Chapter 1: New Beginnings
It wasn’t the screaming, exactly, that roused her. Screams were nothing new to her, awake or resting. They were always there, in the back of her mind. So no, it wasn’t the screaming that brought her out of her meditative state. It was the fact that they were different screams. New.
At least, new to her.
Blinding purple and blue and white arcane, so much power it burns, it burns, Tides it burns. Rhonin, No!
Sylvanas cracked ember-red eyes with a soft growl. The night was still dark, dawn still hours off, but the room glowed with a subtle blue-white light. The air thrummed with arcane. It buzzed beneath her skin in a way that rather uncomfortably reminded her of being alive.
Growling again, somewhat louder this time, she turned in the massive bed to stare at the current source of her frustrations. Current. She stopped short of audibly snorting at the thought, considering that Jaina Proudmoore, Archmage of the Kirin Tor, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras, and—as of less than a day—her wife, had been a source of ongoing frustration for years.
This, though. This was new. New as the visions and screams that had invaded her sleep—or what passed for it, for her. The fall of Theramore was recognizable enough to the Banshee Queen, but she’d never been subjected to such an intimate view. Still, it wasn’t entirely surprising, considering who she was sharing a bed with. That was the first surprising thing, really, the fact that she was sharing a bed with Proudmoore. And at the mage’s own insistence. She’d not expected that of her new wife, but here she was, and there her new wife was. Only a few feet away. Apparently in the throes of a nightmare. Bleeding arcane all over the room.
And all over her skin. Quite literally.
Sylvanas had never taken Jaina Proudmoore for the tattoo type, but even she could admit to the striking beauty of the glowing arcane symbols swirling across her new wife’s skin, shining through the simple chemise she wore. How had she never seen these? The patterns moved and shifted, hypnotizing, and Sylvanas found herself…not unable, no, but unwilling to look away. It was mesmerizing.
So very, very intriguing.
Sylvanas didn’t realize she’d reached out to touch the bluish-white patterns until Jaina startled with another scream. The banshee reacted instinctively, her form dissolving to smoke in an act of self-protection. Jaina’s eyes few open, white with arcane, the lines on her skin flaring brighter as she twisted on the bed.
Sylvanas shrank back—there was not much she feared in her undeath, but Jaina Proudmoore was a force to be reckoned with, and if anyone was capable of killing her for good, it was the mage. Which was the whole reason they’d been married. Proudmoore was as much guard as partner.
And Sylvanas had no desire to waste one of her last Valkyr on her wedding night.
But Jaina didn’t seem to be lashing out. On the contrary, she seemed to be…thrashing. Muscles contracting, body tensing in a way that didn’t seem controlled. It seemed…painful. Short of the brief shout when Sylvanas had touched her, she hadn’t made a sound since.
She didn’t actually seem to be breathing, really. Which was a problem.
Sylvanas let her banshee form bleed back into her. “Proudmoore.”
Jaina gasped. “D-don’t.”
Red eyes narrowed. “Don’t what?”
“T-t-touch.” The stammered word was followed by a whimper as the mage’s body convulsed again.
Well. This wasn’t good. The whole point of this sham of a marriage (even if Jaina had insisted on making it as real as possible—“If our marriage is fake, the treaty will be too. It’s all or nothing here.”) would be null and void if her new wife met her end before they’d even been married a day. And to be honest, as much as a source of frustration as the mage had always been, Sylvanas respected her. “How can I help, then?”
Sylvanas frowned, trying to remember where the mage had left it. Ah, yes. The wardrobe, when she’d changed. And then Sylvanas frowned further, remembering that there had been no arcane tattoos on her new wife’s skin when they’d retired to bed. But Jaina gasped in pain again, and the banshee pushed that question to the back of her mind. Staff first, questions later.
The staff in question was resting inside the large wardrobe, right where she’d remembered. Sylvanas reached out for it carefully, not trusting that there wouldn’t be safeguards, but apparently there weren’t. Nothing happened when she gripped it, and she quickly carried it back to the bed where Jaina lay. Unfortunately, the mage seemed incapable of grasping it, her hands locked tight in fists contracted at uncomfortable angles.
Sylvanas frowned again. “I hope this doesn’t end up frying us both, little mage.” Cautiously, she lowered the staff’s focusing crystal onto Jaina’s chest.
The world went white.
“Jaina, there’s no time!” Arcane pulsed in the air as Rhonin brute-forced a portal. He kissed Vereesa quickly and shoved her through. Her protest was cut off before it even started. The other Kirin Tor followed, rushed through as he grabbed Jaina.
“No, Rhonin, I won’t leave them!”
“You don’t have a choice!” He pushed her to the portal, but she struggled against him as it pulled at her. “Go!”
“Rhonin! No!” She fought the portal, fought Rhonin as he shoved her again. Fought as the other Kirin Tor tried to pull at her from the other side.
The arcane in the air grew thicker. Rhonin stretched out his arms, a containment spell already forming, but Jaina knew it wouldn’t be enough. If only he’d listened, if only they’d all worked together, if she could just get back through the portal—
The world erupted in blue and purple that bled white.
So much power.
Tides, it burned.
Her skin felt flayed, her body consumed.
Pain. So much pain. Everywhere and everything.
Then finally, darkness.
Sylvanas came back to herself with a start, stumbling backwards and falling to her knees. Her hand instinctively fell to the long scar that marred her torso. The mark of Frostmourne’s curse burned with the arcane remnants of Jaina’s memory. A growl rumbled deep in her chest. The banshee had long suspected that she and the mage had far more in common than they should have. Reliving Theramore’s last moments only confirmed it.
In many ways, Garrosh was to Proudmoore what Arthas was to Sylvanas. Which was an…uncomfortable…comparison. Jaina had tried and failed to stop Arthas. Sylvanas had tried and failed to stop Garrosh. Both had gone on to commit atrocities that had tortured and irrevocably changed their respective victims.
Sylvanas wrinkled her nose at that thought. Her growl deepened as she pushed to her feet, hand still clutching her scar.
“You saw, didn’t you.”
Jaina lay on the bed looking frailer than the banshee could ever remember seeing her. Her skin still glowed with arcane light, but it was subdued like the mage’s eyes. One hand gripped her staff like her life depended on it, but the rest of her was limp, sprawled as though she’d collapsed. Sylvanas cocked her head slightly, then moved to sit on the very corner of the bed, careful not to get close enough to touch the mage. “I did not realize how much of the mana bomb you absorbed. Nor how much it still marked you.”
Proudmoore sighed heavily. “Everyone thinks it just turned my hair white.” She snorted softly, then hissed. “As if something so powerful would do so little, when it destroyed an entire city.”
Sylvanas frowned. “The arcane marks on your skin…”
“I hide them. They’re always there, burning.”
Something clicked into place in Sylvanas’ mind. All the times she’d seen Jaina in the recent years, the subtle ways she’d flinched away from touch. It hadn’t occurred to her, as the banshee had the same tendencies. The human mage, when Sylvanas had known her in life, had been generous with her physical affection. Always touching, always hugging. But not since she’d returned from her self-imposed exile. Even Anduin and Vereesa, who Jaina had always been close with, and the layers of heavy clothing…
“It burns you still. I felt it, in your memory.”
Jaina nodded weakly. “I always feel it. Some days it’s bearable. Some…”
“Some, the pain burns into hate, and it’s everything you can do not to slaughter everyone around you.”
Eyes that burned white still met ones that burned red as embers, and Jaina hummed softly. “I should have realized that if anyone could understand, it would be you.”
Still gripping her staff, the mage pushed herself up to sit against the pillows. Her movements were rough, clearly still painful, but Sylvanas made no move to help. “And the dreams? Are they a frequent occurrence?”
“Only on my bad days.” Jaina finally settled, and spent several minutes simply watching the former Warchief. “I suppose, since you’re my wife, you’d better know.” She laughed a little at that. “I can honestly say I never expected that to happen.”
Sylvanas snorted. “Being married? Or specifically being married to me?”
“Both, I suppose. But after Kalec, I kind of gave up on the idea in general.”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched in annoyance at the Blue Aspect’s name. For some reason, hearing about her wife’s former lovers bothered her. “Did he know about…” she waved her hands at the mage “…this?”
Jaina shook her head. “No. Well.” She sighed. “Sort of. He’s the one who found me, after the mana bomb. He saw them then. But he thought they went away when I figured out how to hide them.”
“Well then.” Sylvanas chuckled. “I feel privileged to know.”
Jana made a face in the darkness. “I wasn’t exactly planning on telling you like this. Or this soon. But the cat is sort of out of the bag, so I don’t have much choice.” She took a deep breath and released it slowly. “It hurts, all the time. I feel the arcane burning over my skin, deep within me. The more mana I use, the more tolerable it is, but even on a good day, I can barely stand anyone to touch me. When I don’t use my magic much, don’t burn off enough excess, well. You saw what happens.”
Sylvanas raised one long eyebrow. “The staff?”
“Helps siphon some off. Enough that I can breathe, anyway.” Jaina paused, looking away. “I didn’t realize it would drag you into my memory. I’m sorry about that.”
The banshee rubbed absently at her scar again. “No harm done. That’s not all, though, is it?”
Turning away, Jaina made a face. “No. The more I use, the more manageable it becomes. But it also makes my threshold deeper. Like the mana bomb made me into a vessel, and every time I pour some out, I’m refilled twice as full. I just keep stretching like a balloon, and hoping I don’t turn into a mana bomb myself when I finally pop.”
Caught off guard by the revelation, Sylvanas said nothing. What was there, really, to say? That her guess had been right, that Jaina was as much changed by the mana bomb as Sylvanas had been by Frostmourne? That she, by extension, understood? Jaina’s irrational anger against the Horde, that had driven her self-imposed exile after their defeat at the Broken Shore, seemed so much more understandable?
She could see it all, now.
Proudmoore desperately trying to put Theramore behind her, to act like nothing had happened. They’d pushed her into leading the Kirin Tor, not even giving her a moment to grieve. And self-sacrificing idiot, she’d done it. Angling for peace while fighting pain and rage, covering the physical effects. Probably even letting that damned dragon paw all over her while in excruciating pain. Small wonder the anger won for so long. Small wonder she’d had to get away.
Sylvanas understood all too well. She could still feel the thrum of the arcane bleeding off of her, still feel the power raging just under her wife’s skin despite the distance.
The Banshee Queen shifted, leaning closer. “I might have an idea.”
In the darkness, one white eyebrow rose. “I’m listening.”
“You visited Quel’Thalas as an apprentice, saw the Sunwell. You’re familiar with the elven addiction to the arcane. How we’re…desperate…to absorb as much as we can.” She took an unnecessary breath. “You bleed arcane. It’s small wonder every elf in the Alliance follows you around like a lovesick pup. It’s not warm like the Sunwell, yours is sharper. Like lightening in an ice storm over a raging sea. But I can feel it. It’s what woke me, before.”
Jaina listened silently, and Sylvanas felt the weight of it.
“I could…try to siphon some of it.”
The mage cocked her head. “Can you still?”
Sylvanas gave her a cocky half smile. “I may be undead, but I can still absorb arcane. Among other things.”
Both white eyebrows jerked up at that. “I’m filing that away for another discussion, later. Just so you know.” Jaina regarded her curiously, hesitating. “How—how would it work?”
Sylvanas paused. When she spoke again, it was softly, and a part of her wondered at herself for it. “I would have to touch you.”
Jaina didn’t respond. Sylvanas waited, let her consider. There was no flaring of magic, so she was fairly certain the mage wasn’t angry. Surprisingly, even in the dark, she didn’t appear disgusted by the idea. The mage simply seemed to consider.
Until Sylvanas was sure she’d made a mistake, that she never should have offered. And just as she was opening her mouth to take it all back, Jaina responded.
Chapter 2: An Uneasy Alliance
Sylvanas needs help, and thinks Jaina Proudmoore might be able to give it to her. Takes place somewhere after the Battle of Lordaeron, but before Tides of Vengeance.
(And thus the retcon begins...)
Holy mother forking shirt balls, you guys! I did NOT expect this reaction! I'll just be over here, trying to write through the happy tears... Short chapter. The plan is to alternate post-marriage and pre-marriage chapters, but I'm such a pantser it's absurd, so we'll see how that goes XD
Jaina recognized the necromantic energies as soon as she felt them.
Despite the fact that she couldn’t think of one good reason the Banshee Queen, Warchief of the Horde, former Ranger-General of Silvermoon, and all around pain-in-the-ass Sylvanas Windrunner would show up in her private rooms in Boralus, especially knowing there was no way Jaina wouldn’t feel her coming, her first instinct was not, oddly, to set a trap. Exactly because there was no way Sylvanas would be careless enough to underestimate her that way.
The banshee may have been the most arrogant and annoying person in Azeroth (well, second most, because Nathanos was far more annoying and far less charming), but she was most definitely not stupid.
So Jaina gathered herself and waited. Watched with crossed arms as the banshee emerged from shadow and smoke. She hadn’t burned off enough arcane of late, so defending herself if necessary wouldn’t be a problem. Her skin crackle with it, tense and burning. Jaina almost wished she’d try something. She could use a good fight.
Jaina took a deep breath and pushed everything down. “Windrunner. I hope you have a good excuse for invading my bedroom. Especially after that stunt you pulled in Lordaeron. My curiosity is about the only reason your Valkyr aren’t trying to figure out how to resurrect you from ash right now.”
Sylvanas smirked. “Such a temper. If I’d had any nefarious intent, you’d never have felt me coming.”
Rolling her eyes, Jaina took a seat. A verbal fight wasn’t exactly the kind she was itching for. “What do you want, Warchief?”
The banshee’s face tightened. “To talk.”
One white eyebrow lifted.
Sylvanas scowled. “I find myself…in need.”
The laugh escaped Jaina before she could stop it. Really, the idea was absurd. “Give me one good reason, Sylvanas. You slaughtered your own people when all they wanted was to see their families. You burned Teldrassil. You released the Blight on Lordaeron, and then raised the corpses. Half the Horde doesn’t even trust you anymore.”
“And that is precisely why!” The banshee’s eyes glowed a furious red. “I am being attacked on all sides, sabotaged from within! I can trust no one in the Horde. None of that was supposed to happen! Zul should never have been freed. Teldrassil was only supposed to be taken over, guarded. And I did not kill my own people! I killed traitors who betrayed me!”
“And the blight?”
The burning red of Sylvanas’ eyes flared brighter. “If you think for a moment that I would do to anyone what was done to me, that I would ever release the blight and then raise the dead for my own use like that frozen bastard did, you’re a fool and I’ve wasted my time here.”
Jaina felt the arcane rise in her, felt her eyes begin to glow as Sylvanas’ corporeal form bled smoke and anger. “What are you implying?”
“I’m implying nothing! I’m telling you that someone is trying to turn both the Horde and the Alliance against me, and at a time when we should be focusing on the bigger picture!”
Jaina stared at the undead elf, knowing she shouldn’t believe her. But even she could admit that recent events seemed…oddly out of character. Sylvanas had never been a saint. Even in life, the former Ranger-General had been a ruthless commander. But everything she had done since wresting free of Arthas’ control had been for two things—revenge, and the good of the Forsaken.
There was also something very telling about the banshee’s anger. Something genuine.
Jaina rubbed her temples and sighed, releasing her hold on the arcane. She’d get no relief tonight. “Start from the beginning. And please don’t make me regret this.”
Chapter 3: Morning Revelations
The morning after.
Sylvanas is unexpectedly kind. Jaina is unexpectedly needy. Awkward gays are awkward. Softness ensues.
You lot really are amazing. Thank you so much for all the fantastic comments and all the encouragement.
Jaina woke to the sun on her face, a firm arm wrapped possessively around her, and the smallest, steadiest trickle of mana flowing gently out from her. Just enough to keep the prickling pain to a minimum. Just enough that the press of a body against hers didn’t send her into a pain-induced meltdown. Just enough that the touch felt good.
And for a moment, Jaina allowed herself to revel in it.
It had been so long.
She hadn’t been able to stand anyone’s touch in such a long time she’d almost forgotten how it felt, too be held, to feel the presence of another without her body screaming in agony. Jaina had gotten used to the uncomfortable, painful sting of the arcane under her skin. She’d learned to deal with the seizures when she didn’t bleed off enough. Learned to hide the glowing, writhing marks of it across her body. And Jaina had thought she’d come to terms with the idea that she would likely never be comfortable with another’s touch again.
Tides, she had been wrong. She had missed this feeling, this connection, like a soul-deep ache, and the irony that it was Sylvanas Windrunner of all people whose arm held her close and whose long, muscular body was pressed against hers, was… Tides, what a mess. What a ridiculous mess.
Her wife. Her wife.
She shook her head and pressed fingers to her forehead, chuckling softly. Someone, somewhere, had to be getting a good long laugh out of this.
Sylvanas’ arm tightened, and Jaina found… Was she being nuzzled? By the former Warchief?
“Something amusing, wife?”
Jaina gave herself a moment to appreciate the pure bizzarrity of the circumstance. Was that even a word? Bizzarrity? Bizzarness? Because honestly, this whole fucking thing was absurd. But she wasn’t going to say that. Sylvanas had always been almost terrifyingly intelligent. Jaina was sure she had also recognized how unbelievably odd this whole thing was.
“I was simply thinking that I had not slept this well since…well. In a very long time.” Her hand breezed over Sylvanas’ arm, the one that still held her. “Thank you.”
Sylvanas hummed her response, then stiffened as—Jaina could only assume—she realized she’d been cuddling, her face pressed into the space where Jaina’s neck met her shoulder. “I apologize. I seem to have grown over-familiar.” Her arm loosened, and she moved to pull away, but Jaina stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“Don’t. Please. I… It’s been a long time. It was…nice.”
Jaina was glad she still faced away from the banshee. She would never have been able to utter the words, otherwise, and it seemed important that she say them.
Sylvanas aborted her efforts to pull away, letting herself settle again. Jaina’s hand still rested on the elf’s purple-tinted skin. Neither of them spoke for a breath, or two, or even a handful more, before Sylvanas finally whispered. “Yes.”
Yes, it had been a long time, or yes, it was nice, or some other yes, she didn’t elaborate. And Jaina didn’t ask. The silence pressed on again, not uncomfortably, until the banshee broke it again.
“You slept well, you said. I assume, then, that I, the siphoning…helped?”
Jaina took a slow breath and hummed. “It did. You’re still doing it, you know. And no, I don’t want you to stop,” she added in a rush as her wife stiffened at her back again. Her wife, Tides help her. “It helps. Unless you want to stop, of course. I don’t want to trade my pain for your own. I don’t know much about how the elves siphon arcane, if there are limits, or how it affects you as undead—”
She cut off as this time it was Sylvanas that chuckled. “Breathe, Proudmoore. If it bothers me, I’ll be sure to let you know. At this moment, it doesn’t. I’m not taking more now than I would have from the Sunwell, when I was alive.”
Jaina nodded absently, then snatched her hand away from Sylvanas’ arm when she realized she’d been stroking it. “And how do you feel? How does it compare?”
“I feel like I’ve had about three cups of coffee.”
“Mmmm, coffee.” Jaina couldn’t help herself. The words came unbidden, and behind her, Sylvanas laughed outright when Jaina’s stomach grumbled.
“I suppose we should feed you, shouldn’t we. And probably make an appearance, so they don’t all start worrying that I’ve killed you in your sleep.”
Jaina sighed as her new wife finally did pull away. Without the unexpected intimacy, things between them suddenly felt stiff and formal. As it probably should have been for two people who had been enemies not long ago, then reluctant allies, and now even more reluctant wives. “As long as there’s coffee.”
Jaina took a breath and mentally shook herself.
They dressed in silence, putting on comfortable clothes that seemed odd after so long in armor and battle dress. Jaina reached for her staff long enough to cast the subtle illusion that covered her arcane tattoos, but left the staff itself where it was. The thrum of the arcane was ever present, but she could still feel the subtle draw from Sylvanas, and so long as she stayed near, for once Jaina could maybe leave the blasted heavy thing in the room.
It was a freeing thought.
Sylvanas, of course, raised a long eyebrow in question. Jaina shook her head. “If you’ll stay near?” The weight of the question was almost as heavy as the staff she was hoping to leave.
Her new wife merely nodded and offered her arm. “You don’t have to cover them, you know.” Jaina’s eyes snapped up at the words, even as a hand came to rest gently on her arm, finger drawing circles on her skin. “Not around me. Not if you don’t want to.”
Red eyes burned with an alien softness that was somehow too intense to bear. Jaina looked away. “I…” She shook her head, unsure what she was trying to say. They were scars, a weakness, an ugly reminder that she was grateful she could hide. They marked her as different, broken, a failure…
Sylvanas watched her indecision, eyes narrowing slightly before giving a faint nod. She stepped forward, then hesitated as she reached for the door. “Last night’s offer…” She paused again, her turn to look away, red eyes landing anywhere but on Jaina. “I would not impose myself on you, wives though we are. But I have no wish to see you in pain for want of something that is as natural to me as breathing is to you. I appear to be doing it without conscious thought, anyway, but should you need, ah, more…”
Jaina smiled softly. It was disconcerting to see the former Warchief so flustered, but it fit in well with the rest of the morning, and somehow made her feel less unsteady. “You’re offering to hold me again, yes?”
Sylvanas huffed softly. “Yes. If you wish.”
This time, it was Jaina who blushed. “I think I would like that.”
Chapter 4: The Game's Afoot
Sylvanas meets with her dark rangers. There is a plan, and the players are named.
Back on my retcon bullshit. There is dragging. And more dragging.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I hope you know what you’re doing trusting her, my lady.”
Sylvanas didn’t look at her dark ranger. “I don’t see any alternative, Anya. If we’re to survive, we need her.”
Anya didn’t respond. The silence stretched until the last of the rangers arrived. There weren’t many, only the core of them that had been with her from the beginning. All except Nathanos.
Her lips curled at the thought of him. Blightcaller. Betrayer.
She stuffed her rage to the side before she started bleeding smoke and turned to face her rangers. “When I brought us to the Horde, it was because there were no other alternatives. No other way for the Forsaken to survive. I did not expect to stay, nor to be made Warchief. And now I worry that if we continue on this route, it will be what destroys us. To that end, Proudmoore has agreed to help. She’s putting things into motion on her side as we speak.”
Red eyes exchanged glances, before Velonara spoke what they all thought. “Can we trust her, Dark Lady?”
“We have no choice.” Sylvanas sighed and beat a gauntleted hand against the old stone of the ancient watchtower. “But I think we can. Proudmoore has always been both reasonable and honorable, even in her anger. I would not have risked approaching her, otherwise. And she seemed to believe me.”
The rangers murmured, but none spoke out. And Proudmoore had listened. Listened as Sylvanas explained the Forsaken massacre in the Undercity, how while she had been distrustful, she understood her peoples’ desire to see their loved ones. How Calia Menethil had poisoned them and their minds—that they hadn’t been defecting, they’d been attacking, trying to start a war.
She had listened as Sylvanas admitted that she was still unsure how things had gone so wrong at Teldrassil. How she had been reluctant to march on the night elves in the first place, but Saurfang and Nathanos had convinced her of the necessity. How she had never had any intention of burning the World Tree, had had no part in it—despite all who said she gave the order. How Saurfang and Blightcaller had been left in charge, and she’d come back to find the tree burning, Delaryn Summermoon dead—and Saurfang blaming her. Loudly.
How that had been the first spark, the first real sign that things were not right.
Proudmoore had even listened about the blight at Lordaeron. The mage had been there, at the end. She’d seen the blight released, been with the little lion as he’d confronted her in the throne room. But the blight had not been her idea. After Teldrassil, she knew the Alliance would come for the Undercity. She had fought, they all had fought. And when she’d told Proudmoore that she would never do what they were accusing her of doing—killing them all with the blight only to raise them to her will, just as Arthas had done… Proudmoore had listened.
No. She would throw herself from Ice Crown a second time before doing that. And Jaina Proudmoore understood that. Sylvanas had seen the truth of it in the mage’s blue-white eyes.
And there was only one other who could have released the blight and raised the victims.
“What did she say about the possibility of collusion?”
Sylvanas glanced back at her rangers. “We agreed it was not only possible, but likely. Saurfang has been in their custody. Refused to be broken out. The likelihood that he’s staying so that he can plot the next step is high.”
It was Alina spoke up next. “Did she agree—”
“Greymane. Yes.” How the Alliance could claim the high moral ground the way they did with such an arrogant, warmongering, corrupt bastard in such a prominent position, she’d never know. “She actually said his name before I did.” The Warchief chuckled. “I don’t think she likes him any more than I do.”
Alina smiled. “Does anyone?”
That got a laugh from all the rangers. “She has a plan.” Sylvanas stepped closer to them all. “It is…a good plan. But because we don’t know who to trust, it won’t be easy. It won’t be pretty. And the Horde will likely end up hating me before it’s over.”
Again, red eyes exchanged glances in the dark, before Alina spoke. “We’re with you, Dark Lady. Always.”
Anya gave her arm a squeeze. “How do we begin?”
Sylvanas grinned. It was Proudmoore’s idea, after all. They would put on a show for all Azeroth, and see what fell out.
“She will convince the little lion to release Saufang. And then, I’m going to raise her brother from the dead.”
Am I going to blame Nathanos for everything? Yes, yes I am.
Chapter 5: Cleansing
Jaina cleanses Lordaeron, Sylvanas finds herself annoyingly attached to her wife, and the Dark Rangers start to suspect that there's more to their Dark Lady's new wife than they anticipated.
tl;dr - confused gays are soft even while being really damn powerful.
Good glory, this last week has been a busy one. I meant to have this chapter up sooner, but freelance work has been taking up all my time. Thank you, all of you, for all the lovely comments, they are my life blood. Have some more confused gays being soft. And Jaina smirking at her wife. And Sylvanas being possessive as fuck (I dare you to challenge that headcanon).
The Sunwell had nothing on Jaina Proundmoore, Sylvanas had decided. It wasn’t just a question of the difference in energies, though that was definitely noticeable. The Sunwell, for all its strength, was always more subtle. Calm. Life sustaining. Great as the sun, and undying (or so it had been, before Arthas).
But Jaina. Jaina’s energy was anything but calm. She burned like lightning in a tempest, with the endless depths of the ocean. All the fury of the Maelstrom and the unending constancy of the tides. Taking her energy was like taking hold of a hurricane. It was thrilling and terrifying, and after only a week, Sylvanas was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t more than a little addicting.
The alternative was that it was Jaina herself she found addicting. The truth, as the banshee had come to realize, was that for all their differences, there was absolutely no one in all of Azeroth that she had more in common with. Even her dark rangers. No, Jaina was unique, and that alone was enough to terrify her. The fact that they inexplicably seemed to be bonding over Sylvanas’ ability to casually siphon Jaina’s arcane excess was…
She honestly wasn’t sure what it was. What she was sure of, what she’d never in her life been more sure of, was that Jaina Proudmoore was trouble. And Belore help her, Sylvanas couldn’t get enough.
Leaving her musings, she turned back to where the mage stood surveying Lordaeron from the top of the highest still-standing tower. “Well, wife? Can it be done?”
She wasn’t certain why she kept calling her that. Wife. Sylvanas had always been somewhat possessive—most high elves were. So there was, of course, I bit of that, of the need for everyone to know that Proudmoore was hers, even if it was only political. She did enjoy flaunting her claim on the mage. But no, that wasn’t all of it. Maybe it was a reminder that this strange, powerful, insightful, exquisite woman had not only chosen to believe her, but risked everything to help her. To help her people. That wasn’t all of it either, though.
Jaina was staring at her, a slightly bemused look that was also the kind that said, Really? You doubt me?
What had she asked? Oh, right. The blight. Sylvanas shook herself off and moved to stand beside the woman who was lightning in a bottle.
Sylvanas’ lips twitched. “My apologies. I was lost in thought. What is our first step?”
The smile Jaina gave her was all mischief and swagger, and she felt something inside her lurch and seize, because Belore, this woman. Jaina touched her arm briefly, then grasped her staff with both hands. Her eyes began to glow as the air filled with arcane, the heavy blue cloak billowing behind her.
Sylvanas took half a step back and watched in awe.
The roiling, putrid green of the lingering blight slowed its movement, the bright color desaturating as all around, frost glyphs glowed on the ground. The storm of arcane surrounding Jaina grew sharper. Sylvanas forced herself not to move, but to watch. The bilious green turned brittle—could gas turn brittle?—freezing, collapsing, becoming inert, until all of Lordaeron was ice, inside and out, a cold so deep that even the Forsaken queen could feel it.
And then the air tightened. Flooded with arcane until Sylvanas could feel it burn on her and in her, and for a fleeting moment she wondered if this is how it always was for the mage. The moment burst in an explosion of power so sharp that she inadvertently shifted to her banshee form, dark smoke writhing against the spell Jaina had cast.
And then it was done, and Jaina swayed on her feet, and Sylvanas quickly brought herself back to a corporeal state just in time to catch her mage wife as she sagged, bodily.
“Are you alright?” She was—not surprised, no, but curious? Perhaps? At the tenderness with which she’d voiced the question.
Jaina nodded slowly as her body sank against Sylvanas. “Didn’t even drain myself. Just took a lot of effort to make sure I got everything. I’ll probably sleep like the dead tonight.”
The Banshee Queen chuckled wryly. “Better, hopefully. The dead are rather restless, and we don’t sleep all that well.”
Jaina slapped at her playfully, though the closed eyes and tired smile proved just how much cleansing of Lordaeron had taken out of her. “You’re undead, not dead. There’s a difference.”
Sylvanas rolled her eyes. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather you slept like a tired mage, and not like dead, or undead, or any variation of dead.”
“If you insist.” That damned smile, just barely pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Give me a few moments and I’ll portal us back to Boralus.”
Jaina’s brow wrinkled, her blue eyes pushing open. “We can’t exactly stay here. The blight is gone, but it’s hardly habitable again.” She pushed out of Sylvanas’ arms, much to the banshee’s annoyance, and wobbled unsteadily as she turned. “And it takes a lot more than cleansing one small city to truly drain me.”
“You can barely stand, little mage.”
A flick of the hand as she leaned on the parapet. “It was a complex spell. You’ve seen me on the battlefield, Sylvanas. You know what I’m capable of.”
“You just cleansed all of Lordaeron. Which is not, I might add, a ‘small city’ as you claim. You need rest, food. You hardly eat enough as it is.” Only a week, and she’d become very much aware of that. Without someone constantly watching out for her, the mage seemed to forget she was alive and that her body needed sustenance.
Jaina scowled. “I didn’t notice you bringing any sort of provisions. And I’m fairly certain there isn’t anything edible in the castle.”
“My rangers can hunt.”
The mage sighed, an annoyed look on her face. Sylvanas knew Jaina could feel her dark rangers near, even if she couldn’t see them. She also knew her wife hadn’t yet gotten used to them always being near. She would, eventually. Even if Sylvanas had given up leadership of the Horde (and what a relief, honestly, she’d never wanted that headache in the first place), she was still the Banshee Queen, leader of the Forsaken. And Jaina was her wife. One of her rangers would always guard her.
Jaina would just have to get used to it.
She would also have to get used to not skipping meals anymore. A flick of her ear was all it took. Anya and Velonara would find something suitable.
“Why are you doing this?”
Sylvanas didn’t answer immediately. Instead, she moved to sit next to her wife, close enough for Jaina to lean against her if she chose. “Am I not your wife? Is this not what wives do? Look after one another?”
“I didn’t realize we were those kinds of wives.”
The banshee hummed softly. They weren’t, were they? This was a treaty marriage, purely political. Even after the truth had come to light, Horde and Alliance both distrusted her. Jaina was supposed to be her leash, though theirs had not been the only political union. And yet… “No. We are not. But we could be.”
The idea was strange, at best. But was it, really? The last few months, working together, the last week especially, had shown her just how much they had in common. How well they understood one another, better than their own families. Families that had rejected them both, for a time.
“I find myself constantly surprised by you, Sylvanas.”
One long, platinum eyebrow rose. How she had begun to love the sound of her name on the mage’s tongue. “Because I think we can be more than allies forced together by circumstance?”
Jaina’s lips twitched, and she picked at her cloak. “Because you want to be.” She looked up at her then, blue eyes narrowed slightly, as if she was searching for something. “You’re not at all who I expected. And at the same time…you’re exactly who I should have expected.”
Sylvanas flicked her ears and held back the instinctive smartass response on the tip of her tongue. Because she knew exactly what Jaina meant. Her ear flicked again. She didn’t want to have this conversation. She blinked at her wife and nodded at her arms. “You’re still hiding them.”
Belore, she was an idiot. That was an even worse conversation. What was wrong with her?
But again, the mage surprised her. The air around them barely shifted, and if she hadn’t spent a week drawing on her energy, Sylvanas may not have even noticed. Except that, looking at Jaina, the change was impossible to miss. She glowed, the arcane marks crawling over her. And then she felt it. Power positively radiating from the woman.
And Sylvanas understood something she hadn’t that first night. The concealing spells weren’t just to cover the marks. With the spells in place, Jaina bled arcane. It flowed from her in a steady stream, like the runoff from a dam. There, unmistakable, but measured.
Without them, she hemorrhaged it. Arcane poured off her in a flood, hitting her with the intensity of a storm wall.
Jaina looked up at her, arcane etched on her skin and tiredness in her eyes. Sylvanas met her gaze with shock and surprise, but no judgment. “You’ve been holding back the tide, all this time.”
Even she could hear the edge of awe in her voice.
The mage sighed and looked away, looked to the white lines dancing over her hands. “That’s a good way to describe it.” She lifted her hands, turning them over to examine the mage marks. “I hate them. I hate how they mark me. How they define me, remind me of all that I lost.”
Sylvanas rubbed the long scar on her abdomen and grimaced, her ears pinning back. “That, I understand.”
Jaina hummed and dropped her hands back to her lap. They sat in silence for a moment before Sylvanas reached out—why, she didn’t know, but something in her forced it—and took her wife’s hand. She traced the shifting runes and lines, feeling the bite of the arcane.
“I think they’re beautiful.”
Jaina’s head snapped up and Sylvanas’ ears dropped back to her head sharply. Belore, what had she just said? Why in the Titans names—what was it about this woman that made her act like an unproven trainee? She was the former Ranger-General of Silvermoon, the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, former Warchief of the Horde, and Belore take her, the words were still coming.
“We both have scars. My scars, your marks, they tell stories. They speak of what we’ve endured, what we’ve overcome. But they don’t define us. I think your marks are beautiful, because they tell the tale of who you’ve become. Hide them if you must, and perhaps that is the wiser course, but know this, Jaina.
“You will never have to hide yourself from me. This I swear.”
Jaina stared at her with wide eyes that burned blue, her heart beating double time. Neither spoke—Sylvanas had nothing to add to the words she had never thought to hear herself say, and found she had no desire to explain or refute them. Jaina simply seemed to be at a loss. And who knows how long they might have stayed there, gazes locked, Sylvanas gently holding her wife’s hand, had they not been interrupted by a gasp from behind them.
Jaina’s tattoos vanished along with the storm wall of arcane energy. Sylvanas squeezed her wife’s hand and turned to where Anya and Velonara had emerged from the tower keep. Their red eyes looked dazed, likely from the arcane that had poured off Jaina. They leaned towards her wife as if drawn by invisible threads. Like addicts, Sylvanas thought. Her ears twitched, and one long eyebrow lifted.
Anya shook herself off first, her face like one coming out of a trance, and her voice tinted with confusion. She glanced at Velonara before turning back to them. “Dark Lady, Lord Admiral… I… There is food ready, if you would care to come inside.”
Sylvanas turned back to her wife and helped her to her feet. Jaina stood close, her hand still gripping the elf’s.
“Did you mean what you said?”
Sylvanas blinked slowly, waiting for the mage to look up. “Every word.”
“You called me Jaina”
Sylvanas lifted and eyebrow. “That is your name, is it not?”
Even that didn’t get her to look up. “You always call me Proudmoore. Little mage. Wife. You’ve never just called me Jaina.” She exhaled softly. “Thank you.” She moved quickly, faster than Sylvanas expected, pushing up to the tips of her toes to brush the softest of kisses on the banshee’s cheek.
Sylvanas stared at her.
What in the world was she thinking?
Offering her affection.
She blinked, shaking herself. “Come, wife. Let’s get you some food.”
She didn’t miss the way the corners of Jaina’s mouth twitched up as she led her into the keep.
Chapter 6: Knight to Rook 4
Flashback chapter. Derek comes home, Baine is confused, and Jaina gets to be the one to smirk this time.
Good glory. Freelancing has been very busy of late, which has left me with substantially less writing time than anticipated. I've been trying to write a few chapters ahead before posting, so I have time to let them sit, but the lack of writing time (or brain, let's be honest) had definitely hindered. But yes, the fact that I'm posting this means I have the next chapter at least drafted.
I have no idea what I'm doing. But I love all of you.
Sylvanas watched from the shadows of Proudmoore’s ship as Baine crossed the gangplank over. It was hard to tell if the controlled anger the mage offered him was real or not—or perhaps it was both. Belore knew she had plenty of reason to be angry, and Baine should have known better than to offer platitudes.
She wasn’t sure about this plan. It was extremely unlikely that Baine was in on whatever plot to sabotage her had been hatched, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t taken in by it, like everyone else. When Proudmoore had suggested approaching him, Sylvanas wasn’t sure. The Tauren could be a staunch ally, but he was also honorable to a fault. There was good chance he wouldn’t believe them, even with Proudmoore’s influence.
Still, she had to give the little mage credit. It was a good plan, and it would give the saboteurs more rope to hang themselves.
“Is he the banshee’s puppet, crammed full of blight? Is he the bomb this time?”
Proudmoore’s shouts brought her out of her thoughts, and Sylvanas couldn’t help the grin they inspired. This was definitely acting, but the emotion was also too real, and the perfect words to test Baine. If she hadn’t known this was Proudmoore’s gambit, she never would have guessed.
“That…was the plan. But Baine took me from Sylvanas before.”
Interesting. That had not been the plan, in fact. Sylvanas had done little more than raise the eldest Proudmoore and tell him that he was to be returned to his sister. The plan, in fact, was to see who rose to the bait—and in what way. Someone had clearly been whispering ideas into his head—and Sylvanas knew exactly who that was most likely to have been. The Tauren chief had also risen to her bait, yes, but not on the saboteur side.
Proudmoore had been right in predicting he would.
When she asked him why, Baine went on about honor and a sickness in the Horde. Sylvanas clenched her fists. She was getting tired of being blamed.
“Sylvanas will kill you for this.”
Now that was part of the plan, something Sylvanas herself had insisted on. And to that, too, he replied exactly the way both of them expected, further confirming that Baine wasn’t the issue. The question was whether or not he could be part of the solution.
Proudmoore thanked him and glanced at her brother as the Tauren walked back to his ship. That was her cue.
The single word spawned a host of reactions. Baine froze. Derek’s eyes widened, searching for the source of the voice he’d heard only a few times before. And Proudmoore… Proudmoore smirked, damn her. The mage patted her brother’s arm, her face softening to a small smile. “It’s alright.”
At that, Baine spun, his eyes focusing on Sylvanas as she poured out of the shadows and regained her solid form.
His eyes widened and then narrowed, glancing from her to the unruffled expression of the little mage. “Jaina?”
Really, it was too delicious.
“She’s with me, Baine. It’s alright.”
“I…do not understand.”
Proudmoore stepped forward, her hand coming to rest on the large Tauren’s forearm. “Things aren’t what they seem in the Horde.” She glanced at Sylvanas. “All I ask is that you listen, as I did.”
“But Jaina!” Derek grabbed at her, his worry clear. “She raised me! She was going to—”
Proudmoore hushed him. “She was not. It was my idea to raise you, to provide…certain parties…an opportunity to show themselves.”
Sylvanas inclined her head as Baine looked to her. “Tell me, who gave you the idea that I would use you as a vessel for the blight?”
Derek’s brow furrowed, his eyes darting as he searched his memories. “Your Champion.” He looked up, confusion dimming the accusation in his eyes. “But he said it was all your plan!”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched. “Did he now?”
Baine glanced between them. “Was that not your intention? After releasing it at Lordaeron, after burning Teldrassil—”
“None of that has been my intention, nor my command. You are correct, there is a sickness in the Horde. But it is not me.”
Baine glanced at Proudmoore, who nodded, then turned back to her. “Very well, Warchief. I’m listening.”
Chapter 7: A Family Affair
Jaina needs her emotional support elf.
Also bonding over awful fathers, rangers being cats, and enough verbal sparring to make Katherine Proudmoore annoyed.
I have too many thoughts and I don't know what I'm doing. Also fair warning that the retconning is about to get pretty heavy starting with the next chapter.
Enjoy some disaster Jaina missing her wife.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Two days. Sylvanas had been gone two days, that was all. Lordaeron’s rebuilding was progressing well, but not even Jaina could have rebuilt it overnight. And Jaina had been needed here, as Lord Admiral, overseeing the integration of the Forsaken fleet with Kul Tiras’ navy. With Derek leading the integration efforts, it was going far more smoothly than anyone would have expected even a year ago. The Forsaken were hard working and eager to prove themselves, and even if the weather wasn’t thawing quite yet, the people of Kul Tiras seemed to be.
But Jaina missed her wife.
It had only been two days, and it was ridiculous. They’d barely been married two weeks. Jaina had been alone for years, she was perfectly capable of being alone.
Sylvanas’ side of the bed was empty and cold. Jaina couldn’t feel her energy nearby, couldn’t feel the pull that had become so familiar in such a short time. She missed the quiet presence, and Tides she missed being touched.
Missed her touch.
She couldn’t understand how she’d let herself become so vulnerable, so quickly.
I didn’t realize we were those kinds of wives.
No. But we could be.
Jaina sighed. She needed to burn off some magic. Without Sylvanas syphoning her arcane bleed, she was growing irritable. The ache was building again, and that was never a good sign. Her meetings were done for the day, though she still had dinner later—
She definitely needed to burn some magic. Damn Sylvanas for not being here. Her mother had only mentioned this morning that Tess Greymane was coming for dinner.
Tess was a good woman. Gilneas was doing well under her care. Lorna would probably be with her (they hadn’t announced anything, but everyone knew they were together).
Jaina had not seen either of them since everything had gone down with Genn.
Everything would be fine.
Sylvanas being here would likely just complicate things.
Jaina threw a handful of ice shards at the wall. It did little to calm her mounting frustration, or the painful prickle under her skin. It did, however, make the rangers her wife had left to watch her come out of the woodwork.
“Lord Admiral? Is everything alright?”
Jaina took a deep breath. No, everything wasn’t alright. I miss my Tides-damned wife. “It’s fine, Anya. I just…” Just what, exactly?
Anya stepped closer, and Jaina felt a tug on her mana. Not like Sylvanas, just a touch. She laughed softly, which made the ranger send her a worried look, but really. Ever since she’d dropped her wards that day in Lordaeron, the rangers had treated her differently. With an awe that made her wife smirk and made Jaina slightly uncomfortable. They’d definitely become more protective of her. But with Sylvanas around, she hadn’t noticed they’d latched onto her magic, too.
What made her laugh was that they probably didn’t even realize they were doing it.
“The Dark Lady said you might grow agitated with her gone.” Anya’s brows pulled in. “She said you might have needs that would seem odd.”
Jaina barked out a loud laugh. Damn Sylvanas and her always being so observant. What she really wanted was to just portal to Lordaeron and find her wife.
But that was ridiculous. She was a grown woman. She could last a few days on her own. And Sylvanas was probably busy, anyway. She didn’t need Jaina disrupting her.
She took a slow breath. “Have I not asked you to call me Jaina?”
Anya gave her an uncomfortable look. “You are the wife of our Queen. It would not be proper, Lady Proudmoore.”
“I’m a person. And I have enough people throwing titles at me. It’s Jaina.”
The ranger’s ears flicked, pinning back slightly. “…Lady Jaina.”
Jaina huffed. “Fine. That will sort one of my needs. As for the rest…” I will not portal to Lordaeron. I will not chase after my wife. “Have you ever seen the Shrine of the Storm?”
Jaina could feel the power as soon as the portal spun open. The power of the Tidemother bore down on her, pressing, testing, but it was a familiar drowning. And in that familiarity, Jaina found, well, not peace. Not comfort. The power of the Tides was not kind. The waves and storms and crushing depths cared for nothing, alive or dead, powerful or impotent. They simply were.
And in them, Jaina could simply be.
Anya and Alina flinched visibly as they followed Jaina out of the portal. She felt bad, bringing them here, but she knew by now not to bother trying to dissuade them. Already she could feel the lightning burrowing into her skin, joining the ever-burning fire of her arcane. Already she could feel the pull of the deeps, tugging at the well of her power. She wondered, briefly, how it felt to the rangers, but here at the heart of the Tidewater Sanctum, it didn’t matter.
All that mattered was the Tidemother.
The world erupted in blue and purple bleeding white.
Power burned through her.
Tides, did it burn.
Her skin felt flayed, her body consumed.
Pain. So much pain. Everywhere and everything.
Then finally, darkness.
The darkness of the deep, of drowning.
The burn turned cold, crushing.
The Tidemother’s bosom, welcoming her, cradling her as she sank.
Ice tempering the fire in her veins.
Jaina felt the power around and inside her flare at the memory of Theramore. She’d been plunged in the depths still burning, like a sword being reforged, and every time she came here it was the same. Her concealing spells stripped away as she fell to her knees, all her control gone. Jaina’s power was a well, never draining, always growing, but here at the door to the Tidemother’s womb, she was nothing more than a drop in the ocean.
With a glance of apology to the rangers behind her, Jaina let go and let the Tides take her.
“I’m sorry about that.” Jaina let the portal snap shut behind Anya and Alina, taking the crushing pull of the Tides with it. “If it’s any consolation, I’m fairly certain you’re the first Forsaken to enter the Tidewater Sanctum, except for Derek.”
She wasn’t sure Derek had been there since being raised, actually.
The slightly frazzled looking rangers exchanged a look. Jaina was fairly certain they both thought she was insane. To be fair, the Tidesages held the same opinion, even after she’d cleansed the temple of Azshara’s influence. Her relationship with the Tidemother was…unique.
“We are honored, Lady Jaina.” Anya shivered as she answered, and Jaina frowned.
“You can be honored and still be creeped out by the power of the Tides. I won’t be offended.”
The two Forsaken exchanged another look. “That, ah… We are honored.” They both shivered again. “We were, ah, not expecting…any…of that…”
Alina swore, teeth chattering, and wrapped her arms tight around herself. “Belore’s tits, we weren’t expecting to feel cold.”
Jaina stared. “Cold?”
Anya glared at her fellow ranger and rubbed her own arms. “Cold, Lady. Crushing cold.”
Jaina blinked. Of course the Tides’ power was cold. The deep ocean was desperately cold. “I didn’t think…”
Anya gave a wan smile over clenched teeth. “We feel extremes.”
Of course they felt extremes. Jaina could smack herself. Her power, tempered by the Tides, flared anew as she touched her hands to arms like living ice. Warmth poured into them, and red ember eyes flew wide. When the white faded from her own, Jaina found both rangers standing almost on top of her, crowding her personal space, practically purring—
Jaina laughed. Still so Elven, despite undeath. “Easy, you two.”
Anya stepped back first, her face returning to a mask, but Alina offered a chagrined smirk. She could feel them more, now. Not as clearly as Sylvanas, but enough to bring her some comfort.
“Our apologies, Lady Jaina. Heat is…”
“Cravable,” Alina finished, her face not at all apologetic.
Jaina opened her mouth to ask…something, she wasn’t actually sure what, but a knock at the door interrupted whatever she was about to say. And then Anya was opening the door, and Tandred was there making other apologies.
“Mother sent me to make sure you were coming.” His eyes turned questioning. “You’re not wearing your battle dress to dinner, are you?”
Jaina looked down at her clothes and blushed. “No, sorry. I just came back from the Sanctum, I haven’t had a chance to change yet.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize you were visiting the Tidesages today. I’d have come with you.”
She shook her head with a smile. “No you wouldn’t have. You hate going there unless it’s for a boat blessing. And it wasn’t planned, I just wanted to check on it. Make sure the cleansing I did held.”
Not true, exactly, but true enough. Not even the Tidesages knew why she really visited. Her family definitely didn’t. Only Sylvanas knew the truth (well, and now her rangers), and again Jaina felt a pang of missing. She took a breath. Focus.
Tandred, unaware of Jaina’s internal monologue or the other secrets she was hiding, grinned. “Yeah, you’re right, I hate going there half the time. You should hurry and change. Tess and Lorna are already here.”
“She doesn’t hate you, Jaina.”
“You don’t know that.”
Tandred shook his head. “Pretty sure I do. So get dressed and come down, before Mother comes to get you herself.”
He winked at her and left, closing the door after him. Jaina took his advice. Katherine may not have been Lord Admiral any longer, but that didn’t mean she would hesitate to drag her daughter down to dinner if she dawdled. Sending Tandred was her one and only shot across the bow.
Some things never changed.
The thought made her smile as she hurried to dress. Gave her something to think about that wasn’t her absent wife. Soon she was rushing out of her room, the rangers melting back into shadows as they followed her.
Downstairs was loud and busy, and Jaina was extremely glad she’d gone to the Shrine to burn off some excess. Katherine caught her eye as soon as she walked in, raising an eyebrow in a silent it’s about time.
Beside her, two dark heads turned.
Jaina put on her diplomat face. “Queen Greymane. Commander Crowley.”
Tess rolled her eyes. “Should I call you Lord Admiral Proudmoore, then? Queen-Consort? What other titles have you got, there's an entire damn list last I checked, and they'd be an absolute mouthful combined. Bloody hell, Jaina, you’ve known me since I was a child.” The shorter woman swept forward, engulfing Jaina in a hug while Lorna snickered to the side. “How are you?”
Jaina clenched her teeth and smiled through the pain. Still, it wasn’t hard to soften her voice. “Hi, Tess.”
The new Queen of Gilneas pulled back and reached for Lorna’s hand. “You thought I’d be mad at you? About Dad? And… and your marriage?”
Jaina nodded, her brow pinched.
Tess sighed. “You and I both know what it’s like to love our fathers and hate their bloody awful decisions. He did this to himself, choice by choice. I don’t blame you. And as for your wife…”
Lorna squeezed her hand. “We’ve all done horrible things. War does that. Sometimes ending it takes doing even harder things.”
A throat cleared behind them, and all three turned to look at Katherine. “Now we’re all here, I believe the food is ready. Shall we go in?”
Turning to follow everyone in, Jaina took a quick breath. This was fine. Everything was fine. Tess didn’t hate her. She understood. That was far more than she’d hoped for She could get through a social dinner. Derek offered her his arm as he passed, giving her a quick smile.
“Everything okay, Starshine?”
Jaina smiled and rested her hand on his forearm. “I’m fine, big brother.”
He nodded and led her to her seat. “You wouldn’t happen to be missing a certain Forsaken elf, would you?”
She felt her face heat under his gentle gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Her brother chuckled. “Of course not. Why would you miss your wife? What an absurd idea, I don’t know how I could have thought of it.”
Jaina huffed. “Don’t be an ass, Derek.”
“Hey, I’ve got years of missed big brothering to make up for. That means I owe you a fair amount of teasing.”
She moved to swat him, but stopped mid-swing. Her eyes went wide, and she inhaled deeply as a familiar aura and a familiar tug suddenly hit her.
And then there she was, sweeping into the dining room with Velonara on her heels.
And that damned smirk on her face.
Jaina didn’t even care.
She didn’t care that conversation in the room had come to a complete halt.
She didn’t care that her first instinct was to gather her robes and run to her wife.
She only cared about the way long, muscular arms enveloped her, about the relieved sigh as a cold nose buried itself in her hair, and the relief she felt.
She cared that her wife was home.
A low rumble vibrated through Sylvanas’ chest. Laughing. She was laughing at her. Jaina rolled her eyes, but didn’t let go, so the effect was completely lost.
She didn’t care. She just leaned back and looked at her wife. “You’re here.”
“So I am. Did you miss me, wife?”
“Sylv.” She didn’t bother stopping the small laugh, or the affection she knew permeated that one little word.
A small cough reminded her they weren’t alone. Sylvanas grinned at her with a twitch of her ears and guided her back to the table arm in arm. “Lady Katherine, I apologize for being late.”
Jaina’s mother gave them a wry look. “I wasn’t certain you would make it. How goes Lordaeron?”
“Slower than I’d like, but the main areas should be habitable by the end of the week. Lady Greymane, Commander Crowley.”
Lorna and Tess shared a look. “Oh please, I only just convinced Jaina she doesn’t have to call us all that. Should I call you Lady Windrunner, then?”
Lorna laughed. “You could always call her Banshee like your father.”
“There is that. Queen is a little too stuffy, and boring since we’re both owners of the title. I’m sure we could come up with a few entertaining epithets to liven things up.”
“Oh, and she could call you whelp, or wolf pup. It would be like old times!”
Sylvanas gave a pointy grin. “Oh, he had far more colorful things to call me than that. And I, him. Sylvanas will do fine, or Windrunner. I suppose that means you’d prefer I call you Tess.”
“I think that would be best, at least in present company.” Tess shrugged, then her lazy grin turned mischievous. “I suppose only Jaina gets to call you Sylv.”
Jaina coughed as her face flamed. “I’m sorry, it just kind of…came out.”
Sylvanas winked at her. Winked. And then turned back to Tess and Lorna. “I’m afraid she’s got wife’s privilege on that one. I’m sure the two of you understand.”
The Gilneans shared a smug look. “Oh, we do, certainly.”
“If you four are done trying to out-do one another, I’d rather like to eat.” Katherine stared at the four of them with a look that was both bemused and annoyed. Tandred was outright laughing, his hand barely muffling the noise. Derek simply looked at her with the most I told you so face she’d ever seen.
Jaina wanted to hide under the table. I can’t believe I missed her, for Tides’ sake! But leaning into the arm she hadn’t yet let go of, Jaina knew she didn’t mean that. And as Sylvanas set her in her chair and tucked her own in next to her, slightly closer than necessary so that she could maintain contact, her wife leaned in and whispered into her ear.
“I missed you too, Jaina.”
I'm catfirebrand on tumblr and @cait_greer on twitter. Y'know. If you'd like to see me be a disaster IRL.
Chapter 8: Revelations
The truth of Teldrassil is revealed (aka, the retcon begins in earnest). Also, oblivious disaster gays are oblivious, and Jaina has interesting thoughts...
Have I mentioned I have no idea what I'm doing? Because I have no idea what I'm doing. Also, chapter titles! Ta-da! Also note the rating change, which isn't specific to this chapter, but to future chapters because THINGS.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jaina shivered as she looked out over the Blight. She was going to have to talk to Sylvanas about cleaning this up, but for now, it made Lordaeron an excellent meeting place. No one would interrupt them here.
Even if it was creepy as hell.
“Cold, little mage?”
Jaina rolled her eyes. “Sneaking up on me would be more effective if I couldn’t sense your energy from half a mile away.” She turned to the Warchief, ready for a round of verbal sparring, but stopped short when she actually saw her. “What’s wrong?”
“I heard you were injured in your escape from Zuldazar. Are you well?”
Jaina’s hand ghosted along her side. The fact that she could tell the banshee was upset concerned her, but she wasn’t surprised that Sylvanas of course deflected. And a good deflection it was. She could still feel the injury, even though it was fully healed. “I’m fine. All healed up. How is your captain?”
Twitching ears again. Were they never still? “Healing. Thank you for that.”
“I didn’t want them to attack in the first place. I tried to retrieve the sceptre myself, but Genn convinced Anduin. He’s determined to burn the world, I think. At least I managed to convince them not to press the attack after Rastakhan’s death.”
“It was foolish, leading a full out assault on Dazar’alor. Killing King Rastakhan, even more so.” The twitch of an eyebrow, the flick of an ear. “Almost as foolish as my assault on Darkshore.”
“This whole war is foolish. Horde against Alliance. Killing each other, again and again. We just keep making bigger mistakes.”
“Aren’t we trying to end that?” Sylvanas shook her head. “I take it your prison break went well?”
Jaina narrowed her eyes. Still deflecting. “It did, in fact. Couldn’t have planned it better myself. How’s Rowa?”
“You did, if I recall. And Rowa is fine. Said to thank you for the most fun she’s had in ages.”
Jaina smirked. “Right, I did, didn’t I? And good. She played her part well. Now tell me what’s wrong.”
“I hear Thrall joined you. Do you think he’s involved, or just Saurfang’s pawn?”
Jaina frowned. There was a time she wouldn’t have thought twice before defending Go’el Thrall. But that was before Garrosh, before Theramore. Before he abandoned everyone without a thought to the damage he was doing. The fact that he’d later returned in an effort to fix those mistakes should have meant more to her, but with the crackling power that burned under her skin as a constant reminder, it was still hard to forgive. Or forget. “I don’t know. In his own way, he’s as honor-bound as Baine, and I suspect Saurfang probably played to that. Painted you as the unforgivable evil that must be put down, another Garosh. It’s what I would do, in his place. Easier than convincing him with the truth.”
Sylvanas stared impassively for several moments. “You’re right. I’m not sure we can use him, but I agree he’s not likely an enemy.” She moved to the parapet and leaned gauntleted hands on the stone. “And you managed to establish a portal to Nazjatar?”
“We did, even if Azshara almost drowned us, and no thanks to Blightcaller. We also made contact with the Waveblade, and they’ve committed to help us. But Azshara has somehow gotten her hands on the Tidestone of Golganneth, and that is going to be a problem. We’re working on it, though. Now stop evading and tell me what happened.”
The Warchief scowled. “Don’t bark at me, little mage.”
Red eyes narrowed and glared. “Saurfang killed one of my rangers. Lyana.”
“Oh, Sylvanas.” Jaina’s heart fell. If she knew anything about the Banshee Queen, it was that her rangers were everything to her, which is why she’d portalled Ariele to safety after Shandris Feathermoon left her for dead. “I’m so sorry.”
“I will kill him. For this and every betrayal.” The banshee’s voice was colder than ice. “Do not try to dissuade me.”
Shaking her head, Jaina leaned back on the parapet. “I think I’m the last person to try to do that. You do remember where I’ve been the last several years, yes?”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched. “Your Alliance is no stranger to hypocrisy. How often were you chastised for wanting revenge, even while others sought theirs?”
They stood together in the still silence of the night for a moment, neither sure what to say, or where this fragile truce was going. Surprisingly, Sylvanas broke first.
“That’s not all, I’m afraid. Our plan to raise Delaryn Summermoon did not go as well as I hoped.”
Jaina’s brows pulled together. “What happened?”
The Warchief snarled. “Blightcaller happened.” She began to pace, shadows bleeding off her, a sign Jaina was beginning to recognize as extreme emotion. “I don’t know what game he’s playing, but this time he cost me a Val’kyr. He was supposed to bring Delaryn to me, but instead tried raising her on his own, along with Sira Moonwarden.” Baring her fangs in anger, she clenched a fist so tightly Jaina could hear the metal gauntlet protest.
“Fuck.” Delaryn’s testimony that it was not Sylvanas who commanded the burning of Teldrassil was crucial to proving the others’ treachery. Without her, convincing the other leaders (Tyrande in particular) would be far more difficult. If not impossible.
Sylvanas made a face. “Indeed. Tyrande, needless to say, took exception. Hence the loss of my Val’kyr.”
This was definitely a blow. Small wonder the banshee was bleeding shadow and pacing hard enough to wear through rock. “What happened to Delaryn and Sira?”
Sylvanas glanced behind her at the tower entrance and made a quick gesture with both ears and fingers. Moments later, four figures stepped out of the shadows. One stood head to toe in the full armor of a warden, clearly Sira. Captain Areiel, who nodded to her, and another ranger Jaina didn’t know. The last was Delaryn Summermoon.
The former night elf commander looked depressed and defeated, and not even the sight of Jaina seemed to stir her.
Jaina looked to Sylvanas, questioning. The banshee’s ears flicked. “I do not know what he did, or how he interfered with the Val’kyr who raised her. She is not mindless, but neither is she herself.”
Jaina turned back to the night elf. “Can you do anything to help her? Can your Val’kyr?”
Sylvanas waved a hand at her and gave a wan smile. “I was hoping you could. Archmage.”
“Dammit Sylvanas, I’m an elemental mage, not an anamnesis magus.” She stood and walked toward Delaryn, who stared back passively. “But I am an archmage, so I’ll see what I can do.”
One long eyebrow lifted in response, but Sylvanas said nothing. In truth, Jaina hadn’t been lying. She had never done much with memory spells, beyond the occasional enhancement, but maybe…maybe that’s all this needed.
“Delaryn, what do you remember of your death?”
The night elf stared back impassively for long moments before blinking slowly and looking away. “Malfurion abandoned us. Told the ships to sail while they could. I tried to hold the Horde off, but it was hopeless. Too many arrows. I was already dead.” She turned to Sylvanas. “You gave the order to invade the tree. You told me… Life is pain. Hope fails. And then you gave the order to burn the tree.” Delaryn blinked again, slowly. “You were right. Hope is not enough.”
Jaina narrowed her eyes. Delaryn could easily have been mourning her life, but her behavior seemed…off. Like someone drugged or spelled. She pulled the staff off her back and muttered an incantation under her breath. “Tell me again, Delaryn. Think back. Remember the smell, the taste, the feel. Think of the details. Start with Malfurion.”
“Malfurion…” Red eyes drew tight as Jaina began to cast under her breath again. “The wisps scattered. Saurfang, he’s here. He and Malfurion fight, but… Malfurion leaves. He nods at Saurfang and then just leaves.” Delaryn blinks. “Why did he leave?”
Jaina, blazing white eyes almost closed as she weaved the threads of the spell, pushed her to continue. “Where is Sylvanas?”
The night elf blinks again. “I don’t… Not...not here. Elsewhere. Only Saurfang and the Champion, Blightcaller. So many arrows in me, but he keeps shooting. They argue. Burn the tree, he says. We’ll blame it on her. You’ll watch, and when I raise you, I’ll make sure you don’t remember.” Delaryn shook her head, putting a hand to it and blinking rapidly before looking first to Jaina and then to Sylvanas. “What…”
Jaina gave one more tug on the spell before releasing it to shatter. In that moment, several things happened. Sira screamed. Delaryn reached for a sword that wasn’t there. The rangers jumped back, arrows already drawn. And Sylvanas…
The command, infused with enough of the banshee’s power to make them all wince, made even Jaina stop mid-cast. Releasing the spell harmlessly, she watched as the Warchief drifted forward, feet silent on the tower stone, until she came to a halt in front of the warden.
“Abandoned… Elune abandoned us, Tyrande forsook us…”
“Calm yourself, Warden.” Sylvanas’ voice was barely even a whisper, but Jaina had no trouble hearing her. “I had not planned to raise you, but my Val’kyr saw something in you. Something that wanted to come back. If you wish to return to the solace of death, I will let you go. But let me first make you an offer. Here, with us, you are Forsaken. You will never again be abandoned. You will never again be alone. Together. This is the family we choose, and you may choose also, and we are unbreakable.”
The soft, calm words of comfort caught Jaina off guard. She had long known the Forsaken were precious to Sylvanas, but this…this kindness was not something she had been prepared for. Nor was she prepared for Sira to remove her helmet and drop to Sylvanas’ feet.
“I am Shadow Warden no more. I pledge myself to you, Dark Lady, and to all the Forsaken.”
Just like that. Jaina shook her head softly as Sylvanas pulled the elf to her feet. She wondered, as the Warchief greeted her new Dark Warden, how things might have been different had Sylvanas and the Forsaken approached Theramore, instead of the Horde. If she would have accepted them. What kinds of allies they might have made.
What allies they might still make.
It was…an interesting thought.
The Forsaken had outgrown the Horde—hell, Jaina had thought for some time that both factions had outgrown themselves. Better to dissolve them and end the constant infighting. But the Forsaken had never truly fit in the Horde. Jaina no longer had Theramore to offer, but she did have Kul Tiras… And Derek was beginning to settle in nicely, now that the initial shock of being raised had worn off.
Now that he’s forgiven me for using him as a pawn, even if it was almost entirely because I wanted him back.
The idea though. It could be worth further examination.
Jaina snapped back from her thoughts to find Sylvanas’ red eyes fixed on her. One ear twitched, whether in amusement or irritation, Jaina wasn’t sure.
“Still with us, little mage?”
Jaina huffed. “Yes. Sorry. What’s going on?”
“Daydreaming, are we? Don’t tell me that little spell tired you out.”
“Hardly.” She crossed her arms, folding in on herself. “I had an idea, that’s all.”
“Care to share with the rest of us?”
Jaina glared. “Later. I need to think on it more. Now, what’s going on?”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched again. “Later, then. Delaryn, tell her.”
Delaryn Summermoon looked alert and angry, a far cry from the near-zombie that had first walked in. “Malfurion. When he was fighting Saurfang. It was a fake. There were no innocents in Teldrassil when it burned. The tree was empty.”
“What? How do you know? Where are they? Because I can guarantee that Tyrande doesn’t know that. Or the rest of the Alliance.”
“I was close enough to hear when they fought. They were talking the entire time, the fight itself was just a front. Malfurion emptied Teldrassil ahead of time. He knew the Horde was coming. He and Saurfang had planned the whole thing.” She scowled, her anger deepening. “Blightcaller realized I’d heard. That’s what he and Saurfang were arguing over after Malfurion’s escape. Whether to continue with the burning, knowing I’d heard. Blightcaller insisted. Taunted me, let me watch it burn, then promised me he would make sure Sylvanas had me raised later—but that I’d never remember what had happened. And I didn’t. I remembered Sylvanas taunting me, burning a tree full of innocent night elves.”
Sira, her helmet cradled under her arms, shook her head. “Tyrande may have abandoned me, but I can promise she doesn’t know about this. She’s near mad with grief, and Elune help Malfurion when she learns of it. She’ll kill him.”
Jaina rubbed her forehead. It just kept getting worse. Blightcaller. Saurfang. Greymane. Now Malfurion. Who else was involved? They’d ruled out Baine, but Saurfang had dragged Thrall into it—was she sure he was just an opportunistic move?
“You’ll hurt yourself thinking that hard, little mage.”
“Stop calling me that, banshee.” Jaina took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Tyrande will deal with Malfurion, of that I have no doubt. Genn is under control for now, but I want to deal with him soon. He’s too invested in fighting.”
“Saurfang is the immediate threat. It’s time I dealt with him. The rest will fall into place from there.”
“What about Nathanos? Do you dare leave him?”
Sylvanas’ eyes burned. “Blightcaller will get what is coming to him. Velonara and Clea are tracking his every move, and when the time is right, I will strike. For now, I can still use him.”
Jaina fidgeted with her staff for a moment. It wasn’t ideal, but no one knew the man like Sylvanas. “I’ll trust your judgment, then. What is your plan for Saurfang?”
“Kill him, of course.” Sylvanas smiled, and it was all teeth and fang. “After I use him to bring the Horde and the Alliance together.”
Figured I'd start adding this in here, I'm @cait_greer on twitter and catfirebrand on tumblr feel free to say hi :)
Chapter 9: You Like A Goddess
Sylvanas 'how dare i have feelings (ugh)' Windrunner is a dramatic disaster. Jaina is Very Gay (TM) indeed.
Also, the rangers are all little shits. I love them.
Happy Femslash February, have more disaster gays, I love you all.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Something had shifted between them. Sylvanas could feel it, as much as she could feel the little mage long before she neared their rooms.
Her little mage.
The thought both terrified and excited her, made her feel things she had long since given up on. The days she’d spent getting Lordaeron habitable while Jaina had remained in Boralus had been nearly untenable. She’d worked day and night, growing more irritable by the hour until Areiele and Velonara had staged an intervention in the form of a dinner invitation from Tess Greymane and Katherine Proudmoore, of all people.
And Jaina had missed her. Practically thrown herself into her arms, a move which had surprised Sylvanas as much as anyone else in the room—possibly more.
Though Sylvanas had returned to Lordaeron the next day, they had not spent a night apart since.
Now the cities' repairs were finished, or enough so that moving in had commenced. The Undercity was teeming with Forsaken, and a surprising number of other races. Jaina was in their rooms in the keep, unpacking (books, mostly, she suspected). And Sylvanas was feeling things.
Sylvanas twitched her ears at the indignity of being found lost in thought on the stairs leading to her rooms. She turned and raised an eyebrow at Alina, who stood behind her with a tray and an expectant look.
And was that a smile?
“Is there something I can help you with, Ranger?”
“The tray you requested for Lady Jaina. Were you going up, or did you want me to take it?”
Sylvanas growled. “Give it to me.”
“Are you sure? If you’d rather keep debating the merits of having feelings for your wife, I’ll happily take it up.”
Sylvanas snatched the tray. “I’ll debate the merits of kicking your wise-cracking ass down these stairs.”
Alina laughed, which only made Sylvanas narrow her eyes and think harder about introducing the ranger to the concept of freefall down the staircase.
“She makes you happy, Dark Lady. We’ve all noticed. And we all agree she’s good for you. Good for the Forsaken.”
“Hmm.” Sylvanas’ ears twitched, but whether she was more annoyed with Alina or herself, it was hard to say. “I believe you have better things to attend to, Ranger.”
Alina grinned. “Yes, Dark Lady. Enjoy your wife.” She vanished before Sylvanas could retaliate, which was just as well. Alina was right, much as she hated to admit it. And it was time to stop lurking in the hallway like a child. Definitely before Jaina’s coffee went cold (an offense that would be inexcusable, she had quickly learned. Even if her little mage was prone to let it go cold herself).
Except that walking into the room presented her with a whole host of new things to think about.
Like Jaina, standing in the sunlight, hair falling out of her ever-present braid. The way the sun danced over skin revealed by the light, sleeveless robe she wore, mingling with the arcane swirls that pulsed beneath the surface. They weren’t obvious, but she could see them when she looked. And she always looked.
Jaina, who always knew where she was, seemed oblivious to her entry. Maybe because she’d lingered so long outside, but more likely because of the book held in one long-fingered hand. The other hand rested between the sides of the open collar of her robe, fingers tracing glowing lines against her chest before slowly reaching to turn another page.
Sylvanas felt dumbstruck. So much so that it took a moment (several moments, long moments, an eternity really) to recognize the soft sounds of Thalassian as Jaina read to herself.
“If only I, O goldcrowned Belore
Could win this heart...”
Sylvanas had expected some ancient treatise on the arcane, or a history of some sort. Belore knew she owned enough of them. She had not expected poetry.
Especially not that particular book of poetry.
She felt unmade by the scene.
With the most complete silence she could muster, Sylvanas set down the tray and ghosted towards her wife. Part of her wanted to rip the book from Jaina’s fingers and hurl it out the window. The words and the soft sound of her wife’s voice stirred feelings she had long thought dead. Feelings she had thought she’d no desire to ever feel again. But Jaina was an addiction, and Sylvanas could no more cast the book aside than rip her own unbeating heart from her chest.
Even if Jaina made that same heart feel alive again.
So, silently, she slipped behind her wife, sliding an arm around her torso and gently pulling the book from her hand, covering Jaina’s gasp of surprise with the flowing words of the next poem.
“You like a goddess
and in your song most of all she rejoiced.
But now she is conspicuous among Quel’dorai women
as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon
surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches out over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.
And the beautiful dew is poured out
and roses bloom and frail chervil
and flowering sweetclover.
But she goes back and forth remembering
her gentle lover and in longing
she bites her tender mind.”
Sylvanas set the book to the side. “I did not think to find you reading sensual Elven poetry, wife.”
Jaina, who leaned into her, whose heartbeat she could feel racing wildly, and whose face had turned a delightful shade of red, hummed. “I did not think to find a book of sensual Elven poetry amongst your things. Especially not a copy of Syndrel’s Fragments.” She turned in Sylvanas’ arms, blue eyes glowing with amusement. “You continually surprise me.”
Trapped. She felt trapped, snared like an animal. Caught and held by luminous blue eyes and a soft smile, and a low voice that soothed and tempted. “What have you done to me, wife? What magic have you bound me with?”
Jaina’s eyes dimmed. “Is that really how you feel? That you’re held in this against your will?”
“Jaina—” She made to pull away, but Sylvanas held her fast. “Wife. I did not say that.” She reached up and tucked a stray bit of pale white hair behind Jaina’s ear. “If I am caught bound or bespelled, it is by my own feelings.” She pulled her wife closer, burying her nose in gold and white hair. “You terrify me, Jaina. I never thought to feel like this again.”
“I know.” Two words, followed by a soft sigh, and hands that touched, unafraid. “Me too.”
So alike they were, in so many unexpected ways. No one had touched Sylvanas since her death, and then came this mage, this powerful, lonely creature, who did not shrink from her, but welcomed her touch. Who craved it.
What have you done to me, wife?
She wanted to run, to fly, far away from these awful, horrible feelings. From this glorious creature who inspired them.
She wanted to never let her go, to bed her, pleasure her until she was hoarse from screaming, until they could neither of them move. Belore help her, she wasn’t used to wanting anymore!
“Sylv? What’s wrong?”
She could drown in those blue eyes, every shade of them. Would happily burn at the touch of the hand that cupped her jaw.
“Anar’alah belore, Jaina!” Her mouth was on her wife’s before she could stop herself. It was selfish, foolish, reckless—
It was everything.
Her lips were soft, warm, and she wanted to push between them, to tear the air from her lungs, to sink her teeth in, but she would not, she would not, though Jaina’s whimper of want and parted lips were a plain invitation, and so, so tempting. Sylvanas forced herself to break away, but only so far as to touch their foreheads together.
Oh, how beautifully Jaina gasped her name.
“Dalah’surfal, you have not eaten today. And your coffee will get cold.”
“Fuck the coffee, Sylvanas—”
She chuckled. “I don’t think that would be entirely enjoyable.”
Jaina growled. “You can’t just kiss me like that and then start talking about food like nothing happened!”
Sylvanas growled to herself. “I’m sorry. I want—” I want everything. “If we’re going to do this, I want to do it right.”
“Let me woo you, Jaina. Please. Like you deserve.”
Jaina huffed. “Damn you, Sylvanas Windrunner. You do remember we’re already married, don’t you?”
She chuckled. “Yes, wife. And lucky am I.”
“Ridiculous. Fine. Kiss me again, and I’ll be a good wife and go drink my coffee.”
“And eat properly.”
“Fine, yes, and eat. Tides, I’m regretting this already.”
Sylvanas laughed again and used her knuckle to raise Jaina’s chin. She kissed her properly this time, softly and without the rush. Despite everything in her telling her to take her, claim her, she kept it gentle, savoring warm lips and the taste of lightning, and only nibbling just a little.
Still, Jaina was flushed and breathless at the end, a sight that nearly crumbled the elf’s resolve then and there. The way the blood and heat rushed to her cheeks and chest, the way her hands clutched Sylvanas’ leather tunic, her heart beating louder than war drums.
Resolve was a delicate thing.
“Damn you, Windrunner.” Jaina pushed away, finding the tray Sylvanas had carried up and downed the entire cup of coffee in one go. “I expect to be courted in proper Quel'Dorai style.”
Sylvanas laughed. It was a ridiculous idea, courting the woman she was already married to. But it felt right, in a way few things had felt right since that awful day in Silvermoon. So she wrapped her arms behind her wife again, burying her nose in white hair to savor the smell of the sea and storms and the heat of arcane. “Anything you like, Dalah’surfal.”
“If you meant that, we’d be on the bed behind you. Now come out on the balcony and eat with me.”
The poetry is, of course, Sappho. Because I, too, am a dramatic disaster and could not resist. Specifically, Jaina is caught reading fragment 33, and Sylvanas reads her fragment 96 (taken from If Not, Winter by Anne Carson, and slightly modified by me, because obviously Sappho wasn't writing about the Quel'Dorai... Or was she? Because really).
Chapter 10: Queen's Gambit
Flashback chapter. Plans are in motion, and it's time to start cleaning house. But is Sylvanas starting to get a little attached?
The fun begins! I've been out of town for a wedding this week, and itching to post another chapter, but not far enough ahead to actually do that...until now!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What were you thinking??”
Proudmoore spun, her eyes narrowing as she found her tenuous ally in the shadows of Lordaeron’s tower. “Excuse me?”
Sylvanas pulled her shadow self into solidity and strode forward, anger spilling out of her. “Of all the reckless, ridiculous moves, trying to take on Azshara on your own—”
“I wasn’t on my own! I had both our armies, including your First Archanist and your Regent Lord. I told you we needed to do something about the Tidestone. And we almost had her!”
Sylvanas seethed, barely restraining herself from shaking the little mage. “Almost being the key word. It was reckless, and not only did you fail to kill her, you released the old god!”
The mage’s eyes flashed white. “Do you think you could have done better, Warchief?”
“It wasn’t part of the plan! Not yet!”
“What, you’re angry because I acted without permission?”
“We’re supposed to be working together, Proudmoore! You could have been killed!”
The burning white left Proudmoore’s eyes in a flash of surprise, and Sylvanas pulled herself away, cursing. She was bleeding shadow again, damn this woman. Clenching her fists, and with her ears pinned back, she tried again.
“You could have been killed. And before you start accusing me of being selfish, don’t. This world won’t survive without you. Me, yes. My Forsaken will carry on, the Horde will be fine—we’ve already practically given it to Baine. But if you die, all hope for peace dies with it.”
“You have always been Azeroth’s best hope. You’re stronger than Azshara, did you know that? Stop being so damnably reckless!. There’s a reason you keep surviving. There’s a reason I came to you.”
Proudmoore sighed loudly. “I wish you’d come sooner. I wish—” Sylvanas turned to look at her as the mage turned away, her gaze on the distant night. “After you broke from the Scourge and carved out a home here in Lordaeron, you sent emissaries to the Alliance and the Horde. Why not to Theramore?”
“My envoys to the Alliance never returned. You were allied with them. I assumed you would reject us out of hand just as they did. Was I wrong?”
Proudmoore, arms crossed as if to hold herself together, looked down. “I was allied with the Horde, as well. Or didn’t you hear how I stood with them against my own father?” She shook her head and pulled herself tighter. “I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I’d had the chance to find out.”
Ridiculous mage. “It’s foolish to focus on what might have been.”
A scoff, followed by softly glaring blue eyes. “Says the woman just now berating me for what might have been.”
“Then we are both foolish.” Sylvanas turned away. “Baine says tomorrow they’ll march. Will you be there?”
A pause. “Yes. We’re fairly certain Saurfang will call for the mak’gora. We’ve been dropping hints.”
She grunted. “Good. If he does not, then I will. The Horde deserves better than to fight itself. And we’ll need all of us to handle an old god.”
She turned to leave, already bleeding into the shadows, already thinking about what was to come.
“Be careful. Azeroth needs you, too.”
Her ear flicked involuntarily. “Rest assured, little mage. Varok Saurfang will die, and I will remain to plague you.” She faded into the night, bleeding into shadow before Proudmoore could respond, but she could swear she heard the mage chuckle.
“Sylvanas Windrunner! I challenge Mak’gora!”
Sylvanas smiled. Bloodhoof and Proudmoore had done well. Thrall had likely contributed unwittingly. It didn’t matter though, this was the outcome she’d hoped for. She would kill Saurfang finally, and no one would get in her way. The gates of Orgrimmar groaned as they opened, and she stepped out into the sun, Anya at her back.
“A traitor leading traitors. Why should I accept your challenge?”
“You want to make me suffer.”
Sylvanas smiled. Yes. I do. And you will. She had a brief moment of hesitation when Saurfang turned to face her with Shalamayne in his hand. The little lion was so taken in by his act that he’d actually given the orc his father’s sword. No matter. She would still kill him. Not even a legendary light-forged blade could stop that.
Their blades clashed with a resounding sound. Sylvanas smiled. “Did you think I didn’t know?” She cut him across the chin and then the chest. “Did you think I didn’t suspect?”
Saurfangs eyes narrowed. He struck out at her again, and she cut him again.
“Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” A strike for every question. “That you were behind it all, working with my Champion, working with Greymane, even Malfurion? Working to discredit and dishonor me. Did you think to leave me powerless and alone?” Saurfang fell to the ground, panting. “I trusted you. And so did they. And you played us all for fools. Death comes, old soldier, and your rebellion will be my victory.”
Saurfang pushed himself up, looking slyly behind him. “They’ll never believe you.” He raised his voice, so those behind him could hear. “You cannot kill hope!” A lazy strike, easily parried. “You tried at Teldrassil, and failed!” Another lazy lunge. “Hope remains! You set us to kill each other at Lordaeron. You failed!”
Sylvanas stepped back, let him play his hand.
“Here we stand! You just keep failing!” Each word punctuated by a strike. “The Horde will endure! The Horde is strong!” She parried, and he spun, separating Shalamayne, and his backhand landed a blow.
Sylvanas looked up, anger unfeigned. Here, now, this was the moment. “The Horde is nothing!” To her side, Anya glanced over. Gave a subtle nod. She and Proudmoore had planned this out. The Horde would never be able to move forward with her at the helm. Too many hated her, even if—when—the truth came out. This play, this pantomime, was for them. “You are all nothing!” She would be free. They would all be free.
Saurfang looked up and smiled. He thought he’d won.
She smiled back. “You have won nothing. They will know the truth, and you will be remembered the worst kind of traitor.”
His smile turned into rage. “For Azeroth!”
Sylvanas let loose a blast of necrotic magic, rocking the ground and ripping the life from him. When the dust settled, Saurfang lay dead.
She found Proudmoore in the crowd, standing beside Thalyssra. Gave the smallest of nods, which the mage returned. And with a sneer at the rest, turned to shadows and vanished.
Sylvanas hated waiting. Oh, she was good at it, she’d learned to be good at it long before her undeath, long before becoming Ranger-General. But that didn’t mean she liked it.
She’d played her part. Met with Blightcaller, though she’d rather have ripped his lying throat and heart out there. Almost, she’d given in when he walked away, and she’d heard him whisper to himself, calling her his love. Disgust had nearly ruined all her plans. But she’d stayed her hand. Not yet.
Instead she’d allowed him to run off on whatever little errand he had cooked up with Azshara—she was certain, now, that he’d allied himself with the drowned queen. Clea and Velonara vanished to follow. And then it was left to her to address her Forsaken, without her false champion’s interference. To calm the rumors he’d spread and assure them that she was not abandoning them.
It had not gone quickly. Informing them of Nathanos’ treachery, imparting how important it was that they spread word quietly, lest the plan fail. Which meant speaking quietly to small groups, moving from one to the next, until finally enough of them knew.
Had she been alive, she’d be exhausted. As it was, by the time she finally made it to their tower in Lordaeron, she found she still had a wait on her hands.
Too much time to think. To worry about what she couldn’t control.
Then finally, finally, the blazing signature of a portal lit up the night, and Proudmoore stepped out to join her.
“Hello to you too, Sylvanas. Congratulations, you’re no longer Warchief of the Horde.” The mage walked straight to the wall, then sunk down to the stone floor. “Thrall and Theron both have been made aware, as have Thalyssra and Liadrin. They believed us after both Baine and I swore under compulsion. They’ll stand with us. Anduin wants to sign the treaty tomorrow, as soon as possible. That should be the best place to confront the others.”
“You’ve been busy, little mage.”
Proudmoore glared at her, exhaustion plain on her pretty little face. “As I’m hoping you’ve been. Especially since I have other news.”
Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed, her ears laying back. “Not good news, from the sound of it.”
The mage gave her a tired smirk. “Depends on how vengeful you’re feeling. Derek has been doing a little recognizance for me. Guess who thinks she’ll get to be the new queen of the Forsaken?”
A deep growl resounded from inside Sylvanas’ chest. “So Calia Menethil has come again to try and take what is mine.”
“Seems this has all been her idea. She went to Blightcaller—”
“Who has been working with Azshara, so I’m sure that played right into her plans.”
Proudmoore shook her head. “So you confirmed it?”
“I have. I’m to meet with him in three days, no doubt so he can betray me to her, finally. So the Menethil harpy played into his plans. I assume she’s the one who convinced the rabid dog. Nathanos would have had to do very little to convince Saurfang. What of Malfurion?”
“Saurfang. They planned the invasion of Darkshore and the burning of Teldrassil together, with the promise of ridding the world of you. It’s not dead, by the way. Just enchanted to seem so. Teldrassil is singed, but alive.” Proudmoore laid her staff across her lap and leaned her head against her gauntleted hand. “She confessed it all to Derek, thinking he held a grudge against you.”
“Clever little mage. I assume you have a plan?”
A tired smile slowly grew on the mage’s features. “Derek recorded the entire conversation on a runestone I gave him.”
Sylvanas didn’t even try to stop the laugh that bubbled up out of her. “Clever mage indeed. If I had but had you with me when the Scourge came to Quel’Thalas, Silvermoon might never have fallen.”
You have no idea how satisfying it was rewriting that mak'gora. The next few chapters are really gonna get fun...
Chapter 11: O Lady, My Heart
Soft gays go a-courting
Jaina is a Very Meddlesome Wife who likes to interfere with certain sisterly relationships and ends up getting more than she bargained for
Officially making shit up as I go wheeeeeeeeee. And letting Jaina going OFF is so very fun.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Jaina, what is that?”
Realizing she’d been toying with her pendants, Jaina forced herself to stop and look at Vereesa. “What is what?”
The fair-haired elf in question raised an eyebrow and gestured to the pendants she still gripped. “That. Specifically, the item on the chain next to your father’s anchor.”
Jaina held the pendants out to the elf with a smile. The anchor, of course, had been a default accessory for a while now. But it had recently been joined by two miniature feathers wrapped with leather and gems in a rather distinctively elven style. The feathers themselves changed colors in the light and glowed ever so subtly in proximity to her magic.
It was beautiful, even more so because Sylvanas had made it.
She laughed at the seriousness in Vereesa’s voice. “What?”
“You do know what this is, don’t you?”
Pulling the pendants back, Jaina reclined in her chair on the balcony. “Yes, I do. And no, it’s not the only one. And yes, I do know what I’m doing.”
Vereesa blinked at her, face a mask of shock. “I… You’re letting her court you?”
Jaina nodded, bemused.
Sipping her coffee, Jaina regarded her sister-in-law. “Tell me, Vereesa, did you expect we’d simply tolerate each other for the rest of our lives?”
“I know you two are still getting reacquainted. I know it’s hard not to see her as the enemy. I know you’re trying, or you wouldn’t be here letting your sons visit. And I know we’ve had this conversation before, so I’ll avoid rehashing it again and just tell you that your sister and I have found common ground that neither of us anticipated. She is a far better person than you or Alleria give her credit for, and I’m letting her court me because I want her to.”
Vereesa’s ears twitched in much the same way Sylvanas’ did when she was struggling with whatever emotion she didn’t want to admit to having. Her eyebrows pulled forward tightly, and she stared at the middle distance past Jaina for several minutes.
“Are you happy?”
Jaina laughed and reached out for Vereesa’s hand. “I know you don’t understand, but yes. I am. Happier than I have been since Theramore. Ever, possibly.” Her face grew more serious. “Sylvanas understands me in ways I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to. And I, her. She is a good wife.”
Vereesa sighed. “If you had told me that before Silvermoon fell, I would have agreed without reservation. Now, it’s…hard to accept.”
Jaina raised an eyebrow, but her friend hurried on.
“Except that I have never known you to be anything but truthful. And I look at you, and I see someone who truly is happy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so relaxed, definitely not since Theramore. I…you’re holding my hand. You haven’t voluntarily initiated contact with anyone in years.”
Jaina squeezed her hand before letting go. It was nice to touch people again without having to brace herself, even if it did still prickle. “Thank you. I know your relationship with your sister is only partially my business—” Vereesa opened her mouth to protest, but Jaina waved her off, her voice hardening into that of the Lord Admiral. “She’s my wife, it is partially my business. So, as your sister-in-law, and your friend, I’m going to ask you to do something. Think back to the Ranger-General Sylvanas you knew. Think about all the things she had to do to protect Quel’Thalas. Think about all she went through, all the decisions she had to make for the good of her people. And then ask yourself, Vereesa Windrunner, if any of that is truly different from what she did and the choices she made to protect the Forsaken. And the Horde, while she was Warchief.”
Vereesa’s expression immediately went to indignance, then, when Jaina gave her a stern glare, shifted into the pout that the Quel’Dorai in particular seemed to have mastered. And then slowly began to morph from one emotion to the next, ears drooping further with each one. Until finally sadness won out, and mortification.
Jaina rubbed her back lightly as the elf dropped her head into her hands.
“Belore forgive me, I have been a self-righteous fool.”
The corner of Jaina’s mouth turned up, but Vereesa was saved from further commentary by the approach of familiar energy.
Sylvanas, when she stepped out into the garden with her nephews on her heels, simply twitched an ear and gave her a curious look. “What have you done now, wife?”
Before Jaina could answer, Vereesa pushed herself up and turned away, but not before several tears escaped down her cheeks.
Sylvanas’ ears laid back. “What is…” She looked between Jaina, who looked back with a calm sadness, and her sister, whose ears were almost flat, eyebrow tufts almost vertical. Jaina could almost hear her sniffling, which meant her wife definitely could.
Jaina smiled softly. She rose and kissed her wife on the corner of her mouth. “I think I’ll let you two talk.”
“Come on, Giramar, Galadin. Let’s leave your mother and aunt to talk. How about I give you a tour of the Undercity?”
The boys, who both looked extremely confused and mildly worried, cheered and ran to follow Jaina.
“Do not leave me here, wife!”
Jaina smiled and blinked herself and the boys away.
By the time Sylvanas found her again, the boys had been well and truly worn out, and left to nap under the watchful eyes of several rangers. Jaina herself had resettled in the library, and didn’t look up when she came in.
Neither of them spoke for a while. Jaina was content to let the silence breathe until Sylvanas was ready. Eventually, she was.
“You are a meddlesome creature, wife.”
Jaina set her book to the side and turned to face her. “Are you terribly upset with me?”
Sylvanas gave her a look of fond exasperation. “No. Thank you.” Her ear flicked. “Little Moon… It will take time. But whatever you said to her—”
“You know what I said.” Jaina gave her a small smile. “I know you could hear us.”
Another flick of the ears. “Yes. I did hear.” Sylvanas’ red eyes seemed to bore into every inch of her. “How do you see me so well, when even my own family cannot?”
Jaina regarded her wife before standing up and walking over to where she stood by the fireplace. She ran a hand down Sylvanas’ tunic, smoothing the soft leather, tugging the edges, and then placed her hand over her wife’s heart, finally looking up at eyes that both burned and questioned. “Because I’m not looking for the woman you were. None of us are who we were, especially not after all we’ve been through. And yet…” She smiled and rubbed her thumb in small circles on soft leather.
“And yet, you are still the Ranger-General. It’s in every interaction you have with your Dark Rangers, every ounce of care you give the Forsaken. You’re also more. All the pain you’ve experienced, all the awful decisions that were forced on you… I see you because I understand you. Because I’m not looking for who you were before it all, not insisting that person is gone, either. But that’s not always easy for others to see, the whole of us.”
Sylvanas ran her fingers over the last stripe of gold in Jaina’s hair. “You’re still going white, aren’t you, Dalah’surfal?”
Jaina hummed. “More of it turns the more I use my magic. It won’t be long before the gold is all gone.”
Cool lips pressed against her forehead, and Sylvanas’ voice came softly. “Thank you.”
A knock sounded, followed by a cleared throat, and Jaina smiled. “You may not want to thank me yet.”
Sylvanas’ ears flattened. “What have you done now, meddling wife?”
Jaina’s smile widened as she grabbed her wife’s hand. Anya, who stood at the library door with a smirk on her face, grinned wider as well.
“They’re in the Great Hall, Lady Jaina.”
If it was possible for Sylvanas’ ears to get any flatter, Jaina wasn’t sure. She was sure she had never heard her growl in quite that way, and she found herself giggling—giggling, Tides, like a teenager!
The giggles became a full-blown laugh as she led Sylvanas downstairs.
“Wife, please tell me you didn’t.”
Jaina gave her a pointed look. “You told me you wanted to court me. Am I not correct that making that intention known to your family is an important step?”
Sylvanas, ears still pinned, narrowed her eyes. “I do not like being ambushed.”
Jaina sighed. They’d pulled to a stop just outside the Great Hall, and she could feel the tension in her wife as clearly as she could feel Alleria’s void energy and Alexstrasza’s draconic nature on the other side of the wall. This close, no doubt Sylvanas, too, could feel them. Cupping the elf’s jaw, Jaina placed a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth. “This is not an ambush. You are not at war, not any longer. I know this is hard, but I also know how much you have missed your sisters. Alleria knows she was wrong, and proud as she is, she’ll admit it if you let her. Give her a chance, for both your sakes.”
Sylvanas’ rigid body relaxed against her, arms coming up to pull Jaina to her. “I’m beginning to think I’ve been out-maneuvered.”
“You have, Darling. Come.” She wrapped her arm in the crook of Sylvanas’ and led her into the room where the oldest Windrunner waited.
Alleria, for her part, stood tense with Alexstrasza at her back in her high elf form.
Sylvanas stiffened again, but Jaina squeezed her arm and felt her calm again. “Lady Sun. Life Binder.”
Alleria flicked her ear. “Lady Moon. Thank you for inviting us.”
“I’m afraid my wife is to blame for that.” Jaina slapped her shoulder, which at least made the banshee smile.
“Yes.” Alleria glanced behind her, where Alexstrasza smirked. “That seems to be going around.” The void elf sighed. “Could we talk, sister?”
“Come, then. I’m sure our wives can entertain each other.”
Jaina tugged her arm, pulling her close to kiss her cheek. “Behave.”
Sylvanas smirked. “Where, pray tell, is the fun in that?”
“I mean it, Sylv.”
“As you wish, wife.” Sylvanas kissed her forehead, then turned back to her sister’s baffled expression.
Jaina watched the two walk off to their talk, waiting until she was sure they were out of earshot, then turned to the Aspect. “Did you bring it?”
Alexstrasza smiled wide and pulled something from her belt. “As requested. Stormforged silver laced with Azerite.”
Jaina’s eyes burned white for a moment as she exposed the stone and the power level in the room shifted. She covered it quickly, glancing in the direction the Windrunners had gone. “Care to join me at the forge?”
“I would be honored.” Her eyes followed where Jaina had glanced. “They’ll be fine. Alleria does understand, finally. She always did, really, but the shock and her wounded pride drove her away. And guilt. Guilt that she wasn’t here when Sylvanas died and Silvermoon was overrun.”
“I know. I’m glad to see them trying. They need each other.”
“Indeed.” The dragon’s golden eyes flared. “But you have a courting gift to forge, so let us leave them to their reconciliation.”
Jaina nodded, opening a portal for them both. They walked through, Anya smoothly sliding in behind them with one eyebrow raised. Then her eyes went wide as she realized where they were.
Jaina held her gaze. “Not a word, ranger. Or I will have Alexstrasza wipe your memories.”
The Dark Ranger narrowed her eyes. “I’m not sure the Red Aspect has that power.”
Behind them, the dragon grinned, suddenly looking very draconic. “Are you certain?”
Anya blinked, then grinned. “No. But don’t worry. My loyalty is always and only to my Ladies.”
Jaina regarded her for another moment, knowing it was pointless to try and send her back. The ranger would never leave, and the secret of their location was already revealed. “Not a word.”
Anya bowed. “Bright Lady.”
Jaina shot her a look. She hadn’t heard that one before, and she was going to have to remember to ask about it later. Now, though… “Well, come on. We don’t have a lot of time. Welcome to the Tide Forge, the best kept secret in Kul Tiras.” Placing the metal Alexstrasza had brought in the center of the forge, Jaina’s eyes blazed white as she gathered storm and ice and tide, and got to work.
Working the forge was much like using a focusing iris. She poured all her attention into it, barely noticing how Anya had fled to the edges of the room, or the small helps given by Alexstrasza. She poured herself and her arcane into the Azerite-laced metal, shaping it, twisting it. Weaving magic into the form, until it was perfect.
Jaina let her hold on the arcane release with a sigh and a smile. The bright white silver shot through with pale blue and gold thrummed with energy, and when she picked it up, the pieces weighed almost nothing.
“She will love it, Bright Lady.”
The awe in Anya’s voice we unmistakable. “I hope so. And that’s the second time you’ve called me that.” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “What’s going on?”
Anya ducked her head, and Jaina thought for a moment she might even have been blushing. “It’s what everyone is calling you. We have our Dark Lady, and now we also have our Bright Lady.”
Anya’s eyebrow shot up. “Have you seen yourself?”
From the other side of the room, Alexstrasza laughed. “She has a point. Sylvanas’ magic is darkness and shadows, especially in her banshee form. But your power is blinding and bright. Your hair, your eyes, even your arcane scars—”
The dragon laughed louder. “Kalecgos may be a fool, but I’m not. And you may be the most powerful mage in Azeroth, but I am the Queen of Dragons, the Life-Binder.” She regarded Jaina, all humor vanishing for a moment. “There are things about you that we should discuss. But not now. Now, we go back to our wives, and you present your courting gift. Bright Lady,” she added with a wink.
Jaina wanted to press the dragon for more, but Sylvanas would have noticed she was missing by now—presuming, of course, that she and her sisters hadn’t killed each other yet. So, in a show of what she felt was admirable self-restraint, Jaina opened a portal instead of her mouth, and the three walked back into the Great Hall in Lordaeron.
Where all three Windrunner sisters waited.
“I was beginning to wonder if you would return for supper, wife.”
Jaina, gift carefully wrapped and tucked away, stepped into her wife’s arms. “When have I ever missed supper? And did you know your rangers have started calling me Bright Lady?”
Sylvanas chuckled. “You miss supper all the time, or you would if I didn’t hound you about eating. As with every meal. And I thought I had heard mention of that.” She tucked a bit of loose hair behind Jaina’s ear. “It suits you.”
Jaina shook her head softly. “How did your conversation go?”
Sylvanas glanced up at Alleria, who stood in conversation with Vereesa. Her ears flicked. “As with Little Moon, it will take time. But…it is time we have, and we are working on it.”
“Has Arator arrived yet?”
“A few minutes before you did. And where, pray tell, did you and the dragon disappear to?”
Jaina smiled. “Nowhere special. I needed her help with something.”
“You’re being coy, wife.”
“Am I? How strange.”
She really did love hearing her name said in that tone of affectionate exasperation. “I promise I’ll tell you later. I believe someone mentioned food?”
“You know I’ll get it out of Anya.”
Jaina’s smile widened. “I don’t think you will, this time.”
Her wife growled.
Sylvanas was restless all through supper. Jaina wasn’t sure she had ever seen her like this. Her ears never stopped moving, and her energy thrummed in a way that made Jaina itch. But despite the fact that Alleria and Vereesa also seemed on edge, she didn’t think it was just the fact that this was the first time the three of them had been in the same room and not plotting to kill one another in a very long time.
The fact that the rangers kept making excuses to pass through, grinning the whole while, definitely added to her suspicions. Especially when Sylvanas glared back at them.
Jaina tried to calm her with soothing touches, pushing small tendrils of arcane into her. They worked for a while, but eventually Sylvanas squeezed her hand tight enough to hurt and then pushed away before she could protest.
Hands stopped her as she moved to chase after her wife. Jaina instinctively pulled away, but she was caught again, spun by hands that turned out to belong to Vereesa, Alleria beside her. “Jaina, wait. Just wait a moment.”
“Reesa, what’s going on?”
The sisters exchanged a look, then each took one of Jaina’s hands. Alleria pulled a small jar from the pouch at her waist, and Vereesa squeezed her hand. “We’ll let you go in a moment, we promise. She’s fine.”
“She’s nervous,” Alleria added. “As she should be. I don’t think you realize just what you’ve initiated here, Proudmoore. Married in name or not, this is different. This is very old Quel’dorei tradition, and I hope you’re ready.”
Jaina looked between the sisters. “For what? What’s going on?”
Alleria hesitated, and Vereesa took up the thread. “This morning, you told me how much your relationship with her has grown. I never thought I would ask this about her, not now, not after…everything…but…do you love Sylvanas?”
“Yes.” Jaina didn’t have to even think. There was no question. However it had happened, however unexpected, it had happened. She’d fallen for her wife.
“And do you wish to be bound to her? Not just politically wed, but truly bound, body and soul?”
“Yes.” Again, it wasn’t even a question. She already was. Sylvanas was her home. She wanted and needed no other.
The Windrunner sisters nodded. While Alleria unscrewed the container she held, Vereesa gestured at Jaina. “Take off your jacket.”
Brows pressed together, Jaina complied.
And then Alleria began drawing on her skin with the contents of her jar, murmuring in Thalassian as she went.
Jaina gasped as the magic burned across her skin. The marks would be temporary, she could feel that intrinsically, but the binding Alleria was weaving was not. And suddenly she worried about what this would do to Sylvanas, how it would affect her as undead. “This won’t hurt her, will it?”
Alleria’s hand didn’t pause in its movement, but her ear twitched almost violently. “I don’t know.”
“Sylvanas asked for this, Jaina.” Vereesa had joined her sister, drawing detailed patterns in blue down her arms and face. “She’s… I’ve never seen her like this, even before. I don’t know what’s between you, but she wants this.” Vereesa finished a final line and placed a kiss on Jaina’s cheek before stepping back.
Alleria did the same, and then handed Jaina the small jar of whatever they’d been painting her with. “The final marks will be for you both to draw. You have our blessing, the blessing of the remaining Windrunners.”
Jaina looked at the pot. The magic behind the marks they’d drawn felt overwhelming, not for the strength of them, but the sudden weight of their meaning. “Did either of you…”
Jaina looked between the two. Vereesa, who had only started to answer, had tears in her eyes. “We had talked about it. Were planning it. It’s not done much anymore, even before Silvermoon fell it wasn’t done much. But we were going to.”
“That must have made Rhonin’s death…” The youngest Windrunner nodded, then looked at her sons, who stood solemnly with Arator and Alexstrasza.
“But I carry him with me.”
Alleria gave her son a soft smile, then fixed her eyes on Alexstrasza. “I did not have that kind of marriage, before. Most Quel’dorei don’t. But the future isn’t written, is it?” She turned back to Jaina. “Go. She’s waiting.”
Turalyon, who? I'm sorry, was Alexstrasza/Alleria not canon? *insert me, slowly smiling*
Chapter 12: Checkmate
Flashback chapter - Anduin's treaty signing doesn't go quite as planned. Plans are revealed and foiled. Jaina decides she's done with hypocrisy. Just deserts are served.
I seriously adore all of you. Thank you for reading and commenting and generally giving me life in this hellscape.
Jaina watched as Anduin dashed his pen across the paper, and then stood with a sigh. “The armistice is signed. At long last, the Fourth War is over.”
Everyone began to clap, but they were interrupted by a flood of power from Tyrande. “No! Not while the Black Moon still cries out for vengeance. Not until the Horde has answered for its treachery!”
Anduin immediately tried to calm her. “Further bloodshed will not bring back the fallen. We must renew our hope and forge a future for those who survived!”
“And when the next Warchief musters an army? Will hope save you when it is Stormwind that burns?”
“I know it’s difficult to trust, but there are signs of change within the Horde. In place of a Warchief, there is now a council led by Baine, Thrall, and the others. I believe they can—”
“Your faith is naïve, lion’s son. I will sign no treaty unless it is written in the Banshee’s blood!” Tyrande whirled, preparing to storm out, but Jaina, who had watched the whole exchange desperately trying not to roll her eyes—Tides, but Sylvanas was beginning to rub off on her—stepped in her way.
“What if I could give you your vengeance, Tyrande?”
“Jaina!” Anduin stared at her with a shocked expression, but she shook her head at him, holding up a hand to stall his protests.
Beside him, Genn smiled. “There is truth in her words, Anduin. Peace may be on the table today, but soon enough the Horde will sound their drums and march for war. When that day comes, no scrap of parchment will hold them back.”
“I need none of your barking, wolf.” Tyrande’s eyes narrowed at Jaina. “What do you mean, Lord Admiral?”
Jaina stepped closer, pushing into the taller elf’s space. “What would you say if I told you we had all been fed a lie? That Sylvanas did not burn Teldrassil, that Teldrassil did not burn at all, and your people still lived?”
Tyrande, whose face was a mask of anger that had tightened at each of Jaina’s words, spun at Genn’s interruption.
The corner of Jaina’s mouth twitched ever so slightly. “Was I speaking to you, Genn Greymane?”
The Worgen growled. “You speak lies to us all! We know Teldrassil burned, we’ve seen the remains! What game are you playing here, mage?”
“No game.” Jaina turned back to Tyrande. “And no lies. I swear on the Tidemother herself, that what I say is true. And I can prove it.”
She gave an almost imperceptible nod and watched as Sylvanas stepped out of her shadows, her form solidifying. The chamber erupted into chaos, shouting voices and drawn weapons, but that had been expected. Jaina gathered her power, letting it bleed through the room in a tsunami of will.
Everything and everyone stopped.
Jaina shot her a quick glare. “Sylvanas is here at my request.” She held up her hand, eyes still blazing with power, to stall off the immediate flare of protest. “We have all been deceived, Horde and Alliance alike, and that deception started with the attack on Darkshore. And the architect of those lies is not Sylvanas.”
Sylvanas faced Tyrande, who looked back with murder in her eyes. “I did not burn your tree, and I did not kill those innocents within it.”
“You lie! I have seen the husk of the world tree with my own eyes, felt the loss of my people! I don’t know what magic you’ve used on Proudmoore—”
“The Lord Admiral’s mind is her own. And I do not lie.” Behind her, Anya and Ariele appeared with Delaryn Summermoon between them.
“She speaks truthfully, High Priestess. Teldrassil lives, as do our people. What you saw, you were intended to see, purposely blinded to truth.” Delaryn shifted her gaze slightly. “Isn’t that right, my lord Malfurion?”
Malfurion darkened, anger twisting his face. “The banshee has twisted her mind—”
“I have done no such thing.” Sylvanas folded her arms, standing in bored defiance. “If Tyrande doubts her, let her compel the truth.”
Delaryn stepped to Tyrande with open hands, and the High Priestess gripped them tightly, pouring the power of the Night Warrior into them.
Her expression turned from rage to disbelief. “No…”
“My love—” Malfurion choked as Tyrande turned on him, eyes blazing.
“What. Have. You. Done??”
“What I had to!”
“Where are my people?”
“They are fine, my love, I swear! They rest in the Emerald Dream, safe as ever!”
Tyrande lifted Malfurion with one hand and slammed him into the wall. “And just when were you planning on revealing this?”
Malfurion snarled. “When the Banshee was dead.”
Tyrande threw him to the ground, rising up like a dark goddess, and turned back to Delaryn and Sylvanas. “This is why you killed Saurfang.”
“He was one of the orchestrators, yes. I would not have led the Horde to Darkshore if he had not pushed so relentlessly. The invasion, the tree, all of it was staged.”
“My love—” Malfurion made to get up, but a solid armored foot forced him back down. Above him, Maiev Shadowsong held her greatsword at the ready.
“Give me an excuse, Stormrage.”
Malfurion roared, throwing Maiev’s foot off him. “Tyrande, my love—”
Tyrande punched him in the face. He stumbled, falling to the ground again as Maiev kicked out the back of his knees. Tyrande’s power swelled, and he gasped as the rage of the Night Warrior bore down on him.
“No. You have manipulated me for the last time. I should rip you apart for this.”
He surged up again, eyes glowing with power, but Tyrande froze him in place. Her eyes flicked to Maiev, and when the warden’s sword fell, so did Malfurion.
“Tyrande! High Priestess, I…” Anduin, his eyes wide and darting from the Night Elves to Jaina to Malfurion’s body, finally found his voice. “What have you done?”
Tyrande looked at him as her power receded. “Executed a traitor.”
Anduin shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “Madness. This is all madness. I don’t understand. A conspiracy, Jaina?”
Jaina, staff in hand, eyed the young king. “Several people on both sides decided it was time to remove Sylvanas. Saurfang was one. He had been sabotaging her for some time now, almost since the start of her tenure as Warchief. He plotted with Malfurion and others to stage the burning of Teldrassil, and everything that followed.”
“Who? What others?”
“Blightcaller, who we believe is working with Azshara and N’Zoth. He was using Saurfang to divide the Horde and make them vulnerable for her. Just as the staged destruction of Darkshore was meant to demoralize the Night Elves.” Jaina looked to his left, fixing her still-blazing eyes on Greymane. “And Genn, of course. Who was the easiest to manipulate, thanks to his blind hatred of Sylvanas.”
Greymane’s form ripped into his Worgen shape, snarling with rage. “She is a blight upon Azeroth, and if you will not kill her, I will!”
Jaina froze him to the ground before he could move.
Anduin stared. “Why, Genn?”
The Worgen snarled, fighting against the ice that bound him, but it was Jaina that answered.
“Because he is mad with hatred for her. Think, Anduin. Has he ever once advocated for peace? How many times has he argued against you, against peace, in favor of attacking the Horde? Especially since Sylvanas became Warchief? The ink on that treaty wasn’t even dry, and he was doing it, just moments ago. Do you really think he wouldn’t leap at any chance to strike at her, even if it meant working with other members of the Horde?”
Anduin sighed, shaking his head. “You have been my right hand since my father died. How…how could you betray me like this?”
“Betray you?” Greymane roared. “Killing her is all that matters! If you can’t see that, you’re even weaker than your father, and maybe it’s time for the Alliance to have a new High King!” Ice shattered as he broke free, lunging at the young king. Jaina raised her gauntleted hand, halfway to freezing him again, but before any of them did more than begin to move, two arrows sprouted from the Worgen King’s chest, shadowy tendrils pulling him back down and anchoring him to the stone floor.
The room turned as one to see Sylvanas lower her bow. Sylvanas herself inclined her head to Anduin. “Your Majesty.”
Anduin’s face cycled through emotions faster than the banshee’s arrows flew, settling on angry resignation. “Who else, Greymane?”
Greymane snarled, then yelped as the shadow chains pulled him lower. “Menethil.”
Half the room gasped, Turalyon muttering “Impossible,” under his breath. Anduin simply looked defeated.
Jaina fished a runestone out of her belt pouch, which she tossed to Anduin. “You can hear for yourself. Calia confessed it all to Derek, thinking he held a grudge against her.”
Sylvanas replaced her bow on her back. “You thought before that I was happy to slaughter my people when all they wanted was to join the Alliance. That was truly the first deception. Calia Menethil was trying to foment war. Those Forsaken, twisted by her, would have killed you and destroyed any fragile hopes you had for peace. And you, little lion, brought her into undeath with the help of my sister’s husband, all so she could turn around and try it again.”
Greymane roared loudly. “Was she wrong to do so? Lordaeron should be hers, and you do nothing but slaughter, Banshee! None of you have the guts to stop her. But she will pay! You all will!” Ripping the shadow arrows from him, he charged again. This time, the arrow that stopped him pierced his heart, Sylvanas following hard on its heels, twisting the head deep.
“This time, old dog, there’s no one to take the arrow for you.”
Genn choked and fell, the light gone from his eyes before he hit the ground and Sylvanas had ghosted back to her rangers.
Anduin collapsed into a chair, hand half covering his face. “What of the Horde?”
Jaina’s mouth quirked. “They’ve been informed. Baine has been working with us to root out anyone else involved.”
Anduin stared at her. “He knew?”
“Since he brought Derek to me. Raising him was my idea, by the way.”
“So the prison break—”
“Was staged. He was never going to be executed. We needed to give Saurfang rope to hang himself.”
Anduin dropped his head into both hands. “This is madness.”
A moment of silence was broken by half the room beginning to talk at once. It didn’t take long for it to turn to shouting and accusations. Most of them still pointed at Sylvanas.
Jaina listened to it all with a budding headache. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a breath. She was about out of patience.
Power crackled around her as she scanned the room.
“Every one of you looks at Sylvanas Windrunner and sees an abomination. You see this undead monster who will do anything for power, but you’re all so blind to your own acts and behavior. Every person in this room has done horrible things, some for their people, some purely out of revenge, but none of us is exempt, myself included.
“You look at her, and you see the Lich King’s creation, you see corruption, something foul, but you are wrong. You see someone who was once a savior of her people, twisted and perverted until nothing of her remains, but you are wrong. None of you know what she went through at his hands. This is someone who was a prisoner in her own mind, forced to raze her home and slaughter her people while she watched helpless, haunted and tormented by her preserved body, subjected to unknown abuse. And she broke free.
“Have any of you thought about the sheer strength it took for her to break away from Arthas’ control? And then to tear the other Forsaken away from him? And then after all that, after all she was forced to endure, after finally freeing herself and her people—is she welcomed home? Mourned with? Allowed to grieve? No. Instead, she’s subjected to further abuse by her own people, by her own family.” Jaina looks sharply at Alleria and Vereesa, who at least had the decency to look away.
“She’s told that what was done to her, forced on her, makes her unwanted, evil, outcast. Time and time again, she’s told she is no better than her abuser. And still—Still!—she picks herself up, carries the people she has freed, and creates a home out of rubble. She buoys her new people up, despite rejection after rejection, finds allies with the very people she warred against in life. All while being told how horrible and evil she is.”
Jaina took a few ragged breaths, her eyes still blazing with power and anger that she struggled to keep in check. “She has survived more than any of you could possibly imagine, and still kept the love of her Forsaken in the process. They are not brainwashed under her control. She is not the Lich King, or Garrosh, no matter how many of you would make that comparison. You all hate her for the very things you do yourselves. All because you find her unnatural. Better, you think, that she lay down and die than live as such, if it can even be called living. But what would you have done, any of you, in her place?
“You want an end to this fighting? Let her and her people live in peace.”
Silence reigned for a few moments, while Jaina breathed hard, daring any of them to challenge her. And then the room erupted once again, shouts of how will we trust her quickly becoming the refrain.
Jaina turned to Sylvanas, who had come to stand with her. “Do you trust me?”
Sylvanas cocked her head, red eyes piercing. “Play your hand, little mage. I will follow your lead.”
“I hope you don’t regret that.”
Jaina turned to Anduin, who looked at her with shock and questions in his eyes, then back to the room. She raised her staff, arcane lightning dancing down it, and the din slowly calmed. “How will you trust her?” She looked again at Sylvanas, then back to the crowd. “You will trust me. Sylvanas and I will marry.”
More shouting, and Jaina clenched her teeth before slamming her staff to the ground. “We will marry. A treaty marriage. An attack on her will be an attack on me.”
Again the room erupted, and she heard Sylvanas chuckle in her ear. “You surprise me, little mage.”
“Do you regret trusting me now?”
“Not at all.”
Well, that was something, at least. Jaina looked to Anduin again, who simply stared at her like she’d grown three extra heads. Tides, maybe she had, at that. And then Jaina felt the prickle of magic that wasn’t her own, the buzz unique to the Light, just as Sylvanas hissed beside her. She whipped around to find Turalyon, sword high and actively calling down the Light in a preemptive strike.
“I will not allow this abomination—”
He got no further.
Jaina glanced behind her, where Sylvanas stood impassive and unmoving, only the cant of her ears betraying slight surprise, and then back at Turalyon as he slumped to the floor.
Alleria stood over him, the void rippling around her. “That is my sister. And you will not touch her.” She looked up, void receding, and nodded once to Sylvanas.
In the silence that followed, Jaina heard Sylvanas whisper just loud enough for her to catch. “Well, little mage. You certainly know how to throw a good party.”
Jaina sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
Chapter 13: You Burn Me
Soul bonding, anyone? Jaina and Sylvanas finally give in.
Content warning for sexytimes, lesbians being unable to keep their hands off each other, and all that jazz.
Rating change, ahoy! Haven't you been waiting for this? Also, Impatient Sylvnanas is impatient.
I love you all. Enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sylvanas paced. The bonding patterns her sisters had drawn on her burned. They had burned all through dinner, soothed only by her wife’s touch and the deft pushes of arcane Jaina had sent her way. But by the end, it had become too much, and when Alleria had signaled her with a flick of her ear, she had fled to their rooms to wait.
To wait for the answer to a question she had never thought she would ask.
She burned for the answer.
Lost in impatience, she had missed the arrival of her wife. Jaina stood just inside the door, the bare skin of her arms and face flushed and glowing with painted marks, her blue eyes blown wide and tinged with white.
“Jaina.” She whispered her wife’s name reverently, watched as she stepped forward tentatively.
“Are you alright?”
Alright? She felt on fire. Jaina set her aflame. Flayed every nerve she had left. Sylvanas closed her eyes and took a breath she didn’t need, clenching her fists against the desperate need she felt. Until a soft hand touched her arm, followed by a soft gasping hiss, and she opened her eyes to see Jaina, only Jaina, always Jaina.
The pull of the unfinished Suran’anari bindings burned.
Jaina’s hand gripped her arm. Offered the small jar of sin’alah. Raised impossibly blue eyes to her and swallowed visibly. “Alleria said we would have to draw the final marks. What… Is this what it feels like? Binding our lives together, literally?”
“Our hearts, our souls, our lives. Yes.”
“Vereesa said she and Rhonin—”
Sylvanas placed a hand over the one that burned on her arm. “She told me. I did not understand why she grieved him the way she did, but the Suran’anari would have extended his life significantly, beyond what his magic already would have. She would have had a full long life with him.” She stared into blue eyes. “You don’t have to do this. We can break the spell here, carry on as we have—”
Jaina silenced her with a finger. “You already own all of me, Sylvanas. I’m only concerned about how it will affect you in your undeath.” Pulling away the finger that burned across her lips like a brand, Jaina reached back and pulled something from her belt pouch. “I was told that a courting gift should be given in return if I wished to accept your advances.”
Hesitantly, Sylvanas took the small bundle of cloth and unwrapped it. Power poured out of it, power that was clearly Jaina’s, but enhanced somehow. Understanding dawned when she saw the gift: a pendant of dark stormforged silver laced with the telltale pale blue and gold of Azerite. A painstakingly reproduced replica of the anchor Jaina always wore, complete with its own pair of matching feathers and strung on a near indestructible chain. A small thing, but a powerful statement to all who would see—they were bound to each other, belonged to one another, unbreakable.
“I bound some of my power to it, so we’ll always have that connection, even if one of us is away.”
How did such a perfect creature even exist? Sylvanas stared at the pendant, unable to bear the emotions that overwhelmed her. She didn’t know how to respond, how to explain, Belore help her, how was she supposed to do this?
But her wife wasn’t finished, didn’t seem to realize that this gift was already too much, because she unfolded more of the cloth to show her a matching ring that hummed with the same powerful energies.
“I know we didn’t talk about rings, but…it’s a hearthstone. Sort of.” Jaina blushed, a pretty flush of red that highlighted the faint dusting of freckles across her cheeks. “It’s not tuned to a place, it’s tuned to…me. To wherever I am. It’s too much, probably, and I know I should have asked first—”
Sylvanas couldn’t take it any longer. Her hand drove into the loose hair at the base of Jaina’s skull and pulled her forward into a searing kiss. There was little kind about it, all teeth and fang and tongue, pulling the warm breath from her wife’s mouth, like she was staking an irrevocable claim, stealing her very essence, because somehow, somehow, this mad, beautiful, absurdly good creature had driven her way into her dead and rotted heart and made her feel again. It was absurd, infuriating, and worse, she’d bared her own scarred and damaged heart to Sylvanas, given it freely to someone who could so easily have crushed it, wrecked it beyond repair. Belore only knew why.
The way Jaina gasped her name when she pulled away to breathe nearly undid her. “It’s perfect, Jaina. Thank you.”
Somehow, they untangled enough for Jaina to put the necklace on her, running a hand down her chest where the pendant fell and touching her own. Sylvanas kissed her again, lightly this time, when Jaina’s blue eyes softened with tears. And then she held out the ring for her, and Sylvanas smiled and reached into her own pocket. The ring she produced was intricate, delicately designed, and brimming with almost as much power as the one Jaina held, but older. Much older.
“This was my mother’s ring. It’s been in our family for more generations than I know. I didn’t think… I thought my sisters would balk at letting me give it to you. I was wrong. They both insisted before I even had a chance to ask.” She slid the ring onto Jaina’s finger and allowed her wife to do the same with the stormforged silver and Azerite ring she’d made for her. Somehow, the two rings seemed to hum in tune, and Sylvanas gasped at the rush of power from the ring.
“I might’ve also woven a number of protection spells into your ring.”
Sylvanas laughed. Ridiculous mage. “Then we’ll both be well protected, as yours contains several as well.” Spells she had made sure were refreshed and enhanced, and then added to.
Sylvanas took an unnecessary breath that somehow felt extremely necessary and retrieved the jar of sin’alah. How Alleria had even found any was a mystery, let alone known it would be something she wanted. She strongly suspected the Life Binder’s hand in that. With a nervous smile that felt so unlike her, she held up the jar. “Last chance, Dalah’Surfal. Are you certain you wish to be bound to me?”
Jaina covered her hand with her own and lifted it to her lips, placing a burning kiss to her palm. “I already am, Sylvanas. You’re my home. What do we need to do?”
Sylvanas gently caressed Jaina’s face, letting her fingers trail down her neck to her chest until they rested over her wildly beating heart. “Bear to me your heart, and I will bear you mine.”
She spoke the words in Thalassian, traditional words that she wasn’t sure Jaina understood until she felt her tremble and reach for her corset buckles. Moments later the corset fell to the floor with a clink of buckles that Sylvanas hardly registered, so caught up was she in the sight of Jaina’s simple wrap tunic falling open, like heaven laid bare.
Sylvanas had, in her long life, had the pleasure of many women. She had, at one point, considered herself a great connoisseur of women, before her first marriage. They were gorgeous creatures, no matter their species, but just the curve of Jaina Proudmoore’s breast put them all to shame. More so when Jaina wove the fingers of their hands together and placed her palm on the burning skin over her heart. And then…
Jaina spoke, replying in Thalassian as well. “My heart is yours, now into eternity.”
How she knew those words, Sylvanas didn’t know. How any of this could be real. How she could be real. With shaking hands—hands that had held steady through countless wars, through death and even undeath, Belore how had it come to this—she dipped her finger in the pot and drew a single glyph over her wife’s heart.
Jaina sucked in a sharp breath and swayed, clutching at her wrist to steady herself. When her eyes opened again, they blazed a brilliant white.
Still shaking—why in Belore’s light was she shaking, it was absurd—Sylvanas handed the pot to Jaina and stripped off her leather tunic. Her wife’s finger began tracing the same glyph on the skin over her heart before she even had a chance to tell her what to draw.
Somehow, as with the words before, Jaina just knew. And as the final line completed, the binding marks on them both flared brighter than Jaina’s eyes, searing across her skin. Sylvanas gripped her wife’s wrist hard, too hard, pinning her hand against her heart and covering Jaina’s heart with her own hand. And as the spell wove itself over them both, taking hold and binding them irrevocably, she felt.
She felt everything.
Jaina’s heartbeat. Her nervousness, nearly eclipsed by her elation.
Overwhelmed, Sylvanas simply reacted. Her mouth found Jaina’s with a desperation that drove her to let go of everything. It was a messy, needy kiss, open mouth and savage, but Belore she needed, needed to be closer, needed more—
Sylvanas growled and the minute distance Jaina put between them. She could feel her wife’s need, feel it pulsing alongside her own, why, why was she stopping—
Jaina laughed, a breathy, needy laugh that ended in a small groan, her head and hands resting on Sylvanas’ chest. “Just let me ward the room, love.”
Love. Despite the soulmate bonds they’d just woven, that was what gave her pause. She stood, stunned, for a moment, long enough for Jaina to smirk at her, place a quick kiss to her cheek, and, turning, raise her hands to cast.
The warding she placed was…significant. Sylvanas’ eyebrows and ears shot up as her wife turned back, the white blaze of arcane only half fading from her eyes. This time, it was Jaina who kissed her, whose teeth bit and pulled at her lip while hands pulled her close, whose tongue invaded and claimed. And it was Jaina who whispered, “I want you to absolutely ruin me. I want all of you. Don’t hold anything back.”
Whatever fragile semblance of control Sylvanas had been clinging to, those soft words destroyed it. Shadows bled from her physical form as she swept her wife up, pinning her to the nearest wall, crushing their bodies together. Her hands clawed at the clothing that separated them while her mouth laid claim, first to Jaina’s lips, then her jaw and neck, all while Jaina clutched at her, body arching against her, fingers leaving burning traces wherever they gripped her.
She growled at the gasped words, teeth nipping and testing skin. She ached to sink them deep and leave her mark, just like her fingers were already sunk into the thick hair at the base of Jaina’s skull, tugging to better expose her neck and shoulder in a grip that was quickly becoming Sylvanas’ favorite.
She snarled louder, reclaiming Jaina’s mouth, smiling into the kiss at her wife’s moan. Jaina clutched her tighter, one hand at the back of her neck in a mirror of her own hold. And then the world shifted, and Sylvanas found herself tumbling horizontally onto their bed, Jaina beneath her.
“Did you just—”
“Blink us to the bed? Yes. Now fuck me already.”
Later, when her mind was clear and the haze of lust and sex and need and power had faded, she would remember everything vividly, each moment branded into her undead memory for all time. The way Jaina gasped as she ripped the clothing from her. The way her mage wife’s fingers left scalding trails of arcane as they raked across her skin. The way she whispered more and harder and fuck, pushing her on, moaning against the bite of fangs into flesh and the rut of hips and press of thighs and fingers.
In the moment, there were things that overtook everything else.
The pure, slick, velvet heat between her wife’s legs.
The vibrant, lightning bright arcane scars that rippled to life across her skin as she let go.
The way the storm of Jaina’s power twisted and interweaved with her own shadows until she wasn’t sure anymore where she ended, and her wife began.
The way Jaina screamed her name, loud enough to do a banshee justice.
The way she whispered her name reverently, somehow just as loud.
Later still, as they both lay exhausted, their barely controlled powers swirled around them in a maelstrom, an ice storm woven through with shadows, she would understand why Jaina had warded the room so heavily.
Later, she would trace the always moving and pulsing bright lines across her wife’s skin, drawing her fingers across each stroke and swirl until she could no longer ignore the way Jaina squirmed under her touch, or the pretty way she begged.
Even later, after she’d used her shadows to pin her wife face down on the bed, tendrils multiplied to countless hands that caressed and filled and ravished until she was a sobbing, screaming mess, and after Jaina had turned the tables and used her arcane powers to return the favor—
After they’d tasted each other, again and again, their bodies rife with bruises and scratches, arcane burns and bite marks, after Sylvanas found herself drunk on the combination of Jaina’s blood and cum—
After, when they lay sated and spent, the maelstrom calmed and their bodies entangled as much as their powers and their souls, and Jaina hummed contentedly in her arms, Sylvanas wondered how she had ever lived without this wonderous creature. Her shadows drifted languidly around the both of them, while Jaina’s scarring pulsed in time with her breathing.
“Is it always like this?” Jaina stretched, body pressing against her while her fingers stroked the length of one ear in a way that made Sylvanas lose her words for a moment.
“Dalah’surfal, if you’re trying to tell me no one has ever satisfied you before—”
Jaina nipped at her bare skin affectionately. “Wicked, you are. Just horrible.”
Sylvanas grinned, her hands sliding over Jaina’s body suggestively. “I was under the impression just a few moments ago that you were quite happy with my wicked ways.”
“Oh, I’m very happy with your wicked ways. But that’s not what I meant, and you know it. This soulbond, what did you call it—”
“The Suran’anari. It doesn’t translate well, anari can be revelation or enlightenment, but also speaking. Bearing the depths of two hearts, speaking the deepest wants and wishes, forging bonds impossible to break.” Sylvanas hummed, her fingers tracing lines on Jaina’s skin. “It’s not always so physical, no. The intensity depends on the relationship. Not all relationships are physical, but the bond heightens and multiplies what is already there.”
Jaina hummed, adjusting her position on top of Sylvanas as her hands began to wander again. “And how are you? You managed to dodge my question earlier, about how this bond might affect you.”
Sylvanas flicked the ear not currently being besieged by her wife (Belore help her, it was hard to think when she did that), unsure how to answer the question. In this moment, right now, with her wife’s well-claimed body resting on hers, and her own body sated and feeling more than she’d felt since her death, she was perfect. But the future… “I’m alright, Dalah’suran. Better than alright.”
The truth was she had no idea how her undeath would affect the bond, or how it would affect her, especially with Jaina’s unique connection to the arcane. Or, for that matter, how those things might affect Jaina.
Belore, she hadn’t thought this through. It was reckless, impulsive, and the idea that this might hurt Jaina made her feel colder than Icecrown itself.
“Hey. Where did you go?”
Sylvanas blinked, only to find her wife leaning up over her, hand gently cupping her jaw. “Jaina, I…”
Jaina kissed her. Softly, slowly, but very thoroughly, her tongue making lazy sweeps. When she pulled away, just far enough for Sylvanas to see storm blue eyes rimmed with the white glow of arcane, she smiled just as softly. “Regrets already?”
“No, no regrets. Never. Just worries. What if—”
Her wife silenced her with a finger across her lips and a quirk of her smile. “No what-ifs, and no regrets, love. Whatever comes, we’ll face it together.” Jaina kissed her again, whispering against her lips as her hands began to roam again, this time with purpose. “You’re not alone anymore.”
Sylvanas surrendered her worries, and lost herself in her wife once more.
Dalah'suran means "my heart," as opposed to dalah'surfal which means "my love."
Sin'alah roughly, "blood of the light" (yeah, it's liquid Azerite).
Chapter 14: And Then There Was One
or; A Little Light Revenge, a flashback chapter featuring Sylvanas Windrunner vs Calia Menethil, sprinkled with a dose of oh joy, yet another new advisor featuring everyone's favorite pansexual black dragon, and everyone criticizing Jaina's choices...
I was really torn between keeping up the pattern of future/past chapters, or going straight to the morning after chapter. I had this one written ages ago, but when I finished the morning after chapter that will go up next last night at *checks notes* 7am (no I'm not kidding), I realized this chapter felt right. Or maybe I'm just a chicken shit because hooooo boy have I dropped some stuff. So. Enjoy Calia getting hers, because next chapter I'm really going off the rails...
Also, I really couldn't not include Anduin and Wrathion, because really. That's the gayest shit I've ever seen.
Hope you're all surviving out there. Stay safe.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“But marriage, Jaina? What were you…? Why?”
“Anduin, treaty marriages are as old as kingdoms. You of all people should understand.”
“But Sylvanas? Of all people, Jaina—”
“Yes. Sylvanas. Look, you wanted peace. This is me handing you peace on a golden platter! Sylvanas came to me. Asked me for help. She gave up the Horde for your peace, exposed warmongering traitors in both the Horde’s ranks and yours. She’s not the enemy, Anduin. I don’t think she ever was.”
Jaina stared Anduin down, arms crossed and trying hard to keep her temper in check. It hadn’t even been a full day, and so far, she’d had this argument with her mother, Vereesa, Alleria, Thrall (who she’d told to kindly fuck off), and Baine. The only ones who’d been remotely supportive were Derek (which was unsurprising, all things considered), and oddly enough, Valeera Sanguinar (which she suspected had much more to do with the spy’s longstanding flirtation with a certain redheaded blood knight matriarch). Everyone else had ranged from angry to scandalized to judgmental. Honestly, she was tired of it. Tired of being questioned, second-guessed, and lectured.
Anduin, finally, deflated. “I’m sorry, Auntie. You know I worry, and this has all just been…” He sighed. “A lot. It’s been a lot. You turned my treaty signing into a bloodbath followed by a marriage announcement. I’m not even sure who to trust anymore. And on top of that, Matthias and Valeera tell me none of their spies have returned. N’Zoth is out there, and we know nothing! We need answers, and all I get instead is Matthias telling me that Magni is bringing, by the Light, a new advisor—who claims he has information.”
Jaina’s eyebrows rose. She’d heard as much as well, would have laughed at yet another new advisor, but looking at Anduin, who seemed both overwhelmed and exhausted, she felt bad for the young king. “We can’t exactly afford to turn down anyone with information. Sylvanas hasn’t found anything helpful either, though I know she’s looking.”
Anduin waved her off, head in his hands and muttering. Jaina made to say something, but both of them were interrupted by the sound of footsteps.
Jaina watched Anduin’s face go from annoyance to fury. Her head whipped around just as he whispered a single word.
The black dragon smiled as Anduin walked towards him. “Anduin! It’s been too long!”
Jaina ducked her head, barely able to hold back the laugh when her adoptive nephew hauled off and punched the dragon so hard that the cracking sound echoed through throne room.
Wrathion shook himself off. “I suppose I deserve that.”
Anduin got right back in his face, angrier than Jaina had ever seen him. “Oh, you deserve more than that. My father is dead because of you!”
“And my father is dead because of the Old Gods.”
Magni put his hand on Anduin’s arm. “Lad, he’s come to help us.”
Jaina stepped up beside him. “Magni’s right. We need all the help we can get. At least hear him out.”
And then she nearly laughed again when Wrathion gave Anduin a look that could only be described as a smolder. Jaina quietly covered her smile. His eyes glowed, reminding her of another set of red eyes, eyes that were more intense and probably smoldered far better than—
“Auntie? Are you coming?” Anduin’s voice was calm, but his eye begged her to save him, or at least not leave him alone.
Jaina shook herself off and followed the others as they began walking. She needed to focus on N’Zoth, not Sylvanas Windrunner’s eyes. What even was she thinking? Yes, she’d grown closer to the Banshee Queen in the months they’d been working together, and they certainly had come to better understand each other, not to mention the matter of the marriage she’d impulsively stuck them in—
Jaina pulled herself from her thoughts again to see Anduin looking shocked and a little scared.
“Don’t you see, old friend? It’s already begun.”
Anduin took a deep breath. “Very well, advisor. Tell us how to stop him.”
Jaina smirked, looking between the two, and forcing thoughts of Sylvanas away. This…this was going to be interesting.
Despite the amusement of watching Wrathion flirt with an angry and fairly oblivious Anduin, Jaina was exhausted when she returned to Kul Tiras. And despite her exhaustion, it seemed work was not done with her.
They had all very carefully kept the news of the previous day’s treaty summit from Calia—no mean feat, as it seemed the woman had her own spy network, but between SI:7, Valeera, Sylvanas’ Dark Rangers, and of course Derek, they were cautiously confident they’d managed it. And seeing Calia’s undead face flush with excitement as she pulled Jaina into a meeting with her and Derek, she could only hope that was so.
Calia wasted no time getting to the point. “Thank you for coming, Jaina. I wanted you both to know… I’ve decided to leave Kul Tiras.”
Derek, the consummate actor even when Jaina was a child, didn’t even blink. “You’re leaving? Why?”
She didn’t miss the quick glance he shot her, though.
Calia was too busy listening to her own voice to catch it. “I received a letter from Lillian Voss of the Forsaken. She asks for my help.”
Sylvanas had been busy, it seemed. “Voss? I’ve read reports of the crimes she committed on behalf of her Warchief.” Jaina resisted the urge to snort. Crimes, indeed. When had trying to survive become a crime? “What does she want from you?”
“The Forsaken lost their queen. For many, it’s the second time they’ve been abandoned. They feel adrift. Alone.”
Even if that were true, they would never reach out to you, Calia. Tides, she’s more insufferable now than she was when she was alive. “But Calia, none of that is your fault.” Or true.
“They are my people, Jaina.”
She almost lost it, right then. They weren’t Calia’s people, even if many of them had come from Lordaeron. Keep it together, Proudmoore.
“My father gave everything for Lordaeron. I wish to honor him, and to prove worthy of the name I was born with. The name Menethil.”
It was surprising, actually, just how angry that statement made Jaina. Derek gave a quick shake of his head, reminding her she had a part to play. That even though Calia really was living up to the name Menethil, in all the ways Arthas had, she needed to let this play out.
Sylvanas had a plan, after all.
“Right then. So when do we leave?”
The satisfied tone Calia replied with forced Jaina to start counting before she ruined the whole deception. “I cannot ask you to come with me, Derek. Kul Tiras is your home.”
So creepy. She thinks she’s got him wrapped around her finger, and it’s going to be so satisfying watching Sylvanas rip the deck out from under her.
“I am a Proudmoore, and I always will be.” Derek looked hard at Jaina, before turning back to Calia. “But it’s time to see where the Tides will take me.”
“I understand, though I will miss you both. Come. Mother and Tandred will never forgive me if I let you leave without a proper farewell.” Jaina ushered them both out ahead of her, pausing briefly in the shadows where a red-eyed ranger stepped barely into visibility. “Let her know we’re on our way.”
The ranger—Anya? Was that her name?—nodded, and vanished back into the darkness.
Sylvanas would be ready for them.
Jaina had not seen Tirisfall Glades in a very long time. Not since Arthas lost himself fighting the Scourge and became the Lich King’s servant. It was not a place of happy memories, and certainly never a place she thought she’d find herself again.
Except that Sylvanas had asked her to be there when she sprang her trap for Calia Menethil, and how could she say no? Calia had been a spoiled brat when they were younger, and had turned into a privileged, power hungry pain in the ass who wanted to use her brother and usurp a people that weren’t hers and didn’t want or need her.
Payback was going to be a bitch.
“Here they come.” Sylvanas’ whisper was only barely audible, but Jaina, hidden in a magical cloak of darkness, stood up straighter. And then there were Calia and Derek, and Lillian Voss stepping out to meet them.
“My lady. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I am Lillian Voss.”
Calia strutted forward like a peacock, her voice oozing condescension. “Miss Voss. I once listened to your father’s sermons. That was…long ago. Forgive me, I haven’t introduced my companion. This is Lord Derek Proudmoore.”
Lillian bowed. “Lord Proudmoore. You should know that I played a part in the events that led to your undeath. I…regret much of what has happened.”
“Did you see what they did to me in that pyramid? How they tortured my mind? Intended to use me as a weapon against those I love?”
Jaina stifled a snicker, and Sylvanas lifted one eyebrow. “Your brother is…quite the actor.”
“He’s a dramatic little shit, you can say it.”
The eyebrow went higher. “Indeed.”
Their banter made them miss Lillian’s response, but Jaina did catch mention of Baine. Seemed the Forsaken woman was easily keeping pace with Derek’s drama.
“Yes, yes, but you didn’t reach out to offer apologies. Why did you ask us here?”
“This champion witnessed your…kindness to Lord Proudmoore, how you…helped him through his…torment. Sadly, he is not the only one who suffered in the war.”
Calia seemed to miss Lillian’s selective pauses, too busy preening, and then blowing her eyes comically wide. “Night elf sentinels? Why are you… By the Light!”
And here was the trap. “Many fell at Teldrassil. Some were raised into rage and darkness, turned against their own people. They, too, have been…abandoned.”
Jaina spied Delaryn leading the night elf Forsaken. To her credit, she didn’t blink. “Death is…cold. Even for those who burn.”
“Calia!” Derek was really getting into this. Jaina was going to give him so much shit later. “I know the pain the suffer. The hopelessness. You must do something for them.”
Calia preened. “We will, Derek. Together. Greetings! I am Calia Menethil of Lordaeron. I will do my best to help you. Please, come with us.”
Sylvanas nudged her. “Ready, Proudmoore?” She grinned and stepped out of the cloaking enchantment. “And just where are you planning to take my people, I wonder?”
Calia whirled, while the Forsaken dropped to one knee with a chorus of “Dark Lady.”
“Sylvanas! What are you… I thought…”
The Banshee Queen smirked. “It would seem reports of my disappearance are greatly exaggerated. Indeed, it seems many of your reports have been…mistaken.”
Calia’s face turned to self-righteousness. “You’re too late, Windrunner. You abandoned your people, and they’re mine now. I will be their new Queen, and Lordaeron will be mine as it always should have been!”
Sylvanas laughed, and Jaina couldn’t help but shake her head and smile, even as she stepped out to join her, staff in hand. “I don’t think so, Calia.”
Shock ripped across the woman’s face. “Jaina?”
And then Derek laughed. “I’m sorry, did you really believe any of that drama? Tidemother, that was some of the worst acting I’ve ever done, and I really thought Jaina had given the game away more than once with her murder eyes.”
Calia stared at him. “But she tortured you!”
“She really didn’t. Oh, and it was my sister’s idea to raise me.” He pointed at the two of them and shout-whispered an aside. “They’ve been working together. This whole time.”
Jaina rolled her eyes. Such a dramatic little shit.
“Was acting under my direction,” Sylvanas interrupted. “I wanted to see just how far you’d take this little charade. Besides, it was easier for me to get my revenge by luring you here than going after you in Kul Tiras. After all, I wouldn’t want to upset my future wife’s family by causing a scene in Boralus.”
The facial acrobatics that Calia went through were honestly impressive, Jaina had to give her that. Honestly, Sylvanas uttering the words future wife even caught her off guard.
They really did need to talk about that.
Fortunately, she was still paying enough attention to realize when Calia began to call down the Light. Jaina encased her in ice, but the Light spell Calia wove shattered it almost instantly.
The Forsaken. Calia’s Light would hurt them badly. Jaina left off the ice attacks and threw up a barrier, closing off herself, Sylvanas, and Calia from everyone and everything else, while Sylvanas shot arrow after arrow.
“Shadows can’t exist in Light, banshee. The Forsaken will be mine, one way or another. Even better if it means I have the pleasure of finishing you off.”
Jaina, locking off her barrier, bound her in more ice, dividing Calia’s attention between breaking the surrounding ice and destroying shadow arrows.
Until an arrow slipped through. Just one, but it buried itself deep in Calia’s throat, and the Light surrounding her immediately snuffed out as she dropped to the ground. Replacing her bow on her back, Sylvanas drew a long, wicked looking knife. She dropped to a knee by Calia’s head and smiled slowly while the woman gasped and choked around the arrow in her neck. “The Forsaken are my people. I am their Queen. And I will never let anyone harm them, least of all the jumped-up sister of the man who cursed us all.”
A quick slash, and Calia Menethil was no more.
Jaina let out a slow breath. “Only one more to go.”
“Yes.” Sylvanas stood, and only then did Jaina notice she seemed to be bleeding shadow, and not in the normal way.
“The Light, it wounded you, didn’t it? Are you alright?”
The banshee raised an eyebrow and returned her knife to its sheath. “Is that concern I hear, Proudmoore?”
“Yes. Now are you alright?”
Sylvanas regarded her, head cocked to the side. “How strange,” she muttered. “I am fine. Or rather, I will be. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Jaina shook her head. Ally or not, that didn’t seem to stop Sylvanas from being absurdly annoying. Fine, then. With one last glare, she dropped the barrier, and then dropped a spark on Calia's remains. Soon enough, the body was consumed by flame. “Well, Derek, I believe our work here is done. Ready to go home?”
Derek glanced at the impromptu pyre and shook his head before turning back to his sister. “Don’t forget to say goodnight to your wife.”
Jaina shot him a death glare. “Not my wife yet.”
“Yet, Jaina. Yet.”
Derek is a dramatic little shit and I love him.
Chapter 15: Of Queens and Dragons
or, another morning after, and an overdue conversation in which Alexstrasza quotes the Deep Magic
Hi. Um. Hi. Sorry this took so long. Mostly that's due to anxiety over the state of *waves hands vaguely* things, but also to anxiety over what you fine folx are going to think of this chapter. It's... I may have gone off the rails a little 🤣
Hopefully it's not awful. Feel free to yell at me in the comments though, or on twitter (@cait_greer) or tumblr (catfirebrand).
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jaina woke to arms wrapped tightly around her, body pressed against every inch of her, and the most delicious aches she’d ever felt in her life. It was, her half-awake mind reflected, somewhat reminiscent of their first morning together. Just…so much more.
The persistent mana burn she’d felt for so long had faded to almost nothing, something that Jaina had never thought would happen. She’d never thought a lot would happen. Marrying Sylvanas. Falling in love. Finding a true soulmate.
All things that seemed impossible to even think of only months ago, and yet here she was, wrapped in her lover’s arms, body rife with proof of their shared pleasure. And instead of the lightning crawl of persistent mana burn she’d endured for years now, her magic thrummed comfortably, though still loudly, alongside the cool, dark, soothing flow of her wife’s necromantic energies. Which, as her mind slowly woke and begrudgingly moved past the gloriously physical aspects of what they’d done, occurred to her was somewhat…strange.
She could feel Sylvanas’ energies like they were a part of her.
Jaina began to turn to face her wife, only for strong arms to tighten, keeping her in place while a low rumbling growl permeated the air around them. She smiled, even as lips and teeth grazed the tender bite marks that graced the juncture of her neck and shoulder, and hands began to wander over her skin.
“Good morning, love.”
Her voice felt husky and somewhat more raw than she expected, but Sylvanas left off tracing bite marks to run her nose up the column of Jaina’s neck.
“It is indeed, Dalah’suran.”
Jaina’s smile widened, then turned to a gasp as Sylvanas nudged her legs apart and pressed fingers to wet, sensitive places. Soon, all thought of magic and yesterdays was lost to frantic heat and need as her wife drew her higher once again, holding her tight as she crashed. Only afterward, when her body ached afresh, her legs sticky and blood smeared her shoulder and neck, did Sylvanas allow her to turn over in her arms.
Their kiss was slower, languid, tasted of heat and copper. Against her, Sylvanas smelled overwhelmingly of steel and tulips, scents Jaina now associated with home and safety. She inhaled it deeply, resting her head against skin that was far warmer than she’d ever felt it, and tracing her finger over the glowing purple soulmark over Sylvanas’ heart. “I could get used to waking up like this.”
Her wife chuckled, tongue and lips lazily moving over fresh bite marks. “Feeding my unruly appetites?”
Jaina smiled and kissed her wife’s chest. “Feeding our well-matched appetites. You realize I’m going to have to set up permanent wards on our rooms now.”
This made Sylvanas laugh hard enough to shake Jaina in her arms. “You do scream loud enough to do a banshee credit.”
“I didn’t hear you complaining.”
Sylvanas laughed harder. “Quite the contrary, Dalah’surfal.” She kissed her again, hand roaming possessively before pulling back. “How are you, truly?”
She bit her lip, unable—and unwilling—to hide the grin she felt bloom. “Wonderful. Truly.” She chuckled then, feeling all of herself. “If somewhat sore. What about you?”
Sylvanas stilled, letting her forehead rest against Jaina’s, putting them nose to nose. “I…feel alive. In ways I haven’t since my death. I know not what it means, or how things have changed, but I am…happy.”
The last word was spoken with such an air of bewilderment and wonder that Jaina could not help the need to kiss her again. “Me too. Though I feel like a hot bath is in order. You made quite the mess of me, and I could use a good soak.”
The smirk returned. “I did not hear you complaining.” Her words were given back to her in the most amused sounding purr.
Jaina kissed her again, quickly. “Never.” A wave of her hand, and the large tub in the next room was filled with steaming water. “Now come bathe with me. You made all these marks on me, you can clean them up. And I’ll do the same for you. And then we should probably make an appearance, since your sisters are still here.” She pushed herself up, but her brows furrowed as she got a better look at her wife’s body. Quite the body it was, too, all lean muscle, long limbs and broad shoulders, one she’d acquainted herself with quite thoroughly throughout the night.
Not that she could tell by looking.
“I recall quite distinctly leaving just as many marks on you as you did me, but I seem to be the only one bearing any still.”
Sylvanas sprawled on their bed with a sheepish look. “Do you remember our first night together?”
Jaina smiled fondly, her finger tracing the soulmark over Sylvanas’ heart again, then gently straightening both the new anchor pendant, and the old sapphire one. “I do.” Particularly how she’d woken her grumpy new wife with mana-soaked nightmares, and subsequently shared the deepest secret she held.
“When I offered to siphon your arcane—”
Jaina’s eyes widened. “You said you could still, among other things.”
Sylvanas sat up, pulling her close with an arm around her waist, and kissed the raw skin along her neck and shoulder where her fangs had ravaged over and over. The latest wound had barely closed, but Jaina gasped at the feel of her tongue snaking over it. “Blood, Dalah’suran. It helps me heal, and yours in particular is so laced with arcane that every mark you made on me healed almost instantly.”
“Well that seems inordinately unfair. How am I supposed to let everyone know I gave as good as I got, if I can’t even leave a damn hickey on your neck?”
Sylvanas gave a deep belly laugh, a sound that lit Jaina up from the inside. “Oh, Dalah’surfal, Dalah’suran, Belore take me! You glorious, stunning creature. Come, let’s get you in your bath, and I’ll let you leave all the marks you like on me.” Jaina felt herself lifted off the bed, and then everything went a little…fuzzy.
Next thing she knew, they were both in the tub, Sylvanas staring at her with an expression that bordered between puzzled and panicked.
“What just happened?”
It had felt almost like blinking, but softer. Slower.
“Sylv, did you ghost us in here?”
Her wife nodded, her red eyes wide. “I did. I did not, however, expect that you would take my shadow form with me.”
Jaina covered her mouth with one hand, shocked, and then let out a bark of a laugh. And what else was there to do, but laugh? “I could feel your magic when I woke. Seems we might have joined more than our hearts and souls last night.”
Pale brows drew down over eyes that did not seem quite as red as they once might have been. “Just like that? You’re alright with this—whatever this is?”
Jaina slid closer in the water, until she was once again wrapped in her wife’s arms. “I told you, love. I was already bound to you. Whatever changes this brings, we face together.”
By the time they finally left their rooms, it was closer to lunch than breakfast. Leaving their warded haven brought other interesting developments. Chief among them, the fact that Jaina could feel, without even trying, exactly where every one of her wife’s Dark Rangers currently was. Less so, with other prominent Forsaken, but she could as a whole feel them all.
“Do you feel them like this all the time?”
Sylvanas nodded, her expression still unsure. “They are a part of me, so yes. I feel them.”
“No wonder they can never sneak up on you.”
Sylvanas gave her a wry smile. “They couldn’t ever sneak up on you, either. You’ve always been able to sense their energies.”
“Not like this.”
“No. Not like this.” She hesitated. “Jaina—”
“I’m fine, Sylvanas. I promise. I don’t think this is a bad thing, that our powers are bleeding a little into each other.”
“If that were the case, I wouldn’t be so worried. I haven’t seen any evidence this has gone both ways.”
Jaina smiled. “That’s because you’re used to the feel of my magic. Shoot one of your shadow arrows, but imagine it ice instead. I bet it works.”
Sylvanas lifted one long eyebrow. But she stepped back in their room and retrieved her bow, launching a shot down the hallway that had both Alina and Kalira popping out of the woodwork as it shattered against the stone of the corridor wall.
Sylvanas’ second eyebrow rose to join the first. “Well, Dalah’surfal. It seems an exchange of power it is.” She set Deathwhisper back in the room and shut the door. “I still have…concerns.”
Jaina stroked a hand down her cheek. “Relax, love. I feel better than I have in a long time. But if you’re that worried, we can talk to Alexstrasza. I believe she might have some insight.”
“And what makes you think that?”
Jaina took her arm and led her to the stairs. “Just something she said when I was forging your ring and necklace.”
Tides, she was never going to stop loving that tone. “She knew about the arcane scars. Called Kalec a fool for not knowing what they were and assuming they’d just gone away.”
“He is a fool.”
Jaina laughed at the grumbling tone her wife adopted at the mention of the blue dragon. “I know. My point is she knew, and knew what they were, and said that we should discuss it. I think…” She hesitated. “I think there might be more to the fallout of the mana bomb than I realized. But I also think that if Alex thought this would hurt either of us, she’d have spoken up, instead of encouraging it.”
Sylvanas sighed. “I’m not certain that makes me feel any better, wife.”
Pulling her to a stop, Jaina cupped Sylvanas’ jaw and kissed her cheek, the corner of her mouth, her lips. “What is done, is done, and I would not undo it for the world. Stop fretting. You’ll lose your reputation for being fearsome, and then what will everyone think? Sylvanas Windrunner, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, former Warchief of the Horde, former Ranger-General of Silvermoon, gone soft for her wife. You’ll be deposed in no time.”
“Frivolity doesn’t suit you, wife. I will worry—”
Jaina stopped her with her fingers. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s nice to be worried over. But please don’t let it consume you. This is a good thing. We are a good thing.” She slipped her fingers away and kissed her wife, slowly and thoroughly, pulling back before they got too heated and stroking sharp, dusky cheeks with her thumbs. “I know it’s hard to imagine things being good. Hard to not look for the next disaster or attack. But I’m alright. We’re alright.”
Sylvanas leaned in, resting her forehead on Jaina’s, and reaching up to hold her wrists. They stood together like that, simply existing together, until a childish cry and the impact of two small bodies latching onto their legs interrupted them.
“Auntie Jaina, Auntie Vanas! Mama said you wouldn’t be back downstairs for days, but we washed up for lunch and we saw you, come sit with us!”
Jaina laughed at the enthusiastic greeting, and then harder as her wife scooped both boys up and tossed them over her shoulders. The boys squealed in turn, giggling as they were hauled into the dining hall by their aunt, gangly arms and legs flailing in mock attempts to get free. Jaina followed after, cheeks splitting in a grin that was impossible to contain. It was a joy watching her be so carefree with her family.
“Arator, put your book down and come eat. Gir—Sylvanas!” Vereesa nearly jumped as she turned and saw them walk in, but her surprise quickly morphed into a sly grin. “I didn’t honestly expect to see you two emerge for a few days. Even down here we could feel the strength of that spell, and the warding you threw up after it.” She aimed a particularly shrewd look at Jaina, who felt her face flush bright red under her sister-in-law’s scrutiny.
“Yes, well.” Jaina coughed and grinned. The truth was she’d happily have kept Sylvanas in their bed for days. “It’s rude to ignore your guests, especially when they’re family.”
Vereesa swept her up in a hug. “Family, indeed. Sister.”
Jaina squeezed her back, letting go at the sound of a particularly shrill squeal from the twins. Arm in arm, they watched and laughed together as Sylvanas spun her nephews, swinging and swooping to their utter delight. Vereesa wiped at her teary eyes.
“I never thought I would see this. Thank you.”
Jaina patted her arm and smiled. “I’m glad. I know she’s missed her family, though she’d never admit it. Thank you for being willing to try.”
“I was a fool, pushing her away.” Vereesa shook her head, her eyes never leaving her sons. “Even before Theramore. You were right, I couldn’t separate her from what had been forced on her. And I would have missed this. They would have missed this. They almost did.”
They laughed together as Sylvanas collapsed to the floor, the boys swarming her. Jaina shook her head in wonder. “I never imagined she’d be so good with children.”
Vereesa’s face fell. “She always has been. I forget sometimes. That you didn’t know her, before.”
“I get her now, though.” She squeezed Vereesa’s arm, then let go, deciding it was time to mount a rescue.
“Well, this is quite the scene of carnage.” Alleria’s dry amusement was accompanied by Alexstrasza’s laughter as they walked in the room.
Arator, who had been quietly smiling, book in hand, while his cousins attacked their aunt, turned a page and flicked his ear. “Aunt Sylvanas had the upper hand for a while, but the twins routed her in the end. It was quite the battle.”
Alleria laughed and gave Jaina a hug. “I’m honestly surprised to see you two outside your rooms. I thought we’d have the place to ourselves for a few days at least.”
“I thought it was bad manners to disappear for days with your wife while you had company, especially family. I’ll be more than happy to take my wife back to bed, though.”
“After you eat something, Dalah’surfal.” Sylvanas’ voice came from under the giggling pile of twins. She vanished in a puff of black smoke amid shouts of “No fair,” and appeared again on her feet. “You two as well, Giramar, Galadin. Come get something to eat.”
Jaina covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her smile as Sylvanas shooed the boys to the table. They insisted on sitting either side of her, which amused Jaina to no end. And since she was suddenly unable to sit with her wife, Jaina took the opportunity to find Alexstrasza.
The dragon queen gave her a knowing look as she leaned in. “Food first. We can speak after, the three of us. I assume you both have questions.”
“We do.” She glanced over at Sylvanas, whose eyes were on her. “We both do.”
“Jaina tells me you know something about her scars, Life Binder.”
Alexstrasza smiled and folded herself into the corner of a sofa, like she was settling into a nest, her gold eyes shining with humor. “Life Binder, no longer. You know we are no longer Aspects, only dragons. The Hour of Twilight was prevented, and the New Age begun. It didn’t get off to the best start, but you two managed to do quite a bit to turn that around. You in particular, Jaina.”
“I’m sure things would have—”
“They wouldn’t.” Alexstrasza’s tone was firm, despite her continued smile. “I’ve seen some of the other timelines, thanks to Nozdormu. Had you not helped each other, things would have gone far differently.”
Jaina put a hand to her stomach, feeling sick at the thought. It was true that months ago, she had no idea they would be where they were, but with everything that had happened between them, she could no longer imagine a world without Sylvanas at her side. Even just the idea made her ill.
“Fascinating as that is, Alexstrasza, what does any of it have to do with Jaina and the effects of the mana bomb? Or the fact that our magic seems to be bleeding into each other’s?”
The dragon queen eyed them both. “I wondered if that would happen.”
Jaina’s brows pulled together. “Is it something we should worry about?”
“No. It’s unsurprising, considering what you are.”
Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed. “Stop toying with us, dragon.” Jaina put a hand on her arm, stroking her thumb against the pale skin, and the elf caught herself. “Apologies. Jaina thinks that if my undeath would have negatively impacted the suran’anari then you would not have helped to make it happen.”
“She is correct. It won’t hurt her, I’m sure of it. It won’t hurt you, either.”
“How do you know?”
Alexstrasza’s smile widened. “How did you feel when you woke this morning? And I don’t mean after all that sex.”
Jaina was certain she turned the color of the dragon’s scales. Sylvanas simply twitched an ear, then heaved an unnecessary sigh, responding in one of the quietest tones Jaina had ever heard from her. “Alive, almost.”
Jaina blushed further as the dragon turned gold eyes on her. “Complete. More balanced than I think I’ve ever felt, definitely since Theramore.”
“Ah yes, Theramore. Did you know that you absorbed almost the full force of the bomb?”
Jaina blinked. “That’s impossible. Rhonin—”
“Rhonin and Theramore were destroyed by only a fraction. You, caught halfway between portals, and through sheer force of will, took on the brunt of it. It’s part of why you ended up in the ocean, and none of the effects bled through the portal, despite it being open. Unchecked, a mana bomb that size should have leveled all of Dustwallow Marsh.”
Jaina sank back, her thoughts a swirling maelstrom. She didn’t know what to think of that, of any of it. What if—
“You could not have saved them, even if you stayed.” The soft words permeated the sudden rush of guilt, cutting it off, and Sylvanas squeezed her hand, kissing her fingers.
“She’s right. You could not have, even with all the Kirin Tor. You would still have survived, but they would not have.”
Jaina shook her head, trying to clear it. “Why? How?”
Alexstrasza cocked her head. “You’re a rare soul, Jaina. Such natural talent and capacity, both for magic and for good. Despite everything you’ve been through, you keep trying to save everyone. Yes, you’ve done horrible things,” she waved her protestations off. “We all have, often in the name of the greater good, often because we’re driven to them. Even then, you were still trying to save everyone.”
“Even when I almost drowned Orgrimmar?”
“Almost.” The dragon blinked at her. “Tell me again why you didn’t?”
Jaina looked away, a familiar pulse of shame washing over her. “Thrall. And Kalecgos. They reminded me who I was. And who I wasn’t.” It had been so hard to see past the pain and rage. Honestly, it had been hard to see past it for years. Which was why she’d left. To learn to live with it, to learn who she was with it.
“Your capacity for magic is almost limitless these days, isn’t it?”
The question, coming on the heels of such a visceral memory, caught her off guard. “It does seem to be, yes. Every time I push myself to my limit, that limit gets farther. I assumed it was something to do with the mana bomb.”
“It is. You’re a conduit, Jaina. A wellspring. I’ve only seen one other, which is why he’s such a fool for not recognizing you.”
Jaina blinked. “Kalec? But he’s—was—an Aspect.”
“And the Aspects are no more. But Azeroth still needs protecting. When you plunged into the Tidemother’s bosom, how did you feel?”
In a flash of memory, she felt it all over again. The burning pain, the soothing deeps. “Like a forger’s iron, plunged into water.”
The dragon queen smiled. “I feel the mark of the Keepers on you, and the Titans. You were titan-forged at Theramore, Jaina Proudmoore. I think it’s safe to say that a little undeath on Sylvanas’ side isn’t going to hurt you.” She turned to the elf in question, while Jaina gaped at her. “Sylvanas may also notice a few differences, though let’s be fair, you were never merely undead, were you?”
The icy silence that radiated from Sylvanas at the question could have turned all of Lordaeron into a mirror of Northrend. The answer certainly pulled Jaina from her shock, only to plunge her further in. “No. Even held by the Scourge, I was never…ordinary undead.”
“And now you hold pact with Val’kyr, in sisterhood of life and death. You, Banshee Queen, haven’t been truly undead since. You’ve been walking the edge of the titan-forged for years.”
“Ridiculous. The Val’kyr—”
“Your powers have been growing, the more you use them. You haven’t found a limit to them in years, have you? Sounds an awful lot like your mage wife…”
Sylvanas scowled. “I highly doubt the Keepers would leave their mark on me.”
“Why? Because you tried to enslave Eyir? Someone needed to lead the Val’kyr left behind by the Scourge, and it was never going to be her. Odyn is not the only Keeper, and he has always been a little blind when it came to Azeroth’s living children. Do you know how the Aspects were created? The real story?”
Jaina, head spinning, narrowed her eyes. “You know I saw the truth the stories hide, through your eyes, no less. But Sylvanas probably only knows what the texts say—that you were created from Galakrond.”
Alexstrasza shook her head. “Ask, and that will always be the story. But the truth that you saw is that Galakrond, the Father of Dragons, was a mighty being who grew sick on his own power. He began eating his own kind, and those consumed by him became the first undead. He grew enormous, a mutated, horrible thing whose only thought was to devour more and more. Eventually, the five of us who would become Aspects banded together with the Keeper Tyr and slew Galakrond. You’ve seen his remains, Jaina, saw that battle through my memories. In thanks of our help and courage, Tyr convinced the other Keepers to imbue us with the Titan’s powers, creating the Aspects to watch over Azeroth. Odyn objected, and instead created the Valarjar and the Val’kyr.”
The dragon paused expectantly, as if the story made everything clear, but Jaina could only look between her and Sylvanas in confusion.
Amused, Alexstrasza took pity on them. “I believe you’ve been selected by the Keepers as the new defenders of Azeroth.”
The snort that Sylvanas made was unlike any sound Jaina had ever heard before, but she was inclined to agree with the sentiment.
“You’ve lost your mind, if you think we’ve been given the powers of the Aspects.”
Alexstrasza’s lips quirked. “I didn’t say that. But the Titans’s souls wander in fragments, and their lifeblood saturates every inch of Jaina. The Keepers are half slain, the Aspects are diminished, and many of the Valarjar were lost against the Legion. Azeroth has long needed new watchers.” Unflappable as ever, she took their disbelief in stride. “Come now. Surely you can’t think that either of you was strictly mortal anymore, can you?”
That thought was somewhat disturbing, Jaina realized. “Not strictly mortal? What exactly is that supposed to mean?”
Alexstrasza simply gave her the most patient look in the history of patient looks.
“I’ll give you Jaina. Honestly, I’m surprised no one thought to question that, myself included.” Sylvanas gave her a fond look, chuckling when Jaina stared back, aghast. “But we all know I’m only here because of the Val’kyr pact, and I only have three of them left. One more real death and I’m done.”
“Are you, though? Have you spoken to your Val’kyr recently? Summoned them?”
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes. “Not recently, no.”
The dragon waved her hand with an expression that clearly suggested she should. Sylvanas growled low, and Jaina sat up as the room filled with the dark energy of not three remaining Val’kyr—
Jaina counted, and counted again.
Seventeen. If one counted the absolute giant that hovered outside the window.
“Titans above and Tides below…”
Sylvanas stood, eyes wide. “Annhylde?”
One of the Val’kyr bowed. “Dark Lady. That is what they call you now, is it not?”
“How are you here?”
The Val’kyr as one turned to Jaina. “Our pact remains. But you are bound now to the Bright One, and I and my sisters—all my sisters, all those the lich king raised—are free from the prison of torment and shadows, as are you. Now all we who once served the lich are yours to command.”
Sylvanas practically dropped back to her seat, shock written plain on her face. Jaina had never seen her so stricken, and when tears began to streak down her cheeks, Jaina rushed to her side, pulling her wife to her as she broke down completely. Sylvanas clung to her, body trembling, for several long minutes, until finally she pulled back, allowing Jaina to wipe her tears away with soft strokes of her thumbs.
Her wife nodded, clearly embarrassed. “I did not… When I threw myself from Icecrown, I met the Annhylde in the realm of shadows, the eternal torment where the lich and all his are doomed. That was all that awaited me after my final death, but once again I find you’ve saved me.”
“In binding yourself to the Bright One, you bound yourself to her afterlife.” Annhylde gestured to the other Val’kyr. “We have been given the freedom the Light Val’kyr share, and the power we once held. Your Forsaken will be strengthened, and free from the shadows when they fall, as well.”
Sylvanas, still looking stricken, managed to nod. “Thank you. We will speak more about this later. Do you have a place to go, right now?”
The Val’kyr exchanged glances. “The few sisters that remained before had been hiding out in the Plaguelands. I thought this might be a good place for now. We can begin dismantling the remaining Scourge, as well.”
Sylvanas nodded almost absently. “Good, yes. Thank you Annhylde. We’ll talk more later.”
“Indeed, Dark Lady.”
And then they were gone.
“Do you believe me now?”
Jaina looked at the smiling Life Binder (she would always be the Life Binder in her mind, Aspect still or not), and laughed so hard she cried.
I did warn you I was gonna fix shit.
Chapter 16: On the Hunt
Flashback chapter! Nathanos proves elusive. An unexpected conversation ensues with a certain mage. Sylvanas finds herself vastly annoyed by everything. (I wonder why...)
This... is not how I expected this chapter to go 🤣
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“He knows, Dark Lady.”
Sylvanas made a noise in the back of her throat. “He would hardly have been a decent ranger if he hadn’t clued in by now.” She signed her name one last time and looked up from her reports at Anya. “Where is he?”
The Dark Ranger hesitated and looked to the side. “Clea and Kalira lost him somewhere in Northrend. We haven’t been able to pick up his trail since.”
Sylvanas growled, stalking around their temporary camp in Tirisfal Glades. “What in Belore’s name was he doing in Northrend? This is unacceptable. Find him, and find him now. Send out everyone in pairs. Find him.”
Anya bowed. “Of course, Dark Lady.” She hesitated though, instead of leaving.
Sylvanas’ scowl deepend. “What is it, ranger?”
“The mage, Dark Lady…”
“Proudmoore? What of her?”
Anya’s ears drew back against her skull. “Are you truly going to marry?”
Red eyes burned deeper, but Sylvanas forced herself to find some remnant of calm. “Considering all she has done for us, and that this marriage will seal a treaty finally giving the Forsaken the safety we’ve been working towards since we broke from the Scourge, yes. Annoying as she is, Proudmoore is also the most powerful ally I could have hoped for. And she has been nothing but helpful, much as it pains me to admit. I did not expect there would need to be a discussion about it.”
Anya seemed to relax a little, but still hesitated. “It’s possible that Blightcaller is being hidden by power not his own.”
Sylvanas rolled her eyes. “You want me to ask Proudmoore to help find him.” She held back a snarl. It was a good idea. And they needed to talk, anyway. “Very well. I will ask. But send out every patrol you can spare, all the same.”
It wasn’t a bad idea, asking Proudmoore. That wasn’t the problem.
Nathanos was on the run, the scheming little shit. She should never have made him her Champion, should never have entrusted him with so much. She’d wasted years listening to his sniveling ego stroking, and why? He’d been a decent strategist, a decent ranger. But all of her original rangers were better.
And Blightcaller wasn’t the problem either.
Sylvanas let the shadows bleed off her. She was agitated. Irritated. Short tempered. More restless than she’d been since her death.
Proudmoore was the blighted problem.
Proudmoore, who had gotten under her skin. With her listening and her understanding and her willingness to help. Proudmoore, who had given her everything she’d spent her undeath fighting for, in a flippant gamble that somehow guaranteed to provide her Forsaken the protection they deserved.
Without consulting her.
Oh, it was a brilliant move. Tactically, the best possible one she could’ve made. Sylvanas didn’t blame her at all. In fact, she’d been amused and impressed. For all Proudmoore’s headstrong, irritating personality, their continued alliance, sealed by a marriage pact, would mean a whole new era for her people.
And Sylvanas was angry she hadn’t thought of it herself.
She’d been outmaneuvered to the best possible outcome.
It was infuriating.
On the edge of her awareness, she felt the telltale buzz of an opening portal, of ice-cold saltwater and lightning magic that was uniquely Proudmoore.
The woman couldn’t even wait to be summoned. No, she had to have impeccable timing.
Sylvanas closed her eyes and seethed, bleeding further into the shadows. This was unacceptable. She could not afford to let the damn mage under her skin like this.
And yet, when Velonara brought the mage to the ruined church Sylvanas had chosen to work from, it was all she could do to hold her form and not react. Even if all she wanted to do was wrap her gauntleted hand around Proudmoore’s fine pale neck and put her in her place.
Belore help her.
She needed to pull herself together.
“To what do I owe this unexpected trip, little mage?”
Proudmoore tugged at the end of her braid, a nervous gesture Sylvanas had only seen once or twice. Interesting.
“I know you’re busy hunting Nathanos, but Anduin and Wrathion are handling N’Zoth, and I, well, we need to talk.”
Sylvanas bared her fangs in a vicious grin. Proudmoore was unsettled. Good. “About your little stunt at the treaty?”
Proudmoore’s eyes hardened, the irises just barely beginning to whiten. “You said you were fine with it.”
“I am fine with it!” Sylvanas clenched her teeth, forcing herself to calm. Picking a fight wasn’t the answer, no matter how much she wanted one. “It was a bold move. Smart. And it gives my people a safety net I’ve been trying to find for them for our entire undeaths.”
The mage’s eyes narrowed. “So you don’t have a problem with it. You’re still in agreement.”
Sylvanas stared at her far longer than necessary. Long enough for Proudmoore to cycle through irritation, confusion, and finally worry. “Yes. I am in agreement.”
The mage’s expression shifted again. Back to unsettled, then determined. “Then we have things to work out. Treaty points, but also marriage points. Where we’ll live, for example. You’re the Queen of the Forsaken, I’m the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras. Neither of us can abandon our people, but we’ll need to settle on residence.”
This time it was Sylvanas who narrowed her eyes. “You expect we’ll live together?”
Proudmoore huffed. “We will be married, will we not? We can hardly expect to sign a marriage pact and then live like strangers.”
Even more interesting. “And why not?”
The mage rolled her eyes. “Look, I don’t know what you were expecting. But considering how many people would still prefer you dead, I feel like we need to do this right. People don’t want to believe you’re not a monster. If our marriage is fake, the treaty will be too. At least in everyone else’s eyes. It’s all or nothing here.” She stepped forward then, all hesitation gone, eyes glowing slightly in the half-light. “I put everything on the line to help you. I have no illusions or expectations about love or intimacy, or even friendship. But I do expect mutual respect and decency. And yes, that we’ll live together. Share rooms. Share meals. Share decisions. All or nothing.”
Such passion. This, this was why Proudmoore had gotten so much under her skin. She refused to be cowed, refused to be governed, refused to be anything but a headstrong equal, and Sylvanas simply didn’t know what to do with that. No one ever wanted to be her equal. They either served her or tried to subdue her.
Except for Jaina fucking Proudmoore.
“…fine? That’s it?”
“Yes. You’re right. It will be far more effective if we behave as partners.”
“Are partners. Not just behave.”
Sylvanas clenched her teeth, knowing her eyes were burning sharper. “Very well. As for residence, I recommend Lordaeron, once we clean up Blightcaller’s mess. Until then, I suspect Boralus will be the best option, as we’ll have to spend time there anyway.”
Proudmoore cocked her head. “Yes, I will have to spend at least part of the time in Boralus, but you’re right that I don’t need to be there all the time. Mother is perfectly capable of taking care of the day-to-day, and I can always portal in when necessary. The Forsaken, on the other hand, we don’t want to leave even the appearance of vulnerability by having you gone for any length of time, at least until things settle.” She took a deep breath, one Sylvanas found herself watching far more closely than she should. “Lordaeron needs a lot of work, even once it’s cleansed. And don’t worry about that, I can cleanse it.”
Had Sylvanas been alive, she might have choked at the unashamed confidence. “Can you now?”
Proudmoore rolled her eyes, but didn’t dignify the dig with anything else. “The city is mostly ruins. I know the Forsaken love the Undercity, and I would never suggest changes they didn’t want, but it would be good to rebuild a lot of the above ground. It helps to have actual buildings if you want to encourage things like trade. And I suspect there are many who would like to come see their family among the Forsaken. Not to take your people away from you, I’m not Calia,” she added in a rush. “But given the chance, given peace, perhaps you’d find others would come to you?”
Sylvanas scowled. “I will not allow the living to injure my people. We are unwanted, let us remain that way.”
The mage’s eyes softened. “You’re not unwanted. You gave me my brother back, something I never thought possible. I don’t care that he’s undead. He’s still Derek. I know others will feel the same. And if they don’t, they can go fuck themselves.”
Sylvanas shook her head. So damned passionate. “I will think on it. But you are right, we’ll need trade relations, if nothing else. Buildings that aren’t crumbling would be a help. And I suppose you’d prefer to live above ground, in a non-collapsing location?”
Proudmoore gave her an exasperated look. “Yes, that would be my preference. I recall it does get rather cold during the winter. Walls and ceilings to keep out the wind and snow are something I would like, unless you’re angling to add me to the ranks of the undead once I freeze to death.”
A chuckle startled its way out of Sylvanas. “Come now, I thought you were a master of the elements? But yes, I suspect letting you freeze to death and then raising you would likely earn me a new war, this time without any allies. Fine then, I agree to the rebuilding of Lordaeron, if you agree to it as our primary residence. Was that all that was on your mind?”
“Far from it.” She rattled off a dozen more things, mostly to do with the integration of the Forsaken and the Kul Tirans. Fleets, trade agreements, shared rights…
Sylvanas felt her annoyance and begrudging admiration grow with every topic they tackled. Until the mage brought up the actual wedding.
Then she found herself scowling. Marriage. This was absurd.
“I realize this is a treaty marriage, but I’d rather it not be a spectacle.”
Annoyed, Sylvanas found herself chuckling again. “You mean you don’t want to invite every person in Azeroth?”
Proudmoore groaned. “No. If I could get away with it, I’d have Anduin marry us in front of my family and your family and call it enough.”
“What, no party? No trappings?” She deliberately avoided commenting on something as fraught as family. Particularly hers.
“Tides, no. I’m too old for that nonsense.”
Sylvanas cocked her head. She seemed to have underestimated her yet again. How irritating. “Well, little mage, I’m afraid that ship sailed when you announced it to the entirety of the Alliance leadership, and then the Horde.”
Proudmoore scowled. “I’m aware.”
“Come now, you can’t tell me you never dreamed of a fancy wedding in front of the whole world.” It was a low dig, and she knew it, but the biting words came out anyway.
And Proudmoore, as expected, winced. “I am not unaware that I’ve just agreed to live in the place that I was once engaged to the prince of. The deep irony of marrying you only to share governance over the people who now call Lordaeron home, many of whom did before, as well, has not escaped me. But I expect better of you than I got from him.”
Sylvanas found herself glad she didn’t say his name. “I apologize. That was uncalled for.”
Proudmoore shrugged. “And yet here we are. Whatever I dreamed once, I’m no longer that foolish girl.”
No. She wasn’t. That was obvious to anyone with eyes and a single brain cell.
“What about you?” Proudmoore hesitated her way through the question. “Did you ever dream of a wedding? Before?”
She should have anticipated the question. It was absurd that she hadn’t. But she hadn’t, and the words struck her like arrows, unexpected and piercing. The memory of night-black hair and soft grey eyes was one she had long blocked out.
“I had one. A wedding.”
She didn’t know why she’d said the words. It was foolish to think on things long past, even more foolish to speak of them to others.
“You…you were married?”
Sylvanas allowed herself a sigh. “I was. It was not a love match. Anarial was from a prominent family in Silvermoon. I was the Ranger-General. It would have been improper to have remained unwed, and it created alliances that were useful.”
Proudmoore seemed struck. Sylvanas wanted to feel the victory of that, catching the mage off guard. Somehow, though, she couldn’t. Not over this.
Sylvanas stared at her, knowing her eyes burned brighter with every word. “They died. Like I did.”
Silence stretched long before the words bubbled out of her. “Our daughter.”
Belore, why was she telling her all of this?
“They were there that day.” The words just kept coming. This was madness. “I tried to get them to safety, but I couldn’t leave. The Scourge were everywhere.” She could feel her eyes burning, the resonance in her voice echoing harshly. She’d even begun to advance on the mage, whose face was a mask of shock. “I thought they’d gotten to the gate. I didn’t have time to make sure. He was there, looming over me, that blighted, monstrous sword calling for us all.” She’d backed Proudmoore into a corner now, the story tumbling out of her. She’d never told another soul, not even her sisters. Why now? Why this Belore-damned mage? “And when he raised me, I saw them. Dead, lifeless bodies in a trampled field of yellow tulips. And I screamed my first scream as a banshee.”
Sylvanas stared at the mage, who instead of looking cowed, looked sorrowful. Indeed, a tear or two already slid down her cheek, and that, Sylvanas found, she could not bear to see. She spun, stalking to the other end of the crumbling room, putting as much distance between them as she could.
Belore, she was a fool.
“I don’t care about the wedding. It will be an affair of state, which is nothing I haven’t done before.”
Sylvanas spun. “It was a political marriage. Like this one. I didn’t love her. And I don’t wish to speak of it again.”
Finally, the mage looked cowed. And of course, that was even more irritating. “Enough of this. There is still plenty to be done. My rangers have lost track of Blightcaller, and they seem to think he’s getting help staying hidden.”
Proudmoore finally stopped looking like a sodden rag, straightening up and stepping back into the center of the room. “You want me to see if I can find him?”
“If you can.”
If nothing else, Sylvanas had learned the one thing the mage couldn’t stand was to be underestimated or challenged. But there was something about the way Proudmoore grinned at the challenge that was just so maddening.
“Can’t I? Just watch me.”
Yes, that was a direct reference to the Sylvanas: Warbringers cinematic. Yes, I'm sorry! Ok, no, I'm really not.
Chapter 17: Domestic Tranquility
Liadrin stops by for a visit with an interesting proposal. Sylvanas and Katherine have a little chat. Derek is still a little shit, and so are the Dark Rangers. (We love them, though!)
I did promise more fluff after making half of you cry last chapter. Have some fluff.
Hope everyone is staying safe. Happy Sunday.
Watching Jaina laugh with her brother Derek would never cease to bring a smile to Sylvanas’ face. No matter how hard she tried to avoid it.
“Tan sends his regards. He was ferry upset he couldn’t come.”
“Oh, not with the puns…”
“Knot the puns? You did that on porpoise, didn’t you little sister?”
“Derek! You’re horrible! And I think undeath has only made you worse.”
“Truly oar-ful, wouldn’t you say?”
Jaina groaned while she laughed, but her face lit up when she caught sight of Sylvanas, who finally took pity on her and stepped in the room. “Sylv!”
“Don’t let me interrupt this touching reunion.”
“Ugh, please interrupt. Save me from Derek and his relentless punning.”
Sylvanas eyed the Forsaken Proudmoore. “Stop torturing my wife, Mister Proudmoore.”
He grinned and gave a small bow. “No more of this Mister Proudmoore nonsense. You’ve been married for ages, months at least. Call me Derek, and you have a deal. Better yet, call me brother.”
She rolled the idea around in her head. “I had a brother, a long time ago. Lirath. I think you would have gotten along well.”
Derek’s eyes softened, and he offered his arm in greeting. “I would have been proud to meet him.”
Sylvanas grasped his forearm in the typical ranger greeting, and then turned as Jaina stepped up to kiss her. The gentle touch of lips she intended quickly became a languid exploration that had her wanting to drag her wife back to bed.
A desire that wasn’t the least bit dampened by Jaina pulling back with a whimper. “Mmm. Mother and Derek wanted to see all the rebuilding we’ve done in Lordaeron. Derek was especially keen to see the new markets, so I was about to take him on a tour. Want to come?”
Sylvanas leaned her head against her wife’s. “Thank you, Dalah’suran. But you know I have matters to attend to. Enjoy the time with your brother.”
“Torturing your rangers, you mean?” Jaina kissed her cheek and stepped back. “Maybe we’ll stop by the training grounds later and watch.”
“Planning on training with us, wife?”
Jaina shrugged, smiling. “Perhaps I just want to watch my wife work.”
Sylvanas shook her head. “Troublesome thing. Go on, then. Show your brother our thriving markets, and I will see you at the training grounds later.”
Jaina kissed her again softly, humming against her lips. “Mother should be along shortly. She had to arrange a few things with Tan and sent Derek ahead.”
“I’ll make certain she’s taken care of. Go.”
A final kiss and she was away with her brother, whose good-natured ribbing about how cute they were and how she’d tamed the mighty Banshee Queen made Sylvanas shake her head long after they were out of sight—if not out of earshot. She huffed to herself fondly. Raising Derek had seemed like such a gamble when Jaina had proposed it, but watching the two siblings together made her remember long-past days with her own family. And for a change, she actually remembered them fondly.
Another change her wife had wrought.
Sylvanas rubbed the indelible mark over her heart and felt an answering thrum from her pendant, one she knew Jaina too would feel. It was strange being bound to a beating heart after all these years, but she had no regrets. The phantom echo of Jaina’s heart filled her with such unexpected joy. Such feeling.
She’d confessed to Jaina that she didn’t know how to do this anymore, how to feel. Jaina, of course, had simply promised they would navigate it together.
It was hard to fathom, and at times she wasn’t so sure this wasn’t all a dream. Except that she hadn’t dreamed since the day she died.
“Who’d have thought the great Sylvanas Windrunner would turn into such a lovesick fool, all over a pretty mage?”
Sylvanas whipped around to see Liadrin leaning in the doorway. “Can I help you, Matriarch, or did you just come to antagonize me?”
Liadrin laughed. She’d been laughing a lot more recently, specifically since she and Valeera had become an open thing. One of several pairings that had come out of her marriage to Jaina. “I know, hypocritical of me, isn’t it? I was actually hoping to speak to you and your wife both.”
Sylvanas twitched an ear. “And what did you come to speak about?”
Liadrin’s eyes followed the twitching of her ear, and one red eyebrow arched. “You’re wearing them again.”
“Yes.” It had been Jaina’s influence again that had made her put the rings back in her ears. She had worn many before her death, and none since. The weight felt odd after all this time, but also old and familiar. She had enjoyed the feeling once. It remained to be seen if she still did.
When she offered no explanation, Liadrin said no more, only offered a smile. “I’ve been pestering Lor’themar for ages now about finally clearing the last of the Scourge out the rest of the Ghostlands and the Plaguelands. I thought Jaina might have a few ideas. Maybe even some insight into the new rumors I’ve been hearing.”
“Val’kyr, or something like them. And a drop in Scourge activity. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
Sylvanas hummed. The remaining Scourge had been in her mind since their rather revealing conversation with the Life Binder days before. The fact that her Val’kyr had already begun working to settle the uncontrolled undead wasn’t something she was ready to share, however. “Jaina might have an idea or two. You just missed her, though. She’s off showing of the new market district to Derek.”
“And how is the elder Proudmoore? Adjusting well to undeath?”
“Quite. Even retained his horrible sense of humor, it seems.” Any further conversation halted as Anya slid into the room. Anya, who with the other rangers, were all much more…lively wasn’t the word. Healthy? Stronger, definitely, since the new Val’kyr had been at work.
“Pardon the interruption, Dark Lady. Lady Katherine has arrived.”
“Thank you.” Sylvanas turned back to Liadrin. “You’ll excuse me, duty calls. I’ll speak to Jaina about the Plaguelands.”
“Far be it from me to keep you from your mother-in-law. Although I wouldn’t mind speaking to her, either. Perhaps I’ll hang around.” Liadrin turned to leave, then glanced back. “You look good, Sylvanas. You both do. Different. Happy.”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched, and it was a moment or two before she replied. “Thank you.” She watched as the blood matriarch bowed and took her leave. Belore, it was hard. Remembering how to do this. How to think beyond just survival. True peace seemed so foreign, and yet here they were.
All because Jaina Proudmoore had seen her.
She shook her head and turned back to Anya. “Let’s not keep Jaina’s mother waiting.”
“Of course, Dark Lady.”
Whatever she had expected of Katherine Proudmoore’s visit, being asked to talk over peacebloom tea was not it.
Yet here they sat, Katherine staring at her with eyes not unlike her daughter’s, and Sylvanas feeling like she was being examined. It was…uncomfortable. But she could hardly have said no, could she?
“I’m sure you know I was hardly keen on this marriage when Jaina first told me.”
Sylvanas’ ears laid back. She sipped her tea without responding, watching as Katherine did the same.
One ear twitched. Katherine set her tea aside.
“I missed a lot of my daughter’s life, first because of Arthas, and then because of Daelin. Men and their pride.” Katherine shook her head, staring at her hands clasped in her lap. “It did not escape me that when I finally got her back, Jaina was much changed. She was…wary. Tired, much more tired than a young woman like her should have been. Jaina always carried the world on her shoulders, but when she finally returned to Kul Tiras, she looked like the world had broken her.”
The Proudmoore matriarch finally looked up, and Sylvanas realized she’d frozen, teacup suspended halfway to her mouth.
“It has also not escaped me that since the two of you began working together, and especially since your marriage, my daughter is…not who she was, because we can never return to who we once were. But she no longer seems broken by the world. She smiles when she sees you. She’s physically affectionate again. It was painfully obvious how much she missed you when you were overseeing the rebuilding here, and how different she was the moment you walked in the room. I know some of what happened to her, the broad strokes. I don’t know why she seemed like she’d shatter the first time I hugged her, but she doesn’t anymore. She’s whole. And I know you’re the reason why.”
Sylvanas cleared her throat and looked away, not knowing what to say. Katherine surprised her by standing up and walking over to pull her into a hug. Sylvanas’ ears shot up, her eyes wide, but Katherine only hugged her more fiercely.
“You gave me my son back, and gave my daughter back to herself. I cannot thank you enough, but know this.” She stepped back, holding Sylvanas at arm’s length, and despite the shock she felt, Sylvanas could see Katherine’s eyes shine with unshed tears. “Whatever your past, your future is bound to ours. You are family, Sylvanas Windrunner. I know you’re centuries older than me, damned elves, but as far as I’m concerned you’re as much my daughter as Jaina is.”
Sylvanas took a deep breath. She didn’t need it, of course, but it seemed like the thing to do in the moment. “I…thank you. Lady Katherine.”
Katherine arched one sharp eyebrow. “I don’t expect you to call me mum, but at least drop the ‘lady’ and just call me Katherine.”
Sylvanas huffed. Mum. No, she wouldn’t call her that. She could never. But she suspected that her own minn'da would have gotten on well with Katherine Proudmoore. “Very well then, Katherine.”
“Very well then, Sylvanas.” Katherine sat back down and retrieved her tea. “Now, tell me about that pendant you’re wearing. I know my daughter’s handiwork when I see it. I also know something meaningful when I see it.” The eyebrow went back up, accompanied by a sly smile, and Sylvanas revised her earlier thought. Lireesa and Katherine wouldn’t just have gotten on well. They’d have been a nightmare together.
She almost wished she could see it.
“You’re getting soft, rangers!”
Areiel’s voice rang out over the grounds as Sylvanas ghosted through combat. She hadn’t run a circle drill with her core rangers in too long, it seemed.
“Sloppy, Clea. Watch your lines!”
Sylvanas slid between two strikes, slapping the flats of the blades aside.
“Footwork, Kalira! Watch that elbow, Alina!”
She frowned, sweeping Cyndia’s leg before dodging another blade. Her rangers had gotten cocky, undisciplined. She needed to appoint a new Champion to keep them in line. She should have done that ages ago. Delaryn would be a good choice, strategically, except that she was busy with the new Dark Sentinels, and they needed her. Areiel as well would be excellent, but then she would need a new captain as well.
Though, maybe that would be good. Shake things up. Their world had changed for the better with her marriage and the treaty. The Forsaken had not just allies, but friends. A home. A place. They were as safe as it was possible to be, and infinitely stronger now with seventeen Val’kyr and—no, she wasn’t going to think about that conversation yet.
She would ask Jaina, maybe. It would be nice to talk things out. It had been a long time since she’d really been able to do that. A lifetime.
You’re not alone anymore.
Her wife’s words echoed even as she dodged, Areiel still shouting in the background. Usually, they would play this game until someone finally landed a hit. Some days, there were no hits that landed. Today was looking like one of those days.
“Oh, come on ladies.” Jaina’s voice carried well across the field, and almost, Sylvanas faltered. “I know my wife is good, but surely one of you can land a hit.”
Sylvanas grinned, watching ears flick in good-natured irritation. The fact that her rangers had very clearly taken to her wife pleased her, and listening to her rib them was almost as enjoyable as not letting them land a hit.
“Our Bright Lady is right, Rangers!” Areiel’s voice was laced with humor now. “You’re slacking!”
More irritated ear flicks, but she could tell they were trying harder now, not just moving through the enjoyable motions. From the side, Sylvanas caught movement that wasn’t her rangers, and then her wife’s voice called out again.
“I think they need some enticement, wouldn’t you say, Captain?” In a flash, everyone froze as Jaina stepped into their midst, her eyes twinkling. “A kiss to the last ranger standing, and a boon to any that land a hit on myself or my wife.”
Areiel’s laughter filled the practice field. “She’s called you out now, Rangers. What are the rules, Bright Lady?”
Sylvanas looked at her wife with amusement. “Bold offerings, wife.”
Jaina winked. “A touch and you step out. Last ranger standing wins, as does a touch against myself or Sylvanas. She and I will, of course, limit our magic.” The words came as two wickedly curved ice knives grew in her hands.
“Well then.” Sylvanas acknowledged the wink with a flick of her ear. “Seems the Bright Lady has spoken.” She sank into a ready stance, Jaina mirroring at her back.
Areiel nodded, eyeing the rangers. “Begin!”
Despite having never fought like this with her wife, Sylvanas found they easily slipped into a rhythm. Jaina’s style was not at all like her own, but she was far more talented at close combat than she would have guessed, having never seen her fight with anything besides major magics before. Yet another unexpected insight into her wife, and yet another way in which they were so well matched.
It was exhilarating.
Her rangers, good as they were, didn’t stand a chance.
One by one they fell to touches from herself of Jaina, until only a handful remained—Anya, Alina, Velonara—but it was Velonara who, in a move Sylvanas couldn’t help be proud of, slid inside Jaina’s guard…
And tapped not her, but Sylvanas.
Perhaps Velonara would make a fine new Champion.
The thought was fleeting, but it sat well with her. Still, she would ask Jaina later, and perhaps Areiel.
Jaina, for her part, laughed. “Oh, well done, Velonara.” She kissed her boldly on the cheek, causing the ranger to flush an entire three shades darker, to the amusement of all the rangers, whose whistles and calls carried over the field many of them clapping the blonde elf on the shoulders and loudly expressing their jealousy. “And fair is fair. What would you like for your boon?”
Velonara, still blushing, stared back mildly shell shocked. “Bright Lady, I…”
Jaina grinned. “You’ll think of something. In the meantime, I’ll leave you to your training.”
I chorus of protests had her laughing again as the rangers surrounded her, refusing to let her leave. Sylvanas, arm wrapped around Jaina’s waist, twitched her ears in amusement.
“You’ve done it now, Dalah’surfal. I don’t think any of them realized you could fight like that.”
Jaina shot her a smirk. “Just because I’m a mage doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up learning to board pirate ships and handle weapons. You can ask Derek, he’s the one who insisted I learn as soon as I could hold a knife.”
Sylvanas glanced to the edge of the field, where the aforementioned elder Proudmoore stood bearing one of his characteristic shit-eating grins. “Indeed. I should have a conversation with him about the shipboard training of our integrated navies, then.”
“Knowing him, it was the first thing he made sure of. He loves a good brawl.”
“Does he now?” She shared a knowing look with her wife, before Jaina shouted.
“Grab a weapon, Derek!”
Sylvanas grinned. This was going to be amusing.
Chapter 18: Wasteland
Sylvanas overshares again. Jaina notices too much. And Nathanos finally gets dealt with.
Oh look, that chapter we've all been waiting for...
It was ironic, really.
That they would end up here, together.
Just the name filled her with rage.
But amidst that rage, and the blinding cold even Sylvanas could feel, and the masses of Scourge that time and the elimination of the plague that created them did not seem to have diminished, she couldn’t help but wonder—why here? What in Belore’s name was Blightcaller doing here?
“Why would he come here, of all places?”
Even Proudmoore, cloaked against the cold but seemingly unbothered by it, seemed confused by that question.
Sylvanas peered through the storm, ears twitching. “I don’t know.”
Never an admission she liked to make.
“He’s been working with Aszhara, and therefore N’Zoth. So, what is it about Icecrown they might want?” Proudmoore parted the storm around them with a wave of her hand. “Unless Blightcaller is simply thinking that by luring you here, you’ll be vulnerable? You’ll pardon me, but as much as I hate the weasel of a man, I don’t think even he is that ignorant.”
Sylvanas snorted. “Indeed. I would have thought so, until he betrayed me. Now…” She shrugged. “I’ll not overestimate him.”
Silence, except for the storm, and the quick dispatching of Scourge, reigned for a while.
“He was a good man, once.” Sylvanas cursed herself internally. She was doing it again. Talking. How Proudmoore brought it out in her, she didn’t know, but the words just seemed to come when the little mage was around.
At this rate, she’d have no secrets at all.
“I did always wonder. I think we all did.”
Sylvanas ground her teeth. Shot more Scourge. But the words seemed to force themselves out. “In life, he was a friend. A good Ranger, though never as good as an elf, but good enough that I was happy to let him join us—especially when it bothered that stuffed shirt Kael’Thas so much.”
It wasn’t magic, she knew that. Proudmoore’s arcane touch was unmistakable, and she would know if she were being manipulated. No, whatever it was about the woman that made Sylvanas overshare whenever she was around, it wasn’t the mage’s fault. Even if it was the mage’s fault.
Belore curse her.
“Undeath changed him. It changed us all, but especially him. I raised him, thinking I would have another loyal Ranger. Instead, he let the hate and rage fester. I should have seen sooner that if N’Zoth wanted a foothold in the Forsaken, it would be he who would be corrupted.”
It was an oversight, a mistake she would not make again.
Proudmoore said nothing. Together, they slew Scourge in silence, slowly making their way into the citadel, following the trace of void corruption that Nathanos trailed.
It was, of course, a trap. It had to be. They’d discussed that before setting out, the obviousness of it clear. The only question had been who the trap was for.
The answer was…unexpected.
“This is not a partnership I had anticipated.”
Sylvanas glanced at Proudmoore, who looked back, before they both turned to the current Lich King, sitting relaxed on his throne.
“Have you come for your dog, Banshee?”
Proudmoore stepped forward first, halting the words on Sylvanas’ tongue. “Bolvar. We did not come here to fight. We’ve been hunting a traitor, Nathanos Blightcaller.”
“So you have come for the dog. Why are you here with her, Jaina?”
Proudmoore pinched the bridge of her nose. “Look, I don’t know how on top of things you are up here, Bolvar, but there’s a peace treaty, one we’ve both been working for. The Old God N’Zoth has risen with Azshara as his general, and Sylvanas’ former champion Nathanos Blightcaller betrayed her in service to them. We tracked him here. We don’t know what he wanted or hoped by coming here, but neither of us particularly wants to be here, so if you could just point us in the right direction, we’ll get out of your business.”
Bolvar Fordragon, Lich King, stared down at them through the Helm of Domination, and laughed. Proudmoore winced, Sylvanas snarled, and the Scourge dragged forward a chained and frozen block. “You are welcome to him. He came with lies and offers of power over the realms beyond death. He carries the mark of the Old God, but the Void and the Scourge work at cross-purposes.”
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes. “What did he want from you?”
“To rend the sky, little banshee. To control life and death, both. Surely you know this already.”
She did not, in fact, but that wasn't something she would betray to him. Scowling, Sylvanas turned to her trapped former champion. “And you give him to us just like that.”
“He does not belong here. Nor do either of you. Take him and go before I change my mind.” His fingers flicked at them dismissively, riling Sylvanas further.
If it bothered Proudmoore, she didn’t show it. “Thank you, Bolvar.” She grabbed Sylvanas by the arm, opened a portal, tossed the Nathanos-block into it, and then dragged them both through all before Sylvanas had a chance to protest.
She wrenched her arm away and brushed snow off her shoulders, watching it fall to the stone of the Lordaeron tower that had become their de facto meeting place. “I had further questions for him, little mage.”
“You’re welcome to go back, if you’d like. Personally, I didn’t want to spend a single moment there that wasn’t necessary.” She shivered, clearly less from the cold they’d so abruptly left, and more because of Icecrown and its occupants. “I hate that Helm. Not even Bolvar Fordragon is immune to it, even if he thinks he is.”
That got Sylvanas’ attention. “You think he’s planning something?”
The mage shook her head. “No. I don’t know. I just—you can’t tell me you don’t feel that damned Helm too.”
Sylvanas’ ears pinned back. “You forget who of us was once prisoner of its power. Of course, I felt it!”
“There’s something wrong about it.”
Sylvanas found herself laughing unkindly. “My dear Proudmoore, there’s nothing right about it. Its very existence is wrong. It should have been destroyed, and the Scourge with it, not given to create another usurper. Everything about it is wrong. How could you possibly feel otherwise, little mage?”
Proudmoore glared, raising an unimpressive white eyebrow. “Taking your annoyance and discomfort out on me isn’t necessary, Sylvanas. Especially when you have your traitor so conveniently trussed up for you.” Her eyes blazed white, and with a snap of her gauntleted fingers, the block around Nathanos began to crack. “If you’d prefer that I leave you to work things out with—or on—Blightcaller, then say the word and I’ll go.”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched at the quiet chastisement. How Proudmoore always saw her so clearly, she would never know. It seemed impossible to keep anything from her. It was tiresome. And annoying. And frustrating. And irritating. “My apologies, little mage. Stay if you wish. But Blightcaller is all mine. Do not interfere.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
A quick twist of her wrist and clenched fist, and the former Forsaken Champion collapsed in a heap of shattered ice. He looked up, head swiveling between the two of them, eyes glowing purple with the Void.
A shadow-trailing arrow pierced clean through his shoulder, knocking him back, and knocking further words from him.
“You, traitor, do not get to speak. I care not for your excuses, your grand plans, or even your begging.”
Nathanos snarled, pushing himself up, but another arrow drove deep into his hip, pinning him again. The arrows smoked and glowed purple and black, forming chains that bound him head to toe, muffling him in the process. Blightcaller’s eyes burned red to deep void purple and black. The void began to echo off him, but disappeared at the tightening of a fist that was mirrored by the tightening of the chains that bound him.
“There will be none of that. Kyra, Signe, Regin!” The air thrummed with energy as her remaining Val’kyr appeared. Sylvanas pointed at Blightcaller, her shadows slowly winding around him. “Take him. If his soul can be used to retrieve your sisters, do it. Otherwise…bind him to the endless void, and take what power he has to bolster your own.”
Nathanos screamed through the chains and shadows that bound him as the Val’kyr surrounded him. Then he cut off in a high-pitched whine, and when the Val’kyr were gone, nothing remained of the former champion but a desiccated corpse.
Behind her, Sylvanas heard a soft gasp.
In hindsight, it may have been better had she pushed Proudmoore to leave. “Come now, little mage. You knew I was a monster.”
The soft laugh surprised her, and when Sylvanas turned to look, Proudmoore looked anything but disgusted. No, she looked fascinated.
“Honestly, I expected you to rip his guts out one by one and then feed them back to him. This was far tamer than I was expecting.”
Sylvanas blinked. “My, my, Proudmoore. Bloodthirsty little thing, aren’t you?”
That unimpressive white brow arched again. Perhaps it wasn’t terribly unimpressive. For a human eyebrow. “You do remember me almost drowning Orgrimmar, don’t you?”
“Almost doesn’t count, little mage.”
Proudmoore scoffed, then gestured to the pile of bones that was slowly disintegrating. “I didn’t realize they could do that.”
Sylvanas shrugged. “Not usually. Blightcaller was…unique. He’d undergone a ritual to make him stronger and less prone to decay. It was a mistake I chose not to repeat with others.”
Proudmoore nodded slowly. “Interesting. That’s the second time you’ve done that shadow chain thing. Your powers have developed much further, haven’t they?”
Sylvanas narrowed her eyes, staring until the mage began to narrow hers in return. “You are far too observant for your own good, little mage. If we weren’t set to treaty by marriage, I would very likely be contemplating how to dispose of you—or win you to my cause.”
The mage snorted. “What, just because I’m curious?”
“Because you notice too much.”
Chapter 19: Secrets
In which an uncharacteristically nervous Sylvanas shares a Forsaken secret, and Jaina unsurprisingly goes a little overboard. (And in which I go back to completely writing my own canon, whoops.)
Special thanks to Fox_is_Fandumb: this is all her fault.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Of course, I think Velonara would make an excellent Champion, but you know your rangers far better than I ever have a hope to.” Jaina looked up from her books and watched her wife pacing the library. “Darling, it’s not like you to be so indecisive. What’s really going on?”
Sylvanas’ ears flattened, their rings flashing in the light. “I’m not being indecisive—”
Jaina stood and wrapped her arms around the elf, who immediately sagged against her. “This isn’t about Velonara or promoting a new Champion, is it?”
Sighing, Sylvanas buried her face in the crook of Jaina’s neck. “No, it isn’t. You’re right, she will make an excellent Champion. I’ll speak with her in the morning.”
Jaina carded her fingers through Sylvanas’ silvery hair. It felt softer, less brittle these days, and she’d found they both enjoyed the feeling. As was evidenced by the tightening of the arms around her waist, and the soft purr that rose between them. “What’s bothering you, love?”
The purr stopped. Jaina continued the slow run of fingers through hair and gave her time. She’d learned that was often what her wife needed. So she waited, and hummed softly.
“The Forsaken have a secret. One we have protected from all, above all.” The words were muffled, spoken into the soft, quiet space between them. “We hid it because it’s something that could be—would be—used against us, in the worst ways. And I—I have been afraid to tell you.”
Jaina held her wife and tried to hold in the sudden flutter of worry that surged in her. “Sylvanas, whatever it is—” She swallowed, then took a breath. “I said together, and I meant it. You and I, but also the Forsaken. Whatever this is—”
“The Forsaken are my people now, as much as they are yours—”
“Just as I hope you’ll come to feel about Kul Tirans—”
The rushed, nervous words finally stopped when Jaina realized the reason Sylvanas was shaking was from laughter, as it grew in volume and her wife’s head finally rose.
“Dalah’suran, stop.” Sylvanas leaned forward and kissed her softly, lips still fighting a grin. “I don’t know why it’s so hard to stop worrying about you accepting me. I always feel a fool when you prove my fears wrong.”
Jaina shook her head and leaned her forehead against her wife’s. “Because you have spent so long not being accepted. Don’t feel foolish. It takes time.”
Sylvanas hummed a quiet agreement. “Time, I have.” She hesitated, pulling away a fraction. “Come with me? Let me show you the truth of the Forsaken.”
Jaina had not spent much time in the Undercity. For all that she had grown to love the Forsaken, and seemed to be well received by them (Sylvanas’ doing, and the rangers, she had no doubt), and they seemed perfectly happy to interact in the rebuilt city above, there was a different feeling altogether when it came to the Undercity.
It wasn’t that they guarded it jealously.
Just that…it was a place of sanctuary. And that it should not be tread upon lightly. Definitely not a place for casual tourism, even if she was married to their queen.
Walking into the Undercity with Sylvanas, she still felt…not unwelcome. But there was a bit of the feeling that she was trespassing in a place that was not hers.
“Relax, Dalah’surfal. Nothing and no one here wishes you ill.”
Jaina huffed. “I know that. I simply feel like I’m…intruding.”
Sylvanas kissed her forehead. “You are my wife, and therefore their queen. You’re not intruding. Besides, they love you almost as much as I do.”
In the dimness of the Undercity, Jaina was fairly confident that only Sylvanas and whichever rangers were discretely following them (Anya and Alina, she suspected) could see her blush, but her face still heated at the words. She had grown used to wife, and was growing just as accustomed to dalah’surfal and dala’suran, but love was far less frequently used, though always implied, and so it still gave such a rush to hear the word spoken. “And this secret. Will I be intruding there?”
Sylvanas’ hesitation was less apparent in the low light, but Jaina was in tune enough with her that she felt it anyway. “No.”
“You will understand when you see. Please, just…” Feeling her uncharacteristic nervousness, Jaina stepped closer and wrapped their arms together, leaning into her wife’s side. Sylvanas responded in kind, holding Jaina’s arm tight in her own. “Do not judge us too harshly.”
Jaina’s brows furrowed tightly. Whatever this was, she could feel how much it meant to her wife, and judging by the growing tide of soft whispers from the Forsaken around them, Sylvanas wasn’t the only one. But she couldn’t for the life of her think what it was that would have her so nervous, thinking she or the Forsaken would be judged so badly.
Just what, exactly, was going on down here?
“Dark Lady, are you sure?”
She couldn’t really tell who had spoken. A human Forsaken she hadn’t met yet, she thought, which wasn’t surprising, except that Sylvanas somehow always seemed to know every single Forsaken. And while Jaina was caught musing over that, she missed her wife’s response, and then all Jaina could think about was the shift in how everything suddenly felt.
The morning after their Suran’anari, she had woken with a general sense of the Forsaken, which was somewhat more obvious here in the Undercity. But this was a change, something different she couldn’t identify. Sylvanas was leading her along, still speaking softly with the Forsaken around them, but Jaina was too busy trying to put a name to whatever this was.
So when she heard it, the obvious answer to her question given not in words, but in the echoes of high pitched laughter and small voices, it took a moment, more than a moment, to understand.
And then she did. She understood all of it. The perception shift. Her wife’s nervousness, the uncertainty of the Forsaken around them.
There were Forsaken children.
Her grip on Sylvanas’ arm tightened.
“I did not raise them, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Jaina tore her eyes away from the small bodies playing innocently through the warrens of the Undercity, and turned to her wife. “No! No, Sylvanas, no. Why would you think…” She squeezed her eyes shut. It was a ridiculous question. Her wife thought that, because undoubtedly that is what the rest of the world would think. They would leap to that conclusion without stopping to ask.
Sylvanas gave her a half smile. “The Scourge was indiscriminate. Old, young, it didn’t matter. He raised them all. Too young, and the bodies were too fragile to handle the change. The youngest were five or six, maybe a few four-year-olds. Mostly human, with a good cross-section of elven. A handful of other races.” The facts were delivered quietly, simply. “He raised whole cities together, but only took the ones sturdy enough to fight. When we broke from his control, we found pockets of them. Living in burned out towns, caves, anywhere. Abandoned undead, autonomous only because they were useless.” She shook her head, ears almost flat to her head. “We collected every last one we could find. Freed them from any latent remnant of his control. Gave them a place here.”
Jaina gasped softly. “That’s why you tore through the ruins here so quickly.”
“Yes. They needed to be safe. We needed them to be safe. We… Our place in Azeroth was tenuous at best. We were already monsters. Horrors. If it had been discovered that there were children…”
She didn’t finish. She didn’t need to. Jaina understood. Everyone, from the Horde to the Alliance, would have used that against them. Against Sylvanas. Spread lies and rumors, at best.
“Wait, but the siege, the blight—”
“I had them moved the moment I realized the Alliance would be coming for us. They rode out the siege in safety with their caretakers. There’s a place in the Plaguelands, a cave system we use for emergencies. I’ll show you later, if you wish.”
Jaina nodded, already moving on to the next question, only to realize they’d been discovered.
Or rather, Sylvanas had been discovered.
The children in sight squealed, charging at them. There weren’t many, a dozen or two, though Jaina could feel more—many more—around them. But they all came running, only for all but a handful of younger ones to pull up short when they noticed her.
The few who didn’t stop flew right into Sylvanas, who lifted them all effortlessly amidst shouts of “Dak Lady!” and “Vanas!”
Jaina found herself standing with her hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes.
And then she noticed the whispers.
“Who is that?”
“Is that the Bright Lady?”
“She’s so pretty.”
“She’s so bright.”
“She’s alive, she must be.”
Sylvanas put her armful down and bent to one knee, gesturing for them all to gather in, before looking back up to Jaina. Jaina, for her part, wiped at her eyes (futilely, because the tears were still coming), and knelt beside her.
“How are my brave warriors today?”
Jaina’s heart cracked again, even as the rush of voices began. Every child quickly vied for attention, but once received, the questions were the same again. Sylvanas laughed, and reached out for her hand.
“This is Jaina Proudmoore. Yes, she’s the Bright Lady. She’s also my wife, which makes her a queen, just like me. My beautiful, bright queen. Do you want to say hello?”
They did, it turned out. Some had question, which Jaina did her best to answer (although the question of why her hair was mostly white was not so easily explained). Once they found out she was a mage, things got even more interesting. Little hands grabbed at her, and she found herself being dragged along to the soundtrack of Sylvanas’ laughter. Their following grew larger and larger as they were led through the Undercity’s deep warrens. Jaina made snow and called up her water elemental, threw sparkling lights on the walls, anything she could think of that would amuse them. And then when she ran out of harmless magic, and the questions (endless questions) came again, she found herself telling stories.
Sylvanas laughed and played and mostly watched her, with eyes that glowed a little less red every day. Until finally, the children were ushered away by adult Forsaken, and once again Jaina felt the tears in her eyes, and her wife’s strong arms circling her.
“I can’t believe no one ever thought there might be children.”
“No one likes to think about such things. The worst, inescapable parts of war.” Sylvanas shook her head. “We shouldn’t have to. They shouldn’t be cursed to an eternal childhood, slowly decaying. Dying at the age of six or ten, being raised to undeath stuck that way, having been through something horrible even for an adult.”
Put that way, it was even more horrendous.
“We try to give them everything we can to allow them to simply be children. But we have been at war from the start, and that isn’t always possible. The only blessing is they have retained their sense of childhood. They are still children, even after all this time, in body and mind.”
Jaina pulled her face from where she had burrowed into her wife’s chest. “They love you, though. Not one of them is afraid of you.”
Sylvanas chuckled. “I’m fairly certain you’re now the new favorite.”
“I’m new and shiny, that’s all. These children…” Jaina shook her head. “You are everything to them.”
Sylvanas’ arms tightened around her. “I wish I could do more for them. They deserve better than to be hidden from the world, even if it’s what keeps them safe. Better than an eternity of slow decay.”
Jaina pulled back a little, a sudden thought chasing through her. “Sylvanas…have you…noticed anything, any changes in yourself, since the Suran’anari?”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched, and her eyes narrowed a fraction. “Jaina. What are you thinking?”
Jaina pulled away entirely, beginning to pace. “I would need to speak to your Val’kyr, but I think… What if we could stop the decay? Maybe reverse it?”
Sylvanas rubbed at the skin over her heart, and an answering thrum resounded through Jaina’s mark. “Dalah’surfal… Do you really think that’s possible?”
“It’s just…when you spoke with your Val’kyr, Annhylde said something about the Forsaken being strengthened. And you said yourself that the rangers have been stronger, more.” Jaina stepped back close to her wife, placing her own hand over the one that still covered her heart. “You’ve changed too, physically. Your hair, your eyes.”
Sylvanas hummed. “Yes…we have all been feeling more. Annhylde?”
The lead Val’kyr appeared in a blaze of dark energy. “Dark Lady. Bright Lady.”
“Hello, Annhylde.” Jaina smiled up at the winged woman. “When we spoke before, you said mentioned that the Forsaken would be strengthened. What did you mean?”
Annhylde looked from Sylvanas to Jaina. “Just as I said. When Sylvanas bound herself to you, she bound our covenant as well. As the dragon told you, you are a wellspring. You channel the heartsblood of the Titans, and to a degree their powers of creation. Which, in addition to freeing us from the dark void, severed the last of the corruption caused by the Lich King. That cleansing is passed on to the Forsaken. They will not live again, not truly, but their corruption and decay will cease. Even those like Sylvanas and her rangers, who were corrupted specially, will grow stronger in different ways, less to death and decay, and more to the pure arcane. But you have already seen this begin, have you not?”
Jaina nodded slowly, her thoughts racing. “The decay, can that only be halted? Or can it be reversed? Allow them to heal?”
The Val’kyr hesitated, as though searching for the right words. “The dark magic that raised them was always imperfect. A corruption of the original val’kyr ability to bind spirits to a specific realm. That’s why they decay, because the soul-binding is flawed. Bound to you both, our abilities are now a perfect dark mirror of the original Light Val’kyr. Which means that as we grow to full strength, the magics that bind your Forsaken to their bodies should also stabilize, which is why the decay should stop. But healing is a function of the living, at least in this realm.”
Jaina’s brow furrowed at the explanation, her finger tapping against her mouth as her mind worked. It made sense, even if it wasn’t the answer she wanted. “Is there a way, if we worked together, we could…I don’t know, revitalize a portion of them? Use magic to restore the bodies?”
“There are spells, yes. Sylvanas has used variations on them, though they required a living participant’s life force to make up for the imperfections in the body-soul connection. The principle should work the same now, without the need for external life to balance.”
“I have only used that on one individual at a time, however, and it took the sacrifice of one of the Val'kyr to work.” Sylvanas’ voice sounded cautiously hopeful. “Could it be done with so many? And that is not a challenge, wife,” she added with a pointed look at Jaina.
She chuckled at that. “Of course, dear. But theoretically, I don’t see why not. Could we do it, Annhylde? Without sacrificing anyone?”
“How many are you asking?”
The Val’kyr took a slow breath, her eyes going distant for a moment. “I believe so. Even in undeath, there is a resilience to children. But we will need all the Val’kyr.”
Jaina glanced at Sylvanas, who seemed to be taking that in carefully. “Do we need to gather the children together?”
“That, Bright Mage, depends on you. Can you feel them? Can you touch their essence from where you stand now?”
Closing her eyes, Jaina reached out. Sylvanas beside her was the strongest energy, irrevocably tied to her. On the other side, she felt Annhylde, both dark and bright in ways that only the arcane could explain. Nearby, but also further away, the rangers—Anya and Alina in the next room. Velonara and Lenara, not far. Areiel, Clea, Cyndia, Kitala, Kalira, Marrah, Vorel, Thandel, Zanra… Even Delaryn and the Night Elf rangers, Mira and the Dark Wardens. Each had their own unique signature, some above, some below. Even Derek, out by the docks. It was…strange. To realize she knew exactly where each of them were.
And the children. Oh yes, the children.
She could feel them, their tiny essences burning with such determination. “I have them.”
In the silence after her words, she felt the strength of her connection to Sylvanas as her wife placed a gentle hand on the small of her back. In a blink, her staff coalesced in her hands. And then the room flooded with the staggering force of all the Dark Val’kyr.
Each one with their focus on Jaina.
She sucked in a deep breath, then felt strong arms wrap around her from behind, and Sylvanas’ voice softly whisper in her ear. “I have you, Dalah’suran.”
And then all of Azeroth opened before her, through the weight of the Val’kyr.
It was such a simple thing, then. To heal the fractured bonds between body and soul under the Val’kyr’s guidance. To strengthen and restore small bodies, calling on the memories stored within them to knit and heal flesh. So easy, then, to do the same for the rangers, to return an eye here and a finger there, to pluck the last stitches left by the Scourge, stitches that were already dissolving. And Derek, too, his body ravaged by the sea for so many years, but the memory of life was there, stronger than the memory of watery decay. And there were so many, so many others, she could see them all, see the imperfect stitching, and it would be so easy—
So easy, to let it all go dark.
The piercing headache was the first thing she noticed. It refused to be ignored, refused to give her a moment to recall what it was that brought it on. Tides, the last time she’d felt like this was after trying to drown Orgrimmar, when the feedback from trying to channel so much rage into the focusing crystal and then not using it had left her bedridden for a day. Well, no, the last time was after sinking Nazjatar. That hadn't beenquite as bad, but close. Jaina was fairly certain she hadn’t done anything that bad this time around.
Jaina groaned as familiar hands propped her up and handed her a cup. She didn’t argue, Sylvanas’ softly spoken words had an edge of command to them that she’d come to recognize. The cup held mana wine laced with something that tasted mildly bitter, but eased the anvil beating in her head substantially.
She drained the cup and felt it taken from her hand before she hesitantly opened her eyes. The room around her was thankfully dark, the bed unfamiliar but soft. “Sylvanas?”
Her wife gently brushed a loose bit of hair behind her ear. “How do you feel?”
How did she feel? She hadn’t really paid attention, beyond the now-receding headache, but everything seemed fine. “Alright, I think. At least now that my head no longer thinks it’s an anvil. What exactly happened?”
Sylvanas shook her head. “You happened. Annhylde said you were trying to heal all the Forsaken.”
Jaina blinked. “Oh.” Oh, right. She remembered, now. The ease with which she’d used the Val’kyr and their power, and how easy it seemed to just reach out—
“We had to sever your connection rather abruptly.”
Jaina looked down at her hands. That explained the feedback headache. And the blackout. “Oh!” Her head whipped up, making her wince. “The children?”
Sylvanas gave her a look that held multitudes. Fondness. Annoyance. Humor. Worry. She turned to the door and beckoned. Anya stepped inside, a small elven child at her feet. A child that was clearly Forsaken, from the glowing blue eyes and tint of her skin, but one that showed no hint of decay.
The child clung to Anya’s leg, but her eyes never left Jaina. She pointed, and whispered to Anya, “Bright Lady.” She smiled back at Jaina, but the child’s eyes didn’t meet hers, just continued to look at her.
More specifically, at the swirling arcane scars she suddenly realized were visible. “Oh.”
Sylvanas’ hand covered her own. “I’m afraid half the Undercity has seen you now, Dalah’surfal.” She nodded to Anya, who led the child out. “The Val’kyr think you’re their new goddess. Even Annhylde was shocked. The last time anything like that ritual was performed, they were forced to exchange themselves to make it work. You healed I don't know how many, and yet all the Val'kyr are still with us.”
Jaina made a small noise. “I’m no one’s goddess, though I’m glad they weren’t forced to sacrifice themselves again. I wouldn’t want that.” She paused a moment, licking her lips in a nervous tic. “I frightened you, didn’t I?” She could still hear the panicked sound of her name being shouted, just before she passed out.
He wife pulled her into her lap and leaned their foreheads together. “You did.”
“I’m sorry, my love.” Jaina kissed her eyes, her nose, her mouth. “It was reckless. I wasn’t thinking. For a moment, everything was just…so easy.”
Sylvanas wrapped her arms around her tightly and hummed. “Come. We should return home. You should eat.”
Jaina chuckled softly and allowed her wife to pull her to her feet. They thanked the Forsaken woman whose home they’d been in, said goodbye to the children that hesitantly surrounded them. She felt self-conscious with all her scars alight, but as Sylvanas had pointed out, they had all seen them. And she didn’t quite feel like hiding them.
Hand in hand, rangers trailing behind and before them, they walked through the Undercity and back to the rebuilt Keep.
“You’re wrong, you know.”
Jaina smiled and looked at her wife. “Often, I’m afraid. What about this time?”
Sylvanas looked back, her eyes hardly red at all anymore, but instead a bluish-purple that bordered on grey. She didn’t answer immediately, but stopped to cup Jaina’s face in her hand, before she leaned in, to softly whisper.
“You’re my goddess.”
I absolutely did not make myself tear up writing or posting this, I don't know what you're talking about.
Chapter 20: Old Gods and Compromises
In which we finally answer the question on everyone's lips: What about N'Zoth?? Also, Sylvanas continues to struggle with unwanted pesky feelings, and Jaina is done being snapped at.
Wait, you mean that's not your question? To bad, it's what I've got.
Alternately, in which I roll my eyes at Blizzard not being able to follow their own damn lore (Blizzard: "You can't kill the Old Gods, because it will tear Azeroth apart!" Also Blizzard: "Guess what we're killing an Old God! With that thingy that was designed to reformat Azeroth!") and once again I'm forced to fix things.
And then write lots of snark, because I can. Which, having said that, I'm not spending a lot of time on N'Zoth, for myriad reasons, but mostly because I'd rather spend the time on our girls. *shrug* That is why you're here, right? Thought so.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So your plan is just to waltz into Ny’alotha?” Sylvanas watched as Proudmoore dragged a hand down her face and turned away from the smirking dragon. “Anduin, you can’t tell me you’re going along with this?”
Stormwind’s king sighed. “Auntie, please. What other choice do we have?”
“The void-induced dark visions are getting worse.” Alleria’s voice seemed oddly uncertain. “The last one Wrathion dealt with had me dragging Arator into the Void, and I will not let that become reality.”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched. That explained the pained and haunted tone of her sister's voice. Even estranged as they were, she could admit that. Though it seemed she had all the comfort she required, if the way the Life Binder hung close to her was any indication.
Well. That was an interesting development.
Still, Proudmoore didn’t relent. “I know he needs to be dealt with. But this sounds like you’re planning to actually kill an Old God—I thought that wasn’t possible, not without basically destroying Azeroth in the process? Sylvanas, tell me you’re not agreeing to this as well. I can’t be the only sane mind in this room.”
Sylvanas shrugged. “Normally, you’d be right, little mage. Perhaps the dragon can better explain?”
“I do have a plan, actually.” Wrathion smiled, twirling a knife in one hand. A knife that looked and felt very familiar.
“Where did you get that knife, dragonling?”
All eyes turned to where Sylvanas lounged in the corner, but it was Wrathion’s red-eyed smirk she focused on.
“I stole it from Azshara. But you, banshee, you seem to have some familiarity with it. I did wonder how she came to possess it.”
Sylvanas seethed. “Blightcaller.” For a moment, she regretted not tearing him limb from limb as Proudmoore had expected. “It had found its way to me, yes. I should have realized Nathanos had taken it.”
Proudmoore’s eyes narrowed. “Is that…Xal’atath?”
Wrathion’s smirk widened. “It is, in fact, yes.”
Proudmoore swept closer, plucking it from the dragon’s grasp. Sylvanas found herself fighting a twitch of the lips when Wrathion’s smirk turned to annoyance. “It feels different. Empty.”
“Yes.” The dragon’s claws flexed, as if he wished to snatch the dagger back. “The entity that was bound to it has been loosed. Which means—”
“Which means we can use it to trap N’Zoth! But still, to face him on his own turf—”
“Is the only way we can defeat him.” The black dragon did finally take the knife back, annoyance bordering on pouting at having his plan questioned.
Sylvanas rolled her eyes, though when she caught Alexstrasza doing the same, from where she stood too close to her sister, she wasn’t quite sure how she felt. This was ridiculous. “It’s a plan, which is more than we’ve had. But Proudmoore is right, it will be dangerous. His influence will be strongest in his own realm.”
Lor’themar, who had sat to the side silent this whole time, cleared his throat. “Yes. That’s why we thought it would be best to send the two most likely to be immune to his influence.”
Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed as he looked pointedly at her, then Proudmoore. “Not amusing, Lor.”
“It was not intended to be.”
“And just how did you arrive at that determination?” Proudmoore’s tone came across just as annoyed as Sylvanas felt.
Alexstrasza cleared her throat. “Sylvanas is uniquely immune to the pressures of the Void, indeed, N’Zoth and his minions seem especially averse to her necromantic magics. And you, Jaina, are simply too stubborn, logical, and good hearted to give in. Not to mention, too strong a mage.”
Sylvanas had to give the dragon that. But Proudmoore laughed, and not in amusement. “That’s possibly the most absurd thing I’ve heard today.”
“She makes a point, Proudmoore.”
Flashing blue eyes turned on her. “And what will you do, Sylvanas, if we reach Ny’alotha, and he does in fact turn me to the Void?”
Sylvanas pushed herself up from where she was lounging. Proudmoore’s ire was up, but she suspected it was a front for fear. And it was a valid fear. But despite the strange urge she felt to comfort the mage’s fears (and where in Belore’s name that came from, she didn’t want to know), if they were going to get anywhere, Proudmoore needed to be part of this. “Did you not wonder, little mage, that of all those the Old God chose to focus his nightmares on, not one of them touched you? You are as much a threat to him as I, possibly more. If he could touch you, he would have long before now.”
Proudmoore’s laser focus never dropped, but her small white brows pulled together as she took in the logic of Sylvanas’ words. As she wrestled with the implications. “That can’t be right,” she muttered, finally looking away.
It was odd how someone as powerful as Proudmoore could be completely aware of her powers, but still completely unaware just how powerful she was. Odd, and possibly a little—Belore’s tits what was wrong with her? It was a weakness, one she would be sure to train out of the mage once they were wed.
A weakness. Not endearing at all.
Snarling more at herself than the room, Sylvanas looked around. “Are we doing this, or not?”
Reality fluctuated around them as Proudmoore launched another massive fireball. Deathwhisper sang again and again, the Old God screaming with every strike, every shadow chain that pinned him. His great eye spun wildly until Proudmoore launched an ice barrage at it.
“You cannot trust her. She will betray you, and this world will fall to ruin!”
Proudmoore barked out a laugh. “Oh, please. Like the word of an Old God can be trusted. Is that really all you’ve got, Deceiver?”
“Even now she tricks you. Her servant—"
“Blightcaller is dead.” Sylvanas’ words echoed more strangely than usual through the twisted realm, even to her ears. “Whatever plot you and he were playing at died with him. Just as your bid for power will die now. WRATHION!”
Great black wings beat through the shuddering, shifting reality. N’Zoth struck out with his remaining free tentacles, but Wrathion shifted, flying through the air, leaving a cloud of smoke behind him. Xal’atath gleamed in the unlight and then sank deep, shattering the Old God’s carapace.
As Wrathion was cast aside, they doubled their attack. Sylvanas bound her chains to the knife, and opposite her, she could feel Proudmoore weaving a binding spell.
Behind them, Wrathion dusted himself off. “Now, Magni!”
Whatever magic the dwarven Speaker had managed to reawaken the Forge of Origination, it blazed to life focused entirely on the Old God. N’Zoth screamed as his bound body bled with Light fractures.
Sylvanas hissed as even the deferred Light burned her. It was too concentrated and too strong, and for a moment, as shadows steamed off her skin, she felt the panic of what death in Ny’alotha would mean for her.
And then N’Zoth exploded in a fury of Light and Void, and somehow Proudmoore was there, shielding her as Ny’alotha began to collapse around them.
The Black Prince plucked Xal’atath from where it had fallen. “It worked. He’s been sealed off, diminished and trapped in the knife.”
Proudmoore scowled. “Great, we need to go. Sylvanas—”
She snarled. Every inch of her burned, and it was all she could do to hold her shape. “Portal, Proudmoore. Now.”
“Go, Wrathion. Deal with the knife.” Sylvanas found herself almost tipped through a portal, onto cool ground and blissful darkness. “Anya! Velonara!”
Belore, what was Proudmoore—
The shock and concern in Anya’s voice was the last straw. There was a dim awareness that if they were in shouting distance, Proudmoore had brought her somewhere safe, but beyond that, Sylvanas didn’t care. She shed her corporeal body with a scream, leaving the pain of scorched undead flesh behind.
The only thoughts that drove her were hunt and blood.
There. The life-force of something large and powerful. Bear, came the whisper at the back of her mind, barely heard, but all she cared was that the flesh was meaty and the blood hot, and the pleasure of both lasted several minutes, leaving a heavy satisfaction in their wake.
Substantiality settled back on her slowly, hot blood cooling burned skin.
She hunted again, after the bear. An old boar, tough but hearty. Three deer, soft and bloody. Each body soothed the Light damage, turning to ash as she drained their life and blood. None of them were what she wanted. They were only warm blood and beating hearts. Not a soft flesh and wild blood flooded with savage arcane.
They were not who she wanted.
The stark realization forced her back to the Forsaken camp, her skin undamaged and her shadows mostly calmed, even if her mind was as unsettled and annoyed as ever. She hadn’t bothered to clean herself. She was tired, in need of rest. Her rangers knew better than to comment on her state.
She had not, however, counted on Jaina Proudmoore still being there.
“Are you sure she’ll be alright? I’ve never seen her like that.”
Sylvanas stopped short of the ruined church. Why was the mage still here? Why was she even bothering to, what, worry over her?
“The Dark Lady will be fine. She has ways of healing.”
She narrowed her eyes, annoyed that Anya had given away that much. But then, they were to be wives soon, and knowing the little mage’s curiosity, and her own new and unfortunate inability to keep anything from her…
“She was smoking, Anya. Like a roast over a fire. If I’d known they’d planned to use the Forge of Origination like that, I would have shielded her sooner.”
“Lord Admiral, you brought her here. She will heal. There’s no need to…fuss…over her.”
Sylvanas smirked at Velonara’s word choice. But why had Proudmoore brought her here? She had expected to be portalled back to Stormwind, where they’d set out from.
“It’s not fussing, I’m concerned—”
“There’s no need, Lord Admiral, I assure you—”
“Vel, don’t be rude—”
“Rangers.” Sylvanas stepped forward, annoyed by the bickering. A flick of her ear, and the two rangers slipped away. She turned to Proudmoore and was greeted by shock, her eyes wide. Her annoyance surged, until she remembered that she was covered in blood and offal.
Then her annoyance spiked farther.
“As you can see, Proudmoore, I am intact. Your duty is done, and you can leave.”
To her credit, the mage shook herself off and leveled a glare of her own. “I brought you here looking like an overcooked roast, and you return looking like you bathed in blood, and I’m supposed to believe you’re fine, just like that?”
Sylvanas ground her teeth. “Why do you even care?”
Proudmoore pressed her fingers to her forehead, rubbing at the crease between her brows. “Have you forgotten we’re to be wives? I thought we’d talked about this. We do it right, all or nothing. Am I not allowed to be concerned for you?”
Sylvanas growled. “I didn’t think we were going to be those kinds of wives.”
“Clearly not,” came the muttered reply. “Forgive me for being concerned about your well-being. I’ll try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The words should not have stung. The exhaustion radiating from the woman opposite her should not have been something she even cared about. Nor the dark circles under her eyes, or the stiff way she stood, braced to storm out.
Whatever unplanned response was about to fall from her mouth was interrupted by the reappearance of Anya. “Forgive me, Dark Lady, but there’s a dragon incoming.”
Proudmoore surprised her by swearing before she managed to. “What in the Tides does he want now?”
The mage swept from the crumbling church, Sylvanas and Anya hot on her heels. Wrathion (because of course it was the damned black dragonling) swept his wings to stall his descent, then dropped to the ground in his human form. “There you are, Jaina. We need to dispose of Xal’atath, and I was hoping you could manage it.”
Proudmoore rolled her eyes and held out her hand, encasing the knife in a chunk of ice as the dragon handed it over. “I assume you have a preferred location?”
Wrathion smirked. “I was thinking bury it in the stone of the Dias of Eternity, and re-sink Nazjatar?”
Proudmoore blinked at him, then shook her head. “Of course you were. Fine. What about the Heart of Azeroth?”
“Magni figures this is the best way to protect it. He’s already sealed it off.”
“Wonderful. Not like I had anything else I needed to do right now.”
“Excellent, I’ll leave it in your capable hands!” And then the dragon was gone in a handful of gusting wing beats.
“Sinking Nazjatar is not a small undertaking, Proudmoore.” Belore, why was she even talking? Proudmoore was already spinning up a portal.
“It’ll be just like drowning Orgrimmar. Why do you even care?”
“Did you or did you not have a focusing iris for that attempt?”
“I don’t need one.” The portal stabilized, but Sylvanas grabbed her arm before the mage could step through.
“You need a nap and sustenance. We just fought an Old God.”
The glare leveled at her could have set her on fire, had Proudmoore wished it, she was sure. “Fuck off, Sylvanas. If I’m tired, it’s only because you couldn’t bear to be civil for half a moment. Now let go so I can get out of your hair.”
Ridiculous, infuriating mage. “I’m coming with you.”
Proudmoore’s eyes narrowed, then she yanked her arm free and strode through the portal. “Do what you want.”
The void-darkness of the Eternal Palace had faded to mere night-darkness with the defeat of N’Zoth. Proudmoore wasted no time stalking through it to the empty Dias of Eternity, not even checking to see if Sylvanas followed or not. She had, though why she had was a mystery even to herself. Yes, Proudmoore looked exhausted, but surely the mage knew her own limits.
Still, Sylvanas followed. Watched as the stone of the Dias parted at Proudmoore’s command, and then closed back over the knife. Noted the bit of sweat that coated the mage’s brow as they made their way to the top of the palace. Felt the deep, pervasive power as Proudmoore reached into the ocean and commanded it.
Swore as the water rumbled and rushed in, and Proudmoore swayed. A shaky hand cast a portal back to Tirisfal Glades, and then, to Sylvanas’ complete and utter dismay, the mage uttered a single “Fuck,” and passed out.
Sylvanas swore louder, grabbed the mage, and dove through the portal as it wavered and the waves nipped at their heels.
Sylvanas paused her reading, but kept herself from glancing at the corner, where Jaina Proudmoore lay on a cot her rangers had scrounged up. From where, she hadn’t asked, and didn’t want to know. “There’s food and drink to your left.”
Silence, except for the rustling of blankets and the soft sounds of the living consuming food. Sylvanas’ ears twitched. She read the same line for the fourth time.
Proudmoore let out a soft moan.
Sylvanas clenched her fist.
After the seventh time trying to read the same sentence, she gave up and simply listened. To the soft sounds of chewing, swallowing, breathing. Living sounds. Sounds she’d long since grown unaccustomed to, and yet…
Belore, she didn’t want to go there.
Finally, Proudmoore’s small noises quieted, until all there was to hear was the sound of her breathing.
Sylvanas’ ears twitched at the raspy, whispered words. “I’m told it’s what wives do, even if we are not yet wives.”
She could almost hear the smirk. “I thought we weren’t those kinds of wives.”
Another twitch of her ears. “You should get some more sleep.”
Proudmoore yawned, slowly, audibly, followed by a soft hum. “I’d argue, but that sounds lovely.”
Sylvanas picked her reports back up. “Rest, then.”
For once, the mage didn’t protest.
Jaina really needs to stop (but she's not gonna, is she).
Chapter 21: In Pursuit
in which hunting plans are laid, Jaina gets annoyed, learns an interesting bit of elven culture, and finds that turnabout is fair play.
I make no apologies.
Thanks again to Fox_is_Fandumb for talking my anxiety off the ceiling.
She should have known this was going to be a problem.
“Velonara. Or should I call you Champion now?” To be fair, it had been a while since she’d been around so many elves.
Velonara swept a bow. “Whatever the Bright Lady wishes.”
Jaina sighed. “I thought we were past this nonsense where you all refused to use my name.” It hadn’t been a problem, at first anyway. The Dark Rangers had been hesitant to trust her, and even once she and Sylvanas started getting closer, they had kept their distance out of caution and awe.
The Suran’anari had changed everything, and then she’d gone and made it worse the other day in the Undercity, with the Val’kyr.
Velonara’s ears twitched in amusement. “As with our Dark Lady, we hold you in too high a regard.”
Jaina narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re just being irritating on general principle. I see how it is.”
“I would never, Bright Lady.” The grin widened. Shining eyes flickered over her open collar and the persistent bite marks Sylvanas was so enamored of inflicting. Her arcane scars she’d hidden again, more out of habit than anything else, but the bite marks were…well, she was fond of them. Fond of showing them off.
“Is there something I can help you with, Champion?”
Another amused twitch of the ears. “The Dark Lady wished you to know that Matriarch Liadrin and Regent Lord Lor’themar have arrived, and she would love you to join them in the main library when you’re available.”
Jaina allowed her gaze to return to the book she’d been studying, a rather dull treatise on the Scourge she’d convinced Khadgar to let her borrow. “Thank you, Velonara. You can let her know I’ll be down shortly.”
Two could play that game.
“Of course, Bright Lady.”
Jaina turned a page, really only skimming content she already knew. Velonara didn’t move. “Was there something else I could help you with, Champion? You know my wife dislikes being kept waiting.”
“Just admiring the view, Bright Lady.” A long enough pause that Jaina was contemplating chasing the ranger off with a few icicles, until Velonara finally spoke again. “I will pass your message to the Dark Lady.” The reminder of Sylvanas seemed to do the trick, even if only just, but she could still hear the amusement in the ranger’s voice.
“Oh, and Vel…”
“Yes, Bright Lady?”
Jaina let her eyes flash white with arcane as she looked up and pinned the elf with a glare. “Call me that one more time today and I’ll freeze you to the outside of the tower.”
Velonara gave a bright laugh. “As my Lady wishes.”
Jaina watched her leave. She was going to have to have a chat with Sylvanas. The book slammed shut as she stood, muttering under her breath. “Tides damned fucking elves.”
“We’ve made inroads as far west as the Dead Scar, but it’s slow going. Zul’aman is still tricky, though we’ve cleared most of the rest of the southern Ghostlands.” Lor’themar traced his finger along the map as he spoke, pointing out landmarks. “Your Val’kyr have been spotted around Windrunner Spire, but Deatholme is deeply entrenched with Scourge. I suspect it will take more than what the Sin’Dorei can provide alone to take that and Zul’aman on.”
Sylvanas shuffled around the maps. “The Eastern Plaguelands are still heavily hit and miss—the Argent Crusade has pieces of it, and I’d prefer to stay out of their way where possible. Stratholme, obviously, is still the major Scourge stronghold.”
Jaina nodded. “Liadrin or I can coordinate with them where necessary. There are still a number of smaller pockets here in the Western Plaguelands, correct?”
“Yes. The Val’kyr have been concentrating on clearing them out and encouraging the growth the Cenarion Circle started.”
Lor’themar stroked his tiny beard. “Much as I want to focus on the Ghostlands, for obvious selfish reasons, it appears our best approach might be to take on the Plaguelands, leading up to tackling Stratholme. I believe that if we can clear them out and free them of the Scourge entirely, it will weaken the remaining strongholds in the Ghostlands, Deatholme in particular.”
Sylvanas nodded. “Agreed.”
Jaina stroked her fingers along the maps. “I need to consult with the Val’kyr, but I think with their unique connection to the Scourge, we might be able to simply lay the Scourge to rest as we go, instead of having to fight through them.”
Lor’themar chuckled. “Simply, she says. As if we haven’t been trying to do that very thing from the start.”
“Far be it for Jaina Proudmoore to try her hand at anything the rest of us haven’t deemed impossible.”
Jaina blushed at the laughter in Liadrin’s voice. “It’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Some things are just highly complex and require the right circumstances.”
Lor’themar laughed even louder. “They really rather broke the mold with you, Lord Admiral. Sylvanas, how in the world did you manage to convince her to put up with your grumpy arse?”
“Don’t make me hurt you, old man.”
“Yes, yes, you’re terrifying.” He turned to Jaina, who was doing her best not to laugh. “Lady Proudmoore, it’s been a pleasure. Do let me know what you’ve discovered once you’ve researched your highly complex proper circumstances.” He bowed, still grinning, and kissed Jaina’s hand.
An arm snaked around Jaina’s waist. “You’re pushing it, Lor.”
“I’m simply being polite!”
Liadrin threw up her hands. “Children, the both of you. Come on, Lor, let’s leave them in peace before Jaina is forced to take drastic measures.” She hugged Jaina quickly, giving a pointed look at the marks up and down her neck, before turning to Sylvanas. “Nice work.”
Jaina felt the arm around her tighten, and she rolled her eyes. “Elves. You’re all ridiculous.”
Liadrin flashed her fangs and clapped Sylvanas on the shoulder. “Sadly true, I’m afraid. But you’re the one that married one.”
“Oh, I’m well aware.” She spun up a portal with a flick of her wrist and waved to them both. “We’ll keep you posted on any progress.”
The two living elves waved and stepped through the portal, which Jaina closed with a sigh. Behind her, Sylvanas tightened her arms around her waist and leaned in to nuzzle at her neck. “Everything alright, Dalah’surfal?”
Jaina leaned back into her wife and stretched her neck, giving more access for the fangs that grazed her skin. “Mmm. You elves are going to be the death of me.”
Sylvanas chuckled without stopping her exploration. “Who was it this time?”
“Velonara. Your new champion is getting bold.”
A huffed laugh. “Of course, it was Vel. She’s always been a handful.”
“She’s not the only one.” The scrape of teeth and a more possessive hold made her breath catch. “They’re all doing it. I’m beginning to regret strengthening them.”
Sylvanas hummed, progressing to open mouthed kisses and teasing nips. “They’re elves. They are used to sharing. And they care about you.”
Jaina’s sharp laugh melted into a moan as Sylvanas bit down gently on the cording of her neck. “So, they show they care about me by blatantly flirting to the point of annoyance?” The last word ended in a sharp intake of breath as Sylvanas’ hand gripped her breast in a claiming hold. “Tides, Sylvanas. A-aren’t they at all concerned that I’m bound to you?”
The hand that was not thoroughly occupied with her breast slid beneath her tunic, splaying across her stomach. “You have not told them to stop.”
“I—” Her response was cut off by a keening whine as teeth nipped at her ear. “Sylvanas, please.”
Mouthing at her neck again, her wife chuckled, the low sound shooting straight through her. “Anya and Alina are just outside. Should I call them in, wife? Let them watch as I ravish you? Or would you prefer they join in? I could even summon Velonara, if you wish.”
Jaina couldn’t have stopped her knees from buckling if her life had depended on it. Which it fortunately didn’t. Sylvanas’ teeth and touch burned through her, but when she spoke like that, it was like Jaina’s brain just shut off entirely.
Rational thought was highly overrated, anyway.
Except. She did want to talk about this.
She whined softly and forced the word out. “Wait.”
Sylvanas immediately stopped. “Dalah’suran?”
Jaina took a long, shuddering breath in, and turned in her wife’s arms. Forced herself to cool the heat in her blood. For a moment. Just a moment.
Because she’d really liked where this was going.
Sylvanas kissed the tip of her nose gently. “Too much?”
A breathy laugh escaped her. “No. Never. In fact, if we leave this room before you’ve pinned and fucked me on that map table, I’m going to be very upset. But I need to talk about this without distraction for a moment.”
Sylvanas settled her arms around Jaina’s waist and nodded. “I do not wish to make you uncomfortable, my heart.”
Jaina shook her head. “I’m not. But I have questions. Human cultures aren’t so open as elven, and I’d like to know what I’m getting into.”
Her wife smiled. “Always the researcher. But a fair request. To answer the first question you asked, it’s precisely because we’re bound that they’re so comfortable approaching you. Because they’re bound to me, to us, albeit in different ways. You’re important to them, and for elves that means physical reassurance, physical presence. A lot of touch.”
Jaina huffed out a laugh. “Yes, I knew elves were very touch oriented.”
“You also worked a minor miracle, restoring them the way you did. A lot of their senses were returned. Taste. Touch. They want to show you how much you mean to them, and for us that usually means physically.”
“Sexually, you mean.”
Sylvanas laughed. “Not always, but often, yes.”
“Have you been with them all?”
The question was asked without judgment, and the answer came just as simply. “Yes.”
Jaina gave her a thoughtful look. “Before or after undeath?”
“Both, but for much of undeath it’s been more simply…keeping company. What did you call it, a cuddle pile of elves?”
Laughing, Jaina rested her head on Sylvanas’ chest. “I still maintain that was the most accurate description possible.”
A sound that was equal parts laugh and grumbling purr rolled through Sylvanas’ chest. “It is fairly accurate, yes.”
“So.” Jaina played with the laces of her wife’s tunic. “Open relationship, just like that?”
Arms tightened slightly around her. “Only if you wish it, and only with the Dark Rangers. I won’t tolerate anyone else without previous discussion. What’s mine is theirs, but I am still quite possessive of you. And if you don’t wish it, you simply have to say.”
Jaina laughed loudly and kissed the underside of Sylvanas’ chin. “You, possessive? I never would have guessed. It’s not like you’re obsessed with marking me or anything.”
“You did say you enjoyed it. Also an elven thing, if you didn’t realize.”
“Of course it is. What else are you to do with those fangs? And I do rather enjoy it.” Jaina nipped roughly at her neck. “You need to stop healing the ones I leave on you.”
Sylvanas’ whole body shook with laughter. “But it annoys you so.”
“Damn right it does. I want everyone to know you’re mine.”
Sylvanas kissed her slowly. “Dalah’surfal, I could never be mistaken for anyone else’s.”
Jaina hummed. “Better not. You’re not the only one who’s possessive.” She folded herself back into her wife’s embrace and turned everything over in her head. The idea was… Not something she could have pursued on her own, she was fairly sure.
Years without being able to stand touch had left her with a far greater understanding of her wants and needs than she’d ever expected. With the mana burn under control, the thought of being allowed so much touch was overwhelming in the best ways.
And she’d come to greatly care for the rangers.
Honestly, there wasn’t much about it she could find as a bad side. Besides suddenly having too many elves wanting her attention.
Was that really a bad thing, though? And to be fair, they already all wanted her attention.
“Alright. But I’m letting you lead and deal with…logistics…at least until I get accustomed. And I’d rather take this slowly. How does something like this even work?”
“You’re certain this is what you want?”
Jaina smiled. “Yes. I believe it is.”
Sylvanas smiled widely and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe. “I hope so. You’re about to learn just how insufferable elves can really be.”
Jaina laughed. “Well. I do owe Vel a boon…”
“What, jealous already?”
“Of Velonara?” Sylvanas’ grin was one she usually saved for particularly grueling training sessions. “No. But if you think she’s annoying now, just wait.”
“And you made her Champion?”
“Let’s just say she’s the most overbearingly protective person I’ve ever met in my life. Ever. As well as a horrendous flirt.”
Jaina rolled her eyes. “Oh, trust me. I noticed.”
Sylvanas hummed, her teeth finding their way back to Jaina’s neck. “We could always make her watch. Right now. While I spread you out on the map table and mark every inch of your body.”
Jaina inhaled sharply. “Tides, that sounds tempting. But I did say slow.”
A rough chuckle sounded against her throat as her wife turned teeth back to soft kisses. “I wouldn’t have anyway. Velonara flirts a good game, but she’s an absolute kitten.”
Laughter bubbled its way up out of her. “Of course she is. It makes perfect sense. Well then, wife, how do we go about this? If I simply keep letting her flirt horribly, I think we’ll remain at a standstill.”
“Patience is something elves have a lot of. They’ll keep things as they are for years until you say one way or another. It’s the benefit of long lives, even before our undeaths.”
Jaina kissed her softly, humming into her lips. “So? What do I do?”
“Gifts, Dalah’suran.” She flicked her ears, deliberately making the earrings jingle. When Jaina's eyes widened, she kissed her one more time, then guided her to the door. “Come, I’ll show you. The map table can wait.”
Jaina sighed and looked at her wife fondly. “I suppose it’s not going anywhere.”
Jaina forced herself not to grin, simply turning a page instead of her head. “Champion.”
“You wished to see me, Bright Lady?”
“You’re really pushing it, Velonara.”
Tides, she could practically hear the elf smiling. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Bright Lady.”
Jaina couldn’t help it. The laugh burst out of her, ruining the cool façade she’d been trying to cultivate. She sat up, setting the book aside. “Oh, for Tides’ sake, you ridiculous elf. This has gone on long enough. Come over here.”
Velonara’s ears drooped when she came around to face her. “My Lady—”
“Enough, Vel.” Jaina stood, stepping closer to her. “I told you, it’s Jaina. Save the titles for company and public, at the very least, or I’ll rethink my threat to freeze you to the tower stones.”
The ears drooped even further, the elf’s head with them. “I apologize if I overstepped, Lady Jaina.”
“Vel.” Jaina shook her head. “I’m not upset with you. Tides, Sylv was right. You are just a kitten when it comes down to it.”
Velonara’s ears perked up in mild indignation. “I’m not—oh Belore take me, what did she tell you?”
Jaina gave her an indulgent look and smiled. “She explained a few things to me. Some things about elven customs, and behaviors.” She fiddled with the small thing in her hand, glancing down at it before holding it out to the ranger, whose eyes widened. “Would you like me to do it?”
Velonara was not nearly so good at hiding her emotions as Sylvanas, and Jaina had become very good at reading her wife’s subtleties. Reading Vel was simple, once she had the right context. The ranger champion’s face cycled from disappointment to shock to hope and back to shock in a matter of seconds as she looked at the small earring in Jaina’s palm. “I didn’t think you’d…”
“I swear, all of you elves are utterly ridiculous. I can’t answer a question I don’t know is being asked. You may all have the patience that comes with near immortality, but I’m human and pretty damned impatient. I’m not particularly good at years of pining.”
“Then I’m afraid, wife, you married the wrong person.” Stepping out of the shadows, Sylvanas wrapped strong arms around her from behind, speaking the words right next to her ear. “We’re all excellent at pining for years.”
Jaina snorted. “Yes, well, seems that warning is a little late, as I’m stuck with you. I thought you were going to let me handle this?”
“Perhaps your impatience has rubbed off on me.”
This time it was Velonara who snorted, and both Jaina and Sylvanas raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged, face flushed and grinning.
Jaina shook her head. “Tides damned elves.” With a quick kiss to her wife’s cheek, she gestured to the ranger. “Get over here, Vel.”
Velonara’s cheeks flushed darker as she knelt in front of Jaina, turning her head so her right ear was nearest. A few muttered words from Jaina, and the new ring with its miniature anchor and feather hung from the long ear, and the ranger’s face turned an entirely new color as Jaina pressed a soft kiss to her forehead.
“Now, I believe I still owe you a boon…”
Chapter 22: Preparations
In which plans are made (continued?), too many protests are made, Jaina gets annoyed, Sylvanas catches feelings, and in general things move forward towards the inevitable union—because what else are they to do, now peace is actually a possible reality?
Getting close now, aren't we? Thanks to everyone who's stuck with me through this, and everyone who keeps finding it new.
“Jaina, you cannot be serious.”
“Mother, we’ve been through this.”
“Forgive me for hoping you’d come to your senses and change your mind.”
“Mother.” Jaina rubbed her forehead and continued to pace. “The wedding is going forward in a week, and we will hold it here. Lordaeron still needs cleansing and rebuilding, Orgrimmar and Stormwind are far too political, and Windrunner Village isn’t secure.” It was on the list of the many, many things she wanted or needed to look into once this was done, even if Sylvanas had given up on it. She needed to remember to reach out to Lor’themar about it. But not right now. “Boralus is the only place that makes sense, unless you’d rather your only daughter be married on a ship in neutral waters…”
Katherine Proudmoore rolled her eyes. “I’d rather my only daughter wasn’t marrying the undead Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, just to seal a treaty.”
“You’re hardly one to talk about political marriages, Mother. You and Father would happily have married me off to Arthas, or even Kael’thas, given the right circumstances. You almost did. How is this any different?”
“Neither of them were undead murderers.” Katherine sighed. “Well. Not at the time, at least.”
Jaina gave a tired laugh, and even her mother allowed herself a small smiled. This was ridiculous, honestly. “Neither of us are saints, Mother. You know this better than most. I’ve done horrible things, many no worse than Sylvanas. And maybe…maybe that’s why this will work. She’s not as horrible as you think, either. Most days. When she’s not being a stubborn ass.”
Katherine raised an eyebrow. “I claim the right to reserve judgment on that. She is, after all, marrying my daughter.”
“Your daughter who is also occasionally a stubborn ass?”
Sitting, Katherine picked up her tea. “You come by it honestly, at least. There’s reason the world says stubborn as a Kul Tiran, but here the saying is stubborn as a Proudmoore. Your father was just as bad. I suppose if there really is no talking you out of it, then we will have to have your wedding here in Boralus.”
“Thank you.” Jaina accepted a cup of tea, but declined a seat. “I need you to promise you’ll be on your best behavior.”
Katherine sipped her tea, drawing the moment out.
“Oh, fine. I’ll behave. I suppose I owe her that, just for giving us Derek back.”
Jaina’s lips quirked, but with that concession she finally sat down. “Yes, you do. At the very least.” She drained her teacup and set it aside. “Now. If you’re done protesting, why don’t you fill me in on what I know you’ve already secretly got planned?”
“I am not wearing a dress.”
Jaina forced herself not to smile. “I never said you had to. I wouldn’t presume. All I asked is that we dispense with at least most of the armor. Both of us, not just you.”
“I suppose you’ll be wearing a dress, then? Complete with all the fripperies? Not a bit of armor in sight?”
Jaina rolled her eyes. “We’ve had this conversation before, I recall. But yes, I had planned to wear a dress. Not with all the fripperies, as you call them, but still something nice. It’s been…a long time since I had any cause to wear something nice.”
Sylvanas made a noise, her ears twitching. “I suppose you’re not going to let this go until I find something suitable.”
“I’d be willing to compromise if you’ve got something ceremonial that isn’t covered in skulls.”
Snarling, Sylvanas began to pace, stalking the length of the room. “I won’t be a doll for you to dress up as you choose.”
Jaina pinched the bridge of her nose and reminded herself to breathe. “Sylvanas, I realize you find a perverse sort of joy in antagonizing and annoying me, but this is getting ridiculous. I’m not trying to dress you like a doll, and I’m not insisting you wear anything you don’t want. I was trying to have a simple discussion, not upset you.”
“I imagine our marriage will be full of just such simple discussions, won’t they…wife.”
Jaina felt the breath catch in her chest. It was an odd feeling, especially in the middle of what could easily be called a lover’s spat centered around planning their wedding. It was absurd. But the way Sylvanas said wife… She put a hand on her diaphragm and closed her eyes for a moment. “I’m hoping our conversations will return to being more congenial. Or at least less antagonistic. I had thought we’d managed to at least come to a working partnership. I don’t understand why you’re being such an ass lately.”
Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed, her ears laying back almost flat, her piercing red gaze boring a hole into Jaina. The muscles in her jaw shifted so subtly that even a month prior Jaina likely wouldn’t have noticed.
That was…an interesting thought. That they’d spent enough time together that she could pick out those minute details about her soon-to-be wife. That if she could, it was likely Sylvanas could too.
“You are right.”
The growled words startled Jaina out of her reverie. Straight into bafflement, though Sylvanas, her ears laying even flatter, continued before she could question them.
“I am…unused…to having anyone…care.” The words came out stiff, like grinding gravel. “You don’t deserve to have me take my frustrations out on you. I apologize, and I will…make an effort to be less…abrasive.”
Jaina sighed. It was something. An apology. But Tides it was the stiffest she’d seen the former Warchief, well, ever. “I’m not your enemy, Sylvanas. You can talk to me, if you need. You can even tell me if I’m pushing too much. I wish you’d at least tell me what’s eating at you so much that you’re lashing out like a wounded sabercat. Is it this wedding? Is it the thought of being tied to me? Are you feeling too confined by this?” Is it me, am I so abhorrent to you, she almost asked.
“No, Belore damn you!” Sylvanas whirled on her, eyes blazing and shadows melting off her in her sudden fury, and Jaina crumbled inside. “You are what’s eating at me, Proudmoore! You, who helped me when you had no reason to. You, who believed me when no one else would have. You, who championed me before your friends and allies, and then bound yourself to me, giving me everything I’ve spent my entire undeath fighting for. You, Proudmoore, because I cannot understand you!”
Jaina stared in shock. Blinked. Swallowed. Turned the information over in her head. It made sense, she supposed, one her initial upset quelled. When was the last time anyone had offered Sylvanas Windrunner, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, Undead, former Warchief of the Horde, anything resembling kindness? Friendship? Anyone other than her rangers, and possibly Lor’themar and Liadrin. She’d likely spent her entire undeath having to look over her shoulder, waiting for the next betrayal.
How utterly exhausting it must have been. How incredibly lonely it must be.
Sylvanas snorted, her shadows disappearing in a blink, and Jaina realized she’d said those last thoughts out loud.
“They underestimate you, Proudmoore. Your magic isn’t the most dangerous thing about you. That analytical mind is.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, obviously a calming tactic, because when she continued, Sylvanas’ voice was softer. “I could not have asked for a better ally, and you’ve constantly proven that. But you’ve stirred up things like trust that I find the feeling of somewhat…unfamiliar. Disconcerting. I…appreciate you, Proudmoore. Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve sacrificed. Your…friendship. No one else would have offered that.”
Jaina shook her head. “Then they’re missing out.”
“On what, my charming personality?”
“Constant tongue lashings and pouting.”
“I do not pout, Proudmoore.”
“Oh, you definitely pout, Windrunner.”
Sylvanas snarled, eyes narrowing, and then unexpectedly laughed. “I suppose I have been, haven’t I? If you tell anyone that, I’ll have to kill you, treaty be damned.”
“What’s this? Sylvanas Windrunner trusting me with her secrets?”
Sylvanas gave her a look she couldn’t interpret. “It’s not the first. A secret brought us to this strange…friendship.”
Jaina grinned. “Now I definitely can’t tell anyone. They’d never believe the Banshee Queen called me friend.”
“Don’t get too used to it, Proudmoore. I’m liable to go back to pouting.”
What were they doing? Was this…were they bantering? Jaina rubbed her diaphragm, trying to push out the odd fluttering feeling. She cleared her throat, suddenly understanding Sylvanas’ confusion. “So, would you be willing to forego the armor? For the wedding?”
“I suppose I could find something suitable. It’s time for new armor, anyway, something not in Horde colors.”
“Who knows, maybe you can even go with a few fewer skulls.”
“Don’t push your luck, wife.”
There it was again. That feeling. “Not yet, I’m not. Speaking of which, we do need to make another decision. Who is actually performing this ceremony? It can’t be Anduin, or Thrall, or any major faction leader.”
Sylvanas’ ears twitched. “Yes, that would set poor precedent. The logical answer would be a member of one of our peoples. A Tidesage or Shadow Priest, though I’m not fond of either of those options. Your mother, were she still Lord Admiral, would not have been a bad choice. Although, I suppose she is still an option, as the eldest of House Proudmoore and your acting second in the admiralty—”
“Titans forbid, Sylvanas! I’ve barely gotten her on board with this, and only because I threatened to have the wedding on a ship in neutral waters. That was apparently too much to bear, but she might reconsider if she’s forced to actually perform the ceremony.” Jaina sighed. This was exactly the problem. The whole thing was too political, and there just wasn’t a good option. Unless… “What about Derek?”
Both Sylvanas’ eyebrows shot up. “Your brother? Interesting.” She tapped her lip with one gauntleted finger. “He is family. Kul Tiran, and Forsaken.”
“He was a ship’s captain. Gives him the authority. And I’d been thinking about asking him to be in charge of integrating our navies, so there’s a rank in there somewhere we can figure out. Commodore, or something.”
Sylvanas nodded. “It’s a good idea. Both of them, actually. I can’t think of anyone better, or even less controversial. He has my vote, if he’s willing.”
“Oh, he’ll love it, trust me. There will be some push-back because he’s undead, but honestly I just don’t give a rat’s ass. Anyone who wants to complain about that can step off a portal to the Void.” Jaina looked up, only to find Sylvanas giving her another of those undecipherable looks. “What?”
Sylvanas held her gaze for a moment or two before turning away. “I should return to the Glades. There are…matters…I need to attend to.”
“Oh. Right. Of course. I think that was the last thing regarding the wedding I needed to bother you with.” Why she had simply assumed Sylvanas would remain in Boralus until their wedding was beyond her. Why she felt so disappointed that she wasn’t was an even bigger mystery. Shaking the feelings off, Jaina quickly spun up a portal to Tirisfal Glades. “I’ll let you know if anything else comes up.”
Sylvanas raised an eyebrow. “I could get used to having my own personal portal mage, you know.”
“Good thing we’re getting married, then. Perhaps it will make up for the fact that you’re stuck with me.”
Sylvanas’ eyes flashed, this time with humor. “Well, you are an irritating nuisance. I suppose I can grow accustomed, for the sake of the treaty.”
“Oh, good. Because you’re still an annoying ass, and I’m not holding out hope for that to change.” Jaina grinned. “But I’ll put up with it. For the sake of the treaty, of course.”
“Of course. Lucky me.”
Chapter 23: Fallen Crown
In which Jaina gets her research on, solutions are found, a fight ensues, and everyone gets some much needed closure.
With bonus! elven! cuddle piles!
Good glory, words are like pulling teeth. I rewrote the beginning to this three times and switched POV twice. The existential dread is raging, sleep has abandoned me, and my muse has taken to beating the shit out of me just for kicks. Hopefully this is up to my usual quality, and my sincerest apologies if it's not.
And yes, you did read the chapter count right. The end is nigh.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Threads connect us all, everyone and everything.” Annhylde waved her hand, and Jaina saw. “All that we interact with, all that we touch. Some are fleeting. Some are all but unbreakable. Some we constantly reinforce.”
The threads binding her to Sylvanas were a blinding mixture of dark and light that seemed to redouble with every breath. Similarly, the threads connecting her to the Val’kyr, and the Rangers, and between all the Rangers and Sylvanas and the Val’kyr, a complex web of light and dark that was ever growing and evolving.
And then her view expanded, slowly at first, then growing more rapid, until she saw not just her own threads, past and future, but all Azeroth. It was too much, of course, and Jaina shut her eyes against it, but the understanding lingered. “The Scourge. You’re saying they too are bound by these threads.”
“Indeed, Bright One.”
With a deep breath, Jaina opened her eyes again, focusing on the Scourge and the dark, twisting threads that wove in and through them and back to Icecrown, and the Helm, and the lingering traces of Ner’zhul and the demonic fel magics of the Legion. Threads that bound the Scourge to their bodies, other threads that bound them to the Helm.
They weren’t the same threads.
“It’s two things. Two parts…”
She felt arms tighten around her, and lips graze her skin, before a rumbling, growlish purr reverberated against her back and murmurs stirred around her. Well and truly pinned, Jaina found herself too tired to tell who or how many, beyond Sylvanas firmly at her back. It had not taken long for the rangers to seek out their bed. One or two at first, then more. Never all, but only because some always remained on duty, but definitely most. It was…nice. Very nice. She knew Sylvanas was enjoying it, enjoying the fact that it made it that much harder for her to drag herself from her wife’s arms and back to the research her mind wouldn’t let go of. Enjoying the way the rangers trailed her everywhere, making sure Jaina ate when Sylvanas’ duties dragged her away or delayed her, following her to various libraries scattered throughout Azeroth, including the restricted libraries in Dalaran.
If Jaina had thought she was never alone before, when the following had been discrete and minimal, it held nothing on this new following. There was nothing subtle about it. Indeed, she had all the touch and companionship she could ever have asked for. Jaina sighed, not unhappily held in place, trying to grab the last threads of her dream—
Threads. That was it.
Threads that bound them. Bound the Scourge, just as surely as she and Sylvanas and the Dark Rangers and the Forsaken and the Val’kyr—
“I can hear your mind racing, Dalah’suran.” Her wife’s arms tightened again briefly and Jaina turned into the face that nuzzled her. “It’s very loud for so early in the morning.”
Jaina blinked. “Is it? Early, I mean.”
“Sun’s not even up,” came the sleepy reply from the far side of the bed. Alina, she thought.
“Ah.” She sighed again. “I’m sorry, my heart.”
A quiet grunt was the only acknowledgment, and for a few moments the only sounds were drowsy murmurs and shifting bodies. “What is two things?”
Against her, Sylvanas froze in a stillness she rarely used around Jaina anymore. “You found something, didn’t you.”
Jaina hesitated. It was early, and part of her simply wanted to go back to sleep, surrounded and held by her strange new family. But her analytical mind had grabbed hold of this, and she knew if she went back to sleep she might lose the threads…so to speak. “I did. It’s ridiculous, honestly. But something Annhylde said in the Undercity kept pricking at me. About the imperfection of the necromantic ties that bind the undead to their bodies. And then just now, I was dreaming, and Annhylde and I were having a conversation about threads. The threads that connect us, connect the Scourge… It’s imperfect because the Scourge isn’t one spell, which is how we’ve always approached it. The plague itself is a spell, one that effectively primes the bodies as it kills them. That’s why when Ar—”
She broke off, her breath hitching as she tripped over the name. Arms tightened around her again, lips caressing her neck, as several rangers instinctively scooted closer, Anya’s smaller form curling into her arms, Velonara’s hands reaching past her to offer her touch as well.
Jaina breathed. When she continued, her voice was softer, the words came slower. “It’s why when Arthas killed the infected in Stratholme, they didn’t just rise immediately after. The plague hadn’t finished the job. And even once the plague has primed the bodies, they still have to be awakened—so there’s the priming thread and the necromantic binding thread.”
Sylvanas made a small noise. “And what exactly does that mean?”
“The plague itself is demonic in nature. We know that by itself it can be eliminated or cured, but that doesn’t affect the Scourge—the binding itself needs to be severed. And I… I think I might know how to do that.”
“Killing them seems an effective means of severing that binding.” Velonara’s comment tumbled in a tired voice from the far side of Anya.
“No—well, yes, but that’s not what I mean. It always bothered me that Uther and Terenas insisted there always had to be a Lich King. Any spell that can be cast, can also be undone. And I’ve figured out the key to how to undo this one. At least, I think I have. It’s just a matter of knowing what thread to pull on.” Jaina gave a tired smile. “Well, that and having enough mana to pull it.”
Sylvanas pushed up to look her in the eyes, her face serious. “Dalah’suran, I don’t care what Alexstrasza said, you are not an endless supply of mana. Even you have your limits.”
The look Jaina gave her was spoiled by the yawn that overcame her.
Sylvanas tsk’d at her and lay back down, pulling her more tightly into her embrace. “Sleep. We’ll discuss this at a more reasonable hour.”
Jaina grumbled, but was half asleep before the rangers had finished readjusting themselves around her.
In the end, the Scourge proved shockingly easy to unravel, once Jaina understood them. Sylvanas and her Val’kyr held the key, though proper understanding didn’t come to her until well into the day, after she’d had time to think through her strange dreams.
Not dreams, something whispered in the back of her mind.
That made it all click. Not dreams. An actual conversation with Annhylde, simply on a different…plane? Realm? One more easily accessed via sleep.
One the Val’kyr call home.
Jaina narrowed her eyes, until the force of the realization pushed them wide. Ner’zhul, the Helm, the curse that made it… “The threads tie it to another realm.”
Sever the threads, then destroy the Helm.
And the Scourge…the Scourge she could dismantle the same way she’d strengthened the Forsaken, just in reverse.
Like cutting threads.
“Do you want to save the Scourge, or simply eradicate them?”
Silence answered her question, excepting the smallest sound of a tray being slid onto her desk. Jaina looked down at it, blinked her surprise, then looked up into the eyes of her wife, narrowed under drawn brows. Sylvanas twisted her lips in a way that exposed one fang—the equivalent, she’d learned, of a human pursing their lips. “Explain.”
Jaina pinched a bit of thick bread off the sandwich that now sat before her and stuffed it in her mouth. “Think of the Scourge as bound by threads. Multiple threads. Threads that bind them to their bodies, threads that bind them to the curse that makes them Scourge, threads that bind them to the Helm. I could sever them all. Lay them to rest once and for all. Or I could sever all but those that bind them to their bodies, making them essentially—”
Her wife stood silent long enough that Jaina began to worry she’d miscalculated. That she’d let her analytical research mind plow ahead when compassion should have led the way.
“You ask me to decide their fate, as though I know what they might choose.”
The words were soft and hesitant.
Jaina shifted in her seat. “I’m sorry. I should have—I thought if anyone, you would have a better idea of what would be best. Kindest.”
Sylvanas sighed and pulled a chair up as close beside her as possible, gesturing for Jaina to eat. “Once I would have said death was far preferable. That I had nothing to live for beyond revenge, and death was a blessing, one I—we—had all been denied.” She ran a hand through her hair, smiling ever so slightly at the moan that slipped from Jaina as she bit into her sandwich. “I was proven incalculably wrong when I threw myself from Icecrown and learned of the fate that awaited me.”
Jaina swallowed thickly, the food in her mouth turning to sawdust at the thought of her wife alone, impaled on frozen spikes of unyielding saronite, seeing nothing but the cold terror of the void that was her eternal curse. It was a horrifying image, one that made her stomach lurch in protest, until a cool hand covered her own.
“I never imagined that any joy might come of my undeath. I never imagined you, Dalah’suran.” Jaina leaned forward, finding relief in the arms of her wife. “I cannot make that decision for anyone else. If you can, as you say, free them from the curse that binds them, I would argue that they should be given that choice themselves. If you cannot, then death is a kinder option than leaving them eternally serving the Legion’s plague, even if the one who wears the Helm is not currently strong enough to control them.”
“Then we will give them the choice.”
In the end, most of the Scourge chose the peace of death, and Jaina found she could not blame them. It made the process take longer, freeing them in order to offer a choice, allowing them the time to choose. But considering there had been a low-key ongoing war against the Scourge for years that had made little ground, the amount of time they lost in the asking was inconsequential—especially in the face of the morality of it.
Those that chose undeath with the Forsaken were escorted to Lordaeron and assigned people to aid their transition, something Sylvanas had arranged on the chance that some might take that leap.
Further proof the Forsaken were never the monsters they had been portrayed as.
With the help of the Sin’dorei, they soon managed to do what no one had yet been able to do—purge the continent of Scourge. Plague cauldrons found (Jaina, it seemed, through her connection with the Val’kyr, had an innate sense of where those remaining had popped up) and eliminated (neutralizing them turned out to be only marginally more difficult than neutralizing the blight). The harder project was cleansing the land itself, but after a long consultation between Jaina and both Thalyssra and the Val’kyr, they managed it.
Jaina stood with her wife at the top of Windrunner Spire as Sylvanas watched the sun rise unencumbered over Eversong Forest for the first time since her death. Neither spoke, but the tears—real tears—that streaked the former Ranger-General’s cheeks said more than enough, as did the hug they were both engulfed in once the Dark Rangers decided they’d had enough alone time.
And then there was only one place remaining.
Jaina shivered, looking at it. Sylvanas had once called it a monument to our suffering. There was much speculation that it was a veil between life and death, but looking at it through eyes that the Val’kyr had taught to see, she knew now that wasn’t the case.
It was a veil, yes. But then again, not truly that. More like a place where the veil between realms thinned, where the portion of the Twisting Nether through which Kil’jaeden had cast Ner’zhul into the Helm of Domination and Frostmourne. (Predictably, when she had explained as much, Sylvanas’ response had been that it was overcomplicated and not dramatic enough for a good monologue.)
Bolvar Fordragon, Lich King, sat on his frozen throne, and greeted them with his Scourge army.
Well, greeted Sylvanas.
The rest stood waiting and hidden. Icecrown may have been the Lich King’s domain, but ice was Jaina’s. It was a simple thing to hide herself, and the Dark Rangers, and the Val’kyr. And this, a lone confrontation, had been Sylvanas’ plan.
“Banshee. I told you before, you don’t belong here. Why have you returned?”
Jaina watched as Sylvanas surveyed the field, every inch the general, until slowly turning her eye back to where Bolvar sat on his frozen throne.
“I told your predecessor once that no king rules forever.”
The Lich King stood slowly, bringing his burning maul with him. “There must always be a Lich. Do you seek this for yourself? Or do you look for the revenge that was denied you?”
Jaina could almost feel the smile that crept across her wife’s face. “You’ve been deceived, Fordragon. There is a rule to magic, one my wife recently taught me. What is done, can always be undone. Do you not wish for this to be undone? Do you not wish to be free of this prison?”
Bolvar’s eyes glowed crystalline blue, and the same ice blue flames burst from his maul and transformed the dragon fire in his flesh. As he strode forward, the Scourge army growled and shouted.
Sylvanas raised a hand slightly, and in Jaina’s mind Annhylde whispered now.
Jaina tugged, severing threads, and the Scourge stumbled.
Turned to each other in confusion.
And then fell through a massive portal in the ice.
Bolvar growled and charged Sylvanas.
Leaving Hildana and Velonara to watch the fight, Jaina took the remaining rangers and Val’kyr to where she’d portalled the former Scourge. They had begun to wander, but were easily collected again.
Among them, all dating back to the times of the prior Lich Kings, none chose to remain beyond a handful of Death Knights. It was disheartening in some ways to see that none wanted to live on, but Jaina could not truly blame them. Death had been denied them, undeath and endless atrocities forced on them. Most of their friends and families were likely long gone.
Peace was, as Sylvanas had said, kinder.
Sending the few remaining Death Knights back to Lordaeron with Kalira and Clea and the Val’kyr twins Eydis and Fjola, Jaina returned to the fight with the remainder.
Only to step straight into a blizzard.
“The Dark Lady—” Anya made to push past her, but Jaina held out her arm to stop her.
She could feel Sylvanas in the storm, Bolvar too. “She’s alright.” Ice creaked, and Jaina tensed, wondering if she’d spoken too soon, but she felt the shadows shift and pull, and relaxed again.
A moment later, the storm cleared.
The Lich King stood searching, his body and armor riddled with Sylvanas’ arrows. He thrashed as purple and black chains began to sprout from them, trying and failing to break them. But shadows do not break, and in his turmoil he missed what Jaina did not—
Sylvanas coalescing out of the shadows, another arrow-sprung chain coming as if called to her hand. She gave one enormous tug, and an enormous portion of ice broke off above the throne and hurtled towards the struggling Lich King.
Bolvar noticed with enough time to raise his maul, but nothing more. And when the ice and snow settled, he struggled to one knee as Sylvanas stalked towards him.
Chains pulled him back down and held him tight, and Jaina walked out of cover to join her wife as Sylvanas’s shadows twisted the Helm of Domination from Bolvar’s head.
“You are unfit to wear this crown. To wield so much power.”
Bolvar sank to his knees, all trace of ice blue fire gone, as Jaina stepped up to her wife’s side. Held out before them, the Helm whispered with remnants of Ner’zhul’s and Arthas’ voices.
“That power…” Bolvar panted, “will be your prison.”
Sylvanas glared at him, shadows dancing around her. “I thought once that this world was a prison. I thought that death could set us all free. But this,” she hefted the Helm again, her eyes glowing the brightest red she’d seen them since their Suran’anari, “this denied me even that.”
Jaina shook her head. “The power and the prison will be no one’s.” She put a hand to her wife’s shoulder, rubbing the gilt silver feather tooled into the black and purple pauldron. “Ready?”
Sylvanas took a breath, the red fading from her eyes, and nodded. “When you are, wife.”
Jaina quirked her lips at Bolvar’s startled expression, and reached for her staff. Holding it firmly in one hand, gauntleted hand out, she gave her wife a nod.
Sylvanas slowly turned the helm over in her hands, until she held it as if to place it on her head.
And then she pulled.
A white blue crack appeared, streaking up through the foreplate, then spreading. Sylvanas’s shadows writhed, energy poured from the cracks, and then with a scream so loud Jaina struggled to contain the force of it, Sylvanas ripped the Helm in two.
In that moment, with the Val’kyr in a circle around them, Jaina caught the threads.
The Burning Legion.
The souls of those lost to the plague.
The souls of those slaughtered by Frostmourne.
Jaina caught them all, twisted, and severed them all.
Jagged ends retracted like a burned hand, slipping through the veil to return to the Twisting Nether, while the ends that once joined the Helm dissolved.
Bolvar slumped to the ice with a groan as Sylvanas dropped the ruined halves of Lich King’s crown.
He looked up as Jaina crouched next to him. “She called you wife.”
Jaina smiled as she felt a hand close over her shoulder and reached up to cover it with her own. “She did.”
Bolvar gave a tired nod. “You were right when you said death would set us free.”
“I can give that to you, if that’s what you want. Not the false void the Helm would have trapped you in, but your true afterlife. Peace.”
“Taelia…she believes I’m dead?”
Jaina nodded. “She was told you gave your life to defeat the Lich King. What whispers she may have heard since, I don’t know, but she’s never said otherwise.”
Bolvar grunted. “Is she happy?”
“She is. She’s a member of the Proudmoore Guard. You’d be proud.”
He nodded. “If you can give me peace, then let me go. I am tired beyond reckoning.”
“Rest, then.” Jaina grasped at threads once more and split them cleanly before nodding to Hildana. The giant Val’kyr bowed, then vanished to escort Bolvar's soul to his rightful afterlife. Before them, Bolvar Fordragon’s body turned to ash.
The Scourge was no more.
Jaina stood, feeling a multitude of hands catch her as she sagged, exhaustion washing over her in waves. She leaned into the rangers comforting hold as Sylvanas stroked her face and kissed her brow.
“Come, Dalah’surfal. Let’s go home.”
For anyone who wants to know... Hildana is the absolutely giant Val'kyr. Because who doesn't like huge buff women? And yes, that IS canon.
Tides, I'm tired.
Chapter 24: Let No Man Sunder
In which Derek is almost as observant as his dratted sister, Sylvanas finds herself in the most terrifying of positions, and there is, in fact, dancing.
I am tired. Is anyone else tired? I am so incredibly tired.
We're about there. Long awaited events transpire in this chapter, and hopefully a few things to make you smile. This has been an incredible journey. Thank you all for sharing it with me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sylvanas paced, trying to calm her thoughts by moving her feet.
It wasn’t working.
At every turn, Jaina Proudmoore had seen her. Even when she was acting like an ass (and she had been acting like an ass, she could admit that). It was…disconcerting. Dangerous. It was dangerous to be seen so well.
Proudmoore had done nothing but help.
Sylvanas had tried to take advantage of that, and had simply been given more. So she’d been an ass and tried to push her away, only to be called on it. Now they were to be treaty-bound, and at Proudmoore’s insistence live like actual wives. It was maddening.
Sylvanas had wanted nothing for herself since the Lich King’s death. Even before, everything she had done had been for the Forsaken. Even this, marriage to Proudmoore, was for the Forsaken, for their safety, for their future.
Was it wrong that she wanted this for herself, as well? That she wanted Proudmoore’s…friendship, partnership…
Was it wrong to hope for more?
Foolish, that’s what it was. Incredibly foolish.
Belore, she was a thrice damned fool.
And still that ugly hope burned like tiny embers that wouldn’t die.
It was ridiculous to think Proudmoore could possibly want more from her. Friendship and partnership she’d asked for, and Sylvanas found, with surprise, she could give those easily. Wanted to, even.
Belore damn Proudmoore for making her feel again.
Sylvanas stopped her pacing, back facing the space that once housed a door. “What is it, Anya?”
“A visitor, Dark Lady. Proudm—”
Sylvanas spun. She hadn’t felt the signature snap of her arcane, which was strange, unless something was wrong—
Forsaken blue eyes stared back from a face that had weathered too many years in the Tidemother’s bosom. Derek Proudmoore bowed with a lopsided grin. “Dark Lady. Or should I call you Sylvanas, since you’re very shortly about to be family?”
“Mister Proudmoore.” Sylvanas flicked her ear, signaling Anya to leave. “To what do I owe your presence?”
The elder Proudmoore’s lips twitched. “Jaina asked if I’d perform the ceremony. I agreed. I’m flattered, obviously, and humbled. But then I started thinking. I know our traditions in Kul Tiras. But I don’t know yours. Forsaken, or Quel’Dorei.”
Sylvanas stared at him. She had not considered this, had only assumed the wedding would be some tradition meaningless to her. It was political, at the end of the day, after all. Not that most Quel’Dorei marriages hadn’t been the same, not that her first marriage hadn’t been much the same. And the Forsaken… “The Forsaken have no traditions, at least for marriage. They mostly cling to those they knew in life, and marriage, while it happens, is rare. As for the Quel’Dorei… High elven handfastings were simple, for all their ceremony.”
Derek nodded slowly. “Much like Kul Tiran shipboard handfasting, sounds like. Am I right in thinking you’re not interested in individual vows, as this is, ah, political, not personal?”
She grunted, turning away. It was true, there would be no professions of undying love, or even eventual love. It seemed crass to replace them with political affirmations—the treaty should speak to that just fine. “What did your sister have to say?”
“Called the idea ridiculous and useless.”
Sylvanas smirked. “There’s your answer, then. I believe we would both prefer to keep this as uncomplicated as possible.”
Derek chuckled. “Fair is fair. I’ll keep it simple then. Anything you’d like me to include?”
Sylvanas shook her head and turned back around. “No. Just keep it simple.”
“As the Dark Lady wishes.” Derek bowed, a smirk plain on his face. “I know no one asked for my opinion, and I know I’m probably in the minority, but I think you two will be good together.”
One long brow lifted. “Thank you, Mister Proudmoore. And in answer to your question, you may as well call me Sylvanas. We are soon to be family, as you say.”
“Well then, I’ll hear none of this Mister Proudmoore business. Derek for me.”
“We shall see.”
Derek chuckled. “As you say. I suppose I’ll see you in a few days then…sister.”
Sylvanas snarled, but there was a bizarre feeling of amusement that tainted it. “Don’t push your luck, Mister Proudmoore.”
The man had the audacity to laugh. Sylvanas shook her head and waved him off. Belore, he was as frustrating as his sister.
“Off with you. I have work to do.”
“I’m going. Shall I give your love to Jaina?”
For once, the weather in Boralus was something other than rainy and grim. Sylvanas had wondered more than once how anyone could live in a place with such dismal weather, but she was grateful for the sunshine. It poured in through the windows of Proudmoore Keep’s main hall, highlighting the ribbons and banners and flowers and evergreen boughs.
It wasn’t the sunlit ceremony deep in nature they would have had in Silvermoon when she was still alive, but it was a nice compromise.
Proudmoore had indeed worn a dress. White, as was her usual garb, though the resemblance to her usual robes ended there. The sleeves clasped only at the shoulder and upper arm, flowing like the rest of the dress, long and loose. A deep blue corset bound her torso, a loose sash in Kul Tiran green lay across one shoulder, and a crown of evergreen rested on her brow.
On the whole, it was an absurdly impractical outfit. It was also, Sylvanas was forced to admit, one of the most gorgeous sights she had seen in all of her undeath.
Not that she would ever admit that to the woman about to be her wife. Even if she did seem to appreciate the silver silk shirt and deep purple doeskin trousers Sylvanas had managed to find. She had Lor’themar to thank for that acquisition, as well as the black leather bracers with the Windrunner crest embossed in silver on them. Proudmoore had quirked her eyebrow at them, and given her a small smile that widened as she’d looked her up and down.
Derek, the dramatic little shit (as Proudmoore had previously referred to him, an epithet that fit him well), stood with them in the center of the hall. The words he spoke were simple, as promised. The joining of two nations and two lives, two peoples. New beginnings both small and large, asking blessings of both the Tidemother and Belore.
The jolt of arcane when they clasped arms made them both wince, but Sylvanas held firm to Proudmoore’s warmer skin. The braided cord he bound them with was thick with six strands—Forsaken purple, black, and a pale silvery blue that seemed a nod to her living roots for Sylvanas, Kul Tiran green, and the white and deep blue of Theramore for Proudmoore—and he wound it the appropriate three times for life, for the future, and for prosperity, before tying it in a perfect sailor’s square.
And then it was done.
The treaty between the Forsaken and Kul Tiras was sealed.
Sylvanas Windrunner, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, former Warchief of the Horde, former Ranger-General of Silvermoon, was wed.
And Jaina Proudmoore, Archmage, Daughter of the Sea, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras, former Leader of the Kirin Tor, former Ruler of Theramore, was her wife.
Sylvanas stood ramrod straight and tried to keep her smile from slipping into a grimace. Beside her, Proudmoore stood equally stiff, one hand resting on the leather of her vambrace, and groaned quietly as the seemingly unending receiving line of dignitaries and guests continued to parade by.
“Tides, it never ends.”
Sylvanas’ lips quirked at the softly muttered words, and for a moment her smile became more genuine. “Titans forbid we start another war by the unintentional snubbing of not allowing everyone to gawk.”
Her new wife—Belore, the idea was still so bizarre—turned the ensuing grimace to a close approximation of a smile and greeted the next guest. “I hate this tradition. I feel like a sheep at an auction.”
Almost she let her amusement slip, but that would not do. Damn Proudmoore. “Is there not supposed to be dancing? Feasting? Perhaps that will lend us an escape.”
Indeed, almost as if she had wished it into being, announcements began to be made that the banquet was laid and the feast ready to begin. As the crowd began to move away, Proudmoore let out a relieved sigh. “At last.”
Sylvanas’ lips twitched again. “Come, wife. Let us feed you before you waste away to nothing.”
Proudmoore snorted quietly. “Such caring. Careful there, someone might think you had feelings.”
She would indeed have to be careful, if this kept up. Belore damn the woman. Belore damn this marriage. Belore damn her for agreeing to it, for growing to want it, for these feelings—
And now, it seemed, they were to open the feasting with a dance, no one had told her of this, and Proudmoore had a distinct worried look about her.
“I asked them not to do this. Tides damn Mother, no doubt this is her fault.”
“Don’t tell me the great and mighty Jaina Proudmoore is afraid of dancing.”
Her wife gave her a slightly panicked look. “It’s been a very long time.”
Ah. Sylvanas nodded. “As it has for me. Well, we stopped a war together. Surely we can get through a simple wedding reel.”
The look of panic didn’t recede. Sylvanas sighed.
“Deep breaths, Proudmoore. Just follow my lead.”
The fiddles started slow, giving the crowd time to catch the rhythm and begin clapping as Sylvanas bowed to her wife on the cleared section of the floor. Together they danced in circles around each other, slowly as Proudmoore focused more on remembering the steps, then faster as the fiddles urged them along—until finally they came together in linked arms swinging wildly around each other as the music and clapping sped to a wild, chaotic finish.
And Sylvanas found herself standing with her arms full of a laughing, flushed, eyes-bright, and mildly disheveled Proudmoore.
And for a moment—just a moment—she wished.
And then the moment was gone, and she stood straight, stepping back just as Jaina—her wife—did the same.
Sylvanas inclined her head, offered her arm, and lead them to their place at the feast. Food would be a good distraction. A much-needed distraction.
And the sooner they got the rest of this ridiculous night over with, the better. Except even once everyone left, she was still stuck with this mage, this woman, this alluring, beautiful, caring creature that was now hers. Sharing kingdoms. Sharing duties and peoples. Sharing rooms.
Belore damn her, what on Azeroth had she done?
I debated a lot about whether to post this - with everything going on, was it even right to devote time to something so frivolous? But after several days of work (actual work, not this, this is fun) interrupted only by spending every ounce of time and energy I had to doing whatever small things I could to help the greater events in motion, I realized that moments of laughter and joy are just as important.
So on that note, don't forget to breathe, take moments for yourself, drink water, eat something, and remember your medication.
Black Lives Matter.
Chapter 25: Hallow's End
The long-awaited final chapter. It's a brave new world, and Hallow's End is the perfect time to celebrate it.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
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.
I am so sorry this took so long. The last few months have been really hard, and words have been hard to find even in my day-to-day. This story has not been far from my mind though, and I've reimagined this chapter in my head so many times I almost had a hard time believing I hadn't actually written it.
Hopefully it's a fitting send off to our favorite pair. Thank you all for taking this ride with me, for reading and liking and commenting and generally being the best. I couldn't have gotten here without you.