Chapter 15

They took a portal directly to Dawnstar Village where the modest home Alyna shared with three other apprentices was located just outside the centre. It was still early in the morning and most of the residents would be just waking up. She let them into her home, and Sylvanas barely let them get through the door before she pressed Alyna up against the wall, their mouths finding each other.

A female voice cleared itself and they paused, realising they were not alone. It was only then that Sylvanas remembered that the corridor they were in could be seen from the kitchen table, around which were three very young apprentices all staring at them with their mouths hanging open. She felt Alyna shaking and realised she was laughing.

Alyna looked up at her and managed to say, "At least it wasn't Liadrin, for once."

Sylvanas grinned. "She's probably just outside." They both chuckled briefly before walking into the kitchen.

Thal'ena stood up and gave Alyna a hug fierce enough for her to wince, her shoulder still being tender. When she pulled away she looked at Sylvanas and then back to Alyna. "I knew you'd come back with a story to tell, but I didn't expect this."

"I volunteered to go with the Farstriders into Lordaeron. We just got back."

Thal'ena's eyes widened and the other two young women gasped. "You were with the army? We heard the orcs were massive! And that the trolls were vicious!"

Alyna smiled at her friend. "I promise I'll catch you up on everything, soon." She exchanged a glance with Sylvanas. "We need to get back to the army shortly and I need to pack." As Alyna spoke, Sylvanas looked at the other two women at the table. They shrunk back from her immediately, intimidated by the legendary general. It was not a reaction she was used to. She was always welcomed warmly in the villages, but those in the cities kept her at a distance. It always unsettled her.

"You're leaving?" Thal'ena sounded sad as well as surprised.

"For now." Alyna bit her lip anxiously. "It's a long story, but I'm an Arcanist now and have been released from my duties here on Quel'Danas."

Sylvanas couldn't hold back her smile as Thal'ena drew Alyna into another hug. When she pulled back, the young apprentice had tears in her eyes. "I'm very happy for you." Sylvanas realised she meant it. She supposed that Thal'ena had seen more of Alyna's unhappiness than most, having lived with her for so long.

With promises to meet up soon, Alyna led Sylvanas into her room. As Sylvanas closed the door, Alyna went over to a small clear orb on her simple desk. She passed her hand over it and murmured a command. Colours swirled around inside the orb before it settled on a dark grey. She turned back to Sylvanas with a lecherous smile.

"That'll dampen any sounds we make."

Sylvanas needed no other invitation and they removed their weapons and armour quickly. Alyna's bed was only designed for single occupancy, but that was a minor inconvenience. As Alyna lay back, she pulled Sylvanas on top of her. The grizzled general luxuriated in her partner's hands across her back and the smooth warmth of her body as she dragged her own over naked skin.

They held nothing back as they explored and enjoyed each other. Sylvanas was enraptured by the woman in her arms. Gaining her freedom from Quel'Danas had lifted a great weight off of Alyna's shoulders, and she was sharing that mood with Sylvanas. She was ecstatically happy, and making sure her general reached similar heady heights. It was almost too much for her for bear.

Hours later, as noon came and went, Alyna lay on top of her, spread out over her body. Sylvanas decided life could not get any better.

Alyna chuckled, the sound vibrating down Sylvanas' own body. "Well, I bet that'll create some gossip."

Sylvanas joined in with her mirth. "I'm quite sure you were loud enough at a couple of points to overwhelm that orb of yours."

Dark blue eyes peered up at Sylvanas. "Look who's talking. I still can't hear properly out of my left ear."

"If you like, I could do the same to your other ear for balance?" Sylvanas received a light jab for the remark and she chuckled.

"Do you mind?"

Sylvanas looked at her with confusion before she realised what she was referring to. "The gossip? Not at all. Let them gossip."

Alyna sat up slightly to look at her properly. "Do you really mean that?"

Getting to see more of Alyna's body was an instant turn on for the general, but she swallowed her need to focus on their conversation. "Yes." Alyna's smile would normally have filled Sylvanas with joy, but it had an unintended effect – it made her feel guilty. She knew Alyna had interpreted her 'yes' to mean they would not hide their relationship from anyone, and that she was proud of what they had. She was indeed proud, but they still had a big problem. One Alyna was currently unaware of. Her desire faded, and Alyna noticed the shift in her body language.

She leant forward and brushed her lips gently against Sylvanas' before pulling back to look at her gently. "Tell me."

Sylvanas sat up on the small bed, triggering Alyna to fetch a dressing gown for herself and a long t-shirt for Sylvanas. She knew their bare skin would not help matters if they were to talk seriously.

She wasn't entirely sure how to start. Alyna sat next to her and waited patiently, their fingers intertwined. Eventually, she just came out with it all bluntly. "I left you because I was told to." Confusion flittered across Alyna's features as she continued, "When I came to see you that last time, I was pulled aside and told if our relationship continued, you would be hurt."

Alyna blinked. "You were blackmailed into leaving me? And if you didn't I was in danger?"

"Yes," Sylvanas said simply. She looked at the floor, unable to meet the piercing dark blue eyes. "I was completely powerless to protect you from him. He could do what he threatened, and more importantly, I knew he would make good on it if I disobeyed him."

"Who? Who would dare do that to you? To us?"

Sylvanas looked at Alyna, and told her. She leapt from the bed and paced the room angrily. She was incensed, and Sylvanas knew exactly what she was feeling. She had felt it herself when he had originally blackmailed her, and every day since, whenever she thought of him.

After raging for several minutes, Alyna stopped and glared at Sylvanas. "Why? Why would he do such a thing?"

Sylvanas snorted derisively before replying, "I love you, but surely you're not that naïve, Alyna? We both knew that one day our families would demand our separation. Yes, we ignored it. But they were always going to try."

The mage threw her arms up into the air in exasperation. "But to do it like this? What in the Sunwell was he thinking?"

"Probably that if our father's had told us to stop seeing each other that we would have ignored them." She raised an eyebrow. "And we would have."

Alyna folded her arms defiantly. "So he does this?" She shook her head before something made her eyes widen. "Did anyone else know? He surely must have had pairings lined up for us."

Sylvanas shifted awkwardly. "I believe I am to be betrothed to your elder brother soon."

Her jaw dropped. "Galanir? But … for that to happen then Father would …" Her chin dropped to her chest. "Father knows about the blackmail, doesn't he?"

"I'm sorry."

She gave a strained laugh. "I always knew he never thought highly of me. I want to say I'm surprised that he could help orchestrate this, but I'm not. Something tells me he would enjoy torturing us both by having you marry a brother who had always delighted in bullying me." She blinked back a few tears before quietly asking, "And what about me? I can't imagine I was to remain single in all this."

Sylvanas shook her head. "I know he had plans for you, but I was not told about them. I have my suspicions though."

Alyna took a step forward anxiously. "Who?"

She looked at Alyna sadly, not wanting to break the news to her but having no choice. "Zendarin." Alyna's hand flew to her mouth as she gasped. Sylvanas felt the need to calm her beloved. "I don't know that for sure. I just found the timing of his arrival in your life to be suspect, considering what I knew. His attention to you could have been exactly what it seemed though, and innocent."

Alyna replied emptily. "Or, he could have known about everything and has been grooming me all this time, hoping I'll fall in love with him and make his life easier."

"Or, that." Sylvanas felt awful. She knew Alyna had had few friends on Quel'Danas and Zendarin had been one of them. She hoped he was not involved but her instincts told her he was.

"What we did in the throne room … he'll know won't he? He knows we're back together?"

Sylvanas nodded. "Oh, I have no doubt he knows."

Alyna approached her slowly to stand before her. Sylvanas looked up her body to dark blue eyes that were full of rage. A shudder went down her spine, but she couldn't look away. Alyna cupped her cheek softly.

"It must have been so hard for you all these years, to keep this secret for both of us."

The general blinked. "You … understand?"

Alyna nodded slowly. "I think if he had approached me with the same threat of harm to you, I would have also believed him, and would have been equally powerless to do anything about it." She threaded her fingers through Sylvanas' gold hair, caressing her scalp gently. Sylvanas closed her eyes as Alyna's words washed over her. "I couldn't bear anything happening to you then, as much I can't bear it now. But, at least now we can do something about it."

Sylvanas opened her eyes. "Oh?"

The smile she got also sent a shiver down her spine, though this time it contained a promise of revenge that Sylvanas was grateful was not aimed at herself. Alyna sketched out her plan and Sylvanas thought it was more than just viable – it could actually work. It would take time to put together and implement, but she could finally see a day when she did not have to worry about Alyna's safety.

Once their plan was agreed, Alyna gave her another dark smile. She bent down and removed Sylvanas' t-shirt, before pushing the general back to lie on the bed. Alyna straddled her hips and bent down to kiss her general roughly. She trailed a finger along Sylvanas' body as she sat back up, eventually removing her dressing gown.

She chuckled at the curious and very turned on look Sylvanas gave her. Alyna raised an amused eyebrow as she spoke in a voice that did surprising things to Sylvanas' body. "You've got some making up to do."

Sylvanas whimpered.

They didn't get around to packing Alyna's meagre belongings until later that evening. Sylvanas made sure she packed the orb. When they finally left, they took a portal back to Silvermoon and then walked to the ranger stables the Farstriders kept in the city. She kept Alyna close by the whole way. They would have to finish dealing with the trolls, and then there was the parade to get through before they could deal with their blackmailer. There was plenty that could go wrong between now and then. Society had expectations of them and they were rebelling against it all. Despite her fear, she was still eager to see it all through.

The streets of Silvermoon were a cacophony of colour, music and magic as they rode triumphantly through the streets to their hero's welcome. They had arrived back at Farstrider Retreat from their troll hunts the day before. After a good night's rest, they were all now dressed in their ceremonial armour.

Normally, Sylvanas would ride at the head of the parade, but pride of place this day went to the woman they were calling the Troll Slayer, Alyna. When she was told she would head the parade, Alyna had panicked. She was only slightly relieved when Sylvanas had told her she did not mind at all, but she still felt out of place. She was certain the only way she was managing to remain calm was because her lover was riding to her right, lending morale support by her considerable presence. Lor'themar was at her left flank, looking resplendent in his highly polished plate armour.

Alyna was immensely proud to be wearing her ranger captain armour, though it still fit a little loosely on her thin frame. It was something she hoped to rectify soon with rigorous training. Sylvanas had one last surprise for her before they left the barracks that morning. She'd had a pair of decorative purple and gold sashes made for her. They were the colours of an arcanist, and the sashes now fell from each shoulder to the opposite hip, forming a cross at her chest. She knew Sylvanas adored the look, but it was important to Alyna because it showed her lover's acceptance of Alyna's decision to continue her magical training under Falcar. She would spend two to three months at a time with the rangers, and then two to three weeks in Quel'Danas. Falcar also promised to visit her at Farstrider Enclave occasionally to teach her in the field.

It took an hour to wind their way through the crowded streets, and by the time they arrived outside Sunstrider Spire they were covered in confetti. Alyna figured she'd be finding it all over the place for days to come. A guard of honour had lined the red-carpeted walkway to the entrance, where High King Anasterian Sunstrider stood in full regal splendour. To his right was her grandfather, Grand Magister Belo'vir, beaming proudly at her. Sylvanas' own grandfather was to the king's left, also smiling. The families of the parading rangers were present. She saw her parents and tried not to scowl at them. The pain of finding out about their betrayal was still raw, though she had not told them yet that she knew. All four of her siblings were at their side, her two brothers and two sisters. Her older siblings, Galanir and Lylias, were as reserved as their father. Her younger brother and sister, Calduros and Lirea, were bouncing up and down trying to get her attention, and she smiled happily at them.

She also saw Sylvanas' parents and her heart was pained at not seeing Lirath. Twenty-six of Sylvanas' kin had died in the raid on their village. It had been two weeks since the massacre and they were still attending funerals. While the shock and pain was still raw, Alleria had taken it the worst, and was not part of the celebration today. She wasn't even in Quel'Thalas anymore, having left to seek comfort in the arms of her human lover, Turalyon. Neither Alyna nor Sylvanas could say they were surprised at the relationship, but she knew Sylvanas had doubts as to whether it was healthy for her after their recent losses. Alyna didn't know what to think. She was in her own unconventional relationship, and rumours had been rife about it amongst the civilian population.

The three ranger officers dismounted, and Alyna unhooked a grisly trophy that had been hanging from her saddle. They strode proudly towards their monarch, halting a respectable distance from him. Alyna took one more step forward and held the severed, magically preserved head of Zul'jin out towards her king.

He took the head by the blood-stiffened hair with no qualms at touching the grisly object. He stepped forward as the rangers moved to the side, having expected his movement. The crowd hushed and he moved his gaze to encompass as many as he could before he spoke. Though greatly aged at over three thousand years old, his voice was strong and carried far. Alyna suspected a spell or two had been cast to help.

"People of Silvermoon, of Quel'Thalas! A terrible Horde dared to encroach on our sun-blessed lands! They burnt down our sacred forest. They allied with our ancient enemy. But we have prevailed, against the odds. Our valiant rangers have fought and died for our freedom. They have sacrificed for our security! And they have endured hardship for our continued survival in this land that we have made our home. We owe them much, and they shall be known by the people for their heroic deeds!"

The crowd had worked itself into a barely contained frenzy through his speech. Like any good orator, the king knew it was time to wrap it up with a flourish.

"Good citizens! She faced the barbaric leader of our ancient enemy one on one in mortal combat, and prevailed! Please welcome home our heroes, led by the Troll Slayer, Ranger Captain Alyna Salonar!"

He thrust up the head of Zul'jin for all to see, and the crowd were unleashed. Presently, a pair of guards stepped forward and relieved their king of the head. They placed it on a pike at the start of the red carpet and formed a guard around it so it could be seen but not tampered with. The king strode up the carpet and clasped arms with Sylvanas, Alyna and Lor'themar before inviting them into the Spire where they knew a lavish feast awaited the rangers.

Hours later, as the sun began to set, they all appeared again on the royal balcony overlooking the entrance they had paraded up earlier. The crowds were still there, albeit in a fairly intoxicated state. Alyna stood next to Sylvanas as various speeches were given by council members. It seemed to her that everyone needed to have their say and therefore their share in a glory they had nothing to do with.

The king spent some time handing out medals to those Sylvanas had recommended for special attention. She had not warned any of them about the honour, and Alyna knew she was enjoying their shock and delight at being recognised by their nation, and their general. The only time it could have gone mildly wrong was when Liadrin's name was called and all anyone could hear was the inebriated priestess swearing. After a collective holding of breath, everyone laughed and she was dragged forward to be honoured.

The last name to be called was Alyna's, and she stepped forward to rapturous applause she generally felt she didn't deserve. The Star of Silvermoon was hung around her neck, the highest elven military award for bravery. As the other medal winners lined up beside her to receive a final round of accolades, she felt Sylvanas at her shoulder. She turned to smile at her, and was not prepared for what happened next.

In front of their families, friends, and nation, Sylvanas pulled her into a long, passionate kiss that sent the crowd wild. Initially she thought it was outrage, but she quickly realised they were ecstatically celebrating. It was at that point she realised just how popular Sylvanas was. She had always been a favoured daughter of the people, and she was kissing their latest heroine. To them, it couldn't get any better.

Of all the eyes that were on them, she felt one particular pair burning a hole in her back. She knew they would have to deal with him eventually, but for now, she enjoyed the simple joy of shamelessly kissing the woman she loved.

Sylvanas strolled casually out of Windrunner Spire and down the access path. As she approached the treeline, she paused and looked around. She wasn't expecting anyone to be watching but it was a habit. She called on her natural magic and knew her image would appear to meld into the trees and disappear as she stepped into the forest. She walked through the forest for a few minutes, her feet guiding her automatically to where she needed to go.

She was nervous.

She moved into a small clearing dominated by a large white rock in the middle, and she automatically gravitated towards it. One side was flatter than the others and someone with obvious talent had carved a proud stag into the soft surface. She reached out to run a finger along the talented lines when an angry male voice caused her to pause.

"You disappoint me, Sylvanas."

She turned to face him, her eyes locking onto those of her grandfather, Ra'thanar Windrunner, glaring back. "You'll get used to that."

He sneered. "You think you've grown teeth? You have nothing of the sort."

"Is that all you have to say after all you've done?"

He angrily stared her down before practically spitting his words. "Don't you care about your legacy? The continuation of our blood?"

Sylvanas shrugged, "We can adopt."

He flung his arms up in frustration. "That is not the same!" He shook his head sadly. "You and Galanir would have had beautiful, powerful children." Sylvanas shuddered at his words, uncomfortable with being referred to as nothing more than breeding stock. His features darkened as he composed himself. "You know you leave me no other choice in this matter?"

Her own mood darkened and she stepped towards him, the threat of violence evident in her posture. "You cannot touch her now. Even you should be aware of that. The people have accepted her as a champion. For Sunwell's sake, she is bonded to a runeblade! Do you honestly think you can challenge her?"

"You think they will protect her? The same people who cowered while she was off fighting for them?" His laugh was bitter and laced with no small amount of jealousy. "She is their darling now, but it won't always be that way. The people are fickle, and they will find a new champion. I will make sure of that!"

Sylvanas took another step forward and her grandfather drew his staff before him in a defensive posture. He smiled cruelly. "Without her runeblade she is nothing! She will be forgotten, and when she falls broken before me no one besides you will even care!"

An angry voice shouted from the cover of the forest, "I think you will find that I will!"

Ra'thanar whirled towards the voice, his shock evident on his face as Grand Magister Belo'vir Salonar emerged from the trees, the gem on his staff glowing vibrantly with stored energy.

Another voice came from the opposite side of the clearing. "As will I!" Vereesa stepped out, an arrow nocked to her bow string.

"And I!"

"I will as well!"

The angry chorus grew as people stepped from the trees into the rapidly shrinking space. Ra'thanar whirled around at each new voice, his face a picture of horror Sylvanas knew she would delight in for the rest of her days. Once she and Alyna had realised they would not be able to stand up to him alone, many of those they trusted had answered their call to bear witness to her grandfather's treachery, even if it exposed her own cowardly shame at letting it happen. He had used her pride against her, betting she could not bear the humiliation of admitting her guilt.

She had let that protect him for too long. She looked at those who stood with her now, blinking back tears and thanking them silently with each fresh pair of eyes she made contact with. Her parents, Talath and Ya'dana; her sister, Vereesa; her most trusted rangers, including Lor'themar. Even Halduron had stepped forward, despite his personal misgivings at Alyna's recent choices. She smiled at Alyna's mentor, Falcar, and at Alyna's younger sister, Lirea. Liadrin looked like she wanted to dismember her grandfather with her bare hands. She felt an arm slide around her waist and she raised her own to wrap it around the shoulders of the woman who was everything to her, dipping her head to receive a brief but reassuring kiss from Alyna.

Sylvanas looked back at her grandfather who was quivering with rage as he roared, "This … isn't … over!"

Belo'vir moved towards him, circling around as a predator would its prey before the kill. "I think you'll find it is, Ra'thanar."

The elder Windrunner began to cast a spell at the grand magister, but he never completed it. Before everyone's eyes his body rapidly morphed into that of a small white sheep. The sheep blinked with surprise and bleated plaintively before aimlessly walking around.

Everyone stared at it for a few seconds before Belo'vir looked at Sylvanas in surprise. "Well, that wasn't me."

Alyna was shaking silently into Sylvanas' side, causing the general to look at her, raising an eyebrow. Alyna blurted out, "I really didn't expect that to actually work!" before dissolving into laughter. Everyone else joined in for a few moments. When the polymorph spell wore off after thirty seconds, those who had weapons raised them to point at the ruffled Windrunner, a silent warning of what would happen if he tried to cast again.

"That was outrageous!" he blurted.

Belo'vir snorted with amusement. "You'll get over it. The taste of grass takes a while to fade though." He nodded towards Sylvanas' father, Talath. "I believe it is time for an honoured son to succeed his disgraced father."

"You have no authority to remove me from the Council!"

Belo'vir turned back towards Ra'thanar, not bothering to hide the fury on his face. "The Council exists to advise our King and to lead our people with wisdom, knowledge and humility. We make the decisions most cannot bear to burden, and we do so for the good of all! Not for the pathetic political manoeuvring of a disgraceful egotist!" He stepped into Ra'thanar's personal space, his voice low and threatening. "If you want to make a fight of this, I'm sure all of Quel'Thalas will be interested to know everything you have been up to of late."

No one moved as the two elder statesmen glared at each other.

Eventually, Talath spoke in strong but confident tones. "If you step aside now, Father, everything that has happened here today will remain in this clearing. We have all sworn an oath to that effect should Sylvanas hold us to it." Reluctant nods could be seen around those gathered.

Ra'thanar knew he had been beaten, and his shoulders slumped. He looked past Belo'vir to Sylvanas, and she met him evenly. He gave a brief nod of agreement, which she returned. He made a gesture with his hand and disappeared in a cloud of arcane magic, teleporting away.

Sylvanas wrapped both her arms around a beaming Alyna and everyone gathered around them, cheering and clapping each other on the back. Sylvanas took it all in. They were all her family, she realised, and she would protect and fight for all of them to her last breath. It had taken a war for her to realise what was truly important in her life. She never wanted to make that mistake ever again.

She squeezed Alyna fondly and rejoiced in the musical laugh she received in response. Alyna turned in her arms and their lips met in a slow celebratory kiss.

Off to the side, Liadrin's voice could be heard over the cheers. "Do you really have to keep doing that in front of me?"

Everyone laughed.


A/N - I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you fancy seeing more about what Alyna and Sylvanas get up to, head on over to the next part of the Dark Ranger series, Sun's Fall.