Jaina had never seen Lordaeron and the Undercity quite like this.
They had spent weeks preparing for Hallow’s End. The main courtyard had been completely transformed, complete with the giant wickerman which would later burn. Lanterns with magical flames had already begun lighting themselves as the sun set, and the Forsaken danced and cheered through the city. The permanent anchor portals Jaina had spent a good deal of time on herself sat outside the city gates, ready to activate come morning, a gesture of goodwill they had agreed was long due.
Tonight, though… Tonight was for the Forsaken.
Jaina smiled as she quietly wandered the streets, half hiding in the depths of a new cloak Sylvanas had gifted her against the cooling temperatures, Anya and Alina half a step behind her. Vendors and revelers lined the streets, selling everything from undead-friendly treats to miniature wickermen. Songs and shouts assailed her from all directions, in half a dozen languages—Common, Thalassian, Gutterspeak, Orcish, and more.
But best of all, were the excited squeals and giggles of the Forsaken children.
Jaina laughed as a small group of them collided with her. She waved off the concerned apologies of the adults with them, and the lecture already coming from Anya amidst excited calls of “Bright Lady!” from the children themselves as they realized who they’d careened into.
Letting the deep purple hood fall back, she knelt down and was immediately swarmed.
Anya rolled her eyes, already hefting one of the undead elven children to her shoulders. Alina only grinned as three more climbed over her.
Jaina laughed again. It was good to see the children out and about. She and Sylvanas had talked at length about steps to make that a more permanent thing. For now though…she raised a gauntleted hand to stall the rapid-fire chatter of the children. “Would you all like to come with us to see the Dark Lady and light the wickerman?”
A resounding yes! was followed by the laughter of a number of the surrounding Forsaken, and soon what had started as a semi-incognito stroll had become just shy of a parade.
Sylvanas, when they found her on the battlements above the main courtyard, Areiel and Velonara at her back, merely raised one long eyebrow. “Wife. You seem to have attracted an entourage.”
Jaina only smiled and leaned in for a kiss, much to the amusement of the Forsaken orc child on her shoulder and the elf child in her arms. “I thought they’d enjoy the show.”
“Did you now?” Sylvanas’ eyes glowed a deep purple-tinted blue. Her new hood, matching Jaina’s in every way down to the silver stitching, except for the ear holes, stayed maddeningly in place as she bent to lift a child onto each pauldron. “And what did you think of that idea, my little warriors?”
The small elf child in Jaina’s arms tugged at her braid. “Are you going to make the stick man burn?”
Jaina nodded. “I am. Do you want to help?”
A shy nod answered her. Jaina glanced at the sky, the last of the light fading, and then at her wife.
Sylvanas smiled and took her hand. Then, surrounded by children, they turned together to the courtyard below. Magelight lanterns burned all along the walls, Forsaken filled every bit of room they could squeeze into. And in the center, stood the wickerman, towering taller than Hildana and the other Val’kyr, who hovered over the battlements.
“Children of the grave, heed my call!”
Jaina shivered at the silence that fell at the sound of Sylvanas’ voice, which echoed over the city. Sylvanas squeezed her hand and continued.
“In life, we suffered unspeakable tragedies. We watched as our homes were razed to the ground. We cried out in agony as our families were cut down before our eyes. Finally, in the face of such atrocities, we were denied even the release of death. Every year since regaining our freedom, we have burned this wickerman as a symbol of our victories against old enemies. We have painted our faces with ash to send a message to new enemies—a declaration to those who fear and reviled us as monsters. Those who would question our place in this world.
“We are not monsters! We are not the mindless wretches of a ghoul army! We are a force more terrifying, the chill in a coward’s spine, the instruments of unyealding ire…
“WE ARE THE FORSAKEN!”
A roar erupted from the crowd, but after a moment, Sylvanas raised her hand and calmed them. “We will always be The Forsaken! But we are no longer alone against the world. We have found our place in it, forged by bonds of blood, and magic, and hope.” She turned to Jaina as she spoke, once again squeezing her hand. “We have true allies, a world finally at peace, one finally free of the Scourge. So this year, not only do we burn this wickerman as a symbol of victory, but also as a symbol of change, an offering to a better future for the Forsaken—and for Azeroth.”
The roar this time was even louder, and Sylvanas made no move to quiet them. She smiled at Jaina, who smiled back, then turned to the child she still held. “Ready?”
The girl nodded, digging her small hands into the fabric of her cloak. Jaina closed her eyes and summoned her staff, the familiar arcane scars burning to life across her skin. The child on her shoulder whispered in awe, making her grin. “Count with me, now. Three, two, one…”
The wickerman ignited in rush of flame, and the children around them screamed in excitement.
Vanishing her staff once more, Jaina turned to Sylvanas, who looked back at her with pride and fondness. The celebrations would last all night. Later, when the wickerman had burned, they would anoint each other with the ash. Later still, once the sun had risen, the portals and the gates would open—to Kul Tiras and Silvermoon, to Stormwind and Gilneas, to Orgrimmar and Zandalar.
But that would be later. Right now, Jaina smiled at the incredible new family she had found. Now was for them, for the Forsaken, the children, the Rangers, the Val’kyr.
For Sylvanas and herself.
And Jaina found she could not be happier.