How far would you go for redemption?
This wasn't what Wrathion had intended, but now that he'd found himself there, he couldn't retreat; some distance behind him, Anduin stood with one hand on his staff, but what righteous declaration he might have made had died at his throat as he squinted against the cold sunlight. Two long shadows stretched in the snow where for once the cunning Black Prince stood undone.
The dark volcano behind Neltharion remained complacent, thin rivulets of molten rock streamed down its crevices and lines— but it was a solid, powerful thing.
In this timeline the black aspect was kind.
Wrathion's father was slender and tall, his black hair stick-straight as it batted shimmering behind him, the Obsidian Sanctum was a sacred place here; he'd had many, many sons, but this one he didn't remember.
Wrathion was only a drake, at the end of adolescence he had reached his full height in his human form, and, Anduin noticed, quite resembled his father— his father in this timeline, who was handsome and strong, a protective and cunning presence. Even with Wrathion's back turned to him, Anduin could tell he was pensive about doing this, he was viscerally afraid, like it were trauma ingrained into him he couldn't will away by choice.
"I come seeking your aid— Father."
He spoke the words clearly, though his tone wavered and he fought audibly for calm, for the aristocratic grace he employed to seduce and enchant when he wanted something done. There was little of that now; it was almost pitiful, something uncomfortable Anduin nonetheless forced himself to endure, there had always been wretchedness in the Black Prince which in his pride Wrathion had despised, and had fought to conceal it so it wouldn't exist.
Somehow, though Neltharion didn't recognize this young drake's face, he knew he was his brood, he could smell it on him; his robes billowed in the wind on his approach, eyes glowing bright. Wrathion impulsively stepped back when his father's hand came gently on his chin, he tilted it up a bit to examine him, like he could see his true form; he didn't remark on the obvious question unspoken between them, How is it that you are my son, but I do not know you at all?
Instead, he said softly, "You are my son, but you are afraid. I can smell it on you, little drake."
All the resentment Anduin had harbored for his once-friend gave way to a protective impulse, already the Holy Word channeled in him as he'd begun to call for the Light; however, there was no need. Neltharion's words weren't intended in malice, but spoken rather as simple fact, and it was something impossible to deny or explain; the black aspect understood without asking, somehow this brood of his had reason to be afraid.
"I'm not..." Wrathion started, despite his tall stature he turned his gaze to Neltharion like a sulking whelp and said, "I'm not all that little anymore."
Anduin paused where he'd been channeling the Light inwardly, the soft white glow that lined him dissipated into the frozen air; he stared now with one eyebrow raised. Here was a childish point that was very fondly nostalgic to him, there was tenderness in him to witness it somehow again.
Neltharion, too, appeared taken somewhat off guard, because Wrathion had spoken the words like they alone proved his courage, he continued muttering aside about how he was now a fully grown adult dragon, and had a number of impressive horns which were very intimidating and large.
Does he? Anduin wondered, before he caught himself actually interested in the subject, and inwardly chastised himself that such a thing was of little importance.
Last he'd seen Wrathion, he'd been two years old and just a little whelp, who took himself awfully seriously considering his small and adorable stature; however, he'd always been remarkably intelligent and sly, and his rather unintimidating appearance had been quite deceiving. Had there been any doubt as to what in his shrewdness the small whelp was capable of, Anduin had learned better, the hard way.
Neltharion, however, could guess at his son's approximate age, and could tell he was a drake at the largest, who still had a ways to go before reaching the full size of a wyrm— but this clearly seemed like a sore point, so he put the issue to rest. "Very well," he said instead, "in what matter does this son of mine seek his father's aid?"
They were words Wrathion had never expected to hear, and they bled through him with aching lament that threatened dangerously forth at the back of his throat; from behind him, Anduin watched his entire form stiffen in a useless struggle for composure, Wrathion's straight black hair rippled as he raised his chin almost in defiance of his own heart. But his emotion betrayed him, it was audible in his voice, which wavered only slightly as he forced forth the words.
"Where I come from, this world is on the verge of destruction— its salvation is a task left to me alone. But here, Father, all through its ranks the black dragonflight lives to protect and watch over Azeroth, none but we could truly understand what it is to sustain the weight of this burden."
All around, the frosted air trembled with the weightless fall of innocent snow, the little flakes descended feather-light on Wrathion's clothes and hair.
Some distance away, Anduin stood empty and hollow, the gilded bottom point of his staff sank into the frozen earth. The world... was on the verge of destruction...?
He thought of Wrathion's words to him long ago, how one day, he might see— but the secret he'd now inadvertently revealed had him still with cold sweat. Just what was he playing at ? What sorts of predictions were these?
He'd not realized this all hurt partly because here, Wrathion felt, was a burden no other could truly understand.
"This is where I die."
Winds washed through the meadow like living ocean waves, like an invisible brush combing past the hills; high on the cliffs lining Nagrand, Kairoz sat beside Murozond, they had a perfect view of it here. In his elven form, Kairoz's hair had grown very long, it swept to his feet when he walked, like he'd lived forever— it was what happened to dragons who were so lost in time their beginning and end became figures of speech, without any real meaning because they were infinite.
Murozond, too, was supposed to have died.
"Just there," he agreed, his voice serene and mild, they had witnessed it countless times. At certain moments it felt reality all around them flickered in-between the timeways, flashing to intervals of alternate worlds, like a stop-motion film where none of it was real; they witnessed the shimmering golden sand spiral from where Kairoz, in orc form, had fallen, how it dissipated intangibly into thin air, and there was a longing ache in it that pained him still now.
"Nothing can stop us, not even time," Murozond had said upon Kairoz's death, in his elven form he had cradled him like a whelp, his fingers on his face were gentle; they both felt so old they couldn't remember how they'd begun, or maybe they were very young, or maybe it didn't matter. Murozond's hair was long and dark, longer than Kairoz's, it poured forth and obscured his face when he leaned to kiss Kairoz's forehead.
It was an important point in time, his passing, because it had been a beginning, as well; reality flickered between them like they watched both outcomes at once, Kairoz dies and Kairoz lives, the two timelines diverged from each other like unraveled threads from a rope.
And this is where you save me.
It might have been Murozond who spoke, or it might have been Kairoz, because it meant the same thing, either way; breath hovered suspended between them, unspoken whispers they drank from one another, their hands outlined in blinding bronze light in their embrace— something beautiful and terrible—
—they both were the Timeless One.
(On to Chapter 2)
* Please note: as you can see in the details, I started writing this story in late September of 2014, about ten months before Legion was announced (that is: not ten months before Legion was released, but rather ten months before Legion was revealed as an expansion for the first time); therefore, needless to say, at the time I had no way of knowing that Warcraft's next expansion would bear so many similarities to this story ^^; In truth, I was floored when I saw that Bliz was actually planning an expansion about something so similar to the story I was writing— at the time they hadn't brought up figures like Illidan, Azshara, Ysera, etc, for years! And they had Neltharion's Lair as an entire instance, it was just so crazy, haha! At any rate, as such clearly this work is not meant to be based on Legion (as it preceded its earliest announcement by nearly a year)— though some of the artwork (which was added much later) does include Anduin's more recent model.
This story includes the following characters:
Merithra of the Dream
Full list of warnings:
Explicit sex (M/M); threesomes/moresomes; dominance/submission; exhibitionism/voyeurism; incest (Stormrage twins, Dath'remar/Kael'thas); spanking; mind control; F/M (implied, not explicit); unresolved sexual tension; hurt/comfort. (No violence or anything forced in intimate context, that's just not my thing).
A/N: If you feel a bit confused, please keep reading; all will be revealed, in time...
"No, this isn't how I die," Murozond had said.
In the Time-Lost Glade, he knelt over Kairoz's form, his dark hair veiled him in its rippling fall; he'd seen his own demise, and this wasn't it. Kairoz, himself, had made possible for Murozond to save him.
The infinite dragonflight existed in order to restore the bronze dragons' power, in order to stop Murozond's death.
Which could not be prevented.
But it didn't happen like this.
This wasn't where he died, but where his existence became possible.
His, being Murozond, being Nozdormu, being Kairoz.
The sweet scent of grass wafted softly nearby, in his elven form Kairoz clutched his fingers in Murozond's back, he trembled with struggle and coughed sickly into the naked skin of his shoulder; Murozond held him and spoke like he would to a whelpling.
"Shh..." he said, "There, beloved; nothing that cannot be mended by time..."
The bronze and black dragonflights had made a pact; several years had passed on Draenor when Kairoz met again with the Black Prince, but to Kairoz it'd only been a short while. Wrathion could scent him when he came, he'd not known another dragon's presence in years, and stiffened in his bed when he'd been roused.
He'd stayed with Admiral Taylor in the Spires of Arak and had his own quarters, he'd bribed and charmed nearly every member of the staff to his bidding.
"Finally found you, little whelp," Kairoz spoke softly, he'd stealthed inside the tavern in a way Wrathion hadn't expected, his clawed hand slid round Wrathion's back and clamped over his mouth.
"Unhand me," Wrathion seethed with stifled annoyance, their eyes glowed in the dark of the room. While, to Kairoz, very little time had passed, he could see Wrathion was a grown drake now; in his human form he was slender and tall, his straight black hair fell to his shoulders.
"Or you'll what? Call your guards?" Kairoz's voice came smooth at his auricle, his hand trailed from his mouth to his chin, and he turned Wrathion's face toward him in order to have a good look.
"It doesn't work in this timeline, Garrosh is lost to us," he whispered, and Wrathion didn't let on whatever thoughts crossed his mind; by that point, Garrosh had worked well to unify a number of powerful orcish clans, who had even begun making way toward Azeroth— but Wrathion knew better than to doubt a Timekeeper. He wanted to hear what he had to say.
There were humans in this tavern, they might overhear; from behind Wrathion, Kairoz leaned in very close, just over his shoulder, somehow draconic even in his elven form; his fangs glinted in the darkness as he mouthed the words just at Wrathion's temple.
"One Iron Horde was not enough. They were defeated too readily, before they became a real threat— and Garrosh met his demise at Thrall's hand."
He spoke in past tense, but these things hadn't happened here yet; that was, this was what would happen, what Kairoz had seen.
"Also," he whispered, "He slew me within moments of setting foot on Draenor."
For some moments, Wrathion remained entirely still, his eyes glowed an unreadable red in the black of the room; at pleasantries and deceptive cordiality he was adept, he didn't let on whatever emotions this stirred in him.
"You're telling the truth," he said, this he believed, and it vastly annoyed him his plan failed again. Garrosh slew Kairoz, but then fell at Thrall's hand? The Iron Horde was defeated too readily...?
"No, that can't be right," he said, slowly thinking aloud, "Something here... something doesn't add up."
Somehow, Kairoz was compelled to agree; Garrosh was meant to play a greater part in this, and there was some piece missing, something that would have prevented Kairoz's death, the one living creature immune to Garrosh's wrath.
"There is no such creature alive in this world," Wrathion said, "or any other. This was not the correct route."
But even as he spoke, he knew he was wrong; he had known somehow, even as a whelp, that one day—
"We leave here tonight," Kairoz said conclusively, he could feel Wrathion's rage begin to well, but turned his face toward him sharply; "You want your plan to work, don't you?" he whispered with quiet impatience, "Tonight, Murozond—"
"But if Garrosh slew you, then how? How was the infinite dragonflight possible?"
"You mean, how were infinite timelines possible? How was an infinite number of Iron Hordes possible?"
"How are you possible? How are you still alive?"
"We'll go farther back," Kairoz mouthed, his voice now almost inaudible, "We'll make them possible. We'll seek help from the only dragonflight who still have their titan powers."
Because they'd not been invested in the dragon soul.
"A charming notion, Kairozdormu," Wrathion's laugh came low and amused, "But unless you'd forgotten, I'm the last of my kind."
"Surely you're clever enough to figure this out," Kairoz said, "We'll go farther back than that."
"Farther back?" Wrathion chuckled bitterly, "To before I had them slain? Have you forgotten why I had them slain?"
But then he understood: farther back, to before they became corrupt.
He remained silent for a long time.
"But even uncorrupt... my father..." he trailed off, the fear for once audible in his voice; his first impulse was to say that, surely, even uncorrupted, Neltharion must be immune to Garrosh's wrath— but if Garrosh slew Kairoz...
"No," Kairoz said, "there is one living creature who would not incur his wrath in the first place. "
It wasn't Neltharion.
Tonight, Murozond would take them back.
And tonight, Nozdormu would—
Jaina only ever knew one person who developed weapons with resistance to mind control; she wondered if she'd have shown Prince Kael'thas greater gentleness had she known he'd fancied her at the time, and if she wasn't already dating Arthas then. None of that mattered now, Kael was before the Sunreavers, and, as it were, she found herself again bickering with Sunreaver mages just outside the Caverns of Time.
Nozdormu stood as a living barrier between her and Aethas Sunreaver, they circled him like two angry beasts and threatened each other with spells.
Prince Anduin was in trouble with Jaina, that was for sure, he'd had some balls to mind control the head of the Kirin Tor into casting a portal for him, to get to the Caverns of Time. Several years had passed since Garrosh had nearly crushed every bone in his body, he'd never fully healed; still in his early twenties, he had sharp pains in his right leg from a slipped vertebral disc.
He'd grown handsome and tall, and had mastered not only the Light, but the shadows, as well, in a way that vastly irritated Jaina, that night in particular.
He'd only used it rarely, to be fair; the Light was his true calling.
But this night he was desperate.
He'd lost her trust for sure, this much he could tell, and his heart ached for it; she'd finally caught Aethas by the collar of his robes and asked if he wanted to be taken to the Violet Hold again.
Aethas paused, visibly frightened, maybe because he was really very young—
Or maybe because he'd never wanted Jaina to be so angry with him—
"All right," he said, he didn't try to blink away from her; "all right, you can have it—"
Don't tell Lor'themar. Don't tell Rommath.
It was a bit hard to focus with her so close, and so angry, he was genuinely frightened while thinking back to the time she'd got him imprisoned—
When he only ever wanted her affection.
There was uncanny elegance in the way he wove the spell into manifestation, a shimmering staff materialized in a flash of crystalline lights, and Jaina's eyes narrowed with suspicion that he'd just hand it over.
"The Staff of Disintegration," she said, but didn't reach to take it; her attention diverted momentarily to Anduin, but she never moved her gaze from Aethas. "You're in a lot of trouble, mister," she said to Anduin, "Once your father hears what you did—"
"Aunt Jaina, please—" Anduin asked, now in his early twenties but still a little boy inside; the words had Aethas waver, he glanced him momentarily and then turned his gaze back to her. Aunt sounded so strange.
"No please," Jaina replied, "Do you realize what you might have done? You can't just—" She waved one hand in the air for emphasis, "—make use of a licensed mage's powers—"
"If you will, Lady Proudmoore," Nozdormu finally spoke, like they'd all forgotten he was there at all; he sounded almost apologetic. "Prince Anduin's presence is of dire importance."
Finally, Jaina paused.
"...I beg your pardon...?" She asked, not having expected to hear it from Nozdormu, himself; she'd thought he'd certainly prevent and bar Anduin from the Caverns of Time, up till then she'd been glad he was there as a potential voice of reason.
"His presence is of crucial importance? Where?"
"You mean, when," Nozdormu corrected, and immediately she understood here was something intended discreetly, because Varian would never permit his son to go, because it was very dangerous— but Nozdormu still insisted.
"When?" she repeated, "What do you mean, when? How can a time portal be opened?" The bronze aspect had lost his power to do so long ago, after all. She regarded him suspiciously, there was something like guilt in Nozdormu's eyes. Anduin's gaze went from Aethas to Nozdormu and back, somehow, he felt compassion for Aethas—
But if Aethas had handed Jaina the staff, she would overcome what mind control Anduin had left on her, and she'd take him back to Stormwind.
"Please," he asked him, "Something bad will happen if I don't go— though I don't know what—"
Even Aethas felt it; he should be permitted.
"You'll make the right choice, either way," he softly said to Jaina, he pressed the staff in her hand and closed his fingers on hers.
His magic, it was familiar— not like back in the Violet Hold, but—
"How is it that you have this staff?" she asked—
But she already knew.
There was something in the back of her mind, but there was no time for that now— she stepped toward Anduin and summoned a spell to stop him in place. "You will talk this over with your father," she said, but there was compassion in her voice; "and he will decide what to make of this."
"Lady Proudmoore," Nozdormu spoke with quiet severity, "King Varian will forbid it, you know this; it is too dangerous a matter to leave to chance."
"I can't send him off on a mission like this," Jaina said, and it wasn't only because of her duty to the king; she cared for Anduin like he were her own flesh and blood.
"If I may, Lady Proudmoore," Aethas' voice came soft and calm, and several sets of eyes turned toward him, like no one remembered he'd been there at all; "Perhaps the young prince— could use accompaniment."
Already Jaina's expression contorted in preparation to chastise him for such a foolish idea, but the words never came; it occurred to her the plan wasn't entirely without merit.
"I can't abandon the Kirin Tor," she said softly, "I can't abandon the Alliance—"
But Anduin would go, either way.
That night, Murozond would take Wrathion and Kairoz very far back in time, to the Obsidian Dragonshrine of long ago;
And Nozdormu would take Anduin, accompanied by Jaina and another young prince, who wasn't certain if he was terrified, or still enamored by her as he'd been years ago.
(On to Chapter 3)
Gift art by madeinhellism, used with permission. Thank you!
A/N: I would love to find someone interested in roleplaying Warcraft lore, especially Wrathion/Anduin, Varian/Arthas, or Illidan/Kael'thas (if this is still on here then I'm still looking, haha! Regardless of the publish date on the fic ^^ ) I've had a very difficult time finding anyone interested in this, as WoW fangirls usually like RPing their OCs (which I'm not interested in doing). I don't mind at all if you don't know much lore; if English isn't your first language; if you're a little shy; if you're new to Warcraft or to RPing; or if you haven't RPd canon characters before. I just like writing with someone else who's passionate about the same stuff =) If you feel like giving it a go, then please reach me through the contact info on my profile. Thank you! ^^
It was frustrating, being unable to see clearly through time; Nozdormu felt it, too, he would have liked to know how this will turn out, and what purpose Anduin would have which was so distressingly dire— but any attempts on his part at elucidating the future fell useless, he had only a feeling, at best.
He stood beside Jaina and Aethas while watching from some distance away, concealed by a spell, while Wrathion spoke with his father; it was vastly unnerving. Two of them hadn't known Neltharion as anything but utter horror, and Nozdormu worried for other reasons entirely: Wrathion's motive might have been altruistic, but Kairoz must have something up his sleeve if he'd helped bring him here.
"I can't watch this," Jaina finally said, "Anduin doesn't need to be out in the open like this, I don't trust those two." By those two, she meant Wrathion and Neltharion, and she had good reason to feel this way— Varian and his son had a history of torment at the hands of black dragons, after all.
She tried to get Anduin's attention from where she stood, by means of a subtle spell— and if he noticed, he made no indication of it. He was utterly transfixed, with something like desperation or distress in his eyes, and Jaina sighed because she knew he'd never really got over his once-friend's betrayal.
He's gonna want to ask him why, she thought, and have him explain— and in the meantime, those dragons would devour him.
Anduin did, in fact, take notice of her signal, but he ignored it, for exactly the reason she'd expected; he remained where he was, prepared to defend himself in the event of attack but unable to move away. He waited for the moment he'd get to talk with Wrathion finally, it occurred to him then how desperately he'd wanted to do so for several years; Jaina wondered if his motive to come here was based entirely in selfless altruism, and if there wasn't just a tiny bit of it that was the irresistible impulse to see his old friend again.
He did grow to be handsome, she thought, Wrathion, that was; she knew Anduin must think so now that he regarded him this way, likely waiting for him to finally take notice...
In truth, Wrathion had noticed long before; he could smell him out, and would have been able to notice the others had they not been magically concealed.
"Have you come to stop me, Anduin Wrynn?"
He asked without turning around, and now Jaina began whisper-calling to him in frustration, aware he couldn't hear from beyond the barrier.
Anduin shivered to hear his name spoken directly; he'd not realized Wrathion knew he was there. It occurred to him that he, himself, wasn't certain if he'd come there to stop him, though he'd guessed that was a likely objective to the plan; either way, there was a time he'd been filled with resentment about being betrayed, but over the years this gave way to despair. The sort of sulking that remained in him after Wrathion tricked him and vanished had become a knowing familiar, and the bitterness he'd long-since let go was now renewed at the words, have you come to stop me.
His first words to Anduin in so many years. His voice was so... grown up now.
In his moment of hurt, he'd almost forgot the distress that overtook him at hearing the far more important bit about the world coming to an end.
His courage gathered quickly and his eyes came fixed on his old friend, who still hadn't turned around. "Was it true, what you said?" he asked, his voice trembled just a little, and he fought to hold this back; "Was it true, about the world being destroyed?"
"Father," Wrathion said to Neltharion, "I apologize for this interruption."
At this, Anduin grit his teeth; now finally the Black Prince turned to face him, he paced forth with ease and slid one hand diplomatically round his back. Anduin stiffened at the touch straight away, because it was so bloody casual.
Wrathion led him amicably toward where he'd been stood before, as though years hadn't passed since they'd last spoken, like he'd never done anything dishonest; he introduced him to Neltharion like he'd had no qualms about being spied on, like he'd been expecting him somehow.
For some reason, this made Anduin angrier than all the stuff before.
But he couldn't very well act on those feelings, he'd been bred and raised as a proper prince, and in the end he introduced himself properly even despite being terrified; old memories of childhood returned, he thought of Onyxia...
Jaina was now clearly at the ready. She stood like a beast of prey, all senses focused on Neltharion, in case he'd try anything... she could envision Varian now, Where is my son...? If this was some plan orchestrated by the Sunreavers, she hoped at least there was someone who could explain to the king about this, even if it were the enemy.
Someone who could explain she didn't just abandon the Kirin Tor. And she had all this work to do, too, there was a meeting early next morning... or did next morning have any meaning now? If they'd gone back in time, could they conceivably be back only moments after they'd left, and the king would never need to worry about his son's absence...?
From where they were stood, her party couldn't hear the exchange between Anduin and the black dragons, all three of them strained, Neltharion seemed to be leading them away now...
"Follow them," Jaina whispered, still in low tones even though there was no need, and finally Nozdormu spoke up. "He's not going to hurt the prince, if that's what you're worried about. This isn't the Neltharion you knew."
In fact, he thought, back then we were friends.
He saw Anduin glance over his shoulder as in matter of habit, as though he could see their invisible group; Wrathion noticed this, too. His eyes narrowed and he briefly paused in place.
"Father," he said, "I believe my friend hasn't come here alone."
Now Anduin's jaw came clenched, he cursed himself inwardly for his blunder; he ought to have known the others would likely follow, in order to protect him.
Nozdormu finally stepped out of the barrier, he stood in plain view where Neltharion could see, and actually hailed to him; Wrathion actually smiled, he laughed and patted Anduin's back, his fangs glinted dangerously through his grin. "Nozdormu, himself," he said, "of course, well played, my friend."
It sounded like something familiar and old, and both he and Anduin stilled at that; they'd forgot altogether about the others present.
For a very brief moment, Anduin thought the hand on his back felt kind.
"There's something else I want from this time," Kairoz said to Murozond. They were roosted not terribly far from Neltharion's lair, in their true forms; they huddled together against the cold, with Kairoz's head lain on Murozond's side. They knew Nozdormu would want to stop them, but he would be utterly powerless, he couldn't see any better into the future than they could.
"The Well of Eternity," Murozond said, "Beloved, I know what you want." Back this many years ago, it still was intact; they knew well by that point what its waters could do.
Wrathion hadn't expected his father's lair to be something he'd find impressive; it was far more breathtaking than the Obsidian Dragonshrine of his time. The cavern was large and overwhelming in its majesty, enchanted, the ceiling and walls sloped in mysterious ridges and curves over glimmering minerals and mirror-like streams; here and there shrubs glowed curiously in fluorescent colors, purple and blue and gold, the top of the cave was so high he couldn't quite make out how far up it reached.
There were other black dragons about, large ones and also some drakes, and some very small whelps, Neltharion sat in his human form across from Nozdormu, with a small, nagging whelp in his lap.
Anduin watched this for some time, there was something oddly familiar about it; it somehow made his heartache worse. He glared speechlessly at his counterpart, who sat across from him with what seemed like contentment.
Between them a small fire burned, upon which they roasted small pieces of meat on twigs, Anduin's long fingers felt along the branch he had for his slice; he glared at Wrathion some moments without speaking. "You're not going to say anything," his voice finally came, in dangerously quiet tones; "About— about how you just ran away, how— you've done all this—"
Why was he on about that? Wasn't he going to ask about the far more important matter of the world nearing its end?
Whatever emotion Wrathion had in him, he didn't let on; he regarded Anduin with something like amusement, and it was vastly annoying. "You don't honestly think I'm going to tell you about that," he replied, like surely Anduin would see reason.
Somehow, Anduin felt himself again a sulking child; at the tip of his tongue were the words, I thought we were friends.
No, of course we're not, if this was how he'd treated me.
"And what about what you said after that? About how, oh, the world is going to be destroyed?"
Somehow, it seemed very briefly that Wrathion's expression faltered; he regained his composure soon after that and even tried to smile, but there was rage in him Anduin knew, which he noticed, no matter how subtle— even now that years had passed.
"You don't honestly expect me to tell you about that," the answer finally came.
Anduin's hand smacked his own chest with enough impact that some of the drakes turned to look; "It's my world, too, you know!" He'd become self-conscious after that, aware of the show he'd made. He lowered his voice and glared forth angrily, "If something serious is going to happen, I deserve to know."
Looking at his old friend directly was still difficult; he'd grown and had changed, but was still so familiar, his heart hurt with the awareness he'd really betrayed him— because, just meeting his eyes, he'd appeared as though nothing had changed.
"You deserve to know?" Wrathion repeated, with almost a cruel sort of laugh, "So you'll what? Run to your father? We both saw how well he handled himself last time—"
"I won't run to my father!" Anduin seethed, he flung one arm sideward to emphasize the point, "He doesn't even—" He stopped himself before the rest of the words came; he doesn't even know I'm here right now. And he'd probably have me locked in the tower if he knew I was thinking to go in the first place.
After that, between them there was silence.
Gradually, Anduin composed himself, he stared petulantly at the flames, where his slice of meat appeared dark against the incandescent fire; he could feel Wrathion's glowing red eyes, and it was terribly frustrating, not knowing what was really going through his head.
Some distance away, Jaina sat beside Aethas, she watched the two princes almost guiltily, like it were the least she could do after letting Anduin go; she could have stopped him, she knew. She let him travel here with conscious awareness, and felt like she'd betrayed Varian in this. Was it the right choice? Leading him here, straight to the heart of the black dragons' den, not only after the Wrynns' traumatic history, but Wrathion's personal betrayal?
Beside her, Aethas was almost unusually quiet; she could feel his gaze on her, how he watched her watch Anduin— and what loathing she had for him became confused with what she knew now. She remembered back when his eyes were still blue.
There was a time he had thought he could have stayed in the Kirin Tor forever, he'd had little interest in matters of state, and even the prospect of taking the throne appeared so far in the distant future it wasn't really real; after it was all over, he'd returned to Dalaran and the Council of Six, the last place he still could call home.
He wasn't sure what to make of it when he'd been expelled by Jaina, personally.
Maybe she'd turn around and slay him there and then, at a point so far removed in time no one would be the wiser; either way, he knew better than to offer further commentary. About agreeing to come here. About the way she watched Anduin and Wrathion like a lioness, it was terribly tempting to try consolation, some trite thought like he'll be fine— but she'd probably take it as something very daft. And even though technically she was of far lesser age, in the life of a human she was now farther ahead than he was in the life of an elf.
It made him feel sheepish, like he was just a stupid kid.
He said nothing, and merely remained at her side, one hand idly drawing patterns in the sand while they watched the two princes in the conversation they couldn't hear.
That night, Anduin lay to sleep at Wrathion's side, because he'd been introduced to Neltharion as his son's friend; he'd been glaring with silent anger at the back of his head for a while when there came quiet motion in the sheets. It was subtle at first, then a bit more insistent, and finally Anduin turned to see a small whelp attempting to burrow under his blanket.
I'm not in the mood for games, he thought, and he was reminded so vividly of how Wrathion had been when he was this small, that he almost expected the whelp to speak to him in his friend's voice.
"That isn't cute," he whispered, aware it was likely intelligent enough to understand, even if it were a language it hadn't heard before.
"Letting another whelp in your bed, Anduin Wrynn?" Wrathion's voice came from the sheets nearby, and Anduin stilled; his thoughts raced rapidly to remember if he'd said anything terribly embarrassing. But Wrathion flushed hotly soon as he'd said the words, because they came with implication he'd never intended.
They remained both frozen in place, utterly mortified, and, worst of all, the whelp had meanwhile made itself quite comfortably at home beneath the sheets; Anduin could feel it burrow against the back of his legs, he was somehow powerless to do anything about it.
Very slowly, he lay back in his arrangement of blankets, painfully aware that he had, in fact, allowed a little whelp into his bed; he said nothing for a long time, still staring at Wrathion's hair.
"This isn't a bed, really," he finally said, "it's just— some sheets..."
(On to Chapter 4)
A/N: I would love to find someone interested in roleplaying Warcraft lore, especially Wrathion/Anduin, Varian/Arthas, or Illidan/Kael'thas (if this is still on here then I'm still looking, haha! Regardless of the publish date on the fic ^^ ) I've had a very difficult time finding anyone interested in this, as WoW fangirls usually like RPing their OCs (which I'm not interested in doing). I don't mind at all if you don't know much lore; if English isn't your first language; if you're a little shy; if you're new to Warcraft or to RPing; or if you haven't RPd canon characters before. I just like writing with someone else who's passionate about the same stuff =) If you feel like giving it a go, then please reach me through the contact info on my profile. Thank you! ^^
When Anduin woke late into the night, he didn't know where he was; there was the earthy scent of stone and minerals, high in the ceiling vague fluorescent lights twinkled like little colored stars— and some distance away was Wrathion, still asleep, he appeared deceptively innocent this way.
With his eyes accustomed to the darkness, Anduin curiously regarded his old friend, the way his once-adolescent features had given way to something more elegant and adult; in his mind, he couldn't help comparing and contrasting, had he, himself, grown about the same...?
Did Wrathion now really have a number of very impressive horns, which were very intimidating and large? He watched for some time, the way the sheets only partly covered his naked chest, how his long hair fell in his eyes.
In a distant part of the cavern, Neltharion lay in his true form with a number of other dragons, all of them his brood, huddled together to sleep; Nozdormu was there, as well, elegantly curled against Neltharion, the black whelps and drakes had gathered around him, too. It occurred to Anduin that Wrathion could have joined them, the way Nozdormu had, but that he'd chosen against it.
There he was, despite his nonchalant demeanor, nevertheless lain to sleep at this distant part of the lair, at his side.
He'd acted so calm, but he was afraid of his father— even if he'd come here deliberately to seek his aid.
Anduin hesitated; then, very slowly, he reached to brush the hair from Wrathion's eyes. He didn't grow up with other whelps, or with a parent— to some extent Anduin knew what that was like.
The strands felt silky and soft, Anduin stroked them gently and then froze all at once when the red glow of dragon eyes flashed upon him; he stilled with one hand still in Wrathion's hair as his breath died in his throat. He knew he was blushing hotly.
"Ah— " he stammered, his mind raced for a credible excuse, Wrathion's gaze moved from his hand to his face and back.
"What are you doing?" he asked, and Anduin stared in mute horror, because there was no good way to conceal this.
"I— nothing— " he whispered back, and then quickly retracted his hand; he tried to meet Wrathion's gaze and stupidly murmured, "Just— all the other dragons— are all way over there, but you..."
Wrathion's eyes narrowed for some moments, but then he let a quiet laugh. "You think I'm lonely, because I'm not curled there with my father," he said, and suddenly Anduin felt very daft.
"No," he huffed, "no, that's not what I— it's just— I mean, it's understandable, who wouldn't— Deathwing was terrifying— "
He knew soon as he spoke that it was a mistake, for a moment he thought his friend's expression turned to loathing— but whatever there was on his mind, Wrathion didn't let on. "Yes, he was terrifying, Prince of Stormwind. Who doesn't know that?"
In the dark of the cave, his eyes seemed to glow piercingly bright, like two living flames that could consume him— for a moment, Anduin thought he really was in danger, but Wrathion only chuckled, with almost convincing casual grace. He turned with his back to Anduin and curled in the other direction, then pulled the sheets over his back.
"You'll do well to watch yourself here, old friend," he said; "It sounds like you are the one who's afraid."
That night, Aethas couldn't sleep. It wouldn't do, taking his place beside Jaina, with the easy excuse that they were the only non-dragons there, and Anduin already was lain with Wrathion— it would be terribly inelegant, and so would the other easy excuse, that he could watch over Anduin while she got her rest.
He made his way outside the cavern and took his seat against the rocks, his gaze trailed to the twisting crevices of the distant volcano, the way it spiraled up into the sky; it really was cold out. Very softly, he whispered an incantation to light a small fire, it crackled pleasantly as magical flecks danced round its flames; from somewhere off, there issued quiet chatter, his ears moved as of their own accord to better tune in to the sound.
Two dragons spoke to each other in nurturing, affectionate tones, there was so much gentleness in it he'd almost missed the fact they were scheming something sinister; no— sinister was a very one-sided view, people had said the same thing of him.
Aethas gazed into the golden heart of the fire, his aristocratic hands called forth the glittering lights like paint flowing through water, he wove them with patience and care into the shape of a phoenix— but then softly extinguished the spell before the creature could fly away.
Sometimes he wished he could go back.
He'd been hiding so long he was no longer certain if he was hiding, or if he'd really become someone else.
The dragons who conspired in secret were on about Wrathion, and about Nozdormu, and even as they spoke of how powerless Nozdormu was, there was in their voices unmistakable love; it sounded almost like regret.
This wasn't sinister; listening to them, Aethas could tell they believed they acted for the greater good. It wasn't just for their benefit, but for the bronze dragonflight as a whole, they wanted to save their race—
—it was what I also had wanted to do, he thought, once upon a time.
At the roost where they'd been speaking, Kairoz got one finger on Murozond's lips; "Hush," he mouthed, "There's someone nearby, I can smell him."
The two of them went quiet in order to listen, and in moments Kairoz changed to his true form; there came a great gust of wings flapping open, he made a quick descent to the mouth of the cave.
Aethas moved quickly, he blinked away from the fire and rapidly conjured a number of weapons that hovered just behind him, in preparation to attack; he just barely felt the air sway at his back when the fabric of his robes was tightly pulled, and in a moment of surprise he was gripped from behind in the talons of a second dragon.
He spelled the weapons to flip the other way, Murozond dodged them with partial success as he carried the little mage back to their roost, they were very large dragons, the both.
"Impressive," Kairoz said as he changed back to his elven form; Murozond changed, too, he had one hand tight on Aethas' mouth from behind, and one round both his wrists. Aethas glared, his weapons hovered around him with intended threat.
Kairoz didn't seem much afraid; he moved very close, his breath hovered on Murozond's hand on Aethas' mouth, he brushed the hair from Aethas' eyes with the back of one finger.
"Don't think we don't know who you are, blood mage," he whispered, "don't think we don't know why you're here."
"How much do you suppose he heard?" Murozond asked, "What do you think we should do?"
Very subtly, Aethas spelled his weapons to turn against them both, slowly, but just before he'd meant to strike, Murozond's hand slid down from his mouth; Aethas gasped for breath, his lips and chin felt damp, his hands still were bound.
"I'm not your enemy," he muttered, "I'm not allied with anyone— "
"Whether you're allied isn't your choice," there came the reply, "Not one word to Nozdormu, we'll know if you talk."
Before Aethas could respond, there came a direct blast against Murozond which rapidly knocked him back, then one against Kairoz; the second blast missed, but they'd been taken enough off guard that Aethas had a chance to slip away. He peered over the edge of the cliff to see Jaina stood on the frozen ground below, she was aiming toward him and spoke loudly enough he could hear.
"Blizzard, move...!" she called.
He began rapidly hopping down the crevices of the short cliff, not exactly missing the blizzard, and the dragons were agile enough to slip through it, too— but ultimately they let him go as he finished his descent. They remained in their true forms, hovering somewhere above ground, and laughed at his escape.
"Remember what I told you," Murozond warned, "Not a word."
Aethas was out of breath when he'd finally reached Jaina, she gazed back at the dragons, then around the area surrounding to see if there were more of them.
"What the hell were you doing?" She asked, she reached to straighten his robes like she were his mother; "Were those guys— was that Kairozdormu?"
Aethas still was catching his breath, he tried to sort out everything that happened, and blushed when Jaina started with his robes; he was about to tell her everything, but looked over his shoulder to see the dragons flying back toward their roost.
"They're just—" He couldn't lie to Jaina so directly, not when she looked him straight in the eye; "I can't say," he admitted finally, "it's not about Anduin anyhow, so— "
"Are you allied with the infinite dragons?" Jaina asked, "Is that what this is about?"
"No! I'm— no, of course not!"
She wondered if the three of them were plotting something, and if Aethas had managed to anger them in some way. "I'll have my eye on you, you know," she warned, "If you're planning something sinister— "
"Jaina..." he sighed with a great deal of exasperation, "Why is it you never trust me? Why do you always think I'm up to some sinister purpose? Do you honestly think I'd wish you harm— "
"Thalen Songweaver— "
"I knew nothing about that! I already told you!"
"Oh, really? You knew nothing?"
Aethas took two steps toward her, visibly shaken with annoyance; he pointed one finger and grit his teeth. "You think, what? That I'd knowingly have someone dispatched to attack Theramore? To attack you? I love you— "
He stopped himself too late, aware he'd finally said what was unspoken between them for years; now that the words were irreversibly out in the open, they weighed on him darkly with shame, he remembered how he'd shrunk long ago when he saw her and Arthas kiss.
Jaina remained where she was, mouth frozen where once she had some venomous words prepared; she didn't say anything for a long time. Her eyes glittered with something that looked dangerously like compassion, and pity was something he couldn't bear to have from her; he couldn't endure having it gently and empathetically explained to him, how he couldn't make her feel something she didn't.
Maybe it was better when she thought he was really her enemy.
He felt like a foolish, sulking child when her hand came gently to slide back his hair, but he knew that, this time, she really believed him; "You're right," she finally said, she sounded tired and resigned. "You really wouldn't do something like that. Kael'thas."
His pulse quickened at being addressed by his real name for the first time in years, and even though he was certain she knew long before, it was something different altogether to hear it directly; he swiped stupidly at his eyes with none of the regal sort of grace she must have known in him.
"Anyway, forget what I said, it doesn't matter. Just— so you believe me— I'm not plotting things— with the infinite dragons— anyway— it's not like you didn't already know— "
He was terribly embarrassed; then, to make matters worse, she started explaining, ever so compassionately. She was looking so gently into his eyes; "You know I can't. You know I'm with— "
"Yeah, Kalecgos," he huffed, he wished so much he wasn't openly tearful, he fought hard for elegance, to no avail. "Right, well, I always thought it was because you only liked humans, but now— "
In truth, it hurt her heart to see him speak so nakedly, things she'd suspected for a long time but never heard outright; she was at a loss, still confused between the severity of what they'd spoke of before and this much more intimate subject.
"Kael'thas, I— "
"No! No, it's fine, I get it," he said, "I mean, Kalecgos, he's like, what, the aspect of magic now, I can't compete with that— "
"It's not like that, you're not meant to compete— "
"Yeah," he said, "I guess you're right— that is, Arthas, back then he was utterly useless— "
She sighed; she didn't feel like digging all that up again. She knew what a tender subject Arthas was to Quel'thalas.
"Come on," she said, she carefully led him back to the cavern, "Let's get some rest, I want to be alert tomorrow when Neltharion calls a meeting with the other black dragons." She still wondered what Murozond and Kairoz were up to, but knew well enough Kairoz was allied with Wrathion— so whatever they were planning, it didn't likely involve an intent to foil all that.
She'd need to have a little talk with Wrathion in the morning.
No— it looked like she'd need to have a little talk with Wrathion now.
On reaching the part of the cave where the two princes lay to sleep, she noticed Anduin remarkably close to Wrathion, she paused in place to assess whether it was something innocuous.
"Definitely not, that's not innocent," Aethas mouthed, there was so much knowing wisdom in his voice that Jaina raised an eyebrow; she got one foot in the space between the two princes and began carefully nudging them apart.
Anduin mumbled incoherently in his sleep, audibly dissatisfied, he tried to reposition himself the way he was before; finally he opened his eyes when Jaina got him far enough away.
He regarded her in the darkness, and now Wrathion was sleepily looking forth, too; he stretched and yawned, then reached to scratch his naked chest.
"Aunt Jaina?" Anduin murmured, "What's going on?"
"Go back to sleep," she said, "But, like— try to keep your arms off each other."
She turned to head back to her own blankets, and Anduin began turning back to sleep again; several seconds passed before his eyes shot open all at once.
"Keep your arms off each other? What's that supposed to mean?"
His head flipped toward Wrathion in panic, and he found him staring back with just as much horror. "My arms were definitely not on you," Wrathion said, like he'd forgot altogether about his elegant guise, "Why would I have my arms on you? They definitely weren't on you."
"No, definitely!" Anduin stammered, "Exactly! why would I— " he let a dry bark of laughter, "No! I'm sleeping all the way over here! What, you think I want— I definitely don't want— good night."
"Yeah, good night!"
After that, they each slid about three extra feet apart in opposite directions, just for good measure.
(On to Chapter 5)
A/N: I would love to find someone interested in roleplaying Warcraft lore, especially Wrathion/Anduin, Varian/Arthas, or Illidan/Kael'thas (if this is still on here then I'm still looking, haha! Regardless of the publish date on the fic ^^ ) I've had a very difficult time finding anyone interested in this, as WoW fangirls usually like RPing their OCs (which I'm not interested in doing). I don't mind at all if you don't know much lore; if English isn't your first language; if you're a little shy; if you're new to Warcraft or to RPing; or if you haven't RPd canon characters before. I just like writing with someone else who's passionate about the same stuff =) If you feel like giving it a go, then please reach me through the contact info on my profile. Thank you! ^^
The next morning had in store unexpected challenges for Stormwind's prince; Anduin stood frozen with absolute terror while watching about a dozen black drakes bathing in an underground lagoon, utterly carefree as they swam in its shimmering, fluorescent waters. It was terrifying because he was meant to bathe there, too, he'd been cordially invited by Neltharion, himself— but, to him, it didn't feel quite so natural.
What if Wrathion was there among them? He tried to look at the dragons closely, to see if he recognized one of them as his old friend, but they all looked really quite similar, and it was difficult to tell with them mostly submerged.
No, he's probably not in there, Anduin thought; after he'd chosen not to sleep together with the others, he probably wasn't going to bathe with them. Maybe he could disrobe very quickly, then get in the water before anyone could see.
Anduin carefully gazed around, then stole another look at the drakes, just to be sure none of them seemed to be looking directly— it seemed to be safe, so he began rapidly unraveling the various binds of his clothes. He'd just barely got his trousers off when there came footsteps behind him, his gaze whipped around and he flushed all at once.
"Aunt Jaina, what the hell...!" he huffed, and Jaina spun rapidly to face the other way. "Sorry! I didn't see anything, I swear!" She said, but the damage was done; Anduin was horribly embarrassed.
"By the Light, can't you see I'm— don't you ever—" Don't you ever knock? No, that didn't exactly apply; he wondered if Neltharion told her it was fine to bathe here, too.
"Nozdormu said you went off in this direction, so I thought... well anyway, listen—"
"Oh, Nozdormu told you, well, did he happen to mention I was going here to have my bath?!"
"Anduin..." Jaina sighed, "Look, I'm sorry I walked in on you... there's something important I want to talk to you about. Is... it okay to turn around?"
"No! Don't turn around!"
"Okay... say when it's all right..."
Several moments passed before finally Anduin said it was okay, and Jaina turned around tentatively; she found him completely dressed, with all the princely accessories of his uniform meticulously fastened. He was still completely blushing.
"Anduin, listen— this is important." She sat down with him on the rocks and proceeded to relay what happened during the night, how Kairozdormu was there with an infinite dragon. "You know Kairoz was allied with Wrathion before— they're probably still working together, we need to be very careful."
"Kairozdormu..." Anduin murmured slowly, they spoke in low tones in case any of the drakes nearby could hear. "Aunt Jaina, there's something really important I haven't told you," he said, "Yesterday, when I heard Wrathion speak with his father, he said the world is coming to an end. He was asking Neltharion to help protect it; but when I asked about it directly, he wouldn't tell me anything."
After Jaina had left, Anduin resolved himself to make extra certain that this time no one was coming near; he scanned the area around the corner, and saw a shadow moving on the wall far off. Good thing I looked, he thought, and wondered if he'd wait all morning before he could take his bath.
Aethas approached with casual grace, he greeted Anduin nonchalantly and proceeded without further ado to disrobe. Right there beside him, like he wasn't at all bothered.
Anduin rapidly turned the other way, too stunned for words, he wondered if privacy was something he was meant to forego; after some time there came the low sounds of water swaying, it occurred to him Aethas had gone into the lagoon, and he tentatively turned around.
Great. Now he definitely couldn't just undress right there, it was one thing for the drakes to see him, but Aethas wasn't a dragon, who walked around naked all the time anyway. Anduin could see him swim through the water like it were his own private pool, completely at ease amongst the drakes and comfortable in his nudity like he knew how good he looked.
"Whatever," Anduin mumbled, he sat himself against the rocks and waited for them all to be done, because they had to finish at some point— he'd have enough time if he'd skipped breakfast, but then he'd need a while for his morning meditation. So, he decided, if more than an hour will have passed, he'd go into the water, regardless of who was around.
After what seemed like eons, finally he seemed to have the lagoon to himself; he looked around the corner very carefully, then the surrounding space far as he could see— and finally, very carefully, he proceeded to disrobe. He folded his garments meticulously and placed them on one of the rocks, and then gingerly made his way into the pool.
The water felt pleasantly warm and smelled sweetly of blossoms and grass, he'd made himself at ease and proceeded to scrub his skin with the soft sand near the walls; it appeared that somewhere off sunlight came streaming from an aperture high in the ceiling, it skimmed the pool's surface and reflected shimmering on the rocks. Anduin swam through the water pleasantly, and became aware on rounding a bend in the wall that the stream continued into another part of the cave; there were distant sounds of a waterfall, he proceeded forth to that area, and felt much better than he had earlier that morning.
On rounding the turn where finally the waterfall came into view, he noticed one of the drakes was still there; it stood beneath the stream with its wings widespread, the sunlight glittered off its dark scales and the elegant curve of its back. It was both majestic and terrifying, because it resembled Onyxia very much in the way its horns curled, but its body was sleek and slender, enchanted, it had a number of other horns pointed gracefully backward along its head.
Anduin noticed straight away that amongst the others, this drake was unique; somehow, its body appeared softly to shimmer, like beneath its dark scales it had been constructed by iridescent gems. The immaterial colors seemed to flow and sway subtly through it, and on one of its ears was a single golden hoop.
Anduin stilled; his pulse raced inside him, he felt somehow overcome; despite his embarrassment, he mouthed his friend's name very softly.
"Wrathion?" he tentatively said.
At the sound, the drake froze; somehow, that time he really hadn't noticed him. He spun around with complete lack of grace, and with none of the regal majesty of moments before; he'd got the entire area nearby drenched with the loud splash of his wings, and stared at Anduin with mute panic.
"How dare you! I'm having my bath!" Wrathion stammered, he tried uselessly to shield himself with his wings and front limbs, before he remembered he was in his true form.
A short distance away, Anduin appeared traumatized; he'd not expected the graceful picture he'd seen to turn into something so raw and grotesque all at once. A long time had passed before he'd finally found his voice. "It is you," he murmured, it was evident in his voice he was still a bit afraid.
Wrathion appeared uncertain, he also noticed Anduin was naked, and tried to remember if he'd been doing anything embarrassing or stupid, like singing in the bath.
"I knew you were there," he said rapidly, "I was just— I didn't say anything because—"
"No you didn't," Anduin replied, he finally managed to smile— because the lie was so defensive, and so familiar as something Wrathion would do.
Wrathion appeared to regard him warily, like he was assessing the parts of him above water that he could see; it was a bit embarrassing to Anduin, but the thrill of seeing his friend's true form as a grown drake for the first time overwhelmed that.
"Is this what you look like now?" Anduin asked, it occurred to him it was really quite a stupid question, and he cursed himself mentally for asking such a thing; he swam around him to get a better look, and Wrathion pretended it didn't make him feel daft. "That's right," he said with feigned courage, "Pretty impressive, right? And I'm not even done growing yet, I'll probably get really big, like—" Like my father was.
No, he wasn't going to be like that. Pretty big like the other aspects.
Anduin's laughter echoed through the cavern, he really was impressed. "You really have grown," he said, unable to hide his smile; "Remember when you were, like, this big?" He held his hands out of the water, a short distance apart. "And you could, like, lie down in my lap—"
Wrathion inadvertently laughed, before he remembered to stifle himself; "Yes, well—" he coughed, "Clearly I'm much bigger than you now."
"Well, maybe in your true form..."
"And in human form."
Anduin huffed, "Not in human form, I'm definitely taller."
He thought that even as a dragon, Wrathion appeared incredulous at that. "You are not!" he sputtered, he switched to his human form straight away, and it was a curious thing to watch, because the difference in size between dragon and human was incredible.
There he was, his old friend again. They both laughed as Wrathion swam toward him in the water, both a little shy. "Right—" Wrathion said breathlessly, "I'm taller. See?" He moved one hand from the top of Anduin's head to his own.
Anduin huffed, "Well, you can't tell like that, we're both swimming—"
"Okay— swim over there, it's shallow enough to stand—" He pointed toward a rounded area of the pool, and then began to head there, himself.
"Wait up—" Anduin called, he began swimming after him; in that area, Wrathion stood with the water reaching around the middle of his chest, he brushed the hair back from his eyes with both hands, and moved aside to make room for Anduin.
Once Anduin got there, he brushed his hair back, too, he padded at the sandy bottom of the pool with his feet, unable to stop grinning because he felt strangely thrilled; slowly, the two positioned themselves face to face, each looking to the top of the other's head. "See? I'm taller," Wrathion said triumphantly, he moved one hand from Anduin's head to his own, and he really did stand an inch or two over him.
"No fair, you're probably standing on some rocks or something—" Anduin said, and Wrathion huffed, "I am not! I'm standing on the ground, just like you—"
"We'll measure again later, after the bath," Anduin said, vastly annoyed by the utter injustice that would have Wrathion taller than he was. And after he'd been such a tiny little whelp...
Very discreetly, his gaze trailed along Wrathion's chest, he was mentally comparing and contrasting everything, and his pulse raced fast because of how naked they were; it hadn't occurred to him Wrathion was doing the same all the while, he appeared tremendously content about being taller.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, Anduin was aware that even though this felt like old times, Wrathion still wasn't likely to tell him his secrets; he wanted to know about Kairoz's presence, about the betrayal from long ago, and, most of all, about the world coming to an end. But he worried that if he'd asked, he'd ruin this little reunion, and he'd missed Wrathion so terribly, he couldn't bring himself to ask.
But what kind of friendship is this, really, Anduin wondered, if he's hiding all this stuff, if I can't tell him my thoughts...?
Maybe they could stay friends just a little longer, before Anduin would ruin everything by asking.
"Bet I'm faster than you," he grinned, "bet I can reach that rock right there before you can."
"What rock. That one?"
"The one with, like, ivy on top— just there—"
"That one, yeah. Okay, race you there in three... two..."
"Wait! Wait, I'm not ready. Okay. Now I'm ready."
They counted down together before taking off.
For that day's meeting, Neltharion had called not only many dragons of his own flight, but the aspects of the other flights, as well. The first to arrive was Malygos, bewitchingly handsome in his elven form; the very earth seemed to glitter with imprints of magic in his wake, and beneath the sway of his hair he appeared to be smirking just a little, like he knew something no one else did.
Neltharion shook his hand amicably, then the two patted one another gladly on the back— like clearly too much time had passed since last they'd had a chance to meet. Such a thing was rare for Malygos, in truth, as he really was quite timid and introverted, and liked to spend his time alone.
After him came Ysera, still yawning and followed by a clutch of nagging whelps; they were tended to by the brothers Eranikus and Itharius, both Ysera's consorts.
The queen of the dragons was next, in her steps small blossoms and shrubs appeared and vanished on the cave floor, Alexstrasza appeared gentle and kind as she had been in Anduin's own time; behind her in formal procession walked her four consorts, each more handsome than the last, and all four almost entirely naked. Golden bracelets and chains lined the consorts' wrists and ankles, and fastened to their nipples at the front; Jaina gasped despite herself to recognize Krasus, he appeared almost boyish, clearly the youngest of the four. She noticed that just at the flesh of his behind was inscribed in draconic, Property of the Queen.
He must have been her favorite, she thought, and her heart wrenched to recall his demise.
After that, no further guests arrived for a while; even though Nozdormu from the present time was there, after having lost his titan powers, he did not believe it was sufficient for the meeting that he served as the timeless, ever-present essence of the bronze dragonflight. He insisted they wait just a bit longer.
After that, nearly another hour had passed, and the guests had begun to grow restless; Ysera's whelps in particular were difficult to subdue, and had given her consorts a very difficult time.
Then, all at once, Neltharion's face brightened. "Nozdormu, my old friend!" He grinned, and now the other aspects gazed in the direction of the entrance; Alexstrasza chuckled good-naturedly, and Malygos waved.
Neltharion proceeded to the entrance, he could be heard asking vaguely whether Soridormi couldn't make it, and seemed to embrace someone like a brother— it became apparent when the two walked inside that the dragon who arrived was Kairoz.
Wrathion, Anduin, Jaina, and Aethas watched in utter shock while Neltharion led him in, Kairoz bloody smiled at them, he stopped just before Nozdormu and patted him warmly on the shoulder. "My future self," he beamed at the other aspects, his hand raked through Nozdormu's hair with what looked like innocent love; after that, he leaned forth fondly, with uncanny gentleness— and chastely kissed Nozdormu's lips.
(On to Chapter 6)
Jaina and Anduin turned to glare at Wrathion; they almost simultaneously nudged him in the ribs. Wrathion stiffened, he appear to growl dangerously at them both, and now they both were whispering to him angrily.
"Kairoz is Nozdormu's past form? You knew this, didn't you?" Jaina seethed, "I know you two are in league together, how long did you know this?"
At the same time, Anduin angrily whispered, "Nozdormu is in on this, too? No wonder you were so secretive—"
Wrathion raised an eyebrow in a show of regal irritation, he slapped Anduin's hand away and whispered subtly through clenched teeth, "Interestingly enough, I knew nothing about this."
In fact, he was quite annoyed that Kairoz had neglected to mention such an important detail.
But now that he'd thought of it, it made sense;Nozdormu, himself, had said he'd created the infinite dragonflight long ago, when once he'd been intent on preventing his own death. There must have been something in their own time period that he wanted, in order to accomplish this— Wrathion thought of how Kairoz had said, we'll make the infinite dragonflight possible.
After all, the four of them who had come from the present were too young to have known what Nozdormu had looked like long ago; and so much time had passed since then anyway, that the other aspects might not have noticed that Kairoz resembled the way Nozdormu had looked over ten thousand years in the past. Maybe Kairoz wasn't even really trying to hide from the present-day aspects the fact that he was Nozdormu.
As for Aethas, he said nothing of what he'd overheard last night; in truth, he wasn't certain he disagreed with Kairoz, and maybe it was because he'd had the personal experience on multiple occasions of being labeled sinister, when he'd really just wanted to do his best.
He still couldn't really believe he'd confessed to Jaina, in his past there had been so many painful nights when he'd worried himself over her; his mind drifted to those thoughts while he watched the guests chatting, it all seemed like a big family reunion somehow. In a small corner of the cave, Malygos was shyly performing little magic tricks for both Ysera's and Neltharion's whelps, they were tugging and climbing on him, which appeared to make him uneasy; he seemed too timid to ask them to stop.
This is the dragon who waged the Nexus wars... Aethas thought in disbelief, this shy pretty boy is the reason we moved Dalaran to Northrend...
Then there was Krasus; he was docilely sat at Alexstrasza's feet with his head in her lap, and she was absently stroking his hair while speaking with Ysera; Aethas smiled to remember him among The Six in the Kirin Tor. He'd been a friend to Quel'thalas. At the moment, he appeared ever gentle and subdued, almost hiding in the queen's robes— unlike two of her other consorts, who, Aethas took note, were lain in a shameless tangle of limbs and snogging each other stupid, like they had to entertain themselves somehow when they didn't have the queen's attention.
Aethas sighed, sometimes he really missed the parties in Dalaran, back when he'd studied magic there and before he'd had to grow up overnight; he'd been so deep in thought he hadn't noticed until then that both he and Jaina were openly ogling the queen's consorts.
He might have joked to her about whether she supposed the queen would let them borrow one for the night, except it was Jaina, and he was hesitant to let her know anything impure of him.
And at the other end of the room was Neltharion, flanked by both Kairoz and Nozdormu, he seemed to be talking with visible interest to both; even if Aethas didn't feel himself their enemy, there was a bad feeling in his gut that this could not be good.
Anduin appeared to think so, as well, he was really quite concerned; here Nozdormu had asked him personally to come, because his function here was presumably so dire— and now it appeared he was actually Kairoz, and allied with infinite dragons. Anduin elbowed Wrathion particularly hard, and muttered angrily in whispering tones, "Now Neltharion is going to ally with them, Nozdormu told me to come here because supposedly I have some really important purpose— when do you think you wanna tell me about the world being destroyed and all?!"
"You have an important purpose?" Wrathion laughed, it was somehow insulting; "I'll bet he meant your purpose is to stop me."
Anduin chuckled dryly, he pointed one hand in the bronze dragons' direction. "In case you haven't noticed, Kairoz is a form of Nozdormu, and he's allied with you. Obviously, that means he wouldn't want me to stop you."
"Don't be so quick to judge," came the reply, "Nozdormu is directly opposed to Murozond, even though they're the same dragon in alternate timelines. So Nozdormu is probably also opposed to Kairoz, even if they're the same guy."
"What with all— all the kissing—" Anduin stammered, suddenly shy; he was referring to the obvious affection Kairoz was showing Nozdormu. "They're practically lovers— or something—"
But most disconcerting was the fact that Nozdormu appeared to have almost anticipated Kairoz's presence at the meeting; that seemed to suggest they might have been allied somehow.
In a protective impulse, Jaina picked up the words kissing and lovers emitted by Anduin's lips, and she turned rapidly to face him, guilty because she'd been watching whatever scandalous thing the queen's consorts were up to—
"You two shouldn't be watching that," she lectured Anduin directly, and now Aethas froze, because he'd totally been watching it, too. "Yeah!" he added for good measure, "Shame on you guys! That's not at all the sort of thing..." his mind raced in attempt to find a good reason why they shouldn't be watching. That sort of rigid princely discipline was exactly why he'd been so glad to study away in Dalaran...
"Watching what?" Anduin asked, and Aethas blinked at the unexpected awareness that Anduin really was that innocent; Wrathion appeared equally confused.
"Wha— well—" Jaina stammered, gradually aware she was watching, but the princes weren't. She nudged Aethas painfully, "Kael'thas, you were watching?"
"What? Of course not! No! What sort of... beast... do you think..." he trailed off, and smiled despite himself as he stared at the consorts directly; he whispered to her, "Oh, come on, you remember the parties at the Legerdemain Lounge..." Jaina couldn't help chuckling at that. She whispered back, "You can't mention that in front of him...!"
"Right, human princes, so noble," Aethas smiled, he rolled his eyes and held his hands up in mockery of being impressed. After that, he leaned back in his chair and sighed, "You're right, they're really not watching. Those two are so dull."
Jaina pushed him lightly, with an incredulous laugh. "You are terrible influence."
"You have no idea," he sighed again, then remembered to stifle himself; if he'd kept that up, she'd get the wrong idea about him entirely.
Anduin and Wrathion had been too intently focused on the black and bronze aspects to notice all that other stuff; Anduin was more bitter than usual about his friend's refusal to tell him his secrets. "I have some really important part in this! You have to tell me what's going on!"
"Would you stop pestering me? I can't afford to tell you anything. The last thing I need is all of Stormwind ruining my plans."
Anduin's entire face contorted in preparation for some nasty remark, but it occurred to him Wrathion was right; the end of the world was absolutely something all of Stormwind ought to do something about.
"Well, maybe all of Stormwind needs to intervene!" he finally said, and regretted it immediately after, because now Wrathion definitely wasn't gonna tell.
"Oh!" Wrathion huffed, like he couldn't handle the immense amount of exasperation he'd just been made to feel, "Oh! Oh, well now I'm definitely not gonna tell!"
"You know, that's exactly the sort of thing— by the Light, look at those two guys over there—"
It seemed finally the princes took notice of the snogging consorts; they'd forgot their argument almost entirely, and were now staring mutely for several seconds, utterly stunned to see such a thing.
After some time, Anduin leaned close to Wrathion and whispered, "Have you ever done... anything like that?"
Wrathion flushed all at once. "What?" he recoiled, "What kind of question is that?"
But then, he appeared tentatively to assess Anduin's reaction out the corner of his eye, like he wasn't certain anymore whether doing something like that was a good or bad thing.
"That is— I mean— have you?"
"Ah—" Anduin stammered, suddenly self-conscious of his innocence. "Well— not exactly like that..."
His reply worried Wrathion greatly; it occurred to him Anduin must be farther ahead. He regarded Krasus, still dutifully sat with his head in the queen's lap, and realized that, at that point in time, Krasus must have been younger than his own current age.
And he'd probably already sired at least one clutch.
"Oh—" Wrathion said rapidly, "Well— me too. That is, not exactly like that, but— you know."
He gazed aside in mute panic, aware he now had to one-up his friend, because, apparently, he, himself, was terribly behind.
In truth, Anduin hadn't got farther than kissing a girl on the lips— so saying that wasn't exactly like what they were watching wasn't technically a lie.
He was taken off guard when finally Neltharion called the meeting to order, at last the queen's consorts looked up, both almost gasping for air; Malygos glanced up from where he'd been conjuring a particularly beautiful spell for the whelps, it was an elaborate set of blue blossoms, which glittered out of existence when Neltharion began to speak.
Wrathion's father went on to relay the purpose of the meeting, how in the distant future Azeroth would be in peril, and that he'd confirmed with Nozdormu that this would be true.
"With Nozdormu—" Anduin whispered to Jaina, "He means Kairoz, he can't be trusted—"
After that, Neltharion said he'd decided to lend the help of the black dragonflight, as wardens of the earth— because it was their foremost responsibility to protect Azeroth, regardless of whether help was needed in the present or future. He said the world would come under attack— by the Legion.
At this, the room erupted into commotion and chatter; Anduin, Jaina, and Aethas all stilled. "The Legion..." Anduin mouthed, Jaina appeared momentarily stunned; she slowly turned her head toward Aethas and whispered very softly, "Tell me you're not somehow involved in this."
He might have chastised her for accusing him of sinister things again, except he could not deny, something stirred in his heart to remember Kil'jaeden.
The power of it seduced him in a way that was nearly impossible to resist, and he fought terribly hard to block it out of mind.
"I have nothing to do with this, I told you," he said, but in his voice there was unmistakable longing; it sounded almost like heartache.
Anduin nervously gripped Wrathion's arm, "You knew this. You knew this all along. Tell me this is another of your lies."
"It's another of my lies," Wrathion sighed, audibly annoyed; there his father gave away his secret bluntly.
"I don't believe you!" Anduin said, "It's not a lie, is it? This time it's real!"
At his side, Jaina appeared to be struggling for clarity; she was thinking aloud, "There must be some way to find out if this is true. Velen might know. He can see visions of the future."
Ysera had her hands over the ears of one of her whelps; she was shaking her head at Neltharion in disapproval and said, "This isn't something for whelps to hear!" She turned to Alexstrasza after that and sighed, "I just couldn't find a sitter on such short notice..."
Now Neltharion had his arms raised and was trying to silence the room back into order.
"There's an artifact I've been meaning to have constructed for a while— and now it seems its time has come. I believe it should be able to combat even forces as strong as those of the Legion, but I'll need assistance from the other flights."
At this, Jaina paled. She swore under her breath, audibly frightened; "No. Tell me this isn't what I think it is. But how can this be? Wasn't he already corrupted when he decided to make the— " she gripped Wrathion's arm and seethed with pure anger, "You're behind this. You and Kairoz, and Murozond—Do you realize what this means?"
But Wrathion appeared equally afraid; his eyes went wide with the realization of what he'd done by coming here; he'd never imagined he'd lead his father to do the very evil he'd resolved himself to escape.
However, it was ultimately Nozdormu who spoke; he rose to his feet with determination he'd not shown since they'd got there, and faced Neltharion directly. "No," he said, "Absolutely not. The Dragon Soul was a terrible horror; it will destroy the Legion, but it will destroy the world with it, too."
Jaina and Anduin glanced with pure hope, and now Wrathion also rose from his seat. "Nozdormu is right," he said, "The Dragon Soul will destroy the very world we seek to protect." You will destroy the world, yourself, Father.
Beside Neltharion, Kairoz appeared completely exasperated, he leaned back in his seat with both hands rubbing hard at his eyes, like he was terribly overworked.
"Why don't you just let me do the talking," he sighed, and it wasn't certain whether he was speaking to Nozdormu or Wrathion; "We won't make the Dragon Soul the way it was made before—"
"Don't listen to him," Jaina said, "he's been plotting with infinite— dra...gons..." she trailed off, aware suddenly that infinite dragons weren't something the other flights present had heard of before.
At that, Kairoz shot Aethas a death glare that had him still with fright— because Kairoz thought that if Jaina knew this much, it meant Aethas must have squealed what he'd overheard.
"I haven't said anything!" Aethas sputtered, and now he definitely seemed to Jaina like he'd been conspiring with the infinite dragons; Wrathion and Anduin both glanced at him, and Jaina murmured, "You said you weren't in league with them... you're not still in service of Kil'jaden, are you?"
"Jaina— you don't honestly think— I swear, I'm not in league with them or Kil'jaeden."
"Kil'jaeden?" Anduin asked in confusion, "Aethas is in league with Kil'jaeden?" His voice was inhumanly tender, like he was trying to understand, and forgive, and offer hope.
Aethas groaned tiredly, he was rubbing at his face with visible annoyance. "Seriously, what did I just say? I said I'm not in league with Kil'jaden..." he grumbled.
Neltharion sighed as he tried uselessly to call order to the room once again, he was now stood with Kairoz at his side; His voice came with a kind, fatherly sort of smile, and he spoke calmly.
"With all due respect," he said, and got one arm around Kairoz, "I've known Nozdormu since before the dawn of our kind— and my own judgment is not so terribly flawed. Either way, rest assured, my sisters and brothers, that none here will be forced to take any course of action they do not wish to take. Let us at least hear what he has to say."
There was some whispering and chatter amongst the guests, and in the meantime Kairoz leaned forth toward Nozdormu; his hands caressed gently along both sides of his face, he spoke to him in soft, intimate tones. "I would never wish you harm," he whispered, "I have no greater wish than for you to live forever."
He released him almost with regret and turned finally to face the others. "It is true that the Dragon Soul had caused terrible things," he said, "but this is because of the way it was constructed. I believe it can be purified, and the black dragonflight, too, can be saved."
He regarded Nozdormu out the corner of his eye and spoke momentarily to him. "You had seen it, hadn't you, long ago— before you'd lost your vision of the future— a powerful and holy prophet of the Light will rise within Azeroth, with the ability to end corruption—"
Nozdormu shook his head like he were somehow confused; he was now arguing with Kairoz directly. "You can't be serious," he laughed, "That's your plan? That's as good as legend, it was only a vision and an arbitrary one at that, you can't take that for truth— and even if it were fact, it wouldn't happen for thousands of years, and we wouldn't even know where to begin looking—"
"Wouldn't we?" Kairoz asked, "but you've brought him to us for exactly this reason."
Nozdormu squinted, he still appeared very perplexed; "What are you..." he trailed off, aware Kairoz had slowly turned to look at Anduin.
Anduin's brow furrowed when he noticed them both staring; he looked around, clearly confused, one finger slowly pointing to himself.
"What— you don't mean— me?!"
He chuckled, like it was a pretty good joke, but he could tell Kairoz was serious; he could feel everyone's eyes on him.
"I—" he laughed and shook his head, "I'm not a powerful prophet."
He turned sideward to Jaina, then Wrathion, in attempt to have their support.
"No," Kairoz said, "not yet."
(On to Chapter 7)
Please note that a NSFW image is included at the end of this chapter! (Just in case you're reading with others around ^^ )
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Following the talks on part of Neltharion and Kairoz, the guests were given an intermission to discuss matters amongst themselves; the black aspect had emphasized that none will be coerced to agree or participate if they didn't wish to do so. He was approached by both Wrathion and Jaina, who spoke over each other in anxious tones, they asked very insistently that he reconsider this terrible idea.
"I don't care what sort of vision the bronze dragons had," Jaina told Anduin after that, "you'll take no part in this." Anduin agreed absently without really listening; he was far too overwhelmed by everything he'd heard, from the Legion's impending invasion to this news about the Dragon Soul, to his own supposed destiny as some kind of prophet.
Somewhere in the background, he was aware of Wrathion and Jaina's voices as they spoke to Neltharion again, Jaina was now asking whether Kairoz had also been so helpful as to mention what the Dragon Soul had turned Neltharion into, in her own timeline.
Anduin stared at some random area of the cave floor, his hands idly drew patterns in the soft sand as he thought of this; the prospect of creating the Dragon Soul was indeed horrifying, but he couldn't shake a feeling he'd had since the night he'd realized he had to come here— somewhere inside, he inexplicably knew he had a role here.
There was too much noise in that part of the cavern, and he couldn't think clearly— he was badly enough distracted as it were, with everyone arguing and talking loudly he was able to get up and quietly walk away. He crossed the large hall where the meeting was held, and then proceeded absently down one of the branching corridors, the pads of his fingers trailed loosely along the stony walls; the way was illuminated at intervals by glowing colored lichens and gems, his shadow hovered malformed on the earthy floor.
It occurred to him he'd felt somehow useless ever since he'd heard about the world's nearing demise, Wrathion never told him anything because he thought he'd only interfere— but here was his chance to do something.
He could conceivably have a hand in protecting the world, and something in him hungered desperately to do so.
But what if it all were just a bunch of lies, devised craftily by Kairoz and Murozond— what if they tried knowingly to seduce him with false suggestions, because they knew it would make him eager to participate? He thought, I shouldn't buy so readily into such a thing, if I were to become some sort of prophet, Velen would have seen it. He would have told me.
It was a very disappointing thing to realize, but it seemed logical— this he could not deny.
On his journey down the corridor, he felt a slight draft, he blinked in confusion as he'd not realized there was a second exit from the lair; he followed down the hallway until he'd rounded a bend, and saw that, some distance before him, the floor of the cave appeared curiously to dissolve into something like mist, and beyond it was a grassy, wooded area.
A portal, he thought, because he knew the region outside the cavern was heavily covered by snow; this wasn't just an exit from the lair. However, it was unlike any portal he'd encountered, and it was strange that he could actually feel the chill of the air outside.
Very vaguely, he could make out a figure stood in the forest dressed in red, his voice could be heard weakly, like something muffled underwater; and it occurred to Anduin he was casting some sort of spell. The shimmering beams of the spell's magic became increasingly real, and as the vision better materialized, he could see there was also a raised, rounded banister, which seemed to surround some sort of pool.
The caster seemed entirely oblivious to the portal or Anduin's presence, and it slowly became apparent that other casters were there as well, stood in a ring around the man in red— they were dressed in foreign garbs, and seemed to be assisting whatever it was he was doing. Night elves, Anduin realized, and it was odd, because the night elves were notoriously opposed to arcane magic.
He tried to put his hand through the portal, but his fingers merely passed through like the images were only some sort of projection, his brow furrowed as he continued to watch; he'd become aware of a growing sensation of dread, he could see through the portal that whatever ritual the night elves were holding would soon reach its intended purpose, and gasped despite himself to see they were calling demons forth.
The Legion, he thought, he waited for some terrible conclusion to the scene— as the sound became clearer, indeed he could hear them call to Mannoroth. He'd been so focused on trying to comprehend the scenery, in attempt to figure out where this was, that he hadn't noticed until then how well the details had now resolved; Anduin noticed he could now see the people's faces quite clearly.
He looked on in confusion on realizing the caster in red wasn't a night elf, he was a high elf, with long blond hair. But high elves didn't exist yet in this time, he thought, maybe it was a dragon who took that form, like Malygos or Krasus—
No, he could tell when the image was finally very clear, he now noticed that this elf's eyes were glowing bright green, and blood elves, he knew, definitely didn't exist yet in this time. He tried getting a better look, but now the scene slowly began to dissolve, like some magical projection cast unto smoke that was slowly thinning into the air.
"No!" Anduin muttered in frustration, his hands moved through the vision, which now came completely apart; soon the temperature in the hall returned to a comfortable warmth, and he could see that the corridor continued on in a twisting path that was obscured by the portal before.
It occurred to him then that his pulse was going fast, he looked around the placid hallway as though to find any remaining traces of the portal, but there was nothing there; he trotted a few yards farther down, but the cave appeared completely ordinary.
"By the Light, what was that?" he asked the empty hall, he felt a pressing need to ask Neltharion about the strange portal in his lair. What did it mean? Was it some sort of time portal into the future, where blood elves and night elves were calling the Legion? Was that how the demons would eventually invade Azeroth?
Anduin turned on his heels and began making his way back to the larger room where the meeting was held, he'd not noticed he'd passed another small hallway until some fragment of speech from nearby caught his attention: the Well of Eternity. It was spoken in draconic, but he recognized the term well enough.
He slowed down his steps, and couldn't help listening in; there were voices of people speaking in a room nearby, in deliberately hushed tones.
"I have a purpose there, too," someone said, "something very dear to my heart."
"I know," said another voice, and the words had an oddly compassionate ring; "We bronze dragons took something from you, and you would like it back very much."
Kairoz, Anduin thought; the other voice was also familiar, and Anduin noticed on a certain inflection that he recognized the accent; Thalassian. It had to be Aethas.
"Please," Aethas said, he spoke with what sounded like humility; it occurred to Anduin that, whatever it was he wanted, he wanted it very much.
Of course, it made sense: what blood elf wouldn't want badly to visit the Well of Eternity, it was something they must have dreamed of for thousands of years; but what did the bronze dragons take from him? And if Aethas had come to Kairoz with this request, did it mean Kairoz and the infinite dragons intended to visit the Well of Eternity?
That can't be good, he thought, the Well's waters were notoriously powerful, and if Kairoz had some sinister purpose—
Before he could hear the next bit, someone's hand rapidly came on his mouth from behind, Anduin stiffened completely; there came the humid warmth of breath just at his ear, and the sway of soft hair.
"Silence, mortal," someone spoke, even though Anduin hadn't made a sound; it occurred to him that, whoever this was, he wanted to listen in on this, too. Anduin saw after that that some sort of magical barrier was formed around them, he slowly turned his head to see.
He recognized that Malygos stood directly behind him, the blue aspect had spoken so little that entire afternoon that Anduin wondered if he'd heard his voice earlier at all; he now talked just at Anduin's ear, seductive somehow. "Don't ever help those two. They intend to use the Well's waters for terrible magic, Neltharion's brood was right to object." He went on after that to explain that the barrier he had cast would prevent Nozdormu from smelling or hearing them. He means Kairoz, Anduin understood.
He thought of the Nexus wars, how Malygos had been intensely opposed to the use of magic by mortals— and wondered if his words now were at all founded in bias, by Malygos' own distaste for the Well's use to that end.
But what if he was right? Why would Aethas need to meet with Kairoz in secret? He remembered Jaina's words about Aethas conspiring with the infinite dragons.
She had also said he'd conspired with Kil'jaeden.
But the way he spoke now didn't sound like something crafty or sinister; it occurred to Anduin that Aethas sounded almost like he were grieving the loss of a loved one.
It left him feeling uncomfortably like he was intruding on something very intimate.
None of it made any sense; he wondered if he was meant to help somehow, and it occurred to him after that that he'd actually been considering helping with something that could be quite dangerous.
Very tentatively, Malygos' hand slid down from over Anduin's mouth, like he didn't quite trust him to behave himself once he could talk; Anduin slowly caught his breath, he proceeded to turn around.
From up close, Malygos was enchanting in a way he'd not really realized; he appeared a wizard through and through, it occurred to Anduin that his timid demeanor was misleading. It made you unaware of the tremendous power that lay beneath. After some time, he felt he had to look away, because Malygos' eyes were somehow spellbinding; it was almost like he felt he would sink unknowingly into some abyss he could never escape.
"I couldn't help them even if I wanted to," Anduin said, "I don't have the powers they say I have, and I suspect it was all some kind of lie they made up in attempt to seduce me."
"You have powers," Malygos said, "I can feel them."
"I'm a priest of the Light," came the reply, "But not a powerful prophet."
Malygos appeared after that deep in thought; for some time, his expression was unreadable. "Perhaps that's all it is," he finally said.
They were both taken off guard by what sounded like footsteps within the room; Malygos gripped Anduin quickly and blinked some distance away from the entrance, to just behind a curve in the corridor. Anduin was about to speak up by that point, he didn't like being grabbed and transported without his discretion, maybe he'd had enough of that while growing up.
However, Malygos rapidly hushed him, before he could say much— they watched Kairoz and Aethas make their way out of the room, which confirmed Anduin's suspicions about who the speakers were.
After the two figures turned to head back to the main hall, Anduin thought of another matter that weighed on his mind; "Would it be all right to ask something," he said, like he were somehow reluctant to speak of it— because there was no way to do so without sounding dumb. "Do you know if Neltharion has magical portals in his lair?"
Malygos stared back for some time; Anduin wondered if the blue aspect outright disliked mortals, or if he was just very introverted and timid, and that he, himself, had got the wrong impression. He can't dislike mortals. The dragon aspects are meant to protect us.
"Magical portals?" Malygos asked, he regarded Anduin in a way that made him feel almost certain he thought mortals were complete imbeciles— and that he, Anduin, was a prime example of that.
Despite that, he went on to relay to him how he had seen a portal some distance away along the corridor, and how it was quite a strange portal, because he could feel the cool temperature of the outdoors through it; he'd almost told about the events he had seen, but then stopped himself. He wasn't certain why, but he didn't want to say anything about those dreadful events.
"A portal? Where?" Malygos asked, he sounded terribly condescending, like portals were his own domain, which clearly Anduin wouldn't know anything about.
"It's not there anymore," Anduin replied, "I saw it for some time, but then it vanished."
"Show me where it was, I'll be able to pick up traces of magic if it had been there."
After that, Anduin led Malygos down the hallway, but he couldn't find the part of the cave where he'd been before; they'd walked very far, until they'd finally reached the end of the pathway, and Anduin stood there in confusion, wondering if he'd made some mistake somewhere along the way.
"That's odd," he said sheepishly, "I could've sworn... well, maybe we've passed it..."
He felt awfully foolish, but proceeded to lead Malygos back, and this time he made sure to look in adjacent corners and branching halls— but he couldn't quite find that same place again. "And you've— not picked up any signs of magic anywhere along the way?" he asked.
"You waste my time, mortal," Malygos said, like he hadn't just spent like two hours idly doing tricks for little whelps, "There are no traces of magic here, and Neltharion wouldn't know how to conjure a portal even if he'd wanted to."
Maybe I'll ask Aunt Jaina, Anduin thought, but he knew that even if Jaina was a powerful mage, she wasn't more powerful than the blue aspect— and if Malygos hadn't picked up any traces, then that meant there probably weren't any.
"And what did you see through this portal?" Malygos asked.
"Ah—" Anduin stammered, somehow taken off guard. "Nothing remarkable. Just— some grass and trees."
He felt himself inwardly shrink under Malygos' gaze, his expression was unreadable again and Anduin was almost certain he wasn't buying it— but in the end he merely sighed and said, "Whatever it was, it wasn't a portal. Portals don't work like that anyway, you don't feel the climate through them. You must've imagined the whole thing."
"I didn't imagine it!" Anduin protested, he didn't like being dismissed for a fool; but, more than anything, he was really quite confused now.
"Look, I'm sorry I can't help you," Malygos said, "but there was nothing arcane here. Maybe you should consult with some other priest."
That's great, Anduin thought, except I'm like the only priest on the planet right now. He watched Malygos walk away down the hall.
Then, something occurred to him.
No, there were other priests on Azeroth during this time period— they had called the Light Elune.
As he proceeded to walk back, Anduin wished he hadn't led Malygos so far down the twisting bends of the cave, he began to feel lost and worried he'd be late for the next part of the meeting; his mood improved vastly when he recognized Wrathion's familiar voice from nearby, he was heard speaking with somebody else. Anduin had almost called out to him— but he held back, because he took notice it sounded like an intimate sort of conversation, that would be very embarrassing to intrude on.
It made him inexplicably jealous, and though he'd had quite enough of listening in on the private matters of others, he'd resolved himself that this time he'd only listen until there'd be some particularly incriminating part, and then he'd accuse Wrathion directly.
What is the matter with me? he thought, thoroughly ashamed; I'm meant to show compassion and forgiveness, not...
He gazed discreetly, and saw that Wrathion appeared to be bargaining with Krasus, or attempting to do so; the queen's consort appeared to be denying him outright. "Absolutely not," he said, he turned around and pointed directly to his behind, where there was the inscription, Property of the Queen. "You see this? This means I'm not for rent. Wanna know how I got this?"
Wrathion sighed, though he was staring at Krasus' behind in a way that vastly irritated Anduin— he then went on in the sort of aristocratic, seductive voice Anduin knew well, the sort he used when he manipulated people to do his bidding. "I'm merely asking that you teach me," he said, like it were the most innocent thing in the world.
Teach you?! Anduin seethed inwardly, You want him to bloody teach you?!
"Absolutely not," Krasus said again, without missing a beat; "I am property of the queen, and the queen only."
Finally, Wrathion smiled; he held his hands to his sides like there was nothing to be done. "Very well," he grinned, "then I suppose there's no more I can do to convince you."
But Anduin knew him better; this was only part of the act. He watched Krasus take an elegant bow and then turn to head back to the main part of the hall; to his annoyance, he recognized very briefly what looked like desire in the consort's eyes.
Then Wrathion's voice came with very convincing disinterest and nonchalance, he asked while seeming to inspect his claws absently, "By the way, so how did you get that?"
The inscription, he meant.
Krasus stilled and looked over his shoulder; his voice wavered just a little when he spoke. "Malygos," he said, "If I were you, I'd do well to stay away from him."
Malygos... Anduin mouthed, he'd always thought it was a bit odd that Krasus, the queen's consort and a red dragon at that, was such a high-ranking and powerful mage.
His thoughts were interrupted when Wrathion spoke. "How long are you planning on hiding there?" He turned to face him directly, "Anduin Wrynn."
Anduin flushed immediately, and then he remembered he was quite upset with Wrathion; he stepped out from where he'd been stood and glared like he'd caught him in the act.
"So!" he huffed, now relishing in his anger, "So...!"
Wrathion raised an eyebrow. "So what?"
"So!" Anduin was now slowly pacing around Wrathion, he pointed one finger at him. "What the hell was that all about? Were you propositioning the queen's consort for s— for sex?"
He spoke the last words quietly, while looking around to be sure no one else could hear.
"Tried to," Wrathion sighed, "But you heard him, property of the queen."
Like he wasn't at all bothered.
"A-ha!" Anduin sputtered, he wiggled the finger he had pointed a little. "You even admit it!"
Now Wrathion raised both eyebrows. "Anduin Wrynn, are you jealous?"
"What— jealous?!" Anduin laughed, "No, I'm not jealous— and quit calling me by my full name every time, it's so freaking annoying."
Wrathion regarded him, utterly unfazed, like his reaction was terribly barbaric.
Anduin stood in place with arms crossed, he huffed aside and laughed dryly, "Pff, why would I be jealous..."
"Of course," Wrathion smiled with that charming, irritating grin, "No reason at all."
"Why would I care if you want— to— solicit the services— of the queen's consort—"
"Of course you wouldn't."
"Exactly! I don't! I mean— if those are the sorts of morals you have—"
Wrathion bloody laughed, his fangs glinted dangerously in the low light of the torches; "Anduin, I'm flattered," he said, "And here all this time I was certain you thought I had no morals."
"You don't! You're a liar and a sneak! You betrayed me, just because—"
Because you wanted to protect our world from the Legion, and thought I would get in your way.
Now Wrathion was pacing around him slowly, like he was somehow aware he'd got him to understand; he paused just at his shoulder, Anduin felt his clawed fingers close one by one on his upper arm.
"You are jealous," Wrathion's voice came quiet and low, his breath ghosted humidly just at Anduin's ear; "My old friend, be not bothered by such meaningless things; you've always known the place you have in my heart."
Anduin stilled at the pressure of Wrathion's lips, warm and insistent at the side of his neck; he thought he'd never felt something so sweet.
"I'm not— jealous—" he murmured weakly; when he'd been released, he thought he'd lose his balance and fall.
"Let us head back," Wrathion said with impeccable composure, "I hope that kiss won't cloud your thoughts, you'll need a clear mind for the rest of the meeting."
Anduin watched him walk off, he absently fingered the side of his neck; despite himself, he was stupidly smiling.
(On to Chapter 8)
Krasus: "I am property of the queen, and the queen only...!"
A/N: I would love to find someone interested in roleplaying Warcraft lore, especially Wrathion/Anduin, though there are a lot of lore characters I like. I've had a very difficult time finding anyone interested in this, as WoW fangirls usually like RPing their OCs (which I'm not interested in doing). It's cool by me if you're not completely versed in the lore, I'm not a die-hard lore person, myself, and it's something you can read about a bit at a time as necessary. If you feel like giving it a try, please let me know! (Contact info on my profile)
Wrathion had put on convincing airs of nonchalance, but inside he was utterly anxious; he'd never kissed someone like that. He'd been terribly nervous about doing it, or about confessing such personal things, and, truly, Anduin's jealousy had flattered him. And although he was completely opposed to the creation of the Dragon Soul, he didn't entirely dismiss Kairoz's prediction that Anduin would become a powerful prophet: there was something he'd remembered, years ago during his friend's recovery, after being crushed by the Bell—
In the large part of the cavern, the guests were beginning to settle back down into their seats, Malygos stood at the front of the room, he appeared to speak intently with Neltharion; Anduin roused from his dreams on seeing them, he remembered he'd wanted to ask Neltharion about the portal. I'll wait until after Malygos leaves, he thought, he imagined the blue aspect wouldn't much like to hear him on about this topic a second time.
It occurred to him he'd been quite nervous about taking his seat beside Wrathion, he'd become shy of him and began wondering what it meant— truly, how could his friend have done such a thing, and then expected him to have a clear mind...? He'd concerned himself so much with what Wrathion must be thinking that he'd forgot entirely to ask Jaina's opinion about all he'd witnessed during the break.
His neck tingled where he'd kissed him.
He turned his face the other way so Wrathion wouldn't see him smile.
Gradually, the commotion settled down and the hall fell quiet when Neltharion proceeded again to address the guests; he explained that he'd been approached by a number of individuals explicitly opposed to the creation of the Dragon Soul, and some very much in favor. Ultimately he'd concluded the risk was too great, and a different solution had to be found.
At Anduin's side, Wrathion and Jaina both appeared very relieved, Jaina leaned her head forth like she was emotionally exhausted, and silently mouthed, thank you.
Anduin, however, could not deny there was somewhere in him a bout of disappointment— it occurred to him he'd been deeply moved by the prospect of having a role here.
"Let us not be too hasty," a voice broke the silence from across the hall; Anduin expected it would be Kairoz, but on glancing up he saw Aethas rise from his seat. Jaina slowly turned to look, with something like dread.
Aethas pivoted elegantly in place, he turned to address the room with natural grace and then moved to face Neltharion. "You say the Dragon Soul can be purified," he said, he spoke the word with such emotional emphasis it sounded almost like he found the concept fascinating.
Kael'thas, what are you doing? Jaina thought, she wondered if his addiction to magic had completely corrupted his judgment; she didn't want to believe he really was allied with the infinite dragons, or worse, with Kil'jaeden.
At the front of the room, Kairoz appeared both surprised and content, he seemed visibly amused as he listened to see where this would go.
Aethas paced slowly through the hall until he stopped just behind Anduin; he leaned forth and got one hand on his shoulder. "It's too early to give up hope," he said, "if this human truly bears such an ability, the potential implications are immense. The holy power of a purified Dragon Soul—"
He stopped when some noise came from the opposite side of the room; there issued a flutter of fabric from a small corner of the cave as Malygos rose to his feet, his blue robes shimmered in low magical winds, and his gaze fell directly on Aethas.
For some moments, Aethas thought himself transfixed, there came in Malygos' expression the same secretive smile he'd had when first he'd arrived that day, his laughter was odd but curiously charming. "Certainly this would suit your interests, mortal," he said, and then his eyes turned to Neltharion. "You might be interested to know, dear friend, that this little mage has been influenced by Nozdormu. He is a powerful practitioner of magic, and intends to make some malevolent use of the Well of Eternity."
The words cut through Aethas like the most brutal sort of knife; he'd been nearly numbed and seduced by Malygos' gaze when the accusation struck, and the most intimate contents of his heart had been laid bare. He regarded Malygos like he were purely cruel, and like he, Aethas, had been openly humiliated at his most fragile point.
Kairoz glared at Malygos silently, he whispered to him through clenched teeth, "I'll deal with you later, little darling."
Jaina regarded Aethas incredulously; it occurred to her she really had wanted to trust him, but Malygos' words seemed to confirm both of her fears: indeed he seemed to be allied both with the infinite dragons and with Kil'jaeden. She could easily guess how he'd want to use the Well.
But Anduin couldn't shake the feeling that Aethas' intentions were innocent; maybe he wasn't thinking straight, maybe it was because of the kiss; maybe he'd felt resentful of Malygos, after he'd seemed so dismissive and condescending— but truly, he'd hoped it was something purer than that.
None among them, he believed, was beyond redemption.
He stood at Aethas' side without really knowing him at all, and spoke as his advocate. "Too long has our friend faced condemnation," he said, and gazed directly at Malygos; "In our timeline, he'd been imprisoned in his own city, by his own colleagues in the ruling council, on account of baseless accusations— and our accusations tonight are baseless, as well. We have no reason to believe his intent is malevolent. I feel his heart is pure."
Jaina rolled her eyes, like here was another enlightened and empowered speech by a young person who was certain he knew better than everyone who actually had experience, just because some novel insight he had was emotionally overwhelming to him. She wondered how it was that his mystical priestly gifts had not also made him "feel" that this same guy had summoned Kil'jaeden through the Sunwell not too long ago.
At the front of the room, Malygos appeared particularly annoyed, but before he and Aethas could exchange further words, Alexstrasza's voice issued forth.
"My dear friends," she said, and slowly all gazes fell upon her; "at this dark hour we ought not turn on each other in strife; this problem has a simple and logical solution. If our human prince indeed bears the power to purify corrupted items, these abilities can be tested and trained on objects of lesser power than the Dragon Soul. If indeed he is proven to possess this ability and employ it to our satisfaction, the red dragonflight will lend its aid in creating the Soul."
At this, Ysera also spoke; "A wise solution," she said, "in that event, the green dragonflight, too, will lend its aid."
"No, my sister," said the queen, "I should ask that only the black dragonflight contribute, as wardens of the earth; in the event that the worst happens, the Soul will need to be destroyed, and therefore we must not all empower it. This way, the aspects not invested in the object will outnumber those who had been invested— it will be a failsafe."
"But, your Highness," Neltharion spoke, "your powers far outweigh any of ours. Only the black dragonflight should contribute."
Alexstrasza appeared to think this through; Neltharion seemed to have a point. After some moments she finally said, "At this time, we do not yet know whether the Dragon Soul should be created; let us first see to this, and then we shall decide who among us should contribute."
The meeting's conclusion saw a great deal of animosity descend upon Anduin; Jaina, for one, was quite upset, she had pulled him into a corner and was pacing in place while angrily muttering. "Of all the foolish, irresponsible things— this is because Aethas said you have a gift, isn't it?"
"Don't Aunt Jaina me! Ho ho! You might have a gift, and you might not, that remains to be seen— but do you need to be reminded of what Deathwing was? Oh, but no, it's worse than that, now! It's more than just Deathwing all over again, I think my favorite bit was when you were like, I can feel his heart is pure—" She said the last bit in a ridiculously shrill voice, while waving her hands around.
"Did you enjoy making me look like an idiot, with your speech about his baseless imprisonment? Since you can feel his heart is so pure?"
She leaned in very close after that, to be sure no one might overhear. "Do you want to know why he shouldn't be allowed near the Well of Eternity? Do you want to know who Aethas really is?"
She looked behind her to be sure no one was walking nearby, and then whispered to him angrily, "Are you familiar with the name Kael'thas Sunstrider? Prince of Quel'thalas? When you were still a kid, he summoned—"
Anduin regarded her wide-eyed, trapped between her and the wall of the cave; he finished the sentence for her in nearly inaudible tones. "—summoned Kil'jaeden through the Sunwell."
Without meaning to, he tried to look over Jaina's shoulder, to catch a glimpse of Aethas; "You're kidding," he whispered, "you can't be serious. Aethas is him?"
Jaina appeared to fight for composure; very slowly, she'd gained control of her rage, and became aware that beneath her temper her heart hurt inexplicably. "You aren't entirely wrong," she said, "I believe he means well; but he is too dangerous, he should not be brought actively to the Well."
Anduin caught sight of Aethas somewhere across the room; he appeared like the same familiar elf who'd been in their party recently, the notion he might have been the infamous late prince of Quel'thalas was terribly odd. Anduin might have asked how it was that he'd survived death, that he was walking around freely, and that Jaina knew his identity— but he didn't question any of this; despite everything he'd heard, he couldn't shake the feeling Aethas was innocent.
"Aunt Jaina, I forgot to tell you— but during the break, Malygos and I overheard Kairoz and Aethas speaking—"
"So they are allied—"
"Maybe," Anduin said, "but it didn't sound like they were up to malevolent things. Kairoz said the bronze dragonflight had taken something from Aethas, and that he probably wants it back very much."
At this, Jaina's brow furrowed. "Of course, Kairoz would know who he is; he can see his past. But what did the bronze dragonflight take from him?"
"I don't know." Anduin thought for a moment, and then gazed at Jaina directly. "I can't really explain it, but he sounded very— sad— I don't think he wants to go there to gain some sort of power."
Jaina considered this; it occurred to her how little she'd paid attention to Kael'thas personally when she knew him within the Council of Six; much had been lost in the invasion of Quel'thalas, maybe there were some sentimental items or artifacts that dated back to his great, great grandfather, Dath'remar—
"It's still too risky," she said, "Anduin, I don't want to hurt him, either— but we came here to stop the Legion, not usher its invasion of Azeroth."
Jaina's fury had been nothing compared with what Anduin faced from Wrathion after the meeting; when they were finally alone, the Black Prince charged at him in a flurry of rage, he toppled him to the cave floor and straddled his hips with an angry battle roar.
"You unbelievable idiot!" Wrathion seethed, "What in the hell were you thinking?! This right here, this is exactly why I didn't want you involved!"
Anduin thought he'd had quite enough of being lectured; in a great feat of effort, he lunged upward to Wrathion and rolled him onto his side, until they were wrestling angrily on the floor.
"Don't put this on me!" he snarled, he paid no heed to the way his princely garbs were soiled in the sand; his hair had come messy all over his face, but he kept tight hold of Wrathion's collar.
"You should have considered the Dragon Soul when you came to Neltharion for help in the first place! And Alexstrasza was right, she's not some idiot—"
"You're just saying she was right because she wants to test your holy talents, you're doing this for— ugh!— for personal— gain!"
"How dare you!" Anduin's face soured at the implication his motive was selfish somehow; "You're only opposed to her because her— oof— consort— turned you down!"
"That's it—" Wrathion growled, what followed was a long and ugly physical fight, where neither ultimately emerged the winner— but where finally the two managed to exert the anger and tension they'd had simmering for years.
After some time, they were both utterly filthy, their uniforms were completely wrinkled and covered with dirt, they were still tangled together and half-assedly batting at each other.
"I'm—" Wrathion breathed, "I'ma switch to my true form in like two seconds, and then you'll really get it—"
"Try it—" Anduin's voice came tired and hoarse, he had his eyes closed and lips parted with breath. "Try it and I'll call down holy fire on you, so hard—"
"You wouldn't dare."
"You're not gonna do that—"
"I will! I'm totally doing it! I'm doing it right now—"
Anduin closed his eyes and brought his hands together, which was a bit difficult with Wrathion's left leg tangled over one of his elbows, and his leg was pretty fucking heavy.
He brought his hands into his best approximation of a prayer position, quite uncomfortably, and began silently mouthing words until a small light appeared between his palms; at this, Wrathion gripped both Anduin's wrists and pulled them widely apart, and with great exertion he got them both held securely on the cave floor.
"You are seriously such a dick," he said, and Anduin laughed. "I told you! I told you I was gonna, that's what you get—"
His words were muffled when Wrathion's lips came on his; at that, his hands lost their struggle. He'd not realized how badly he'd wanted this till it came, how half of his anger was really the hurt of not being acknowledged.
He let Wrathion hold him down and fervently kissed him back, he silently murmured,
"I've missed you—"
(On to Chapter 9)
(Very old drawing, but for some reason people liked it
better than my later stuff, haha!)
Anduin had definitely never kissed someone like that. It was bloody brilliant, he felt eternally grateful to Wrathion for being so kind, for letting him do this; the fact that his uniform had got wrinkled and filthy didn't matter in the least. They'd been at it with such rushed desperation they hadn't stopped to think, they'd both waited their entire lives to finally feel what this was like; they were both terribly clumsy and awkward, but it was okay, they wondered how far they'd be allowed to go.
All the while, Wrathion was rather concerned, because earlier Anduin had suggested he'd had some experience; Wrathion wondered if he, himself, had come off terribly naive to him. He would have liked to hide such a thing, but wasn't sure how.
He thought, if I do anything stupid, I'll just say that's how dragons do things, and that he just wouldn't understand.
Very carefully, he slid one hand beneath Anduin's shirt, his heart was going fast with his own boldness— he watched Anduin out the corner of his eye to assess his reaction, but he still appeared to be fine.
I'm so awesome right now, Wrathion observed, he believed himself very mature and adult; his hand trailed experimentally over the flat expanse of Anduin's abdomen, up to the costal margin and the alternating ridges of his ribs, and Anduin totally let him.
"I totally wouldn't have asked Krasus if I knew you'd let me do this," he said in a brilliant show of tact, and Anduin absolutely took it as a compliment; his laughter came breathy, "Well, how was I supposed to know you wanted to do this if you never said so?"
"Well— you never said so, either."
"Well, next time I will."
Next time? There's going to be a next time? Wrathion thought he wanted to do this all the time now. Just this, and nothing else. Except for saving the world, obviously, but this was also pretty important.
"Can I get this off?" he asked while tugging at Anduin's blazer, and Anduin was already most of the way out of it; he didn't need to be asked twice. "You can get anything off that you want," he said, impatiently breathless, he paused momentarily as they both looked toward the entryway to the little chamber.
"What if someone walks in?" he whispered, and Wrathion regarded the small, glowing crystals that lit up that part of the cave; "Maybe if we covered them, it'll get dark, and then if someone walked in, they won't be able to see anything," he said.
He removed his own blazer and carefully proceeded to the glowing mound, then placed it over the crystals; the light in the chamber became very dim. From beneath the cloth the cloudy fluorescent shapes still appeared vaguely visible.
"Yours, too, come on," Wrathion said, he reached for Anduin's blazer, and after they got both to cover the crystals, the room was almost totally dark.
"Right, where are you—" Anduin asked, they laughed sheepishly when they reached for each other; they rolled clumsily unto the cave floor and kissed messily, awkwardly, partly missing, nowhere near careful enough— but they had nothing to evaluate that against; they both felt they were having a brilliant time.
Wrathion took Anduin's hand, and in an even more stellar demonstration of tact, he placed it directly at the front of his own trousers; he believed himself really quite suave. "I'm hard," he informed him unnecessarily, and Anduin saw absolutely nothing tactless about it; he'd never felt another guy's erection before. He felt daft as his fingers wandered experimentally over the pressed fabric of Wrathion's trousers, and stupidly murmured, "Me, too."
Wrathion ignored that utterly, because currently more pressing at the forefront of his mind (and trousers) was his own arousal; he therefore bypassed anything Anduin might have said, and instead headed directly to the question he'd wanted to ask for what seemed to him a very significant portion of his life.
"Do you want to take it in your mouth?"
Anduin totally didn't— but the question came so direct that he wasn't sure what to say.
"Oh..." he finally murmured, hoping Wrathion might understand it wasn't something he at all wanted to do— but Wrathion wasn't going to ruin this if it had a chance of actually happening.
"I'll do it to you after, if you want," he said, "but could you just do it? For maybe just a few minutes?"
A few minutes? Anduin despaired inwardly, he hadn't realized he'd have to do it for that long.
"S— sure..." he said with audible hesitance; he'd been about to tell Wrathion he wouldn't have to do it back, because the prospect of having him do it was terribly embarrassing— but he couldn't help himself.
He was dead curious, himself, about what it would feel like to get head.
After that, Wrathion didn't wait any longer; within microseconds he was tugging impatiently at his own trousers, entirely unashamed while he pulled them off his legs, then his briefs after that. He reached toward Anduin to kiss him as a show of gratitude, and partly missed because it was really quite dark. He kind of wished he could see.
He lay down propped by his elbows and beckoned Anduin forth, in the darkness their eyes got more accustomed to the dim light that emanated from the covered crystals; Anduin couldn't believe he was really going to do this.
He proceeded slowly between Wrathion's long legs; back when they swam together he had tried to get a proper look of his body, and now he could just barely see his silhouette; he could tell he was built lean and tall, his body was practically hairless, the angles and articulations of his bones were formed with elegant grace.
But Wrathion didn't give him the luxury to observe what little he could see; just in case Anduin forgot what he was meant to be doing, Wrathion got his hand directly on his member, then smiled and told him how good it felt.
Anduin felt somehow trapped, he couldn't exactly move away; there was no choice for him but to directly acknowledge he had his hand on another guy's cock.
He became aware Wrathion was quite well-endowed; he mentally compared and contrasted everything, and suddenly he wished he could see. His fingers wandered over the smooth surface, it was so hard and hot, Wrathion kept his hand on his and was guiding him to do what he liked.
"So can you do it?" he asked, and Anduin realized he couldn't keep stalling.
"Yeah," he said, Wrathion watched with almost unbearable anticipation while his friend knelt between his thighs, he thought he'd never been more curious in his life about what something would feel like.
This was it.
He was finally going to get head.
Very tentatively, Anduin took the tip of his cock in his mouth; at that, Wrathion stilled utterly. He observed in the darkness, breath suspended, and brushed back Anduin's hair now that he could very vaguely make out his outline; for some moments he said nothing, as not to deter him, but eventually began giving breathless little instructions on what he ought to do.
It was fucking brilliant. It was, hands down, the single best thing Wrathion had ever felt.
When Anduin had been informed of this, he was quite surprised; after all the instructions, he'd been certain he'd been doing it dreadfully wrong, and now hearing it was actually good was absolutely flattering.
"Really?" he asked, and Wrathion's hand came in his hair; "Don't stop," he said, and Anduin wondered how much longer he'd have to do it; after some time, he asked, "What about how you said you'd do it to me?"
"I will, definitely— just— go on a bit longer?"
"How much longer?"
"I don't know... five minutes?"
"Okay, okay. Two minutes."
"Okay, but then you have to do it to me."
"Fine, just— just keep going."
Out the corner of his eye, Aethas observed that Jaina was headed in the direction of the chamber where Anduin and Wrathion had gone; he'd passed by that bend in the corridor earlier and caught just enough of their conversation to know it was something that ought not be interrupted, and by Aunt Jaina in particular. He made his way toward her briskly, and with an elegant turn of the wrist got his hand on hers.
He said her name softly, and then cleverly prompted her to turn the other way; "Would it be all right to have a word about what happened before?"
His touch had been so gentle she didn't startle on feeling his hand, she turned to him in a bout of surprise.
When she'd fully recognized what he'd asked, she nodded almost eagerly; "Yes," she said, "I should very much like to have a word."
He could tell by the way she regarded him that she was really quite concerned, he could imagine how discontent she must have felt after Malygos' blatant accusations.
He walked with her out of the cavern entirely, to the frozen grounds outside, where late afternoon had now given way to twilight; the orange rays of the setting sun glittered through the frosted trees, they painted the curving mounds of snow in gold and yellow. Their boots sounded low and crisp on the wintery earth, and Kael'thas thought that for so many years, he had dreamt of taking a walk with Jaina, just like this.
I could walk with you all day, he thought, but the day was almost over.
"Be honest with me, Kael'thas," she said, and he thought nothing ever touched his heart like hearing her speak his real name; he would have liked to tell her, Call me Kael. "Are you planning something sinister? Is it true, what Malygos said?"
She stopped and turned to him directly, and he felt like he was somehow in trouble, like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar; he'd have loved to kiss her just then, if it were the sort of lifetime where such a thing were possible.
She seemed like she was fighting back her temper, like she was really trying not to get mad; "Anduin seems to think your motives are pure, and he's not a stupid kid; but I'm not sure he has any real basis to think so— he is still a kid, after all. Well— he is, to me." She raised her eyes to Kael'thas and sighed. "And you're just a kid, too, aren't you— for an elf—"
The sunlight glittered from just behind him, it illuminated his hair in a soft haze; he regarded her sweetly and smiled. "I promise, Jaina; I won't lie to you." Very gently, he slid the back of his hand against her cheek and brushed his fingers sadly through a strand of her hair. "Maybe you'll decide to trust me."
"Stop with the drama," she deadpanned, "Are you still allied with Kil'jaeden? Is that why you want to go to the Well?"
"Allied with Kil'jaeden, no," he said, "But is there really any way to convince you I'm not up to something sinister— now that Malygos had made such a show of my personal matters?"
"Your personal matters?"
"It's not important," he replied, "whatever he said, there's no way he could understand— but you wouldn't believe me if I said I mean no harm, would you?"
"I want to believe you," she said, "but—"
"But you just can't trust me, after everything that happened before."
"Kael'thas," she said gently, she regarded him like she was trying to make him see reason; "you've not done much to appear trustworthy." Her words were laden not in accusation or malice, but came instead as simple fact; "You say you mean nothing sinister, but you haven't explained what purpose you supposedly have; even now, you still don't reveal your true form, you don't expect me to trust you based on affection and niceties—"
At that, Kael laughed softly; his eyes fixed on the distant mouth of the cave, now apparent far off that they'd walked for a while. Their footsteps tracked through the snow in a graying trail, at the sides of the road grasses trembled in the light evening breeze.
He smiled at her fondly and brought one finger to his lips, then whispered, "Keep this a secret, from one mage to another."
One Kirin Tor mage to another, he would have liked to say.
His hands appeared large and elegant when he brought then to his chest, his eyes fluttered shut as he proceeded to mouth some silent incantation; Jaina observed with her brow furrowed as low beams of light shimmered in-between his fingers, they brightened gradually until they were nearly blinding, and for some moments she could vaguely make out the outline of a golden phoenix bird before the incandescent beams washed over Kael entirely.
When the light glittered slowly away, he appeared at first entirely covered in white; then, his features materialized slowly, the colors set in until his robes were a very vivid red.
His appearance was familiar and nostalgic, but so many years had passed since last she'd set eyes on him; now he was stood there like nothing had changed, in his royal garments and all.
Jaina chuckled, there was something threatening forth at the back of her throat, and she deliberately forced it back, stupidly sentimental; "It really is you," she laughed, or meant to, but despite herself she was just a little tearful.
"Idiot," she smiled, but it was an awful, twisted smile she couldn't sustain, why did something like this get her emotional...? Kael'thas was supposed to be dead.
"You idiot, all this time, you knowingly had us all fooled—"
She pushed him back weakly, like she was too mentally exhausted to deal with what it all meant; "You made a mockery of the Kirin Tor— you just came back to your old place in the Council— and you fooled us all to believe—"
But there was no real anger behind her words; she understood all too well how wretched his life must have been, that he had resorted to living in secret.
When she had known him in her younger years, she'd never really bothered with who he really was— but she knew now that ever since the invasion of Quel'thalas, he had lived a life colored with tragedy and despair. She bombarded him after that with insults and swears, and they fell on him like the tenderest whispers of love, it was overwhelming somehow, that she cared to speak those things directly.
She smacked him weakly on the arm and stumbled forth a few steps in the snow, "If you go to the Well of Eternity, don't think I won't watch you," she said, her voice wavered despite herself; "I'll watch you really carefully, and I'll find out what you're up to— and if you try anything, I'll make you wish you were back at the Violet Hold—"
At that, his expression brightened warmly, he gave a fond little laugh; essentially, it meant she had given her approval, that it was all right for him to go.
"Being personally babysat by Jaina," he said with a soft smile; "That doesn't sound so bad, does it?"
She regarded him with something between a grin and a grimace, and swiped at her eyes with complete lack of grace. "How come you still look so fucking young anyway," she muttered, "you haven't aged a bloody day."
"Just think, you could have all this," he grinned, and posed like he were showcasing himself as that day's special.
"Yeah shut up," Jaina smiled; she watched as he finally proceeded to change back to Aethas, and something inside her almost wanted him to stop—
In the moments just before his transformation, she noticed he'd only had one verdant sphere remaining, of the original three.
Kairoz caught up with Malygos somewhere down the path leading away from the cave; in one nimble maneuver he got him facing the dry front of a large boulder, he grinned over his shoulder from behind— it wasn't much different from the way Malygos, himself, had trapped Anduin earlier.
"You didn't honestly think I'd let you get away," he mouthed, he bit lightly just at the shell of his ear; "elusive little bastard, aren't you."
Malygos went very still; he turned his head sideward very slowly, but Kairoz was too clever for this; he got one hand over Malygos' eyes and whispered over his temple, "Not tonight, sweet darling; your enchanting gaze won't work on me."
Beneath his palm, he could feel the soft flicker of his eyelashes, the pointed tip of his nose; "You've always been my favorite, not counting myself, of course—"
He leaned forth to run his tongue along the white expanse of Malygos' neck, he'd got him to gasp, just a little; "Don't even try to summon your doubles, you know I can do far worse."
"I'm not getting out of this one tonight, am I?" Malygos asked, and Kairoz's laughter came low; "No, little brother, tonight you're in a lot of trouble."
He got one hand on his wrist and rapidly tugged, but Malygos turned around on his own; "You won't win this, Nozdormu," he said, his voice came quiet and seductive in the small space between them. "I know why you're doing this, your futile quest for immortality— you can't honestly think you can prevent your own demise—"
"Can't I?" Kairoz asked, the words ghosted ethereal just at Malygos' lips, already his fingers tugged cleverly upward at his blue robes; he knew Malygos wasn't going to stop him.
"You can't possibly think your future self won't prevent you," the blue aspect said, "he knows you'd bring the world to destruction in your pointless attempt at this infantile dream."
"We'll see about that," there came the reply, "are you jealous, little darling? That this is something even your magic can't produce?"
Their lips moved only millimeters apart; as he regarded Malygos so closely, Kairoz thought the fine blue blossoms and leaves painted round his eyes seemed to move and glitter slightly, like an animated picture— like they were swaying in some intangible breeze—
"You naive, pompous fool," Malygos laughed, "there is so much you don't know—"
He closed the small distance between them and hungrily seized Kairoz's mouth; all around them, the evening winds swept through the trees in slow motion.
(On to Chapter 10)
Anduin thought he could forgive Wrathion anything; he thought for the time being he'd endure any humiliation or emotional torment, if only he'd kept that up.
It was every bit as good as he'd heard.
It was like the warmest, wettest kiss he'd ever got, and he didn't hold back at all from telling him how much he liked it. His hands remained forgotten in Wrathion's long hair, he was trying to watch, but it was too bloody dark; his entire life, he never knew this was what he'd been missing.
As for Wrathion, he was beginning to understand why Anduin had been eager to finish doing this when he was the one giving him head, it had got dreadfully dull after some time and his lips began to hurt where he'd pressed his teeth on them. He pulled the member out of his mouth long enough to ask, "Can I stop soon?"
"Yeah—" Anduin said , somehow short of breath; he nearly pressed Wrathion's head back down. "Yeah, please don't stop yet— I'm nearly—"
His voice came with virginal innocence.
At that, Wrathion regarded him in the dark with childlike curiosity;
"You're going to come? Already?"
It may have been blunt, but they'd been so far gone in arousal it didn't feel out of place. "Yeah," Anduin said simply, "Just nearly— so please, just a bit more—"
His hand actually came on Wrathion's cheek, blindly stroking, it was somehow tender for something so profane; but Wrathion was tired of doing this, he saw nothing endearing about being stroked on the cheek while made to resume this utterly dull task. At least he's nearly finished, he thought, and took him back in his mouth.
After some time, Anduin had got one hand on his on his own cock, his grip was elegant but strong; there was something forceful about it, the way he made Wrathion stroke him while still in his mouth; his head was tilted partway back and his eyes tightly shut, he muttered through clenched teeth,
"I'm gonna c—"
It was great relief to Wrathion, who was very glad to be done; he dreaded the conclusion which would follow, but wasn't prepared for it in the end. The sensation of the hot liquid streaming at the back of his throat was horrific.
It tasted even worse than it felt.
"Bloody hell, that's terrible," he muttered, he wiped at his tongue with both hands, but Anduin was lain with absolute contentment, his laugh came breathless and soft.
"Sorry," he said, his voice came like he was smiling, his thoughts still were swimming with the rush of what they had done.
"You owe me," Wrathion huffed, "next time, you have to finish me off."
"Yeah, don't worry, I will," came the reply, Anduin was absently fingering his spent cock, he said, "That was brilliant, that was so nice—"
By then Wrathion had stopped trying to wipe at his tongue; he was sat at Anduin's side, somehow irritated, because Anduin got to finish while he didn't. None of this was fair.
"I'm still going to stop them from making the Dragon Soul," he said, like he wanted some way to get back at him.
The words caught Anduin off guard, he slowly sat up, too out of sorts for this. "What?" he asked, "Wh— you can't just—"
"And I'm not okay with how you supported all that—"
"Supported all— are we really on about this again now— Wrathion, they're not going to make it straight away anyway— they want to test my abilities, and, I mean— who knows— what if I can't even do it— then they won't make the Dragon Soul—"
"That's too risky, it shouldn't even get to that point— anyway, I'm getting dressed."
Anduin watched in quiet discontentment while Wrathion tugged his blazer off the dimly-glowing crystal mound and then held it up like he was trying to figure out whose it was— he wondered why he was suddenly cold toward him again.
Wrathion tossed the blazer toward him, and Anduin silently began putting it on, confused about what he had done to make him upset— but now Wrathion was just back to talking about other things, like they hadn't just done all that intimate stuff.
"If we hurry, we can have a word with them before they leave," Wrathion said, now that the crystals were uncovered, the fluorescent glow returned to that part of the cave; it occurred to Anduin that he was on about the dragon aspects, like maybe he wanted to speak with Alexstrasza personally, about the dangers of the Dragon Soul.
"Well, wait up," he said, he wondered why it felt like he was being left out again.
The princes saw on their return to the main hall that Neltharion was no longer speaking with Malygos; Anduin noticed the blue aspect was nowhere in sight, and neither were Nozdormu or Kairoz. Neltharion was convening with Alexstrasza and Ysera, while Eranikus and Itharius were uselessly trying to round up their whelps.
"What's that in her mouth?" Itharius asked while holding one of them up; he was trying to get at something between the whelp's jaws, and Eranikus proceeded then to peer inside. Very carefully, he extracted a small, glowing crystal.
"They're eating the crystals now?" he asked; " Valithria, don't eat that. Where'd you get that? Brother, don't let her out of your sight."
Anduin noticed Krasus was stood at the queen's side while she spoke with Neltharion, she was absently stroking his naked shoulder like she knew he was bored and wanted to go home; it occurred to Anduin that now that Malygos wasn't there, he could speak with Neltharion about the portal.
His mind was still swimming with thoughts of what he and Wrathion had done; he felt somehow hurt his friend walked away from it so nonchalantly.
Now Wrathion was politely waiting for Alexstrasza to be finished with his father, Anduin could bloody swear Krasus was eyeing him like he knew, and he tried to get his mind off it; he wondered if the queen's consort would have a go at Wrathion if she'd said it was okay.
Don't think about that. Wrathion, himself, had said if he knew you'd have let him do that stuff, he wouldn't even have asked Krasus.
Except now he was acting like they'd done nothing at all.
Why am I even thinking about that? Anduin scolded himself mentally; There's much more important stuff I need to focus on. Who cares what Wrathion does...?
It felt like ages until finally Alexstrasza and Neltharion finished talking, and finally Anduin could approach the black aspect about the portal he saw in his lair; he found Wrathion's father was actually agreeable and understanding— but then again, he remembered that Wathion, himself, had been awfully charming and polite up until his betrayal.
Anduin described to Neltharion what he'd seen, but before Neltharion could reply, Ysera turned from where she'd been listening to the conversation between Alexstrasza and Wrathion; "What's that you say?" she asked with audible interest, she addressed Anduin directly the first time that day.
Anduin was taken a little by surprise; Ysera repeated the question, she asked him to describe the details of the portal exactly.
He began to relay to her what he'd seen, but before he'd even finished Ysera turned to the queen abruptly and nudged her on the arm.
"Sister," she said, "A word."
She got her hand on Anduin's shoulder gently and excused herself, then pulled Alexstrasza aside; Anduin regarded them with a mixture of confusion and some annoyance, he didn't like being left out. He could hear them speak in hushed tones, and picked up the words vision and dream and premonition.
Wrathion also appeared irritated, he wasn't finished speaking with Alexstrasza, and believed it was of utmost importance that he conveyed his thoughts on the Dragon Soul; ages seemed to have gone by before the sisters returned, Ysera got her hand on Anduin's back and said, "I should like to take you to Ashenvale."
"No!" Wrathion huffed, "Do you not see the danger all this will pose to Azeroth...!"
That was— if they intended to bring Anduin there, it meant they hoped to create the Dragon Soul, presumably with his skills to purify it.
Anduin's pulse went fast; what did this mean about what he saw? Was this what ultimately convinced them to let him go?
He didn't respond to the bit about Ashenvale, and insisted only on his question from before; "But what did it mean?" he asked, "Do you know what that portal was?"
"It wasn't a portal," Ysera said, "It was a vision, or a dream— maybe there was truth to Nozdormu's words."
Wrathion stared at Anduin like he'd betrayed him personally; "What portal?!" he sputtered.
"Ah, well, there you are, beloved," Murozond said to Kairoz; he had Nozdormu with him and held him in a way that would suggest captive, except that Nozdormu remained glued to the spot completely of his own free will.
His eyes were transfixed on Malygos, and what Kairoz was doing to him, Murozond grinned knowingly while stood at his side.
"You miss your little friend, don't you," he crooned, "I can see it in your eyes, you want him, too."
It was something Nozdormu couldn't deny; he remembered well, there were dirty things they used to do—
Kairoz had Malygos' robes hitched to his waist, he pressed him to the large boulder and had at him gracelessly from behind, completely without shame; Malygos' long, clawed fingers scraped at the rock for balance, his long hair whipped disheveled with impact, and his gaze remained directly on Nozdormu.
Not in the enchanting, manipulative sort of glance he might have employed, but something more ancient and primal; he said to him without words, come here.
Behind Malygos' shoulder, Kairoz regarded Nozdormu as well, he beckoned breathlessly to him, then whispered something in Malygos' ear that had him glance directly at Nozdormu; Murozond's black hair batted around him like a veil as he approached, he still had one arm on Nozdormu's back.
"Go on," he said, his hand was gentle but insistent on Nozdormu, he pressed him lightly forth— but Nozdormu kissed Malygos entirely on his own. It was tentative at first, something ancient he'd visibly missed, but after that it got him impatient.
They had at each other with stifled frustration, Malygos was breathless all the while, what with Kairoz fucking him like that; he got his hands weakly round Nozdormu's neck and then held on to him for balance.
Nozdormu never thought he'd have at him like this again.
"He was so sweet, wasn't he," Murozond whispered at his ear, "You remember, don't you? The things you used to do—"
Nozdormu's voice came desperate, the words issued warm in the small space between them; "By the Titans, I've missed you so bad—"
Behind Malygos' shoulder, Kairoz's voice came knowing and low; "You wanna fuck him, too, don't you," he said to Nozdormu, "come here, beloved, he really feels very nice inside—"
(On to Chapter 11)
Queen Azshara threw the best parties in all of Kalimdor. There were spectacular magical special effects, the most fabulous contemporary fashions, famous and talented bands from all across the continent; the music would echo late into the night, with light shows of silver and gold washing over the courtyard from the palace balcony, they reflected in the glittering waters of the Well of Eternity below.
She had personally selected the most handsome of her Kaldorei men to serve as dancers, and not only the highborne— she was accepting of any caste, so long as the guys were hot.
Everyone was invited. The palace gardens were utterly packed, her people would travel from far and wide to make the occasion, it was never something to miss; her chefs consistently prepared a wide array of exquisite delicacies, there were prizes and drinks and gifts—
The following days, there would be articles and pictures all over the Zin-Azshari Tribune and the Suramar Gazette about what Azshara wore, and which celebrities had been there.
The queen, herself, felt most at ease in the company of her adoring masses.
"Hey, looking good, Kur'talos! Marinda, you guys having a good time?"
She'd wander merrily through the crowd, followed by her homegirl, Lady Vashj, they'd cheer shamelessly at the band and the dancers; she never had enough coins for them.
All the while she'd really only be looking for one thing.
"Look there," Vashj leaned in to whisper at her ear, "there's Malfurion."
"Where?" Azshara stood at attention; if Malfurion was there, that meant he'd probably brought along his brother.
"Don't look now," Vashj whispered back, "just act like you're talking to me."
They pretended to dance along with everyone else, and all the while Azshara felt very compelled to turn her head and look. "Is he there?" she asked, "Illidan?"
Vashj attempted as discreetly as possible to gaze in that direction; "I don't see him," she said, "It's just Malfurion, he's talking to some guys."
Back then, the Stormrage twins looked almost exactly alike; their hair color was the only way to really tell them apart, but Azshara liked Illidan.
"Really, he's hotter," she'd explain helpfully to Vashj, "I don't know, he just is."
He wasn't even highborne, but his fierce command of magic was a thing to watch; he was like a wild, reckless animal who knew no limits and could not be tamed.
Azshara had whispered to Vashj, I bet he's a good fuck.
At the front of the garden was a lavishly decorated stage for the musicians and singers, there were a number of different bands, including Zin-Azshari's very own group, Refreshment Table; the highborne cheered louder than everyone when their home band took to the stage, led by their very own celebrated harpist, Dath'remar Sunstrider.
He was exotically beautiful, with unique auburn hair which gleamed with streaks of gold; completely natural, he'd told Mana Gem magazine, it had been his trademark on stage.
"Ooh, girl," Vashj whispered discreetly to Azshara, "look at the size of that harp."
"His fingers can work those strings like magic," Azshara replied, their voices were drowned by the fervent shouts and cheers.
Truly, old Ashenvale was not what Anduin had expected; he wasn't sure what he'd anticipated, really, he reminded himself this was before magic was banned here; it was before it had called the attention of the Legion and before it was perceived as a serious threat.
Which was why Wrathion was so rigidly opposed to their purpose here; the Dragon Soul, itself, was an item once sought by Sargeras.
When he thought of Ashenvale, Anduin imagined the peaceful enchanted forests, the curiously glowing shrubs and shimmering fairy lights— but now that they'd arrived, the very earth seemed to pulse with the thrum of loud music, it was like the Tauren Chieftains played electric harps instead of guitars; lavish and colorful fireworks were seen exploding high in the heavens.
"This is Ashenvale...?" He asked Jaina, who appeared to be just as much in awe.
She could feel the arcane currents in the air; it was like nothing she'd known before, it demanded from her a foreign appetite she never knew she had— and she was certain it was the Well of Eternity.
"You feel it, don't you," Aethas whispered to her, and Jaina regarded him pensively; he appeared somehow overcome, like already three quarters of him had surrendered, there was desire in his eyes she'd never seen before.
For him, it must be so much worse, she thought, how does he manage to stay composed?
She wanted to say she was watching him, that he'd best not be getting ideas— but she felt defeated by the Well's energies, herself, it occurred to her that if Kael'thas really wanted to, he'd have done something sinister already; the arcane winds transparent in the air all around were enough to wield power greater than they could in their own time.
Out the corner of his eye, Anduin regarded Wrathion; he felt terribly guilty somehow, aware how much his friend was opposed to this journey; he was almost compelled to apologize, but held his tongue, because he could not deny he wanted very much to come here.
"This is Zin-Azshari, little he-priest," Ysera explained to Anduin, "Queen Azshara's palace is just at the edge of the Well." She had told him before that she wanted to take him to visit the Sisterhood of Elune, where his talents may be examined by High Priestess Dejahna.
Anduin nodded, his eyes fixed on the magical lights that glimmered far off; "It's very loud," he remarked, and Eranikus explained a big party was held that night.
To Anduin, Queen Azshara was a thing of legends; she was a figure in stories you told little kids, the beautiful and terrible naga queen who lived deep beneath the ocean, possibly a more powerful sorceress than any the world had known.
But he knew that at one time, long ago, she had been a real person, before the naga came to be— she had been the queen of the night elves,and it seemed from the looks of things now that she knew how to have a good time.
"I think I'm going deaf," he chuckled, "my father would never let me go to a party like this."
Aethas briefly nudged him, "You've really never lived, have you?" he asked, and now Jaina smacked his arm with an incredulous laugh. "You idiot! Don't give him ideas!"
Aethas smirked in response, he rubbed at his arm and flashed Jaina a smile; he asked, "Could you do that again?"
Anduin watched without being sure what to make of it; was it just in his mind, or did those two somehow appear to be on friendly terms?
As their little group approached a clearing in the forest, the dimensions of the palace stretched before them on full display, a structure breathtaking in its majesty and alight with spectacular flashes of arcane force.
Even Wrathion, in his deep and bitter sulking, came to feel overwhelmed; he stared with just as much awe as the others, the glittering fireworks reflected in the red of his eyes.
"Such power," he mouthed, even he could feel it.
Aethas stood in mute silence, undone utterly and emotionally moved; he looked on with breath suspended, it was even more stunning than Sunfury Spire, and countless times more magically powerful.
When he found his voice, he murmured weakly to Jaina, "You're babysitting me, right?"
Jaina regarded him with some uncertainty, but she was clearly amused; "You better believe it, there's no way I'm letting you waltz around this place on your own."
Very slowly, his mouth stretched in a smile. "I was hoping you'd say that," he replied, he got his hand warmly in hers.
"Come on," he whispered, "Let's ditch these guys. I haven't had a good time in years."
Jaina gave a surprised laugh; "Are you crazy?" she whispered back, "I have to stay with Anduin, I can't just let him—"
"Jaina," Aethas whispered, "He's old enough, let him enjoy himself for once."
"I can't! I have to watch him, Varian would—"
"Varian was already married at his age. The kid is so stiff, let him have some fun."
He got one hand on Anduin's shoulder and leaned to convene with him; "I'm taking your aunt for a stroll at the palace," he whispered, "That all right?"
"Wait, what?" Anduin laughed, he regarded them both in confusion; they now had Wrathion's attention, too.
Aethas leaned just a bit closer and whispered at Anduin's ear, "If I were you, I'd ditch these guys, too; go have a good time with your boyfriend."
"W— wait, what?" In a matter of microseconds, Anduin went from zero to completely red; his head flipped to Wrathion rapidly, then back to Aethas. "Woah, wait a second, he's not my— why would you say— why would I want— no, it's not like that—"
Wrathion regarded them both very dryly, aware without hearing the whispers that this somehow involved him.
"We aren't here to celebrate, Anduin Wrynn," he deadpanned, and Anduin stiffly stammered, "Yeah, I know! That's exactly what I said, I totally wasn't saying we're here to— like—to celebrate— or whatever—"
The look Aethas was giving him totally wasn't helping his cause.
Ysera, apparently, gave her approval, and before Anduin could say much more, Jaina was rapidly calling apologies and warnings to him while Aethas gripped her by the wrist; Anduin watched him trot merrily down the hillside with her in his grasp, like a little boy on the last day of lessons.
(On to Chapter 12)
Affter Jaina and Aethas took off, Anduin remained completely red in the face, he walked stiffly beside the others without really paying attention to anything; he kept thinking of what Aethas had said.
He'd never had a boyfriend or girlfriend before; it was a sort of untouchable holy grail he'd only ever known in dreams, and which got him curiously elated when he thought it might be true. Is Wrathion my boyfriend? Do you become boyfriends when you do sexual stuff?
What about what he said that time he kissed me, when he was all, 'you've always known the place you have in my heart'?
Funny how something like that seemed to take the same level of significance as their mission, he regarded Wrathion tentatively out the corner of his eye as to assess to what extent he seemed to act boyfriendy, on a scale from one to ten.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, he remembered his friend had said they hadn't come there to celebrate, but he couldn't help thinking of how Aethas said they ought to go and have a good time; and if they did— if they went and had a good time, that was— would it be a date?
Either way, he couldn't very well tell him directly he wanted to go and have fun at the party, not after he'd declared with such conviction he totally wasn't saying they had come to celebrate; but maybe he could reason with him that since they were already there, it would be weird not to act like normal party-goers...
But as he got a subtle look of him, it seemed the matter was hopeless; Wrathion appeared seven different kinds of pissed off, he'd probably breathe fire at him if he'd so much as asked.
On their descent down the hill, Jaina was awkwardly holding her staff, she tried not to skid down the grassy cline as Aethas pulled her along; "Wait...! Kael'thas, I can't run this fast—"
His face was flushed with excitement, he really still was a little kid; "Sorry, sorry," he said breathlessly, he slowed down to a trot and tugged her by the wrist. Some part of him hoped she would trip so he could catch her— but, of course, she wasn't so clumsy.
They stood in a small thicket of trees, about halfway to the palace; "You all right?" Aethas asked, he watched her tug at the fabric of her robes, which had got a bit disheveled on the run.
"Can't we just walk, I know you're excited—"
"Yeah, sure," he said quickly, "Walking's good."
He wanted to ask her, Remember the parties at Dalaran? But those parties were nothing like this; he'd never seen such impeccable style. Whoever designed this place clearly hadn't survived to more modern times.
Jaina gazed back to the way they had come, their group appeared to meander slowly down the hill; she spotted Anduin and wondered if it was really okay to leave him like this. Her attention was diverted when Aethas said her name, he grinned mischievously and said, "I can take my true form if you want."
"You know," he said, "Like the other day; it's not like anyone would recognize me."
Jaina was going to ask, what about Ysera? — But then she remembered that this was Ysera of ten thousand years ago; she wouldn't know who Kael'thas was, and Jaina had already told Anduin. But Kael didn't know that she had, did he not mind? Was it because Anduin supported him during the meeting...?
It occurred to her, though, that Kael wanted to take his true form; he was tired of hiding, and missed being the beloved elven prince; she thought of how he'd said, I haven't had a good time in years.
"All right," she said, "Yeah, okay."
Up still at the hilltop, Wrathion squinted when there came a low shimmer of light from a thicket of trees somewhere beneath, he paused and got one hand on Anduin's shoulder; "What's that, down there?" he asked, "What are they doing?"
Anduin had seen it, too, but he wasn't terribly alarmed; he'd grown up around Jaina and her Kirin Tor colleagues, and merely replied, "I don't know, probably mage stuff."
He was very aware of Wrathion's hand on his shoulder.
This is dumb, he thought, we're going to the palace either way; it wouldn't be that weird if I asked to hang out with Wrathion alone, instead of with the green dragons.
But he couldn't bring himself to ask, especially with his friend in such a terrible mood; great, he sulked inwardly, most people there are probably on dates, but we're going there with like Ysera's whole family and a bunch of her babies.
"I don't think Illidan's here," Azshara said to Vashj with audible disappointment; they sat by the large fountain in the courtyard with some drinks, Azshara was absently inspecting her nails. "I haven't seen him all night, usually wouldn't he be hanging out with Malfurion?"
A small group of elves passed by, they cheered drunkenly at Azshara and called out about what an amazing party it was.
"Woohoo!" She cheered back, "All right, glad you guys are having a good time!" But she slumped back when she turned to Vashj; "That sucks if he didn't even come," she said, "I wore this dress especially— by the way, do you like this dress? Do you think it looks dumb, the way the sleeves are all like this—"
"No, the dress is totally cute," Vashj reassured her, "I like the way the sleeves go."
"Yeah, for sure... well, listen, I don't know, maybe he's just not here yet, want me to go ask Malfurion?"
"No! No, don't ask him, then he'll know I like Illidan."
"You could always just spell him or something," Vashj offered, and Azshara sighed, "Yeah, I know... I bet I'll end up having to do that, but I kinda wanted— you know, for him to like me on his own..."
"Yeah, I get that," Vashj said.
Somewhere in the background, Dath'remar was tearing it up on the harp, he had his shirt off and was swinging it around with one hand before letting it fly into the crowd; cheers echoed through the courtyard as people jumped up to catch it, and Azshara said, "He's also cute."
"Hot is more like it," Vashj said; she looked over her shoulder at the stage somewhere off. "Sunstrider, that one's pretty wild."
"You think that's really his natural hair color?"
"No way, probably spelled it or something."
"You think Illidan's hair color is natural? Maybe he spelled it, too, so he wouldn't look exactly like Malfurion."
Vashj considered; "You know, I never thought about that. I guess you can't just go up to him and ask, can you?"
"Yeah, he'd probably think I'm weird."
To Kael'thas, the hike to the palace was pure enjoyment; he and Jaina waded through the tall grass, they cleared shoots aside with their hands and wands, Kael was visibly pleased to be himself again. On their approach, the music grew louder, he could make out the unmistakable sound of a harp, but like none he'd heard before; it was something like an electric or enchanted sort of harp, and the tone of the music, itself, was foreign.
"By the Sun," he said to Jaina, "Do you know how many hours a day my father used to make me practice the harp?"
"You play the harp?" Jaina asked, and Kael'thas regarded her incredulously; "I played the bloody harp at Dalaran! I was in the court of musicians—"
"Okay, okay, sorry!" Jaina squirmed, "I guess I didn't know—"
"Pff," Kael'thas huffed, "I can't believe you didn't know— I thought everyone knew—"
And I'm really good at it, too, he thought, but of course she hadn't paid attention; she was probably focused on whatever stupid thing Arthas was doing.
"I'm totally better than this guy, or— whoever's playing right now—"
"Okay, sorry, I get it..."
When he thought of it, though, he actually wasn't quite sure if he was better than whoever was playing; while it was true Kael'thas really was well-practiced in all manner of musical instruments, the sort of harp playing now was so completely different from any he'd known that he was uncertain what to make of it.
The closer they approached, the louder the music became, and so had the hum of discordant chatter; there were cheers and mirthful shouts, the lights became warmer and brighter as the palace gardens came into view.
"The Well of Eternity must be just at the back," Kael'thas said, there was in his voice unmistakable longing; Jaina had to fight her own urge to go there, she tugged her hand away from his and said, "We're not going to the Well."
Kael'thas paused and stared at her with vast exasperation. "We're not going there? Are you kidding? We've come this whole way and we're not going to see it?"
"I thought I told you!"
"Sheesh, Jaina, I just wanna have a look, what do you think I'm gonna do?"
"I don't know!"
"What, you think I'm gonna— like— summon Kil'jaeden— like I can't go there without blowing up the whole world—"
"Could you blame me? What did you think I'm watching you for?"
"Can you honestly say you're not even a little bit curious?"
Jaina rubbed hard at her eyes; "I thought you said you wanted to come here to have fun."
"Then what's all this talk about the Well of Eternity?"
"Fine. Know what? We'll go, but I won't get close to it."
"Did you learn to whine like this from Anduin? We'll go later, if you're good."
On their approach up the walkway, the palace was revealed with shimmering magical lights painting colors along its exterior; the immaculate gardens glittered with bulbs and silvery moons, there were lights strung in chains between the treetops, and lanterns suspended midair.
Signs led the way to the courtyard proper, where now the music was loud enough its pulse reverberated through the earth; on looking up Jaina could see there were people everywhere, they crowded the glamorous stairs and ramps, where lights and lanterns decorated the treetops.
Enchanted butterflies flickered up from the spiraling steps, there were male dancers on several raised platforms, whose costumes shimmered magically.
"Think we'll get to see the queen?" Kael'thas asked, there were so many people there he wondered if they'd recognize her at all.
As they passed through the garden, the night elves stared from all around; Dragons, they said to each other, because before there were high elves or humans, only dragons ever took on forms like theirs.
Jaina nudged Kael'thas, "They think we're dragons, did you hear that?"
"Dragons..." Kael laughed, "That's the first time someone thought that of me."
Jaina knew he wouldn't want to disguise their appearance in order to blend in, though, so she didn't ask.
Small groups of chairs and tables were elegantly arranged in certain locations through the garden, little torches burned aesthetically in their midst and colored lights painted haloes on the earth; far off at the opposite end of the yard was a stage, where masses of people were crowded, they shouted and cheered for the band.
"Well, you have to say you'll dance with me," Kael'thas said, "You have to give me something since we didn't go to the Well."
"I don't know..." Jaina said, because she could see where this was going: he was testing his boundaries, and it was her place to stop him when he'd got too romantic.
"Come on, I'm very skilled on my feet, you'll be surprised."
"I'm sure you are, don't all princes have to learn that stuff—"
"Yeah, so what's the problem? You afraid you'll fall for me?"
Jaina laughed; "What, because you can dance?"
"Yeah, because I can dance."
"All right— fine. But no weird... I don't know... no weird touching."
"No weird touching?" He snickered, "So just— un-weird touching."
"Wh— you have to have some touching if you're gonna dance—"
"You know what kind of touching I mean."
Kael'thas rolled his eyes and sighed theatrically, his hand came on hers with such discreet grace she was caught off guard when he easily twirled her into his arms.
Jaina gasped; she chuckled in surprise and felt somehow clumsy, and Kael vastly enjoyed that; "See?" he asked with practiced elegance, "You're falling for me already."
"Kael'thas—" Jaina started, but she had to look down at her feet to see how he arranged her, she wasn't exactly sure how to move or what to do; Kael was stupidly pleased, for once, there was something he could do that she couldn't, who looked dumb now...?
He could see her sort of stumble, she appeared awkward and uncertain, and it was utterly endearing; he hoped so much that he was impressing her.
There was music and chatter and shouts all round, and talk in a form of Darnassian that was difficult to understand when people spoke too fast; it didn't matter that Jaina's hair had gone completely white, that by now she appeared nearly old enough to be his mother— Kael couldn't remember the last time he'd been so happy.
"Don't look at me like that," Jaina said, he could've sworn he'd seen her flush; "Like what?" he asked bemusedly, "Like I wanna kiss you so badly it hurts?"
At that, her smile faded; she looked sadly aside and said, "Stop that. This isn't fair, I told you I'm with Kalec."
He felt bad for what he'd said; he'd not acknowledged it to himself, but it was emotionally manipulative; still, he couldn't help himself, he had loved her for so many years—
"Can't you just have us both?" he asked with a grin, "I wouldn't mind, I like boys, too."
It got her to smile; "You have it all figured out, don't you?" she asked.
"You did say we're not meant to compete."
"I could start a small harem."
"See, that's the spirit."
At the song's conclusion, the crowd burst into whistles and cheers, Kael and Jaina turned their heads to regard the stage some distance off; there was some night elf stood with his shirt off and the largest harp Kael had ever seen, he had one fist raised and shouted, "For Azshara...!"
At that, the cheers grew even louder; "For Azshara...!" the crowds shouted back.
Kael'thas remembered a time when he, too, had been this well-loved by his people.
"Look," Jaina said while pointing to the stage, "Is that the queen?"
Kael'thas paused somewhere mid-turn; he raised his eyes to the crowded platform, where a night elf woman was making her way up the stage steps. She was wearing the most stylish dress Kael had ever seen, everything about her outfit was flawless, from the awesome way her hair was done down to her really cute shoes.
She trotted up energetically and got her arms around the harpist, then turned back to the audience. "Refreshment Table!" She called the band's name, and the crowd clapped enthusiastically and cheered; there were a few more For Azshara! cries, which had her beam and shout back, "Yay! For me!"
She was relatable and funny, and still had one arm around the harpist when she spoke."Don't go anywhere," she called to the crowd, "there's a contest coming up with some amazing prizes, let's hear it for Dath'remar Sunstrider, I'm totally not grabbing his ass right now!"
At that, the harpist jumped a bit, but he turned back to the audience and cheered back at them.
Both Jaina and Kael'thas froze; Kael murmured, "You have got to be kidding me..."
"That's your—" Jaina said;
"My great, great grandfather," Kael'thas croaked.
"The guy who founded Quel'thalas?"
"That's the one..."
"And made the Sunwell?"
After that, Kael'thas had no words left; he wasn't sure what to make of any of it.
While she stood on stage, Azshara tried scanning the crowd, but the lights were so bright she couldn't see anything; she was beginning to think Illidan really hadn't come, and despite her cheerful exterior, she started to feel quite depressed.
After the fact, she had actually approached Malfurion and his friends, and even though she didn't want to look desperate, the torment of not knowing had become unbearable; she grinned as though she and Malfurion were friends and asked directly, "Hey, is Illidan with you guys?"
Anduin by now was about as sulky as Wrathion; they sat with Ysera and her consorts on the upper balcony, where Itharius had said it was safer for little whelps, away from the huge crowds.
It was totally lame.
They didn't even get to have alcoholic drinks, they were served moonberry juice like a couple of babies, Eranikus had a whelp on his lap and was singing some nursery song to him in draconic.
Anduin sat moodily with his juice, he thought that even Aunt Jaina got to have fun, and she was like a million years old; it wasn't fair, he thought of what Aethas had said about how he'd really never lived, and now he was certain he was never going to, either.
It was Wrathion's fault, really, for being such a dick; Anduin glared at him petulantly, until Wrathion caught his gaze— at which point Anduin rapidly looked away.
For all his anger, he'd become too shy of him to tell him outright.
(On to Chapter 13)
This is dumb, Anduin thought; if you don't make a move, you'll be drinking juice with a bunch of babies for the rest of your life.
He had tried uselessly to will himself into courage, to no avail; for some reason, the prospect of asking Wrathion to go with him was more daunting than that time he'd stood up to Garrosh all those years ago.
Granted, that time he'd been overcome by adrenaline, but it certainly ought to have been more terrifying than this— Anduin cleared his throat and turned bravely to Wrathion.
"Ah—" he said, and Wrathion regarded him moodily enough he retreated again after that; "Nothing," he stammered, "Just— I was wondering— if you could pass me— the sugar—"
"The sugar?!" Wrathion replied, and Anduin discovered at that moment it was actually humanly possible to feel even more stupid than he had a few seconds before.
"Yeah, I— yeah."
Wrathion slid the sugar toward him in the most silently venomous way that sugar could be slid, and Anduin muttered some thanks before toying with the container in his hands.
Great, he thought, I have no idea what to do with this now.
Some seats away, Ysera became aware that possibly those two were bored, and it made no sense to her, because she'd been certain she was a cool mom— but maybe they were just at that age, and maybe they wanted to hang out away from moms, cool or otherwise.
"Look there, Eranikus," she said matter-of-factly, "Well, isn't that a group of priestesses there? Maybe Anduin would like to go and introduce himself."
It was possibly the least cool thing a mom could have said, considering Wrathion probably hated Anduin super badly at that moment for wanting to employ his priestly talents in service of the Dragon Soul.
Light, Anduin thought, why doesn't the earth just open up and swallow me whole?
But before the earth could do so, Wrathion turned to him mockingly and said, "Oh, yes, Anduin, why don't you go and introduce yourself to the priestesses?"
Truth be told, Anduin was actually quite compelled to do so; the ancient priestesses of Elune were fascinating to him.
But he couldn't say that with Wrathion like right there.
On hearing Wrathion's comment, Ysera mentally patted herself on the back for a job well done, she grinned contentedly at the princes and held out her hand; in a shimmer of green light, a small blossom appeared in her palm and she beckoned to Anduin.
"Take this as a gift to the priestesses from me, and say I had sent you."
For a moment, both Anduin and Wrathion leaned over to look with interest; Wrathion actually asked, "What is it?"
"It's a blossom of the dream," she said, "They'll know when they see it."
"I won't— like— fall asleep if I touch it, would I?" Anduin asked, and Ysera shook her head; "No, it's fine; it feels just like a regular flower."
Anduin leaned forth to pick the thing up, and though it glimmered magically in his hand, it really did feel like just a regular flower.
"Wrathion, why don't you go with him?" Ysera asked, like she was totally clueless— Anduin was so freaking embarrassed— but the end result was that Wrathion did go with him, and Anduin found himself lightheadedly descending the stairwell at his side.
After they had left, Ysera appeared for some moments deep in thought; she turned to Itharius, then Eranikus, and asked, "I'm a cool mom, right?"
"Kael'thas, what the hell?"
Jaina whispered hesitantly while Kael led her discreetly to the backstage area; "We'll get in trouble, we're not supposed to be here."
"Yeah, I know," he said, "but I wanna check out that harp."
"You can't just waltz up there and check out the harp."
"Dath'remar is my ancestor, I wanna know why I've never seen a harp like that."
"Um, I don't know, maybe because he didn't take enormous musical instruments with him across the ocean?"
"Yeah, there is that." He turned back to Jaina with a mischievous grin; "But I still wanna see it."
"Why do you keep doing these things?"
"I have a right to that harp! I'm the last in my lineage!"
"Not right now you're not! You don't even look like him, for all he knows, you're a dragon—"
"I hear you're into dragons."
She had to turn her head aside so he wouldn't see her snicker.
Jaina walked behind Kael uncertainly, like she knew they'd get into trouble any minute — she had to admit, though, there was a certain thrill to this, she'd be lying if she'd said she didn't enjoy it at all. The curtain was drawn shut at that moment while stagehands were busy arranging instruments for the next act, and some of the previous act's instruments were set aside at the back; Kael's face came alight when he spotted the harp Dath'remar had played.
It was unmistakable in its dimensions, it called to him as with its own sort of magic; Kael'thas dragged Jaina toward it with absolute satisfaction.
"Look at this," he mouthed, and Jaina glanced around to see if anyone was coming; "I don't think we should touch it..." she said, but by then she knew there was no point; she knew he would touch it all over, and wondered how he planned to get out of it when inevitably they'd be discovered.
She stood uselessly with arms crossed while Kael'thas paced slowly round the harp, he saw beauty in it to which she was consciously blind; his hand caressed it affectionately and he rose on tiptoe in order to tune the strings, while his long hair waved and rippled down his back. It was very endearing somehow.
"Oh... oh no..." Jaina murmured, "You're not honestly going to play it."
"I'm going to play it."
"Kael'thas— everyone will fucking hear you."
Kael sat himself on the bench with aristocratic grace and got his hands up midair; he regarded Jaina with a cheeky smile and said, "Then they're in for a treat."
Azshara was a proper mess.
She sat with Vashj in a distant corner by the Well, where the lights weren't terribly bright and no one could see the way her face paints had run; "Hey, it's all right..." Vashj tried to console her, but it was no use.
"He said Illidan hadn't even checked the arcane message I'd sent him," she sobbed theatrically into her designer limited edition mooncloth handkerchief," and that he didn't even know where he was tonight..."
"Listen, Azshara..." Vashj said as she took her hands, "You can't cry like this, you have like a whole party to manage..."
"I know..." Azshara cried, "I just need— like— a few minutes— "
"Don't let this bug you, if worst comes to worst, you can always just spell him to do your bidding..."
"I know..." Azshara cried some more, "what's wrong with me, right? I mean, that's what my mom would have done..."
"That's what everyone does... I mean, girl, you were born with these gifts for a reason, use your magic..."
She swiped gracelessly at her eyes and then observed the way the colors ran on her wrist; "Yeuch," she said, part-laughing and part-crying; "I just totally smeared my markings."
"It's cool, give me a sec—"
Vashj regarded the queen's face for a moment and then cast a subtle spell to redo the markings; "There, I think that's how you had it; it was like an ivy leaf right there, and some stars—"
"Yeah, did you make three stars? I had a star going like up here—"
She leaned over the banister to gaze into the waters of the Well, but her reflection was too blurry to see anything.
"Yeah, three stars, like, here—" Vashj indicated the location on her own face.
"Okay, cool, cool..." Azshara sniffled and tried to pull herself back together; "Thank you, you totally get me..." She reached absently to dab at her face, but Vashj held her back.
"Don't, you'll mess it up again," she warned, and Azshara nodded; "Yeah, sorry."
"Anyway," Vashj said, "you have to get back to the courtyard, a queen can't cry like some little man."
"Yeah, don't worry," Azshara said, "I'm cool, I don't look like I've been crying, do I? I don't have, like, snot all over the place—"
"No, you look fine— now go, you only have like ten minutes before you were gonna do that contest."
This is it, Anduin thought, you're technically on a date. Or was it a date? I can't just subtly try to hold his hand, he'd probably bite my head off; but fuck, I have to say something...!
"So lame of Ysera, right?" he asked, though he was secretly grateful; "Like I wanna— introduce myself to some priestesses..."
Wrathion regarded him dryly; "Don't you want to introduce yourself to some priestesses?"
"Oh! Pff! No. No, why would I— not like I wasn't going to meet them tomorrow anyway—"
"You're not a particularly convincing liar," Wrathion said.
"I'm not lying."
Anduin had been so deeply consumed in his conversation with Wrathion he hadn't realized they'd got all the way down the steps— and now that he stood there, the entire scene was almost too much to take in.
He remained where he was for some moments, the glittering enchanted lights reflecting in his eyes; it occurred to him it was the perfect setting for a date— if they actually were on one.
"Let's just get this over with," Wrathion muttered, "Where were those priestesses? Who can find anything in this crowded place?"
Even the heavy arcane energies of Zin-Azshari weren't impregnable to the innocent light of the moon; Elune's servitors paced barefoot through the grass in a pale and glowing procession, like nothing could touch the purity of their purpose. Laurna Morninglight walked beside Dentaria Silverglade and Tyrande Whisperwind, they paused curiously on their journey at a somber and penetrating sound, something mournfully tender they'd not expected to hear at the courtyard of Azshara's palace.
"Sisters," Tyrande said, "Listen, the Song of Elune."
It was the purest and most innocent sort of heartache, which bled through the night with unspoken anguish they'd not known before.
At the priestesses' side, even Illidan stilled; there was a music box Tyrande had gifted him which played this song.
She must not have remembered at all, but he'd handled it with greater reverence than he'd show any deity.
Azshara paused halfway on her journey back to the stage; she got one hand on Vashj's wrist and murmured, "I can feel it; I can feel his magic, he's here."
Beside Kael'thas, Jaina stood with her arms crossed; there was in her something brittle and fragile which threatened to break, she was far past the point of trying to stop him. There was such deep and rich, overwhelming torment his fingers coaxed from the strings, that she understood she never knew him at all— and now that she'd begun to, she foresaw a world of pain too scathing to bear.
Then, without preamble, his hands stopped mid-note; his gaze turned distantly from the harp with raw and longing agony, to where he was almost unrecognizable.
The sound reverberated gradually until it decayed out of audible range, and Kael mouthed only the single word,
(On to Chapter 14)
There was in Jaina compassion enough that she didn't seize Kael straight away; she'd been prepared for this sort of thing, at her age she knew that even the best of intentions could lead down a dangerous path. Here, she understood, was a purpose borne of some deep and penetrating ache.
This time, Kael didn't say stuff like let's go to the Well or I wanna see the harp, or you have to say you'll dance with me; he removed himself delicately from the bench and began making his way to the exit, speechless like he'd just seen a ghost.
Jaina didn't know what it was exactly that had him turn on his kingdom before, or what had made him ally spontaneously with Kil'jaeden— from the short glimpse she had into who he might have been, she could see it had all left him very broken and lost.
He really had been a child, raised sheltered and surrounded by luxury, whose greatest concern had been the academic matters of the Kirin Tor— until at once his days in the sun came abruptly to an end when news from home came of the attack. In the life of an elf, he may well have been no farther along in maturation than Anduin, maybe he still was at the end of adolescence when the weight of the kingdom fell on his shoulders.
He'd had no knowledge of politics or national leadership, and the humans took full advantage of his naiveté— after the fall of Quel'thalas, unlike Anduin during Varian's absence, Kael had no one older or wiser remaining on whom to fall back. Of those remaining, his closest advisors were no older than himself. Was that how it was? Jaina wondered, had he really been just a child, left with the charge of a grieving nation...?
She placed her hand on his wrist very gently, and got him to look at her; "Tell me," she asked, "What are you going to do?"
He regarded her somberly, like he was trying to find words to make her understand; "Is it the Well of Eternity?" Jaina asked, "Are you thinking of heading there?"
She wondered if Kil'jaeden was calling to him through the Well, and felt disappointed to think this was really what he'd wanted to come here for; she got her hands on his face to make him pay attention, and said, "I won't be harsh with you the way I was in Dalaran. I'll restrain you the gentlest way I can—"
There was in his eyes a glimmer of fondness, his hands came warmly on hers on his face; "To think I had lived to hear you offer such beautiful things to me directly," he said, "and that I was forced to turn them down."
She didn't resist when he took one of her hands and kissed her knuckles, there was some consolation in seeing him flirt again; but she understood it would have to come to force, she really would have to bind him against his will. "I'm sorry," she said, there was none of the venom in her that she'd shown at the Violet Hold; the arcane binds she got on him latched instantly into place, and she thought she'd never seen him so satisfied.
His eyes went shut and his mouth stretched in a smile that was wholesome and warm, like sunshine; he chuckled and said, "Jaina, my— darling—"
When his gaze fell on her again, there only was honest affection, "You drive a very hard bargain," he whispered, "you have no idea—"
At that, he vanished from within the binds, Jaina cursed to find he'd tricked her, and that he'd actually made his way to the door; he paused there, however, visibly regretful , she could tell he felt he really had to go.
"This isn't some game," she said irritably, "you're starting to test my patience."
"No," he replied, "It definitely isn't a game."
But even then, he wasn't trying to be devious or cunning; it really seemed he felt there was something he just had to do.
It made it that much more difficult to hold him back, she almost wished she hadn't got to know him; she chased him out of the backstage area and through the gardens, where the spells they cast at each other seemed only slightly out of place amidst the glittering enchantments already flashing all through the yard. Two times she'd just nearly got a hold on him, she was surprised to find he was at least as powerful as she was; had he been holding back all along?
Already Jaina had mentally planned what techniques she would use to halt him from approaching the Well, and how she could diminish his magic if he'd got there— but it occurred to her somewhere during the chase that he wasn't heading to the Well at all.
He had got about halfway through one of the gardens when he just stopped; his attention was visibly transfixed elsewhere, and his only acknowledgment of Jaina's presence came with a casual wave of his hand, to cast a ward around himself against her magic.
Then he just stood there, slightly out of breath, his hair all out of sorts as he stared out from beyond the bushes at absolutely nothing.
Jaina regarded him with combined irritation and confusion, she batted half-assedly at his ward, which made a low, hollow sound; "What," she muttered while catching her breath, "What are you—"
She looked out from beyond the bushes, but saw nothing there which would have made him stare; it was just the regular garden, with just guests walking through, she wondered what he had up his sleeve. Is it ley lines? she wondered, though she didn't feel any; is it some demonic power he can sense...?
Maybe this was something to do with the blood elves' infamous addiction; maybe he really was crazy, like people had said. Either way, she was at the ready to restrain him again.
But there came no outburst after that, he merely stood and looked on; when Jaina turned to ask something else, the words never came. It occurred to her she'd seen him like this, just the other night, when he'd told her outright he had loved her.
At the direction he'd been staring there was a small group of what looked like Kaldorei priestesses, but it wasn't they who had Kael's attention; it dawned on Jaina that Master wasn't Kil'jaeden at all.
"That's Illidan, isn't it," she asked, her fingertips slid smoothly along the outline of Kael's ward, and her voice sounded with audible disbelief; he had just looked so different, she'd never have recognized him.
It appeared that even before going demon, he'd been quite tall, his eyes glowed bright amber and his hair had a dark and silky, heavy shimmer that fell around him like a veil.
The naked innocence of it came to Jaina completely unexpected; it occurred to her that at the absence of anyone else older or wiser, the child prince of Quel'thalas had turned to very old relations for guidance.
She could tell Kael had recognized Illidan's magic even now, without the demonic powers he still didn't have; she didn't know what exactly had happened between them, or why they'd parted ways— but whatever reasons Kael had, it was evident in the end he'd bled despite them.
Had he come to repent?
All the while, Kael hadn't said a word; his gaze caressed Illidan with intangible affection, with a sort of love he hadn't known until it was gone.
Illidan had never told him outright he'd been fond of Tyrande, but Kael knew of him the unspoken and intimate, he'd felt the forbidden, fragile heart everyone knew the Lord of Outland didn't have.
He must be happy tonight, Kael'thas thought, now that he's stood by her side.
Have I ever seen him truly happy...?
On looking closely now, he could see discreet little gestures, Illidan briefly touched Tyrande's shoulder, his teeth flashed candidly when he smiled— it was a curious thing to behold, like Kael had never truly believed Illidan was ever really Kaldorei.
"His eyes," he finally spoke to Jaina directly; "his eyes— were amber—"
Anduin hadn't realized how hopeless his Darnassian truly was until it was finally put to the test in this real-life setting; apparently, much as he'd impressed his tutors at Stormwind, his excellent scores did not translate to practical use. He could see people try with commendable effort to understand what he was on about when he'd asked if anyone had seen a group of priestesses.
"Their accent is impossible to understand...!" Anduin said to Wrathion with vast annoyance, "And they all speak so fast...!"
"Well, what did you think you were gonna do when you approached the High Priestess for your testing? She'd probably flunk you just for your crappy Darnassian."
"My Darnassian isn't crappy."
"Could've fooled me."
"You try it, then, you talk to them."
"Maybe I will."
"Great, go for it."
"I will. I am."
Wrathion stood for some moments and examined the crowd, like he was trying to pick out his prey; finally, he approached a group of night elves stood by the dessert table and asked very charmingly in draconic whether they agreed that Anduin was dressed like a complete asshat.
Anduin's draconic had been put to use much more frequently than his Darnassian, and he understood everything; he tugged Wrathion hard by the wrist. "Okay, I get it," he whispered angrily, "you don't want to be here."
Also, I should have just used draconic.
"If you think I'm going to lead you to those priestesses, you've got another thing coming," Wrathion said, "I'm completely opposed to that, and I'm going to stop you if it's the last thing I do."
"Stop me from what?" Anduin flung his arms to his sides, "They're involving me so I can purify the Dragon Soul...!"
"They're involving me so I can purify the Dragon Soul!" Wrathion mimicked Anduin's words in a ridiculous and high-pitched tone, while waving his fingertips around; "You shouldn't even be here, this isn't even your business, you're nosey— you're self-righteous— not to mention ungrateful—"
"Oh!" Anduin huffed, "Oh! I'm self-righteous?! Me?!"
"Pff— hello?! You are like— the embodiment of self-righteousness—"
"You— absolute— I'm gonna like—"
"Go for it, smite me like right here, that'll look real great to the priestesses, not to mention the queen or whoever..."
"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you? I bet you'd just love to see me screw up in front of the priestesses—"
"What I'd love is for you to go back home and stay out of my business— "
"I bet you would— I bet you'd just love that— and what the hell do you mean, I'm ungrateful— what exactly have I not been grateful for? No, really, enlighten me, oh great one, what is this elusive and mysterious thing you've done for me that was just soooo great that I haven't properly expressed my gratitude for? Was it what amazing company you are at parties, because I must have somehow missed that part—"
Wrathion's eyes appeared alight with living fire, like he was gonna devour him any minute; he said nothing for some time, then quietly muttered, "And here I could've sworn you were awake enough to have remembered it, you certainly seemed to enjoy it enough."
"W— what are you—" Anduin regarded him with confusion, until understanding finally set in; he meant that time in the cave, when Wrathion went down on him.
"Oh," he said quietly, now suddenly shy; he couldn't help smiling a bit, before he remembered he had to look angry; "Well— but I did thank you for that, why are we on about that now?"
"Oh, you thanked me! Yeah, that's great, Anduin Wr— Anduin, what I wanted in return for that was totally just being thanked."
"You just said you wanted to be thanked!"
"By the Titans, you're so stupid!"
"What the hell! Why am I the stupid one! You're the one who's stupid!"
"Oh, right, Anduin, whatever you say. I'm stupid, and you're, like, this— completely perceptive genius who just— understands— everything—"
"That's not what I said! I never said I understand everything—"
"Well, you act like you do—"
"I don't act like I understand everything!"
He'd been partway to whatever poisonous words he had prepared next when something occurred to him: was Wrathion just pissed because that night he, Anduin, never finished him off? Was that what he was trying to say with what I wanted in return was totally just being thanked?
He paused where was stood and regarded him for some moments; then, very quietly, he mouthed, "Are you— upset because— I didn't— because that night— after you— you know—"
Now Wrathion flushed; he got his arms crossed and looked aside moodily, he felt his ears burning hot; "Well, obviously," he stammered. "I mean— what, you only realized that now—"
Now Anduin flushed, too; "Oh," he said stupidly; "Oh— well— that is— you could have just said something—"
"Yeah, well— yeah— well— like— you should have known on your own—"
"Well— how would I know— if you don't say anything—"
"Pff! How would— it's only polite—"
"W—what kind of... Okay— okay, know what— okay, fine. Maybe you have a point."
Now Wrathion regarded Anduin suspiciously out the corner of his eye; they both appeared terribly awkward.
"Well, so you'll do it?" Wrathion asked without shame.
"What? Well— that is— yeah."
"Well, yeah, I mean, I guess I owe you— so—"
"Okay," Wrathion nodded, his mood appeared visibly improved; "Yeah, okay, that's cool."
(On to Chapter 15)
Azshara had been watching Illidan, too; she was utterly smitten, it was a sort of helpless surrender to which even the strongest weren't impervious— and Vashj had tried as best she could to be patient about it. "Az, you have to be on stage in like two minutes," she said, "if you want me to spell him for you..."
"No! No, it's fine, I'm going," Azshara replied, "don't spell him, it's cool."
As for Anduin, ever since the little misunderstanding between him and Wrathion had cleared, he'd felt they'd got on much better; there's no reason to see the priestesses straight away, he thought, maybe we can just enjoy the party for a while— not like I won't be meeting with them tomorrow...
He'd thought of what Ysera had said, of how the portal he'd seen was actually a vision; it had strengthened her conviction that Anduin possessed latent prophetic abilities, and though he might not have liked to think of it, it had made him uneasy. He wondered if the vision foretold the way the Legion would invade Azeroth someday.
He knew better than to speak of it to Wrathion, though, he was wary of ruining what good relations they had— and, also, he worried about what the vision might mean in the first place. Would this be the future that would result if Wrathion failed in his mission? Or possibly if he, Anduin, was prevented from purifying the Dragon Soul...?
He was distracted from his thoughts by music that sounded some distance away, the queen was making her way up the stage steps; they had a better view of the performance from here on the lawn. Once she had reached the highest platform, Azshara beamed at the crowd and raised one hand in the air.
"All the druids, say yeah!" She called; some discordant shouts issued from the audience in response."I can't hear you!" Azshara cried, "All the druids, say yeah!"
The shouts came much louder that time, and soon Azshara was joined by another night elf woman.
"All the sorcerers, say yeah!" the other woman called, and amidst the fervent responses someone shouted, "What about us!"
"I was just getting to you lot!" Azshara called, "All the priestesses, say yeah!"
Anduin actually thought about shouting along with them when it occurred to him there were no other male priests around; he suddenly felt very daft.
Azshara then pointed toward the upper balcony and smiled, "And I hear Ysera is also with us tonight, with some dragonkin guests! That's okay, Big Mama, you don't have to shout all the way from up there!"
At that, many people in the crowd turned to look toward the upper terrace; clearly the green dragonflight were guests of honor.
Up on the balcony, Ysera turned smugly to her consorts; "Told you I'm a cool mom," she said in a very nerdy-mom way; she then turned toward one of the dancing boys and pointed two thumbs to herself. "I'm Big Mama," she informed him with her best approximation of a seductive wink.
"Oh my Titans, Mom, you did not..." Merithra, one of Ysera's brood, sank into her seat in utter humiliation; Ysera raised an eyebrow, now suspicious that her daughter had been ogling the dancer, too. "You're too young to date," she said, "no boys."
She totally said it right there in front of the dancing boy, too.
"OMT, Mom, why don't you just— tell the whole world—"
Up on the stage, Azshara got one arm amicably around Vashj's shoulder; she called out, "All right! With me as always is my homegirl, Lady Vashj— who totally redid my markings after I screwed them up earlier—anyway, enough of my rambling, you're here for the contest!"
Her voice was drowned by the cheers that came for Vashj; there also were a few for Azsharas, journalists busily worked on arcane portraits of the two women's outfits for their fashion columns.
"Jaina," Kael'thas said softly, "Look, that's Lady Vashj."
He squinted with something like disbelief, he'd never seen her as a night elf before; Vashj had been like a big sister to him, her armies had saved him and his magisters from imprisonment and certain death. It was sweet somehow, the way Azshara said Vashj had redone her markings, because this was how Kael had remembered her, too: she had been levelheaded and clever, the voice of reason that stood against Illidan's moods.
It occurred to him she must have been like a big sister to Azshara before she'd been like a big sister to him.
"Wrathion," Anduin said, "Look, they're doing a contest."
The entire evening he'd been trying to figure out some way he could casually take hold of Wrathion's hand, or do something date-like; his fingers slid tentatively on his, but he was too far intimidated to do more. He was now relatively certain, though, that Wrathion's temper had improved enough it was okay to talk about casual things like parties and contests.
Wrathion's gaze wandered down momentarily to where their fingers brushed, but then he immediately looked away— but, still, he didn't seem annoyed by Anduin's comment. "Well, let's hear what kind of contest it is," he said.
Anduin smiled despite himself; could it be they might actually have a good time...?
Jaina noticed that Kael seemed to search through the crowd, she wondered if he was looking for Illidan again— like he'd sensed his magic, and now he was trying to pinpoint where he was.
Ah— just there— Kael'thas could see him far off, in a small group some distance away; he was speaking animatedly with another guy, and Kael realized it was Malfurion. It was now apparent they really were twins, they actually had looked quite similar— Malfurion also was slender and tall, clean-shaven, his hair was similar to Illidan's in everything but color. Tyrande was stood between them, and, despite what Kael had always been made to believe, she appeared equally fond of them both.
Now, then; of course, from that distance away there was no way to know— but Kael had always envisioned that between the Stormrage twins there was something like his own jealousy of Arthas. He imagined Tyrande wouldn't have noticed Illidan at all, which would seem extra unfair considering the brothers were really so similar— but unlike the way Jaina had once been completely oblivious to Kael's existence, Tyrande seemed to like both Malfurion and Illidan, she was stood between them with one arm around each, and Kael wondered how it was that she'd supposedly rejected Illidan in the end.
They do seem happy, he thought; Master and his brother don't seem to hate each other at all.
He wasn't certain why it got his eyes damp.
Anduin wasn't really paying attention to the queen's explanation about the contest or the prizes she had to give away; he was carefully trying to figure out the best way to make use of Wrathion's agreeable temper, he didn't want to waste this night.
"Pretty crowded here, isn't it?" he asked in his best attempt at casual observation; he said nothing about finding the priestesses.
"Yeah," Wrathion said, "it's like the entire Kaldorei populace is here tonight."
"Just about," Anduin replied, he sounded really dumb to himself; "You wanna— like— I don't know— maybe go someplace— more quiet...?"
Crap, what am I saying? That totally sounded like I'm trying to get him alone and... and...
"Trying to get me alone, are you?"
"No. I'm just saying it's really loud here."
"What about over there?"
"I don't know why you have to— why every time— why you always think—"
"Over there— see—"
"Where— over where?"
He noticed that Wrathion was pointing to a distant waterfall high in the mountains, and wasn't sure he really understood.
"What—" Anduin asked, "Up there?"
"Yeah, bet there's a pretty good view from up there."
"What do you mean, I thought we were looking for a place to go now?"
"We are, I could get us up there."
"Wh... you can't be serious..." Anduin regarded the distant hills; the waterfall seemed pretty high up.
"I'm a dragon, remember?
"You're not scared, are you?"
"N...no... b—ut— it's just— I mean— you'd, what— carry me?"
"Well—" Wrathion straightened with an air of official elegance; "I'm not some kind of taxi service or anything— but— if you asked politely... since we're friends..."
We're friends again, Anduin thought, he said we're friends.
He couldn't help smiling; "Well— if you don't mind— that is— if I'm not too heavy—"
"Pff! You saw me in my true form, I could easily carry you."
Anduin's gaze lingered on the waterfall high in the hills; truth was, the notion of flying all the way up there was pretty intimidating, especially considering he'd never ridden on Wrathion's back before— but, all the while, it seemed exhilarating exactly because he'd be riding on Wrathion's back.
Despite himself, he grinned timidly, he absently ran one hand through his hair; "Okay," he said, "Yeah, sure, that could be fun— let's do that."
Now that Anduin had accepted, Wrathion found himself faced with the reality that he'd really have to carry him— and though he'd carried others a few times before, for some reason the fact that this time it would be Anduin had got him shy.
He coughed and said, "All right, yeah, let's—"
He paused in order to have a look around, but there was no good place to go for him to change to his true form; the courtyard was completely packed. He tried to figure out some possible path to get out of that area.
"Come on, through here," he said.
And while that entire evening Anduin had tried to think of some way to get Wrathion's hand in his, here Wrathion just took hold of him like it was nothing at all— he tugged him through the busy lawn, and Anduin followed as though in a daze. The breeze swept through their hair and clothes as they waded in-between, and Anduin felt like he didn't really care where he was led— the rush of being tugged this way had him boyishly excited for adventure.
They wove through the gardens and the shrubs at their edge, and Wrathion's hand felt large and warm, his fingers were long and slender; Anduin watched his straight black hair shimmer behind him as he ran, his golden hoop earring glittered against the angle of his mandible.
Is Wrathion my boyfriend? He wondered, are we— do we—
He'd not really paid much attention to the journey they'd made, they'd ultimately stepped into a little orchard where the trees bore round and bluish fruit; a pleasant scent wafted in the air, the leaves rustled softly.
"Here's good," Wrathion said, his voice hitched just a little; he felt inexplicably nervous to do this.
Anduin paced a few steps before him, his fingers trailed absently along the bark; the cheers and shouts from the lawn came more discordant now.
Wrathion asked, "Right, well— so I'm gonna change, okay?"
Anduin flushed despite himself, he nodded rapidly and wondered why this made his pulse go fast.
At that, Wrathion didn't stall any longer; he changed to his true form, and tried his best to look regal— but there was his heart rate, still unnervingly rapid.
"Right—" he said, he held his head high with what he hoped passed for grace, he was almost certain his horns were impressive— there was no way Anduin wouldn't be impressed with his majesty then—
As for Anduin, he remained where he was, one hand still loosely fingering the tree's bark; it wasn't the first time he'd seen Wrathion in his true form as a grown drake, but it was overwhelming again just the same.
He really was... a very majestic dragon. In the dimly-lit orchard, his scales seemed to shimmer more than that time at the cave, they were dark but also iridescent somehow— as though light and color played through their black surface in some enchanted illusion. In a sense he was also a daunting presence, but visibly wise, Anduin felt he wanted very much to trace his hand along his scales—
But it was Wrathion, he couldn't just do that.
They both had become curiously shy about having Anduin climb on.
Anduin didn't want to just invite himself to do so, and Wrathion felt there was no way to ask him to ride without sounding really dumb.
"Well—" Anduin coughed, "Do I just— that is—"
"You— you have to ask politely," Wrathion stammered, "I'm not some— don't think you can just—"
"Right, sorry, sorry— ah— so— so can I— may I—if you would be so kind— as to— do me the honor—"
But it turned out Anduin's strained formality was even more awkward and difficult to endure than if he'd just asked normally; Wrathion interrupted him partway through and said, "That's good, very well, just get on."
"Oh— well— all right—"
"I— guess I should probably—"
Wrathion lowered himself a bit closer to the ground to make it easier; then, he fought hard as he could for elegant composure while Anduin bloody climbed on his back.
It's cool, he tried telling himself, what's the big deal? We already did all that stuff...
But there were Anduin's hands, warm and human and touching his back all over; he could feel the weight of him, the way he adjusted himself, the slide of his legs and his thighs—
It was curious, how light he really felt.
He was slender and strong, his limbs moved into position with practiced grace, undoubtedly trained review order etiquette that came second nature after years of court decorum—
It was unexpectedly humbling somehow.
"Okay— so— are you set?" Wrathion asked, he thought he felt a bit lightheaded;
"Yeah— yes— is— this all right? Not too heavy, am I?"
"No! No way— you're— really very small."
"Oh..." Anduin said shyly; "Well— all right. Just— don't fly in some crazy way— "
Wrathion might have made fun of him for being scared, but none of that came now; he merely consented, suddenly very self-conscious of delivering a smooth and majestic sort of ride.
What if he doesn't hold on tight enough?
What if he slips up and falls— and it'll be my fault for dropping him—
He stalled for some moments while thinking this through, and finally decided he'll be really careful about making sure Anduin stays up on his back— and if he notices he starts falling off or something, he'll just kind of shift— and if worst came to worst and Anduin actually fell, he would definitely catch him, like really fast with his claws...
"All right," he finally said, "So— hold on very tight— you holding on? Okay— I'm going."
(On to Chapter 16)
Wrathion took off with complete lack of grace; for all his majesty, his wings flapped with awkward imbalance and great gusts of wind, they brushed roughly on branches and sent leaves and blades of grass asunder— all because he was so nervous.
Fuck, he thought, now Anduin probably thinks that's how I normally take off, like I'm some kind of idiot—
"Sorry," he stammered while fighting to straighten himself midair, but one of his hind legs bumped on another branch, and then some birds flew out of that tree and squawked loudly.
This is seriously the worst, he thought, I can't believe I just did that.
He was certain Anduin must be vastly unimpressed, that he must find him a very lame dragon, and felt direly he must clean up his act and show off some majestic flying moves; Anduin, however, was mostly just terrified after the rough takeoff, like some old memories of Onyxia had threatened to return and he couldn't really tell one dragon from the other. He might have braced himself as per his extensive riding practice on horse- and gryphon-back, except that Wrathion had no saddle or reins, and Anduin had no control over where he was going or how fast.
For all his meticulous riding etiquette, he found himself now unexpectedly helpless, his arms came firmly round the dragon's long neck and he held on for dear life.
"Hey—" Wrathion said, he paused somewhere midair, his wings flapped at his sides with great force and sound; "That's kind of tight, think you can ease up on—"
"Slow down," Anduin muttered, "Also, could you straighten yourself, I'm falling—"
"Oh—" Wrathion said rapidly, he was so bloody embarrassed; "Shit, sorry—"
He wasn't exactly certain what Anduin had meant by asking that he straighten himself, he tried carefully to level his body in a way he thought would be reasonable for a rider. "That all right?" he asked.
Anduin hadn't eased the death grip he had round his neck; "Straighten, I mean, your back is at an incline, I'm sliding off—" The words came fast and nervous, Anduin had his eyes forcibly shut all the while; it occurred to Wrathion that for someone who wasn't a dragon, perhaps this whole experience might be very different indeed.
"I'm trying to straighten, okay, just calm down— How's this?"
"This part! This part of you should move up!!"
Anduin tried lightly to tap Wrathion's thigh with one of his feet, but he held on so tightly with his entire body he nearly lost his gauge on moving his leg; he quickly tried to get his grip back, and ultimately wound up giving Wrathion's thigh a hard kick.
"Ow! What the hell, I'm not some horse—"
"Please just straighten yourself! This is— oh, Light be praised, thank you—"
Anduin's pulse was going impossibly fast, he still had his eyes firmly shut and was holding on forcibly with all four of his limbs; Wrathion took it as personal criticism and became defensive.
"Sheesh, I never got so moody when you carried me, when I was a whelp..."
"Wh— I carried you gently! Gently!!"
"I am carrying you gently."
Anduin didn't respond; he just wished for this to be over, but because he'd not said anything, Wrathion continued with his defensive explanations.
"It's not my fault if you don't appreciate— do you know what an honor— what an opportunity it is— for a mortal— to get a ride on a dragon's back— and I'm the last of my kind, too, so—"
"Please can we just land—"
"What— you think you could do better? You think it's any day that a dragon just— lets some mortal— like—"
"No, Wrathion! I don't think anything, I'm bloody terrified— please just land already!"
The words had caught Wrathion entirely off guard; it hadn't crossed his mind this might be terrifying. Somehow, the awareness he'd wound up menacing instead of majestic was a terrible personal blow.
Some moments passed before he spoke again;
"You're terrified...?" He asked with a soft note of defeat, he grew quiet after that and only headed to the nearest cliff in silence.
He had tried his best to make the landing gentle, and then lowered himself to the ground so that Anduin could climb off; for some seconds, Anduin still hadn't moved, Wrathion became aware of his arms and his chest, his face buried in the scales of his neck— How did I get him so afraid of me...? He wondered.
Anduin slowly lifted his face from over him, he surveyed the area tentatively, like he wondered if it was safe to step off; he didn't want to fall down the cliff or skid off if he wasn't careful. "By the Light, I'm shaking all over," he murmured, his legs slowly slid across Wrathion's back and then down one of his sides; he touched ground with a low scrape of gravel, and felt a bit lightheaded when he proceeded to walk a bit after that.
They hadn't flown as high as the waterfall, but they'd got far enough up there was a nice view, distant sounds came from the party still ongoing somewhere below; the wind rustled gently through grasses and the boughs of trees, it did Anduin good.
Wrathion proceeded to change back to his human form, he turned to Anduin guiltily; "Hey—" he said as he slowly got one hand on his arm, "—I'm sorry."
Anduin slowly regarded him, he flushed and ran one hand absently through his hair; it was curious to see him in his human form again, catching a glimpse of his eyes got him shy.
"I'm— sorry, too," he said, though he wasn't certain what he was sorry for; "I'm not used to riding without any sort of control— for a moment I seriously thought I was gonna die—"
"That bad, huh," Wrathion asked quietly, and it occurred to Anduin then he'd effectively insulted him without meaning to.
"Oh— hey, listen, I didn't mean it like that—"
"No— no, it's all right— it's just—"
"I just— maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just not used to— you know— how we mortals are—"
"No, that's—" Wrathion turned to him honestly for a moment; "I just wouldn't say that I'm terrifying."
He spoke the word like he expected Anduin to realize how far from the truth it was, and then to appropriately correct himself.
".....oh..." Anduin said in a moment of understanding; he'd not thought of it at all, but, of course, possibly Wrathion's greatest fear was that he'd become like his father.
"Hey— come on, it wasn't like that— you really are a very majestic and stunning dragon— it was just— maybe you're not used to letting people ride you—"
Wrathion flushed on hearing that; "You..." he looked away and tried to conceal his smile with one hand— "You think I'm majestic and stunning?"
Anduin had meant to console him, and to somehow correct his mistake from before; he'd not realized that in so doing he'd transparently let on a secret sort of admiration he'd felt for some time. His pulse skipped a beat in a bout of embarrassment, his thoughts raced to find some credible explanation to neutralize what he'd said.
"Ah—" he stammered, "No! That is— what—" He laughed forcibly, like he'd been joking around all along; "What— you think— that I— that we— why would I— it's not like—"
Oh, by the Light, he thought as his face had got redder and redder, I totally just had had my arms and legs all pressed up to him like a moment ago, and like my entire body— fuck, that's so embarrassing—
They stood silently on the small cliff, both staring out unto the woods below; distantly between the trees there glittered the soft lights of wisps, secretive whispers of natural magic that were too subtle to notice at the palace, when they'd been surrounded by the arcane energies of the Well.
The gentle forest breeze swept through Anduin's hair, it felt somehow refreshing and cool, and there came inexplicably in him a knowing sense of calm; the white warmth of moonlight that streamed between branches glimmered all around him in tiny specs of stardust, they fell like immaterial snowflakes on his clothes and his hair. He became aware of a curious breath of eternal life and hope that whispered through him with countless inaudible voices, which had his senses suspended with humility and awe—
At his side, Wrathion remained silently still, the hair bristled at the back of his neck at the barely discernible but unmistakable echo of dreamlike singing, inhumanly soft, it wove like an intangible wind or spirit in the rustle of leaves—
There Anduin stood bathed in moonlight, behind him his hair and the fabric of his clothes floated in slow motion as though underwater, and he appeared momentarily distant and transfixed; as of their own accord his hands came slowly before him, where a low light grew gradually brighter until it took vaguely the shimmering outline of a large flower.
It didn't look like the blossom of the dream that Ysera had given him before, but something ethereal and otherworldly, its radiance washed Anduin over until he was nearly obscured entirely by its light; then, it began very gradually to diminish, the beams floated weightlessly away in silvery caressing ribbons, which ultimately faded out of existence and into the night air.
A short distance away, Wrathion stood speechless, the dreamlike song of the forest had dissipated out of audible range and finally Anduin's clothes and the locks of his hair settled calmly, like whatever wind had swept them through had passed.
What he had witnessed he could not deny.
Wrathion knew without asking, the offering intended to grant them recognition on part of Elune's priestesses had been accepted by the Goddess directly, and he was as much horrified by it as he was emotionally overcome with reverence.
Neither of them spoke for a long time as they stood motionless at the cliff's edge, mutually aware of what had transpired, and how no one would ever believe them if they'd tried to explain.
No words were exchanged as Wrathion's fingers wove slowly through Anduin's, he felt his grip come firm and tight, and here was the friend he'd remembered— the nights spent staying up late over drinks and board games, the reality of his injuries after the Bell and how despite them they teased and taunted each other, because it would be terribly depressing to let something like that get in the way—
—and also, here was his old friend, in whose gentle and mild demeanor there always had echoed the pulse of the Light—
"My dearest friend," Wrathion said, and for once his voice weighed with genuine empathy; it came heavy and laden with sorrow all throughout, a deep sort of compassion he'd never desired for Anduin to need.
"Never had I wished for you to know the burden of a secret you absolutely cannot tell."
They both knew— what claims Anduin might make to the Sisterhood of Elune that the Goddess, herself, had accepted him would be taken as the highest sort of blasphemy and insult— especially with Anduin being male, where males were considered among the Sisterhood inferior and incapable of true communion with Elune's heart.
They would never accept the suggestion I might be a prophet, Anduin thought, I can't even tell them this much; I must ask only that they agree to test my abilities, Ysera will be witness and judge to my performance.
However, the deep significance of what they had seen coursed through him with its incontestable truth: Anduin's insistence to come here had not been unfounded— and whether or not there was validity to Kairoz's prediction, he certainly did have some pivotal role in Wrathion's plan.
At the cliff's edge, they stood somberly united under the burden that now bound them to the same heavy fate, their fingers twined tightly while they watched the wind sweep through the moonlit valley below.
(On to Chapter 17)
Lovely gift art by the super awesome Umbra-Neko, used with permission. Thank you so much, dear! =)
For a long time, Wrathion and Anduin sat at the edge of the cliff in silence; they hadn't released the hold they had on each other's hand, because then they'd need a new excuse to do it again. It was exhilarating and curious, an unspoken confirmation of what they both were too shy to say— but under the weight of all they'd just recently witnessed, there was tremendous consolation in the knowledge they were in it together.
Anduin's free hand picked absently at blades of grass, he watched the twinkling lights still brightly flashing down at Azshara's palace;
"Thanks, by the way," he said, "for bringing me up here."
It was the first thing either of them said in a while, Wrathion was taken a little off guard to hear it; he turned to regard him slowly from where his head rested on the bend of his knee. "I thought you hated me for that," he said, "you freaked out so badly..."
"Yeah," Anduin replied, he shyly turned to glance at him; "I was really scared, but— now I'm glad— that you offered, because—"
Because he felt this place was somehow blessed, and maybe they were meant to come here; it occurred to him the Goddess could have chosen to visit him alone, and maybe she chose to make her presence known to Wrathion, as well.
What it meant, he had no idea.
Wrathion watched him for some time without saying a word; in the pale moonlight, he thought the subtle glow from before still lingered on Anduin's figure, and for the first time he wondered if his role might really be necessary to save Azeroth.
His fingers tightened in their joined hands while he looked out on the valley; "These past years," he said, "I really missed you."
It was almost too subtle to hear, but at his side there came a very soft gasp at these words; Anduin looked rapidly away, he sniffled and swiped boyishly at his eyes, his voice wavered despite audible attempts at composure.
"I missed you so bad," he said, at last laying his heart bare; "You just left— you just left me—"
Although he now understood Wrathion's reasons, he'd spent so many years hurt and confused, until eventually bitterness had given way to despair, and he'd been willing to forgive any injustice if only he could see his old friend again; Wrathion stilled at the intimate confession, he'd not expected to hear such vulnerably candid things.
"Hey—" he said, uncertain how to handle Anduin when there were no insults or taunts; "hey, come on—"
Anduin still had his head turned away, he was stupidly rubbing at his eyes and Wrathion got one hand on his shoulder; "Come on," he said, there were to his voice undertones of adulthood that were foreign even to him; he tried to prompt him to turn, aware Anduin deliberately wouldn't look at him because he was embarrassed about crying;
"Are you crying?" he asked.
"No," Anduin cried, still turned away;
"You are crying," Wrathion's voice came uncannily soft; Anduin stiffened when his arms came around him, one round his back and one hand reaching to turn his face to his.
"You're crying, like a little baby," Wrathion said, but he was gentler than he'd ever heard him; Wrathion leaned forth and carefully kissed each of Anduin's eyes, then the places on his face that had got damp, and finally his mouth—
Anduin wasn't certain, but he could've sworn that just before he'd kissed him, he'd heard him whisper,
They fell on the sandy earth in a struggling tangle of limbs, where they gripped and grabbed at each other's clothes with impatient desperation, and it was like nothing Anduin had felt; he now knew, he was painfully, wretchedly in love, it was a devastating anguish he'd never suffered before—
He wondered how he would ever endure this ceaseless torment.
Even out in the palace gardens, the seating and catering service were impeccably elegant; it took Kael'thas back to more innocent times, his sheltered upbringing at the Spire and how blissfully unaware he had been of the dark days to come. He'd been thrilled by the opportunity to study away at Dalaran, away from his father's scrutiny and the rigid discipline with which he'd been raised; when earlier that night he'd said to Anduin, You've really never lived, he'd been thinking of his own past.
Anasterian had never completely approved of Kael's studies away from home, and amidst the humans, at that— as while necessity had the Thalassian monarch consent to an alliance with the humans of Arathor, he'd never felt at ease to permit his kingdom out of its long-standing seclusion. It was Anasterian, though, who'd allowed for the first time that high elven magic be taught to the humans, and in accordance the city of Dalaran had come to be.
But, even so, he'd never felt exactly right about sending Kael'thas there; he had wondered if his son was aware that one day he'd have to take the throne as ruler of Quel'thalas.
It may have been something of which Kael was aware at the back of his mind, but he certainly hadn't expected it to come so soon; now long past the aftermath of all that had changed, he found curiously that he missed the sheltered upbringing he'd once been so desperate to escape.
He sat back beside Jaina, his fingers slid along the glimmering cutlery placed at their table with quiet contentment; the seating was cleverly arranged as to give an unhindered view of the contest ongoing in the gardens nearby, and this, in itself, was the best sort of entertainment: Kael'thas and even Jaina both felt a sort of reverence for Azshara's cunning, where she somehow successfully arranged for the Stormrage twins to duel one another in only their shorts.
"I say it was worth going back ten thousand years just to see this," Kael remarked, and, despite herself, Jaina was compelled to agree; it appeared the brothers were evenly matched, they had long since stopped using their powers and were on to the more relatable and familiar, ruthless sort of wrestling that only ever took place between siblings.
For some time, Malfurion appeared to be winning, he had Illidan immobilized beneath him while straddled over his hips, his long hair draped disheveled on his face and back; Kael'thas seemed quite concerned as he strained to observe, Jaina watched him root quietly for Master under his breath.
While he'd found Illidan just as handsome like this, Kael had liked his demonic form in particular; he'd always had a taste for the exotic and unique, which was why he'd fancied Jaina, as well: after his life within the reclusive constraints of Quel'thalas, he'd been curious to meet these humans his father had found so distasteful.
After the fact, his advisors never quite understood the prince's exotic human fetish, but Kael had a taste for demons, as well— and Kil'jaeden had just been so...
Beneath Malfurion, Illidan made an admirable try to buck his brother off, and he almost had him, too, but managed only to throw him a little off balance in the end; Malfurion slammed him back down breathlessly, and after that they'd got in a struggling heap, until Illidan got one of his legs around him and managed to roll himself on top.
"You were not prepared for that, were you, brother?" he asked triumphantly, and Malfurion laughed in response.
Some distance away, Azshara sighed pleasantly into her drink, she was certain this was one of the best ideas she'd ever had for entertainment; "But there needs to be some hot oil, wouldn't you say?" she asked Vashj, who readily agreed.
"I don't even care who wins," Vashj replied, and Azshara smiled, "Yeah, I know..."
"Really? I thought for sure you'd be cheering for Illidan."
"I know right, that's what I thought— but didn't he look so good when he was all— straining beneath him like that—"
When finally the match had concluded and neither had won, Kael turned to Jaina and asked if she wanted another drink; he said he wanted to get one for himself, and her first reaction was suspicion, because after his assorted adventures that night she was almost certain he had some other plan in mind.
"What are you really gonna do?" She asked, and Kael chuckled tenderly; he winked and replied, "You don't think I'm just gonna go get a drink, do you?"
"No, I don't."
"What do you think I'm gonna go do?"
Jaina thought for some moments; "I think you're gonna go... I don't know... get in the middle between Illidan and Malfurion somehow... or something like that..."
He laughed at that fully, and his eyes glittered with affection; "You really do know me after all," he said, "and that doesn't sound like a half-bad idea."
She was now trying hard not to smile; "I didn't mean it as some kind of suggestion...!"
"Not jealous now, are you?" he asked, "You know, you could still have all this if you wanted." He indicated himself the way he had last time he'd offered.
"Oh, just go get your drink already."
Kael'thas made his way through the crowd toward the immaculate refreshment table, where crystalline goblets were arranged geometrically around a number of decorated fountains; he'd been just about to reach for a glass when there came a sensation around him he couldn't quite place, and someone's forearm came stealthily round his abdomen. He felt the hair at the back of his neck stand on end, not entirely unpleasantly, when just at his ear there issued words in a sort of seductive whisper he now recognized.
"I thought I warned you," Malygos said, "I didn't want you near the Well of Eternity."
Kael stilled with one hand just over the untouched goblet; despite himself, he could feel he was melting into the touch.
He said nothing, but soon Malygos took him by the hand like they had been intimate lovers, and cleverly slipped into the shadowy garden nearby.
(On to Chapter 18)
At the sandy earth of the plateau, Anduin had Wrathion on his back; he had his trousers down around his thighs, and made good on his promise to do it to him till he'd finished him off. He didn't complain that time about having to do it, or that it was tedious, or that he wanted to switch; that time, he actually felt like he wanted to.
He didn't care how profane they were, because that time, no one could walk in; there was no one within hearing range, and they didn't need to think up possible excuses for a worst-case scenario where they'd be caught.
But, either way, Anduin didn't care— the last time they'd done this, Wrathion had got him to feel so utterly wretched when he'd emerged from it bitter and annoyed, he'd acted almost like nothing intimate had happened between them; he'd been a jerk after the fact, and had made Anduin wonder what he'd done wrong— and though it had made Anduin angry inside, he was utterly powerless, because he couldn't help his feelings despite everything.
You don't really get to choose whether or not you're in love, and it's a terrible thing when you fall in love with someone insensitive.
But this time, he thought, he'd show him; he'd make it so good Wrathion would have to admit it was worthwhile, he wouldn't want to be a jerk again—
Somewhere inside, Anduin knew that Wrathion just was a jerk, like it was some intrinsic black dragon thing; but by then, logic had little to do with it. He was too far gone in his heart, and was aware he was kidding himself if he thought he could merely walk away if he'd been hurt enough.
But, regardless, he found that he wanted to do this, he had one hand tight on Wrathion's wrist and the other at the base of his cock, still gloved, and had at him with hunger he no longer tried to conceal; he sucked on him loudly, profanely, until Wrathion was struggling beneath him and fucking his mouth without shame.
In the candor of ardent abandon, Wrathion asked, "You don't mind? You're not bothered— that I'm a dragon, and you're—"
"No," Anduin said breathlessly;
"And after everything— all the other black dragons you knew—"
Anduin emerged from between his thighs, he gasped for breath as he swiped at his mouth gracelessly; "And after what you did, the trial— yes, Wrathion, it hasn't escaped me that you're an imposing and awe-inspiring black dragon in the truest sense of the term— that you're a cunning and devious, crafty, two-faced bastard— was that what you were going to ask? That even knowing all that, I still—"
Wrathion regarded him speechlessly in the unearthly glow of starlight; his dark hair batted round his face in slow motion, and there was something childlike about him that could almost pass for humility—
He propped himself up and reached toward Anduin, then dabbed at the slick side of his mouth, his lips and his chin— inhumanly delicate, he moved with a regal sort of air that echoed with millennia of ancient dragons before him—
His hand caressed Anduin's cheek with fragile softness that had him almost confused, he kissed him with tenderness of which Anduin never imagined him capable—
"Foolish, hopeless little mortal," he whispered, his eyelashes flickered innocently on Anduin's skin; "Haven't I told you, your gentleness will be your undoing—"
—but he may well have said,
Even knowing all that, I still love you, too—
Malygos recognized Kael'thas even without having seen his true form before; dragons could smell you out, but this one also sensed his magic— and although Kael was aware he was in trouble, it didn't really feel that way. The other day when Kairoz and Murozond had grabbed him, he'd been fully alert, he had a number of weapons at the ready— but this was something entirely different.
Seduction was the most poisonous sort of attack— Malygos was somehow hypnotic, his magic was vivid and pure, and Kael gave into him readily; there was never any hope for his arcane addiction now that he was faced with something like this outright.
For a brief moment, he wondered if Kalecgos was like this, too, he thought he ought to ask Jaina— I'll ask her after this, he thought, when it occurred to him that after this may never come.
Curiously, he felt somehow at ease about that.
But no, he remembered, there were things I still had to do— important things—
He could feel the wet warmth of Malygos' breath at his neck, his very existence pulsed with arcane energies more deep and rich than any he'd known; he clung feverishly, ravenously, when there came something that wasn't right.
Malygos had done it so subtly Kael might not have noticed at all, but almost too late he'd become aware his last verdant sphere was being drawn from him.
He had found that resistance at this point became excruciating, like trying to shout in a dream; any attempt at alarm came just barely a breath or a whisper. Kael'thas had never been one to go down without a fight, but he now felt somehow paralyzed; it occurred to him he would watch helplessly while Malygos extracted his last sphere, something that should not have been possible in the first place.
But I can't, he thought, I still have so much to do— I still love—
He'd just nearly succumbed to this sweetest sort of venom when, somewhere beyond the abyss of unawareness, there glimmered distantly a blinding flash of light; it crashed soundlessly but with tremendous impact, and as vision returned to him slowly, he saw with vague confusion what seemed like the aftermath of some arcane struggle.
There stood a tall figure between him and Malygos, a silhouetted form which appeared like a shadow before the bright light; in the last of the conflict, his dark hair batted wildly, and all around him was encompassing power so achingly familiar Kael almost reached to hold it—
—he felt it bleed viscerally through him, electric with life and charge—
Sound issued as though muffled underwater, but Kael hazily caught the tail end of an exchange; he heard Illidan tell the blue aspect,
"This little mage has done no wrong."
Soft, ethereal hands, the innocence of mercy— was this absolution?
In the desolate void, something inside Kael'thas burst, a virginal chastity he'd long since lost hope to deserve— there was a burden he'd carried so long he'd forgot what it was to walk without it.
He was too far overcome for words; in the stupor of after-effect, he heard vaguely the words of formal propriety as Illidan spoke to Malygos, all cunning and polite decorum, Kael remembered how Illidan spoke to Kil'jaeden this way—
From somewhere off came other voices, he heard Jaina, she had some spell cast to his benefit and was asking him not to move; and there, from just a short distance, was Lady Vashj— Kael brightened to see her, but she wasn't looking at him. She was conversing directly with the queen, who, Kael had now noticed, was stood closer than he'd ever been to her, he could feel her encompassing arcane magic, she had power like no mortal person he'd known before—
—but they weren't mortal back then, were they— the night elves—
He saw obscurely that Azshara's hand brushed just a bit along Illidan's back, and while it was a very subtle gesture, there was something about it—
—it left him curious and confused, and he wasn't exactly certain why.
After that she was speaking with Malygos, and though Kael'thas couldn't really hear, he could tell there was an argument; Azshara was trying to figure out why Malygos attacked Kael.
At his side, Jaina continued steadily with whatever spell she had cast, she was irritably muttering about how she'd been a fool to think she could leave him alone for even a moment— he reached absently to feel the place where the spell was directed, and she slapped his hand away.
He'd not felt so loved in years.
"You're a terrible babysitter," he smiled, and Jaina told him to shut the hell up.
He'd only then seen that the queen was looking directly at him; "Vashj," Azshara said, "would you look at that— those two look like dragons, but they aren't— and it's not some disguise—"
He felt overwhelmed by her presence and the intensity of her magic, he could see now from up close the painstaking perfection with which her garbs had been crafted; she approached with impeccable grace, but appeared terribly suspicious.
"His power is familiar," she said, "I'm certain I've felt it before—"
"Dath'remar," Vashj chimed in, and now Azshara smiled brightly; she turned to her handmaiden with certainty and said, "Yes..! That's it, you're always so good at this—"
But then the queen turned back toward Kael, her smile wavered a little, like there still was something about this that had her discontent; "But— you know— there's something else, too— something I know really, really well— it's just so familiar—" Her brow furrowed and she appeared deep in thought, until slowly she brought both hands over her mouth in a moment of clarity, and Kael'thas could swear he'd seen her flush.
This creature, who looked like a dragon but wasn't, had both Dath'remar's and Illidan's magic; she was now certain of this.
"Oh— oh, crap," she whispered to Vashj, "how loud was I just now when I said all that stuff— about his magic being really familiar, and how I know it so well?"
She asked this because Illidan was like right there, and if he'd heard that bit, he may know how intently she'd been watching his magic— like some freakish stalker.
She leaned close to Kael'thas and spoke directly to him now, like she could tell he still wasn't entirely cognizant, but felt her questions couldn't wait; "How do you have Illidan's magic?" she whispered, clearly not wishing for Illidan to hear.
Kael still felt a bit too weak to move much, and his thoughts were still clouded— but the question registered clearly enough, and it was unexpectedly pleasant to hear. From this close up, he could see the elaborate detail of the markings drawn upon her face, Lady Vashj's familiar handiwork, he felt very curiously like he'd somehow come home.
"It was Illidan's magic which saved me," he said, "Now it's been twice."
"We're here with Ysera," Jaina explained to Lady Vashj, her accent in draconic made it clear enough she really wasn't a dragon; "she has come to arrange a meeting with the Sisterhood of Elune— hey, what are those guys doing...?"
A number of Azshara's servants had now gathered around Kael, and had begun to cast some spell which Jaina was quick to shoo off; "Oh—" Azshara said to Jaina, "I'd like to have your friend treated, he's unwell, as you can see—"
Jaina turned to Kael and knelt at his side; "Kael'thas," she said, "please tell the queen you're fine, we'll have Anduin look at your injury— your Highness, there's no need—"
She wondered why she worried for him this way; did she merely not want him involved directly with the palace...?
But even with his injury, Kael'thas was enough cognizant to appreciate the attention on her part; "Are you gonna take care of me, Doctor Proudmoore?" he grinned, "I think I'm feeling better already."
"Is this somehow funny to you?" Jaina asked, "That's not a light injury."
He could've kissed her stupid just then.
"I take responsibility for this," Azshara said, "since the fight was provoked here at the palace grounds— Vashj, would you mind calling for Dath'remar—"
Could it be— had the queen just now blushed a little when she asked...?
After that, Jaina leaned close toward Kael'thas and whispered, "I don't want you going with them, I don't trust her."
"Jaina," Kael replied affectionately, "I trust them, it's Lady Vashj..."
"You don't know Lady Vashj of ten thousand years ago," Jaina whispered back, "And she doesn't know you."
Out the corner of his eye, he saw that Illidan had begun to walk off with some of the others, and Azshara rapidly tapped him on the shoulder; after that, she recoiled momentarily, and it was very curious to watch, because the gesture appeared almost timid. "I'll— need your presence," she stammered, then cleared her throat and fought hard for an air of omnipotence; "Because— we—"
"Yes!" Kael'thas chimed in, "That's a good idea—" He then flushed at what he'd actually said aloud; for a brief moment, he and Azshara exchanged very curious glances, but then both turned to gaze at Illidan again.
Azshara cleared her throat; "Yes," she said, "There, it's decided, proceed."
"Kael'thas, what are you doing?" Jaina whispered, "You don't know what she's going to do, it's too dangerous—"
Kael's eyes glittered with warmth, his hand closed slowly in hers; "My dear Jaina," he said softly, "Since when have you started to care for me like this...?"
"Since when have you become so irresponsible?!"
"Don't leave my side," he whispered, "I need you."
"First you ask to be taken by these people you don't even know, then you say you need me to be there?!"
"Sounds about right."
"Light damn it, Kael'thas..."
She could see exactly what this was about: Kael was excited to see Illidan and Vashj, he probably imagined they still were some super trio like they'd been in their own timeline— and now he was going to go with them willingly— as though Azshara wasn't historically notorious for her immeasurable power and unique talent for enslaving handsome men with her spells.
But for someone who could spell any man she wished to do her bidding, she appeared curiously timid about speaking with Illidan— almost like she had feelings of her own, and fears and doubts— and wasn't the stereotypical female object of seduction and attraction you read about in stories.
(On to Chapter 19)
(Is anyone still reading this? )
"You don't have to do it," Wrathion said, he hadn't expected that after their candid exchange, Anduin would go back to what he was doing before— but Anduin actually pressed him down, he said nothing more of it and got his hand on his member directly. He met his gaze and didn't turn away while his hand moved on the slick surface, he watched Wrathion subtly gasp with inspiration each time; after that, he knelt forth again, he took him in his mouth without a word.
Wrathion swore silently in draconic, his clawed fingers came in Anduin's hair, and Anduin didn't even mind that he tugged a little; he didn't mind that, after a while, they'd both become very lewd and profane, his hand moved wetly on him, he felt the fluid trail down the side of his palm to his wrist—
He got his other hand on Wrathion's hip, where he could feel the tension in his muscles, the slide of his bones, he continued long past the point where his lips had gone red and inflamed with exertion, and his knees had dug painfully into the earth— then, after some time, at last Wrathion's abdomen had gone tight and he muttered breathlessly that he was gonna—
At that, Anduin's fingers pressed harder on his hip, he'd prepared himself mentally, and while he dreaded the taste, he told himself he wouldn't act repulsed by it— he wouldn't give him a hard time, he'd make him remember how good at this he was—
But when climax actually came, it really did taste that bad; Anduin forced himself to swallow quickly without making a fuss, but he thought he still could taste it after the fact— and, also, his mouth had gone very dry. He emerged from it breathless and raw, and gazed at Wrathion directly, determined not to show that he hadn't liked it. Wrathion, however, appeared entirely exhausted, he remained somehow helpless, his chest rose and fell with after-effect; when Anduin leaned forth to kiss him, he didn't resist, his fingers moved delicately through his hair and he let him kiss his lips, and his cheek, and his neck—
"Did you like it?" Anduin whispered, and Wrathion nodded speechlessly, like he'd been unexpectedly humbled somehow; "Yeah," he finally said, he gathered Anduin delicately into his arms, the points of his claws moved gently through his hair. "Yes, I liked it very much."
They remained for some moments without speaking more, and, very tentatively, Anduin proceeded to lay his head on Wrathion's shoulder; the gesture came a bit unexpected, but it was tender in a way Wrathion found he had liked.
He looked out unto the valley below from over the sway of Anduin's hair, and he said, "You'll have to ride on my back again, you know— to get back down."
"Yeah," Anduin replied, "I know."
"You're not frightened?"
Anduin was silent for some moments; "Maybe a little," he said.
A few more seconds passed before Wrathion spoke again; "I'm sorry about before— about the way I carried you— I— just wanted to impress you."
Anduin stilled; he chuckled and then moved back to regard him directly. "What?" he asked.
"Yeah," Wrathion laughed, "pretty dumb, right?"
"You were trying to impress me? By almost dropping me?"
"I didn't almost drop you," Wrathion huffed; there was a defensive note to his voice. "I wanted— for you to think— that I was majestic, and cool..."
Now Anduin actually laughed outright; "I already thought that," he said, and then flushed on realizing what he'd inadvertently admitted again; the first time he'd said Wrathion was a majestic and stunning dragon, he'd been terribly embarrassed afterward— but it was something Wrathion never grew tired of hearing.
He remained where he was, stupidly smiling, he chuckled a little and regarded Anduin timidly; "You really think that?" he asked.
Anduin had gone shy after that, he looked out at the twinkling lights in the forest below; "Yeah," he said, "pretty much from that first time I saw you, back at that pool."
They both remained quiet for some moments; then, finally Wrathion laughed.
"Really?" he asked, "I thought I looked totally stupid... and you were like... all circling around me, and I had to try and look cool..."
"You did look cool, cooler than those other dragons..."
"Well, obviously, I... that is... are you just saying that?"
"No... you were different... the way your wings— how your scales— like— I don' t know, you sort of... glimmered— under the water— with your wings all spread out—"
Anduin was stupidly smiling while he spoke, he held his hands out to demonstrate, and Wrathion realized he'd got very shy; "You like my wings?" he asked timidly, and Anduin chuckled, he gathered enough courage to regard him directly. "Yeah," he grinned, and then laughed; "Yeah, I like your wings."
Now Wrathion laughed, too; "They are kinda cool, aren't they."
"Yeah, they're pretty cool."
When Wrathion turned toward him again, he was smiling widely; he gently tilted Anduin's chin toward him and kissed him lightheartedly, he'd been terribly flattered by the things he'd said.
"I promise I'll try to be gentle," he said, "Now when we head back down to the party, I'll take it really slow."
In the moments that followed, Anduin grew serious while he thought this over; "Let's try it slowly this time," he said, "and— try to keep your back level, last time I nearly slid off..."
"Right, I remember— how about if I only fly a small distance up, and if you don't like it, we'll just land straight away."
"Yeah, okay," Anduin said, "Let's try that."
Azshara had cast a restorative spell on Kael'thas and asked to have him delivered to one of the guest rooms; she intended to ask Illidan to go and find out how it was that this boy had magic similar to his. In truth, though, it was really an excuse to have him stick around, but she felt stupidly nervous about asking.
"I can't talk to him," she said to Vashj,"you talk to him."
"Az, this is ridiculous, you've got to snap out of it."
"Can't you do it, just this once?"
"Illidan is your subject who needs to be ordered," Vashj said, "it's something boys need; it's not good for them when they don't have some kind of structure."
If Kael'thas had heard that bit of conversation, he'd probably say, She's so right; but Kael knew, in his own timeline Illidan had been disciplined into so much submission during his imprisonment there was little left to structure in the end.
But a little bit is nice, he would've thought, he'd been surprised long ago when he'd found quite unexpectedly that, for all his brute force and immeasurable power, Illidan had been deceptively gentle in intimate regard; it was something Kael'thas endured because he'd cared for Illidan, but he'd wished he had hammered him ruthlessly into the mattress at least once.
Jaina smacked him irritably over the head.
"You seem all better," she huffed, Kael was propped by one elbow on the cushions where he'd been lain, he was staring with vast interest at the wash basin at the far end of the room; Illidan was stood there and was rinsing minor injuries he'd got from his struggle with Malygos, there was innate elegance and beauty to him Kael remembered even now.
During their days at the Black Temple, Illidan never spoke to Kael'thas outright about intimate or vulnerable things, but Kael had come to know him through the unmentioned and undisclosed; he was aware that, much as Illidan had been fascinated by the prospect of limitless power, he'd also imagined himself a grotesque and cumbersome presence— but Kael'thas had witnessed there also had been subtle grace in him, which, for better or for worse, was distinctly Kaldorei.
"Oh, come on," he smiled at Jaina, "Tell me that isn't hot."
Now Jaina was staring, too.
Illidan was stood far off with his back facing them, before an elaborate, carved basin; he had a washcloth in hand and was carefully running it over the opposite arm, Kael and Jaina watched the slick streams of water glisten over the perfectly sculpted surface.
They both silently devoured him with their eyes, and Kael wondered what it would be like to kiss him like this— back before the daunting stature and wings and horns— he was almost certain Tyrande must have liked him, at least a little, he wondered if she was ultimately forced to make a choice between him and Malfurion.
Two hot brothers like them both fancying you, I wish I had her problem, Kael'thas thought; it made him remember his earlier conversation with Jaina, where he'd joked that she shouldn't have to choose between him and Kalec, and instead just take them both. It occurred to him now that, in truth, it would be a compromise he would gladly accept, if only to have Jaina, for once.
But was that so far-fetched...?
He wondered about Ysera, who had married two brothers, and they seemed like such a big and happy family— and Alextrasza, who had four guys in her harem, all of whom seemed to get along; he thought of the heartache of which Illidan never spoke outright, but which had destroyed him utterly and lay beneath everything he'd ever said and done—
Would he not have been happier if Tyrande had taken both brothers, the way Ysera had...?
He thought of how miserable Tyrande must have been with Malfurion for a lover, who, as archdruid, had spent many years at a time completely asleep— it was almost absurd to think she shouldn't have had Illidan, as well, at least for those times, to attend her neglected needs.
He'd been taken a little off guard when Illidan turned from the basin, like Kael had forgot he was aware of their presence in the room; he tried to sit upright on the cushions, but Jaina prompted him back down. "You'll mess up the enchantment I cast," she warned, "By the Light, Kael'thas, this is very basic sorcery, I shouldn't have to tell you."
"Right, sorry," he murmured, he tried to remain on his back while watching Illidan proceed toward them, and couldn't help smiling at that.
Jaina might have said more, but she had to admit, from up close Illidan really did look quite good; his eyes were remarkable, and he was tall even for a night elf— and his naked chest, still a bit wet from before—
—she could only imagine what Kael must have been thinking.
He spoke to them in Darnassian, and said to Kael'thas, "Her Highness says your magic is like mine." His hand reached carefully for the injury at his neck, and Kael's gaze followed the motion with pent anticipation, until his eyes finally fluttered shut when the digits came on his skin.
"That's a restoration spell," Jaina explained, "I placed it there, so please be careful—"
Illidan nodded; "It looks like there's also another spell there, the one cast by the queen," he said, and Jaina confirmed she had also been witness to this. She observed that Kael'thas had very dutifully remained still while being examined, his gaze never left Illidan's eyes; she suddenly wondered if it could be that his great desire to come here had little to do with the Well.
Illidan's long fingers came with meticulous grace on the fastens of Kael's robes, he asked, "May I?" —and Jaina thought Kael might have reached straight away to tear off his own garbs, but instead he had quietly swallowed and merely replied, "Please, go ahead."
She imagined he must really enjoy this, but she hadn't expected that she would enjoy watching, too; she got one hand over her mouth and crossed her legs tighter, and stared without shame while Illidan carefully unraveled the elaborate cloth binds. The fabric slid away smoothly to reveal Kael's naked chest, and Kael'thas met Jaina's gaze momentarily; he winked and mouthed to her in Common, How about it, Jaina? All this could still be yours...!
She shook her head and actually chuckled, she replied in Common, "You are a bloody tease, you know that?"
Illidan paused momentarily on hearing this foreign tongue, he'd heard them converse in this language before; his gaze turned from her to Kael and back. "You really aren't dragons," he said, he now pulled the flanks of Kael's robe completely to his sides.
Jaina's first impulse on seeing him like this was to look respectfully away, but she could tell, he wanted her attention; he looked unexpectedly good without clothes, he had a slender and elegant build that was aristocratic and distinctly male. Illidan traced the course of the injury from his neck to his right shoulder, his brow furrowed because indeed it was a sort of magic that felt familiar somehow— however, while he was a powerful sorcerer, his own arcane capabilities were nothing like those of the queen, and he could not tell just by virtue of vicinity what sort of magic Kael had.
Jaina noticed that even despite the obvious reverence Kael felt for Illidan, he nevertheless kept his verdant sphere concealed from clear vision, while earlier he'd made no effort to hide it from her.
"You are here with Ysera," Illidan said, "but the blue aspect spoke of all manner of dangerous things— he said you ought not be here."
"Master," Kael started, but Jaina cut him off; "I had been in agreement that he— that we ought not come here," she said, "but—" She met Kael's gaze momentarily and paused; "—but Malygos ought not have attacked him; the aspects had reached a consensus, and it should have been handled more civilly."
Illidan's hand paused where he'd been inspecting Kael's chest; he regarded him for some moments and then asked, "What did you just call me?"
For the first time, Jaina had seen Kael appear shy; he gasped at his inadvertent comment and regarded Illidan with childlike adoration. "Sorry," he grinned, "you— remind me of someone I knew."
There was something about this, Jaina felt her heart wrench in the tenderest way; it hadn't really hit her until then, how much Kael'thas must have missed Illidan.
She wondered, what if Malygos was mistaken...? What if they both were mistaken, and the expectation that Kael'thas would come here with obvious intent to use the Well was entirely wrong? She had thought of how insistent he'd been about this visit, how Anduin had said he felt he was innocent somehow— could it be that it was merely about—
Illidan paused momentarily; he finally smiled back at Kael. "I've never been called such a thing," he said, and Jaina could tell by his voice that he must have longed for some sort of recognition; Kael'thas brightened at that, it was very rare to see Illidan smile.
"Maybe it's appropriate," he said, "I am in your debt, after all; you did save my life."
Illidan's expression remained unreadable; he regarded him for some time with one hand still lain on his chest. Then, he finally asked, "And what might I call you, little one?"
Kael'thas hesitated; very slowly, his fingers came over Illidan's hand, there lingered between them the sweetest air of brotherhood—
"Why, Master," he said softly, "you might call me Little Prince."
(On to Chapter 20)
"Oh...! Oh, snap, what's this...!"
Wrathion had changed into his true form and unraveled his wings to their full span; he batted them around a little while grinning toothily at Anduin, to the extent that a dragon could blatantly grin.
Anduin chuckled at that, he knew he was being teased about saying he'd liked Wrathion's wings before. "Oh, shut up," he said, but Wrathion wasn't done yet; he turned with his back facing him and unfolded his wings again while regarding him over one shoulder. Then, he began to half-sing, "Look at my wings, you love my wings, you know you love my wings..."
"Yeah, yeah..." Anduin smiled, but the gesture had made him feel a bit braver about riding on his back; "Now fold them back so I can climb on."
"Fold what back? You mean... these?" Wrathion asked while flapping them around again. "Oh! Oh!!"
The worst part was, he really did look pretty cool. "Oh, man, I should never have told you," Anduin said, he approached him and tried to reach up for one of his wings in order to get him to fold it.
"But you did! And now I'll never let you live it down," came the reply, "Oi, what are you— don't touch—"
Anduin realized then that Wrathion was actually ticklish there, his entire face brightened with the awareness of what he could do to him now; "Oh, what's this?" he asked while tickling one of his wings just at its base, "Oh, snap! Oh!"
"By the titans— stop! Stop, stop!" Wrathion laughed, "Crap, I almost did that leg-batting thing— you know, that dogs do—"
"Are you serious?!" Anduin was now aware that he absolutely must tickle him more.
"I'll carry you in my talons! I swear! Oh my titans, stop that...!"
"No! I wanna see you do the leg thing—"
"No way, you'll never see that—"
"Come on, do it—"
Finally Wrathion got enough of a grip on himself that he managed to push Anduin down onto the sand, he took care to do so gently, so it'd be playful— but then he held him firmly on the earth with one foot on his chest.
Anduin grinned up from beneath his talons, his hair had got utterly disheveled and he was flushed in the face; in his true form, Wrathion appeared to smile down at him triumphantly, and Anduin reached up to feel his face with both hands. He traced the line of his mandible toward his cheekbones, then up to his horns far as he could reach, and it was curious to Wrathion somehow— he'd not really let any mortal touch his face that way before, and it would have been irreverent if it wasn't something so innocent and fond.
"You used to be so little," Anduin said, "You'd fit right in my lap—" He grinned while slowly feeling along the smooth curves of his horns, "But now look at you—"
Well into adolescence, he'd carried inside him deep-seated fears at the memory of Onyxia, the terror of facing her from up close— but now he thought he might overcome that; for once, Wrathion appeared very gentle and kind, and had made Anduin wonder if he was his.
His hands trailed down to the foot he had on him, he traced the curving surface of his claws— and while they didn't pose him a serious threat, he nevertheless felt a sort of reverence for their daunting build and stature; even in his human form, Wrathion still bore claws on his hands and feet, but they were far more magnificent like this.
Wrathion tilted his head down suspiciously, like in case he meant to tickle him again; "What are you doing?" he asked, and Anduin glanced back while still tracing one of his claws, "Nothing, just— these babies mean business, don't they?"
"What— my claws?"
"Yeah, they're bloody huge— but don't start with that again, like with your wings—"
He could almost see him starting to smile.
"If I release you, do you promise not to start tickling me?"
"Yeah, I won't," Anduin said; Wrathion regarded him for some moments, like he wasn't sure if he believed that, but finally slid his foot back very slowly.
Anduin helped himself up and dusted the sand from his clothes, he reached to straighten his hair; "All right," he said, "You ready to try it again? I mean— flying with me on your back—"
"I was hatched ready."
"What— you mean— flying with... these? Okay, okay, I'll stop. Wait, one more— these?"
After he'd let Anduin climb on, they had a few practice runs; Anduin braced himself to the best of his ability, but still found himself frightened when Wrathion first took off.
"Okay! Abort! Stop, stop!"
Wrathion rolled his eyes but dutifully landed back down. "What's the matter this time?" he asked, "I wasn't even like one foot off the ground."
"Yeah, sorry, I just— I don't know, I wasn't ready. Okay, now try again."
"Yeah, I'm ready now."
Wrathion took off again, and now Anduin latched onto his neck so tightly that he landed back down straight away. "Okay, that's something else we need to have a talk about," Wrathion said, "You can't grab my neck that hard, okay— feels like I'm gonna choke."
"Oh," Anduin replied, he released his hold slowly; "I didn't realize I was holding on that tight."
"Yeah, you did that last time, too, and I was like, dude, what the hell—"
"Well, what am I supposed to hold on to then, if not your neck?"
He had a point, Wrathion had to admit; "Okay," he said, "you can hold on to my neck— but not like— crazy tight—"
"Okay, fine— so how's this—"
Anduin proceeded to lean forth and slide his arms round his neck with a moderate sort of grip; Wrathion thought about it for some moments, he moved his neck a little to check; "Well— okay, I guess maybe that works—"
It occurred to him he sort of liked being held like that; he might have asked Anduin to scratch him there, too, but then he'd never hear the end of it.
"Right— I'm taking off again. You ready?"
It took about three more tries before they were finally airborne, and before Wrathion managed to fly off the cliff completely without Anduin totally freaking out; he found he actually sort of liked having him on his back, especially now that he knew he'd found him impressive.
But now that they'd both come to enjoy it, the ride back down to the palace seemed too short and simple to Wrathion; he'd secretly have liked to fly with him farther.
"Well, so here we are—" he said while descending into a grove not too far from the main lawn; "How was that? Pretty good, right? I think that went well."
Anduin, too, had found he had actually enjoyed himself; the ride still was somewhat intimidating, but there also was a sort of exhilaration to it— especially when Wrathion paid careful attention to keep his back level, and didn't make him feel like he might fall off.
"Yeah, you know—" he grinned while slowly pulling back his arms, "that wasn't so bad— I think maybe I even kinda liked it."
"You did?" Wrathion turned to regard him from over one shoulder; "You weren't scared or anything?"
"A little," came the reply, "But I think it went better now— I don't know, this time I wasn't all that scared."
He proceeded to slide down from over his back, and Wrathion showed off his wings one last time before finally changing to his human form; Anduin timidly got one hand in his and swung their arms a little. Wrathion regarded him for some moments before getting his free hand on his face, he drew him close and kissed him fervently; Anduin was then certain that, despite everything, it had turned out to be a brilliant night.
Ysera was really too tired for this.
She had Malygos strewn over her lap and was irritably striking his behind to the rhythmic beat of the music currently playing, this wasn't how she wanted to spend the evening; "And this is my spanking hand, too," she sighed to Itharius, "I won't have enough strength left to discipline you and Eranikus tonight."
She regarded Malygos tiredly and shook her head; "I hope you're feeling pleased," she muttered, "I can't even feel my palm anymore. What the hell were you thinking? What has got into you?"
"Nozdormu," Malygos' voice trembled with the impact of the strikes when he spoke.
"Well, that explains it. Then this should be his job."
"You know, you could always just stop— it bloody hurts."
He'd tried tolerating it at first, but knew this would be pointless; he was aware that what pretense he might put up of defiance would give way soon enough to the same show of pain that was inevitable here— and that, either way, he'd wind up an undignified and sobbing mess.
Ysera might have asked Itharius for assistance in covering Malygos' eyes, she knew him well enough to expect he'd probably try his enchanting gaze at some point— but she couldn't very well ask a consort to restrain another aspect, she always had to do everything around here.
"We'd reached a consensus...!" she huffed, "You can't just go around attacking mortals like some kind of beast, we have rules for that...!"
"Would you at least watch your claws, they're really bloody sharp—"
"You should've thought of that earlier!"
Finally, Itharius intervened; "Beloved," he said to Ysera, "If you absolutely must make use of your spanking hand, maybe you ought not do it barehanded? You could always use a belt—"
Ysera sighed again, she regarded Itharius like she knew his heart was in the right place; "Yeah, but this way it's humane, see—" She explained, "with an item, like a belt, you can't gauge how much it hurts the guy you're spanking— so it's too cruel."
"You know," Malygos said irritably, his voice still came punctuated by the impact of the strikes; "It would be even more humane if you just stopped spanking me."
"You earned this...!" she huffed, "You had this coming...! Damn it, Malygos, why do I always feel like you're scheming shit?"
"I wasn't scheming this time!" he protested, "You have to listen to me, that mortal is dangerous— he really shouldn't be here...!"
Azshara was thinking aloud while she paced back and forth in her study; "This is good," she told Vashj, "this is an opportunity."
She felt that the injury Kael'thas had suffered wasn't anything she couldn't treat, but the more she thought of it, the greater an excuse it seemed for keeping Illidan around without having to spell him; also, she was rather curious as to how it was that he had Illidan's magic in the first place, and intended to inquire some of these things of Ysera.
"I can't look desperate," she whispered loudly, "I have to look like I'm busy with queen stuff, so he won't think I'm some loser— could you tell those two something like— I don't know— like maybe that it would be best for him to rest for like a few days— and that he can stay here— like that it's because I feel bad that the fight happened here at the palace or something— do you think that sounds dumb? That sounds credible, right?"
"Az, but don't you wanna talk to him?" Vashj asked, "I mean, okay— I get that you don't want to spell him just yet— but he's like right there in the guest room, you could just go in and say— I don't know— that you wanna examine his magic or something."
Azshara stilled with mute panic and turned her gaze to Vashj; "No. No way. I can't."
"This is so unlike you; Az, you're so awesome at spelling guys— I wish I was half that good—"
"I know, but this is different...! He makes me really nervous...!" She thought for some seconds more, and then turned to Vashj again; "I know," she said, "We could just go to Ysera directly, right? And just tell her something like, that guy from your party was injured— but don't worry, I'm treating his injuries, but he'd need to stay here— oh, but she'd probably see right through that, wouldn't she— but it's not really a lie, right?"
Around then, a knock came at the door; Azshara flipped her gaze there and then whispered, "Shit— you don't think anyone heard what I said, do you?"
Vashj shook her head; "Girl, no, you weren't being that loud... want me to go get it?"
"Yeah— get the door, and if anyone asks, say I'm busy doing— like— legislative stuff— here—"
She rapidly trotted over to the table near the far end of the room and proceeded to sit down, like she was really busy with work.
Crap, she thought on seeing the unfinished paperwork stacked there, I really do need to get around to finishing all this work...
Vashj waited for her to have settled before making for the door; a servant knelt before her and explained that Lord Dath'remar Sunstrider had come as per her Majesty's request.
"Oh...!" Azshara mouthed while looking up from the desktop, Shit, I completely forgot I called for him.
She straightened in her seat with pretense of untouchable elegance and said, "Thank you— I will see him shortly."
After the servant had left, Vashj regarded Azshara knowingly; she didn't even bother hiding her smile.
"Okay, now I'm pretty excited," she said, and Azshara huffed incredulously.
"Oh...!" she laughed, "I see how it is...!" She waved her hands around ridiculously and said with mockery of dramatic concern, "Oh, Az, just spell him, you're the queen...! I know that look on your face."
Vashj chuckled, she paced to the desk and sat across from Azshara.
"Who says I'm not gonna spell him?" she grinned.
"You're not, you want him the way he is."
Azshara held her hands out midair with pretense of squeezing an imaginary butt; "Let me tell you about Dath'remar Sunstrider," she smirked, "I'd give his ass a solid seven out of ten."
The spell Azshara had cast on Kael really had done him good— he could feel the raw power of it course through him, with a sort of unadulterated purity he'd only felt from Malygos— but even with its potent healing energies, he'd been weakened considerably since the attack.
He did his best to hide this; he didn't want to ruin this moment.
To be lain here between Illidan and Jaina, it was more than he could have wished— he had loved them both, and was glad he'd not ultimately succumbed to Malygos' spell, so that he could live to see this.
Could it be that Jaina actually worried for him...?
His gaze turned from her to Illidan while they spoke, the chandelier high in the ceiling was comprised of shimmering arcane lights unlike those he'd known in Quel'thalas, but they were nevertheless somehow familiar; his gaze lingered on Jaina's white hair, the fine wrinkles that now lined her face— and he thought they had made her more alluring, she appeared wiser and more mature—
And Illidan across from her, decidedly handsome and strikingly Kaldorei in his features, but still Illidan all the same.
Illidan's hand still moved on Kael's naked chest where he traced the path of an old wound, and Kael felt his vision go blurry; he was inexplicably tired, and didn't mind if he fell asleep then, just for a little while.
He'd already drifted off when there came a brief knock at the door, a servant had come to announce the queen was on her way, along with Lady Vashj and Lord Dath'remar Sunstrider; Jaina remembered Vashj's remark that Kael's magic resembled his, she now worried his presence might rouse too many questions.
She regarded Illidan and said, "You know, we really ought to return to Ysera's company; we shouldn't be here, and my— a boy I'm guarding is here as well, I'm starting to worry they won't be able to find us—"
They both turned to the entrance when the doors came apart, then the queen walked in— followed by Vashj and Dath'remar; it was weird to see him from up close, despite herself Jaina glanced in attempt to find any similarities he might have to Kael'thas. She remembered his performance on stage with Refreshment Table, and could see now that his hair really was unusual for a night elf, in its amber color and streaks of gold; he still was shirtless as he'd been on stage, a style Jaina had noticed on many of the Kaldorei men present that night. His navel was adorned with a very finely-crafted ornament of jewels, and his nipples were pierced with very small bells, something he seemed to wear with pride; he appeared to be in terrific reverence of the queen and her handmaiden, and the opportunity he had to serve them.
In truth, Azshara was quite nervous to be there, her formality came to her unnatural and strained— and it was all because of Illidan— because of the plan she and Vashj had devised with intent to have him stay willingly— because such a plan had considerable potential to fail.
On her approach, Illidan bent on one knee with practiced decorum and quietly said his respects, Jaina wondered if she ought to do the same— she bowed awkwardly, unfamiliar with the customs practiced in those times. But, naturally, whatever Jaina was doing was the last thing on Azshara's mind; her gaze lingered on Illidan, her pulse raced with all the unwholesome things she thought of doing to him.
"You may rise," she stammered, now certain the anxiety was audible in her voice— she probably sounded so stupid—
At her side, Vashj knowingly nudged her in the ribs, and Azshara subtly nudged her back and whispered, "Stop it...!"
She turned to Jaina after that and said, "I've come to check on his wounds; what is this boy's name?"
"Your Highness," Jaina replied, "His name— is Kael'thas—"
She said nothing of his family name, or the title of prince.
"If you will, your Majesty, I'm beginning to worry we've been separated from our party too long— we hate to impose, and amongst us is a priest who could tend to my friend's wounds—"
In Darnassian, the term for priest came without gender, because by default the understanding had been that a priest would be female— Jaina had carefully chosen the term as not to give Anduin's gender away. But that also was something the queen cared little about; on hearing these words, she momentarily worried Jaina made too sound a case for Kael'thas' dismissal, which would leave her with no convincing reason to keep Illidan around.
"Oh—" she laughed, now breaking her formal facade; "Seriously, it's no worries— I heal people all the time, you guys totally aren't imposing—"
But this response had made Jaina even more suspicious, as she'd worried for some time that Azshara had some underhanded motive in having Kael delivered there; Crap, she thought, and now it seems he'd fallen asleep— he was just carefree as a child, wasn't he...?
"With all due respect," she said, "We are filled with gratitude for all you've done for him— but I'd like to regroup with Ysera and her brood, and with our other friends—
"Oh, hey, don't even worry about it," Azshara laughed, "I'll definitely have Ysera notified, I'm sure she'd be cool with it—" she paused a moment and wondered if she'd come off too eager, and if Illidan would think she was weird— it was really so hard to act normal with him around.
Seriously, look at him, she thought, could his trousers possibly be any tighter...?
However, somewhere during her meticulous scrutiny of Illidan's pants, she paused when something almost as fascinating caught her attention; she turned to regard Kael'thas, who now appeared soundly asleep, and there was something about this that didn't sit right with her.
"That's odd," she said, Vashj and Dath'remar watched while she made her way over to Kael and proceeded to examine him; she drew apart the flanks of his robe with proficient ease, then got one hand directly on his lesion.
Jaina leaned over him with concern and asked, "What is it?"
Azshara remained still while moving one hand over Kael's shoulder and neck, she said, "This is a curious wound; it's almost like— it's not even a wound, but a natural part of his body— Vashj, you're right, this is definitely Dath'remar's magic—"
She turned toward him and beckoned him closer.
"Give me your hand," she asked, Jaina watched as he assisted the queen, he was now gazing at Kael'thas quite oddly, because he felt it, too.
"Your Highness," he said while pressing his hand to the lesion, "but that's the Stone of Hannalee—how is this possible?"
"What's the Stone of Hannalee?" Jaina asked with audible impatience, she'd become aware something seemed wrong; Illidan turned his gaze from Kael'thas to Jaina. "One of three powerful mooncrystals in possession of the Sunstrider dynasty," he explained, "of which Dath'remar is an heir."
It was something Jaina remembered very vaguely from her youth, from her academic studies at the Kirin Tor; "But the three stones are in my possession," Dath'remar said, "at the full capacity of their effect— why is he imprinted with the Stone of Hannalee?"
Kael's last verdant sphere, Jaina thought, she now felt all the more eager to get them both out of there, before the questions became too intrusive; "Well, I have no idea," she lied; "I've never heard of that stone, and I doubt Kael has, either— maybe it was something Malygos cast."
"No," Azshara shook her head, "this wound had developed from within; and— Vashj, look at this—" She tilted her head back to Kael's chest, where she palpated the skin to around the manubrium of the sternum.
"Here, too," she said, "But much more faintly— this is Dath'remar's magic, here, too—"
After her, Vashj followed suit, she paused when she also felt it and turned to regard Azshara curiously.
"There was a wound here once— wasn't there?" she asked Jaina.
Jaina had become increasingly uneasy; she wondered if the whole situation might have been averted if Kael had remained in the form of Aethas, but it occurred to her now that the queen could probably see through that sort of magic, as well. Then came the question she'd dreaded ever since they'd been brought inside—
"What is the purpose of your visit here?"
Like the queen had figured out already they weren't merely Azshara fans, who had traveled only to take part in her fabulous party.
"Your Highness," Jaina said in her best display of civil calm, "The dragon aspects wish to have someone in my charge brought before the Sisterhood of Elune, so that his priestly talents may be examined. In truth, Kael and I are only here by incident."
She had realized too late she'd used the term his.
At that, Azshara stilled; for some terrible moments, Jaina feared the worst, but then the queen's face brightened and she chuckled lightheartedly.
"Good one," she laughed, "But seriously, why are you really here?"
Jaina noticed that Vashj was snickering, too, and even Dath'remar was badly trying to conceal a smile.
"Ah—" Jaina said, "Well— we really are here to visit the Sisterhood, Ysera could clearly confirm, and, as a matter of fact, she must wonder where we've gone—"
"Wait, you're serious," Azshara said, "You've really come to have a male priest examined by the Sisterhood."
She snickered a little and visibly tried to hold herself back.
Jaina kicked herself mentally for her blunder, aware there was no good way to back out of it now; the last thing she wanted was to get Anduin into even more trouble with this. She wished he had just listened to her, instead of appealing to the aspects to come here...
She could tell that now Azshara was doing her best to appear open-minded and accepting, with the sort of patronizing air that meant without doubt she felt sorry for Jaina, for being so far deluded.
"No, I think that's great...!" Azshara said, "for sure, I think a male priest would be a really cute idea, I can dig that—" she turned to Vashj in an attempt to gain support, "Right? Like maybe if it was some cute guy dressed in a sexy priest-inspired uniform, like a stripper— I mean, who wouldn't find that hot? Or like for role-playing in bed..."
Now Vashj smiled and agreed, in attempt to show the same mutual support to Jaina; "Yeah, male priest, that could be pretty hot."
It occurred to Jaina they really meant well— to them, the prospect of a male in the role of a priest was something akin to a puppy made to act as magistrate.
"Listen," Azshara said, she leaned toward Jaina like she meant to convene in some sisterly way, and got one hand on hers; "Please don't think badly of me, I like to think I'm a modern and open-minded sort of monarch— I'm not some misandristic tyrant, I think boys should definitely have rights. They can show a lot of promise, sometimes they even demonstrate intellect almost like ours, I think they bring such a colorful and endearing contribution to society— and, sure— they could definitely play a role in the Priesthood, why not?"
She turned to Vashj, who nodded in perfect agreement; "What would the Sisterhood be without support and help from little men behind the scenes, I think we should be more grateful for these cute guys who work hard to make our coffee, and who look so cute in their tight pants— back me up here, Dath'remar, am I right? Yeah, things would be so dull if we didn't have sexy boys around to look at..."
She grinned at Illidan coyly, like she hoped he understood she was all in support of men's rights.
Dath'remar felt absolutely flattered by this little speech; few things were more empowering than being celebrated for how cute you looked in tight pants. He beamed at Azshara, then Vashj, and respectfully said, "If I may, your Highness— it is good to serve a truly enlightened monarch— not all women understand, but her Majesty is far ahead of her time."
As the queen spoke, Illidan thought of Tyrande; he felt that everything he knew of the Sisterhood he'd learned from her, and reflected on the matter of a male priest. Would Tyrande be as open-minded about such a thing? Would she view assistance from males as an enriching sort of benefit, or would she shoot it down as many women would, with the argument that a man's place was not at Elune's holy altar, but instead in the home or the earthen druidic arts?
No, Tyrande isn't like that, he thought, she'd never been opposed to either him or Malfurion gaining an education— but still, priesthood... that was a whole other level of which to speak.
They had all been so deep in conversation they hadn't noticed that Kael'thas had slowly begun to rouse, he regarded them sleepily and felt completely disoriented; there came hazily the lights from the chandelier, the soft scent of fabric, Jaina was nearby and he also saw Illidan. And also, there was Lady Vashj— Kael watched her innocently, she appeared very different in her elven form— but she still was Lady Vashj, even so—
He'd not recognized Dath'remar straight away, he'd only seen him before from a distant part of the lawn; his gaze lingered on his handsome face and the graceful slide of his hair. He listened to the ongoing conversation about the queen's enlightened policies, and how passionately she assured them she was very fond of men (they made wonderful pets).
You see, Jaina? He thought, I told you we could trust them. Although he'd never met Azshara in his own timeline, he'd been certain she had a good heart— he knew that Vashj heeded her command, and that it must have been Azshara who had sent her armies in Illidan's support. She had probably sent Vashj to rescue him, Kael'thas, in his own darkest hour as well.
At this point in the meeting, the queen had grown considerably more confident after sharing her candid speech, she hoped she'd left a good impression on Illidan in regard to her views; she'd got comfortable enough she had proceeded to examine Kael'thas freely, even with Illidan like right there.
"So, yeah— I'm sorry, what was your name?" she asked Jaina, and Jaina hesitantly replied; she, herself, was no longer certain what she thought of Azshara; while she really did sound far more open-minded and accepting than everything Jaina had heard of in legend, who knew if she really meant all that? What if she was just saying all this stuff, and all the while had some diabolical spell up her sleeve...?
Jaina had also become impatient to meet up with Anduin, now that she'd become aware of the sort of reception he would likely receive from the Sisterhood of Elune; but the queen was now helping herself to Kael's body freely, she had contentedly pulled the flanks of his robe completely to his sides, so that he was lain almost naked at the examination area— she was now on to searching his body for any other magical imprints.
"He's cute, isn't he?" she smiled at Vashj while her hands passed over his thighs, "like some of those dragons— but I bet we'd never get to touch any of them this way—" Kael kept his eyes closed so as not to let on just yet that he was awake, he liked this sort of nurturing attention.
All while he was surrounded by some of his favorite people in all the world.
He showed no resistance when Azshara parted his legs, but then she suddenly gasped; "Vashj, have a look here," she said, she beckoned Vashj over and directed her attention to a small, enchanted mark just at Kael's inner thigh.
"Dath'remar," Azshara said, "come here."
Dath'remar leaned forth curiously, and then paused on seeing the mark; he appeared terribly perplexed. "But that's..." he murmured;
"The mark of Sunstrider," Vashj supplied, and now all three were leaning over Kael's exposed thigh to inspect the seal better; Jaina remained where she was and inwardly fumed, Kael'thas really was an idiot: did he honestly not think to conceal that sort of thing...?
She might have argued that this was a matter too intimate to warrant such scrutiny, but what sort of physical exam sacrificed health in the name of modesty...?
"But you have this very same mark," Illidan said to Dath'remar, who nodded in agreement; "How is it that he came by it?" he asked, "It might be a clue as to why his magic is similar—"
Finally, Azshara turned to Jaina; she asked directly, "What is this boy's relation to the house of Sunstrider?"
(On to Chapter 21)
Kael'thas had become aware the queen's scrutiny had fallen on Jaina; while he'd quite enjoyed the attention shown to him by the others, he didn't wish to make her suffer on his behalf. At last he'd let on that he was awake, he regarded the queen, whose hand still held his legs helpfully parted for Illidan and Dath'remar to examine.
"Your Highness," he quietly said, "I bear this mark because I had been a personal love servant to the Lady Sunstrider."
At that, Jaina met Kael's eyes with silent astonishment; for a prince of his once-esteemed position to say such a thing—
Dath'remar, for one, appeared entirely unfazed, like personal love servants were nothing out of the ordinary for highborne women; he wondered only about his mother's exotic tastes. For some time, Azshara's expression remained unreadable; she gently set Kael's legs down on the examination bed and asked, "Is that so?"
"That is so," Kael replied, "But since that time she had relinquished ownership of me—"
"Has she?" the queen asked; "But your loyalties lie enough with the house of Sunstrider that you would retain this mark?"
"Your Highness, that is correct."
For some moments, Azshara hadn't said a thing; then, she turned to the others conclusively and spoke with reserved irritation;
"Very well," she said, "Dath'remar, come here and have a taste of his lips." She never moved her gaze from Kael'thas; "In plain view, that I may see him respond in kind."
Jaina's hands came on her mouth in mute panic, she felt her pulse race with the awareness of what Kael had got himself into— but he appeared completely unbothered. He made no protest and put up no fight, while Dath'remar leaned forth as per the queen's command to have at his lips. Jaina silently watched this transpire, uncertain if she ought to feel horrified or aroused— because they both went at it with such passion and grace it was impossible to look away; she had never seen Kael'thas in such an intimate context, and had never been aware he was so bloody good at it.
Vashj had been staring with undeniable interest, as well, this was almost better than that wrestling match between Illidan and Malfurion; only Azshara appeared dissatisfied somehow, she said nothing when finally Dath'remar drew away.
Still lain on his back as per Jaina's earlier request, Kael regarded Dath'remar breathlessly, he wondered if he'd satisfied the queen's curiosity enough that she'd let the matter alone; but soon Azshara's voice came from behind him, with none of the good-natured humor of before.
"In that case, then I shall take ownership of you," she deadpanned, decidedly unamused; she rapidly cast a spell that lifted him from the cushions and into the air, still lain on his back— and within moments, she cast a second spell that opened a portal out from the room.
"Wait...!" Jaina spoke up, "Your Highness— but—" Her eyes darted to Kael fearfully, then back to the queen; she hesitated for a second and then quickly said, "But— he is my personal love servant now."
For some moments, time seemed to have stopped; Kael regarded Jaina with complete disbelief, defeated and undone by the weight of her offer.
But the queen's face remained unreadable; she did not relent and did not relieve Kael'thas of her spell.
"I shall grant you compensation, then," she said to Jaina, "Because, you see, I've decided to claim him for mine."
She left no room for argument after that; Vashj held Jaina back while she tried to reach for Kael, before Azshara passed through the portal she'd summoned, and with Kael'thas in tow.
When initially the queen had cast her spell, Kael'thas readied himself for the worst; he thought of Jaina's warnings, how she didn't trust Azshara and claimed Kael didn't know any of these people— he, too, was well-acquainted with the legendary stories of the beautiful and terrible naga queen, who could easily enchant handsome men to do as she pleased. Maybe he just didn't want to believe she had really been like that, after all the accusations made about him— about how he'd presumably been insane with power, and how he had betrayed his people; the Quel'dorei as a whole had been subject to loathing and disdain by the rest of the world, even before they had become the Quel'dorei.
Arthas' rape of Quel'thalas had been a figurative conclusion to what many had subversively felt the high elves had a long time coming; in truth, the world had looked down its nose at the high kingdom for millenia, a people founded in sin, and whose sin they wore like a badge; a harlot painted and dressed in ornaments, in self-inflicted shame.
Who would help Quel'thalas?
At Kael's darkest hour, when the world turned its back on the Quel'dorei, only very old relations had come with aid.
He regarded Azshara now while he was naked and overpowered, and thought he would willingly lay his life in her hands.
He wasn't certain where she'd brought him, but he prepared himself for what she might do; after she'd taken him with her through the portal, she had closed the magical gateway behind her and gently lay him down on what he now recognized was a very large bed.
But she didn't enchant or spell him for her pleasure; she didn't restrain or command him, but merely climbed after him on the mattress, and appeared very exhausted and overworked.
He watched in the dim light of crystals affixed on the walls while she reached toward her hair and pulled out her elaborate floral pins, she set them tiredly on a bedside table and then proceeded to unravel the binds of her shoes.
"My feet hurt so bad," she mumbled, "My mother always said that shoe cuteness times shoe comfort was a constant."
Kael actually chuckled at that, because it was so true; Azshara turned to face him then, and she also laughed, like it couldn't be helped— after that, she pulled her legs slowly into a crossed position and slouched her back forth, because her back fucking hurt, too, that was what happened when your shoes were especially cute.
Finally, she paused and regarded him directly, she spoke like she wasn't some fancy queen at all; "You really aren't from anywhere near here," she said, because anyone who'd known anything of the elven queen would have realized she'd not be so easily fooled. "To think that a boy of your position would try and pass for a love slave—"
Kael regarded her curiously, he'd become gradually aware that perhaps Azshara really had been as clever and sharp as she'd been described in legend; he wanted to tell her he worried for Jaina, he was still shaken with what she'd said before.
Her words still echoed in his mind, He is my personal love servant now—
"Why are you here?" Azshara asked, "You are an heir to the Sunstrider dynasty, I am now certain of this— but what have you come to do here?"
However, as her gaze fell now on his naked, vulnerable form, her heart filled inexplicably with compassion, she didn't need to know who he was or why he had come to recognize the magnitude of his sacrifice.
That a boy of your position would try and pass for a love slave—
She leaned down toward him and reached to brush the hair from his face with tender empathy, and it occurred to Kael'thas she must have been quite lonely as queen; he thought of her close friendship with Vashj, and wondered for the first time why Azshara had never made an appearance during his days at the Black Temple.
"Why did Malygos attack you?" The queen asked, "Why does he think you're so dangerous?"
But even as she asked these things which Kael had no intent to answer, her hand stroked gently through his hair, with maternal kindness he hadn't known in years; he felt compelled to curl against her and bury his head in her lap, but Jaina had asked him not to move too much because of her restorative spell.
Somewhere inside, he knew the queen's spell likely quite overpowered the one cast by Jaina, but he had loved Jaina profoundly for treating his wounds; he paid special care to heed her request.
"Kael'thas," Azshara said, and her voice came inhumanly soft; "You love this woman, Jaina— that staff on her back was comprised of your magic, what have you come to protect her from?"
And while she no longer expected answers from him, there was one thing she still desperately wanted to know—
"Why is it that you have Illidan's magic?" she asked, "I can feel it course through you like lifeblood, it is a thing of untouchable beauty which brings me to utmost humility even now—"
In the dimly-lit room, Kael'thas regarded her silently, he felt moved and perplexed by the unmistakable torment in her voice; earlier that evening, he had hoped for a moment to speak with her privately, because he'd wanted to ask about permitting Kaldorei women to take more than one husband. After Azshara's speech about men, he had thought that perhaps such a thing might gain acceptance in the queen's eyes, and he'd hoped so for Illidan's sake. He had hoped such a law would permit Tyrande to marry both Illidan and Malfurion, instead of having to choose.
During his years spent in Illidan's company, there were few things Kael had come to know so well of him as the fact that his heartache lay beneath everything he'd ever said and done; it was something with which Kael felt he could empathize, because he, too, had suffered perpetually of heartache, and, like Illidan, he had asked countless times, why that other guy instead of me...?
They had both been so deeply consumed with this question, however, that neither he nor Illidan had ever stopped to wonder whether they'd put anyone else through that same sort of agony all the while.
All these years, he thought, all these years that we've been aware it was likely Azshara who had sent her armies in Illidan's defense, we've never stopped to ask why—
—why was it that the naga had come to help readily, when all the world had turned its back on Illidan...?
............Vashj, do you hear that? How I've waited thousands of years to hear this same beautiful voice—
Oh, Az, I've told you, you ought to have spelled him— now look what he's gone and done.
No; I've always liked him exactly the way he is— I've waited millennia to finally save him.
But Az, you've waited too long— you know that now his heart is set on another woman, and nothing would sway it—
Such trivial things are of little consequence; a queen can't cry like some little man. Go now, have the armies dispatched— carry him upon our scepters and scales, and put our sorcery to his utmost aid at this dark hour; I'll see him salvaged even from the final embrace of mortality.
Whatever I may be— whatever I may become in this world— know that I will always look out for you, Illidan.
In the dim light of the room, Kael'thas tentatively reached for Azshara's hand; her fingers were slender and long, he took the knuckles to his lips and kissed them so lightly she hardly felt it; of all her questions, he finally answered only the last one.
Why is it that you have Illidan's magic...?
"But your Highness has already suspected this, hasn't she?" he asked; "That she and I have loved Illidan the same."
Yet only then had Kael begun to grasp the extent of her anguish: while he and Illidan had bemoaned Jaina and Tyrande, Azshara had sent the full protection of her armies to their aid, without ever asking why that other woman instead of me— or without expecting Illidan to understand he was doing the very injustice to her that for thousands of years he'd believed he had suffered.
In the dim light of the room, Azshara turned away and flushed; Kael'thas understood she was proud, and did not wish him to know the contents of her heart.
He could not see, but she clenched her jaw and tightly squeezed her eyes, she reached for her face but then hesitated, because of the markings Vashj had drawn; "I'll have you silenced," she warned, her voice came unnaturally brittle; "What imprudence is this, of you to speak of my heart freely—the Light of Lights hath no heart, and no such base, mortal weakness—"
But the last words came broken and choked, he saw her back slump with visible exhaustion, her fingers clutched the sheets; Kael might have imagined it, but he could've sworn he heard her mouth very softly,
Oh, Goddess, I love him so much—
(On to Chapter 22)
In the time Azshara kept Kael in her bedroom, she had found unexpectedly that they'd got on quite well; they had more in common than Kael'thas might have anticipated, but it hadn't been something to which he'd given much thought.
The queen put up no pretenses of untouchable majesty or cunning manipulation, she was sat with her feet on the bed and was casually trimming her toenails; she spoke to Kael about her duties as monarch, and all the work she'd put off till morning because there was never enough time.
He wouldn't tell her how it was that he knew Illidan, but she understood well enough that Kael's taste in men was similar to hers; she tried to extract from him what information she could, and became aware that he liked speaking about Illidan.
"I've always wondered," she said, still turned the other way; "What's he like in bed? Is he really wild?"
At that, Kael actually chuckled; "I wish," he said softly, "You'd think so, wouldn't you— just looking at him, doesn't he looks like he could completely pound you senseless?"
Azshara snickered in disbelief and turned around rapidly; "You've really slept with him?" she asked with audible fascination, "Like— with Illidan? Did you, really?"
Kael's eyes were closed, his mouth stretched in a serene smile; she watched his right hand trail absently over his naked abdomen. "Yeah," he said, "Yeah, I did."
"You massive slag," she laughed in surprise, he now had her undivided attention; "That's hot, what was it like?"
Kael'thas hummed fondly at being called a slag, how long had it been since last he'd done anything worthy of that title...?
He grinned toothily while glancing back at her, like he was trying to decide if he ought to say more; when he spoke, his voice came low and tender. "He's actually weirdly gentle," he said, "not like what you'd expect."
Azshara's brow furrowed; she regarded him with something like disbelief. "Gentle?" she asked, she sounded almost disappointed. "Illidan? Really?"
Kael laughed again, like finally someone understood; "I know, right?" he replied, "It was so weird! He's like utterly crazy with his magic, and then in bed he's suddenly gentle."
"Huh," Azshara said, like she was deep in thought; she said nothing for a while after that, and quietly went back to her toenails.
"So that's it, then?" Kael'thas smiled, "You don't wanna get with him anymore?"
She turned around rapidly and gave him a playful shove; "You dickhead," she laughed, "Nah, I'd still do him. Goddess, I'd totally do him."
"Yeah," Kael laughed, "me too."
"So it's still worth it, then? Even if he's not— you know— all wild and that?"
"Yeah, it's still worth it."
She turned back toward him, her face alight with enthusiasm; "I wanna see," she said, "I wanna see you get with him."
Kael'thas laughed outright; "Pff... yeah, I'd like to see that too, but I can't just—"
"Yeah, I know," she said with a bout of disappointment; "It's not that simple... well, it would be if I spelled him, but... you know, Vashj— my handmaiden— she keeps saying I ought to spell Illidan. Maybe she's right, I can just hear my mom..."
She waved her hands around and spoke in shrill tones, "Well what did you expect, Azshara, you didn't spell him like I said...!"
Kael'thas chuckled incredulously. "You were gonna spell Illidan?"
"Oh, not you, too," Azshara rolled her eyes; "I don't know, with him, it's like— it's like I can't... do you think that sounds dumb? Like, do you think it's selfish of me? It's supposed to be better for guys if they have some kind of structure..."
"I don't think it sounds dumb," Kael'thas said, but he wondered if he was just speaking with the voice of his own time period; might Illidan have been happier if he'd been spelled? He certainly hadn't been happy the way he was.
They both went quiet for some time after that, and then the queen turned again toward him. "So tell me other stuff," she said with visible interest, "details, what's he like? What did you guys do?"
Kael regarded her with a mixture of amusement and disbelief; he laughed outright and stretched back his arms, "By the Sun," he said,"you really are too much like me— you really want me to tell you?"
Azshara thought that sun comment sounded a bit weird, but said nothing of it; she wasn't certain why it struck her as unusual somehow. "Quit stalling," she nudged him, "Spill it, come on."
He couldn't tell her everything. He couldn't tell her about how, during their time together, Illidan was far larger in stature than he was now— that he wore a blindfold, and had enormous wings and horns; and it was a shame he couldn't tell her all this, because he'd thought Illidan's demonic attributes were some of the hottest things about him.
He couldn't tell her how he'd liked tracing his horns with his hands, or how, at times, he'd rouse late at night to find himself lain beneath the enclosure of one of his wings; but he told her what he could, it started as something he spoke of for her benefit, but soon it occurred to her there was in his voice unmistakable longing.
"Illidan took care of me," he said, "He called me Little Prince."
Azshara grinned at that; "Oh, that is so cute."
Kael smiled toothily, his eyes were still closed; "Little Prince...!" he said in a soft imitation of Illidan's Darnassian, and Azshara laughed. She asked, "So what happened? How come you guys aren't still together now?"
Kael'thas remained quiet for a long time; his eyes opened slowly and he stared absently at the canopy of the bed, at the elaborate patterns that spiraled there in purple and gold;
"In the end," he said, "he couldn't protect me— from the things I did to myself."
When Anduin and Wrathion returned to the party, Jaina and Aethas were nowhere to be found; the princes had exhausted themselves circling through the gardens and lawns, they'd even gone up to the balcony where they'd been sat with Ysera before— but they'd only found Eranikus there, flanked by a number of Ysera's brood.
"Oh, look there, Merithra," Eranikus whispered to his preadolescent daughter, "There's that black prince you like."
"Dad!" Merithra sputtered in embarrassment, "Seriously, can you not...!"
She flushed horribly and sank into her chair, then sulked there with her enchanted dream journal; she wrote to her friends, My dad is so lame, you guys are so lucky you don't have to be stuck here.
But neither Wrathion nor Anduin had heard their conversation, they walked in hand in hand and both appeared to be in quite a good mood; Anduin thought he didn't even mind having moonberry juice. "Has my Aunt Jaina ever come back?" he asked, "We couldn't find her or Aethas anywhere."
"Oh, you guys didn't see it?" Eranikus asked, he passed a basket of pastries toward them; "Malygos came by and attacked Aethas."
Anduin blinked; "Wait," he asked, "What...? He attacked him? Where's Aunt Jaina?"
Wrathion looked up with visible interest from the roll he'd been stuffing into his mouth; out the corner of her eye, Merithra was watching him stealthily.
"Yeah," Eranikus said, "it's pretty bad; the queen had to take him in for treatment, I think Jaina went with them."
"For treatment," Anduin repeated, "Wait, when you say attacked him— like— how bad do you mean?"
"I wasn't there, I don't know; didn't you guys see it? I could see from all the way up here—"
At that, Wrathion flushed; he and Anduin exchanged timid glances, Anduin coughed and replied, "No, we— went on a little flight—"
Merithra looked up at that, she bit her lip and went back to writing in her journal.
At what age do you guys think it's okay to like a drake? She asked her friends, Like if he's really cute, though— but I think he might already have a boyfriend.
"At no age," Eranikus said aloud, he was reading over her shoulder; "What dream page is that? Did your mother say it's okay for you to chat on there?"
"Dad! Oh my titans...! None of my friends' parents are this nosey...!"
"Well, so what happened?" Wrathion asked, "Is Aethas okay? Why did Malygos attack him?"
Eranikus sighed, he let the whelp he'd been holding climb down from his lap and unto the chair beside him;"You'll have to ask Ysera, she's dealing with him right now— but yeah, she's pretty upset."
"Malygos is a freak, dad," Merithra said, still focused on her journal; Eranikus turned to her with one finger pointed. He warned, "You watch your tongue, that's an aspect you're on about."
"Well, he's a pretty creepy aspect, I'm not even surprised he attacked that mortal."
"That's it," Eranikus said conclusively, "Give me that journal."
"No, that's enough— hand it over and go find your mother. I want to know what she intends to do about all this."
Merithra frowned sulkily and then quickly wrote to her friends, I have to go now, my tyrannical dad doesn't ever let me have any fun, ever. She rapidly cast a dream enchantment that caused the page's contents to vanish, it was a sort of modern emerald spell that baffled adult wyrms like Eranikus, and she knew he wouldn't figure out how to undo it.
After handing over her journal, she sank moodily in her seat and crossed her arms at the sheer injustice of it all; Anduin grinned at her compassionately and said to Eranikus, "Would it be all right if she came with us? I'd like to go find aunt Jaina, maybe Ysera would know where they took Aethas."
Eranikus noticed that Merithra glanced up at that, his eyes narrowed suspiciously; Merithra said, "I know where she is, I can take you guys."
"No," Eranikus said, "I don't want you out there without adult supervision."
"We're adults," Wrathion said without missing a beat, he sounded very defensive; "How are we not adults? Trust me, we're definitely adults."
He nudged Anduin, who flushed, and Eranikus rolled his eyes at that. "I meant like, wyrm adults."
Wrathion huffed and rose to his feet, he couldn't believe this bullshit; "We're as much adult as any wyrm," he said, "What— you think we're immature and dumb? We're not a couple of little whelps."
Up until then, Merithra had been watching him in silent admiration, but now her face soured; not all whelps are that little, she thought, I'm almost a drake, I'm not some baby.
Anduin tugged gently at Wrathion's sleeve, he nudged him and said very softly, "Dude, careful what you say— there are all these whelps here."
"Oh, shit—" Wrathion whispered back, he regarded Merithra and smiled badly; "I didn't mean it like that," he said, "I meant—"
"No— no, it's cool," Merithra stammered, she sank into her chair and wished she had her journal to hide behind; "Yep, I'm a little whelp, I get it."
Wrathion, who for years had resented the small stature he'd had, hadn't meant to make her feel bad for it; "I'm sorry," he said with genuine regret, "I know how much it sucks to be called little, and what it's like when no one takes you seriously—"
Anduin huffed at that; "What the hell, dude," he said, "when has anyone ever not taken you seriously?"
"Shut up, no one was talking to you."
Finally, Eranikus spoke up; he said, "All right, fine— Merithra, you can take them to your mother— but no funny business, Wrathion, don't you guys let her do adult things, she's not allowed to have wine or dance with any boys—"
"Dad, could you please just stop! Like any boy would ever want to dance with me anyway!"
"If any boy does, I'll devour him," Eranikus replied.
"Could you please just stop embarrassing me!"
Anduin grinned empathetically at Merithra, he motioned for her to come along; "I think some whelps are very mature," he said while meeting her gaze. "Well— Wrathion wasn't; in fact, I'm pretty sure Merithra is more mature than you are right now..."
"You are so dead," Wrathion replied, but they'd got Merithra to smile; she finally rose from her seat and tried to act very mature while leading them to the steps.
One end of the lawn was enveloped in a thicket of tall trees, and in their midst Ysera was sat beside Malygos, both in their true forms; Malygos was curled miserably at her side, visibly sore after the prolonged punishment he'd received. His head was lain on his front limbs and he seemed to have retreated into the introverted sort of solitude for which he was known.
Ysera appeared to be guarding him; she seemed irritable and upset, like she was too tired for this shit— this was supposed to be her night to take it easy.
Because of the tall trees, Ysera and Malygos' sheer size wasn't quite discernible until Merithra had led the princes closer, they were larger than even the wyrms Anduin had seen in his own timeline— but then again, even those wyrms hadn't been aspects. He remembered that Neltharion and Nozdormu had appeared almost overwhelmingly large as well, when he'd seen them sleeping in the lair.
Their small group had got most of the way across the lawn when Merithra spontaneously asked, "Are you guys boyfriends?"
At that, both Wrathion and Anduin stilled; Anduin felt his heart skip a beat, his ears hurt from how hot they had got. For some moments, he didn't even breathe, he waited to hear how Wrathion would respond.
But Wrathion was equally horrified; his entire expression remained frozen, like he didn't know where to run. Somehow, he felt thoroughly betrayed by this bratty little whelp, who would ask such an embarrassing thing after they'd tried to show her kindness.
"Little whelps sure ask the stupidest questions, don't they?" he stammered, and now Anduin blushed even more; he had hoped very much that Wrathion would say that, yes, they were boyfriends, and he'd now felt incredibly stupid on hearing what he'd said instead.
"Yeah," he laughed badly, "That was kind of a... funny... question... wasn't it...? Ha...ha..."
As for Merithra, she was utterly crushed to hear Wrathion call her a little whelp, after the princes had stood up for her before; she hated being dragged to big parties like this, and just wanted to chat with her friends— but, of course, her father just had to confiscate her journal...
They journeyed the rest of the way in very awkward silence, until finally they approached Ysera and Malygos; "Well, there's my mom," Merithra said sulkily, "Have fun talking to her..."
After the boyfriends comment, Anduin felt that walking beside Wrathion had become almost unbearably uncomfortable, he was vastly relieved now that his attention could be invested in something else; he tilted his head up to regard Ysera's daunting presence, but even large and formidable as she was in her true form, she nevertheless appeared decidedly kind.
And decidedly annoyed.
He and Wrathion greeted her with an air of respectful familiarity, and then Anduin got to the matter at hand; "I heard—" he said, but then briefly paused; he regarded the enormous blue dragon curled sadly at her side, and thought better of his next words. "I heard my aunt Jaina had gone away somewhere? I'd like to go see her, would you know where she went?"
At his side, Wrathion gazed upon Ysera and Malygos with sheer envy, he was devastated and overwhelmed; it felt like no matter how large he had got, he was never grown up enough. For a little while that evening he'd thought he was pretty impressive, especially after what Anduin had said before— but now, once again he was painfully aware he was nothing compared with these two. They were some of the most majestic dragons he'd seen, and he felt completely convinced he'd never, ever be that cool.
"Oh, little he-priest," Ysera sighed, like she was terribly weary; she put on a visible effort to appear patient and gentle. Out the corner of her eye she watched Malygos, aware of the difference of opinion between him and Anduin in regard to Aethas.
"And the Black Prince— Merithra, were you showing them around?"
"No," Merithra said indignantly, "Dad wanted me to take them to you. So I did. He wants to know what you intend to do about all this."
At these words, Malygos rolled his eyes and huffed; he said, "I don't have to answer to your consorts, Ysera."
"You shut up," Ysera snapped, "Just you wait till Alexstrasza deals with you, I'm sure she'd love to hear all this about answering to consorts after you and Korialstrasz."
She was referring to Krasus, of course; Malygos shrank in embarrassment.
At that, Merithra became certain beyond the shadow of any doubt that she hated this entire world; Korialstrasz wasn't even that much older than she was, and he was already a consort— and to the queen of the dragons, at that— it was so unfair.
"How come I can't have a consort?" she sulked, and Ysera proceeded to rub at her temples with her front limbs; "Seriously, Merithra, I'm way too tired for this right now..."
"Korialstrasz is already a consort, and he's—"
Yeah, Wrathion wondered, what is up with that, anyway? He can't be more than an adolescent drake at the most...
"Merithra, please—" Ysera said, in a tone that meant conclusively there was no argument to be had; finally her daughter piped down.
"I'm sorry," Anduin grinned with almost strained decorum, "Would this be a bad time...?"
Ysera turned back to regard him and then sighed with very great exasperation; "No, no... now's as good a time as any... I'm sorry, you wanted to go and find your aunt. Azshara took her and Aethas into the palace, you'd have to go and ask there."
Anduin wanted to know whether she and Aethas were all right, but he didn't much fancy asking right in front of Malygos.
"You wouldn't happen to know where in the palace they went, would you?" he asked instead, "I mean, it seems like a pretty big building..."
"I couldn't tell you, I'm afraid," Ysera said; "you'll just have to go ask around."
"Right," Anduin replied; "Well— thanks so much, I guess I'll go and try to find them..."
It was really freaking awkward, asking all that with Malygos only a few yards away; Anduin wondered if the blue aspect completely hated him by then.
After the small group's departure, Ysera momentarily paused; she gazed around with something like confusion, and then murmured absently, "That's odd; I could've sworn it felt like the priestesses had just come near—"
She finally glanced back at Malygos, then glared and muttered aside; "Why am I even talking to you about this, you wouldn't know jack shit about Elune."
Back at the palace, after the portal had closed Jaina remained stood in place, vaguely aware of Vashj's grasp on her arms; even if Vashj hadn't been far taller than she was, Jaina was well aware she was overpowered in terms of sorcery, even as head of the Kirin Tor.
"Milady, please," she said with quiet composure, "My friend is injured—"
"Your friend?" Vashj inquired with great interest, "And here I thought you said he was your love servant."
Jaina could tell by her tone that neither she nor Azshara had bought that story.
"Please," Jaina said again, "He is no shape to— to be spelled—"
Finally, Vashj released her hold; "Her Majesty knows this," she said, aware Azshara wouldn't want Illidan to think her cruel. "Do not underestimate the queen, she is the most proficient spellcaster in the land." She eyed Illidan subtly and added, "I've never seen a boy complain, I'd say your friend is quite lucky."
Lucky, Jaina thought; who would want to be subjected to that...?
Vashj was uncertain whether Azshara wished to have the other guests kept there, she was aware certainly she wouldn't have wanted Illidan dismissed— and, in truth, Vashj didn't really want to release Dath'remar, either.
It was a shame Azshara had been so adamant about not wanting to spell Illidan, because Vashj imagined enchanting him and Dath'remar to make out for the next twenty minutes would make for an entertaining show.
Jaina, for one, became aware Vashj had no intention to help with releasing Kael'thas; of course, she would be fiercely loyal to the queen.
I have to get Ysera, Jaina thought, and wondered why the hell she worried for Kael so much.
He's an utter fool. He got himself into this completely on his own, what with his recklessness and his irresponsible games— who would march into Azshara's court directly and then toy with everything there—
But, somewhere inside, she knew: the bit that had got Kael in trouble was not his reckless behavior from before. It wasn't how he took on his true form in plain view, or how he'd helped himself to Dath'remar's harp, or how he ran out to get a look of Illidan; when Malygos had come to attack him, Kael really hadn't been doing anything unusual.
That bit really wasn't fair.
She'd been about to ask if she could at least go back to find her party when a brief knock came at the door; a servant had come to say that some dragons had arrived and were looking for Jaina Proudmoore and Aethas Sunreaver.
"Jaina, that's me," Jaina stood at attention, but Vashj had got to the door first; she had gathered from the servant's words that Aethas must be some other name for Jaina's friend.
"Her Highness is preoccupied with the boy," she said, and now Jaina approached the door; "Please take me to the dragons who have come for us," she said, did they give their names?"
The servant replied that he did not know, and Vashj wondered if a party that would come looking for Jaina and Aethas would consist of actual dragons, or of more mortals who appeared to be dragons, but weren't; after some thought, she ultimately decided to let the visitors in.
While Wrathion and Anduin were led through the palace before, they gazed curiously all around the halls and corridors, and both inwardly had to admit Azshara really did have a fantastic sense of style; the palace wasn't merely designed with ostentatious luxury, but with clever attention to space and form, it was almost humbling somehow.
But Anduin's thoughts did not linger long on such things, he was impatient to see Jaina and worried for her, and even while he'd not been much acquainted with Aethas, the prospect of him being injured was frightening all its own; Anduin knew, after all, the terror of restraint at a large dragon's clutches.
Jaina soon turned at the distant sound of approaching footsteps, and finally Illidan rose to his feet, as well; he said only the single word, "Tyrande," it came softly but with audible anticipation. He craned his neck to look when the small group of dragons was allowed in, which included two boys and a young Kaldorei girl— but Tyrande wasn't among them.
"Anduin," Jaina said, "By the Light, look at your uniform— what in hell have you lot been doing?"
She strode toward him and started dusting the dirt from his clothes, and Anduin flushed hotly at her question; "Aunt Jaina—" he said, and gently got his hands on her wrists, "Could you stop that, please— we heard Aethas was injured, are you all right?"
Behind her, Illidan appeared somewhat confused; he gently stopped the servant at the door and asked, "Was anyone else headed this way? Like maybe some priestesses?"
On overhearing this, Jaina leaned closer to Anduin; she spoke to him in hushed tones, even though Vashj and the others wouldn't understand Common either way.
"Don't say anything about being a priest," she whispered, and subtly tilted her head in Vashj's direction; "If they ask anything, say you know nothing about that."
"Wait, what?" Anduin whispered back, "But I thought the whole reason we came here—"
"Yeah, I know— I'll tell you more later."
This had got Anduin worried; did it mean he wouldn't be able to meet with the priestesses tomorrow...?
The servant at the door informed Illidan that no one else had come along with the three dragons, and Anduin looked over Jaina's shoulder to survey the room.
"Aunt Jaina, what's going on?" he whispered back in Common, "Where's Aethas? Is he all right?"
"Listen, we need to go get Ysera," Jaina said, "the queen had taken hold of Ka— of Aethas— and I think she wants to enchant him or something."
"What's this about Ysera?" Vashj suddenly asked; she had taken Jaina and Anduin by surprise, because they had been speaking in Common and didn't expect her to understand; Jaina now cursed herself mentally for her negligence in using a name that of course any night elf would know.
"Well—" she said to Vashj, "As I've explained before, we've arrived here in Ysera's company..."
"And Ysera is also my mom," Merithra added casually; she sounded terribly bored.
Vashj hadn't expected that there would be actual dragons in Jaina's group, and it was difficult for her to detect such a spell when it involved natural energies such as those of the green dragonflight.
All eyes fell on Merithra, who was disguised in the form of a young Kaldorei girl; Vashj proceeded to apologize and bow, and Wrathion observed the scene incredulously.
He wanted to bust with indignation and call attention to the fact that he was a dragon, too, and a pretty important one at that— but, obviously, that would look incredibly childish and dumb. He leaned toward Anduin instead and whispered, "What the hell, how come she's suddenly so important...?"
"Dude— were you just seriously competing with a whelp?"
"Oh, you know what— screw you..."
Merithra appeared tremendously pleased; finally someone treated her like an adult.
Anduin leaned gently toward Merithra and said softly in draconic, "Hey, do you think you could maybe help us with something? "
But, in return, she glared back out the corner of her eye; "Oh, so now you want my help?" she whispered loudly, "I thought I was just a dumb little whelp."
"Wh— I never said that!" Anduin discreetly pointed to Wrathion and whispered, "That was totally Wrathion! He's the one who called you a little whelp, I said you were really mature...!"
"You think I'm that dumb?" Merithra now turned to face him directly; "I know you guys are boyfriends, you're in on it together; you think I'm just a stupid little whelp."
"Boyfriends?" Jaina suddenly asked, "What's this all about?"
Anduin had all but forgot she was there, the comment had caught him off guard and he stiffened completely; his entire face had gone red. A short distance away, Wrathion was stood wide-eyed with horror.
"Aunt Jaina," Anduin hissed angrily through clenched teeth, "Could you please not say stuff like that?" His eyes darted in Wrathion's direction and he nudged his head toward him subtly.
"They're totally boyfriends," Merithra announced without mercy, "They said they flew somewhere together, I'll bet they were kissing—"
The rest of her words came muffled when Wrathion's hands both slammed on her mouth; he then seethed through a forced smile, "Jaina, you've met Ysera's very mature and tactful brood, Merithra— a real charmer, this one—"
He rapidly turned Merithra's chin up toward him and muttered, "And she's going to stop making stuff up about other people before I fly right back to her father and tell him about how she's been drinking wine and dancing with boys."
Beneath Wrathion's hands, Merithra stared wide-eyed, the Black Prince really seemed scary just then; Anduin nudged him and whispered, "What the hell, dude, she never did any of that stuff—"
"Yeah," Wrathion said casually, "I know."
He slowly released his hands from her face, and Merithra stepped a safe distance away from him afterward; maybe he wasn't all that cute after all.
Around that time, Illidan's voice issued suddenly, like everyone else had forgot he'd been there; "Your Ladyship," he said to Vashj, "If our services are no longer required, then I should like to take my leave."
Vashj really wished Azshara had just given her the go on spelling these guys, now it would be way more complicated to try and keep him around...
"Oh— " she replied, like she was trying to plan as she spoke, "I'm so sorry— I think her Majesty still intends to make use of your help— if you'd only stay a bit longer—"
"Aunt Jaina, what's going on?" Anduin asked in Common quietly; it occurred to Jaina then that Anduin would be familiar with the history of both of the guys still waiting at the side of the room.
She subtly directed his attention toward them and whispered their names at his ear.
Anduin stilled; he tried as best he could to mind his courtly decorum, but it was very difficult not to stare.
"Shh," Jaina whispered, "not a word; we have a lot to talk about."
When finally Azshara made her return, she appeared to be in brilliant spirits; she also appeared to be dressed far more casually than before, and she didn't have Kael'thas with her.
Vashj approached her and leaned closely to convene, she said, "Az, finally, what the hell? I had to keep all these people here, I didn't know what you wanted me to tell them—"
"Woo!" Azshara sighed good-naturedly, "Crap, sorry, you're right— I totally owe you— but—" She lowered her tone and whispered, "I can't tell you right now, I'll tell you later— oh, shit, is Illidan still right there? Fuck, I have to go change—"
"Of course he's still right there! Where did you think he'd go, do you know how hard it is to keep guys around without spelling them...!"
Jaina rapidly took two steps in their direction, she bowed impatiently and asked, "Where's Kael'thas? Is he all right?"
"Did she just say Kael'thas?" Wrathion whispered to Anduin, and Anduin whispered back, "Oh... yeah, I'll have to tell you about that."
"What does she mean, Kael'thas? Wasn't he that guy who—"
"Dude, I just told you— I'll tell you later...!"
"Oh, he's fine," Azshara grinned at Vashj, she leaned close and whispered at her ear, "Did you know he totally slept with Illidan?"
"I know! He told me everything...!"
"Are you serious? Shit, that's so hot."
They were now both subtly eyeing Illidan, who appeared to have had about enough of being made to wait around.
"Girl," Vashj whispered, "I was like this close to spelling those two to make out, but you with your no spelling bullshit—"
"Oh my goddess, Vashj, don't tempt me... Anyway, listen, I've decided to keep him in my room for a while, turns out we actually got on really well—"
"Az, but what about—" Vashj subtly indicated Illidan; "Also, this friend of Kael'thas really wants him back—"
At that, Azshara finally paused; she regarded Jaina momentarily. "Oh... oh yeah, that's right," she said, "I actually wanted to talk to her—"
Jaina appeared terribly uneasy when the queen pulled her aside; by that point, she really just wanted to be out of there, and also she didn't like that Anduin was left in the room with Vashj and without her supervision.
"Jaina," Azshara said, "Please have a seat."
"With all due respect, your Highness— I really would like to see my friend again— we ought to regroup with Ysera—"
"Yeah, I'll get to all that."
Jaina regarded her pensively, the way she was dressed so much more casually than before; she assumed the worst, that she'd got Kael'thas spelled and probably slept with him.
Well— so what...? She thought, Why should I care? Some years ago I locked him up at the Violet Hold, I was probably far more harsh with him than the queen had been tonight.
Yeah, but— I didn't do it for my own pleasure, and it isn't something I enjoy doing at all— it had been a very hard decision to make, and I ultimately did it because I truly believed he was dangerous.
As though Azshara had read her mind, she then leaned close and said to Jaina quietly, "I didn't enchant your friend, if that's what you're worried about." Jaina glanced up in confusion, and Azshara continued, "I didn't do anything to him, we just talked."
Does she honestly expect me to believe that? Jaina wondered— but then something else occurred to her: why would the queen feel compelled to ease her thoughts about whether or not she had taken Kael'thas, after earlier she'd already informed her conclusively that she'd decided to take ownership of him...?
Could it be that she really hadn't enchanted Kael'thas, and that he'd told her about his feelings for Jaina...? That would be so typical, she thought, he probably told her everything, like he'd learned nothing from all that other crazy shit he'd pulled tonight.
But now Azshara started on about something else; "There in the other room," she said softly, "that's the boy in your charge, isn't it? The male priest?"
Jaina paled at the question; spelling guys was horrific in and of itself, but she was fiercely protective of Anduin.
"Your Highness, please—" there was audible fear in her voice; "—he's really still a very young boy—"
"Wow, okay," Azshara said, like she was offended by the accusation Jaina never made explicitly; "you really need to just chill—"
To just chill?! After how you just grabbed Kael'thas and left— you expect me to just chill...?
Azshara spoke up again; "Forget all that, okay— I have no intention of enchanting that boy, or whatever it is you're thinking—"
"Your Highness...! With all due respect, you just—" Jaina made a sweeping motion with her hands; "—you just took Kael'thas away—"
"Jaina— I knew he was bullshitting me! What— you think I'm that dumb— that I'd buy that bogus story about how he was supposedly someone's love servant— a boy of his status—"
Jaina now stared at the queen in horror and thought, What the hell? She knew this whole time that Kael was of privileged status...? But how...?
"Oh, don't look so surprised," Azshara huffed, "Yes, I figured out he's heir to the Sunstrider line, I'm not some dumb airhead—"
Azshara waved her hand dismissively and laughed; "I know what a lot of people say about me— that I'm probably like really conceited and vain— but they still all come to my parties, don't they— whatever, who cares about that... Anyway, listen; Kael'thas is fine, you can come see him— between you and me, that boy really loves you, won't tell me a thing about it, though. But, I thought about it, and I'd like to help you out."
Jaina regarded her tentatively; she was filled completely with distrust, but she could not deny that the queen had a point about how they had tried to bullshit her before; after all, Azshara had been trying to figure out why Kael was imprinted with the mark of Sunstrider, which must have seemed very suspicious considering he looked nothing at all like a night elf.
"Jaina," Azshara said, "You said you intended to bring that male priest before the Sisterhood."
"What of it?" Jaina asked hesitantly, she really didn't want her to screw all that up.
"I'm on your side in this," Azshara said, she let her shoes slip from her feet and brought her legs in a crossed position on her chair. "I get that wherever you guys are from, boys can be priests or whatever— but here, the Sisterhood won't take that too well. It's something I can't do anything about, you understand— I have no hold over the Sisterhood of Elune."
Jaina really didn't like the sound of this; she regarded the queen apprehensively, but she definitely had her attention now.
"Your Highness," she said, "But can't you— I don't know— can't you spell the priestesses or something— like the way you enchant men—"
Azshara now appeared highly amused; she actually leaned back in her seat and laughed. "Spell them? Oh my, no. You can't enchant women, especially priestesses— why, is that something you can do where you're from? Wow, I can't imagine how horrific that would be..."
Somehow, this knowledge gave Jaina relief; it did her good to know that at least there wasn't danger of anyone spelling her. Still, though, Anduin...
"But back to the point," Azshara said, "so anyway, I can't control the Sisterhood or anything— but I can help you prepare that boy in your charge— we can make him very appealing to them."
Somehow, Jaina didn't like the sound of this.
"Appealing to them...?" She asked, and she liked the smile on Azshara's face even less; "Appealing how, exactly...?"
(On to Chapter 23)
When Krasus had been gifted to Alexstrasza, he'd been just barely a drake; she had taken his virginity, but her other three consorts were tasked with teaching him to make love. It were they who held him down while she took him, and kissed his brow and stroked his hair; they caressed and consoled him, because he'd been terribly frightened, and utterly unprepared for his duty to the queen.
They had told him before that the Lifebinder was gentle and kind— that he didn't see it yet, but as the queen's consort he'd been assigned an important and highly coveted role. But, at the time, none of that had done much to quell his apprehension; he stood timidly in wait while adorned in the glimmering decorations fastened to his ankles and wrists, the gilded chains arranged elaborately round his naked body and his member.
"But you look stunning," the other consorts had said, and indeed Krasus had been uniquely handsome, he was gentle as well, and graceful in his step.
He'd been practically shivering that night when he'd been brought before the queen, the tiny bells at his ankles jingled lightly while he paced barefoot on the soft bed of grass.
Alexstrasza had observed him from her raised platform in this enchanted inner sanctum, lain in her true form amongst sweet blossoms and shrubs— and Krasus felt morbidly terrified by the sheer size of her.
But when her voice came, it was compassionate and kind, she beckoned him gently toward her; at Krasus' side, the eldest consort, Tyran, whispered to him that he was in good hands.
Before the queen, Krasus felt so powerless, so small, he trembled when he knelt on one knee— but when he looked discreetly upon her, he found her eyes ancient and wise, her gaze was filled with maternal tenderness.
"Do not be afraid," she said softly, she changed to her mortal guise as to ease his apprehension of her overwhelming power; but, even so, she was larger in stature, and he felt vulnerably young and naked in contrast with her elaborate, dignified robes.
"Your brothers tell me you've come to perform beautifully," she said, like she were speaking to a child— and while her other consorts were not Krasus' brothers directly by blood, they had taken him in like a family and patiently taught him what he ought to do. "They are all so proud of you," she continued, her hand raked carefully through his long hair.
She then leaned very close and pressed her lips to his forehead; she whispered, "Be at peace, little one; your brothers will not leave your side this night."
But on his first night at such a duty, Malygos had no brothers who would kiss his brow or stroke his hair; he hadn't been much older than a drake, himself, and far younger than Sindragosa, the consort assigned to him by the titans. He was terribly self-conscious and timid, and had denied anyone the right to his private quarters for months, until the other aspects began to worry he would not sire progeny to protect the world.
It was Nozdormu who ultimately took him aside, he caressed his hair gently and promised he would take care of him; he called him little brother and mouthed at his ear,
"Little darling, you need not worry your heart; lay your head in my lap and close your eyes, I will hold you until it is over."
It was something of which the other aspects never spoke, but they knew it was Nozdormu who ultimately resolved the matter of Malygos; they knew and never spoke also of the fact that Malygos had never attended his own consorts without Nozdormu's presence.
Beneath the guise of his arrogance, Malygos had been very self-conscious and shy, he did not like to venture outside his home at the Eye of Eternity— which, in itself, had been magically concealed from plain view. He did not like to be stared at directly or looked upon, and had been afraid to be touched; he had been almost certain there was no desire in him for intimate pleasure at all, until he had felt it at Nozdormu's patient hands. And it was then that he'd realized it wasn't ardent pleasure, itself, which he did not desire, but rather the horrifying scrutiny directed at his most intimate and vulnerable parts.
There developed between him and Nozdormu an unspoken brotherly bond, where Malygos knew that even while Nozdormu had loved Soridormi, he had been his— and he would be his until the end of time.
"No," Jaina said, "Absolutely not. Anduin, this has gone too far; change back and we'll go get Ysera."
Azshara had asked her stylists and designers to make Anduin irresistible to the high priestess; it was something Jaina hadn't liked the sound of from the get-go, but Anduin bravely agreed, after the weight of the situation had been explained to him. Jaina had waited impatiently with Wrathion, who, despite everything, was quite curious to see what it was exactly that they had in mind.
After a great deal of debate, the queen had assured Jaina that Anduin would not be spelled or enchanted, or manipulated or controlled in any way; but Jaina suspected even then that she still wouldn't like where this would go.
When finally he'd been presented to them, Jaina thought she could almost hear Varian somehow ripping through the very fabric of time, only to reach this moment in order to unleash his rage at what had been made of his son; the anger within her was practically tangible.
It wasn't just that he was scantily clad; she could tell whatever it was he was made to wear was designed and produced specifically for him, to contour and emphasize parts of him that no one calling herself his aunt should ever be made to notice. She wasn't even sure what the hell it was he was wearing exactly, there were glittering lines and jewels placed along his naked form with such exacting artistic precision that they appeared almost to be part of his body. He was almost unrecognizable, Jaina was now certain she should have somehow tried to stop the aspects' decision in the first place.
"Jaina," Azshara sighed, like she was mentally preparing herself for the quarrel that was sure to ensue, she was now pacing after her like she was trying to make her see reason; "There's only one way men get ahead in the world, and it isn't by show of their intellect or talent. What, you think Dath'remar would have got so successful as a harpist if not for his looks?"
"I didn't even want Anduin brought here! I didn't want him brought to Ashenvale, and I didn't want him involved in the first place...!"
"Aunt Jaina!" Anduin said, he was now walking alongside Azshara and trying to appeal to her; "Who cares if I have to look like this, that doesn't matter— if it'll get the Sisterhood to listen—"
Jaina spun around angrily and poked one finger at him; "You think that's all it'll be?" She asked, "You think you'll walk in dressed like that, and they'll just give you whatever you want?" After that, she lowered her voice to a whisper and proceeded to whisper-shout at him: "Obviously this is some sexual thing, do you realize what you're getting yourself into?"
At that, finally Anduin stilled; he flushed in a moment of understanding and regarded her speechlessly, like he hadn't been prepared for that part of the plan. Jaina remained where she was with her hands on her hips, she hoped that finally she'd got through to him— but she began gradually to notice a look was forming on his face she knew only all too well. She thought, Oh, hell no...
It was like that time he'd decided to go and confront Garrosh, or the time he'd refused to return from Pandaria after being captured by the horde; he looked at Jaina directly and said, "I'm still going through with it."
"That's it," Jaina said conclusively, "You're grounded."
Anduin regarded her like she'd slipped and cracked her skull; "I'm grounded?"
"Yeah!" Jaina said and nodded rapidly, "Yeah! That's right, you're grounded!"
Around that time, finally Wrathion made his entry; Jaina and Anduin turned their heads to the door at the sound of approaching footsteps, and Wrathion's voice issued from out in the hall.
"I'm coming in," he announced, "You guys done?"
Jaina realized too late she ought to tell him to wait, because she didn't want him to see Anduin dressed this way (or was he even dressed at all? Was he even wearing clothes, or was he just dotted with decorations cleverly enough that it looked like he might have been wearing something...?)
Wrathion stepped in and then stilled mid-stride, his mouth froze where once he had some long-forgotten greeting prepared.
He stared at Anduin for several seconds without saying a word, almost like a bar had appeared above him labeled processing, which counted from zero to a hundred percent; the first coherent thought that formed in his mind was Why yes, I do believe Anduin is my boyfriend.
After that, he paced elegantly into the room, got his hand in Anduin's, and without a word pivoted neatly in order to make his way back out; when Jaina's hand came on his wrist, he turned to her civilly and said, "You're holding my wrist, Jaina; you see, I can't take my leave this way."
He observed as with mild amusement while then she proceeded to pluck his fingers away from Anduin's hand, one by one, at which point she informed him that he was more than welcome, and, in fact, very much encouraged, to take his leave.
"You see?" Azshara said to Jaina, "It's perfect, they won't be able to resist him."
"If you think I'm about to hand Anduin over to a bunch of priestesses while looking like this, you've got another thing coming," Jaina said.
"Aunt Jaina, please," Anduin said, "I have a purpose here— this might be very important!"
"You're going to see the priestesses like this?" Wrathion asked, he was trying to decide whether this was some terrible betrayal that had him fuming with jealousy— or a brilliantly cunning move.
"I know, okay—" Anduin sighed, "I don't like this any more than you guys do— but I have to do this. If it's the only way, then so be it—"
Jaina now pulled him aside and seethed at him in whispers; "Have you learned nothing from your encounter with Garrosh? We'll go to Ysera and consult her on this, and she'll figure something else out; I'll not have you sell yourself just so your talents could be examined— we have no reason to believe you even possess the powers valued by the Sisterhood, maybe their goddess is something entirely different from the Light."
Anduin appeared to be on the verge of a response, but he stopped himself; he and Wrathion exchanged subtle glances, and ultimately Anduin said nothing of what they'd witnessed on the cliff. "I'm sorry," he said, "But I've made up my mind; I'm going through with this."
Jaina would have none of it; there was a reason she had journeyed to this alternate timeline, and that reason was to act as Anduin's guard. And this was exactly the sort of thing she was meant to guard him from— even if she would have to restrain him.
She announced to Azshara that this wasn't over, that she absolutely forbid it, and that she and Anduin were leaving to speak with Ysera exactly then; but, as though he were just begging to be even more grounded, Anduin then said he wished to visit Aethas.
"I heard he was injured," he said to Azshara, "I don't know him all that well, but I'd like to examine his wounds."
Azshara understood by then that Aethas was another name for Kael'thas; she smiled fondly, like Anduin was an innocent little puppy who truly believed he could lick his master's wounds better; "Of course you can examine his wounds," she said patronizingly, and then affectionately patted his head; she raised her eyes to Jaina and added, "You also said you'd like to see your friend, would you like to come along?"
When Azshara showed Jaina, Anduin, and Wrathion into the chamber where Kael'thas was kept, he'd been partly asleep; the room was almost entirely dark, with only dim enchanted lamps casting light on the wall. Kael'thas was lain on a large and luxuriant bed, dressed in only his underwear, his long hair was splayed on the covers like spun golden silk.
He was handsome without doubt, Jaina was aware, it was something she could no longer deny; and she wanted to look away, but, beyond this, she actually worried for him.
Not worried that he'd scheme up some diabolical plan, or worried that he'd do something reckless and get them in trouble— but worried that he'd been injured seriously enough that he wouldn't recover. Was he meant to sleep this much...?
At her side, Anduin paused and regarded the bed very curiously, he'd been confused at first because he saw that the guy on the bed was not Aethas— but he remembered what Jaina had said.
He'd never actually seen Prince Kael'thas in the flesh, but of course he'd learned about him and had come across pictures— still, though, seeing him like this was something different entirely. He whispered to Wrathion, "That's Aethas, in a different form— I'll tell you more later."
He proceeded closer to the bed in order to examine him, and Jaina followed in his steps; Anduin approached from Kael'thas' right side, he paused to regard him curiously and was struck by how young he appeared. When first he'd learned of Prince Kael'thas, he'd imagined an older sort of elf, with experience and cunning, and all sorts of military expertise.
But, in his true form, Kael'thas did not appear much older than himself, his face was still soft with the end of adolescence— and it was curious that even with the knowledge that this guy had summoned Kil'jaeden through the Sunwell, Anduin felt profoundly that he was innocent somehow.
His fingers came on Kael's neck at the site of the lesion, and Kael'thas tiredly turned to face him; he appeared sleepy and disoriented, and regarded Anduin through the golden-white light that emanated from his hands; the way Anduin had been decorated, he appeared so completely different that Kael hadn't recognized him at all, the soft rays of light glistened and twinkled in the jewels that lined his skin. Kael'thas wondered what sort of being he was, the Light felt very warm and sweet...
"So beautiful," Kael'thas said sleepily, he reached toward Anduin with both hands and ran them through his hair, then slowly along his back and farther down to his behind— and that was when Jaina and Wrathion both completely flipped.
Jaina's boots echoed crisply on the floor while she strode toward them, she muttered incoherently at Kael and asked what in hell he thought he was doing— she then reached to pull his hands away from where he'd been gripping Anduin's butt; Wrathion had got there at about the same time in order to pull Anduin away, he bumped into Jaina, who then tried to correct her balance and fell partly onto the bed.
"Light damn it, my back—" she muttered, aware she'd fallen with one hand on Kael's chest and one knee between his thighs; she was about to tell him not to get any ideas, but paused inches away from his face, where he'd been staring at her with utter bewilderment.
For several seconds, neither of them said a word; the stray strands of Jaina's disheveled hair trembled with her breath, from this close up, she could almost taste him— she could see the fine details of his eyelashes, the golden fibers that comprised his long eyebrows, the minute imperfections in his irises—
—then, she remembered herself, and rapidly scrambled away from the bed.
She turned the other way hurriedly, one hand plastered over her mouth, her pulse was so loud in her ears it felt nearly deafening; somewhere in the background, she could hear vaguely that Wrathion was mouthing off to Anduin about the way he was dressed.
He's right, she thought, Wrathion is right— and this is about Anduin, not about me.
Kael'thas remained where he was, motionless and fully awake; only his chest moved with inspiration slowly while he regarded Jaina, he was visibly stunned and could not get the image of her out of his mind.
He thought he still could feel her hand on his skin.
It was Anduin who spoke, and he sounded pretty annoyed; "I can't work like this, with everyone grabbing each other and rolling around!"
Kael's brow furrowed and he squinted while gazing at him; his voice came quiet and tentative when he asked, "....Anduin...?!"
"Yes, That's Anduin you were grabbing...!" Wrathion seethed, "Grabbing him very inappropriately, seeing as he's my—"
"Your boyfriend, I know," Kael cut in, "wow, I'm sorry—" He still stared at Anduin, like he couldn't believe this was really him; "I swear, I had no idea—"
"My—" Wrathion blushed; "th—that's right— yeah— yes— so— yeah, so be more careful about what you're doing...!"
Jaina remained glued to the spot, aware there was all manner of shit going on to which she ought to put a stop— except she found herself unable to move; she tried uselessly to will her pulse to return to normal and to gain some sort of mastery of herself.
At Wrathion's side, Anduin stood still, his heart hammered in his ears with the awareness of what Wrathion had basically announced; they were boyfriends. He had a boyfriend. Wrathion was his boyfriend. He turned to regard him very slowly, completely flushed and terribly shy; he laughed timidly and then looked away again. "Really?" he whispered, and Wrathion chuckled stupidly, too.
"Well," he said, "well— yeah. Yes."
They grinned at each other shyly and laughed, like they were partners in crime.
"Okay, cool," Anduin smiled softly, "That's cool."
All the while, Kael continued staring at Anduin's getup; he murmured under his breath, "Wow, when I said that kid needed to loosen up, he must really have listened..."
But it occurred to him that this entire time Jaina still hadn't said a word; he shrank with embarrassment on remembering he'd grabbed Anduin before, who, to Jaina, was almost like a son. He knew how protective of him she was, and began to feel very guilty.
"Jaina," he said to her, "I really am sorry— I honestly didn't recognize him just then—"
Finally Jaina turned to face him, still with one hand pressed over her mouth; she pulled it back and then ran her fingers absently through her hair. "No— no, it's not your fault," she said, "it's the way Azshara had him dressed, which is appalling in and of itself; Anduin, you see? Is this what you want when you go visit the Sisterhood?"
"Azshara dressed him this way?" Kael'thas asked, "For tomorrow? Why?"
"That's what I've been asking!" Jaina huffed, "She says they won't accept him as a male priest— I think you were asleep when she talked about that earlier— she said the only way he'll get anywhere is if he appealed to them like this."
Kael regarded Anduin for some moments and finally said, "She's right."
"Oh!" Jaina rolled her eyes, "Why am I even talking to you about this in the first place...!"
"Jaina," Kael'thas said evenly, "Listen— I'm serious—" He lowered his tone and spoke directly to her; "Men are like parlor pets to them here— this is what they value in them beyond other qualities, he could talk to them all day about how he's a talented priest, but they won't care about that— but this will get their attention."
"You're really not helping," Jaina said, she was still a bit flushed from before, and Kael took notice of that; he tried to fight his own embarrassment about how close to her he'd got.
"In fact—" he added, he beckoned to Anduin briefly and then proceeded to cast a small spell, which caused long, golden trails to appear from the decorations at his hips; they swept behind him like glittering feathers, and Kael'thas seemed pleased with his handiwork. Anduin turned to see what he'd done, and now that he'd been taken by a bout of creative inspiration, Kael was about to do more— but Jaina stopped him there.
"Enough already," she said, "I can't watch this— and I won't allow it; you can't possibly think that I would. End of conversation, this has gone way too far. Anduin, finish treating him and we'll go see Ysera— it's starting to get pretty late."
She took one step closer to the bed and said to Kael'thas, "Also, touch him like that again and you die."
"Aunt Jaina," Anduin intervened, "I can take care of myself..."
To that, Jaina replied, "You be quiet, I don't think you realize just how very, very far beyond grounded you are right now."
Anduin wanted to point out that she couldn't very well ground him at his age, but he let the matter go; he asked again that the others let him get to work.
All the while, the awareness that he had a boyfriend still had him in a stupidly good mood.
He proceeded again to kneel at the bedside, Jaina and Wrathion observed pensively but tried not to intervene; to Jaina, this sight was familiar. The white glow of the Light that channeled gradually in Anduin's hands and streamed through him like water; the focused, serene expression on his face, the way his lips moved in silent prayer—
And, eventually, Kael appeared a bit more at peace, his eyes closed and his respiration became deeper and slower; what Jaina hadn't anticipated, however, was the immaterial glow that slowly swept through them both, until it was nearly blinding in its radiance. She shivered at a very subtle sound that came almost like singing, like some ethereal wind had washed through the room with countless unspoken echoes, she could have sworn she saw the soft caress of hands within the white light.
Just outside the door, Azshara stood motionless beside Vashj, too stunned for words; her hand came on her wrist very carefully, and finally she whispered, "It's that male priest who's doing that; Vashj, we have a more serious problem than we thought."
(On to Chapter 24)
Years ago, when Kael'thas had seen Arthas kiss Jaina, he'd felt something die in him he'd never known had been alive; he'd fancied her long before he'd really understood, and the agony of it demanded more of him than he could sustain. His years studying away at Dalaran had been his first ever escape from the rigid discipline with which he'd been raised, at that time eons of unspent tension had issued from him like savage wildfire, he hadn't fully grasped what it was that made him up; for years he had done things in secret behind his father's back, but now his pent frustrations came in restless and desperate winds, and he was alive.
Magister Rommath, his closest friend and most devoted follower, had been witness to the extravagant depravity in which he'd immersed himself, and he worried for him always— there was in him reverence for the prince which felt personal insult that Kael would subject himself to the sort of degradations in which he had reveled so much; but he dared not deny him, as he believed the prince's word was absolute. To him, it overrode even the king's specific wishes, and Rommath protected him to the best of his ability.
In truth, however, Rommath had believed inside that no one could really satisfy Kael like he could, he'd been intimately familiar with his most perverse dreams and desires since practically boyhood.
And while he ached with envy that Kael'thas fancied some silly human, far was it from him to question his taste; he'd have handed Jaina to Kael readily were he capable of such a thing. His lament for him was genuine after Kael'thas had witnessed that silly human kiss the lover she'd apparently had all along.
The debauchery that came after that was unparalleled in scandal and sin, Kael'thas had got himself utterly plastered with wine, and announced to their fellow students at the Ledgerdemain Lounge that he'd personally bought out the back room at the tavern. Rommath had tried to dissuade him and to offer words of reason, but he'd known from the start that they'd fall on deaf ears; Kael merely kissed him and acknowledged he knew how he'd try to protect him, but that he didn't wish to be protected that night.
Rommath remained at his side like the most loyal sort of hound, he had watched while the prince permitted and invited all sorts of attention to his person; Kael was strewn drunk beyond comprehension in attempt to get Jaina off his mind, his royal Thalassian robes were mostly unraveled over his naked chest and shoulders, where a female human and two high elf boys were fighting to kiss him.
They had their hands all over his partly-bare chest and his thighs, and had kissed his neck passionately, they took impatient turns at his lips when they could; Kael was an utter filthy mess, his head was lain back and he was laughing as though he were actually happy, like maybe if he'd let them devour him hotly enough, he'd forget how Jaina had looked with her arms around Arthas.
He'd slept with all three of them before the night was over, at the same time, and awoke with the hollow awareness he'd not gotten Jaina off his mind at all; Rommath had dismissed the guests from their dorm room and got to work nursing the prince back to health, he'd waited restlessly all night to finally clean everyone's prints from him.
Merithra had taken Jaina to speak with Ysera; the hour had become rather late, and the green dragons already were longing to dream. Ysera explained she could not take the travelers into the Emerald Dream with her, but that they'd be accommodated by their flight in Ashenvale.
After Anduin's prayers and blessings, Kael'thas had gone serenely to sleep, and while Jaina had resolved to keep watch of him on this journey, during his recovery she couldn't quite bear to wake him up; she had thought to stay the night at the palace in order to continue babysitting— but, in truth, she no longer felt he was really up to anything sinister.
Still, though, she knew better than to let down her guard.
When she'd met with Ysera after the fact, she thought she'd appeared decidedly more irritable than when she'd last seen her, and Malygos' presence at her side was explanation enough; Jaina had recognized his true form straight away, the Nexus wars came to mind— but there was in him none of the vengeful determination she might have remembered.
For his enormous stature, Malygos seemed somehow crestfallen, he eyed Jaina sulkily but without real malice— and even though he'd attacked Kael before and had put him in what seemed like a dangerous state of health, Jaina couldn't bring herself to feel loathing or apprehension.
This creature does not hate mortals, she thought, even those who practice magic; she understood he had really believed Kael'thas in particular was dangerous. She watched the arcane markings at his neck and sides, which flickered blue and gold, and it occurred to her she'd been on the verge of stroking his scales—
Like she'd almost forgot the blue aspect before her wasn't Kalec—
It had her still in a moment of terrible guilt; that evening, she knew she'd felt something for Kael'thas.
She thought, I can't stay by his side tonight.
Therefore, despite everything that transpired earlier, she ultimately asked Anduin to keep watch of Kael instead, and arrangements were made for him in Kael'thas' guest room; Jaina had asked to remain in a chamber farther down the hall, where she might be called on in the case of an emergency.
"And you can't stay with Wrathion," she warned Anduin, "I know what the two of you are probably planning to do."
"What! Aunt Jaina, why would you even say that...!"
"Save it, Anduin," she said dryly, "and if Kael'thas tries grabbing you again, you get me straight away—"
"Why are—what the hell— I don't need to be told all this...!"
Anduin felt terribly embarrassed; also, he was very annoyed he'd been told explicitly not to stay the night by Wrathion, because he'd been looking forward to doing exactly that. But Wrathion excused himself for the night with suspiciously formal cordiality— which had Jaina decide to sleep with one eye open and both ears alert to what might go on in the hall.
After Anduin had settled in Kael's room for the night, Vashj began leading Jaina and Wrathion out to the hall; she'd started asking a servant to inform Illidan and Dath'remar they were free to head home, and had just barely got the door closed when unexpectedly Kael's voice came from just within the room.
He spoke faintly and sleepily, and asked whether Master could stay with him.
"He means Illidan," Jaina explained; after she spoke, she expected Vashj would ask something about this, but she'd agreed without qualms; in truth, Vashj was glad for a convenient reason to have Illidan kept at the palace, which would please Azshara, of course.
However, while Dath'remar's unquestioning loyalty to the queen would have him stay the night at her bidding, Illidan wasn't a creature who could be easily restrained or kept; he didn't much like being made to wait at the guest room for hours, and by that time he'd greatly desired to take his leave. But he knew better than to deny a request made by Lady Vashj, and, despite his impatience, he still wondered how it was that Kael'thas had powers like his.
Before leaving Jaina to retire, Vashj called her to her office for a brief talk; she sat her down before her desk and explained there was greater reason for concern about Anduin's meeting with the Sisterhood than they'd previously thought.
"We hadn't really believed he was capable of priestly powers," she explained, "We didn't really anticipate what we saw when he treated your friend."
At this, Jaina huffed sarcastically; but she understood Vashj really had meant what she'd said. The ancient Kaldorei really didn't think males capable of such powers. Now, truth be told, Azshara and Vashj weren't particularly devout in means of spirituality, and the notion of a male priest didn't strike them as some sort of sacrilege— but, even so, in their culture it was a concept so radical in thought it still seemed completely absurd.
"But it's more than that," Vashj continued; "The powers he displayed tonight, that's not normal; I mean, that's not normal even for a real priest."
A real priest, Jaina rolled her eyes; Anduin is a real priest.
However, she couldn't ignore the significance in Vashj's words, because she'd been bothered by the same thing.
She'd never seen Anduin command powers like those, either.
Vashj spoke in hushed tones after that; "Her Majesty worries the Sisterhood wouldn't take kindly to seeing he has that sort of power," she said. "I suspect it's best not to have him brought before the high priestess at all."
To that, Jaina replied without missing a beat; "I couldn't agree more," she said, and finally Vashj regarded her as with deep introspection. She said, "You really don't wish to have this boy examined; he's come here against your will."
For some moments, Jaina said nothing; while inside her lay a great reserve of disciplinary wrath directed at Varian's son, she wished to protect him from the laws of this kingdom— which would likely deny him what rights he might have taken for granted in modern days. She phrased her next words with caution—
"Anduin is the son of an important— woman—" she said; "and on this journey, she had left him in my care."
"And this woman wishes that his powers be examined?"
This Jaina had to give careful consideration; if she had said yes, Vashj might insist that Anduin be brought before the high priestess; but if she'd said no, Vashj would take note he'd made a choice against his mother's will, and who knew if there was or wasn't some sort of punishment here for that.
"His mother wishes for his safety," she finally said; "the dragon aspects had decided that his powers could be examined."
Her heart raced while she regarded Vashj's unreadable expression; she wondered if she could see through the parts of her answer that were complete lies.
Now she'd definitely ask why the aspects had deemed a male priest's powers important enough to be examined, she thought, but Vashj didn't raise questions beyond that; she appeared for some time deep in thought, and ultimately continued as though she had found Jaina's answer sound enough.
"If he absolutely must be brought before the high priestess," she said, "I suspect he cannot show the full extent of his ability; great power or intellect are not attractive traits in a male, who knows what they'd do to him."
What response Jaina might have made never came; her natural impulse was to protest the absurdity of it, but even in her own modern and civilized age, who hadn't heard the story of Illidan? Who hadn't known of the imprisonment he had faced, because of his power and recklessness...?
But beyond that, there also was something else there; she could hear in Vashj's tone that, like the queen, she, too, was ahead of her time in her beliefs. While Illidan's powers were not at the level of hers or those of Azshara, those two had liked his competency of the arcane; he was interesting and unpredictable, and Azshara did not wish to spell him precisely because it amused her to see what he'd do of his own accord.
Also, the more Jaina thought of Vashj's suggestion, the more appealing it seemed: certainly, failure at the high priestess' test would leave Anduin crushed, but such an outcome would conclusively exclude him from further involvement with the Dragon soul— and this, in turn, might mean the aspects would decide to abandon the Dragon Soul idea entirely.
What's more, in this situation Anduin wouldn't be able to but Aunt Jaina when he'd been dissatisfied, and, with any luck, she could bring him back home and worry about the Legion with him safely back under Varian's watch.
She regarded Vashj conclusively and finally nodded; "All right," she said, "I'll speak with him in the morning."
Anduin might not have felt so annoyed to be separated from Wrathion that night if that night Wrathion hadn't officially become his boyfriend; he'd been given his own bed in Kael'thas' guest quarters, at the distant end of the chamber— and despite his understanding as to why he was made to guard him, he couldn't help feeling it was really a waste of time.
He knew Kael'thas would merely sleep, he had blessed him for exactly this purpose— this entire time, he, Anduin, could have been contentedly making out with Wrathion, but nooo...
He thought back to their time up on the cliff, how unexpectedly tender Wrathion had been, how his hands felt, the way his lips had felt wet and warm—
He couldn't even touch himself now, because he wasn't alone in the room.
It was like Aunt Jaina had followed him ten thousand years into the past for the express purpose of making sure he never, ever had any fun, at any point in time.
He thought sulkily, I have a boyfriend now, and I can't even go see him...!
In his deep and miserable brooding, he'd all but forgot Kael's earlier request to have Master stay the night— and, despite everything, when a knock came suddenly at the door, his curiosity had got the better of him.
There came distantly the low voice of a servant speaking quietly in Darnassian, and soon Illidan really was admitted into the room.
Why Kael was accommodated his request, Anduin wasn't sure; in modern times, Illidan was known as a creature of terrible power. Even while Anduin knew that Illidan's magic at this time was nothing like that of the demon Lord of Outland, it still felt strange to imagine him brought to Kael's bed solely at his request.
Illidan wasn't particularly pleased about it, either; even in the darkness, he appeared visibly annoyed, he also hadn't been explained the reason he was being made to stay in Kael'thas' bed.
But unlike Anduin and Illidan, Kael felt tremendously pleased.
For some time that night, he'd fought partly against the prayers invoked to his benefit, only to remain awake for this— and he loved to see Illidan appear so annoyed.
He regarded him with pent anticipation with the covers pulled to just below his eyes, and even while this Illidan bore neither demonic features nor the deep bitterness Kael knew well in him, with his face so nakedly twisted in agitation he was Master just as Kael'thas remembered.
He couldn't help himself; once the door had come closed and Illidan proceeded irritably inside, Kael whispered the subtlest spell, something gifted to him by Master long ago— a bit of magic which wasn't demonic in nature, but which chimed with far gentler softness— and which was almost too pure, even for the arcane.
His eyes had got enough accustomed to the dark of the room that he could see Illidan clearly, his tall stature and powerful build, the luxuriant fall of his hair— and his expression, which never faltered in agitation even while he stilled at the spell he had cast.
Kael's pulse quickened with the awareness he'd given something away, certainly he'd roused his suspicion now— but Illidan kept his questions to himself, as even in his pride he wasn't a fool.
In his features there was apparent interest, this was Master as Kael'thas had known; he'd never imagined his heart would bleed for him so brokenly—
From the opposite end of the room, Anduin watched while they regarded each other in silence, there issued a low shimmer of light when Illidan cast the same subtle spell in return; then, Kael's hand came slowly from under the covers, tentatively, the sheets slid from his bare chest while he sat and reached to take Illidan's hand.
Anduin wasn't sure what to make of the tremor in Kael's voice, or the way he watched Illidan with agonizing torment he couldn't quite place—
It was like he'd forgot all about Anduin's presence, like he'd belonged to this creature alone, and had long since moved past decorum and pride.
"Master," Kael breathed, the word weighed with such penetrating anguish that even Illidan paused; Anduin watched Kael's lean figure emerge from his blankets, his hands reached for Illidan's face with unearthly gentleness, but also restlessly, with painful hunger—
Illidan grasped both his wrists and held him back just before Kael could seize his mouth.
At that, Kael'thas remained helpless and defeated, his hair trembled with expiration while he appeared to fight for calm—
But being restrained with such merciful kindness, this was exactly like Master, too.
"How is it that you have my magic?"
Illidan's voice came quiet and stern, Kael's aristocratic hands gave no struggle in his grasp; he turned slowly to regard him, and Illidan was overcome with the most unsettling sensation that his meeting with this boy was no matter of chance.
Anduin could see the subtle motion of Kael'thas' chest with breath, his voice was just barely audible;
"Master," he whispered, with such candid innocence he might have been a child—
"Please punish me—"
(On to Chapter 25)
A/N: I'm no artist by any means, but I recently invested in a tablet and drew some stuff for this story; that isn't to say you should to be made to endure my feeble attempts at drawing, but in case you're curious, said attempts can be seen here:
INCLUDES NSFW ART!!
Illidan could not deny that while he did not know this boy at all— while he appeared to speak deliriously with illness— that there was in his voice genuine reverence, there was deep sorrow there and a sense of finality, Kael spoke like he knew him—
And while it was sheer nonsense, Illidan hungered somewhere inside for acknowledgement, this sort of genuine admiration was pleasant to hear; he might have asked, Why do you need to be punished, or who is it you've mistaken me for— but he asked neither of these things.
He said only, "You really want this—"
Kael'thas leaned forth very slowly, he pressed his lips to one of Illidan's hands, where still he held his wrists; in the dark of the room, he regarded him from under the fall of his hair, with such docile sweetness it was heart-wrenching somehow.
"I've wanted this," he whispered, "for so long—"
His voice came wretched and broken, laden with so many unspoken things Illidan wondered if he wouldn't be better off with some punishment, for his own profound relief— but, in the end, he denied him.
"Do not ask such things of me," he said, "I cannot bear to hear it."
When Kael looked to him then, his eyes were wet, his voice wavered; he said, "Of course you cannot; Master has always had a gentle heart—"
At the opposite end of the room, Anduin watched this with growing curiosity; this without doubt was something ardent and intimate, but he'd not really expected to hear that Illidan had a gentle heart. He wondered what Kael'thas was trying to pull in speaking to this past Illidan as though he had known him, but, curiously, Master never remarked on that; there was emotion enough in Kael's gestures and words that Illidan felt the weight of awful things he'd never said—
Illidan thought of Malygos' reprimands earlier that evening, how he'd thought Kael'thas was dangerous— and maybe in that there was something to which he could relate; he thought of his own potential as a druid, how sincerely he'd been encouraged in that path, and how others spoke of him like he were reckless and wild in his sorcery.
"Little mage," he said, he gently released his hold from Kael's wrists; his hand came kindly in his hair, and he brushed it from his face with softness which Kael knew—
"You've done no wrong."
From his bed at the distant end of the room, Anduin could see Kael's slender back, how he arched forth just a little, the tremble which ran through his form; his silhouetted figure collapsed against Illidan, who had tried uselessly to have him consoled and subdued. He whispered to him words in Darnassian which Anduin didn't know, but they'd only made Kael'thas cry worse, until he was a graceless, sobbing mess; Anduin was somehow reminded of the conversation he'd overheard between him and Kairoz, where Kael'thas had said, It's something very dear to my heart—
He wondered why it was that Kael ultimately turned to Kil'jaeden.
It occurred to him while he watched that there was in Illidan certain intrinsic grace, his voice was mild and calm, the words he spoke in Darnassian came like a whispering wind; he sang to Kael in low tones, and Kael'thas grew quiet with attention, soon Anduin could make out that he'd begun to sing along softly.
Kael's voice came a bit hoarse and broken, like his nose still was a little stuffed from crying, but Anduin could tell he'd likely been trained to sing, as well; elvish singing was something different from what Anduin had known in the cathedral choirs where he had praised the Light. It came ethereal and fairylike, a sound which in its distant sweetness was mysterious somehow— and while thousands of years separated the night elves from the high elves, here still was an element which left them fundamentally bound.
Kael'thas continued singing a little longer when Illidan paused, and Illidan waited a bit before finally asking, "How is it that you know the words to this song?"
Kael stilled at that and regarded him silently; Illidan asked, "Are you really here only by incident? This is a song my brother sang to me in boyhood, how is it that you know it?"
I didn't know, Kael'thas thought, that Master's brother had sung him this song; he wondered if Illidan had missed Malfurion during their nights at the Black Temple, when he'd sung this song to Kael.
In the moments that followed, there lingered between them a world of unspoken intimacy, Illidan understood Kael had no intent to tell him things he nevertheless hungered to reveal; he understood that the burden of a secret was something isolating and unrelenting, which must surely become exhausting to bear.
He said nothing while Kael'thas reached for him, while his fingers ran along Illidan's forehead and into his hair; after that, they slid lightly down along Illidan's face, gently over his eyes, where the faint brush of his eyelashes had Kael frown curiously. This was where he had his blindfold, he remembered, and there on his forehead, that's where he had his horns—
And there, along his chest, he once had his demonic markings, Kael'thas thought he still could trace the spiraling patterns that now weren't there; "Master is still handsome," he said very quietly, and he wished he could stay here with him, like this—
But that wasn't why he—
Illidan might have asked, Who was your Master, whom you'd mistaken me for— but he suspected already that, somehow, there was no mistake.
Now that Kael lay so vulnerably close in his arms, he could feel his own magic in him, it pulsed with the rhythm of his heart, the temperature of his skin, the flow of his breath; there was a naked sort of adoration there which Illidan had never been shown before, and he wondered what it was he hadn't been told.
"Master," Kael asked, his voice came sleepy and soft; "Say to me again that I've done no wrong."
"Why do you ask this?" Illidan replied, "Did you not ask just moments before to be punished?"
"Then punish me, Master, that I may finally sleep."
Everything I'd done was for my people; everything, except—
For a long time, Illidan remained silent, he didn't ask what it was Kael had done; then, he finally spoke, "Very well," he said, "for your own benefit."
At that, Kael went very still; he wasn't sure he'd heard right.
His eyes went wide open all at once, he regarded Illidan in astonishment, like he'd just been promised the most wonderful gift; "Really?" he asked, because here was something Master had never agreed to before.
This Illidan, he knew, had not been bound and restrained for ten thousand years, he did not know the profound shame that Master had felt at Maiev's capable hands; but it was a sort of shame Kael'thas, himself, had known well, as it was the very foundation on which Quel'thalas had been built.
But he would tell Illidan nothing of that now— because he suspected that, if Illidan knew, he would deny him any sort of punishment, just as he always had.
He rose quietly out from under the covers and gracefully slid his underwear off, the last bit of clothing he'd had on at the time; then, he proceeded to where Illidan was lain, and climbed face-down over his lap.
Illidan sat in place slowly, this sort of thing he'd only ever done with his brother— but, somehow, Kael was almost like a little brother to him, too.
He regarded the milky white span of his back, the fluid fall of his hair, the elegant curve of his behind and his slender, narrow hips;
"Strike me," Kael asked, "Master, please—"
His words cut off abruptly when the sound echoed crisp and distinct through the room, and Kael stiffened completely with disbelief; his voice came in a choked, severed cry, the impact of the strike rippled through the cascade of his hair, and he said in breathless tones,
He'd always known— he'd always known this was how it would feel, how strong and certain Illidan was, that he would hold himself back and spare him the real extent of his physical capacity— beneath the mess of his hair, Kael smiled blissfully, he spoke impatiently when he asked him for more—
But there was something about this that Illidan did not like; it wasn't that Kael visibly found this arousing, or that he'd asked without ever explaining what he sought punishment for— but rather the wretched reality beneath it, where he could not find peace until punishment finally came.
It was something so deeply and darkly ingrained that Kael was no longer consciously aware of it, and where he'd deny anything of the sort if he were asked outright; he'd say it was just a bit of fun, or that he'd liked the loss of control— but this sort of dismissal was the real tragedy of the matter, a hallmark of self-destruction at its most devastating extent, where any hope of salvation had been shut off from within.
To Illidan, this wasn't like his physical struggles with Malfurion, where there was competitive spirit and a desire to conquer without shame; it was truly a terrible thing that this boy, whoever he was, genuinely needed to be subjugated.
But this was laughable, wasn't it? What were they as a people, if not subjugated in the first place...?
Illidan continued until he could no longer bear it, he could feel the living struggle of Kael's muscles over his lap, the femoral pulse at his thigh, the hot arousal of his cock and the elegant maneuver of his bones; he said, "I'm finished, do not ask such a thing of me again."
For Kael'thas, it was nowhere near enough— but it was more than he'd ever received from Master before, and he knew better than to question a gift.
Very slowly, he pulled himself up from over his lap, the corners of his eyes were damp and still he was subtly trembling; he reached for Illidan's face and leaned forth to take his mouth without a word.
The gesture came with pained and longing hunger, he whispered silent words of thanks and took his lips so tenderly Illidan wasn't sure what to make of it; after that, Kael reached down to take his hand and kissed the flesh of his palm, which still pulsed hotly with the after-effect of the strikes.
Illidan could not deny that after the fact Kael went directly to sleep without further qualms, he laid his head on his chest like a child and held on to him naturally, like they'd lain to sleep this way every night; he observed him for some moments and wondered why it was that Lady Vashj had requested that he'd stay the night with this boy.
"It was you," he said softly after Kael was asleep, "earlier, wasn't it— it was you who had played the Song of Elune—"
(On to Chapter 26)
A/N: Not sure if this is interesting to anyone, but I've added some more drawings for this story at the address below, and will probably continue to add more to that page as I make them; I'm not particularly good at that, but I think I've got a bit better since I've started, haha! (Please note that this page contains some very NSFW images.)
Also, I'm not sure if anyone here had watched the anime Akatsuki no Yona, but for some reason Su-Won's character there is very Kael'thas-like to me.
Long after the sounds in the room had died down, Anduin remained wide-eyed and awake; everything he'd heard had been surreal, almost like there was some unspoken understanding between Illidan and Kael'thas which completely escaped him— and which did not make sense in the first place, because this Illidan wouldn't know who Kael was.
Anduin felt very much compelled to speak about this with Jaina, but had resolved himself to wait patiently until morning; the temptation to speak with Wrathion, however, was nearly irresistible.
Beyond these events there also was something almost as significant in his thoughts, and that was that he had a boyfriend.
He replayed in his mind time and again how Wrathion had sounded when he'd unceremoniously announced this to Kael, how possessive he was, and how he hadn't gone back on it when Anduin asked about it directly; he had a boyfriend, just like that.
He was now almost certain he had a good reason to go and speak with him, even if he'd have to wake him up: he would tell him about how he'd witnessed something strange between Illidan and Kael, and Wrathion would be forced to admit it was unusual.
That's all they would do.
They would just speak about these important things, and it wouldn't at all be an excuse to go and see him so they could make out.
He'd begun very quietly to stir when he felt something warm just at the back of his legs, and at that he momentarily startled; it felt like some sort of animal, like a small dog or cat— or— a little whelp, like how Wrathion had been when he'd curled up with him when they were younger—
Very carefully, Anduin lifted the sheets to inspect the small creature, and he wondered how long it had been there— he was reminded of that time at the cavern, when one of Neltharion's whelps had snuck into his makeshift bed.
But this one was a very small whelp, he realized now that he got a closer look; certainly it was smaller than Wrathion had been in adolescence, this one might really be very young— he wondered if it was one of Ysera's brood from before, and when it had managed to sneak in there.
Well, now he had a second perfectly logical reason to go and speak with Wrathion: if this was Ysera's whelp, then certainly she and her consorts must worry...
Anduin pulled the sheets back and proceeded to slide his hands beneath the whelp's little body; he whispered that he was just gonna pick it up very gently—
The tiny dragon was pleasantly compliant, it moved sleepily a bit, but did not make much protest about being handled; Anduin became aware that this one indeed was much smaller and lighter than Wrathion had been, because it was still a baby.
It really was awfully cute.
No, this isn't right, Anduin thought; Ysera must be freaking out; he tried to keep quiet while sliding off the side of the bed, and made it most of the way to the door before a low sound came from the opposite end of the room; it was Illidan, and he murmured something in Darnassian which Anduin did not understand— he made out only the word priestesses, but Illidan seemed to go back to sleep after that.
Anduin padded out of the room and quietly closed the door, out in the hall the arcane lamps seemed too bright; he squinted against them, and could feel the whelp's tiny wings move in his arms a little.
The delicate appendages were still soft and fragile, the bones inside seemed so slender and frail Anduin feared he wouldn't hold it carefully enough.
Now that he was out in the lit corridor, he could get a better look of it, and felt surprised to find the whelp was not green at all; it was indeed a black dragon, but it didn't look quite like Wrathion had; its wings were a pretty shade of purple, and there were very subtle purple streaks along its sides.
This one's unique, Anduin thought, and he wondered if maybe all black whelps started out this way; now he was definitely going to consult Wrathion.
He would be stupid not to.
But, all the while, there lingered inside him the unsettling awareness that, somehow, a black whelp had made it all the way here from the Obsidian Sanctum; had this been the same little black whelp who had curled up with him in the lair— and could it be that it had somehow been following him all along...?
Jaina couldn't get to sleep, either; she remained awake late into the night, overwhelmed by the suffocating sense of weirdness after all that had happened. She felt greatly concerned for Anduin, and now that she was left without distractions from her own thoughts, she was consumed with worry about sending him to the priestesses on the next day.
Also at the back of her mind lingered a feeling which despite herself she could not will away, and her thoughts turned again to Kael'thas; in his true form, he did not appear to have aged a day since she'd known him during her apprenticeship— and where once he might have seemed to her distant and mature, she saw no more than a stumbling child now. In the light of her own maturation, she looked back now on the times he had tried to court her long ago, and saw naivete there which in her youth she had not understood; she almost wished she hadn't come to know him in these recent days, because she felt for him gentleness and compassion she could not deny.
She would never betray Kalec, but Kael'thas was not a new presence in her life; during the years she'd believed him dead, unbeknownst to her he'd stayed close all throughout, and had not said a word—
—so why now...?
But something else occurred to her while she thought of these things, and she found it eerily unsettling: Malygos had identified Kael in his true form because, despite his changed appearance, dragons could smell you out— but, beyond that, the blue aspect could also sense his magic.
Could it be, she wondered, that Kalec had actually known Aethas' true identity all along...?
That night, Azshara had convened with Ysera directly; she explained to her the predicament involving the male priest, and how she had heard of the aspects' decision to have him tested by the Sisterhood.
Ysera consulted Alexstrasza after that, and informed her also of Malygos' antics at the palace— where he'd spontaneously attacked a mortal in direct opposition to their decision, and also to their general rule as the world's protectors. She knew Alexstrasza would be too gentle with him, and complained that her own hand still hurt from the prolonged punishment she'd been made to deal.
Alexstrasza recognized the weight of these issues, she paced through her lair deep in thought; indeed when she and the others decided to let the high priestess test Anduin, they hadn't considered that while she could detect the extent of his powers, she may well refuse to test him in the first place.
It also was likely that if indeed Anduin bore some particularly powerful abilities, the high priestess may deny she had sensed them at all, because of the outrage such a thing might cause; he might even be accused of harboring sinister forces.
Ysera proceeded then to convey Azshara's plan to have Anduin presented so docilely and harmlessly that he might not be perceived as a threat; it was the only way males ever got anywhere there, where what power they had was neutralized through the docile and accommodating way they had learned to present themselves.
"The queen is not mistaken," Alexstrasza spoke slowly while still deep in thought; she could see what she'd intended with this. "But will our little priest know how to handle himself when faced with the Sisterhood? Or will he merely dress the part?"
At that, Ysera grew quiet; she'd begun to see the depth of the problem, and indeed she did not know whether or not Anduin would present himself properly.
Alexstrasza nodded conclusively, aware they must act before Anduin had gone in the next day for his meeting; she turned to the grassy earth behind her, where amongst the scented blossoms and shrubs three of her consorts were lain together in their true forms.
"Korialstrasz," she said to her youngest consort, "I'd like you to lend your talents to our friends tomorrow."
"This does look pretty bad," Kairoz said thoughtfully while inspecting Malygos over his lap; he had him completely naked, one hand gently moving over the still-tender flesh of his behind— then he gave him one more brisk strike.
"Nothing short of what you deserve," he huffed, and Malygos jumped in annoyance.
"Hey...!" he snarled, "I've already been thoroughly reprimanded, I don't need a second go from you."
"Then you shouldn't have come to me, you cheeky fuck," Kairoz said; "what did you expect? A pat on the back for a job well done? Quit screwing with my plans."
"I'm saving you from your own idiocy," Malygos replied, he now began climbing down from over his lap, but Kairoz held him back; "I'm glad it was Ysera, you know," he said, "Alexstrasza would probably be too kind; she'd send you to her consorts for the real punishment, but you'd probably like that."
"Damn it, Nozdormu, that was one bloody time!"
"One bloody time you fucking loved."
"I ought to enchant you—"
"Yeah? Go on and try it, I always did love a struggle before finally having you."
He finally let Malygos down with a playful shove, then pulled him in by the wrist; he grinned carnivorously and got both hands on his face.
"Your deadly eyes, little darling— was that what you did to him?"
For a brief moment, Malygos actually considered using his gaze; but he softened instead, this sort of bickering between them was well-trodden ground. Indeed, he was too introverted and timid to open up like this with others.
"That's not jealousy I hear in your voice, is it?" he asked; "From someone who gets with his past and future selves on a semi-regular basis, that's rather tart."
"And if it is?" Kairoz smiled toothily, "If it is because I can still smell him on you, when he'd always been my own prize— what will you do, little brother?"
There were to Malygos' next words just a subtle hint of hurt, which made Kairoz grin fondly;
"Always been your prize?" he asked; "What aren't you telling me, Nozdormu? This isn't to do with your ridiculous quest for immortality, is it?"
"You can't honestly expect me to tell you anything about that," Kairoz replied, like surely he'd see reason; "After you've gone and nearly killed him off—"
"Your prize is a very dangerous person," Malygos said; "and so is this entire mission— I'd rather you hated me now than suffer to see us all burn."
"No one is going to burn," Kairoz said, "There are things even your magic cannot produce."
"This is a selfish mission," Malygos sulked; "Will you really see us all burn for your own implausible purpose?"
At that, finally Kairoz stopped; for once his good-natured expression turned serious, and he regarded Malygos directly.
"There never was anything selfish about it," he said; "In time, even you will see."
Anduin walked very quietly on his entrance to Wrathion's room; the tiny whelp he carried nestled mildly in his arms, and he paused to regard his boyfriend's sleeping form.
My boyfriend, he thought, and a pleasant rush swept him through; there was no one around, they could totally make out. He paced toward the bed, and then began to lean forth very slowly with intent to kiss him— but just as he got close, Wrathion rapidly gripped his arm.
Anduin's voice came stifled when his mouth came on his, and his hormones got the better of him after that; he still hadn't let go of the whelp while he climbed onto the mattress, and didn't break contact, while they'd begun to kiss restlessly. There was hunger in it he hadn't known until it came now.
It was Wrathion who suddenly pulled back, he practically had to pry him off, and the red glow of his eyes pierced through the darkness silently; they regarded each other for some moments, out of breath and without saying a word, before Anduin reached for him again.
Wrathion succumbed to it for a short while, and then ripped himself away again; even then, Anduin thought he appeared to strain for self-control, his voice came hoarse when he asked, "What's with this whelp?"
At first, Anduin said nothing; he wasn't even really sure where to start; "The whelp—" he whispered while still catching his breath, the primal desire between them was practically tangible; "Yeah, about that— that is, I came to talk to you about that— it just got in my bed somehow—"
"Yeah— weird, isn't it— I don't know how it got there, I thought it was one of Ysera's at first— but turns out it's a—"
"—black dragon, I can tell," Wrathion interrupted; he could tell by its scent.
He sat straighter in bed and finally reached toward the tiny dragon; "Did she sneak in while you were sleeping, or...?"
"It couldn't have," Anduin replied, "I hadn't actually slept at all— I've been awake this whole time—"
And that was another thing, really; he wanted to tell Wrathion what he'd witnessed between Illidan and Kael'thas.
"Well—" Wrathion said, "Where did she come from all of a sudden?"
"I don't know; do you think I should tell one of the guards? I mean— I would imagine your fa— Neltharion— must worry for it—"
"Would you stop calling her an it," Wrathion huffed, and Anduin had thought at first he'd be chastised for talking about Wration's father; "Oh—" he said stupidly. Wrathion muttered, "This whelp is a girl."
"Oh," Anduin said again; he was beginning to wonder when they'd get back to snogging; "Well— so what do you think? Should I go ask the guards about it?"
"Yeah," Wrathion replied, and Anduin nodded; "All right."
They gazed at each other for some moments, and then Anduin carefully proceeded to let the whelp down unto the sheets at a distant corner of the bed; he turned to Wrathion again and said, "I'll definitely do that, in like ten minutes."
Wrathion asked no further questions; within seconds they were grabbing impatiently at one another in an awkward and struggling heap, until it was practically sex with clothes on; Anduin had got Wrathion on his back and was pressing his hips against him without shame, they both were so bloody hard.
"It's not weird with it— her— right there, is it?" Anduin asked, and regretted it immediately after; what if now that would make Wrathion stop, and then who knew when he could get him to do this again...?
Wrathion paused, his legs still were tangled somewhere between Anduin's thighs; his hair was completely disheveled, and he absently wiped at his lips. "Yeah, it's pretty weird," he agreed, but said no more after that; they regarded each other silently before falling together on the sheets again.
(On to Chapter 27)
Jaina had tried for hours to will herself to sleep, to no avail; she could hear vaguely sounds from outside the window, the enchanted irrigation spells intended to water the palace gardens, the distant sound of night birds; when it had got quiet enough, she could even hear the guards pacing out in the hall.
The covers in her bed were luxuriant and soft, she was aware the queen didn't have to let them stay the night, and didn't have to help them in the first place; she couldn't help wondering if there wasn't some ulterior motive to all this, and still felt reluctant to let down her guard.
Very subtly, she could make out some other kind of sound from the hall outside— no— from some nearby room— it was a low conversation in Darnassian, and she wondered who would be meeting so late into the night; there came a male voice at first, and it was somehow familiar, but she couldn't place it exactly.
The second voice was female, and after she'd heard a little more, Jaina recognized it was Lady Vashj; at that, she began to listen a bit more carefully. Why was Vashj still up at this hour? Was this normal for her...?
But there was something about her tone which almost made Jaina question whether it really was Vashj— but it was, she was certain of it— even though she sounded awfully... compassionate somehow.
Jaina recognized curiously there appeared to be something almost like maternal kindness to her voice, of which she had never imagined her capable; she was asking the man if he would humor her at the harp. It was then that Jaina recognized the other voice belonged to Dath'remar, he responded with graceful formalities unmistakably laced with affection—
Had Vashj and Dath'remar stayed up late into the night so that he could humor her at the harp...?
But as she listened further, there gradually issued the distant sound of a soothing and beautiful song, something far gentler than the music presented earlier on stage by Refreshment Table; it came unexpectedly, achingly tender, and Jaina was reminded of Kael when he had played the harp.
Now that she listened without distraction, she recognized that Dath'remar really was exceptionally talented— exceptional, that was, in comparison with what she had known; she wasn't certain why it made her heart hurt.
When at last the song had reached its conclusion and the last penetrating notes faded slowly away, she thought she still could feel the fragile softness there; she needed not see the way Dath'remar knelt before Vashj, how he placed his head in her lap willingly, or how Vashj caressed the strands of his hair; how he kissed her palm and each of her fingers, and asked with quiet humility to be cared for—
—she needed not bear presence to these things directly to understand the virginal innocence in them, the ardent surrender and delicate, boyish admiration— it occurred to her then that she'd been inadvertently witness to something terribly intimate, on which she'd not meant to intrude— and that, essentially, Dath'remar had asked Vashj to spell him.
The realization had left her with quite a strange and hollow feeling, because she'd imagined that spelling would be something heartless and cruel; when Vashj and Azshara had spoken of how guys were better off spelled for their own good, it had sounded to Jaina like some sort of ugly joke— but this was something different entirely, which carried sweet empathy she could not deny—
She felt humbled somehow, uncertain what to make of what she'd overheard and embarrassed for intruding on something so personal— because even though she couldn't help hearing, she had intently listened in.
She wondered if she could really understand this ancient and very different culture, and if, through legend, the modern world might have perceived and judged Azshara with the sentiment of its own time.
"Can I take this off?"
"Like this— wait— no— Wrathion— just let me—"
"No, I got it—"
"Ow— shit, your claws—"
"Ow— that's— ow again— it comes off this way— no— this way— what are—"
"Would you keep it down? Everyone's gonna hear you."
"Sorry— what are you doing, that's my foot—"
After a long and awkward struggle, finally Wrathion got Anduin out of his night clothes; his hands moved on his body everywhere, and though he groped him a little too roughly and a little too hard, Anduin thought he didn't really mind. Here and there along his skin were still old scars from his encounter with Garrosh years ago, in the vague moonlight Wrathion could see that his shoulders and flanks were covered with freckles.
"You're funny-looking," Wrathion said, and Anduin smiled at that.
"Yeah?" he asked, he was lain on his back and reached with both hands to pull Wrathion closer; "You're still kissing me, though—"
His breath issued humid and warm.
Wrathion was wearing only his shorts, and now Anduin began tugging at them; soon they reached for them together, they pulled at the fabric with graceless impatience until finally Wrathion kicked them off one foot and turned his attention to Anduin fully. He thought he was starting to get the hang of kissing him, and that he'd become more familiar with how his body felt— but still, despite that, he'd got a bit shy when he closed one hand on his cock.
Anduin went quiet at that, he exhaled through a timid smile and glanced to where Wrathion touched him; then, he moved a bit closer and reached with his own hand, he padded around blindly before getting both their members in his grip. He'd always sort of wondered what that would feel like.
Now he had Wrathion's attention, and then there began a mutual effort between them to find the best position for that sort of thing; "Get on your side," Wrathion whispered, "Like— facing me— like that— and now I should also— okay, now move a bit closer—"
Anduin laughed softly, because by then they'd got awfully close, and had got into a very awkward tangle— but that was all right— he kind of liked that—
"Now we have to— all right, give me your hand—"
They regarded each other with curious smiles when Anduin got Wrathion's hand on both their members again; "That's a bit better," he said, and then came another minor struggle while Wrathion tried to unravel his leg out of where Anduin's knee was still on him.
After that, though, they'd gone quiet for some moments while they tried to figure out what they thought of it; "That feels nice," Wrathion said, his voice came a bit breathless. But they'd only remained timid and shy for a brief while longer, and soon they were pressing their hips on each other without shame; they both thought of it, of what it would be like if instead of this— instead of pressing their cocks together, what if they were to really do it—
—was there anything really stopping them from trying...?
Would it be too soon? Did it still count as too soon if they both wanted to?
But, in the end, what it came to was that they each were too afraid to ask— because even though both of them wanted to, they each knew that if they'd ask and the other didn't fancy it, it could make everything feel weird afterward.
So, instead of asking about actual sex, they kept going like this, with their hands slick and messy on each other, and it was Anduin who came first— he moved against Wrathion a few final times with his head tightly pressed to the crook of his neck, and came just like that, without regard or consideration for anything else at all.
"You're finished?" Wrathion asked, "Already?"
He could feel the hot liquid slick down both their hands, and against his own member.
"Yeah," Anduin replied; he sounded breathy and exhausted. "I'm sorry—"
They'd gone quiet again, and for a moment Anduin thought Wrathion might get upset like last time; he added hurriedly, "Just— give me a second— I'll catch my breath and then I'll do it to you— you know— like up on the cliff—"
But Wrathion didn't say anything in response; very slowly, he released the hold he had on them and proceeded to bring his hand to where he could get a better look. He observed the fluid trail in glistening rivulets between his fingers and farther down along his palm; Anduin watched breathlessly while Wrathion brought his fingers to his own mouth and tentatively lapped at them.
Just a little bit wasn't so bad, Wrathion thought it wasn't quite so horrid as that time at the cavern; Anduin watched him speechlessly, uncertain what to make of it but aware it was somehow really hot. He hesitated for a moment, and then got one hand on Wrathion's wrist, he reached to lick at his fingers, as well; it still tasted gross. It was still the same unpleasant, viscous feel and unpalatable bitter taste, but he'd wanted so much to enjoy it— he wondered if there was any truth to it at all when people said it tasted good.
After that, he regarded Wrathion with his lips still slick and wet, he watched how, despite the taste of it, Wrathion still was lapping it off his fingers— "You make that look so good," he whispered, and then leaned forth to seize his mouth, he kissed him with the wet digits still pressed on both their lips; "Come on," he said, "I'll finish you off—"
He'd begun to maneuver himself when Wrathion placed one hand on his shoulder to get his attention; he said, "Do it to me and I'll do it to you at the same time."
Anduin paused and tried to be sure he understood what he'd meant; "What, like—"
"Yeah— just— get on me like this—"
Wrathion turned unto his back and then began indicating with his hands midair; "Right, and now you— like— get over me, and turn around—"
Anduin laughed timidly where he'd been partway to arranging himself; it was somehow embarrassing, but, like many young people, he'd been very curious to try this out.
"If someone walks in, this would look so bad," he whispered while carefully maneuvering his limbs into place; "What," Wrathion asked, "You mean like Jaina?"
"Oh my Light, shut up—"
"Anduin Llane Wrynn! " Wrathion imitated Jaina in a shrill tone, "What are you doing with that dragon!"
"That's it— so gonna smite you right now—"
But whatever he might have said next never came, because that was when Wrathion took him in his mouth— he took him after Anduin had already been completely spent from before and still slick all over, he still felt overly sensitive.
He hung his head in defeat and swore silently, and thought maybe he'd wait to smite him until later.
(On to Chapter 28)
Anduin had very much intended to take care of Wrathion the way he'd taken care of him, because he didn't want him to get upset like last time— but he found it was increasingly difficult to focus while Wrathion was having at him like that; in the end, he remained with his head lain just at his thigh, one hand round his cock and his lips pressed to it loosely, where it partly stifled his voice.
He'd just been so sensitive after climax, and Wrathion hadn't let him alone, he was lapping the slick fluid from his spent member like he were trying to clean him off— at times, the sensation had got so intense Anduin wanted to ask him to stop, but he held himself back deliberately, like he wanted to see how much he could take.
There was something terribly obscene about it, about the way he was positioned above him with his behind directly in his face— but somehow that got him all the more aroused.
He swore and muttered all manner of profanities very unbefitting a young priest, they came incoherent and muffled against the flesh of Wrathion's cock; he was vaguely aware that Wrathion actually liked seeing him this way.
He'd tried several times to get his member in his mouth, but never exactly got it in for very long before it would slip out again with his own loss of control, it slid wetly across his face and got him messy all over; this is bad, he thought, he imagined that any moment Wrathion would chastise him again, but he couldn't bring himself to tell him to stop just so he could concentrate.
On his back beneath him, Wrathion had both hands up on Anduin's thighs, he'd got completely slick around his lips and chin while cleaning him off; he'd reached up to lick at him and had got as much of him as he could in his mouth before he'd emerge from it gasping for breath. He wasn't certain why, but somehow this had really got him hot, seeing Anduin this way— his fingers moved slowly on the wet surface of his member, where already he'd got him mostly hard again.
Then, he reached up and had a taste of his entrance, it came tentative at first and had Anduin stiffen all at once, he'd not expected it would feel so good—
"What are you doing—" Anduin muttered, but then Wrathion freaking did it again; "Wait— Wrathion, stop— oh, fucking hell— I'll smite you— I'll bloody smite you—"
The words came breathless and strained while despite himself Anduin pressed backward against him, his fingers tightened hard on Wrathion's thigh and he thought at that moment he hated him thoroughly; Wrathion didn't even need to say anything or make any clever remarks, it became plainly obvious that Anduin loved every bit of this.
He'd resigned to just let him do it after some time, even when Wrathion had got loud and profane with his tongue in him like that, the way he lapped at him like he were utterly starved; he'd not realized how vocal he, himself, had become until finally Wrathion told him to keep down his voice.
"Take me in your mouth," Wrathion said hoarsely, "So you can't talk."
It did help a little when Anduin went for it, he'd tried to remember to keep his cock firmly between his lips as not to get too loud, though he'd still lose his focus at times; he could feel it slick with fluid on his tongue, the liquid glistened past his lips and streamed down to his chin until he was a filthy mess— but at least it kept him quiet.
When finally Wrathion withdrew, Anduin nearly swore at him for it, he got his member out of his mouth and turned around partway to see what the deal was; Wrathion tossed his head breathlessly on his pillow, when he'd released him glistening streamlets lingered from his lips to the slick perineum, and he reached absently to trace the wet opening after the fact.
"This looks so good," he said softly, it came unexpectedly tender, like it were the most innocent thing— and, unexpectedly, Anduin felt it was flattering somehow.
"Kiss me," Wrathion said, and while Anduin found himself a bit disappointed that he'd stopped, he felt nevertheless he wanted to kiss him really bad; he proceeded carefully to maneuver his limbs from over his body, and then turned to face him. The kiss came clumsy and experimental, they laughed a little when they'd sort of missed and finally Anduin pulled Wrathion in a bit closer with one hand; "Come here," he grinned, "Light, you're such a mess—"
Wrathion laughed, too, while kissing him back; "Yeah?" he asked, he seized his mouth harder; they kissed deeply for some moments, and then Wrathion said, "You know— doing this to you— it made me think—"
Anduin felt his pulse quicken, because he'd been thinking the same thing; he held back from speaking, though, in case he were dreadfully wrong, and would only embarrass himself.
"Earlier this evening," Wrathion said, "seeing you dressed like that—"
Anduin smiled sheepishly; "What," he laughed, "That— the way Azshara's stylists had me done?"
"Yeah," Wrathion grinned; his eyes darted over Anduin's face, and while he was a little embarrassed, he clearly liked telling him about this. "Dressed, I guess— more like—"
"More like undressed," Anduin snickered; they laughed at the plain truth of it, and then Wrathion said outright, "Exactly...! That was— I didn't even know if you were wearing anything at all— were you just—"
"Just naked?" Anduin asked, and then shyly shook his head; "Not completely, no; but just nearly, bloody hell—"
They regarded each other with knowing, boyish smiles, and finally Wrathion said, "It looked really good, though. I mean— really good."
Anduin could feel his face go hot; he'd not really been told he'd looked really good before, not in an intimate or romantic sense. For the first time, he'd really felt physically desirable.
"Aw, come on," he laughed softly, "It's just a ruse, because of tomorrow—"
"Yeah," Wrathion replied, after that he seemed to go deep in thought; he grew serious for a moment.
"You know what Azshara had said—" he started; "about how— the high priestess won't be able to resist you like that—"
"Yeah," Anduin replied, "that's the plan— kind of weird, but— I'm not afraid of going through with it."
"Yeah," Wrathion spoke after a silence; he sounded weirdly introspective again.
"Do you think you'll have to—" he paused, and then regarded Anduin for a bit and tried again; "You think you'll be made to— you know— sleep with her—?"
Anduin was on the verge of reply, but whatever he might have said died at his throat; it occurred to him he'd been about to deny that completely, but then he remembered what Jaina had said— that this was obviously some sexual thing.
"Well—" he stammered, "I— I honestly don't know—"
Wrathion huffed at that; "You don't know? How can you not know?"
"How would I know? It's not like I've ever— I've never had to do something like that—"
Wrathion regarded him dryly, like that wasn't really the answer he'd been after. "You'd be shit at it, you know," he said, "You wouldn't know the first thing about it."
There he was, being a jerk again, for absolutely no reason.
Anduin's face soured, he felt genuinely hurt; "Yeah, well—" he said, "Thanks for reminding me of how inexperienced I am— sorry I haven't had loads of practice like Krasus—"
"Oh!" Wrathion huffed, "So now it's back to that, is it!"
"Back to what? Back to how you tried to proposition the queen's consort for sex?"
"Oh! Oh, that's brilliant, coming out of you— when you're about to sleep with the high priestess like tomorrow—"
"I didn't say I'm going to sleep with her! I said I don't know if it'll come to that!"
"Well that makes it totally different, then, doesn't it? In that case, that makes it all okay...!"
"What in the hell is wrong with you? In case you've forgotten, I have to do this because of the Dragon Soul—"
"Oh, well, of course! How stupid of me! I guess in that case you've got a perfectly understandable reason to sleep with anything that moves...!"
"Sleep with anything that moves? What are you on about? Who says I'm sleeping with anything that moves?!"
"Well you are, aren't you? What about earlier, when Aethas got his paws all over your ass—"
"That wasn't my fault! That was just because of the way I was dressed, you said so, yourself— it's irresistible—"
"Oh, well that's just fucking perfect! That explains everything! I can't wait to see every priestess in Ashenvale bang you because the way you're dressed is irresistible!"
"Every priestess in Ashenvale isn't going to bang me—" Anduin whisper-shouted back; "Just the high priestess—"
He'd not realized what he'd said until the words were irreversibly out in the open; and at that point, he tried rapidly to reword and explain. "If that's even going to happen, which no one said for sure it would—"
At that, Wrathion's entire face contorted with rage; "To hell with you—" he huffed, "Go back to your guest room, why did you even come in here? Well, don't expect anything to come of your meeting tomorrow, because you're shite in bed and you wouldn't know the first thing about sleeping with a woman—"
"Oh, and like you do? Like you have all this experience—"
"Well that doesn't matter, though, does it? Seeing as I won't have to sleep with the high priestess to get on her good side, will I?"
"Yeah, good thing, that— considering how shite you are at trying to convince anyone to sleep with you in the first place, if Krasus is any indication—"
"Right, you're one to talk— you had to have like twenty stylists working on you to make you even remotely doable—"
"It worked, didn't it? You said so, yourself—"
"Well, I take it all back— I must have had my head up my arse, because clearly you're an idiot, and I wouldn't sleep with you even if I was paid to do it—"
Anduin was on the verge of some other venomous reply, but had stopped just short of speaking when Wrathion's words registered; had he really considered sleeping with him...?
He watched him for some moments, and became gradually aware that he might finally, finally have been rid of his accursed virginity that night, with Wrathion, and that it would have been that simple.
"Wait—" he said slowly, "What do you mean— sleep with me—"
He'd nearly forgot his temper from just a short while before, and wondered what path he might now take to possibly get Wrathion to do it; Wrathion regarded him suspiciously, like he hadn't expected that to be his response.
"Nothing, obviously," he huffed; but even despite his own anger, he, too, became aware they were on to a topic which was greatly relevant to his interests. He'd thought to say something nasty about Anduin's earlier accusations regarding Krasus, or maybe to repeat his bit about how he wouldn't sleep with him even if he'd been paid—
—but he couldn't quite bring himself to start on these things now, that there was a chance Anduin might actually want to sleep with him for real.
They observed each other in silence while he tried to figure out the right way to finish what he'd said; "That is—" he started tentatively, "Nothing— unless— there's something you were gonna say about that—"
"Ah—" Anduin stammered; "well— all I was gonna say... is... I mean... since you brought it up— and—"
"And— I'm just saying— since now— you know— since we're— on the subject—"
"I— didn't really mean— you know, what I said before— the part about how you're, like— shite in bed—"
Anduin went silent; he'd lost his nerve again and went shy.
"No," Wrathion tried again; "what I mean is— I mean I didn't mean that— I meant— that maybe if you had a little more experience—"
He was only making things worse; he could see Anduin's face slowly start to twist in anger.
"No!" he said, "No, listen— that came out wrong; what I meant was— if you wanted— I mean— we— you and I could— I just think it would be good in terms of experience if—"
Anduin's pulse had gone unnervingly fast; he was almost certain Wrathion was about to ask if they could do it. Like, actually do it...!
"If— forget it. It was stupid, never mind."
"No! No, what were you gonna say?"
Wrathion regarded him uneasily; he tried as best he could to read his face, and really didn't want to be horribly denied in case he'd said the wrong thing. "I— was just gonna say— I mean— if tomorrow is so important— then— technically, I could help you— you know— prepare— for that—"
Anduin's heart hammered in his ears; "Are you—" he murmured slowly, and felt his throat completely dry; "Are you saying— we could—"
For some moments, Wrathion merely gazed up at him, but what courage he'd hoped for never came; "Well— " he said, "—if— you want to...?"
It came very soft, because he was genuinely afraid of the rejection that might follow.
"I—" Anduin replied, "that is— do you want to?"
"Just— if you think it would help— for tomorrow— I mean, you said so, yourself—"
They'd both deliberately avoided speaking of the fact that practicing on each other wouldn't quite get Anduin ready for sleeping with a woman, because neither of them wanted to ruin it.
"Yeah—" Anduin nodded slowly, "Yeah, okay— you're right— it's like you said, I don't want her to think I'm awful at it—"
"Exactly— I'm just saying this because you want to be prepared for the worst— so— don't think that— like— there's no good reason—"
"No, exactly, I totally agree— that's actually a really good point— so that would actually really help me, to be honest—"
"Yeah, okay—" Wrathion said, and now he finally smiled; "Okay, so let's do that."
"Okay," Anduin smiled, too; "Okay, cool. Yeah, that's cool."
(On to Chapter 29)
"Okay, so— how do you wanna do this? You wanna lie on your back, or you wanna go— like— on all fours— and I'll, like—"
"I think you should go on all fours, that's way hotter—"
"Wrathion— wait; I'm not— you're the one who's on the bottom—"
"Uh— no I'm not."
"Well," Anduin said, "I'm not gonna be on the bottom— that's ridiculous—"
"Well, how did you think we were gonna do this?!"
"Obviously— I thought I was gonna— you know— like—"
"You thought you were gonna put it in me?! Don't be stupid—"
"Well— why would I just— well, that's just dumb—"
They regarded each other irritably; they each were convinced that the other ought to have worked this out by then; "Look," Anduin huffed, "If I'm gonna end up in this situation with— like— the high priestess—"
"What— you thought you were gonna be on top of her or something? Clueless little you? She would obviously be on top, which is why I—"
"Yeah, but— I'm the one with the cock— so—"
"Yeah, and so am I! You see? What do you call this? That's right— have a good look—"
Wrathion began thrusting a bit while helpfully pointing at his member to demonstrate.
Anduin did have a good look, and for several moments he'd forgot quite what he had planned to say next; "Stop that," he finally said. "Well, I won't learn anything if I don't do the— you know— the dicking—"
"You won't learn anything from being on top either— you're meant to— like— to please— remember—"
"Fine. Know what? I'll lie on my back, then— like this— and do the dicking from the bottom—"
"No? Why the hell not?!"
"Because— you're a mortal— and you don't know anything— so I have to be the one doing the dicking—"
"The hell? That doesn't even make sense—"
"Do not— like— meddle— in the affairs of dragons—"
"How the hell is this the affair of dragons— this is my affair— an affair of mortals—"
"Just— just get— on your—"
A brief wrestling match ensued, complete with threats on Anduin's part to call down holy fire and Wrathion threatening in turn to singe him to a crisp; they regarded one another moodily when neither had won, and finally Wrathion said, "We're gonna end up not having sex, and it's all because of you."
"Because of me?! How is this because of me?! You're the one— who— you're all like—"
"Okay! Okay— know what— fine. We take turns."
They both took a moment to consider if this might work.
"Okay—" Anduin finally said. "But I go first."
"Light damn it, Wrathion! I don't trust you— you'll be all, 'I go first,' and then afterward you'll be like, 'and that's all the sex we're having.'"
"I would not say that."
He was totally planning on saying something like that.
"Yeah you will— I can totally see it— then you'll probably try to get another turn doing the dicking again—"
"Look at this— look—" Wrathion helpfully pointed to his cock again, just in case Anduin may somehow have missed it the first time; "Can you honestly say that you don't want this inside you—"
"Wh— what— no! And I could say the same thing— I could say— don't you— like— want— I mean—"
Somehow, though, Anduin had got too shy to point at himself that same way; he'd started laughing despite himself. "Light, you look so stupid when you do that," he snickered, then comically pointed to his own cock. "I'm Wrathion," he said, "and you want this inside you—"
"Shut up, I don't sound like that—"
Now Anduin began comically thrusting at the air and moving his hips all around; "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons— and here's the affairs of dragons— right here— I'm Wrathion— have you got a good viewing angle?" He pointed at his cock even more blatantly; by then, they both were snickering so much they had to remember to be more quiet, but they'd effectively overcome any hesitation they'd felt.
"Let me do it just this once," Wrathion tried to negotiate, now they were back to kissing, he'd tried to appeal in his gentlest tones; "and I promise, after that, next time you can do it to me— and also I'll give you head again—"
That last bit did sound tempting; Anduin observed him suspiciously. "Well..." he said uncertainly, "But— you can't suddenly take it back— you can't say— like— you changed your mind or whatever—"
"No, for sure— I promise I won't—"
"And you can't be all— like— you can't have some reason suddenly—"
"No, I really will— next time you can totally do the dicking."
Anduin glanced at him like he were trying to assess him for bullshit, like he still wasn't sure if he was somehow being tricked; "Okay—" he finally said, and before Wrathion's eyes completely lit up with enthusiasm, he added, "But just this once— and— you can't forfeit— and only because you said you're also giving me head—"
"Yeah, definitely, for sure— now can you, like— can you get on all fours—"
"What— I don't want— we're not supposed—"
"Trust me, I'm an expert— I had this book with adult pictures— it was really hardcore—"
"You had an adult book?!"
"Shh— would you keep it down? Yeah— I know exactly what to do—"
"When the hell did you get an adult book?!"
"Had one back at Spires of Arak—"
"At Spires of— with what? With, like— arakkoa?"
"Ara— wh— no! No! With dragons, obviously! Titans, what do you take me for—"
"Where in the hell did you get—"
"From some orcs— can you just turn around—"
"Can I see it—"
"I don't have it with me— just— can you—"
Anduin felt awfully stupid being turned around on all fours this way; he regarded Wrathion uneasily from over one shoulder and said, "I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to lie on my back."
"Trust me, I saw this in the adult book— it's way hotter like this—"
"This isn't hot, I feel stupid."
"You are stupid."
"That's it— I'm not doing this—"
"Sorry! Sorry, fine; we'll do it however you want."
Anduin watched him suspiciously, and then gradually began turning around; then Wrathion absently added, "But it's way hotter the other way, just saying."
"Well— I don't care."
"Okay— okay, sorry."
Wrathion got him turned around, and then they looked at each other stupidly in the darkness; "Right," Wrathion said, he examined Anduin like he were trying to figure the logistics out in his mind.
"Well— so now I would need to—"
He reached for the underside of Anduin's knees and began lifting them up and toward his chest.
"What the— what are you doing—" Anduin huffed, he rapidly slapped Wrathion's hands away.
"What's it look like I'm doing— I'm getting you in a proper position to get my cock in—"
"You can't just— you're meant to— oh, fuck it, I don't wanna do this—"
"No, tell me— what's wrong?"
"Bloody hell— well, you can't just put it in—"
"Why the hell not?!"
"Because!" Anduin gave him a complete duh look; "You're meant to use something on your cock— like— lubricant—"
"Well, where in the hell am I gonna get that?!"
"I don't know!"
"Didn't you think this through ahead of time!"
"Would you piss off— well, hasn't she got some bath oils in here somewhere?"
Some minutes later, they were back on the bed with a vial of scented bath oils, which to Wrathion's draconic senses smelled absolutely horrid— but he didn't care, because he wanted to get to the sex already.
"Didn't your adult book say anything about that?!" Anduin asked while he watched Wrathion tentatively get the oil on his member.
"No. It obviously didn't, because I've practically memorized that book from cover to cover, and I would definitely have noticed something like that."
"Was it really with dragons?"
"Would you shut up about that!"
"What are— what are you doing—"
"What's it look like I'm doing?!"
"Would you stop with my legs—"
"You were the one who wanted to lie on your back— I said to get on all fours, but you—"
"Pretty sure you're not meant to bend me like that—"
"How do you know so much about it?"
"Who doesn't know?!"
"You, obviously— since you should be moaning in pleasure around now—"
"Moaning in pleasure from what? From the way you've got my legs bent?"
"Very talkative tonight, aren't you? I can't concentrate with all this— like— this pressure—"
"Oh, just— would you— oh, I'll do it—"
Anduin went on to feel blindly for Wrathion's member; it was terribly slick with the oil, which wasn't particularly pleasant. The whole thing felt like a visit to the medic's, and not like something intimate or hot.
"Can't believe I'm doing this," Anduin mumbled while he tried to bring it toward his entrance; "Scoot forward a bit— it doesn't reach—"
"Bit more— I think— you're meant to—"
Now finally Wrathion went a bit quiet, because feeling the small entrance just against the slick insistence of his tip really was kind of nice; he tried to glance down but couldn't see anything from that angle.
"That's actually kind of good," he said honestly, and Anduin glanced up like he hadn't expected to hear that; it was somehow curiously flattering— something like how he'd felt unexpectedly flattered the other day to hear Wrathion say he'd liked the way he gave him head.
"Wh— really?" he asked, and Wrathion nodded, he was trying to get a better hold of his legs; "Can I go in?" he asked, and Anduin paused to give that some thought.
"Wait," he said; "I don't know—"
"But just think— if you let me go in, then we wouldn't be virgins anymore."
"This isn't exactly how I pictured losing it— I pictured myself being the one with my cock inside someone—"
"Which, I told you, I'll totally let you do later—"
"Can't believe I let you talk me into this."
"Oh, stop— this isn't so bad— you have to like it at least a little— I mean— I do have a pretty nice dick—"
"What's that got to do— I just— if it's so nice, then why don't you let me do it to you—"
"I told you, I will!"
They paused and inspected each other indignantly.
"So—" Wrathion started again; "So can I put it in then?"
"Fine. But— slowly."
"Really slowly, I promise—"
He really did start moving in very slowly; it didn't exactly hurt, but it didn't feel good, either; it just felt sort of uncomfortable and weird, with the oil slick everywhere and the strained position he'd got Anduin in. It felt too tight.
"Okay— okay, stop."
Wrathion paused dutifully, with just the head barely inside; but that didn't matter, because that counted as sex, and now they had both had sex. He regarded Anduin like he'd be willing to do anything if only he'd let him go on.
"This feels weird," Anduin said.
"No, it feels really good— it feels great— just like how everyone always says—"
"Yeah— it's brilliant—"
"How— how far in are you?" Anduin tried to tilt himself to see, but obviously he couldn't.
"Just the head."
"Just the— oh, and it feels like too much already—"
"Oh, come on—"
"Well, let me try it—"
"No, this is still my turn!"
In the end Anduin asked him to stop, but that had been good enough— because there they'd finally had sex.
The first rays of morning sunlight washed warmly into the room, they painted oblong shapes on the opposite wall; through his still-closed eyes Anduin could see vaguely the bright amorphous shapes in his visual field. He'd forgot at first that he wasn't still at his bedchamber in Stormwind Keep, and that he wasn't about to head down to the cathedral for his morning prayers. Then, he remembered.
Last night, he and Wrathion had sex.
They'd really had sex, and it was the single best thing he'd done in his entire life.
He opened his eyes and watched Wrathion's sleeping form, he was curled under his blankets with only his long, dark hair visible messily beneath the covers; all around, the blankets were silken and soft, exceptionally luxuriant— and now in the daylight he could see in detail the exacting attention with which every item of furniture was constructed.
The bed frame matched the end tables, and the end tables matched the curtains, and the curtains matched the carpets, and even the arcane crystals affixed to the walls matched everything else; one thing, however, which drew Anduin's attention when he'd finally realized, was that there was clear sunlight, there in Ashenvale.
The times he had visited Ashenvale before it was shrouded in a nearly perpetual state of twilight, where moondust and softly-glowing shrubs had lit the forest and its roads; Anduin sat slowly in bed and gazed out the window, where there really was daylight all around. Maybe here in Zin-Azshari things were a little different; Azshara hadn't piously worshipped the moon goddess, after all.
But he'd not invested much thought on these things; there were much more important matters at hand, like the fact that he and Wrathion had had sex.
Anduin grinned down at his lover contentedly, and then nudged his shoulder in order to wake him up.
"Remember the sex?" He asked in a show of unprecedented tact.
For some moments Wrathion didn't respond; then his eyes twitched and his mouth stretched slowly in a carnivorous smile.
"Ah, yes..." he said with an air of deep philosophical introspection; "the sex..."
He turned to Anduin knowingly and grinned even more, and they took some moments to laugh at how dirty they were.
"Remember when I had my cock in you?" Wrathion asked, as if there was any way in hell that Anduin would ever forget; and Anduin was very glad for this particular question, because it was very relevant to his immediate interests at the moment.
"Yeah, but next time we're switching— don't forget—"
"Yeah, don't worry— but remember how I had mine in you? When I was doing you—"
Never before had Wrathion felt such an encompassing sense of achievement.
"Think we woke up the entire castle?"
"Probably, with all the sex..."
"They probably couldn't sleep, we were pretty wild."
"That's right— we came here from the future, and then had sex in their castle."
"Well— we had best go for a bath, because you need one after you have sex."
They still were on about this when there came a knock at the door; then Jaina's voice came, and she called Anduin's name like she'd totally just heard his voice in there and there was nowhere to hide.
"Crap," Anduin stiffened straight away; he pulled the covers higher along his naked chest and called to the door, "Tell her I'm not here...!"
About three seconds had passed before he realized that he'd called out what he had meant to whisper to Wrathion subtly; and around then Jaina opened the door and cast a stare at him directly, which felt to Anduin almost lethal in its potency.
"This isn't what it looks like...!" He squeaked, and Wrathion tried badly to scramble in the other direction— but he managed only to get even more tangled in his blankets instead.
"Yeah...!" he stammered, "We weren't having sex!"
But it was almost like Jaina had completely missed the sex bit, and even the fact that the two of them were in bed together, naked; she merely pointed one hand out the door and shouted at Anduin, "Why aren't you in there watching Kael'thas...!"
At this Anduin's eyes went completely wide; he stared back like a deer in headlights.
"Kael'thas," he muttered, "fuck...!"
He started scrambling out of bed and padded around for his clothes, while still trying badly to conceal himself with the blankets— which didn't exactly work; he could hear Jaina start trotting down the corridor in the direction of the other guest room, he was still awkwardly pulling on his trousers while he started running out after her.
Behind him Wrathion was rapidly hopping into his pants, he'd been about to run out of the room and after his lover when he caught sight of the tiny whelp, who was still peacefully curled at a distant corner of the mattress.
He paused for a moment and frowned, uncertain how after all the sex, and then that morning's commotion, she still hadn't woken up; "Well-behaved little whelp, aren't you?" he asked, and it occurred to him that he ought not leave her alone in the room. Truth was, he'd completely forgotten about her, and now it felt kind of awkward that she had been there.
Very carefully he leaned over the bed and lifted her gently in his arms, unaccustomed to carrying such a tiny baby whelp; she was terribly delicate and fragile, and the purple markings on her wings glittered a bit in the morning light.
He'd stepped out into the hall just in time to catch Jaina and Anduin vanishing into a distant guest room, where Jaina had busted in breathlessly, like she'd been running; two strides into the room she stopped in place with Anduin at her heels.
At the bed before them was a tangle of limbs of which she couldn't quite make sense, and when she'd begun to grasp just what she was looking at, she went completely red all at once; she could see every part of Kael'thas, and almost every part of Illidan.
"Oh, fucking fuck—" she stammered; "— Anduin— come on— let's go—"
She'd got both hands over his eyes and started to shove him out of the room, but then unintentionally pushed him into Wrathion, who'd just begun walking in.
"Ow!" Wrathion cried, and finally the whelp in his arms had woken up; she'd begun struggling like she wanted to climb out and fly off, and Wrathion tried badly to keep her restrained.
"Aunt Jaina," Anduin muttered, "Quit shoving me— thought you wanted me to go in that room—"
He'd barely finished his words when Jaina gave a very adamant No.
Was that Illidan in there with Kael'thas? Were they...
Thinking of it made her flush like a schoolgirl, because it was so fucking hot; after Anduin had peeled her hands away from his eyes, she had absently got one hand on her mouth and began staring absently at the crystals suspended on the wall.
What were they doing in there? Was it dangerous that they'd got together— what if— what if they were scheming— and plotting— but that was Illidan from a much earlier time, before all the demon stuff...
And they were both naked. So bloody naked...
Finally she'd managed to get a hold of herself.
"Anduin," she announced to him in whisper-shouts, "You are so freaking grounded—"
"Yeah, Anduin," Wrathion chimed in, "well done." He was still struggling to keep the whelp restrained.
At this Anduin huffed incredulously, he stared at Wrathion like he seriously couldn't believe this shit.
"Oh!" he sputtered, "Just brilliant, isn't it! Side with her, would you!"
But he couldn't get much more out before Jaina had begun to lecture him proper; "If you'd been in there and guarding him like you were supposed to, this wouldn't— he wouldn't— they— that—"
"Me! " Anduin whisper-yelled back, "It's got nothing to do with me! Those two were at it with me right there in the room! I had nothing to do with it!"
He'd not realized what he'd said or how it sounded till after he spoke— and then it took some moments for the words to process before Jaina began to stare back; "What?!" she cried, and now Anduin remembered he'd actually intended to talk to Jaina about that bit, too.
"I— I meant to tell you," he said, "They were saying all this weird stuff—"
"What kind of weird stuff?! When were you thinking of telling me all this?!"
"Good job, Anduin," Wrathion added for good measure; "Now anything they plot is basically on you."
"Oh, would you shut up—"
It was around then that Jaina had grasped the full weight of something else to which she'd been witness that morning; she scowled in a moment of sudden recollection.
"And what in the hell were you lot doing in bed together? Oh, fuck it, Anduin, I can't believe you just neglected your duty to watch Kael'thas so that you could go and snog Wrathion all night—"
"More than snog," Wrathion corrected her helpfully; "We had sex."
Jaina's voice reverberated with resounding clarity all through the acoustics of the corridor; she'd been visibly charging up for the fury with which Anduin was about to get it when, completely out of nowhere, a green whelp fluttered past her. It just barely grazed her arm before it flapped easily into Kael's guest room, and then it flew back out.
"Who had sex?" the green whelp asked with audible interest, she then flew back into the room and stared directly at Illidan and Kael, like they were the single most fascinating thing she'd ever seen.
"We did," Wrathion said, in case there was anyone around who was not yet aware of the great significance of this; he then helpfully pointed to Anduin, then himself, with the hand that wasn't still fighting to hold the black whelp in place.
"Damn it, Wrathion," Anduin seethed,"would you just shut up?!" At his side Jaina was rapidly approaching her boiling point.
On hearing this the green whelp laughed victoriously, she proceeded to change into the guise of a preteen Kaldorei girl; she pointed one finger at Wrathion and said, "I knew you guys were boyfriends."
"We are," Wrathion confirmed without missing a beat, and now finally Anduin lunged at his throat; "Aunt Jaina is like right there— she's right there—"
"Anduin Llane Wrynn—" Jaina snarled, "you are so— that's it— you are never— allowed— anything— ever again—"
The green whelp— Merithra— had finally taken notice of the baby black whelp in Wrathion's arms; she frowned and reached for it slowly, and then shook her head in disapproval.
"Boy, Onyxia," she murmured, "You're in a lot of trouble now; your father's gonna flip when he finds out you snuck out."
Several seconds passed before the words completely registered; then Jaina froze with her hands still gripping Anduin's throat. The two princes paused with just as much horror, they watched absently while Merithra took the tiny whelp into her arms.
Somewhere in the background Kael'thas walked nakedly past, he yawned a tired good morning on his journey to the baths.
(On to Chapter 30)
For some moments Anduin stared at Merithra blankly, and at the tiny baby whelp in her arms; Onyxia, he thought, and it just didn't quite register. He could not reconcile her innocent and fragile appearance with the villain who'd terrorized him long ago.
At his side, Jaina watched with just as much horror— and even though she knew that this Onyxia wasn't corrupt, it did little to soften her feelings; more importantly, she wondered how it was that she'd found her way here, specifically to them, and if it really was something innocuous.
"Onyxia saw us have sex," Wrathion murmured, and finally Anduin gave him a hard shove.
"Would you shut it?" he seethed; but then he realized Wrathion was right. For all intents and purposes, Onyxia did see them have sex.
Jaina turned her glare to Anduin and whispered, "You and I aren't finished; we're gonna have a long talk later on—"
Somewhere at her side, Merithra mumbled, "Busted..."
"Are you here just to be a nuisance?" Wrathion asked Merithra humorlessly, "Or was there anything you wanted in particular?"
Merithra's eyes narrowed at this, she hated being treated like a kid; "That's none of your business," she huffed indignantly, she wondered how she'd ever thought he was handsome before. "So you can bugger right off; I've come with a message for him."
She pointed at Anduin, and then Wrathion let a dry bark of laughter; "Is that so?" he asked, "What's the message then? That your parents couldn't find you a sitter and you need to be groomed and fed?"
"Very funny," Merithra scowled, she thought she really despised him at that moment; she turned to Anduin like she were ignoring Wrathion altogether and said, "My mother's had a word with Sisterhood officials; I'm meant to tell you that your meeting with the high priestess will take place tonight at seven."
"My meeting..." Anduin murmured weakly, it all suddenly felt much more real; he thought he very much fancied some time alone for his morning meditation.
"I can't even ground him."
Jaina was sat miserably beside Kael at the palace gardens, where earlier Azshara had given her some sort of alcoholic drink in the spirit of consolation; she observed while out on the sunlit lawn Anduin was being instructed in a kind of Darnassian dance lesson. She couldn't even forbid him from doing any of the stuff she knew Varian would completely destroy her for letting him do, because it had all been decided and agreed upon by the dragon aspects, for the benefit of the Dragon Soul.
At the outskirts of the garden the morning light streamed in-between branches of the tall and ancient trees, which had painted them in an almost golden hue; and while the hedges were trimmed meticulously, there still was a curious dreamlike quality to the scene, like the woods were forgotten somewhere in time between Darnassian and Thalassian.
"He is a good dancer, though, isn't he?" Kael'thas remarked in regard to Anduin, even though he appeared a bit awkward in this particular style of dance; Kael laughed despite himself when Anduin had completely messed some bit up, and his instructor had tried repeatedly to demonstrate the proper steps.
"Not funny," Jaina replied; but she was struggling all the while to keep from laughing as well, she felt somehow terribly irresponsible for permitting all this.
"Come on, Jaina," Kael'thas said, before he could get to the next bit already Jaina was imitating him.
"Come on, Jaina," she mimicked; "Seems that's your token phrase, isn't it?"
Kael'thas gave her a good-natured shove; "You know," he said, "Far back as I've known you, you've had this— worried— look on your face—"
Jaina grinned a bit longer before her smile faded; Arthas used to say the same thing. She used to argue that it wasn't a worried look, but that she was just really focused on stuff— but at the end of the day the challenges she had faced through life had left her with a perpetually worried expression all the same.
She took a long sip of her drink and then regarded her glass while she turned it around in her hands, her fingertips absently drew lines in the frost; "After Theramore..." she said, and then she looked out to where Anduin and his dance teacher still were struggling for some semblance of grace; Kael'thas grew quiet at the unspoken mention of Dalaran.
But, unexpectedly, Jaina didn't start on about that; she didn't start about her grief, either, not directly; maybe it was her drink, but she started telling Kael'thas freely about the arcane studies in which she'd immersed herself intensively after Theramore happened.
She started on about portals, of all things; but, secretly, Kael'thas felt pleasantly surprised to see her a bit tipsy, and he found it charming that when Jaina got tipsy, she was on about portals.
Portals, she said, were the real way to combat other sorcerers; not blizzards or frostbolts.
There was truth to it, actually, now that he'd thought of it: portals relied on four-dimensional space, and the way that three-dimensional space could be bent within it. Too many portals could tear a world apart, like what Gul'dan had done on Draenor— a matter which demonstrated how difficult they could be to close, even by the sorcerer who had summoned them.
But Kael knew where this conversation was headed.
They gazed out onto the sunlit gardens, where now a small group of musicians was setting up instruments in hopes of facilitating the efforts invested in teaching Anduin Darnassian dance technique; Kael'thas didn't mind that Jaina was a little tipsy, and so early in the morning, at that— he didn't mind that she seemed surly and upset, and thought that it was terribly endearing, her little campaign against portals.
They were terribly dangerous.
"And just think," he smiled at her subtly; "The moment you turn your back, I could open a portal and summon Kil'jaeden."
Jaina turned her head and regarded him dryly; "Fuck off," she said, "I'm being serious."
"But that is what you were getting at, isn't it?" he asked.
"Yeah, I get it," Jaina said; "I'm overly worried and ridiculous— laugh it up, the only kind of portal that's impossible to close is a demonic one."
Kael'thas thought he would humor her, if this was what she wanted to rant about when she was tipsy after— oh, it was really very sweet— after just one little drink.
"Impossible," he said.
"You know what I mean."
"More than just very difficult— oh, forget it, now you're making fun of me."
Kael's fingers picked absently at stray blades of grass, he thought he'd have liked nothing more than to sit there with her all day; she could talk to him about portals, or demonic magic, or even how much she suspected him of scheming things, and it would be brilliant all the same.
But for some moments she only regarded him blankly; "By the way," she said, "Anduin says you and Illidan were saying all kinds of strange stuff last night— I knew I shouldn't have left you there..."
Kael'thas blinked in surprise; he couldn't help just a little grin. "You want to know about my night with Master?" he asked, and then he was flirting without question; even Jaina couldn't help smiling.
"Piss off," she laughed softly; "You know that's not what I meant— I want to know what you were plotting."
"Yeah," Jaina replied; "You know—" she turned to him humorlessly for a moment. "You— and Illidan—" She waved her fingertips ridiculously and added, "together at last— and probably— scheming all kinds of shit—"
Kael'thas smirked; he sighed good-naturedly and leaned back where he was sat. "All right," he said, like it couldn't be helped; "Guess I can't keep anything from you— I'll tell you what we were scheming."
Already Jaina could detect that bullshit was on its way, but she wanted to see where this was going; she watched while Kael squinted distantly against the sun, there were stray strands of hair batting all around his face.
"I asked him to spank me," he said, "and he didn't really want to— but eventually he did."
Jaina turned to face him more closely, and then shook her head and laughed; "Why did I even bother asking?" she chuckled, but Kael'thas could tell she was into it.
"I'll tell you about it in greater detail if you want," he said, and Jaina became aware he'd got her to smile; "I was serious," she replied. "You bloody tease."
"I was serious, too!"
"You and Illidan got together, and it was just a bunch of spanking."
"Well— I don't know if I'd say just spanking; it was pretty good. You know, I'd—" really missed him.
"Kael'thas, you're not— like— scheming Legion stuff with Illidan, are you?"
"Scheming Legion stuff... well, there's an idea; I know— I'll call him right over, and we can scheme Legion stuff together, just like old times— right?"
"And what reason do I have to believe that you won't be doing that?"
"Jaina— even back when I did serve Illidan he was never allied with the Legion; he had bound demons to his own will, against Kil'jaeden—"
"Yeah, but you—"
"But I what? But I could have taken Master by the hand last night, and headed directly for the Well, so that we could plot Legion stuff together?"
"Oh, forget it."
Kael'thas laughed; his hair batted lightly in the morning breeze and he appeared in that moment very childlike. When he met her gaze there was in his eyes unmistakable fondness: he really loved speaking with her.
"My dear Lady Proudmoore," he said; "it really was just a bunch of spanking."
Wrathion thought that mortal dances were ridiculous, each in its own unique way; he sat in his true form just at the outskirts of the forest, and sent mocking expressions in Anduin's way of a sort that only Anduin could understand.
Anduin knew, of course, that he couldn't very well tell his dance teacher that the dragon just there was making fun of him and that it was hard to concentrate; he had tried to keep his mind off Wrathion and to focus on the lesson, but it had become especially difficult when Wrathion began muttering little things to him the times he'd got near.
"I'm completely naked right now," Wrathion murmured in Common at one point, and soon after that Anduin tripped over his instructor's feet; "Sorry—" he said, and then he tried to apologize more elegantly while he got himself back in position. He shot Wrathion a murderous glare.
Elsewhere in the garden Illidan was seen distantly speaking with Malfurion, they were stood too far off for Kael'thas to hear but he could tell that there was good-natured brotherly taunting; "Look there," he said to Jaina. "Malfurion's here too."
Jaina thought of what she had overheard the night before, between Vashj and Dath'remar; she wondered if Vashj might have charmed Malfurion in some similar way, but she couldn't really think of a reason that she would do such a thing. No matter how she thought of it, whatever transpired that night had sounded very sweet.
She watched Kael'thas rise to his feet ceremoniously, he winked and told her he was going to go scheme with Master for a bit, if she wanted to see; Jaina observed while he made his way toward the two brothers, and though she couldn't hear what they said they seemed to get on well enough. She grinned shyly to remember the very naked way she had found Kael and Illidan earlier that morning, she could see that now Kael was trying to get him to dance.
There came Kael's sudden laughter, like he were surprised by the way Illidan turned him nimbly with one quick motion of his wrist; then Malfurion was laughing too, the lot of them seemed terribly pleased by Kael's reaction— and it occurred to Jaina that dancing must not have been something that Kael had seen Master do.
Illidan must have been better at it than Kael had expected, Malfurion stood with his arms crossed and watched with vast interest while Illidan led the little prince proficiently across the golden lawn.
But it was natural, wasn't it? Illidan had served Azshara at her court, he had probably participated in events that involved dancing and knew that sort of thing well enough; Kael'thas seemed to keep up fine, and Jaina wondered just what it was between them.
He'd never seen Illidan like this, had he?
Somewhere in dreamlike softness, through surreal flecks of summer light a Kaldorei mage led a little prince in dance across the golden wood.
When Maiev's last arrow struck at the Temple's heart, her troops stood in black ruins as ashes floated through the aftermath of war; they watched while from the ruined balcony hundreds of tiny phoenix birds fluttered into the sky, in a glittering trail that dissipated out of existence.
Now even Anduin and his teacher had stopped in order to watch, Anduin leaned back against Wrathion, who was lain in the grass in his true form; Malfurion shouted cheekily to his brother about all of his mistakes in technique, in a way that made Jaina think of her childhood with Calia, Arthas, and Varian. On looking up she noticed that even Azshara was stood at one of the palace balconies, she was watching with visible enjoyment and laughing girlishly with Lady Vashj.
None of them, it seemed, had paid much attention to the red drake who descended gently into the gardens from just behind the castle, whose golden decorative chains shimmered in the morning light.
(On to Chapter 31)
A large shadow swept fluidly through the palace gardens while the red drake made his descent, now finally glances began to turn skyward; up on the balcony Azshara convened with Vashj when she recognized the dragon queen's youngest consort.
In his true form Korialstrasz was adorned with glittering decorative chains traditional for his position, he'd made his way toward Jaina and then gently bowed his head. "Lady Proudmoore," he said, he had recognized her from their meeting at Neltharion's lair previously; "I've been sent on request of the queen in regard to the mortal boy under your guard, I've been asked to lend my talents to his benefit."
He proceeded to change to his mortal guise, where Jaina now recognized him immediately; as on the previous day, he'd taken the familiar form of a high elf, thousands of years before high elves came to be. It was a curious matter of draconic decisions, which the night before had many Kaldorei elves assume that Kael'thas, himself, must be a dragon in disguise.
As on the previous day, in his mortal form Krasus was stood almost completely naked, with only the ornamental chains lining his ankles and wrists, and some of his more alluring parts; on his behind was the draconic inscription, Property of the Queen.
Some distance away near the edge of the forest Wrathion watched suspiciously, he'd tried to figure out whether in his true form Krasus was any larger or more majestic than himself; he was relatively certain that he personally had looked far more impressive. And though Krasus was merely the queen's consort, while he, Wrathion, was the prince of his own flight, he was after all at an age where things like intimate experience seemed to take on tremendous value.
Anduin's eyes narrowed jealously when he noticed Wrathion check Krasus out, he wondered if he still was thinking of getting with him, even now after all that sex they'd had— and he hadn't expected that Krasus would actually head directly toward them, of his own accord. He'd got one hand possessively on Wrathion's wrist and had already begun to construct mental reprimands for the flirting Wrathion still hadn't done; he'd expected even less that Krasus would actually seek audience with him, and not Wrathion at all.
When he'd reached them Krasus bowed before Wrathion politely enough, and Anduin could've sworn his eyes lingered on him for a while; Anduin, himself, couldn't help inspecting every part of Krasus, with much more scrutiny now than he had the other day.
He was perfect all over, in his mortal guise he was blatantly well-endowed, an attribute which ascertained without doubt his function and role to the queen; Anduin imagined that, most likely, in his true form as well he must possess whatever draconic traits there were which would make him ideal for such a purpose.
He felt certain that those sorts of draconic things would appeal to Wrathion even more than anything about his mortal form would.
I have nothing on him, he thought; Krasus pretty much existed for the express purpose of sex.
But beyond his greeting to Wrathion, it was Anduin whom Krasus addressed; he proceeded completely straight-faced to inform him he'd come on request of her Majesty the dragon queen, to have him prepared for the High Priestess intimately— for the likely occasion that Anduin would be called upon in such a manner.
For some moments the full meaning of his words had sunk in, and Anduin had been about to ask how exactly Krasus intended to have him readied when suddenly Wrathion spoke up.
"No," he said conclusively, "Absolutely not."
Some distance away on the lawn Malfurion and Illidan squinted against the morning sunlight, Illidan still had Kael partway through a turn when Malfurion asked what exactly the red dragon had come for; "I don't know," Illidan shook his head. He finished the turn and proficiently swung Kael'thas into his other arm; "apparently that boy isn't prepared for something, and the dragon had come to get him prepared."
After Wrathion had made his stance on the matter clear Anduin gave him a subtle and irritated shove; "What the hell?" he whispered, "Stop it, I wanna hear what he has to say."
"What he has to say," Wrathion muttered back, "Is that he wants to get you in bed— and there's no need for that, because I already took care of that last night— and, besides—"
He then turned to Krasus, and his entire face soured while something else occurred to him; "I thought you were property of the queen, Korialstrasz?" he huffed. "Suddenly you can go around sharing your talents with any random mortal?"
"Any random mortal...!" Anduin hissed quietly at his side; somehow this whole conversation had made him feel terribly daft.
Krasus sighed and regarded the lot of them humorlessly, it seemed to Anduin in this moment that he really was checking Wrathion out.
"I am property of the queen," Krasus deadpanned; "I told you, I was sent here at her request."
"Yeah?" Wrathion spoke indignantly; "Well, how do we know that? How do we know you didn't just— come here— because you decided you wanted a piece of mortal ass?"
Now Anduin glared at Wrathion and muttered to him in hushed tones, "Would you shut it? You're being an idiot, you're just upset because of that time he'd turned you down—"
"Oh!" Wrathion huffed back; "You think that's what this is about? Is that what you think? Because I'll have you bloody know he'd missed his chance with me either way! He can't have this now! That's right! Not even if he asked!"
He indicated himself to Anduin briefly, and then went back to directly addressing Krasus; "And know what else?" he asked, he got one hand on Anduin's wrist and then flailed his hand around in Krasus' face. "This mortal doesn't need to be prepared. Because he's prepared already. I've prepared him, last night, in bed, with my own massive endowments."
Which you can't have now, by the way, even if you came and begged.
Anduin snatched his hand away and glared at Wrathion murderously; "What the hell," he whispered, his entire face had gone red.
"With this," Wrathion clarified further, and now with both hands free he helpfully pointed them both to his own massive endowments.
Anduin now had one hand completely over his eyes and had flushed from head to toe; he thought he wanted the ground to just swallow him whole.
"Seriously can't believe you right now," he murmured under his breath.
However, across from them Krasus remained wholly unfazed; he made no acknowledgement of Wrathion's words and merely replied, "Well, that's no good. He needs practice at making use of his own gifts."
That was, of his own massive endowments.
At this all at once Anduin spun toward Wrathion and pointed both hands at him; "Ha!" he cried, "Told you!"
But he flushed again soon after, like he'd realized too late that he'd acted just as childishly as Wrathion had; either way he was pretty embarrassed that his bits and pieces had become such a central topic of conversation.
He turned back to Krasus and tried to explain a bit more civilly; "I told him," he said, "that I should be the one— you know— the one to make use of my— ah— gifts—"
At his side Wrathion stared with his mouth agape, like he just couldn't believe this shit; "Whose side are you on?" he muttered to Anduin. "You're not seriously backing him up?!"
"Well—" Anduin replied, he was now trying as best he could to convene with Wrathion quietly— because his princely upbringing and priestly modesty wouldn't have him inform the whole yard of his intimate escapades from the night before.
But, all the while, his youthful hormones and his age went in direct opposition to this.
"I'm just saying," he whispered; "I told you all along that in order to prepare for this I should be the one doing the—" He gave Krasus a brief glance and then turned to Wrathion again; "—that is, that I should be on the giving end—"
"But that's bollocks!" Wrathion whispered back; "That's utter bollocks...! You're not seriously gonna get in bed with him just to prepare for a night with the Priestess!"
"Why the hell not?" Anduin replied; "You were gonna get in bed with him, weren't you?!"
"That's completely different...!"
"Oh!" Anduin rolled his eyes in a tremendous show of exasperation; "Oh! Oh, that's different now, is it!"
"Yeah! That's a completely different thing!"
"How in the hell is that any different?!"
"Because— you know what— don't try to meddle in the affairs of dragons— you just—"
"Oh, the affairs of dragons! Is that what this is now! Well, I suppose that's just obvious, isn't it! That just makes so much sense! Of course!"
"Yeah! That's what it is!"
"Of course! How stupid of me!"
At their side, Krasus was slowly rubbing his temples; through the course of their argument he'd become all the more aware of how correct the queen really was to assign this duty to him. Judging by Anduin's current attitude, he didn't think he'd last five microseconds at the High Priestess' bedchamber before she threw him out.
He'd let them duke it out for several seconds more before finally he held up one hand and spoke; "If I may interrupt," he said, "this is a matter of great importance, and if I understand correctly, we haven't got much time left."
Opposite him Wrathion remained with his arms crossed and regarded the both of them moodily; he'd have liked to start on about how he, personally, had never wanted Anduin involved in the first place, but all this had changed on the evening before. At that time, he had witnessed personally that the moon goddess had accepted Anduin of her own accord.
He could see there was truth to Krasus' words, and understood well enough there was no easy way for a male priest to appeal his requests, other than by making himself useful in the way which was expected of males.
"I don't like this," he finally said; "Anduin is my boyfriend. If he's going to use his gifts on anyone, it ought to be me."
"He is going to use his gifts for the benefit of the High Priestess, if all goes well tonight," Krasus said.
"I mean apart from that," Wrathion replied; "I'm saying it should be me, and not you."
At their side Anduin felt his pulse hammer in his ears; the words Wrathion spoke so plainly reverberated time and again in his mind, he had sounded so possessive—
He felt smitten, he was thoroughly flattered, and silently looked at Wrathion in disbelief; several moments passed before he realized that, on top of all this, here Wrathion had actually put up a fight just for the opportunity to let him do the dicking.
"My Lord the Black Prince," Krasus said with quiet urgency; "Now is not the time for possessive jealousy— this mortal's talents must be examined, and the matter of having him tested is highly delicate, due to his position as a male priest. Should you like to be in attendance and direct participation while I have him prepared, it is all the same to me; but I was given orders to make certain he is ready for his meeting tonight."
Possessive jealousy, this confirmed it; out the corner of his eye, Anduin watched Wrathion with pent exhilaration, he'd never felt so desirable before. His heart raced inside him, he was suddenly deeply enamored, and wanted to seize Wrathion and snog him stupid.
Suddenly he didn't really mind if Krasus had been in attendance while the two of them—
"Ah—" he said, his voice cracked a little and he tried again; "If I may— I think that might not be such a bad idea."
Both Wrathion and Krasus turned to him then, like they'd completely forgotten he'd been there at all.
"That is—" Anduin continued; "Since Wrathion is my— my boyfriend— and— he did say that this time I'd be the one to do the di— that I'd— well, anyway, I'd like it— if it could be with him."
Very slowly Wrathion turned toward him; now he began blushing as well.
"Yeah," he said, and finally closed his hand in his; he looked at Krasus and continued, "That's right— you can be there— like— to be sure it goes accordingly— but it should be with me."
He nodded conclusively, like here was a decision imparted on the red dragonflight as a whole through direct channels of diplomatic relation.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was aware he'd just consented to— no, passionately insisted on— a proper dicking on part of Anduin.
(On to Chapter 32)
Over the course of the morning Wrathion had come to conclude he'd rather misjudged Krasus; it occurred to him he might not have been a complete idiot, and maybe he did know what he was doing some of the time—
—or maybe it just seemed this way because Krasus had instructed Anduin to give Wrathion head for quite a long while.
And he'd kept close watch on him while he did it, too, and gave little suggestions and tips— not that there had been anything wrong with the way Anduin had done it before, mind, but this time it got even better.
It wasn't the specific mechanics he needed help with, however, because, naturally, that would be different with a woman anyway— but rather the whole way he went about it, which Krasus felt was terribly amateur and crass.
Really, he thought that in this sense both Anduin and Wrathion were awful.
He endured Wrathion's cringeworthy sex talk while Anduin was at it, until finally he'd had enough and asked him to stop; this was meant to be a lesson, and he thought he couldn't stomach any further queries about whether Anduin had liked his enormous member or whether he fancied having it inside him again.
"What can I say?" Wrathion asked, "He loves having me inside him."
Finally Anduin paused and shot him a glare; he said, "We agreed that this time I'm giving it to you."
"But you do love it, don't you?" Wrathion asked, as though he had spent more than about a microsecond actually inside him the night before.
Krasus got one hand on his shoulder and pressed him back down to the sheets; "Stop interfering," he said, "just be quiet."
After this he got his fingers gently on Anduin's head and prompted him to glance up; "When you're with the high priestess, you ought to look at her while you do it," he said, "make it seem like you like it, even if you're tired."
"He does like it," Wrathion's voice came strained, and Krasus warned him again to pipe down; he turned back to Anduin and said, "have your hair down, she'd like the feel of it against her thighs."
He began to undo the tie in his hair, but Anduin stopped him; "The queen's stylists had my hair a certain way," he said, "I think I'm meant to keep it like that—"
He was interrupted when Wrathion's grip came on his wrist with unexpected tenacity, and he noticed then his entire abdomen had gone tight; "Fuck," Wrathion swore, "Keep going, I'm gonna c—"
"Oh, titans' sake," Krasus huffed; "Already?!"
Anduin pulled out long enough to ask, "Already what? Are you gonna finish?"
He could feel Wrathion's claws in his hair, where he'd begun coaxing him to take him back in his mouth; Anduin murmured, "Finally— praise the Light, you were taking ages—"
For several moments, Krasus observed this with mute horror: they were atrocious, the both. He waited while Wrathion finished with a few last cringeworthy words about how he was going to come, and whether Anduin would like that, and whether he wanted it all over him.
Then, just when Krasus had started to wonder if he, himself, had ever been so daft when he was inexperienced, Anduin concluded by wiping repeatedly at his tongue and telling Wrathion how terrible it tasted.
"Kiss me," Wrathion said breathlessly, "Yeah, c'mere—"
While Anduin then proceeded to climb tiredly over him, Krasus murmured weakly to himself, "Why me?" Why was I tasked with somehow trying to transform this hopeless mortal into a proper lover for the High Priestess of Elune...?
He thought back to that time in the cave, just the other day, when Wrathion had tried to ask him for help in exactly this matter— and how, for some moments, he had actually considered it; Wrathion was remarkably handsome, after all, and he had a deceptive way about him that made him appear like he'd be as clever in bed as he was at the negotiation table.
But he was just a young drake, and most young drakes still hadn't got over the novelty of such things; Krasus became aware that both Wrathion and Anduin could use any help they could get.
Neither of them seemed particularly bothered, however, neither had any idea they were terrible; they seemed content in each other's company, to the point where Krasus almost felt bad about intervening.
Except that he had to.
"Right," he said finally, "let's do that again; there's a lot of stuff you're gonna have to do differently..."
Anduin's face fell, he regarded Krasus like he'd just been given some sort of punishment; "Again?" he stammered, "You can't be serious!"
"I already told you," Krasus replied; "You can't act like that— you can't be on about how tiring it was, or about how you don't fancy doing it—"
"But that's bollocks!" Anduin huffed; "My jaw is about to break off— got any water, by the way, still got the taste in my mouth—"
"Yeah, you heard him, Anduin Wrynn," Wrathion smirked; "Go on and get to work, you need loads of practice."
"Would you shut up— where was my glass—"
While he began searching for where he'd left his water Krasus finally got his attention again; he said, "I don't think you're taking this very seriously."
Anduin glanced up from over his drink, he wiped elegantly at his lips and appeared somehow crestfallen; "How do you mean?" he asked, like he hadn't really believed he'd done it that badly.
In response Krasus began listing off all the things he'd done wrong.
"First off," he said, "when you do it tonight— if you do it tonight— she'll undoubtedly take longer than he had— don't give me that look— and no matter how that makes you feel, you can't complain about how your jaw hurts, or how you need to drink afterward— you want to get on her good side."
Anduin wondered whether giving someone head wasn't enough to get on her good side, in and of itself.
He thought it would be humane to let someone stop once they'd got tired, but now he was slowly learning to listen; after all, tonight would be a rare opportunity to try and persuade the High Priestess.
It was just that while he was a very devout and disciplined priest, Anduin was also quite young, quite new to sex, and quite new to having a boyfriend— and, at the end of the day, he was only human.
"All right," he said finally; he turned to Krasus and bravely asked, "Would you mind showing me, then— that is, show me how you do it."
He thought of how jealous he'd felt when Wrathion had propositioned Krasus for sex, and it still got him jealous even now; but it occurred to him that he'd likely learn from watching such a thing, and he wanted to show he was being serious.
So, he resolved himself as best he could and asked anyway.
Krasus raised an eyebrow and regarded the princes, one at a time; he wondered how he ought to proceed. Technically, he'd been ordered to teach Anduin— but would something like this count as part of the lesson...?
He wondered if, considering the gravity of the situation, he ought even give it much thought; in truth, they only had the rest of that one day to get him ready.
"Okay," he said; "We'll do it like that, then."
They spoke of it like Wrathion wasn't even there, like he wasn't propped by his elbows and still fingering his spent anatomy as if he couldn't wait for the next go; Anduin observed him out the corner of his eye and muttered, "Don't look so smug, it's just so I can be ready for tonight."
"Smug?" Wrathion asked with complete innocence, "Me?" He made himself comfortable against the cushions and said, "You're the one who decided what you lot are doing, I'm only here to offer my assistance."
"Yeah, just you wait," Anduin seethed; "You know where this is going, don't you? You're gonna get dicked—"
Another glimpse from Krasus had him stop, however, and then he corrected himself; "That is—" he said through clenched teeth, "I hope you bloody enjoy."
He moved aside so that Krasus could take his place on the sheets, and then mouthed to Wrathion, You're so dead after this.
Leave me, Kael'thas had said; he'd forbid anyone from entering his quarters one night, along the blackened stones on the walls there danced misshapen green shadows, irregular and grotesque.
He'd felt in those moments there were in him no resources left with which to sustain the last burden he'd been dealt, inside him the trauma he'd stifled now threatened desperately to emerge; the temptation to go back to Father or go back to Dalaran became irresistible, but that reality had long been gone.
He'd never properly grieved; he'd walked the waking world half in denial of the weight he had carried, because that was adulthood, wasn't it? A fallen kingdom looked to him now, and a leader couldn't cry.
He missed the luxury of a choice, of the fantasies he'd had of telling his father he didn't really fancy taking the throne; but none of this was new.
After the meeting that night he could practically feel what patchwork defenses remained in him flap desperately into position, in attempt to keep his emotions in check; it occurred to him even now there were great desires in him to go to Master, or go to Lady Vashj, and leave this all in their hands— they were far older and wiser, they would know what to do—
—but not this time.
This particular burden was his alone, and had placed him directly in the line of fire, without anyone older or wiser behind whom to hide.
I know what you're thinking, he had said, but there was no easy way to convey it; this is a matter of utmost importance, it takes precedence even over our—
"Just leave me, just leave; I've had enough for one night."
Out the corner of his eye Kael had watched the green torch lights dance high along the Black Temple walls; he'd just barely made out his own figure while it faded out of existence at the opposite side of the room.
"Rommath; my dear Rommath— let me have a look of you."
"My Liege?" Rommath replied with audible concern, with confusion he'd kept carefully reined while he knelt in his usual show of respect to the prince.
"Ever is my Lord's humble subject—"
"None of that; come here, let me look upon you more closely— oh, you are handsome, I've missed doing this—"
Rommath made no inquiry as to the prince's unusual behavior or the strange way he spoke, like he'd not seen him in ages; the affection between them had been nothing new, but Kael had seldom lavished him with this much of it when he was sober.
But it became impossible to hold back, soon Rommath had got to work unraveling Kael'thas' robes until they had rippled softly to the floor, and afterward he paused to have a reverent look of him; he fell to his knees again and began softly to kiss his ankles and legs, and every bit of him, he caressed Kael's aristocratic limbs with fervent devotion he'd reserved for him alone.
Then he proceeded to carry him to his bed and to sing to him softly, he couldn't remember the last time Kael had covered him so hungrily with kisses; it was curious, to be sure, and Rommath knew something was off, because he knew the prince through and through— after all, he'd been his single closest friend far back as boyhood.
He was aware that he ought to be satisfied, but Kael insisted merely on looking at him, he regarded him from where he lay beneath him on the sheets, with both hands up in his hair; "My dear Rommath," he murmured, "My most loyal guardian; these years I've only loved you more—"
By then Rommath was almost certain that Kael must be drunk, whether it were on on wine or on fel energies; but far was it from him to turn him down, or to question his desires.
"Kiss me," Kael'thas said, his fingers wandered cleverly beneath Rommath's robes and now he was on about how warm and pleasant he felt; Rommath might have wondered if he'd been with Master that evening, but he couldn't feel the demonic energies on him, not the way Kael would positively brim with them after he'd spent a night with Illidan.
Why are you still here? Have you come just to bed my advisors?
Come off it already; you love Rommath far more than you know.
I love all of my people— or have you forgotten that?
Never; not even for a moment have I forgotten my love for my people.
(On to chapter 33)
It didn't take Anduin long to regret having asked Krasus to show him; he'd got even more jealous than he'd expected, and reminded himself that this was for a cause far more important than his own juvenile envy—
—but did saving the world absolutely have to involve watching his boyfriend get head from someone else...?
He'd been so preoccupied with jealousy that he'd been taken a little off guard on realizing what Krasus was doing was actually pretty hot; it was clear that at this sort of art he was well-practiced, and he really did make it look good— he made it look like he loved every moment, to the point where Anduin almost asked him if he could have a go.
He was somehow very passionate; he'd let the member fluidly into his mouth and slid it in all the way, Anduin watched with something between arousal and horror while he allowed it back out, brilliant and slick, with streamlets glistening up to his lips.
And bloody Wrathion was loving every moment; he had one hand in Krasus' hair and had slid it aside to see better, he appeared too astonished even to give any sort of cringeworthy comments. Anduin understood well enough that he was completely defeated in this, he tried to remember he was meant to learn, and became aware suddenly that maybe Krasus was right in all of his criticism.
"That must be nice," he said to Wrathion, he got one hand in his hair and leaned in to kiss him; he could feel on his breath how he liked it, how hot he had got, it was both arousing and very humbling somehow. Wrathion had got one hand on his cheek, but just as he'd started to kiss him back, Anduin felt Krasus' grip on his wrist.
"Come here," Krasus said, he was speaking from just over the tip of Wrathion's cock, where still there were thin rivulets glittering down from his lips.
He pulled Anduin toward him and said briefly, "This is a lesson, we're not doing this to play."
Wrathion watched while Krasus got his fingers on Anduin's and then wrapped them on Wrathion’s cock, he'd been so slick by then that profane sounds emanated while their hands slid down; "Watch one more time,” he said, “then you do it.”
That time Krasus just barely got the member out of his mouth before Anduin went for it, he'd not realized how much he had wanted to do this until finally he tasted him on his lips; somehow, even after he'd felt completely exhausted of doing it before, seeing how much Wrathion liked it with Krasus had made him jealous enough that he wanted to prove himself.
"Fucking hell," Wrathion stammered, watching the both of them fight for a go had got him really bloody hot; "Could you guys kiss or something?" he asked, and Krasus gave him a brisk slap on the thigh.
"This isn't a game," he deadpanned, but that bit was a little hard to remember when there were two guys having at his cock.
Anduin, himself, was a little embarrassed by the question; but, curiously, there was something consoling about it, too— because here Wrathion liked watching them both, and it wasn't like he, himself, had been utterly forgotten on account of his far lesser experience.
He thought he’d begun to understand how he was meant to look like he enjoyed it, he could feel the hot fluid stream down his hand to his wrist, and reached down to lap at it of his own accord without being prompted; he thought he liked it even more when he saw how transfixed Wrathion was in watching all that.
“You’re an utter mess,” Wrathion said, “you look ridiculous.” Now Anduin paused and scowled; “Yeah, well,” he replied, but Krasus asked him to stop; “No,” he said, “he shouldn’t talk to you like that in the first place, it’s whelpish and obnoxious.”
“Hey!” Wrathion huffed at Krasus; “I'm a drake, not a whelp— you and I are around the same age.”
Sadly, though, most drakes were just as obnoxious as Wrathion; they just thought that they were mature, especially if they’d done anything intimate.
"Quiet," Krasus replied, he resumed speaking with Anduin; "But anyway, no matter what someone says to you in bed, you don't reply like that; even if he sounds like a complete idiot, you reply to what he actually meant." He turned his eyes to Wrathion and then told Anduin, "Clearly he loves watching you get dirty."
Anduin flushed straight away; “Fuck off,” he stammered, and Wrathion immediately replied, “I love watching him get my cock in his mouth, if that’s what you meant.”
At that, Anduin’s entire face contorted in preparation for another acrid response, when Krasus stopped him and said, “Just ignore him; this is a lesson for you.”
“Well,” Anduin said, “I’m not doing this if he’s just gonna be a jerk—”
“Who’s being a jerk?” Wrathion scowled, “you’re the one—”
“Would you just be quiet already?” Krasus glared at Wrathion, then at Anduin; “This isn’t a game, the lot of you should know this better than anyone.”
“Well, it’s embarrassing,” Anduin said— because while few things mattered more to him than carrying out his mission, all the while he still was a young person with the same sorts of embarrassments and awkward stumbling as anyone else his age; at the end of the day, there he was in bed with the guy he fancied— and it was very intimidating and weird, and, as with many other young people, there still were many things about which he was very insecure.
It was very hard to focus with Wrathion passing all manner of criticism, and with the constant concern that he might dislike him or feel turned off if he’d done anything wrong; somehow, part of him wished he wasn’t practicing with Wrathion right there after all, because it had turned out to be a whole lot of pressure.
Krasus regarded them both for a moment and finally pointed one finger at Wrathion; “You,” he seethed quietly, “Shut up.”
Already Wrathion was rolling his eyes, but Krasus shushed him again before he could say more. “You've both asked for Wrathion's presence during this lesson— well, if you want to do that, then freaking behave. I know that to you sex is some kind of joke, but it’s a commodity here, and if this mortal doesn’t do it right, then he won’t get anything in return.”
At this both Wrathion and Anduin remained silent; it occurred to Anduin Krasus really was right. For him, sex was his entire function in life.
After he’d chastised Wrathion, Krasus turned to Anduin again and asked him quietly to get Wrathion’s cock in his hand; Anduin hesitated, but then he went on as he’d asked, and tried not to think about the nature of what they were doing.
“With another boy,” Krasus explained, “you should also learn to get your fingers inside him—”
"Ah," Anduin interrupted, he had a genuine question this time and hoped it was all right to ask; "Not that I don't appreciate this," he said, "but— why are you teaching me about what to do with a boy anyway— you know— if it'll be with the Priestess..."
“Well, you don’t know if you’ll be the only boy there,” Krasus said, and now Wrathion stared with a distinct look of jealousy; “What?” he asked.
At that, Krasus remained completely straight-faced; “That is," he continued, "it might just be you— but what if she had an entire harem? What if she has, I don’t know, boys meant for that purpose, and she’d expect you to know what to do—”
“What the hell,” Wrathion huffed, “you said nothing about other guys.”
“I’m not the one to decide this stuff,” Krasus said, “but the fact remains that that may well be.”
He pointed to himself and said, “The dragon queen has three additional consorts other than myself, that is why my brothers taught me what to do with other boys as well as with her.”
"Yeah well," Wrathion said venomously; "If that's the case, then they'll just see what a clueless virgin he is, and then they'll just—"
“I’m not some virgin!” Anduin scowled, “you know that from personal experience!”
"You are at dicking," Wrathion replied bitterly, and now Anduin nearly lunged at his throat; but Krasus silenced them for possibly the hundredth time. "Being a virgin is a desirable trait in a male," he said, "but you're expected to carry it out with an air of purity and innocence, not awkward idiocy."
“I’m not a virgin!”
"All right," Krasus said, "fine. Now the lot of you, shut the hell up; I'm this close to asking the dragon queen that I be permitted to do this without Wrathion's presence in the room."
"What!" Wrathion stared incredulously; "What the hell!"
“Lie down,” Krasus said, he got one hand on Wrathion’s chest and pushed him back on the sheets; then he turned to Anduin and asked if he could bring him a container of bath oil from the restroom nearby. “What are you doing?” Wrathion asked, and Krasus said, “Nothing you won’t like.”
By the time Anduin returned Krasus had Wrathion on his back with his knees bent over his chest, naked as the day he was hatched; Anduin stopped in place and stared mutely, it was one of the most profane things he’d seen.
“Come here,” Krasus said, he reached with one hand for the oil container, but he wasn’t going to use it quite yet; somehow Anduin felt embarrassed to watch , but he couldn’t take his eyes away.
“Have a seat just there,” Krasus told him while indicating a place on the mattress, “you need to have a good look.”
Anduin nodded silently, he joined them on the bed without a word; his eyes wandered to Wrathion’s naked thighs, the way his cock hung over his abdomen, completely beautiful and hard. It got him so hot that he thought he wanted to take it in his mouth, or at least to touch it, but he held back from saying anything.
“Looks good, doesn’t it,” Krasus said, and Wrathion wasn’t sure whether he was flattered or completely embarrassed; there was something about the way he was bent that made him feel very vulnerable.
“Wait,” he huffed, he felt strained and it became a bit hard to talk in that position; “What are you…”
Krasus slid his hair to the other side of his neck, so that Anduin could have a good view of what he was doing; then he leaned forth and proceeded to lap at the small entrance, he did it so expertly it seemed to Anduin like he was passionately kissing him there.
At this Wrathion stiffened all over; he started to struggle but Krasus held him more tightly, like it came to him second nature. “Bloody hell,” Wrathion muttered, “do that again.”
Krasus ignored him, like he wasn’t even in the room; he directed Anduin’s attention to what he was doing, because now Anduin was staring at Wrathion’s expression as well.
“Watch carefully,” Krasus instructed; “you’re doing this next.”
Now both Wrathion and Anduin flushed; “I—” Anduin stammered, and Wrathion started on about how Anduin wouldn’t know what the hell he was doing, but Krasus said nothing to this. He asked Anduin to have a close look, and then proceeded to lap at Wrathion's entrance again, very slowly, and Wrathion was definitely loving that; Anduin watched in mute horror, he felt somehow like he ought not intrude on such intimate things, but watching was exactly what he was meant to do.
Krasus barely moved his lips away while he got one hand on Anduin’s wrist, he murmured to him, “C’mere.”
“No,” Wrathion said, his voice came breathy and strained; “No, he can’t—”
Krasus pulled back from where he'd been lapping at him, while clear rivulets glittered from his lips to the tender flesh below; he took the oil container and laid it on the sheets without a word, and then got his hands on Anduin's wrists. He placed them on Wrathion's behind, just where he'd been holding him, and then said to Anduin, "Go on, have a taste."
Anduin felt himself flush all over; not just his face or his ears, but his entire freaking body, he wondered how he could be so embarrassed after all the stuff they had already done. They’d bloody had sex already, so what was the big deal…?
Was it because Krasus was right there, and was staring so directly at everything they were doing? Was it because of the obscene position he’d got Wrathion in? Was it because he wasn’t at all certain that Wrathion even wanted him to do this, and that he’d never done this before…?
For a moment, he met Wrathion’s eyes, and gave a shy little laugh; “Hi,” he said sheepishly, and Wrathion chuckled breathlessly in response. “You’re dead,” he muttered, “You are so dead.”
“Sorry,” Anduin grinned back; “I have to do this— I have to— you know—”
“I’ll kill you,” there came the response; “After this, you’re getting dicked like twenty times over.”
“Just do it,” Krasus said, he prompted him forth, and finally Anduin proceeded to comply; very tentatively, he lowered his head the rest of the way and got his tongue on the small entrance, and then proceeded to lick him very carefully.
He could feel how under his hands Wrathion’s thighs had gone completely tight; he actually cried out softly, and it occurred to Anduin that he’d liked it.
Without pulling away, he shyly met his gaze, and realized that Wrathion was smiling; he was actually smiling...!
“You—” Anduin asked timidly, “Did you like that?”
Wrathion laughed quietly in response; “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that was really good.”
Now Anduin couldn’t help grinning outright; he asked, “Really?”
They eyed each other with childlike innocence; “Yeah,” Wrathion said. “Could you do that some more?”
(On to Chapter 34)
(Hope you're not at work!)
For some seconds it felt to Anduin like all the bitterness between him and Wrathion had melted to nothing; he still felt a little embarrassed and a little shy— or maybe a lot— but he also was eager to do this, the way that Wrathion smiled at him had made his heart flutter and he wanted very much to be told again that he had done well.
Without prompting from Krasus he timidly tightened his hold on Wrathion’s thighs, and then leaned forth in order to run his tongue over the small entrance again; Krasus nodded silently to himself and then reached to hold back Anduin’s hair, he said to him softly, “Don’t avert your gaze. The high priestess would want to see you look in his eyes.” Without his discretion Anduin flushed, both he and Wrathion were a little embarrassed but Anduin found that he liked looking at him while he did it; there was something scandalous about it, but also something intimate and sweet, Anduin began to forget that he was doing this in preparation for entertaining the high priestess.
He almost forgot that he was being watched until Krasus had got one hand on his and led him to close his fingers around Wrathion’s cock, and reminded him not to stop what he was doing with his mouth all the while; Anduin did stop however, and said to Wrathion, “Look at how spoiled you are, I’ll bet you’re loving every minute.”
There was some tease or taunt at the tip of Wrathion’s tongue, but despite him it never came; instead there issued only a defenseless sound of pleasure, he whispered to Anduin that he was doing brilliantly. Anduin, who had expected the usual bickering, felt his entire face go hot: who was this guy before him, and when exactly did he start being so… nice? He wanted to kiss him, he wanted to bend over him and just seize his mouth, and tell him how handsome and sexy he was, and how much he liked doing this to him— and then he wondered when in the hell he started to think these sorts of things about freaking Wrathion.
His attention was diverted when at his side there came the sound of a stopper coming uncapped, and he noticed that Krasus had the vial of bath oil ready; “With another boy,” Krasus explained, “you absolutely have to use some sort of lubricant—”
“Ha!” Anduin cried while pointing one finger at Wrathion; “Told you!”
Now Wrathion scowled and rolled his eyes; “Yeah, well—” he started, but a murderous glare from Krasus had him silenced again. “As I was saying,” Krasus muttered to Anduin, “you have to use something like oil— so please hold out your hand—”
Anduin did, and Krasus went on to decant the vial unto his palm; “Get your fingers properly slicked,” he explained. “I’ll demonstrate and then you follow suit.”
Despite himself Anduin felt a tinge of jealousy at the prospect of watching Krasus demonstrate on Wrathion again; “I can do it,” he said hurriedly. “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it to him.” By then Krasus appeared entirely put out, like clearly he had had his fill and was intent only on fulfilling his duty to the queen and the world on the whole; he was on the verge of reminding Anduin that there was no place for jealousy now, because one way or another he would absolutely have to spend time with the high priestess intimately, and possibly her other male lovers. However, instead he merely resigned to explaining to Anduin what to do, because at least he seemed very eager to learn; “Very well,” he said.
After he’d got Anduin to slicken his fingers he instructed him to press one digit inward very slowly, not all at once— and to watch his expression to be sure that it didn’t feel uncomfortable; when Wrathion understood what Anduin was about to do he began to protest.
“Hey,” he said with audible uncertainty; “Wait a second— I didn’t sign up for this— what are you doing—”
Anduin paused while regarding him moodily; “Yeah you did sign up for this!” he replied. “Last night, remember? You said I’ll get to do it to you!”
“Wait. Is that what I said? I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that—”
“What the hell, Wrathion, you totally did! I only ever agreed to let you do the dicking if I would get to do the dicking too!”
“That’s it,”Krasus said; “We’re stopping right here. I’m going to ask permission of the dragon queen to do this without Wrathion present—”
“What!” Wrathion piped up; “No way! Just the two of you? Yeah right, like I’d ever leave my boyfriend alone with just you!”
At this Anduin went red all over, hearing Wrathion speak of him with such possessive jealousy had flattered him more than he could say; however, Krasus had had enough and rose to his feet. He tossed the oil at the pair and headed for the door moodily. “I’m done here,” he said; “I quit, I’ll ask her Highness to get another of her consorts to teach you.”
“No!” Anduin cried; he got to his feet quickly and trotted after him; “We’re sorry, honestly— it’s just— it’s a lot to learn in such a short time, and we— I—” He hung his head and said softly, “I’m kind of new at a lot of this stuff…”
Over on the bed Wrathion had got himself in a sitting position, he watched where Anduin tried to bargain with Krasus to stay— and in this moment he appeared so endearing and sweet that without his discretion Wrathion was overcome with a wave of fondness. He got up and walked toward the pair and then with none of his whelpish defiance from before he got one hand gently on Krasus’ arm; “If it’s all right,” he said quietly. “Could Anduin and I have a break— just a short time to talk it over.”
For some seconds Krasus’ eyes moved from Wrathion to Anduin and back, and he wondered if there was any point in humoring them; “You have ten minutes,” he said. “But I’m warning you— you’ve given me no reason so far to change my mind.”
To be continued...