am not looking forward to how much walking I have ahead of me.” Varian frowned, turning and putting his hands either side of her. “As I said, if there were any spare horses I’d give you one in a heartbeat.” His stubble scratched her chin with the tiny kisses he was planting along her jaw. “Does knowing I’ll be waiting for you at the end of it help in any way?” She scrunched her nose, clearly trying to hide how much that thought pleased her. “No, not in the slightest.” Varian had to catch her with the kiss he gave her pushing her back, biting her bottom lip as he let her go. “Varian, do you really think now is the best time?”

He cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck as he straightened. “Apologies…I just, erm…” Val snorted as she realized why he was getting so flustered. “It’s the armour, isn’t it?” Varian wasn’t a blushing type of man, he never had been, but there were a few times when Val had seen his cheeks turn a dusty pink, and right now was one of those few times.

“It might be, yes.” She could barely hear his mumble, so leant in a little. “Sorry?” Varian looked thoroughly embarrassed, swallowing hard and trying to control his voice. “I can’t help it Val, my two favourite things are you and defending people, so to see you in-” He motioned to her armour.“-that, is practically all of my dreams come true.”

Val leant back again, crossing her ankles. “So you like me in this then?” She could swear his jaw twitched. “I just told you I did woman, don’t tease.” She got down, making his own cuirass squeak a little by rubbing her leather covered palms up until she was cupping his cheeks.

“Well know you know how I feel when you wear yours.” Varian managed a small chuckle, lifting her chin. “Why, because it hides how hideous I am?” She thumped his chest, swearing quietly when she remembered she wasn’t wearing gauntlets. Varian took her hand and kissed it, carrying on around her wrist and the crook of her elbow.

“Varian…” She had described many of their kisses over the years as ‘intense’, but this one took that title and would probably hold onto it for a long while, ignoring how her toes protested when she stretched up as much as she could, holding on to his neck and the back of his head, while one of his arms hooked diagonally up her back and the other held her waist. They both needed to breathe but didn’t want to stop, tightening their grip on one another.

“Your Majesty, it’s time for you to- oh!”

Val froze, scrambling to leave his embrace but Varian held on, gritting his teeth at the unfortunate boy that had clearly only just been assigned the role of his squire. “This had better be good!” The boy, who can’t have been that much younger than Val, swallowed with his hands trembling. “I- that is, it’s time for…” Varian growled, still holding on to an absolutely mortified Val. “Speak boy before I rip out your tongue!”

“It’s time for Your Majesty to depart.”

Varian's anger faded into melancholy within the space of five seconds, and he finally loosened his grip on Val, who looked like she was about to cry for many different reasons. “I see. Go, tell them I’ll be there presently.” A nervous nod, bow and swift exit were his answer and soon the two of them were alone again.

Varian wiped Val’s eyes, frowning at the tears in them. “Why are you so upset Sweetheart? It’s only a march, we’ll see each other-” She looked sharply up at him. “Varian, he’s going to tell everyone about us! We’ve just fucked everything!” Varian’s hands dropped. “Val- does it really matter?” Val clenched both fists on her temples.

“Yes! Everyone’s just going to see me as your whore! It’s alright for you, you’re the bloody king! I’ll be nothing but the King’s slut- Fuck…Varian…” He realised at once that she was having an anxiety attack, and knew by now how to approach it, so wrenched a chair from in front of his desk and sat her on it, rubbing her back and bending to her level as she struggled to catch her breath.

“Val, look at me- look at me.” She glanced up and he straightened his face. “Breathe Sweetheart, just breathe. In and out, that’s the way…” She slowly obeyed, sobbing more than she really wanted to. Varian cupped her cheeks, wiping her tears away with his thumbs.

“Listen to me, no one, and I mean no one, will be calling you that disgusting name as long as I’m alive to hear it, understand? What that boy just saw was a man showing the woman he loves just how damn much he adores her, that’s all. Nothing untoward, nothing seedy, just love.” She was still shaking, which only made him kiss her cheeks, her eyes, her nose, every inch of her face until she calmed down. “You’re right.” Varian chose not to take the humorous route in case it made her worse, so merely nodded. “Please Sweetheart, don’t worry yourself over it. Who knows, maybe a word won’t be said about it.”

She blinked a few times to get her vision back to normal. “I suppose he’d be too scared of what you’d do to him to tell.” Varian chuckled, brushing her hair back. “Damn right. Smile for me love, this is nothing, alright?” She managed a tiny one, letting him stand her up. “You can understand why I got scared though, can’t you?” He knew she didn’t want to be smothered right now so stopped himself holding her. “I do, and all I can do is apologize for it.” Val’s head was already hurting and now she was even more confused.“Apologize? For what?”

Varian poured her a cup of water and passed it to her, looking less content than he did five minutes ago. “Putting you through this. Maybe I should’ve stayed away after all.” Val put her cup down and both arms around his waist, leaning on his chest.“No, I know I said last night that you were an arse for doing it, but truthfully…I’m fucking glad you’re here Varian.”

He lightly kissed her temple, putting his forehead there after no matter how much he had to hunch. “I’ll be waiting for you Sweetheart. Stay safe out there.” Val patted his chest, leaning up for a less intense kiss this time, straightening her plate and tidying her hair. “I’ll see you in Hillsbrad.”

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Varian felt a strange mix of anger and happiness when she left; happy that he had actually managed to calm her when even he had the sinking feeling of exposure as she had, and anger at the world for the sheer fact that a kiss had caused such trouble when it was the most natural thing in the world for two people in love to partake in.

It brought home that no matter what ‘arrangement’ they made with Tiffin, that the rest of the world would always see just a man unfaithful to his wife. He folded the letter he’d hastily written to Tiffin explaining what was happening and put his seal on it, shoving it into his satchel and buckling it.

“Boy.” The squire from before came in, but Varian knew he was nervous now. “Don’t fret, I won’t beat you.” He almost laughed at the audible sigh behind him. “Come here.” He was obeyed, and Varian made a point to put his hand on his shoulder tight enough to tell him how serious he was being. “You are not to breathe a word as to what you just saw, do you understand?”

A scared nod was his answer, but Varian wasn’t done. “I will not have Miss Glenmore’s honour besmirched because of a gossiping little shit, do you hear me? If I found out so much as a hint of us has passed your lips I’ll make you wish you were never born. Understand?” Another nod and Varian let him go. “Is my horse ready?”

“Yes Your Majesty.” Varian hesitated, fiddling with the ring that was on the leather thong around his neck. It had been the engagement ring he’d given Val all those years ago, discarded by the woman it had been intended for in a fit of rage, but kept by the man whose sorrow had overtaken his heart, worn around his throat since that day and probably for the rest of his days.

“Do something for me.” The dark haired young man meekly nodded. “Go find someone and bring him to me. Carson Eastcroft. I need to speak with him.”He wished she had stayed, he wished he had put his foot down and told her she was to accompany him, but he knew she wouldn’t have done it or appreciated it.

He ran a hand down his face and now he was alone, felt no qualms about pounding the table as if he were punching the embodiment of his frustration, a faceless mannequin that he couldn’t name, but knew was always there, like a damn shadow following his every move.

He preoccupied himself with packing up before a throat was cleared behind him. “Majesty? I was told you wanted to see me?” Varian turned, getting a good look at the man in front of him and feeling his eyes turn green without them meaning to. He was tall, handsome and didn’t come with the burden of secrecy or hurt that loving Varian had brought Val.

“Aye, I did.” He straightened, taking a deep breath. “I understand that you know about Miss Glenmore and I?” Carson stiffened, with his hands behind his back. “Aye Majesty, she told us just this morning…though we kind of guessed before she did.” Varian’s lips curved into a smile.

“I see. Would you say you two are close?” Carson immediately put his hands up. “I swear Majesty, If I’d have known about you two I wouldn’t have even complimented her.” Varian’s own hand rose. “Peace, I’m not angry at the fact. I just need to know.” Carson cleared his throat. “Then yes, we are close, we have a little group of us…”

Carson knew nobody would believe him if he ever told them that he had seen King Varian Wrynn look like he was about to cry, but the sadness in the King’s blue eyes unnerved the older man. I keep forgetting I’m older than him, the thought startled the soldier as he realized that he was nearly ten years older than the king, it was a bewildering feeling. “So Val trusts you?” Carson folded his arms, feeling slightly more relaxed now he knew his head wasn’t about to be split in two.

“I’m presuming so yes, you’re better off asking her though.” Varian shook his head. “No, she’ll just think I’m being jealous again.” The King swallowed, clenching and relaxing his fists. “If she trusts you, than I have no choice but to. Her judgement is one I will always have faith in. And saying that…I need you to keep something from her on my behalf.”

He hated being secretive with Val but this time he had little to no choice, his conscience demanded he do this. “I need you to…keep an eye on her. Protect her when I can’t, and just make sure she doesn’t get in trouble.” Carson’s brow furrowed. “Majesty, you make it sound like you don’t trust her -” Varian’s nose was three inches away from his in a heartbeat, showing Carson how tall he was.

“Don’t you ever accuse me of not trusting what that woman can do! I’ve watched her scrape by for years with no help or sympathy! I didn’t want to speak to you about this, believe me I didn’t, so don’t push me! Understand?!” He spun on his heel so fast it made a groove in the dirt, stomping over to the table and leaning over it to try and calm down.

“She’s more than capable of looking after herself, I know this, you know this, but I have to know that if Light forbid anything happens to me that someone will look after her.” Carson’s stomach dropped. “Majesty-” Varian’s head rose.

“The Orcs murdered my Father, a man I used to see as invincible, and they cut him down in a split-second. The same could very much happen to me, and if it does, Val ends up alone. Now I’m ordering you to take care of her should I fall…will you do that?”

Carson slowly nodded, shifting his shoulders. “In a heartbeat Majesty. But hopefully it won’t come to it.” Varian turned back to him, looking only the slightest bit lighter. “Good. I just needed to know, forgive me. Back to your duties.” Carson stayed put despite the command. “She really loves you, you know.” Varian flinched and he didn’t know why.

“She’s told you this, has she?” Carson gave him a small smile. “No, you just have to look at her when she talks about you. She has this little sparkle in her eye, like she’s a million miles away.” Varian couldn’t help his own smile. “I’ve done nothing to deserve the love of that woman, every day I wonder what the hells she sees in me.” Carson chuckled. “Well, it must be something, since she’s clearly head over heels.” Varian merely made a small noise, waving his hand so Carson knew he wanted to be alone.

Though once he was, it was the last thing he wanted to be. He paced, not quite knowing what to do with himself until he was called away, it was strangely annoying. Everything in him was screaming to call Val back and run off with her, where didn’t matter, Samarkand, Kul Tiras, somewhere far enough away from Lordaeron that she was out of harms way, but he soon came to the devastating realization that nowhere was safe now, so no matter what he did to protect her, she’d be at risk, which made bile threaten to travel further up his throat.

Especially since he wouldn’t be going to Hillsbrad just yet. The damning remembrance of the fact that his wedding was in one week and it would take five days just to get to the city in time had burst any little bubble he had of merely marching straight to the thick of the action. Which meant he had lied to Val, which made things even worse.

Of course he had tried his damnedest to keep her away from the subject to save her own heart, but she’d have to forgive him for potentially not being there to greet her as he had told her mere minutes ago he would be. He’d be going back to the capital, getting the thing over with, then coming down, meaning he’d be delayed a great deal.

Tiffin had written to him this morning suggesting postponing the wedding, but he had told her that as much as he appreciated the idea, it would only lead to more confusion for their people, so he would return presently and leave straight after. He’d written a note to Val in cowardice, explaining what was happening and begging her to forgive him, reasurring her that he would be at Hillsbrad for the final assault, which in his defence, was the truth.

She wouldn’t be that angry, he knew it and had to laugh at how worked up about it he was getting. They had both known since they arrived in Lordaeron that the wedding was happening, and if anything Val had expressed how glad she was that she would be nowhere near the capital for it, so really, there was nothing to worry about.

“You’re more resilient than I’ll ever be woman, I swear.” He muttered it so dismissively, like she wasn’t being the bravest soul he’d met in his lifetime, being this nonchalant about the man she loved technically marrying another woman. He knew for a fact that he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing, he didn’t think he’d even try as long as she had.

Had the tables been turned and she had been the one marrying on Tuesday, Varian would guarantee that after his heart shattered into a million pieces he’d be snatching her away, screaming, shouting, doing something overly dramatic and pathetically needy that would in the end do nothing but ruin everything, so he thanked the Light for the mature way she was taking this.

“Your Majesty, it’s time to depart.”

He barely turned at the boy’s voice, furrowing his brow. “Did you deliver my message to Miss Glenmore?” He had to look so he could see the nod he was given. “I did Your Majesty, and she wishes you a pleasant journey, good luck and added that she wants you to shave beforehand or ‘she will find you and clump you one’. Her words, not mine.” Varian chuckled quietly, running a hand down his chin to see what she meant and realizing just how long his whiskers had gotten, making him laugh more. “I’ll see to it straight away. Thank you.”

He wished that everyone kept doing what they were doing when he finally left his sanctuary and made his way across the barracks, but of course they all stopped and bowed to their King, making him far more self concious than it probably should’ve by this point. He had been king for months now, and a prince for even longer, he should be used to people doing this regardless of how much he hated it.

He passed Val and her group, flashing her a small smile as she straightened and thankfully getting one in return. She mouthed a quick goodbye and all it did was make his chest ache, since he wanted to do nothing but bid farewell like any other man would, with a kiss and embrace, but this would have to do he supposed.

His horse, a black Shire stallion named Argo after the old god of battles and war, whinnied haughtily as he patted the brute’s neck, silently apologizing as he mounted, since he had no clue how the beast managed to hold up a fully armoured king as long as the stable masters expected him to, but somehow he did, so Varian wouldn’t question it.

The cheers of “Long live King Varian!” and “Glory to the Alliance!” became deafening, especially since the Samarkandans hadn’t arrived yet, so there were no other Kings present at this particular moment, and Varian could hear them even as he kicked off, feeling his mouth dry at the sudden fear he had pooling in his chest about something so simple as a wedding.

It was a cruel irony really, that he would be scared of something so run of the mill and excited by battle, but he supposed it shouldn’t be that surprising, yet here he was thinking of nothing but how it was exactly that as he thundered south, ready to break from the group towards the capital.

Val didn’t move until Varian was completely gone, feeling better about the fact that he was leaving for his wedding more than she probably should have. She had known for years it was coming, maybe that was what made it easier to bear, but she didn’t feel as upset as her friends were acting like she was, with pats on the back and soothing words not really being applicable to her mood.

“You alright chick?” Val gave Kay a smile, which the older woman hadn’t been expecting. “Perfectly, why wouldn’t I be? We’re actually leaving today, it’s a good thing.” Hemming, ever the observant one, noticed her tone. “We meant more about the fact that Varian just left to go marry Tiffin.”

Of course they’d read the message; she hadn’t exactly hidden it, but should’ve known better than thinking they would leave it. “Oh, that. Strangely, and don’t think I’m just saying this, I’m fine with it. Tiffin knows there’s no love, Varian and I know there’s no love, what’s there to waste my time lamenting over?”

Arin didn’t look convinced as they trudged back to their tent to pack up what little belongings they had here. “Are you sure?” Val nodded quickly enough to tell them that she wasn’t as good as she was making out. “Yes, I’m sure, now can we leave it? We have our own problems to be worrying about.” Carson rolled his shoulders, throwing his things into a large leather pack that was standard for all soldiers to have.

“We have weeks of walking ahead of us, you all know this don’t you?” Arin deflated, knowing but clearly forgetting the fact. “I wish there were a way to conjure up fifty thousand horses.” Kay looked confused at the reply. “Fifty thousand? But there’s more than that here.”Hemming slung his own pack over his shoulder and put his helm under one arm.

“There’s a certain amount of soldiers being divided everywhere, from going to Ironforge to help out the dwarves left there, and then a big portion staying at the capital and spreading out across Lordaeron.” Val made a face, fishing the scallop necklace that Cillian gave her out of her bag and fastened it, opening it and smiling at the miniature portrait of Varian that Tiffin had slipped into it when she hadn’t been looking.

She had chided the blonde for it, worried what would happen if anyone found it, but all she’d gotten was that damn sweet smile of Tiffin’s and a ‘just enjoy and cherish it’. “That makes sense I suppose.” She closed it, standing and letting Carson take her bedroll after a few protestations. “When are the Samarkandans getting here? I want to see how good those ‘vipers’ of theirs are.”

This time Hemming shrugged. “I’m not even sure if they joined the Alliance.” Val gave him a smile. “Varian told me that King Nizaar pledged his support first, so I should think they’ll be here soon.” Arin huffed, letting the women out first as the three men followed to Garside’s appointed meeting place for them all.

“I’m still utterly shocked that King Greymane pledged, I’d love to know how Varian managed that one.” Hemming snorted. “I’m going to take a wild guess and say that it wasn’t King Greymane that did it, but his son.”

Val made a noise of agreement, stopping to let Carson strap her bedroll to the top of her pack. “Liam has never agreed with Genn’s stubbornness, so probably argued with him openly.” She lightly laughed. “I think that’s why Varian chose to be friends with him.” Kay started chewing her lip, hating how heavy her pack was already.

“What’s he like, Prince Liam?” Arin groaned at her girlish tone, which was highly unlike her. “Oh Light not you as well.” Val’s eyebrow rose. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” Arin’s look of disdain made Val want to laugh. “Why does every prince in the whole of Azeroth have women falling all over them? Why can’t one just be as ugly as the rest of us instead of pretty bastards?”

Carson’s eyebrows both rose. “Whoa, that’s been held in a while, hasn’t it Holton?” Arin chuckled, sweeping his hair back. “Just a little bit. Everywhere you go in Gilneas you hear about Liam’s ‘positive attributes’, it starts to grate me after a while.”

Kay sputtered. “He must get his looks from Queen Mia though.” Hemming sounded like he disagreed. “I’m not quite sure about that; if you look at old portraits of King Greymane, you’ll notice that he was quite the handsome fellow.” Carson didn’t miss a beat before teasing him. “Well if he looks so good why don’t you marry him?”

Their laughter carried them to where Garside was waiting with the rest of their regiment, with his stern gaze quieting them instantly. “Regiment three, fall in and stand.” Val and the others formed horizontal rows of bodies with the others and stood with their feet apart and their hands behind their backs, lifting their chins.

“We are to depart for Hillsbrad in less than five minutes, and are to keep to a tight schedule, camping overnight in Andorhal and Tarren Mill. There is to be no drinking yourselves stupid, you are representing Stormwind and King Varian. Do you all understand?” A hearty cry of “Yes Captain!” The older man paced from one side of his regiment to the other, running a hand through his salt and pepper hair.

“Light be with you all once we get there, for we have no idea what will be waiting for us. I received word this morning that when we get to Andorhal the Samarkandan army will have arrived, with enough horses for half of you. The other half will have to march.” He extended his arm and swept it over the side that held of Val and her group, much to their utter glee.

“This half has earned the privilege after what I’ve seen these past months. So when we get there, come and see the stable master to be assigned the horse that will be yours for the duration of the war. Now move out.”

Val slapped Carson’s open palm as they grinned at each other, trying to keep themselves dignified even though they had just been told they won’t have to walk for three weeks as they first thought. “Well that’s a result if I ever heard it.”

Kay didn’t look convinced. “We still have to get to Andorhal first Val, don’t get too excited just yet.” Val waved a hand of dismissal, falling in step with them all as everyone surged from the main compound. “It gives us motivation though, so I’m still excited whether you like it or not.” Carson looped arms with her, giving her his signature grin. “Then to Andorhal my dear comrades, to show that Horde we’re not to be fucked with!”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

Varian felt like he was in the midst of a fever induced delirium when he woke the day of his wedding, with his arms and legs feeling so unbearably heavy that he was sure something was legitimately wrong with him. He had spent the last Light knew how many minutes merely staring across at the wall from his bed, making no attempt to move or even try.

Wyll was already bustling about, he could hear him, and silently thanked the man for not pestering him to leave his little sanctuary, content to wallow in a sadness that in all honesty wasn’t even that warranted. He had seen Tiffin the night before despite tradition dictating that he didn’t, talking well into the night about the whole affair and how they felt about it, being quite candid with each other, which was always a pleasant surprise.

Thankfully she thought today as much as a farce as he did, but that didn’t explain why he was acting as if it were his funeral he were attending instead of his nuptials.“You have a few letters Your Majesty, shall I leave them on your bedside?” Varian lifted his hand, knowing who at least one of them was from and feeling quite eager to read it. “Give them here Wyll.” The old groom obeyed, of course he did, but as usual he went one step beyond and bent over, meeting the King’s eye.

“Unless you’d like to go to the monastery in the nude Your Majesty, may I suggest rising?” Varian grunted in semi agreement. “In a minute.” Wyll looked utterly sympathetic. “I know today will be hard for Your Majesty, but isn’t it better to get up, ready and have it over with than drag it out like this?” He was right, as he always was, and Varian found no argument against anything he’d said.

Though that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try. “In a minute.” He gave a half hearted attempt to muffle his chuckle but couldn’t manage it, heaving himself up as if he were ten times heavier than reality proved, sifting through his letters until he found the one he wanted, flicking the seal open and relaxing himself with his beloved’s scratchy handwriting.

“How is Miss Glenmore?” Varian finished reading her letter before looking up. “She’s well, and leaving Tarren Mill at some point today.” Wyll understood that tone in a millisecond. “You’ll be in the thick of battle soon enough Your Majesty.” Varian reached over and took the coffee Wyll had put on the nightstand, letting the bitter beverage warm his throat.

“I don’t doubt it. It’s a curious feeling, not looking forward to my own wedding.” Wyll gave him a small but sympathetic smile. “I wouldn’t know Your Majesty, mine was very much the best day of my life.” Varian ran a hand down his face in an attempt to convey some sort of clue that he was indeed alive and not a shambling corpse today.

“And for that I will envy you to the end of my days Wyll.” He put his letters down, still re reading the last line of Val’s as many times as he could. “just know that I am with you today even though I won’t be seen, and will be thinking of you.”

It was nice to know he was indeed wanted by someone, even if he couldn’t fathom for the life of him why she did, when the option to run off and be with someone who didn’t come with such ridiculousness in their lives was right in front of her.

He had regretted his talk with Carson the minute he’d had it, since it showed him the kind of man Val could easily have, and even though he’d reassured Varian nothing was between the two…in all honesty, he wouldn’t blame her for straying at this point.

Carson was the perfect specimen of a perfect man; tall, broad shouldered, handsome (at least in Val’s particular taste, which Varian would hope he knew quite well at this point), with a stable wage, more chance of protecting her than Varian ever had….the list of positive attributes about the bastard was endless.

He’d be absolutely devastated, there was no doubt about that, but in a strange, distorted way, he wouldn’t hate her for doing what everyone else in the world was entitled to, finding someone not so complicated and enjoying themselves…like they used to. Over the two days he’d been back in the capital, all he’d been thinking about was how much simpler everything was back when they were just silly teenagers exploring what love was, it made him overly nostalgic and he knew it would make him feel worse but he’d done it anyway.

Normally when he felt like this he would march down to the shop, charm his way into making Lokir give Val the day off and ride as far into the forest as they could, doing everything and nothing, it was bliss. A bliss that had been destroyed long before the Orcs had attacked. “What time do I have to be there?” Wyll carried on laying his outfit on the table, understanding his melancholy but also knowing they had a schedule to keep today.

“Half past ten Your Majesty.” Varian swung his legs round and got up, cracking his neck and stretching to shake off the sleep induced lethargy he was experiencing. “That soon?” Wyll nodded, unlocking his jewel case. “There’s already a large crowd filling the route from here to the monastery. I’ve heard some even camped overnight.” Varian withered, wishing Wyll hadn’t said that.

“Camping for a wedding that means absolutely nothing, what a pathetic existence.” He opened the door to his washroom, noticing that Val had left behind a great number of things before she left, and it was as if his heart picked them out before anything else: her comb was on the side of the bath, her robe was hanging on the back of the door, and her oils were in the basket mixed with his, it was bloody infuriating.

He turned the bath on, thanking the Light for the gnomish invention of indoor plumbing taking them from wooden tubs with kettles and running a hand down his face, realizing he still hadn't shaved even though he’d promised to.Thankfully Wyll had the same thought at some point this morning and put the bowl with almond paste in it next to the brush and razor, so Varian got to work slathering his face and wiping the mirror of steam. “Is Tiffin awake?” Wyll brought him a fresh towel, putting it next to him on the table. “I wouldn’t know Your Majesty, I haven’t been to the Queen’s chambers.”

That made the razor slip from Varian's hand and nick his palm, adding to his bad humour. Wyll grabbed his hand, pouring the jug that was nestled in his basin over it and ignoring his hisses. “Well that wasn’t very clever, was it?” Varian just stared numbly at his hand as the implications of the words ‘Queen’s chambers’ hit him like a brick.

His Queen...Tiffin would forever be known as his Queen, it felt wrong, so abominably wrong. “I…I just..leave me.” Wyll looked concerned as he put the king’s hand down. “Are you sure that’s wise?” Varian was shaking, he could see his arms quivering as he leant on the table.

“Leave. I’ll be out soon.” the door closing was his signal to crumple to the floor, stretching his legs in front of him and putting his face in his hands, trying with every fibre of his being not to cry like a lost child when in reality that was exactly what he was.

He had no idea what the hells he was doing anymore, and it scared him more than the Horde ever would. In situations like this he would normally go to his Father, but then he would remember that his father wasn’t here anymore and it would cause a panic to rise in Varian’s chest that he thought impossible to feel. The people he ran to for comfort were all gone; his mother, Bess, Uncle Lokir, they were all dust in the wind, and with Val nowhere near him Varian wasn’t sure whether he could take it anymore.

This wasn’t what a wedding day was supposed to feel like, that much he knew for certain. It was supposed to be celebrated, with a group of his nearest and dearest getting ready with him and spilling ludicrous stories of their own marriages to make him squirm about his own, there was supposed to be laughter, frivolity….there was none today.

Maybe it was because they had arranged for today to be so close after losing Stormwind, or maybe it had finally hit him how he was essentially being forced into this, he would never know, but he did know that it was meant to be completely different to sitting on the floor like a broken marionette with blood seeping from his hand and tears in his eyes.

Even though he constantly reminded himself that it wasn’t real, that it was for the good of his people, he couldn’t shake the feeling of absolute dread that was creeping up his spine. It cemented his sovereignty, there would be no running from the crown at this point, it was a frightening thought to the twenty two year old king who had rather arrogantly assumed in the past he would be the prince for alot longer than that.

He didn’t know who exactly to blame for Llane’s death, it was frustrating to say the least. Of course Garona had dealt the killing blow, that couldn’t be denied by anyone, but was it his father’s naivety that had brought him and the kingdom to ruin?

He hated to speak ill of the dead, but if his father had merely listened and not treated Varian like a petulant child who didn’t like his playmate then maybe….maybe, that seemed to be a word that swam around Varian’s head more than he cared to admit. The past two months, hells, the past five years even had been filled with the word ‘maybe’.

Maybe if he’d run away with Val as he had first intended, he wouldn’t be sitting here becoming so distressed over a marriage to the wrong woman. Maybe if he had done that, then he and Val would’ve been happy, with a life and maybe children of their own, ones created from love and commitment, not a damn syringe.

Now not only had he denied himself that luxury, he had dragged Val down with him. She had already told him that she’d never marry now whether they were together or not, which only made Varian’s chest tighten with more guilt, since the implications of it were absolutely staggering.

That meant no children, no life for herself except one of solitude and loneliness if Light forbid they did separate again…and it was all his fault. She would argue with him about that one, telling him that no, it wasn’t his fault and she was using her own volition to come to the conclusion, but she would be lying to his face and the both of them would know it.

“Varian?” He withered, leaning his head back and resting it on the table. Of all the voices he really did not want to hear today, Arthas’ was at the top of the list. He didn’t want to hear what the Light thought about this matter, or how it was the Light’s way of testing him, he knew that already, but nevertheless he croaked out a measly ‘in here’.

The light from the other room blinded him momentarily, and all he could see was the Paladin’s outline. “Your bath’s about to overflow, what have you been doing in here?” The blonde turned the taps off and waved some steam from his face, getting a good look at the pathetic looking king and sighing deeply, answering his own question.

“Varian, you knew this day was coming.” Varian barely moved, which worried Arthas more than it probably should have. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” His mumble was the only noise in the room save the occasional drip from the bath, so Arthas guided himself down and crossed his legs, putting his hands in his lap.

“You chose to carry the betrothal on.” Varian’s brows snapped down. “Thank you for reminding me of that.” Arthas shrugged as if he wasn’t angering Varian more with every word. “I’m merely being straight with you Varian, you made this bed, now you have to lie in it.” He grimaced at the glare he received. “Sorry, a slip of the tongue.”

Varian pinched the bridge of his nose, letting Arthas lift his other hand and heal it. “If this had been five years ago I would make a dirty joke about that.” Arthas gave him an encouraging smile. “You still could. I won’t tut too loudly.” Varian assumed that was supposed to make him laugh but he couldn’t even manage a chuckle.

“I admire you for doing this Varian, despite what you may think.” Varian’s eyebrow rose and he stayed silent, prompting Arthas to carry on. “You’re thinking about your people before yourself, that’s a well honoured trait in a king.” Varian huffed, looking straight ahead.

“Or maybe I’ve just gone mad.” Arthas chuckled himself, putting Varian's hand down whilst briefly comparing how dark the King of Stormwind was compared to his pasty self. “Well, what is it Val says about that?” Varian actually smiled at that one, staring into space. “’All the best people are.’ That girl and her damn books, she’s a walking quote bank at this point.”

Arthas gave him his own grin. “I think it’s wonderful how much she loves them.” Varian’s eyes glazed over a little. “It’s fucking adorable, that’s what it is.” He started laughing, much to Arthas’ relief. “Made every birthday the easiest thing in the world.”

That earned him a look of disapproval. “You didn’t seriously buy her the same thing every year?” Varian shook his head. “Only when she asked me for them. Others I would just take her places that she didn’t normally have time for.”

Arthas was just glad to have him talking even though he knew all this, so carried the conversation on despite the repetition. “I’m surprised Lokir let her have even that day off.” Varian shrugged. “He wasn’t a tyrant, but he believed in hard work, I’ve always respected him for it. Credit where it’s due, he always let her have her birthday and mine off.”

He knew time was getting on so he went behind the screen on the far side of the room to undress. “I’ll never forget the trip we took the year before our separation; I took her to Stone Cairn for a few days, at a lake-house Bess owned there.”

Arthas looked impressed. “I wasn’t aware Bessie owned any property.” Another chuckle. “It was the best kept secret that dwarf had. She only told me because she thought ‘A couple o days away will do ya good laddie, take the girl away and have some fuckin’ normality for once.’” Arthas had to laugh at Varian’s atrocious attempt at a Dwarven accent. “She’d hit you so hard if she heard you just then.”

He tried not to look as Varian slid into the bath, waiting until his bottom half was covered before he did. “I know she would, but only after she stopped laughing.” The blonde prince noticed he was using Val’s oil on the cloth he took from the side. “Fancy smelling like a sweet shop today?” Varian was embarrassed, Arthas could tell. “No, I’ve just run out of mine, that’s all.”

Arthas snatched the bottle labelled ‘Sandalwood and lemon-grass’ before Varian could grab it, shaking it and grinning wickedly. “Oh really? That’s why it’s practically full is it?” Varian swiped it from the laughing younger man, glaring at him all the while.“Don’t you have other things to do apart from tease me?” Arthas shook his head, much to his chagrin.

“No, I promised father I’d help you get ready, so you’re stuck with me I’m afraid.” Varian wrung his washcloth out, scrubbing his arms. “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?” Arthas’ brow wrinkled. “’For who?’ would be my first question.” Varian sighed, dunking briefly to wet his hair. “Everyone, Tiffin…I don’t know, just generally.” Arthas bent one leg once he was sitting by the side of the bath, resting his arm on it.

“Do you want me to be brutally honest?” Varian didn’t hesitate to nod, running his own oil through his hair so he didn’t ‘smell like a sweet shop’. “Brutally honest is all I want nowadays.” Arthas clucked his tongue, thinking how to put this semi delicately. “I would have loved to see you marrying Val today instead, as would a good few of us.” He tried not to react to Varian’s look of anguish. “But- and this is a very important but-”

He waited for the immature snort, but it never came, showing him how Varian was feeling. “- it’s what your people need. Too much change right now is a lethal concept Varian. Remember, the betrothal was announced two years ago, that’s alot of time for it to stick into people’s minds.” Varian’s pain was evident on his face. “I thought as much. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?”

The monastery was packed by the time he got there, but in all honesty he wasn’t looking at any of the faces that were staring at him as he walked down that accursed aisle. Tiffin wasn’t here yet, of course she wasn’t, so all eyes were on the King as he bent before Archbishop Faol, letting gnarled fingers touch his head and allow him to rise, trying his damnedest not to cry or vomit. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Arthas, Calia and Liam, all giving him encouraging smiles despite how much they all knew he didn’t want this.

He was starting to finally realize how Val felt when she had one of her attacks; it was absolutely awful and all it did was make him hate himself for not taking it more seriously, since in all honesty he felt like just running away, crown be damned. His chest felt constricted, his armour like a cage, and his hands were quivering enough to make anyone think he was having a fit, it was slightly terrifying.

He wondered what Val was doing right now. As far as he knew there was no engagement, the Horde hadn’t made it to Hillsbrad yet, so she wasn’t in battle, at least he hoped she wasn’t. She was probably sitting with her friends taking advantage of the peace…with that damn Carson. He was starting to reach a very close second to Cillian on Varian’s list of people he wanted to punch until they stopped moving.

Her letter this morning had gushed about how he had been ‘the perfect gentleman’ on their march, telling him how he’d carried her things or helped her onto her horse without her asking, it was vomit inducing drivel that Varian wished to high heaven she wouldn’t keep slapping him in the face with.

But he couldn’t be angry with her over it, she was clearly blissfully unaware of the man’s intentions. Val had been that way since they were young, having a self confidence level so low that Varian was sure that she had convinced herself that no one would take a second look at her, so when they did, she either didn’t notice or purposely ignored it, he would probably never know.

What he did know is even after their talk, Carson was toeing the line of Varian’s patience, and it made him want to do nothing but have him reassigned, but Val would know it was him that did it in a millisecond and resent him, which wasn’t worth it, since in all fairness, the man hadn’t actually tried anything yet…he hoped.

He had to smile to himself since she was probably sitting in her own little corner with a book in her hands and her mind a million miles away, despite what insane thoughts he was having. He had lied to Arthas earlier when he had said he hadn’t gotten her a book for every birthday.

He had made it a sort of tradition between the two of them that she never argued against, though that hadn’t stopped her trying to get him to become as enthused as her when she knew it was never going to happen. He hated thinking of Val, for all it did was make him more heartbroken that he wasn’t waiting for her as he stood like a statue in front of the good Archbishop, who could clearly see the pain in his eyes.

The crowds outside got louder, and the doors opened with a loud clunk that mimicked how his heart dropped into his boots, blocking out the gentle harp that accompanied an equally downcast Tiffin as she came up the aisle with King Terenas, and if this were any other occasion Varian would admit that she looked beautiful, even if her face was hidden behind her veil, but he couldn’t do it, not today. He took her hand once she reached him, sharing the same look with her.

“This is it.” He swallowed to wet his throat, trying in vain to steady his hand. “I’m so sorry.” She gave him the biggest smile she could muster. “Don’t be, we’re doing this for Stormwind, that’s all that matters.” They knelt in front of Faol, who raised both hands and smiled as if the air wasn’t ridiculously tense.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the house of the Light, to join these two in blissful matrimony….”

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Val had never been so grateful to have a damn horse in all of her life. She’d ‘owned’ one back in Stormwind, meaning she had one that she used every time she and Varian went out past the city, but to have one that was completely hers was strangely invigorating.

She had called the jet black mare ‘Ebony’(Carson had already teased her for the lack of imagination, but she didn’t care), and was listening to her whinny as she sat on a small rock in front of her, already furiously writing letters even when the others were only just getting up.

There was a better mood all around with the men and women that had been gifted with horses, she had noticed it as soon as they got to Tarren Mill last night; instead of exhaustion and impatience, as she had herself partook in during their march.

They had all shared a drink from the tavern and sat together, actually having a night off from training and thoughts of war to share a laugh, it brought everyone’s spirits up. Carson’s head was by her feet, and she could feel them being nudged by it as he rolled over, looking up and digging a thumb and forefinger into his eyes.

“Why the fuck are you up so early?” Val shrugged, finishing the letter to her Gramma and folding it, not really realising that she had rose before the morning horn had even sounded. “Couldn’t sleep.” Carson sighed, recognizing her quiet tone. “Are you alright?” She nodded despite really not wanting to, carrying on her letter to Varian. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Carson sat up, running a hand through his hair. “Val, you don’t have to act like everything’s alright love.”

Val gave him a tiny smile. “I’m fine, honestly. All three of us knew it was coming Car, I can’t be that upset over it.” She put her quill down. “It’s too late now anyway.” She was telling the truth; the wedding had finally happened yesterday, and to her annoyance it was all anyone had been talking about since, even within her troop.

The women were gushing over how ‘beautiful the queen must have looked’ or how ‘happy they must be’, it was beyond infuriating. She picked her hawk-strider feather quill (an early birthday present from Cillian) and furrowed her brow, needing to change the subject.“How do you spell ‘accommodate?”’ Carson shrugged, having the same level of writing prowess she did. He nudged Hemming, who was only just beginning to stir.

“Hem, how d’you spell accommodate?” he mumbled his answer, ignoring Val’s ‘thank you’ and turning back over, snoring instantly. “How d’you think they got on?” Val didn’t even bother looking up, she just carried on writing.

“Probably as well as we expected them to. I doubt they stayed at the party long, Varian probably left after the ceremony.” She swore as an ink blot appeared on the parchment where she’d held her quill there too long, scrunching it up and throwing it in her pack, getting up from her perch and snatching her waterskin up.

Carson pushed himself to his feet, groggily following her to the cauldron of water that had clearly just been boiled, putting his arms around her waist and his chin on her shoulder. “Get off Car.”He shook his head, scratching her shoulder with his beard. “No, not until you actually talk to me. Come on Val, it’s not everyday I worry about someone, you should feel special.”

She elbowed his gut, turning once her skin was full. “There’s nothing to talk about. I just want to not even think about it, so drop the subject please. I’m fine, he’s probably fine, everything’s fine.” He gave her a small grin, putting his arm over her shoulders. “Bet you’re looking forward to seeing him.” Val gave a soft snort.

“That’s the understatement of the millennia. Letters sorely lack the emotion of seeing someone in the flesh.” The morning horn finally sounded and they stepped over the shifting sleepers, wandering aimlessly and enjoying every second. “Quiet little town, isn’t it?”

Val made a noise of agreement, smelling fresh bread and following the scent, feeling the purse hanging on her belt and sighing in relief when she felt it still half full. Her wages so far had been sent to different people; some had gone to her Gramma down in Bloodstone, some to the orphans of Stormwind, and some to Varian for safe keeping.

She was used to living with little in her pocket, so had no qualms about dividing it. “Well, it was until we rocked up, now it’s turned into a barracks like every other town in Lordaeron.” Carson couldn’t disagree, it had a sense of truth.

All he could see in the green that surrounded the town was a plethora of bedrolls, horses and carts carrying weapons, tents and whatever else was needed for the ‘garrison’ down at Hillsbrad, and that was even with some of it leaving last night. It was a little unnerving to see such a little town overtaken by an army that wasn’t even the enemy, but he knew it had to be done.

He followed Val into the small bakers, trying not to look to excited at the breads and pastries laid out everywhere. He had foolishly spent most of his wages in the tavern last night, downing stupid amounts of alcohol, gambling when he knew he was awful at it and paying for a woman to spend the wee hours with (that one was something he would never, ever admit to Val).

“Fancy something?” He shook his head despite his grumbling stomach. “No, don’t be daft, you get something for you, I’ll eat later.” She must’ve seen what he got up to the night before since she rolled her eyes and took her purse form her belt. “Two custard tarts and two scones please.”

The portly baker smiled at her as he wrapped them up, eyeing Carson. “Not every day a woman insists on paying for her man.” Val chuckled, lightly slapping Carson’s chest with the back of his hand and brushing off the insinuation since she could see where he got the idea.

“What can I say, I enjoy charity work my friend.” Carson knew he shouldn’t have laughed but did anyway since the blonde in front of them started him off. “That’s one silver and thirteen copper please my dear.” She handed the money over, taking their treats and passing Carson one of the scones, munching her own and closing her eyes.

“This is just how Bessie used to make them.” Carson’s eyebrow quirked. “Bessie?” Val wiped her mouth of crumbs, stopping at the fruit stall to get an apple for Ebony. “She was Varian’s nursemaid, but she carried on at the Keep long after he turned eighteen. She was brilliant, always laughing or making a stupid joke.” She made a face, fishing some coppers out and handing it over.

“In fact, I think that’s where Varian got most of his awful ones from.” Carson snickered, putting her purse back on her belt for her since her hands were now full. “I take it you don’t share the same sense of humour then?” Val shook her head, giving him the package from the bakers to hold.

“Oh no, we do, until he starts cracking the old man calibre jokes and I just end up cringing. It’s hard to know if he does it on purpose or not sometimes. You know awful ones like ‘a dwarf walks out of a bar’ or ‘what do you call a Gnoll that won’t share his forest?’”

Carson was laughing already. “I dread to ask, but what do you call a Gnoll that won’t share his forest?” Val looked annoyed even as she said it. “A Hogger.” His groan was loud enough to make Ebony look round as they got to her, though she perked up once Val fed her, patting her muzzle lovingly.

“That was one my Granddad would tell! Light above!” Val couldn’t help her own titters. “I did warn you, I swear, he just does it to annoy me sometimes.” She sighed, still stroking Ebony. “I almost wish I had gone yesterday, to give them some support.” Carson put their tarts in her saddle bag, watching everyone start to get moving.

“All it would’ve done was make you and Varian feel worse than it wasn’t yours love. It was the best idea to stay away, besides, you can comfort him when he gets here, can’t you?” She huffed, letting go of Ebony’s head and folding her arms.“I don’t even know how long he’s going to be.” Carson bent to her ear so no one else could overhear.

“I’m sure he’s riding at the speed of light knowing that you’re at the end of his journey.” Val swatted him, trying not to laugh as Kay and Arin came over looking as if they’d been dragged through a bush. “Morning you two, sleep well?”

Arin stuck his middle finger up, sweeping his hair back. “How the hells did I let you convince me to drink that much Car?” Val gave the taller man, who was trying to feign innocence, the dirtiest look she could muster. “When you said you spent all night drinking I didn’t actually think you’d done it!” Carson shrugged as if it were nothing.

“We’re allowed a night off every now and then Val, stop acting like my damn mother.” Kay had her hand over her mouth to stop her giggles. “He nearly convinced our dear Arin to get a tattoo.” Val snorted, patting her thigh. “He’s the only one out of us that doesn’t have one, so it makes sense.” Hemming’s brow furrowed once he joined them.

“I don’t have any thank you very much, I think it’s ridiculous, going through all that pain just for a picture on your arse.” Val sputtered. “Seen alot of arses to compare, have you Hemming?” She nudged Carson. “You should’ve come and got me, I would’ve been all for it.”Arin snickered. “Why does that not shock me?” Kay suddenly looked rather excited.

“We should all get one in Hillsbrad! One last act of frivolity before we go to war! I’m sure someone there knows how to do them.” Hemming’s face dropped. “I’d rather we just get matching friendship bracelets and be done with it.” Carson spoke before he thought, which Val had come to find the norm since she’d known him. “It would be a funny as hells surprise for Varian I suppose.”

Val couldn’t believe she said it, yet here she was. “Especially if I get ‘Captain Beaufort’s booty’ just to piss him off.” Arin cringed just thinking about the king’s reaction to such an etching. “I think he’d legitimately kill him.” Kay turned as the courier that they had become used to seeing every morning came over to their small group.

“Some of you have letters! Glenmore, Holton and…Newbury!” Val took hers, not as excited as she normally was about them since there was very little chance that Varian would have written today. “I bet Varian’s missing you.” Val hated how transparent she was sometimes and barely looked at Kay.

“I highly doubt that I’m what’s foremost on his mind right now.” Carson scoffed, remembering the talk he and the king had partook in before he’d left. “Oh trust me, I can tell you with utmost confidence that you are. The war is a very close second.” Val could feel her face flush as Arin brought them all over bowls of oats, clearly knowing that they were to leave again soon.

“I’m actually quite sad to leave this place, it seems like a quaint little town.” Hemming made a noise of agreement, pulling an apple from his bag and giving it to his own horse. “This is the main source of food for all of Lordaeron, so it makes sense that it’s flourishing.”

Carson chuckled, shovelling his food in as fast as he could. “I swear you’re just a walking library sometimes Hemming.” The blonde snickered. “I’m shocked you know what a library is Car, well done.” He ducked to avoid the inevitable swat that Carson launched at his head, passing the taller man his bowl once he was done with it.

“Ten minutes until move out!” Val was glad to hear it really; she was a little sick of all the travelling, and wanted to finally get her hands dirty. Carson was trying and failing not to look jealous at how many letters Val had received once she untied the twine holding them and a small package together, but she noticed instantly and looked up at him with a grin.

“Does Carson want to open one?” They all laughed at the highly patronizing tone she was using, passing him one regardless. “Let’s hope that’s not the one from Varian.” Val flipped the one in her hand over, flicking the seal and reading her aunt’s missive.

“No, there’s no way he’d find time during his wedding day to write to me.” Carson sputtered, slipping his thumb under the seal of the one she’d passed him. “Unless it’s a charcoal rubbing of his-” Hemming’s hand covered his mouth with lightning speed. “Thank you Carson, we don’t need that image in our heads!”

Val knew it was childish to laugh at something like that but honestly couldn’t help it, folding Minnie’s stern but loving warnings to keep safe and smiling as she put it in her bag, curious as to what the little package she had started unwrapping held. “Val?” She barely looked up, fighting with a stubborn knot in the twine. “Hmm?” She didn’t like how quiet everyone had gotten.

“Didn’t you say that your Mum left you?” Val would admit that she was thrown from the out of nowhere question, finally looking up and quirking an eyebrow. “Yes, but what does that have to do with anything at all?” Carson turned the letter he was holding around. “Erm, maybe because this one’s from her?”

Val snatched it from him, held it with one hand, skimmed it, and scrunched it into a ball, throwing it on the ground and grinding her heel into it. “Ignore it. It’s just a stupid cow trying to worm her way back in.” She had gotten three letters in the past week from Mila, her mother, begging her to get in contact, to stay with her even, spilling lie after lie about being devastated about Lucian and how she wished she had been there, it made Val sick just thinking about it.

“How does she know where you are?” Val huffed, carrying on with her previous task. “She’s at Lordaeron keep with the Stonemasons, so she probably paid the courier to bring it when she saw I was there with Varian.” Hemming’s lip curled; if there was one thing he couldn’t stand it was negligent parents. “But she didn’t speak to you?” Val huffed, finally getting to her prize.

“You really think Varian would let her within ten feet of me?” Arin made a face of agreement. “How old was he when she left?” Val grunted, putting the full cigar case that Cillian had sent down in a pouch on her belt with the lighter it came with, grateful that the pirate knew exactly what she needed without her even asking. “Seven, why?” Kay sighed. “

So he probably remembers when she left better than you.” Val made no attempt to hide her nod. “Aye, hence why, if anything, he’s more angry than I am about her. Which is why I haven’t told him about her letters.” The thinly veiled ‘and neither will you’ was duly noted with the four of them, and they let a small silence reign whilst the rest of the letters were opened.

Val had to smile at the sachet of hot chocolate and packet of butter biscuits that Tiffin had sent, though her immediate favourite was the picture her cousin’s three year old, Harley, had drawn her. Her crayon avatar sported wonky eyes, a head that was far too large and four fingers, but she didn’t care at all, she loved it all the same.

“What would you do if she did speak to you?” Val shrugged, not really knowing the answer. She’d wondered herself what she would do, of course she did, and had spoken about it at length with Varian before now. She did consider talking to Lucian, but everytime she tried he would get irate and snap ‘don’t speak of her Little Bird, she’s not worth your breath’, so had left it.

Varian’s advice had been just to punch her so hard she couldn’t talk to her, and at first she had foolishly thought him to be serious about it, but he’d always laugh and hold her close, kissing her forehead or her cheeks and telling her that she would know if and when the time came, and he would support however she chose to approach the fragile subject.

But now, especially after losing Lucian, Val highly doubted his answer would be so tactful. Varian had been given a bitter streak in his heart since Stormwind’s fall, so she really didn’t want to approach the subject with him in case he blew up a little too much. The abandonment of her family by Mila had always hit a sore spot with the King, so it was probably best that she dealt with this herself.

“Who are yours from, Holton?” Arin started, clearly being jarred from deep concentration with a blush on his cheeks. “Just my mum, and Gwennie.” Carson sputtered and Val elbowed him in the gut.
“Carson, don’t make fun.” That only egged the bastard on. “’Gwennie’? Oh Light that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Arin gave him the rudest gesture he knew, folding his letters and putting them in the satchel that was already secured to his saddle. “Nicknames aren’t that unheard of you cock!” Kay latched on to the subject with a grin. “Does Varian have any for you Val?” Val smiled dopily, putting her own things away. “He’s called me Sweetheart for so long now, he rarely calls me Val anymore.”

Hemming yawned, running a hand through his untidy hair. “When did that start?” Val frowned, trying to remember herself. “Oh years ago, even before we started courting.” Arin wrinkled his nose as the horn to mount up sounded. “And do you call him anything?” Val laughed, untying Ebony’s reins and guiding her to the road. “Not really, I don’t think he’d let me anyway. Though sometimes I do call him…actually never mind.” That piqued Carson’s interest as he helped her up.

“Oh well now you have to tell us.” Val could feel her cheeks burning already. “No, I do not.” They waited for Garside to give the signal to kick off, all in one line. “Come now Val, it can’t be that bad! What is it?” Val chewed her bottom lip, praying that Varian forgave her for this one day. “…I’ve called him ‘big bear’ a few times.” Apparently mumbling didn’t save her from ridicule.

“Are you serious?!….in what context?” Val’s face was redder than a tomato at this point. “That doesn’t matter.” Carson clearly wasn’t letting this go. “No, go on tell us!” Val shook her head. “you clearly already know, so why bother goading me?” Carson’s guffaw only made her face hotter. “Because it’s absolutely hilarious, that’s why.”

Thankfully whatever shred of Val’s dignity was left intact was heroically saved by the horn signalling that they were to move, so nudging both of Ebony’s sides, she thundered away with the rest of them, hoping to the Light that Varian was coping with the wedding as well as she prayed he was.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

 

It took the best part of a day to get to Hillsbrad Fields, but the camp was already bustling with bodies of every creed, shape and size, it was a little overwhelming as Val handed Ebony’s reins over, took her pack off from the saddle and started weaving through the throngs of soldiers, recognizing the Samarkandans at once since their skin was about three shades darker than Lordaeron citizens.

“Valerica! Over here!”

She turned, smiling at the same time as inwardly cringing at Adil’s greeting, not really thinking ahead with this “not being linked to royalty” business and going towards him anyway, telling Carson and the others that she’d meet them by the mess tent soon. She bowed, trying to keep at least a little appearance up still.

“Your Highness.” Adil kissed her hand, waving an arm over the garrison, which to Val’s surprise, had already pretty much been erected. Tents went on as far as the eye could see, with beacons already being built at the top of the hills and trebuchets and all sorts of Dwarven machinery waiting by the entrance, it was a marvellous sight.

“Magnificent, is it not? It’s remarkable, what a group of men can conjure in such a small amount of time.” She chuckled, pulling her gloves on more. “You make it sound as if the women did absolutely nothing.” Adil gave her a look of pure sarcasm. “Now now, don’t twist my tongue.” He gave her a small smile. “The whispers are that Varian will be here soon.”

Val tried to hide her look of relief. “That doesn’t surprise me really. He’s probably itching to get back to the fight.” She chewed her bottom lip. “He’s got one hells of a journey ahead of him, we might be waiting a while.” Adil shook his head, handing her one of the wines his servant gave him.

“Not necessarily. If he has any sense he’d use the portals that Archmage Antonidas has stationed across the garrison.” Val had almost forgotten that the mages of Dalaran had joined them. “He’s never been one for using magic, he says it makes people lazy.” She laughed, giving her goblet back. “Then again, he really wants to get back here.”

Adil looked gravely at her. “I take it you’ve heard nothing of the wedding yet?” Val bit the inside of her cheek. “I’ve heard the usual; that the dress was perfect, he looked the image of a king, it was a beautiful ceremony etc.” Her gut wrenched a little at his face. “Why, is there something else I should know about?” Adil looked conflicted.

“Well, nothing overly dramatic transpired unfortunately, but Varian did leave halfway through the reception, making excuses that he was tired and needed to prepare. I don’t think anyone believed him though.” He looked her in the eye a bit too hard for her liking.

“You were mentioned a few times by his councillors, which I think didn’t help.” Val huffed, wiping some dirt from the kilt that poked out from her tasset. “I bet they were rejoicing about my absence.” His laugh sounded smooth and strangely reassuring.

“Actually, there were a couple that were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t you on his arm. But they were soon silenced.” She was bored of talking about the wedding, if she were honest. For two years all she’d heard about in Stormwind was the wedding, so she was more than ready to change the subject to one of Samarkand’s army, which she had to admit, intrigued her to no end.

They were a good mix of men and women, in baggy white trousers, leather boots and chest-plates that looked to be made of ebony all carved with multiple snakes weaving across each other over shirts, with scarves and turbans on their heads, though even those had steel underneath, she could see it when one of them turned their head towards the fire. “Your army looks impressive.”

Adil put his hands behind his back. “Thank you. It’s good to see them in the field of battle for once.” That brought up a question she’d been meaning to ask. “Why such a big army if Nizaar wasn’t going to use them?” Adil’s brows drew down.

“After the Amani tried to attack Samarkand from every side, he took nothing to chance. Since we were cut off from the mainland there was practically no way of finding out if they were approaching our shores or not.”

She made a small “oh” of realization, noticing such a diverse array of soldiers sitting together. “The dwarves wasted no time getting here then.” A slow nod was her answer. “Neither did the elves, would you believe?” Val couldn’t help her look of surprise. “I wasn’t aware the elves had taken part in the negotiations?” Adil’s smirk intrigued her.

“They didn’t, but there were those who refused to stand idly by and came anyway.” Val matched his smile. “So ‘alliance’ is the right word then?” Adil’s chuckle was quiet. “Yes, I suppose. I’m just disappointed that it took something like this for us to work together.” Val shrugged, not feeling quite as strongly.

“I just hope it stays that way once the war’s over. I have this sinking feeling everyone will go their separate ways and it’ll be like pulling teeth to get them on side again.” Adil’s hand barely squeezed her plate covered shoulder. “And here’s me thinking you were the optimistic one of the relationship.” Val snickered, feeling her stomach rumble.

“Oh believe me, compared to Varian I’m a ray of fucking sunshine.”Adil motioned to his tent, which was as grand as she expected it to be, draped in gold and silk. “Please, come and dine with my father and I.” Val shook her head, conscious of the fact that everyone had noticed her talking to the crown prince.

“No, I couldn’t, it’s not practical, and I have to unpack…” Adil noticed her concern, thankfully feeling sympathetic. “Another time maybe. Hopefully before we enter the battlefield.” Val let him kiss her cheek this time, putting the hood of her blue cloak over her head to stave off the small spray of rain that was starting up as she left him.

“What was all that about?” She took the bowl of bisque that Kay passed her, keeping her hood up. “Nothing much, just a catch up.” Carson scoffed, putting his spoon down and draining the bowl. “’catch up’ she says. No one just catches up with the Prince of Samarkand, Val.” Val punched his arm, wincing a little at the shock of the steel.

“Shut up Car, you make it sound like I have regular visits with him.” She smiled, sitting down next to Arin. “He said Varian should be here soon.” Arin chuckled, knocking their knees. “No wonder you’re so chipper.” She swallowed her mouthful, thoroughly pleased to be having something that wasn’t stew again.

“I don’t exactly know when he’s coming, but apparently it’ll be soon. He left halfway through the reception last night.” Kay looked thoughtful. “Can you blame him? Marrying a woman he doesn’t love, and then having people fawn over the fact would drive anyone insane.” She smirked at her. “Reckon he’ll send for you?”

Val could feel a prickly heat snaking it’s way up her spine. “Probably, if he isn’t knackered by the time he gets here.” Carson snorted and Hemming threw him a dirty glance. “Don’t even start to say what I know you’re thinking Car.” Arin leant his head back on the crate they were sitting against, and Val saw him look downcast, so nudged his shoulder lightly.

“Arin? What’s wrong?” Arin put his arms on his bent knees, sighing gently. “All this talk about you seeing Varian just makes me miss Gwen more, that’s all. I think it finally hit me a few days ago that I might not see her again.” A blanket of melancholy fell over their group, and Hemming bent down, putting his hand on Arin’s shoulder.

“We all miss the ones we love Arin, but we can’t dwell on the what ifs. You’ll see her soon, I know it.” Carson grunted, clearly not as sympathetic. “You knew what you were getting into Holton.” Val narrowed her eyes at the Kul Tiran. “That doesn’t mean he’s not allowed to miss his family Carson, don’t be such an arse about it.”

Carson threw his bowl down, startling them with the sudden mood shift. “Family, family, family, that’s all I fucking hear about! If it’s not him moping, it’s you going on about fucking a married man like it’s fucking normal!” Val got up, not caring about their height difference as she practically touched chests with him. “Do you have a problem with mine and Varian’s relationship, is that why you’re being such a prick?” Carson barely had to bend down to look at her.

“No, what I have a problem with is you lot talking about nothing else! We’re here to fight a fucking war, not gossip about who’s fucking who. I’m sick to death of you lot not taking this seriously.” He stormed off, making Hemming start to follow him, but Val pushed him back to his seat. “Let me handle this.”

She founded him shucking his armour off and practically throwing it onto its stand, still clearly enraged, but thankfully years of diffusing Varian’s tantrums had taught her a thing or two about how to handle him. “Car.” He grunted angrily, fighting with the buckle of his gauntlet. “Come to lecture me?” Val folded her arms.

“No, but I did come to tell you that being a cunt to us isn’t going to make whatever’s bothering you go away.” He stopped, putting the armour piece down and turning to her. “I didn’t even anticipate making friends when I got here. I thought I was at the point where no one would matter anymore.” Val’s face softened.

“In your defence, neither was I. You lot just happened to not leave me the fuck alone.” Carson scoffed, still in the throngs of his mood but slowly calming down. “Please, I’ve been trying to get rid of you since we met.” They both smiled, knowing the other didn’t mean it. “Carson, is this about that girl?” He shook his head, running both hands down his face. “No, no, she’s at the very back of my mind nowadays. No, if I’m honest Val, I came here fully expecting to spend some time on my own then die in a bloody honourable way.” Val’s face and arms dropped. “Car-” He raised a hand.

“Please don’t do the pitying crap with me Val. I’m being honest, which doesn’t happen often. I came here to die, there, I said it. I have absolutely no family, no prospects, no money…and I didn’t have any friends either until you.” He took a deep, long breath.

“Light, I would never have dreamed that day that we would click as well as we did. It’s strange, having friends again, and it makes me rethink my whole reason for signing up in the first place, and in turn, I get angry…like I did just now.”

Val had no idea how to respond to any of this. She stayed silent, merely putting her arms around his waist and letting him return the embrace and pat her head. “Hey now, don’t get all upset on me. I didn’t say it to upset you.” Val growled without meaning to. “You just told me you didn’t want to live, of course I’m going to be fucking upset.”

She pulled back and thumped his chest. “Why the hell didn’t you say something?” He shrugged, only annoying her further. “Because I was starting to have good days, and truth be told Val, I was actually starting to forget it all. Then Arin started taking about how much he missed Gwen and it all came back. I’m fine honestly, I just needed some time to cool off.” She could feel tears pricking the corners of her eyes.

“But…do you still want to-” Carson shook his head, but then frowned, clearly conflicted. “I- I don’t know, love, I really don’t. I’m just going to stick with my original plan of going one day at a time, and I need you to help me with it by keeping this between us, alright?” She appreciated his need for privacy, even if she thought it the wrong route to go down.

“I’m not letting this go. You’re going to talk to me everyday about how you’re doing, understand?” Carson wiped her eyes with his thumbs, reminding her too much of Varian and how he had alluded to feeling the same way in the past couple of months.

His nightmares were getting the better of him, she could tell without him even saying it. Before she had left she could guarantee at least once a night she would feel him leave their bed and listen to him grumble, blaming himself for every little thing that had befallen them and working himself up into a state.

It would only get worse if she woke and tried to talk to him, since he’d tense up and retreat into himself, demanding she went back to sleep and left it, no matter how many times she had tried to soothe him. He was far more withdrawn than she’d ever known him to be, so to hear that two of the people she cared about were feeling like this made Val feel absolutely awful.

“I will if it makes you feel better.” She managed a small smile, letting his waist go. “Good. I know it hasn’t been long, but it’s nice to have a good friend again, does that make sense?” He slung an arm over her shoulder, smiling despite himself.

“Perfectly. Come, let’s get back before they wonder where we’ve gone.” She wasn’t utterly convinced that he would speak to her, or even mention this again, but had to accept that for some reason, the Light or whatever was watching her made her drawn to men that were incredibly stubborn, and annoyingly enclosed.

“You remind me alot of Varian, you know.” He glanced down at her as they came back to the main camp. “Oh? In what way?” Val tried not to look to annoyed at him, since she knew compassion was the best way to approach someone when they were feeling like this. “You’re both reluctant to tell me when something’s bothering you.”She sighed, needing to rant herself now he’d done it. “He barely sleeps anymore, and I really don’t think he’s coping well with so many changes.”

She heard the murmur of concern from him, feeling the side of his chest vibrate since she was leaning against it as they walked. “Has he said anything?” Val scoffed, watching her feet. “I think I have more chance of becoming Queen of Samarkand. He’s always been…what’s the word? Reserved, but lately he’s just put up so many barriers around himself that I don’t think even I can get through them.”

Carson was probably the best person to talk to about this since he had just told her that he was going through the same thing. “Just give him time Val, that’s all you can do. He’ll open up eventually once he’s sorted his own thoughts out. You have to give him his due for lasting this long really.” Val knew that, and all it did was make her feel worse.

“We’re alright though, aren’t we?” She looked up at him, forcing a smile onto her face. “Of course, I just wish you’d told me sooner.” Carson’s brow stayed furrowed. “I had to make sure I could trust you first. Trust doesn’t come easy for me anymore.” She sputtered and he couldn’t help his curious look.

“Alright, now you sound exactly like Varian. I’m wondering why I miss him at all when I have his twin right here with me.” He rolled his eyes, clearly not finding it as funny as she did. “Why the fuck does he put up with you? You’re honestly the most annoying person on Azeroth!” Val carried on grinning despite the insult.

“And I’ll say the same thing I do to Varian when he wonders the same, it’s because you love me far too much!” He was laughing, that was a start. If she could get both he and Varian to laugh at least once a day, her conscience would feel alot lighter.

“Yeah, alright, keep telling yourself that love.” Hemming stood once they were back in view, apparently having the same idea as them and retreating to their tent to unpack. “We were starting to wonder whether we should send out a search party! Everything alright?” Carson raised his hand to quiet the blonde, letting Val go so she could light a cigar and warm her bones.

“Everything’s fine mate, we just needed to have a little chat, that’s all. What did we miss?” Kay took a drag once Val passed her cigar to her, offering it to Carson, who obviously accepted. “Not much, just a fight in the mess tent between a human and elf.” Val plopped next to Arin, taking her gauntlets off.

“That doesn’t shock me. Humans and elves haven’t always been the best of friends.” Hemming shook his head sadly. “And yet we’re calling ourselves an alliance.” Kay gave him a sarcastic look. “Oh come now, we were never all going to be sitting around the campfire instantly, give it time, we’ll get there.” Arin looked round, seeing some of the elves wandering the camp. “I’ve heard they’re some of the best archers in Azeroth.” Val made a noise of agreement. “I read that their rangers are trained from such a young age that by the time their as old as us that they can shoot anything from a stupid distance away.”

Carson looked disinterested once again, passing Val’s cigar back to her and swapping it for her flask instead. “As long as they cover us enough not to get us killed, they can do whatever they want.” Val had noticed just how jovial everyone was around them and couldn’t help but smile at it. “The atmosphere is better here though, you can’t deny that.”

Arin was watching the same campfire as she was, holding his hand out and helping her up, brushing his backside off. “We should go say hello.” Carson looked like he’d just asked him to swim naked in sewage. “Are you serious?” Kay looked like she was on board with the idea, taking Hemming’s arm.

“We definitely should! Think about Car, we’re going to be fighting with them soon, wouldn’t it do us all good to get to know other people?” Hemming kissed her forehead, surprising Val and the other two men. “I’m doing it regardless, let’s go.”Val watched them leave and stared open mouthed at Carson. “Have we missed something?” Carson shrugged, still not really enjoying the idea of mingling. “Apparently so? I wouldn’t push it, it’s none of our business.”

Arin and Val started after the pair with a reluctant Carson coming with them. “I thought she didn’t like men?” Val shook her head. “No, she likes both, Arin.” Carson snorted. “Selfish cow.” He started laughing properly when Val punched his side, putting his arm over her shoulders as they finally got to the fire.

“Light, I’m praying Varian gets here soon so he can cheer you up.” Val shushed him, standing hesitantly until a redheaded dwarf waved a large hand. “Don’t just stand there lass, come, sit and share a drink! There’s plenty ta go around.”

Val grinned, climbing over the log that was being used as a bench and sitting down, thanking the Samarkandan that handed her a tankard. “I’m shocked you were allowed to bring booze with you.” The same Dwarf laughed, a loud, warm sound that made Val smile even though she didn’t feel like it.

“It would be a crime not to bring it lass. We all need ta unwind afore a battle, and this be tha best way.” Carson couldn’t help the satisfied groan he let out once he took a swig of his own. “I’ve fucking missed real ale.” A guffaw was his answer.“Well there’s plenty here lad, so help yourself.” Val reached over, holding her hand out.

“Val, pleasure to meet you.” His grip was firm enough to make her glad she was wearing plate, otherwise her fingers would be dust. “Brugus, tha pleasure’s all mine lassie. First battle?” Val chuckled, crossing one leg over the other. “However did you guess?” He grinned, putting his pipe back in his mouth. “There’s not a damn scratch on ya, for starters. Yet your friend looks like a bloody cutting board.” Carson snorted.

“That’s one way of putting it. I was part of the Kul Tiran navy for years before this.” A broad shouldered woman next to the dwarf smirked, putting her hand on her knee. “And here we are again. It’s strange, being on land for once, isn’t it?” Carson nodded, clearly recognizing that she was Kul Tiran as well. “Aye, it is. But I don’t mind it a bit.” Brugus turned back to Val. “Where d’you hail from lass?” The dark skinned man on Arin’s other side smiled.

“You look Samarkandan with that skin-tone.” Val gave him a smile back. “I’m half Stranglethornian. I was born in Stormwind, my father came from there.” Brugus’ look was grim. “Fuckin tragedy, what happened there.” Val nodded sadly. “Aye it was. I lost too many damn people there.” She managed a tiny smile at Arin’s hug. “But we’ll get it back soon, so I have every hope of going back.”

A blonde haired woman folded her arms. “I have every faith in my king to help us get it back.” She smirked, catching Val’s eye. “And so do you apparently, Miss Glenmore.” Val clucked her tongue, realising the woman was from Stormwind and she’d been rumbled. “I take it you recognize me?” She nodded.“I do, I used to work in Stormwind Keep. It’s good to see you again.” That’s when Val remembered where she had seen her before.

“Irene?! Bloody hell, it’s been ages!” They reached over and shared a short embrace. “Well come on then lass, fill the rest of us in.” Irene snickered. “There’s not much to tell Brugus, young Val here is a good friend of King Varian’s, that’s all.” Val appreciated her not mentioning their romance at all, so leant forward with her elbows on her knees. “Our fathers were friends, so really, we had no choice in the matter.”

Carson laughed, nudging Val’s side. “And yet she still can’t convince him to send his own troops some ale!” Val laughed with the rest of them. “So, how fast did you make your decision to fight?” Hemming answered first, putting his tankard by his feet. “Almost instantly. I prayed for about a night over it and by the time I woke up I knew exactly what I wanted to do.” He frowned, letting Kay take his hand. “My parents weren’t so eager.”

Arin huffed. “I didn’t even tell mine I was going. I told my partner and once she supported me, I just went.” Irene refilled Val’s tankard for her. “Where are you from?” Arin looked a little sheepish. “Gilneas ma’am. Duskhaven, if I’m being specific.” Brugus grimaced. “Poor you, having Genn Greymane as a ruler.” Arin grinned, feeling slightly more comfortable.

“Aye, tell me about it. I said to Val that I’m glad Prince Liam isn’t as much of a basket case as him.” Irene drummed her arm. “Is it true he regularly makes trips down to Duskhaven?” Arin looked confused. “Who? Prince Liam?” She nodded and Arin shrugged. “Well, if he has I haven’t noticed, but he would have no reason to go there…it’s very much the small village everyone reads about.” Brugus waved a hand of dismissal.

“It doesnae matter what the lad does, he’s here ta help, unlike his damn father, so that’s what matters.” He raised his tankard. “A toast to our victory! The Horde donnae know what tha hells comin’ for em!” Val heartily raised hers and clinked it against the others, feeling more optimistic than she had in the past couple of days.

Val would be in the middle of what was probably their tenth game of dice when Varian returned, but to be honest, he was the last thing on her mind. Granted, her mind was rather alcohol soaked, but she was still cognitive enough to laugh when appropriate and answering the questions that were put to her, so that was something to be proud of

. It didn’t make the fact that she’d lost more money than she’d won any easier but the company more than made up for it. “So do you still see your Grandmother, Val?” Val grinned at Irene, taking another swig and throwing more coins in the pile. “Nearly every holiday if I can manage it. This year’s been a bit up in the air though.” She grimaced, putting her tankard down.

“She wasn’t too thrilled about me signing up, if I’m honest, so Light knows what mood she’ll be in when I do eventually see her.” Irene drummed her fingers on her knee, staring into the fire. “I couldn’t stay in Lordaeron anymore, it was driving me mad. I didn’t know anyone there, whereas with Stormwind I knew practically every face.” Val murmured an agreement, leaning back on the log she was sitting on. “Like Bess.” The blonde’s look was of of the same pain Val felt every day. “Aye, like Bess. Light, she was a character and a half.” Val started to giggle, a typical symptom of inebriation, letting her tongue poke between her teeth.

“That bloody towel of hers.” Irene sputtered, crossing one leg over the other. “I think that bit of cloth had managed to smack everybody in Stormwind Keep at some point excepting Llane.” Val snorted, cursing as once again she lost and the Alteracian across from her scooped the kitty towards him. “Varian got the brunt of it I think. I remember so many times just walking to the kitchens, hearing her shout about cakes, a sharp crack and then Varian cursing her to every oblivion there was.”

Irene was trying not to laugh as once again they dug in their purses and she took the dice from Carson. “That’s because everytime she made one of the bloody things she’d merely have to spin in a circle and find a slice missing when she came back around!” Carson chuckled, rubbing his hands together to warm them. “I really don’t look at King Varian and think ‘now there’s a man who likes his cake!’”

Val burst into giggles again, barely managing to make her roll straight enough to actually see what the dice landed on. “I swear, he eats for about seventeen people, then just works it all off. You’ll have to come to Winter Veil when Stormwind’s taken back, that’s when he’s at his most impressive.” Irene pointed to her, loving how lively they were all getting again.

“We used to find the two of them under the tables at the balls with Prince Liam and Arthas, all of them had stolen a platter from the table each and were having their own little party under there, it was the most adorable thing you’d ever see.” Kay snorted this time, refilling Hemming’s tankard.

“How old were they when this was going on?” Now it was Arin’s turn to show off his newfound confidence. “I reckon this was only last year that she’s on about!” Their laughter was far too loud to be called sober anymore, with Val completely forgetting that tonight was just a pit stop before the war carried on tomorrow.

It was nice to just forget for a few hours, it helped keep her just that little bit more sane. “Shut your face Holton, we haven’t done it for years.” Hemming pulled a face. “I highly doubt King Varian could fit under a table even if he tried nowadays.”

Carson laughed into his drink, making it bubble around his mouth before he took it away. “Those pauldrons alone are about twice the size of his head- they’re fucking ridiculous.” Val’s brows snapped and she slammed her tankard down. “Fuck you Eastcroft, I made those pauldrons you’re calling ridiculous!”

A stunned silence fell over the group and instantly Hemming looked intrigued. “You really made them?!” Val knew her smugness was a result of her alcohol intake but she folded her arms and nodded haughtily. “I fucking did, and his cuirass. I had a little help on the greaves and the rest of it, but I did the big bits.”

She might have had that the wrong way around but couldn’t correct herself now in case she looked stupid, which would apparently be the worst thing in the world. Thankfully they all looked impressed regardless, particularly Brugus, which she had expected. “Ah wouldnae have taken ya fer a smith lass.” Val’s laugh was quieter and apparently Irene noticed since she squeezed her knee.

“It was sort of the family profession. We used to own a shop in Stormwind before it fell.” Kay looked equal parts sympathetic and interested. “D’you reckon you’ll start it up again when we get back?” Val wasn’t sure how much she liked the more sombre tone the conversation had taken on but couldn’t be rude and ignore her, passing on the dice this time since her purse was getting a little bit too light.

“I’m….I’m not sure, if I’m being completely honest Kay. It won’t be the same, which I think is what I’m craving right now.” Irene made a small noise of agreement. “It’ll be a hells of alot to adjust to, once it’s rebuilt.” Val ran both hands down her face, needed to say a truth that not everyone gathered around would like.

“That’s if we even get it back.” Carson knocked his leg against hers with that damn annoying grin on his voice. “Oh well that’s not very optimistic, is it?” Val couldn’t help her chuckle. “No, but it’s realistic.” The hulking Kul Tiran waved a hand of dismissal, draining his drink.

“Fuck realistic, tonight we’re having fun whether you like it or not. What say you all that we move this to the tavern so we’re not freezing our arses off?” The general consensus was that of agreement apart from a few that were still sticking to the rule that Garside had put to them of ‘don’t make a scene’. Val let Carson pull her up by both hands and put his arm around her shoulders, laughing as hers didn’t even reach the entirety of his waist.

“So I take it you’re taking my title of naysayer now?” Val wrinkled her nose, looking up at him and wondering just how she managed to always associate with ridiculously tall men. “Not for all time to come, just a few minutes here and there.” She grimaced, kicking a heel of grass away. “I keep thinking how Varian’s getting on and all it does is depress me on his behalf.” Carson looked annoyingly smug.

“Well shit, now I wished I’d put money on your mind being with him.” Val’s eyebrow cocked as he let go of her, opening the tavern door and letting the warm atmosphere soak into her very bones and put a small smile on her face as they weaved through the crowd to rest their elbows on the sticky, packed bar.

“Did you really expect anything else? Imagine having to go through with a wedding you never wanted to a woman you see more as a sister than any kind of potential lover than tell me I’m being clingy.” She paused to watch his face change.

“See? That’s why I’m sitting here wondering how he’s doing.” She sighed, letting Carson order them a bottle of whiskey with two glasses, pouring her one and clinking their glasses even though they didn’t really have anything to celebrate.

“I’m sure he’s muddling through like he always does.” She grunted, ignoring their group’s calls for a minute. “He doesn’t muddle, that’s the thing; he festers, like a big ugly wound. He lets things eat away at him until it’s too late, that’s always been his way.”

Carson shrugged, downing his glass. “He had support, that has to be a comfort Val. He’ll be back here soon, isn’t that what Prince Adil told you?” Val nodded, trying not to smile so obviously. “Aye, he did, and I have a very funny feeling he won’t be in as cheerful a mood as we are.” They left their stools with Carson taking the bottle and Val the glasses, plonking themselves in the two spaces made for them in the circle their little band had created, with Brugus shuffling cards this time.

“Chase the ace with a twist anyone?” Val didn’t look too enthused about the second half of the title. “’With a twist?’ What does that mean?” The burly dwarf gave her a grin. “Whoever has th’ lowest card has ta answer a question about themselves with complete honesty. Ya cannae pass or lie. You in?” Val knew this would open a can of putrid worms that by all accounts should be sealed, locked away and probably burned, but what the hells. “Go on then, I’m up for a laugh.”

She wasn’t laughing when she immediately lost the first round, glaring at the ace in her hand and swallowing. “It’s too late to pull out, isn’t it?” She got a highly amused nod and sighed, hanging her head. “Go on then, do your worst.” Carson jumped at the chance, folding his large arms. “How many blokes have had the pleasure of your company over the years?”

Val glared at him long enough to make her eyes hurt. “Do I seriously have to answer that?” Brugus’ guffaw didn’t fill her with confidence. “Aye lass, thems the rules.” Val was so glad Varian wasn’t here to witness this. “One-” She blanched, remembering that was a lie. “-Two. I had someone when I separated from the first…do one night stands count?” More nods. “Then yeah, there was two.” Kay furrowed her brow in amusement. “Who?” Val shook her head. “No, the rule is one question Kay. You’ll have to wait for me to lose again I suppose.”

She hated this game with a burning passion. It had been ten rounds and she’d been the loser of four of them, telling these people things she never dreamed she would, and once again she was holding the lowest card in the deal with scorn on her face. “I fucking quit, I swear to the Light.” Brugus shook his head. “Not possible Lass. Now then…if there were anyone on Azeroth that ye could have a night o’ unbridled passion with right this minute, who would it be?”

She felt a little concerned at just how many of these questions were of a sexual nature, but figured it was better and easier than talking about politics, so went with it, smirking as she actually did answer this one honestly. “King Varian.” She heard a few whoops of agreement and saw Arin start to titter, making it hard for her not to start laughing as easily.

“It’s always that little pretty bastard!” and as if he knew he was being spoken about, there he was; her king, her love, standing in the doorway of the tavern, squirming uncomfortably at the sudden attention on him as every patron stood and lowered themselves in curtsies and bows, parting to let him come over to their group.

“I was under the impression that lights out was an hour ago.” There was a hint of mirth in his voice as he said it and Val couldn’t help retorting back. “As long as the tavern torches are burning Your Majesty, there’s no such thing as lights out.” Varian gave her a steely look for a few brief seconds before chuckling, waving a hand for them to sit. “Touché Private Glenmore. Now then, what debauchery are you all partaking in?” He sat down in the spot made for him by Hemming and Kay. “And may I join you?”

The ones who didn’t already know the King’s love of blending in and gambling looked pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t going to punish them for disobeying orders, but all it did was make Val try to suppress a chuckle and fail miserably at it, though trying not to laugh turned to trying not to swoon once he flashed his rarely seen mischievous smile at her.

“Well, Yer Majesty, we were just playin’ chase the ace with a twist.” Varian leant forward with a hand on his trouser covered knee. She was glad he hadn’t worn his armour and saw it as his attempt to ‘be one of the people’ tonight, making him look more relaxed than he would sitting in his full suit of armour, no matter how much she loved to see him in it.

“I’m a little nervous to find out what the ‘twist’ is?” Kay was beyond giddy to see Varian and Val sitting a few feet away from each other, trying not to bounce in her seat. “Whoever loses the round has to answer a question about themselves, and they have to answer it completely honestly.” Brugus pointed a meaty finger at Val and instantly her stomach dropped.

“Tis a bit of a coincidence actually Yer Majesty, we’d just finished asking Val her question when you got here.” Varian sat a little bit straighter, especially when he noticed how red her cheeks were becoming. “Apologies if I interrupted?” Val shook her head, wishing she still had her long hair so she could hide behind it. “No, it’s fine, I’d already answered.” But apparently Varian wasn’t done making her squirm yet. “And what sort of questions are we talking about? Innocent ones, or ones that would make your mother blush?”

Carson looked as if all his Winter Veils had come at once. “Sod blushing Your Majesty, she’d be combusting.” Varian rubbed his palms together, and as much as Val loved how he was relaxing, she was very much wary of how tonight was to go now. “Excellent. Now what’s a man have to do to get a drink?” Val stood so quickly her stool nearly fell over.

“I’ll get you one Your Majesty. Ale or beer?” Varian gave her a grateful nod, recognising how she used his title and realising she didn’t wish to flaunt their relationship tonight. He had already discussed this with her, telling her from the second that he revealed he’d be accompanying them to Hillsbrad that this was her domain, and whatever façade she wanted to put up, he’d follow without question, and if that meant pretending they hardly knew each other, than so be it if it made her happy.

“Thank you Private. Beer will be fine.” Kay scrambled up, blurting something about giving Val a hand and scurrying after her, leaving the rest to start the first round. “Val, what’s the matter? You’ve gone all quiet.” Val glanced back, already hearing Varian’s loud, booming laugh and trying not to lose the plot over it. “I just wasn’t expecting him to stroll in and sit down, that’s all.”

Kay nudged her, looking at him long enough to look suspicious and make Val forcibly turn her around as she hunched over the bar. “But surely you’re happy to see him?” Val nodded, confusing the black haired woman even more. “I am, don’t mistake me, but literally ten seconds after I just admitted to everyone I want to fuck him? That’s the Light laughing at me if I ever saw it.”

Kay shrugged as If it were nothing. “What’s so bad about that?” She snickered, leaning in far enough to tell Val she was toeing the line of sobriety. “Call me a fantasist Val, but I’m more than sure Varian already knows you want to bed him.” Even Val couldn’t resist laughing in agreement, taking another glance and of course, noticing Varian look up when she did.

“I promise not to tell him about that other bloke though.” Val withered, finally getting the barkeep’s attention and ordering Varian’s drink with a rum for herself. “That would be very much appreciated.” Kay slid to the side so their shoulders were touching and the others couldn’t see her mouth. “Can I know who it was?” Val chewed her lip, wondering if this was a terrible idea, but also considered that maybe Kay wouldn’t even remember by tomorrow.

“He was a member of Cillian’s crew a few years ago before they fell out over something really stupid. He’s Kul Tiran, like Car, but listening to him you’d think he was Gilnean.” Kay jabbed her in the side with a rather sharp elbow. “Names woman, I need names!” Val shushed her, ducking her head lower. “Fairwind. His last name’s Fairwind, that’s all you need to know.” She grimaced, straightening as the drinks were put in front of her.

“He was what most would call a ‘rebound’ after the whole betrothal debacle.” Kay kept her voice down, much to her relief, but her face was far too excited not to be suspicious. “Was it just the once?” Val was biting back a smile so hard she was convinced her lips would start bleeding. “Aye. I decided after one that I just wanted to be alone, you know?”

That earned a snort. “Was he that bad?!” Val shushed her again, purposely walking slowly back to their group. “No, but it just….wasn’t as good, does that make sense?”

Kay’s immature giggles of course caught everyone’s attention as Val gave Varian his drink and took her seat again, silently thanking Carson for putting his arm across the back of her chair since the rickety wood had started to dig into her back in the most unpleasant of ways. But that didn’t distract her from the rather unsubtle wrinkling of Varian’s brow as he watched her lean back into it. “Everything alright Your Majesty?”

Varian shook himself, taking a swig of his drink. “Aye, I’m just a little tired, that’s all, but gratitude for your concern.” Val couldn’t blame the High Elf sitting with them for his ignorance, but it didn’t make it any less awkward when he quipped “Wedding nights will do that, Your Majesty,” but half of them laughed regardless, when the half who knew the story well sat quietly until it died down and Varian squared his shoulders.

“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t had one yet.” That had been the last thing Val had expected him to say, but the bite to his tone made everyone including her leave it, instead all picking up their cards and having Carson be the one to loudly curse as it became apparent that he’d lost this round. “Val, since ye lost last time, ye can ask Carson his question.” The Kul Tiran suddenly looked rather worried. “When the hells did that become a rule?!”

Val however, sat up a little bit straighter and brought a smirk back to Varian's face as she rolled her shoulders like she was preparing for a fight. “Hmm….how old were you when you lost your virginity? Truthfully.” Carson grimaced, only egging her laughter on. “If you must fucking know….I was twenty six.”

Now Hemming was the one spraying foam over his cheeks, looking incredulously at him. “Twenty- but you’re only thirty four! It took you that long?!” Val was nearly on the floor when Carson shot him a dirty look back. “I just hadn’t found the right girl alright! Leave me alone!” He looked down at a creasing Val, jabbing her in the side and making Varian’s brow wrinkle more.

“Go on then miss high and mighty, how old were you then?” Apparently the rules of the game had briefly been abandoned and Val merely shrugged. “I was fifteen, like most normal people.” She didn’t like how quiet it had suddenly gotten. “Fifteen? Val…don’t you think that’s a bit young?” Val gave Hemming a hard stare. “It’s not that young Hem, hells, it’s normal in places like Samarkand.”

The Samarkandans in their group made a small noise of agreement, but the Lordaeron natives along with the Stormwind veterans weren’t so sure, and Varian’s look turned from anger to worry in a heartbeat. “But no one knows what they want at fifteen! How old was the bloke?” Val regretted ever saying anything now. “Eighteen. It’s the same bloke I’m with now if that helps?”

Apparently not. “That’s not right. Fifteen and three years younger? That’s not right at all, shame on him.” Varian’s fist had started to clench. “Enough. What’s done is done, and I’m under the presumption that Private Glenmore is happy enough with her situation, so what business is it of yours?” She could see caution in his royal blue eyes.

“I hope I haven’t assumed and you are happy with this man?” Val gave him a small smile. “I am Your Majesty, he makes me very happy.” And there was his own smile, full of relief and a little smugness at how she had answered, waving a hand to end the rather unpleasant conversation and start a new round. “We’re sorry if we offended you Val.”

Val was very much offended, since at fifteen she had been well within her own mind and had given her consent freely to Varian, who without being able to say it, was the man that they had just been unsubtly accusing of taking advantage in the most disgusting of ways when they both knew it not to be true.

It had just made admitting their relationship ten times harder and she was wondering if she’d ever let him now. Varian was insulted, she could see it in his eyes, and his whole demeanour had changed in the last few seconds as his shoulders drooped and he flung down the card he was holding.

“Maybe a less intrusive game is in order?” Kay took her cue, slapping her knees in excitement. “There was one we used to play in Northshire; you all have a glass of whiskey each, and put them in a circle. One person says a word and as you go around the circle each person has to come up with a word that rhymes with it in five seconds or less.

The person who breaks the chain and can’t come up with one has to down their drink in one.” Val put her head in her hands. “Great, a game where we need to think, that’s going to go well for me!” And finally, everyone relaxed and laughed again. Varian was sitting across from Val and as she looked up she caught his eye, having one of the mental conversations that they claimed to have taken part in when they were small, using their eyes to ask each other if they were alright and not quite believing it when the other said yes. Something told Val that they would be discussing this later and she wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

For now they kept their spirits up as much as they could, nominating Kay to start the game since she suggested it, with the black haired woman tapping her chin. “Let’s start with something easy….blue.” Hemming started when he realised it was his turn, blurting “glue” and letting Varian laugh already since his mind had completely gone blank when it came to the common language.

“Shoe?” and so on until Val was regretting not having volunteered to start since she really had to rack her brains. “Erm…you!” unfortunately it was Irene that didn’t come up with one in time and she downed her whiskey with a grimace. “I feel like us uneducated folk are at a disadvantage with this game Your Majesty.” Varian snorted, taking another long swig of beer and deciding he’d have some fun tonight even if it killed him. “I’m more than willing for you to concede Carson, and won’t think you any less a man if you do.” Val nudged the Kul Tiran with a grin spreading from ear to ear.

“Oh I wouldn’t take that Car.”He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze, making Varian bristle once again. “I don’t intend to, in fact, I’m going to start this one if everyone’s agreeable?” They were, and Val took his arm away, noticing Varian’s look. “Alright then….tits.” Val snorted, just as Varian knew she would. “Fits!” Irene didn’t falter this time before shouting “nits!” And eventually it got to Varian, who scrunched his nose.

“Fuck…” Carson started counting down with a smug grin, and as he started to say ‘one’ Varian clapped his hands. “Spits!” Making Carson fling himself back with his arms in the air. “Damn it all! I thought I bloody had you!” The chain stopped with Brugus this time, who immediately admitted defeat and drained his glass. “I never thought in a million years I’d be sitting here drinking with a king.” Varian gave Kay a smile.

“I like to mingle with real people as much as I can private Thorpe, the thought of dining with no one but nobles doesn’t interest me in the slightest.” He slapped a palm on the table, looking slightly worse for wear already, telling Val he’d started drinking long before he’d gotten here. “If I could do this every night, I would in a heartbeat.” Now it was Brugus’ turn to put his foot in it. “Ah donnae think Queen Tiffin would appreciate that Yer Majesty.”

Varian’s jaw clenched and a pleading look from Val killed any insults about to fly at the dwarf. “Yes well, she’s not here, is she?” Hemming thankfully saved the night by refilling Brugus’ glass. “I think another round should liven everyone’s spirits, we’re going to war soon, let’s have fun for just one night!”

It was nearly midnight when they were finally collared by Garside, and despite Varian’s apologies and acceptance of the blame for their late night, the captain had frog marched them all back to their tents, making it ridiculously difficult for Val to resist kissing Varian goodnight and actually being rather thankful that he had to go another way to get to the royal quarter of the camp. Kay put her arm around Val, quickly glancing back at the retreating King. “

I bet you’ve enjoyed having him with us tonight?” Val tilted her head, watching her feet to make sure she didn’t fall on her face. “I did until someone accused him of raping me.” Hemming’s face drained of colour and he slowed his pace to keep hers. “Val, I didn’t mean that at all, I swear.”

Val held her spare hand up. “No, what you asked was a perfectly innocent question, it was those other idiots telling me he should be ashamed that pissed me off.” She looked like she wanted to cry. “I wasn’t coerced, I don’t care what anyone says.” Kay squeezed her arm, putting her head on her shoulder. “We know that. Ignore those other people, they’re just jealous that they didn’t have someone who loved them at that age.”

Carson snickered, swigging from the bottle he’d managed to sneak out with him. “I feel personally attacked Kaylie, I might take it up with our captain.” Val barely managed a laugh, and Kay noticed. “Why don’t you go and see him?” Val looked around at the sea of bodies and shook her head. “No, I’ll be noticed too easily and people will put the pieces together. I don’t want to damage his reputation over this. I’ll give it an hour.”

She had no idea how long she’d been lying there when a note was held out in front of her, but she knew that the inky black of night was starting to turn to the navy that signalled dawn, so she thanked the guard from outside who had obviously taken it for her, rolling onto her stomach and breaking the oh so familiar seal. “Val” That was never a good sign.

Normally Varian’s letters began with ‘sweetheart’ or ‘my love’, he hardly ever used her name in case Light forbid his letters got intercepted and the wrong person knew she meant something to him, it had always been one of his paranoid quirks that she’d never taken notice of until he’d not done it.

“Val, I would appreciate it if you came to see me immediately. We need to talk. Come alone and use the seal on the bottom of this letter to get past anyone that stops you.” And there were the four dreaded words of any relationship. ‘We need to talk’ could mean a number of things, but to Val, none of them were good and her stomach had plummeted. She was in two minds whether she should even go, but clearly he was just as muddled as she was about what had happened tonight, so it would only make it worse if she didn’t.

She sighed, shimmying from her bedroll, lifting Carson’s arm to get her boots and slipping them on, tying the white sleeveless blouse lying next to them and adjusting the collar, clutching the letter and hesitantly making her way out. She was stopped a few times but thankfully the seal did its job and made them let her pass until she found the oversized blue tent and stopped outside, rocking on her toes and wondering what she was about to hear come from Varian’s mouth.

She could hear him grunting with a soft thump after every one, meaning he was punching something, which also meant that he was frustrated and trying to let his anger out in a way that wasn’t beating a real person. She closed her eyes as she slid through the gap in his double flapped entrance, watching as he furiously pummelled the leather bag hanging from a free standing hook next to his bed, panting heavily and incoherently bellowing, finally stopping and leaning his forehead on the thing, still banging his bandaged fists in the sides.

“Varian.” He pushed himself away, wiping his face with a towel and flinging it on the floor. “Tell me I didn’t force you.” She knew he wouldn’t beat around the bush too much, but would be lying if she said the directness of the command was totally expected. “What? Varian what are you-” He smacked the bag with the flat of one hand, gritting his teeth enough to make her see a vein in his neck start to protrude.

“Did you feel forced to have sex with me the first time, yes or no?!” Val slumped, proving her theory of him letting this play on his mind was thoroughly correct. “Varian, you know the answer is no.” There was a flash of pain mixed with inward anger across his face. “Are you sure?” His voice was so quiet that Val felt her heart clench a little.

“I’m sure Varian. You didn’t force me into anything.” She held her hands out in front of her like she was approaching an angry bear, watching him shake. Her palms finally touched his chest and it shuddered with his sigh. “How dare they muddy something I considered beautiful.” His hands covered hers and she could see the sadness in his eyes. “I should’ve said something more profound than what I did.” Val however, surprised him by shaking her head.

“No, all that would have accomplished was a prolonging of the argument that I can guarantee nether of us would have wanted. They’ve said their piece, let them think what they think.” Varian’s brows drew down enough to nearly touch his nose. “Val, they practically told you that I tricked you into it because I was older. The abhorrent implications of that made me want to rip every single one of their poisonous tongues out.” She tried to give him a smile but it wasn’t working.

“I know, I was just as angry. But it’s like you said, what’s done is done.” He let go of one of her hands to pinch the bridge of his nose. “It’s not though, is it? They’ll probably remember this for the remainder of our time here, giving you dirty looks like you’re as bad as the whores I know the men have smuggled in.”

She knew humour was inappropriate right now but used it anyway. “Oh good, so it’ll be like we’re back at court.” Varian’s glare was expected. “That’s not funny Val. Do you honestly think I like how much I’m dragging you through the mud with my actions?” Now she rolled her eyes.

“Varian, you’re doing no such thing; half of those people in there didn’t know I was talking about you, and I can bet nearly all of them won’t even remember this tomorrow, they could barely walk!” Varian wasn’t convinced. “And the ones that will remember? The ones that know about us and now think I’m some sort of rapist who coerces fifteen year old girls to sleep with him?”

Val ran both hands down her face. “Varian, you were hardly in your thirties when we did it, you were a teenager the same as I was!” Her face fell as she realised why he was arguing so strongly about this. “Are you…Varian, are you having regrets?” His eyes filled with remorse and his hands clamped onto her shoulders hard enough to make a small slap.

“No! No, Sweetheart that’s not it at all.” His face softened. “I couldn’t regret our first time even if I wanted to. The pride I felt when I realised you wanted me and no one else? I still carry that, to this day. It’s just…knowing that someone out in that camp thinks what we did was something disgusting angers me to my core.”

He let go of her shoulders and finally embraced her, kissing her head. “This doesn’t change how I feel for you.” She managed a little smile. “I would hope it would take alot more than this.” She could swear she felt his chest move with a small chuckle, but when she looked up at him his face was poker straight. “It would.” Even his voice was alot quieter than it had been. “How dare they make you doubt me like this…”

She ran both hands up his bare arms, not knowing whether smiling would be appropriate or not. “I don’t doubt you, I just had to ask.” Varian huffed, cupping her cheek. “The irony of it is that I can remember asking you about a hundred times during the actual deed whether you wanted it or not.” Now Val felt it right to smile. “And what did I say everytime you asked?” Varian was fighting his own, she could tell by how his jaw clenched.

“’Yes’. But Val-” She held a finger up. “No! No buts. I said yes, I knew what I was getting into, nobody else matters, that’s the end of this.” His face told her he still had alot more to say about it, but he stopped himself at her look.

“Alright, fine. I won’t carry this on, but I won’t be completely content for a while, you know I stew.” She patted his chest, smiling regardless. “I know Varian, trust me, I’m the same as you, but I think it’s best if we don’t add fuel to this fire and just let it be. The best scenario is that it’s never brought up again, the worst is that I get a few more questions.”He swept her hair back, still hating how short it was since it hardly moved when normally he could feel it caress his fingers. “It makes everything a little bit more complicated.”

The way she deflated told him that she knew exactly what he was talking about. “It has made me reconsider how…obvious we are.” She swallowed, trying to avoid looking at him. “Especially now you’re married.” Varian let go of her, slowly running both hands down his face. “As if I wasn’t infuriated enough with yesterday, now I have to deal with this, it’s like the Light hates my guts.” His arms dropped lamely by his sides.

“This is your way of telling me we need to be a secret again, isn’t it?” Val was trying not to cry, she really was, but this was all getting too much and he knew that. “Just until this and the wedding buzz dies down.” Varian slumped on his bed, putting his face in his hands. “Brilliant, just fucking brilliant.” Val put her arms around his shoulders, kissing the crown of his head. “I’m sorry Varian.” He held her hips, putting his forehead on her belly.

“No, don’t be sorry. It’s just what needs to be done until everyone’s occupied with something else.” He finally looked up and gave her a tiny smile. “I did promise you that I’d take your lead on this, and I intend to stick with that. If you want us to lay low for a little while, then that’s what will happen.” Val bent down for a kiss, feeling him stiffen as she did it, but not saying anything until she straightened. “Varian…what they said doesn’t change anything between us though, does it?” Varian ‘s face was annoyingly unreadable.

“I might be a little hesitant for a brief moment, but that’s it.” He held both of her hands, linking their fingers. “Would it help if I assured you that I still want you?” Val was trying not to smile, he could tell. “Maybe a little bit…but I think neither of us are feeling amorous tonight.” Varian finally chuckled, making her relax a little more.

“No, I’m glad you said it before I did.” Val pointed over to the armchairs sitting by the brazier, shifting her feet. “Can I suggest we sit down then? I’m still very much inebriated and standing isn’t a good idea.” Varian let go of her hands so she could do just that, slumping back and pulling her boots off. “By all means, make yourself comfortable.” She stuck her tongue out at his sarcasm, bringing her knees up. “Kay reckons those people are just jealous that we knew what we wanted back then.”

Varian chuckled again, making her think he was getting over it for the time being. “That seems like a blissfully ignorant reason…let’s use it.” She didn’t know whether he said it with the sole purpose of making her laugh but it worked perfectly. “I never thought we’d be berated for something that happened nearly five years ago.”

Val shrugged. “That’s why I’m not as bothered by it as I probably should be.” His expression flitted enough for Val to see that he was coming around to her logic. “That’s very true I suppose…it was just a bit of a shock, that’s all.”

She left her seat for a minute to go around the back of the chair and push it forward, so when she sat back down her foot could wrap around his leg. “So you’re alright?” Varian gave her a pained smile. “I will be. I won’t forget this anytime soon, but I won’t make a big hurrah over it.” Val put an elbow on the arm of the chair, leaning her head on it. “I’m glad we feel the same way.” Varian smacked his lips together, furrowing his brow. “I don’t suppose you’d like another drink?” Val snorted, swinging her leg once he stood and it flopped loose.

“Sure, why not, let’s completely ruin my liver.” Varian poured two ales, passing her one as he practically fell back into his chair. “…Are we going to talk about the wedding?” Varian’s brow furrowed. “Do we honestly have to?” She gave him a tiny smile. “We should really Varian, it’s quite an important thing.” Varian swirled his drink, looking into the goblet like it held all of life’s answers. “It went as all weddings did; with fake well wishes, fake vows and gifts we’re never going to use.”

Val’s eyebrow rose. “Not all weddings are fake Varian.” He huffed, putting his ale down and starting to unwrap the bandages around his hands. “Maybe I’m just bitter about them now, who knows?” Val wasn’t going to let this go. “How did Tiffin look?” Varian’s eyes were swimming with pain. “Why are you doing this to yourself Val?” Val swallowed, not really knowing the answer.

“It’s to be our life now Varian, having an extra person in our relationship, so I think it best if I’m up to speed with everything.” Varian could see her point, but that didn’t mean he liked it any more. “You still have a chance at a normal life, if that’s what you want.” She shook her head, just as he had expected her to.

“I don’t want a life without you in it now Varian, it wouldn’t feel right. I’d probably just end up alone anyway.” Varian’s smile looked like it physically hurt. “I suppose that’s a compliment.” Val’s own smile matched his. “It is, since it means I’d never find anyone that could make me feel as happy as you.” Varian chuckled again.

“Now that was just corny.” She kicked him, making his ale leap from his goblet and splash his arm since he’d chosen that second to pick it back up, with his grumbles only causing more giggles to escape her lips. “It’s true though, so you should be flattered at my poetic words, I swear I’d outdo any fuckin’ bard in Azeroth.”

Varian used his tunic to wipe his arm, smirking up at her and thoroughly enjoying how they hadn’t let a few hurtful comments ruin their evening. “You are absolutely drunk off of your mind woman.” She wasn’t going to disagree; she had started to sober up after earlier, but the ale had lit the spark of drunkenness again and now she felt rather merry.

“Maybe, why is that so funny?” Varian propped his chin up with one hand. “Because your Stranglethorn is showing Sweetheart.” She only laughed more at how he was completely correct; Where Minnie had been living with her just as Val had started to learn to speak, she had picked up the Stranglethornian accent from her and Lokir, only to lose it once she became Varian’s permanent playmate at the behest of Varian’s tutor, who had told her rather rudely that ‘real little ladies didn’t have twangs.’

Varian had hated it, since he was always fascinated with it and could listen to any of the Glenmores talk for hours. He found it hilarious that whenever Val had too much to drink or got too angry to function, that same accent that was clearly buried deep in her mind would push itself out, turning her into the image of her father even more for the tickled king as he watched her swing her legs over the arm of the chair and laugh even though he hadn’t said anything remotely funny.

“That sounded alot dirtier than you probably meant it to be.” Varian hated how infectious her mirth was, but she’d always been able to boast of her knack for making him laugh without meaning or wanting to. “I honestly don’t care. Tonight’s been such a break after the stiffness that was the wedding, despite everything.”

Her brow furrowed and she tried to sit up a bit more, merely sliding down again. “Was it really that bad?” Varian clucked his tongue, drumming his knee. “It was, and it wasn’t. Tiffin was brilliant, I couldn’t fault her. She did her duty with such grace, I must’ve looked like a newborn giraffe with how much I was floundering.” He sighed.

“It was just everything else that was an unbearable farce.” Val shuffled to the very front of her seat, holding a hand out and squeezing his when he put it there. “At least it’s done now.” Varian slowly nodded, kissing her knuckles. “Aye, at least it’s done.” Val took her hand away to steady herself. “Go on then, give me the gossip.”

Varian chuckled, putting his elbows on his knees. “What gossip?” Val’s dry look only made him laugh more, showing him that his own sobriety was coming into question. “Oh come now Varian, this is the wedding of the year, there had to have been some drama.”

He scratched the back of his neck, wondering himself if he just hadn’t noticed or not cared, but he was coming up blank. “I hate to disappoint you Sweetheart, but apologies, it was quite the boring event.” She blew a raspberry, clearly not sated with that answer. “Oh boo Varian, it’s not a wedding without some sort of family ruckus.”

Now Varian knew what she was talking about. “I think that’s considered a class thing Val. Though I would’ve taken a ‘good ol’ knees up’ over crab legs and quadrille any day.” Val snorted. “Fuck you, crab legs are amazing.” She started giggling again, another symptom of her being past the point of no return as she curled up on the chair, hugging the cushion that had been behind her.

“Do you remember Robin and Priss’ wedding?” Varian used the space she had made at the front of her seat to prop his feet up after kicking his boots off, figuring that he wouldn’t need to escort her back tonight since she was in no fit state to traverse back across a camp. “Not very well, I will admit, but I think that was all the vodka Tobias kept ramming down my throat.” Val grimaced, feeling a little sleepy.

“I told him to slow down with it.” Her grimace turned to a small smirk. “I never thought I’d be the one taking care of drunk you.” Varian knocked his foot against the bottom of hers, glad of his long legs for once. “Neither did I, when it’s very much my job to look after you.” Now her smirk was a smile. “No it’s not Varian. You have your own things to deal with.” Her eyes were closing, Varian was watching them flutter more than a butterfly’s wings.

“You’re very much wrong Sweetheart,” he got up, looping an arm under her legs and cradling her with the other, ignoring her whine as he lifted her, kissing her forehead and carrying her over to the bed, shimmying her breeches down and letting her pull the furs up as she finally gave in. He sat by her legs, bending down and lingering on her sweet tasting lips. “It’s always to be my job to care for you Val, as long as I live.”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Varian Wrynn and all recognisable characters belong to Blizzard entertainment. Valerica Glenmore and characters not from Warcraft or it's associated games cannot be sold or used without express permission from the author.

Two days later, they would finally get their answer as to where the Horde would land. Val was at the lake to the north of Hillsbrad Fields, scrubbing her arms of all the muck that came with partaking in a days training and merely falling into bed afterwards. Kay had a smirk on her face as she flipped her wet hair back, patting it with the linen sheets they’d been given.

“Good night last night?” Val grinned, rolling up the legs on her loose trousers and moving onto her legs, grimacing at how dirty the cloth was once she’d finished. “Maybe, why is it any of your concern?” A snort to her left meant that Carson was listening. “Because that damn smile hasn’t left your mug for two days! That must be some damn good ‘quality time’ you and Varian are having!”

Val shushed him, more so people didn’t hear the details of her romantic life compared to what it used to be, the fear of then hearing she was with Varian. “How about you shut your gob!” Hemming spat into the lake once he’d finished his teeth, wiping his mouth. “I don’t think we need to hear about all that Car.”

Arin, who had gained a certain amount of confidence, chuckled at the blonde and put his shirt back on. “Alright then, shall we talk about you and Kay sharing a bedroll last night?” Hemming’s face flushed a dark crimson and Kay started involuntarily giggling, intriguing Val, who had obviously spent the night in Varian’s tent again, so had no knowledge of this. “What the hells are they talking about Hemming?”

He cleared his throat after freezing for a minute. “Nothing, absolutely nothing!” He sighed, knowing he’d been rumbled and really not wanting to feel ashamed of it if he were being completely honest. “Alright, so maybe we did, what of it?” Kay swept her hair back, tying it up and grinning. “You’re just jealous that you’re the only one not getting any, Carson.”

His scathing retort was cut off by the sudden blare of the war horns, the horns that were only to be used when battle was imminent or the Horde had been sighted nearby. It made them all jolt into action, abandoning their task and running back to camp, finding a flurry of activity and hearing about five different voices commanding groups to move out.

“Well that fucking ended that conversation, didn’t it?” Val could barely hear Carson over the pounding of her own feet as she and the rest of their regiment barrelled into their tent and over to their armour stands, throwing the plate on as quickly as her cold fingers would allow.“Well, I doubt the Horde wanted to listen to us talk about fucking anyway.”

She huffed, buckling her cuirass. “Happy fucking birthday to me!” Kay looked genuinely upset as she pulled her bracers on. “Oh Val you should’ve told us!” Carson shot the black haired woman a look. “Not the time Kay!”

“Regiment three! Suit up and fall in! Sir Lothar’s waiting!” Arin looked a little afraid as he snatched up his helm. “What do you think’s happening?” Val had noticed that Carson always became more of an arse than he normally was when he was concentrating or in the midst of a command, and now was no exception.

“What the fuck do you think is happening Holton? The Horde’s been sighted, the beacons are lit, didn’t you see them?!” Val shoved him, knowing he’d forgive her for it later. “Leave him alone! He only asked a fucking question!”

Hemming once again acted the adult amongst a group of bickering children, squeezing himself between the two as a scuffle broke out. “Both of you pack it in and finish getting ready! We can’t fight like this when we get there or we’re all dead!”Carson grunted, clipping his great-sword to his back and kissing Val’s head, stepping back.

“Apologies, I’m just stressed. I know what will happen once we get there. Remember, this isn’t my first battle.” Val tried to lighten the mood as they all hastily made their way outside, using her teeth to pull the strap of her gauntlet. “And hopefully this won’t be our last.”

“Miss Glenmore!” Lee’s call caught her attention and she stopped him before he barrelled into her. “I can’t go and see Varian right now, surely knows that?” Lee shook his head, passing her a folded note. “No, he does, that’s why he gave me this. He’s gone on ahead with his own troop Miss.” He patted her shoulder.

“Light be with you.” Once he was gone Carson stopped her, holding her shoulder. “Val, read it.” She shook her head, not really wanting to. “No, I don’t like goodbyes and Varian respects that. I’ll read it later.” Kay squeezed the other shoulder. “Please Val, you’d never forgive yourself if you don’t.”

She sighed, ripping the seal open and only just catching her necklace, which she had apparently left in his tent the night before, but she noticed there was more than just the locket hanging on the chain. Clinking against it was Varian’s newly made signet ring, a thick, silver trinket with the alliance lion on the face.

She read the note, feeling her eyes water even though she didn’t understand why. They had talked about this the night before; they knew they would be separated at some point during battle, so why the hells was she getting so emotional? The note was short, sweet, but profound, with only three words needed to make Val smile through her brewing tears.

“What’s it say?” Val folded it, shoving it in the tiny pouch on her belt and letting Kay put her necklace on. “It literally just says ‘I love you’.” She gave Arin a smile. “He does it all the time when he goes away, because it means he has to come home so I can say it back.”

Kay’s loud ‘aw’ was cut off by the stomp of Lothar’s sabaton, which meant they all had to be quiet and pay attention. Carson’s grip on her shoulders never relented all the time she watched a man she’d known for years finally look his age as he looked over the rabble.

“Admiral Proudmoore has sent word that the Horde have an armada of ships coming this way.” Arin’s hand snatched hers and she squeezed it just as hard without having to look. “We ride for Pyrewood to meet them on the coast and make sure they don’t get any further into the kingdom, Light be with you all and fight for the Alliance!”

Val barely whispered the echoed shout of ‘for the Alliance!’ and within seconds was being steered by Carson to Garside, who had called his regiment over to their section of the stables. She found Ebony and got on as quickly as possible, watching the sea of bodies flow through the entrance of the barracks, swallowing her fear and kicking off with them, praying for the first time in a very long time.

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The Horde was already there by the time they arrived, and the Alliance army, even with it’s great numbers lined along the coast, looked puny compared to the ships (clearly stolen Dwarven and human vessels as well as new constructs) that dotted the sea. Varian, Arthas, Nizaar, Khadgar and Uther were already waiting for Lothar, with Varian giving him his spyglass.

“There must be thousands of those bastards out there Anduin, I thought you said Daelin thinned the herd?” Lothar huffed, looking for himself. “It matters not. We’re here, we have to deal with the cards we’ve been given. Khadgar, throw my voice, so all can hear.” The now white haired mage nodded, muttering a spell and pressing two fingers to Anduin’s throat.

“Alliance! They may look many, but we can still hold. All those with shields move forward, make a wall to protect the rest until I call the charge. Lady Windrunner's archers will stay up here to rain hell on them the minute they step foot on that sand! Now move!”

Val was waiting behind the wall with the others when the ships finally made land, standing in line with the other gunners, pointing the blunderbuss she’d had barely a weeks training with (Little Bird was hanging on her belt) through the gaps deliberately made in the shielding, and every inch of her was roaring to engage prematurely even though she knew that would be the worst idea imaginable.

Doomhammer yelled something unintelligible and in an instant, the battle had begun, with thousands of Orcs running straight at them, and Val couldn’t help flinching at the gut wrenching noise the bodies hitting the wall made, with the poor bastard she was in front of giving everything he could to push back the snarling green orc in front of them.

More shouting, and they retreated, giving Val time to breathe. She had no idea where the others were apart from Carson, who was at her one o’clock with his shield held firmly up and a grimace of pain on his face. She would make sure he was alright later, right now she was listening to Lothar shout ‘Fire!’ as they came again, pulling the trigger and planting her feet as the shot made her stumble, thankfully hitting an orc in the shoulder, which made her start to grin until she realized it did practically nothing to slow it down, and soon enough they were all shoved back with the force of another wave of Orcs.

The shield to her right slumped back, and Val realized the poor wretch was dead the second he hit the floor, leaving a gap in the wall that could prove potentially fatal. She knew she was disobeying orders and had no idea what she was doing, but she discarded her gun, dived for his shield and threw it up, making Carson look at her in horror as the Horde once again retreated, with the only noise being the whistling of arrows at the elven rangers loosed them upon the Horde like a blanket from above.

“What the fucking fuck do you think you’re doing?” She gave him a pleading look to trust her, and watched as a good number of orcs actually managed to fall, looking rather like pincushions once the elves had finished with their part of the initial assault, it was gratifying to see.

Lothar, Uther, Arthas, Nizaar and Varian had broken the line to engage the orcs directly, and she could see them halfway down the beach in front of her, with Varian looking far older than his actual years as he roared, slicing one orc’s chest and turning to take the head of another.

The Horde were charging again, and Val had to brace herself as one came straight where she knelt, making her organs jolt with the impact once it made contact, with the bottom point of the shield hitting her abdomen so hard she was sure it was going to make one hells of a bruise once all this was done. “They just keep coming” was whispered in fright to her left and she had no choice but to agree, since a never ending slew of Horde warriors were piling from ships that were only just breaking the horizon, with some jumping into the shallow part of the sea in their eager states to get to the battle faster.

“The Light is my grace, the Light shall protect, The Light is my Grace, the Light shall protect”. She would normally snap at those praying within ten foot of her, but felt herself really wanting to join in as Doomhammer started barking orders again, pulling the Orcs back, but not calling for them to charge again, making her hands begin to quake.

“Why have they stopped?”

The question on all of their minds were answered before she could even finish the thought, with the floor shaking underneath them as monstrous behemoths came from behind them, catching them off guard and making the line break.

Lothar ordered them all to ready themselves but it was already lost in the noise of it all as feet the size of which Val had never seen came down on groups of them, not caring if they were Elf, Samarkandan, Human or dwarf, whoever was caught underneath died in a horrible crunch and squelch of bone and flesh, making Val want to vomit over her boots.

Then things exploded into chaos, for the giants’ arrival had made them all stop focusing on the orcs, who stormed the shore and were picking off Alliance soldiers like they were flies. “Val, behind!” She spun on her heel at Carson’s call, flinging her shield up and not being able to hold in a loud grunt of pain as a club smashed into the steel, denting it as well as what was most likely her spine when it met the floor. Not ten minutes into her first battle and she was already on the floor….maybe Varian was right, she wasn’t cut out for this. She used the shield as a barrier to dull the hit after hit of the club, buying her enough time to slide her hand down her side, pull Little Bird from it’s holster and cock, firing right into its cheek and sending it reeling back.

The momentary pause let her do it again with three more of the bullets she had brought with her, swearing when she ran out and shoving it back in her holster and ripping Captain’s Might from the strap on the other side, jumping to the side to dodge another swing and trying to unscramble her brain enough to remember what she had been taught, swinging upwards and hitting it’s wrist, aiming to weaken it enough to drop the club, but knowing it was a very stupid idea.

Once again her shield was her best option and she decided defence would be better than anything right now, especially because absolutely everyone was crammed onto the small patch of shore, so she was forever dodging axes and limbs. Her shield wasn’t going to take much more of this, so the Light given answer to her angry plea was Carson spearing the orc with his great-sword and pulling it out of its corpse. “You alright?” He shouted quickly and she nodded, discarding her shield and grabbing him as a giant foot nearby shook the ground again, landing far too near them for her liking.

Carson made her duck as more arrows came down, but an orc took that as an opportunity and charged them, knocking them both flying. As Val hit the ground she felt two sharp, intense flickers of pain, one in her arm and one in her thigh, not even thinking straight as she snapped the arrows sticking out of them and got up, looking for where Carson landed but not having time to look for long.

An axe sliced the air above her head, only avoiding scalping her by a split second, being blocked by her hammer as it arced round again, showering their feet in sparks as she pushed back, knocking the axe upwards, kicking the Orc back and thinking very much irrationally, swinging at its knee and hearing a sickening crunch as the cap shattered.

It dropped its axe and Val’s survival instincts finally kicked in, scooping it up and burying it in the orc’s neck, relishing her first kill alot more than she thought she would. She yanked the axe as hard as she could, but it didn’t budge, so she used every bit of strength left in her shoulders to swing backwards with a two-handed strike against the orc behind her.

“Dive for cover!” A garbled order made Val stop, noticing the air above her rush and the tree that was scooping down to barrel through the crowds. She jumped, rolling to a stop and scrambling up once it’d passed her, feeling woozy from the arrows still embedded in her sore flesh.

The giant that had just made a move for them went for another strike, but as the tree arced, the creature exploded in a shower of sparks, which Val could only assume was the mages doing, since it clearly wasn’t spontaneous. She could smell smoke, she knew it anywhere, and looking up she saw that a desperate attempt to stem the Horde’s progress had been made, with Turalyon holding the torch that started the wall of orange behind the elven forces.

The ratio of Horde bodies to Alliance was pretty even by the looks of things, and the giants were all but decimated by the newly arrived ballistas and trebuchets, so it left the orcs to fend for themselves. We might just win this. She swung at the chest of another orc charging towards her, remembering Varian’s trick and arcing her leg upwards, but having her foot caught and painfully twisted wasn’t the outcome she had anticipated.

Though then again, neither was Shalamayne slicing down and severing the hand holding her, leaving the limb with its fingers still curled around Val’s ankle, so she had to shake it off. “Are you alright?” She frantically nodded, shooing Varian away. “Go! You can’t stop!” He obeyed, looking back at her. “I’ll find you after!”

She didn’t doubt it, but right now he had more important places to be.With their giants gone, the Horde was letting its full force upon them, and Val felt overwhelmed very quickly. Her left arm was becoming useless from blood loss, and her right was starting to tire quicker than she would’ve liked, meaning she was becoming her own hindrance.

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They had been fighting for hours, and the sun was starting to sink in the horizon, with every single one of those hours bearing down on Val as she slumped, taking a quick second to get her breath back before starting again.“This is ridiculous, how many are there?” She’d found Carson again by the grace of the Light, and the behemoth of a man was standing back to back with her, his sword covered in blood as much as his head was from a gash above his eye, hunched over with what was probably at least two cracked ribs.

“Far too many, where’s Anduin?” Carson groggily sliced another orc and she shot another with the helpful bag of bullets that a passing dwarf rifleman had thrown her, and looking around they found morale had ebbed to an all time low.

The soldiers around them looked as if they were about to drop, and their numbers had dwindled significantly. Val was exhausted, hurting and ready for the call to retreat to blare out, but apparently it wasn’t. What did finally come was Lothar’s voice, ringing as if he were a god among men, clearly using Khadgar’s trick again.

“Hold fast, the cavalry will thin their numbers!” Val wasn’t aware that they even had a cavalry with them until Lothar, Varian, Nizaar, Adil and about five hundred (She assumed, there was no way to count them) rode like bats out of hell down the hill next to them, cutting orcs down left and right before she could even blink. “Sweet fucking Light…”

The new reinforcements had made Val’s adrenaline start pumping again, and she gripped the handle of Captain’s Might all the tighter, joining in with the growing bellows of the Alliance and following the direction of the cavalry as they led the final push, letting them make a path through the orcs at the same time as killing them.

The infantry were finally given a chance to catch any orcs that were left in the open, including Val, who smashed the knee of one and arced upwards to meld its bottom jaw to its nose, dazing it enough for Val to dance to the side and Carson to finish it off with a strike through the chest.

And finally, after Light knew how long…the drums.

The drums that meant the Horde had given up, that they were retreating, it was the most beautiful music to Val as Lothar called for them to fall back at the same time, separating the Horde and Alliance and letting Carson hold Val’s shoulders as they watched the Orcs scramble back onto their ships and disappear, with the stragglers being taken care of by the cavalry.

Once they thought it appropriate, cheers of joy and roars of victory sounded and Val threw her arms around Carson, ignoring how much it hurt as he lifted and spun with her. “We did it Car! We only went and fucking did it!” He kissed her forehead, sweeping her damp, dirty hair back. “Not bad for your first run my girl.” She clearly didn’t agree with him.

“Are you insane? I was absolutely abhorrent out there. I need more training with an actual blade, that much has become apparent.” Carson waved a hand of dismissal, patting her back as all those who had survived starting gathering into a group, stepping over the plethora of bodies when all the while Val was searching the faces for the others in case they had Light forbid fallen.

She hadn’t seen Kay, Hemming or Arin since the battle pretty much started, and would be lying if she said she wasn’t extremely worried about them by this point. She knew they could all hold their own, but it only meant that she cared enough to be concerned. “Don’t worry about it right now Val, lets just enjoy our small victory.” She mustered a smile up at him.

“Where d’you think the others are?” Carson’s brow furrowed while he watched Lothar stand at the top of the hill above them, looking around and despairing at just how much smaller the army was from a few hours ago. “I don’t know, but I’m sure they’re fine.” The cautious indifference in his voice did nothing to soothe Val, but she supposed she couldn’t really expect any other response; there were thousands of other bodies on the battlefield, there was no way of knowing where three specific people were. It had been different with Varian, he’d been on Argo the whole time, so he was elevated, making him easy to spot.

Khadgar put his fingers back on Anduin’s throat, which was just as filthy as the rest of the old man at this point. “Alliance! Today has won us a great victory, for the Horde now know that we are capable of overpowering them!” His speech was of course interrupted by more cheers, and even Lothar himself chuckled at them, letting them die down before he carried on.

“But this is only the beginning! The Horde will further their efforts to wear us down, but we must be ready! Take tonight to rest, recover and rejoice! For tomorrow we carry on the effort to rid Azeroth of the Horde!”

The ride back was a painful one; it was as if all of Val’s injuries hit her at once, and in an instant everything started to hurt. Her bones felt like they were about to grind themselves into dust, the two arrow wounds (that still had the damn heads in them) burned like they had a poker stabbed into them, and her chest felt tighter than a miser’s purse. And yet…she wouldn’t change her mind about the choices she’d made to bring her here.

She had no regrets about joining the army, she was relishing the fact that she’d survived her first battle with only minor injuries and all her limbs intact, it was a wonderful feeling when even her own mind had convinced her she was in way over her head and that she wouldn’t make it even this far.

Carson practically carried her to the ‘infirmary’ (it was really just a cluster of tents put together to make one big enough to house every injured bastard, of which there were alot) and plopped her on a cot ready for one of the many priests and physicians to come over to her once they were done with the other charges.“Are you not getting looked at?” Carson looked begrudgingly at the priestess closest to them.

“I have to really, I’m sure one got my fucking kidney.” He unbuckled his cuirass and threw it to the floor, showing Val how dented it was now it was lying against the green grass. Looking back up she sucked in air through her teeth at the large, purple bruise covering his right side, gently prodding it with her fingertips and snatching her hand back when he flinched.

“Fucking hell Car.” He gave her his usual cocky grin. “Trust me love, I’ve had alot worse before now, if anything this is quite tame.” She started taking her own cuirass off, feeling like it was one of Tiffin’s damn corsets with how tight her chest was right now. “Why did you leave the navy Car? You’ve never told us.” His smile faded and he sat next to her, putting his elbows on his knees. “Are you expecting some dramatic tale about a horrific thing happening to me?”

She grinned, stroking the back of his neck. “Would be nice.” Carson chuckled, grimacing at how it irritated his bruised organs. “Well I’m going to utterly disappoint you, sorry. I just had enough one day, that’s all. Dealing with pirates all day every day grew quite tedious.” She snorted, putting her gauntlets in his cuirass.

“I’m shocked you haven’t met Cillian then.” Carson gave her a lopsided grin. “I plan to once we get to Stormwind after all this is done, you haven’t shut up about the bastard since we got here.” Val leant back so the Priest that had come over to them could assess her. “Stormwind? I would’ve thought you’d be going back to Kul Tiras?” Carson shook his head. “There’s no point, I haven’t got anything there. And I suppose I can be more useful in Stormwind.”

Val looked less than optimistic. “That’s providing there’s a Stormwind to get back.” Carson tried to look reassuring. “Surely Varian would have told you if there was nothing left by now?” Val grunted, holding onto his arm as the first arrowhead was taken out. “He’s told me that some of it still stands, which is a plus I suppose.” She finally let her face relax. “Means there’s less to rebuild.”

“Carson! Val!” They both let out a noise of utter relief when Hemming called them, helping Arin over and letting Kay run forward and hug the hulking Kul Tiran. “We were wondering what happened to you!” Hemming sat Arin down, who was told by the same priest tending to Val that he would be seen to as well, which he was more than happy about. “What happened to you then Holton?” Arin grimaced, pointing to his knee. “Fucking club to the knee, dislocated it instantly. Add in a few nicks with an axe and my night’s looking to be fucking fun.”

Kay was covered in blood, and Val had no idea whether it was hers or not. “But you’re all alright?” Hemming gave her a small smile. “As alright as we can be, just grateful that we’re alive.” Kay hung her head, letting him put his arm over her shoulders. “There were so many bodies when we came in just now, and they’re still bringing some up.”

Val made a sad noise of agreement. “I shudder to think how many letters of condolence Varian has to write tonight.” Arin nudged her with his good arm, ignoring her loud curse as finally both arrowheads lay next to her and she could finally be healed. “Have you seen him yet?” She shook her head, taking a sigh of relief when the warm glow of the Light washed through her wounds and around her heart, making every ache, pain and sting melt away instantly.

She thanked the priest as he moved onto Arin, and rolled her shoulders, feeling much more like herself again. “No, and to be honest, I highly doubt I will tonight. He’s going to be busy planning our next move with Anduin and the others. Remember, this wasn’t the final battle.”Kay put her head on her shoulder. “At least we’re all still here.” Arin chuckled, flexing his leg once it was fixed. “Albeit a little bit battered, but yes, we’re all still here.”

Carson sniffed, rubbing both palms together. “Anyone else smell food? As in, actual food?” Hemming couldn’t help his laugh as he used one of the basins dotted around to clean his face. “Typical Carson, we’ve just come back from our first battle and all he cares about is food.” Val put her hands in her lap, staring off into space.

“What the hells were those giant things?” Arin visibly shuddered. “I don’t know but I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared of anything in my entire life.” Kay made a small noise of agreement. “I’m just glad we had the mages to help with them, or I would think the death toll would be even higher.” Carson still looked his cocky self. “We got rid of so many orcs though, you can’t not see this as a victory to be deliriously happy about!”

Val couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. “I must admit, I was not expecting them to call the retreat first.”Hemming sat down next to Kay, putting himself next in line to be healed. “No, I’ll admit I wasn’t either. I think any longer and Sir Lothar would’ve called it himself.” Val patted his leg. “Yes well, let’s just thank the Light that we’re all here eh?”

The garrison had exploded with celebration by the time they got back to the main quarter, with drinking, dancing, singing, the whole g