Chapter 1: Scents
It was the scents Lor'themar missed the most
The smell of dark soil under the feet of his hawkstrider, or stirred up by his own boot. How it seemed to deepen after a period of heavy rains.
The scent of leaves decomposing in what passed for autumn up here, the slow fall of dead leaves replaced by fresh ones. That smell growing more sharp during those rare periods of cold weather.
Then there was the scent markings of the lynxes, the guano of the bats, which would spook a horse, but his hawkstrider would merely investigate and then move on.
He missed the scent of the wild flowers, more subtle than the garden cultivars grown around Silvermoon City. Here he near flinched from the intensity, as he passed a flowerbed of Mageroyal, while their wild brethren would soothe his weary senses with their subtle sweetness.
The salty smell of the Great Sea, as he patrolled the coast line, north to south, the large leaved oaks, maples, birches and aspen eventually mingling with gnarled pines, that lingering proof of the harsher climate before the Sunwell, the evergreens contributing with their particular sun-warmed resinous smell.
Then that cozy smell of the campfire at the end of the day, the scent of their dinner cooking over its embers, as their shadows danced around them.
True, at the end of his old life, on the threshold of his new, those much beloved forest smells had been distorted and washed over with the scent of burning flesh and cloying smoke, barely covering the smell of decay and death, a smell that had clung to them for weeks afterwards.
But still, his mind would tend to wander back to the smells that surrounded him as he grew from youth to man, of Eversong Forest in its prime. Especially considering what surrounded him now.
There was the smell of parchment, of inks and vellum, of dusty tomes, placed in piles on his desk.
The smell of old leather, and furniture polish, the smell of starched collars and washed cottons, linens and silks, rustling softly as he walked, similar, yet not completely alike the whispers of the forest.
There was the smell of spices, of finely cooked meals, each morsel a day's salary to a hard working farmer. The scent of the finest wines and the best perfumes, dancing on the subtle scent of beeswax candles, lit only for the ambiance.
Scents of his childhood brought back to life, bringing with them unwelcome memories of the before, the time before the forest.
It was amusing, how his life seemed to have come full circle.
Lor'themar could appreciate the irony contained therein, how he'd fled the scent of decadence and a rich comfortable life full of expectations for the hardy, earthy smells of the forest, of toil and struggle, the tangy metallic scent of blood always there, a hair's breadth away.
And now he had come back to them, to the smells of decadence and riches, the mountain of expectations heaped again on his broad shoulders. Yet, he found that he did not mind them as much anymore. Not with friends nearby to share the load; Halduron, still smelling of the wilds; Rommath, the faint scent of burning and the tang of arcane clinging to his robes.
The scents of the forest though, he still missed those terribly.
Chapter 2: Choices
I used the quote: “I chose the lesser of two evils by doing this, but I still feel like I made the wrong choice.”
from http://witterprompts.tumblr.com/ for this one.
Lor’themar found him by the Sunwell, kneeling close to the very edge of the golden light emanating from it. By now the Sunwell Plateau had been cleared of rubble and debris, the Isle of Quel’Danas showing precious few signs of what had taken place there not too long ago.
Those who had been there to bear witness though, they had not forgotten. The elf huddled by the edge of their relit fount of power, he would have the hardest time forgetting of them all.
“Rommath," he spoke, his voice echoing in the chamber.
At first the mage showed no signs that he had heard him, but there was the flick of an ear and a deep sigh.
“What do you want, Theron?” he asked, voice cracked and broken like the stone they’d carried away on carts outside. As broken as the body they’d placed in a coffin for cremation.
“I was merely wondering where you were," Lor’themar asked. What he didn’t say was that he and Halduron had worried, had wondered if Rommath had been in on it all secretly, that he had fled now that Kil’Jaeden had been defeated.
It had been a relief then, to find Rommath sitting his vigil here, almost as much a statue as those decorating the courtyards outside.
“Well, you’ve found me," Rommath said, sarcasm dripping from every word. “Good job, Kael’thas chose the finest to lead us.”
As the name Kael’thas passed the mage’s lips though, his voice finally gave out and the last doubts about Rommath’s loyalties were finally put to rest.
Rommath was leaning forward now, shoulders tense, but Lor’themar could see the occasional shudder rock them and he began to turn away, to leave the other man to mourn in peace.
“I still ask myself," he heard Rommath say, the words forced out of his mouth. “If I made the right choice.”
Lor’themar turned back and found that the mage had turned around as well, the collar slipping and revealing his grief stricken face.
For the mage’s sake, Lor’themar averted his gaze before he spoke.
“You chose the people of Quel’Thalas," Lor’themar said. “You turned them away from the path of ruin and instead helped grant them this better, brighter future.”
He turned to look at the Sunwell, to its brilliant new light, made possible by unfathomable kindness from the leader of a race his people had quite recently been in conflict with.
When he chanced a glance, he saw that Rommath was looking towards the Sunwell as well now.
“Still," Rommath said, with a sigh that was as brittle as new ice on a puddle. “I wonder.”
Lor’themar thought at first the mage had finished speaking, but as he again thought of leaving, Rommath spoke again.
“I feel as if I have chosen between two evils," he said brokenly. “And though it’s clear I chose the lesser of them, it still feels as if I made the wrong choice.”
His shoulder gave a shudder again, as the mage once more bowed his head.
“You heart might say otherwise," Lor’themar said, choosing his words with care. “But you made the right choice. The people of Quel’Thalas… And I thank you for it.”
Then he finally left, leaving the mage to consider his words.
Chapter 3: Pyrrhic victory
Lor'themar has some thoughts as he departs the ruined scene after the Siege of Lordaeron
Written pretty much right after I did the scenario on my Horde elf main, so there are spoilers for the pre-patch stuff.
As Lor'themar gazed down at the crumbling remains of what had once been the last sanctuary and home of the Forsaken race there was one word that came to mind,
one he was not sure from whence he had heard it, but it was the only thing his mind could cling to in this moment.
If one could even see this as a victory for either side.
The Alliance had come, as they had expected, bringing with them their anger and thirst for revenge, something Lor'themar could not fault them for. Despite the vague pretenses for the assault into Kaldorei lands he could not disobey the requests for assistance, though his conscience had made him hold back some.
Then the reports of Sylvanas' final action against the routed Kaldorei people had come in and they had chilled his blood. Too fresh in his own mind were the cries of his people's own children, dying needless and cruel deaths.
But they were memories he had to push away, and make his people ready for the retaliatory response when it came.
"They will come for us now. They will come for all of us!" High Overlord Saurfang had reportedly shouted, furious, as the screams of dying Kaldorei echoed in the evening air, mingling with the soot and the tang of blood.
And it did, sooner than either of them would have liked. Far closer to home than Lor'themar would have liked.
As troubled as he might have felt by Sylvanas’ actions in Darkshore, he saw his own personal stake in this battle. Not only was what remained of the glorious city and kingdom of Lordaeron connected with the heart of Silvermoon City itself, but the lands of the Forsaken were a welcome buffer between Quel'Thalas and the fallen human kingdoms, ensuring that they would be left mostly in peace to recover and rebuild.
Oh, there was still work to do there, especially in the Ghostlands.
So, Lor'themar had come to lead his rangers, to ensure they would remain safe, as much as he could and he had done as he had been bid to do. Even when it was Nathanos ordering him around. He had had to grit his teeth and bare it, hoping that somehow, in the end, they might prevail. But what was hope, but a fleeting thing, fading like mist in the morning air.
And below, the Blight rose up from the rocks and debris taunting him for thinking this would go otherwise than it had. Lives lost, Saurfang's possibly among them and...
What of that safety buffer for his kingdom, still struggling just to survive, now?
What had either of them truly gained by this, but a corrupted pile of rocks and dead soldiers in droves?
The Alliance had been stopped, that much was true. But who knew for how long and whether they might still be bolstered by this half victory and try to press onward. Lor'themar felt a shiver go up his spine at the thought. Some thirteen years ago, his people had thought of themselves as safe and protected behind their barriers. That thought, that reliance on ages-old safety, had murdered them.
What would they do if an army marched on the Thalassian Pass again? An army equipped with void portals and magic flying ships?
He turned his gaze to his Warchief and wondered if she would care if such a thing came to pass again. She was hardly the woman he served under before, these days. That woman would have never done this, would have done everything in her power to save them, to just let them survive, but Sylvanas, as she was now...
Light preserve them all in the days yet to come.
Chapter 4: Warm Hands
A short born from the idea, what if Lor'themar and Rommath met in their younger years?
Or as my beta/friend told me: "It's just a blip in the timeline of Lor and Rom and a good one."
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The grass, still stiff with frost, crunched underneath Lor’themar as he moved as much as he dared.
Yes, his ankle was most definitely broken. How utterly embarrassing.
He should have known better than to bring a young animal on such a long stint into the far reaches of Eversong. All young animals, even hawkstriders, were skittish when introduced into a new environment..
And now, Lor’themar was paying for his foolishness, flat on his back on the cold, frozen ground while his ankle throbbed dully at him. His timing was impeccable too, with the howling gales out of the Thalassian Pass sending icy shivers down his spine and the nearest Farstrider encampment far enough away that it might as well have been in Silvermoon. Lor'themar knew the best way to cope with cold like this was to keep moving, but his ankle had put a stop to that rather definitely.
He let out a breath, watching it mist in the cold air, working his hands to keep the circulation going. Surely his mount would search out its kin and find the other Farstriders, he hoped. That way they would know something had happened to him and come searching for him. Surely.
But would they get here before he could freeze to death, he wondered, mind turning oddly dark for a moment. Before he could let himself descend further down that path, he heard the sound of approaching hoofbeats.
For a moment Lor'themar wondered if his mount had already been discovered and his fellow Farstriders were here, but when the horse approached around the turn behind the nearby trees he saw that the rider was clad in robes, of fine make, with a red scarf wrapped around his face to shield him from the cold.
The rider quickly reined in his mount, his long dark hair, held back in a high ponytail, whipping about his face.
"You chose an odd place to take a nap," the rider said, raising an eyebrow at him.
"It's not what I normally go for," Lor'themar responded, trying to prop himself up on his elbows, but that jostled his ankle enough that he found himself biting back a curse. "You wouldn't be a priest, would you?"
The look the rider gave him made it seem like the highest insult to imply he was a priest of all things. So a mage then, for only travelers of that calling would dare to wear such garb this far out. Lor'themar filed away that bit of information for later use.
“I’m Captain Lor’themar Theron,” he told the other man. "I don't suppose you could give me a ride? There's a Farstrider encampment a few miles due north. You might have passed it on the way here..."
Lor'themar managed a grin through the pain his ankle was sending out as punishment for disturbing it.
"As you can see, I am rather indisposed at the moment."
The rider, the mage, observed him in silence for a moment, as the horse tossed its head impatiently.
"I suppose I could spare the time," he finally said, stroking the animal's neck to calm it. The mage then dismounted elegantly, leading the horse up to Lor’themar’s side.
After steeling himself, Lor’themar took the mage’s offered hand and slowly managed to pull himself upright. This time he did curse at the pain, trying not to lean too heavily on the mage as he groped for the horse’s reins.
Lor’themar noted the laden saddlebags already on the horse and wondered if the poor animal could bear the load along with two riders. But a second look told him that it seemed to be human bred, of stout stock, with powerful shaggy hooves. The sort that carried armored knights into battle, so it should probably manage the extra weight.
“You get up first,” the mage said, his eye roaming over him, full of scrutiny. “Then lean back so I can get up in front of you.”
Lor’themar did as asked, not without some difficulty and another steadying hand from the mage. As soon as he was seated, he tried his best to settle back to leave room for the mage to slide into the saddle in front of him. It wasn’t a comfortable fit, but it would do for now.
“Don’t try anything funny,” the mage warned icily, glancing over his shoulder at him, then he took the reins and clucked the horse into motion.
As tempting as it was to wrap his arms around the mage, he seemed to be radiating the sort of warmth that Lor’themar desperately craved right now, he instead made do by clutching the back of the saddle, his thighs pressing into the horse’s side for balance.
After a while the mage slowed the horse down, then stopped again.
“Your chattering teeth are giving me a headache,” he complained. “Give me your hands.”
Hesitantly Lor’themar reached around the mage’s body, holding out his shaking hands for the mage to take. Peering over the mage’s shoulder, Lor’themar saw him cup Lor’themar’s hands in his and after a mumbled incantation he saw the mage’s hands become bathed in light.
No, not light, flame. It was like the mage’s hands were lined with them and Lor’themar’s own hands held within that warmth soon began to tingle as feeling returned to them, the warmth slowly spreading throughout his body. When Lor’themar unconsciously leaned into the mage, savoring the warmth there, the mage did not protest.
Finally the mage urged the horse into motion again, but he allowed Lor’themar’s arms to remain loosely clasped around him.
“Like I said before,” he muttered. “You try anything funny and I will leave you in the frozen mud.”
Lor’themar held his tongue and hands in check, and remained silent for the remainder of the ride, until he saw the welcome sight of smoke curling up from campfires up ahead.
In the clearing before them he saw Sedina tending to one of the fires, next to Halduron, who quickly hurried up to them when the mage slowed down the horse to a stop.
“Lor’themar!” he called, with a relieved grin on his face. “I was worried when your mount came back without you, not long ago. We were just about to head out and have a look.”
“As you can see, I found some help,” Lor’themar said, trying not to look too sheepish as he carefully slid off of the horse’s back. Halduron was there to offer support when his ankle reminded him of its existence and he nearly crumpled to the ground.
Halduron began to shower him with soothing chatter about sending for a priest from the nearby village when the mage reminded them of his presence by clearing his throat noisily.
“You are lucky I was late in starting this morning,” the mage huffed, adjusting the scarf he still wore around his face, glowering at them.
“And I am grateful you were,” Lor’themar said, managing a slight bow at the mage. “Thank you.”
“Well, as amusing as this diversion has been, I have to get going,” the mage said impatiently, though his gaze had softened slightly. “I intended to be in Stratholme before dark, and the Prince awaits my arrival tomorrow.”
Lor’themar could only stare numbly as the mage kicked the horse back into motion and then he was gone.
“Magi... Always acting like they’ve got something shoved up their asses,” Halduron muttered. “Did he even tell you his name?”
Lor’themar shook his head.
“I didn’t think to ask.”
My thanks to Shira of the Disaster Elves for the beta read.
Chapter 5: Fire festival
"His childhood memories were of loud and bright festivals, with elves competing with each other for the most elaborate outfit, flaunting flowery braids woven there by their lovers, secret or not. There had always been food and drink aplenty, though as young as he was, his parents had only let him enjoy so much of the drink.
This was a pale imitation of those memories and though he knew the reasons for it, it still hurt something deep inside him, also reminding him of why this was so."
Aethas visits Silvermoon City during the Fire festival.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Just go already", Ryanna had said to him, amidst piles of unread paperwork and dog eared tomes. "You have been useless ever since you returned from Quel'Thalas."
Yet, as Aethas stepped through the portal and hesitantly began to mingle with the elves out and about to celebrate the Fire Festival, he began to wonder what he was doing here.
His childhood memories were of loud and bright festivals, with elves competing with each other for the most elaborate outfit, flaunting flowery braids woven there by their lovers, secret or not. There had always been food and drink aplenty, though as young as he was, his parents had only let him enjoy so much of the drink.
This was a pale imitation of those memories and though he knew the reasons for it, it still hurt something deep inside him, also reminding him of why this was so.
There were fewer people, though the Shal'dorei present did an amiable job at masking that fact, and the festival dress might not has been as extravagant, but it was clear everyone was wearing their absolute best.
Aethas, even in his very presentable robes was starting to feel under dressed. Not only that, but the flowery braids were still there and his own hair, barely contained in a loose braid was starting to feel bare. What was he truly doing here?
He tried to push the thought away as he bought a candied apple from a stall and followed the movement of the crowd to the Court of the Sun, where the city's bonfire was about to be lit and it was upon his arrival that he spotted the reason why he was here, why Ryanna had kicked him out of his own research laboratory this morning.
Halduron had managed to strike a balance between official and casual wear, the blue of his shirt making his blond hair stand out even from across the large square. Aethas felt himself draw in a sharp breath, then bit down on his lip for his foolishness. The Ranger General had been kind to him, more than he truly deserved, but that last visit had now taken on a dream like sheen. Surely it had only been a product of the circumstances at the time, much like that time on the Isle of Thunder.
He let himself be pulled along by the people though, approaching the bonfire as Rommath strode down from Sunfury Spire with Lor'themar following close behind (Were those flowery braids in their hair too? Aethas found that hard to believe).
Aethas’ eyes were only for Halduron though, so whatever fine words were spoken by the Regent Lord were sadly lost on him. He did make sure to join in the applause afterwards, which rose to a cheer as the Grand Magister himself lit the bonfire to everyone's delight.
For a few moments Aethas focused on the crackling of the fire, feeling the heat roll across his body. There was something comforting in this primal force of nature, a force that was at his beck and call as a fire mage. It sent a small thrill through his body, wakening the fire deep inside him. When he closed his eyes, he could still see the flames dance before his eyes, coalescing slowly into a familiar face.
His eyes quickly snapped open, his cheeks blazing red and he tried to find that blond head of hair where he had last seen it. Where had Halduron gone?
All around him were happy couples, dancing, flowers in their hair and Aethas was filled with a panicked urge to be away from here as soon as possible. He managed to weave between the lovers, finding a path between the bodies, but suddenly flight was halted when someone grabbed onto his arm, stopping him in his tracks.
"Where are you going?"
There was puzzlement in that deep rumble and for a while Aethas was afraid to turn around and look.
"Just look at me, Aethas."
The command in that voice made it impossible not to obey, even more so because there was an undertone of... Was that pleading?
Halduron was looking at him with puzzlement, yes, perhaps a fair bit of annoyance, but there was also a softness around his eyes, his mouth and now Aethas found it impossible to turn away.
"What are you doing here?" Halduron said and the emphasis implied that he was truly astonished Aethas was here at all. When there was no reply forthcoming, he just sighed and dropped the hand from his arm.
Aethas picked through the words as they came to him, dropping those that felt inadequate for the task at hand. How strange, that a several thousand word thesis on the different uses of temporal magics came easy to him, but to speak in a casual setting such as this was suddenly the biggest challenge he'd ever faced.
"I came to see you," were the words that finally slipped out of his mouth and he found his face flush, though he succeeded in holding Halduron's gaze in his.
The other elf's reaction was immediate as he crushed Aethas into his arms, his soft hair tickling Aethas nose until he shifted his face around to kiss him.
He felt certain he would have some additional pages to add to that magic thesis, for time seemed to act strangely after that point. Somehow Aethas suddenly found himself in Halduron's own chambers, his robes joining Halduron's own clothing on the floor. The fire inside him blazed as brightly as the one outside as he felt lips on his mouth, his neck, his body, forcing moans from his mouth. Some indeterminable time later he lay entangled with Halduron in his bed, silk sheets twisted about underneath them.
"Don't leave," Halduron said softly, running a finger along his ear, sending a fresh shiver down Aethas spine.
"I have to," Aethas said, hearing the sorrow in his own voice.
"At least stay until the end of the festival," Halduron said, his finger tracing a pattern between the freckles on his chest.
"That, I can promise," Aethas said and smiled, resolving to send a message to Ryanna so she would know his absence would be extended by a number of days. He would like to avoid nasty rumors from spreading.
"Then you must look the part," Halduron said with a grin and left the bed, only to return with a vase of flowers.
Aethas was at first puzzled as to what the other elf was up to, though he did make sure to admire the sight of the golden headed Ranger General, naked but for a vase of Mageroyal concealing his private parts.
Then Halduron sat down next to him on the bed, gently teasing out strands of his red hair, carefully twisting it into a braid, picking flowers to weave into it and Aethas face broke out into a smile.
"I should do yours too," he said, reaching for a handful of Halduron’s blond hair.
"I believe that's the whole point of this," Halduron said with a grin and leaned in for another kiss.
This was meant to be longer, and kind of tied to my longer work "Eversong Endures", but as it works as a short and as that longer story is on hiatus at the moment... I put it up here.
(So, spoilers, the next installment would have introduced Aethas, as the source of the hearthstone Anduin gives Lor'themar.)
The idea of elves with flowers in their hair for summer festivals is lovingly borrowed from Shira/flyingllama's headcanon/stories.
Chapter 6: Urchin
A late-night conversation in the Regent Lord's personal chambers.
Might not be entirely canon-compliant with Zandalari lore? Set in current patch (8.0) and some vague space of time before Zul is defeated I guess?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rommath had been nodding off just a second ago, but now his eyes were fully alert as he stared Lor'themar down.
"You are not bringing some Zuldazar street urchin to Silvermoon," the mage finished, punctuating the last syllable with a stabbing finger to Lor'themar's bare chest.
As Rommath was no longer using his shoulder as a pillow, Lor'themar propped himself up to look the mage fully in the eyes.
"You've heard how their society works, same as I," he said, letting every drop of his diplomatic skills seep into his words. "With no talent for those professions which are available to them and no parents to care for them, they are set loose to roam free to survive best they can... And find themselves used by less scrupulous individuals."
"So it might even be a thieving street urchin," Rommath said with a huff. "And have you considered what it might look like to the people here? To have a troll wandering the streets, a child for now, yes, but a troll all the same."
"Come on, Rommath," Lor'themar said with a sigh, shaking his head. "We have been allies to the Darkspear for years now. Sin'dorei have fought and bled next to them enough that I think they can tell the difference between an ally and an Amani."
"We did fight Zandalari far more recently," Rommath reminded him, his arcane tattoos glowing softly in the dim light of Lor'themar's bed chamber.
"And Princess Talanji made it quite clear that that particular operation was overseen by Prophet Zul, without the King's approval," Lor'themar pointed out. "and considering Zul’s recent actions..."
Rommath let out a sigh.
"I still think it's a foolish idea," the mage said, slumping back against the mussed up pillows.
"He's a fine lad," Lor'themar said with a grin, still propped up on one elbow. "I hear he's exhibited some signs of magic talent..."
"You are not getting me with that, Theron," Rommath growled, then did a double take, raising his head again.
"'He'?" he blurted out. "Don't tell me you've already picked one out!"
Lor'themar gave Rommath a sheepish look, averting his gaze slightly, but there were no attempt at denial.
"I am sure he's a scruffy thing," Rommath said, rolling his eyes. "A wild child, running with the animals."
"Actually, no," Lor'themar said, shifting slightly so he was looking at Rommath again. "He's withdrawn and shy, actually... He reminded me of you."
"Stop it," Rommath said with a pained look.
"The others think him weak and he gets beaten a lot," Lor'themar continued. "He lost an eye after the last one..."
Rommath heaved a great sigh, covering his face with his hands. All at once his tattoos, once glowing brightly, grew dimmer.
"I still think it unwise to move him to such a different environment," the mage finally said, letting his arms fall back to his sides.
Lor'themar slumped back on the sheets as well, curling up against Rommath's form.
"Suppose I find someone in Zuldazar, to house him," he ventured, hesitantly. "And then I send over the means to care for him?"
"Why are you even asking me this?" Rommath asked wearily. "It's clear you have already made your decision.
"I would not ask your opinion if I did not find it valuable, Rommath," Lor’themar said, reaching out a hand to push dark strands of hair out of the mage's face. "And perhaps... You could teach him, if what they saw of his talents are true."
"A Quel'Thalas archmage, teaching some troll child?" Rommath scoffed, raising an eyebrow at Lor’themar.
"They only allow those of the highest caste to learn magic," Lor'themar reminded him. "But if he's made my ward... And it was a Sin'dorei doing the teaching..."
"And with that I am assuming we will be visiting Zuldazar regularly?" Rommath said, a resigned look on his face.
"Well, as often as is possible," Lor'themar said. "All dependent on the whims of our Warchief, of course."
"Of course," Rommath grumbled.
The mage then curled up on his side, his back against Lor'themar and he immediately found himself with a Regent Lord spooning him affectionately, one arm draped over Rommath’s body.
"I do think you would like the lad," Lor'themar mumbled into Rommath's hair.
"Let me be the judge of that, Theron," Rommath replied, though approaching sleep was softening his words.
And with that, the light of his arcane tattoos finally went out.
If this silly head-canon idea sticks, there may be a more or less angsty sequel once patch 8.1 happens. :P
Chapter 7: Darkshore
The title of Regent Lord of Quel'Thalas weighs heavy on Lor'themar's shoulders during the events of Battle for Azeroth.
Spoilers for the upcoming patch in December.
This drabble/scene was partially inspired by the introductory cinematic to the new warfront that got released during Blizzcon this weekend.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I bore it, when Sylvanas asked for support as she revealed her pre-emptive strike against the Alliance,” Lor’themar said, anger bubbling just beneath the surface. “I came myself, when she massed the Horde to defend the Undercity and the Ruins of Lordaeron.”
“I saw for myself as she used Blight against us and I was glad I had not brought any Sin’dorei, but myself,” he continued, hand clenching around the glass.
“Then I agreed that if the Zandalari were not the same sort we had fought on the Isle of Thunder, then seeking an alliance with them could be a wise move. I allowed any eager Sin’dorei to venture to far away Zandalar, for the Horde, to face cannibals and treasonous uprisings, their bodies returned more or less intact.”
“But her obsession with Darkshore, it borders on insanity!” he finally snapped, hurling the glass at the far wall, causing Halduron to flinch as it shattered in a million glittering pieces.
Lor’themar’s one eye seemed to glow with an inner fire, beyond the natural light the Sunwell had painted it with.
“What is she playing at?!” he spat as he began to pace, back and forth, his robes rustling against him. “How many dead must there be before she is satisfied?”
Halduron watched him, still idly sipping at his wine.
Lor’themar turned his back on him and Halduron could see the tension in his old friend’s shoulders, taut like a bowstring.
“Many… Too many have already been felled by Kaldorei arrows and torn apart by druid claws,” Lor'themar said, voice thick with sorrow. “And it was my hand that sent them to their deaths, my quill that signed the forms to allow them to leave their homes and safety.”
For the first time, Halduron raised his voice.
“Not just you,” he said. “It was my hand too, and Rommath’s and Liadrin’s. It’s not all on you, Lor’themar.”
“But I am the one to take the brunt of it!” Lor’themar cried, turning to face Halduron again, his face a mask of despair and anger. “Because still, there is that part of me that says, this is Sylvanas. She protected us once, she died for us once, surely she knows better than to send her old people like lambs to slaughter.”
“Perhaps,” Halduron said hesitantly, as he gazed into his wine. “Perhaps we stopped being her people years ago.” He heard the agony there, under the surface of his own words, and pushed it back down where it came from.
Lor’themar fell more than sat back down in his chair, his shoulders slumping as he buried his face in his hands. When he finally looked up again, he gazed up at Halduron with such sorrow that Halduron found it hard not to reach out with a comforting hand.
“What should I do then?” Lor’themar said despairingly. “She calls all Horde to defend Darkshore, but I know that naught will come of it, but more bodies to be laid to rest, more funerals to attend as I try to muster a facade in front of our people.
“By the Sunwell, I wish I had never heard of Darkshore! Let the Kaldorei keep it and perhaps then our people might yet live to see another sunrise.”
Halduron did finally put his glass down and laid his arm around Lor’themar’s shoulders.
“Sometimes I wish-” Lor’themar began. “-I wish that Kael’thas had not been led astray...That he had come back and let me go back to the forest, instead of saddling me with this grim duty.”
Halduron tightened his hold around Lor’themar. “I doubt he’d do much better than you have,” Halduron told him. “It is still Sylvanas. Kael’thas knew her too, he would have trusted her too.”
“But now it is I who must whether this storm,” Lor’themar said, staring into his lap despondently. “It is I who must strike a balance between pleasing our Warchief and ensuring that our people yet have a future.”
“Just remember, Lor’themar,” Halduron began, leaning in, his golden head touching Lor’themar’s pale silver. “Remember that you are not alone.”
They listened to the fire’s crackle in the fireplace for some time, until finally Lor’themar reached out for an empty glass, holding it out for Halduron to fill.
“It would be a shame to let more of that wine to go waste.”
“Indeed,” Halduron said and filled his own glass as well.
It was a meager comfort, he knew that, one which would burn away by morning. But in such desperate times, you grab for what comforts you have.
Halduron reached out with his free hand to clasp Lor’themar’s. If this was all he could offer his oldest friend, than offer it he would, while praying to whatever force that existed out there that there would be a day when this would all end and he’d see Lor’themar smile again.
I was aiming for bromance, but it might have tipped over slightly into romance at the end. Oops?
(Hey, any ship that leaves Lor'themar happy...)
Many thanks to rivkael for the beta read for this, since my usual editor is on sick leave.
(And for those reading my other stuff, this is why there's no new Them Dirty Bones chapter yet. I have stuff written, but I don't want to upload it before it's as good as it can be!)